Monday, February 19, 2018

YA Review: The Wicked Deep

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Published: To be released March 6th, 2018 by Simon Pulse
Genre: YA Paranormal
Binding: ARC
Page Count: 308 plus acknowledgements in the ARC, but the info and goodreads says 320 so probably that.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: It was sent to me for review consideration.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

Review: Well, this was unexpected. I hoped this would be good, but I wasn't expecting to like it this much. While there's a few things I didn't like, a lot of it worked really well for me. First, the atmosphere is amazing. It's set in summer, but the book feels cold and damp. It comes out in March, which is also cold and damp, and you should totally read it in March, but it woul also be great to read in October around Halloween. I've seen a lot of comparison to Hocus Pocus and I don't really like that movie so that's not a direction I'd go in personally, but it definitely has a spooky, creepy feeling.

I actually don't want to say too much about this one because I don't want to spoil it. There's a few things in here that really surprised me and I spent a couple minutes just staring into space shocked.

And also eating cheesecake, because, you know. Cheesecake.

This has some ableism with mental illness not exactly being handled super well, and it's really lacking in pretty much any kind of diversity. What happens to gay or aromantic boys in this town? Do people notice lesbian girls suddenly flirting with boys? I feel like that would be a bit of a tip off. Kind of ignoring some ideas there that could really be interesting. Basically everyone besides like two characters is white, cis allo straight, thin, and abled. I also thought the romance was pretty sudden and a little overdramatic at times. Might work for some people, but not so much for me.

In general, I think that's the theme of the book. I don't think this one is going to be for everyone. If you don't connect to the voice, you probably won't like this as much. Luckily for me, I did and I had a really good time reading it. I liked it, and I would recommend it as a fun read, especially on a rainy day or around Halloween. It's missing some depth but overall is an enjoyable read. I'm going to take a rose off for being not the least bit diverse, so three and a half roses.

This is a super short review, but I really don't want to spoil things, and anything I talked about would really be a spoiler. Oh, I love the cover, though. It's really pretty, and the silver parts are actually holographic. Super pretty.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 12, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (66)

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.

The Takedown by Corrie Wang

Published: April 11th, 2017 by Freeform
Genre: All the goodreads shelves of this are like Mystery and Contemporary but this is set in the future. It's like Science Fiction meets Thriller.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 369 plus an author's note and acknowledgements and such.
Part of a series? Standalone
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Kyla Cheng doesn’t expect you to like her. For the record, she doesn’t need you to. On track to be valedictorian, she’s president of her community club and a debate team champ, plus the yummy Mackenzie Rodriguez has firmly attached himself to her hip. She and her three high-powered best friends don’t just own their senior year at their exclusive Park Slope, Brooklyn high school, they practically define the hated species Popular. Kyla’s even managed to make it through high school completely unscathed.

Until someone takes issue with this arrangement.

A week before college applications are due, a video of Kyla “doing it” with her crush-worthy English teacher is uploaded to her school’s website. It instantly goes viral, but here’s the thing: it’s not Kyla in the video. With time running out, Kyla delves into a world of hackers, haters and creepy stalkers in an attempt to do the impossible—take something off the internet—all while dealing with the fallout from her own karmic footprint.

Thoughts: This was an interesting book. I really liked the concept of this, and I thought the futuristic setting was super interesting and unexpected. I didn't manage to read anything about this that actually told me this was set in the future so that was a surprise for me.

However, I did have some issues with this. First and foremost, this is quite aromisic. I kept a running tab of how often "just friends" was used, and it got up to eleven times. It got super old and I kept sighing and being irritated each time I had to add to my count. That is exhausting and unnecessary. I also don't think it was very ace friendly. It leans more, in my opinion, towards "everyone has sex so it's normal" and there was one really gross line about how one of the characters definitely wanted sex because he was a teenage boy.

The fat rep also kind of sucked for me. There was one apparently fat character (it's really hard to tell since the only time her body is ever described is, like, one line about "tummy pudge") and that rep is the kind of rep written by someone thin who thinks it's good fat representation. She's kind of obsessed with food, and it's supposed to be positive, I guess, but that is not a thin person's job to write. She's the only one who gets winded when the group of them go up the stairs. At one point, another character says something along the lines of, "Big fat lie," and the character clears her throat, and that character changes it to, "Big plus-sized".

How about no. How about so much no.

I'm trying to find a review about Mac's rep, but I have a feeling it was maybe not great. I will say, the decision not to italicize non-English words was great, but if they have automatic translaters that they wear constantly... why is his dialogue randomly sprinkled with Spanish? Like every other word, practically, in a way that seems really offensive. Well, here's a thread about the book in general.

I think some of the discussions of slutshaming is interesting. However, I think for some characters, it isn't actually broken down enough. Again, Mackenzie. And I didn't like the romance. She slutshames him like a lot. Like a lot. And it's treated more like he's the one who needs to apologize for having sex with other people when they aren't even dating.

Also, there's like one queer character in this who's the adult librarian who's not exactly a main character, and there's definite queerbaiting.

Like I said, I liked the concept of this, and I thought it did some interesting things. I liked the voice and some of Kyla's growth through the book. I also liked that because Kyla wasn't actually in the video, the book avoided the false accusation plotline. But there were a lot of things that didn't work for me, and more that I think are out and out problematic and harmful. I would not be comfortable recommending this one.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Published: September 5th, 2017 by Flatiron Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 372 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? Nope
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Thoughts: I loved this. I have like no notes of this, because, well, one, I'm not feeling great today. But, two, I didn't take a ton of notes because I was enjoying this so much. I think we all know that fantasy isn't really my favourite genre, but this really worked for me as a non-fantasy reader. The setting is great and there's just enough description that I could clearly picture everything without getting lost in them.

I loved Mina's role, I loved the relationships, and I loved that it was queer. I also liked the alternating third person POVs a lot more than I usually do. I just really enjoyed this.

Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

Published: Originally published in 2014, this edition was released in October 11th, 2016
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Binding: Ebook
Page Count: Goodreads says 382 and Amazon says 439. I read it on my kindle and have no idea which one is right.
Part of a series? Yup, there is a sequel and several short stories available.
Got via: Luci bought it for me.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (mostly from goodreads but kinda shortened by me because it's really long for a blog post lol): The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire. The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die - directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard's scales and snake's eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. He join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.

Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way.

Thoughts: I don't usually read a lot of science fiction, and I don't usually read self-published books. Neither of those are super my thing, as I think you've all figured out by now if you've been reading my reviews a while. This was definitely the exception to that rule. It is super duper diverse, the voice is great, and it's incredibly well-edited. There's multiple kinds of ace rep done very well, and I was really satisfied with everything.

I enjoyed reading this a whole lot, and it's also pretty cheap, which never hurts. If you're into science fiction at all, check it out.

Girl on the Verge by Pintip Dunn

Published: June 27th, 2017 by Kensington
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 256 pages according to goodreads. I put my copy across the room and I am not getting up to check. There were acknowledgements though.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): In her small Kansas town, at her predominantly white school, Kanchana doesn’t look like anyone else. But at home, her Thai grandmother chides her for being too westernized. Only through the clothing Kan designs in secret can she find a way to fuse both cultures into something distinctly her own.

When her mother agrees to provide a home for a teenage girl named Shelly, Kan sees a chance to prove herself useful. Making Shelly feel comfortable is easy at first—her new friend is eager to please, embraces the family’s Thai traditions, and clearly looks up to Kan. Perhaps too much. Shelly seems to want everything Kanchana has, even the blond, blue-eyed boy she has a crush on. As Kan’s growing discomfort compels her to investigate Shelly’s past, she’s shocked to find how much it intersects with her own—and just how far Shelly will go to belong…

Thoughts: I'm always surprised by how much I like thrillers. I'd love to read more YA thrillers like this. Any recommendations?

This was a lot of fun in that dark, slightly trashy way. The voice is fun, and the POV was interesting. It's mostly first person, with occasional switches to third, which I usually hate, but works really well in this. I totally guessed the final twist, and occasionally the voice, while fun, could be a littleover the top/ever so slightly cheesy, but overall this was a lot of fun.

Could have used a little more rep besides Kan's rep, like some fat rep or queer rep besides a character who only shows up for one scene, and I think there might have been a bit of ableist language. I'd like to read more like this, though.

Okay, some of these are shorter than usual, but I suppose they are meant to be mini, huh? So, that's everything. What have you guys been reading lately?

Peace and cookies,

Friday, February 9, 2018

"It's a Mail, Mario" December 2018

I've decided I want to start doing a post about books that I get in the mail, for whatever reasons I get them. I am not going to include library books because that would just be annoying for me, and probably for you as well. This might be a monthly thing, but it will depend on how often I get books. Hint hint, people, send me books :P

I put a poll on twitter to see what title would win to be the name of this post, and the first time it tied. The second time, this is what won, so that's what we're going with. I was going to put this up earlier, but I had computer issues so it's late.

The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

To be released March 6th, 2018 by Simon Pulse

Summary (from goodreads): Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.

And that's all folks!

Peace and cookies,

Monday, February 5, 2018

YA Review: Ramona Blue

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

Published: May 9th, 2017 by Balzer + Bray
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover, but the paperback comes out in May.
Page Count: 408 plus acknowledgements.
Part of a series? Standalone.
Got via: Library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Ramona was only five years old when Hurricane Katrina changed her life forever.

Since then, it’s been Ramona and her family against the world. Standing over six feet tall with unmistakable blue hair, Ramona is sure of three things: she likes girls, she’s fiercely devoted to her family, and she knows she’s destined for something bigger than the trailer she calls home in Eulogy, Mississippi. But juggling multiple jobs, her flaky mom, and her well-meaning but ineffectual dad forces her to be the adult of the family. Now, with her sister, Hattie, pregnant, responsibility weighs more heavily than ever.

The return of her childhood friend Freddie brings a welcome distraction. Ramona’s friendship with the former competitive swimmer picks up exactly where it left off, and soon he’s talked her into joining him for laps at the pool. But as Ramona falls in love with swimming, her feelings for Freddie begin to shift too, which is the last thing she expected. With her growing affection for Freddie making her question her sexual identity, Ramona begins to wonder if perhaps she likes girls and guys or if this new attraction is just a fluke. Either way, Ramona will discover that, for her, life and love are more fluid than they seem.

Review: Not gonna lie, I wasn't really planning this book. I mean, I wanted to eventually read it, but I had no immediate plans to read it. But my library does this thing where they do an estimate of the materials you've borrowed/how much money you've saved doing that, and I popped into the library the day before it closed for the Christmas/end of year break, and I wanted to see my total for the year (it was over $7000 so that was cool) and this was there.

Why do so many of my reviews start with me telling a story about getting the book?

Anyways, this was interesting. Let's do the bad stuff first to get it out of the way. I thought this was lacking in some serious areas of diversity. There's a very interesting conversation about how reckless teenager antics that are fun and games for white Ramona and her friends, are much more dangerous for Freddie, who's black, and the book does a cool thing in labelling white characters as white in the narration and not assuming they are by default. There are also a good amount of queer characters for a small Southern town. However, other areas are less explored. There's really nothing for any kind of disability rep, and considering the setting, and what people are dealing with, that seems a real oversight. And very surprisingly for me, there's not much for fat rep. The book also has no trans rep, and cis is pretty much assumed to be the default.

I also wasn't really a fan of the ace rep. I liked the character, who is homoromantic demisexual, but it only comes up twice, once kind of as a joke, and it doesn't actually affect the character's portrayal. It's like the character was just given a label and then forgotten. And that label isn't defined at all. Ramona replies to it with, "A what?" and the scene just carries on. If someone comes across the word demisexual for the first time in this book, they're not going to know what it means. The rest of the book, the character is just treated, and called, a lesbian. She doesn't seem to connect to the asexual community - or that the book is aware there is one - and that word is never used, and while I always want more ace characters, it feels superficial. It almost feels like a label for the sake of a label, or for points, not something the author thought about actually affecting the character.

Also, this passage from page 115:
I'm not this sex-crazed maniac or anything, but I'm a human being. I think about sex. Girls think about sex. Sometimes a lot.
And sometimes they don't! Would have been nice to have that mentioned. Throw in a use of "just friends", and kinda ignoring that aro people exist at all, and it just didn't work for me. I don't identify as demisexual anymore (used to, labels change), or homoromantic, so maybe it'll work for people who are, but I'd be hesitant to recommend it for that without reading reviews from ownvoices reviewers, which I'm pretty sure are gonna be hard to find. I've only found a couple so far.

Last complaints - there's a weird "everyone is a little bit gay" sort of comment and I just hate that idea personally as someone who does not identify as the least bit gay, but very acearo, and also a use of "opposite sex", which kinda adds to that no trans peeps/intersex peeps/enbies situation. There are also some sticky consent moments. A physical reaction is not consent, and it only takes one person to end a relationship. It wasn't like full on creeper mode or anything, but both those lines/moments make me pause and go, "Nope".

Now, I thought the poverty rep was great. It is an incredibly realistic depiction of the kind of poverty that doesn't get talked about often enough in YA in a respectful way. The kind where there's a roof over your head, and food on the table, but you're living bill to bill. The kind where an emergency is devastating. The kind where the idea of a baby being born sick is something you know you can't afford and are constantly terrified of. And I loved that there wasn't a magic fix to systematic poverty. There's a possibility of change, maybe, but it's not an easy out or a magic wand.

Personally I also thought that the theme of exploring sexuality and labels changing was handled very well. Again, not a lesbian or bisexual, but if you're reading this, you are here for my thoughts, and that's what it is. My identity has gone through a few labels, and it's confusing and sometimes scary and there aren't always easy or quick answers. Sometimes it takes a while and it's messy and complicated and hard. I thought that was handled in a respectful, thoughtful way.

Overall, I had mixed feelings. A lot of this book is great, and felt thoughtful and realistic, but other parts underwhelmed. I wish every part had been handled as well as those good parts instead of feeling more like afterthoughts. This one ends up at about three roses out of five. I loved the voice and I thought the premise of a post-Katrina Mississippi was very different, but points off for the things mentioned previously. I'd still recommend it in certain situations, but cautiously.

Other notes:

- Content notes for bimisia, queermisia in general, amisia, discussions of racism, actual racism, big freaky natural disasters, pregnancy, pregnancy complications, someone drinking fairly heavily early in pregnancy which despite what she says is not safe or recommended by doctors, and that's all I got right now.

- Bonus points for the use of "pregnant people" at one point.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, January 29, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (65)

My Basmati Bat Mitzvah by Paula J. Freedman

Published: October 1st, 2013 by Harry N. Abrams
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 236 plus recipe and a glossary.
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): During the fall leading up to her bat mitzvah, Tara (Hindi for "star") Feinstein has a lot more than her Torah portion on her mind. Between Hebrew school and study sessions with the rabbi, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to hang out with her best friend Ben-o--who might also be her boyfriend--and her other best friend, Rebecca, who’s getting a little too cozy with that snotty Sheila Rosenberg. Not to mention working on her robotics project with the class clown Ryan Berger, or figuring out what to do with a priceless heirloom sari that she accidentally ruined.

Amid all this drama, Tara considers how to balance her Indian and Jewish identities and what it means to have a bat mitzvah while questioning her faith.

Thoughts: This was cute. It's not the most unique thing I've ever read plot-wise, but I think that's a point in its favour, for sure, because it's a kind of book, especially in middle grade, that is pretty timeless and universal and relateable. The tropes this is made of are familiar to the genre if you've read things like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

But the thing that makes this unique, and important, are the context of who Tara is, being both Indian and Jewish, which are obviously pretty underrepresented in general, and in books especially. This is something I really struggle to explain in reviews, but I really like. It's taking a story that you probably know, that's been told from basically the same perspective again and again, and changing who it's about, and that is a strength, not a weakness.

There was some ableist language I wasn't real fond of, some food and body shaming, and one moment of bad science that kinda annoyed me (that eye genetics thing that they teach in school, it's way more complicated than that), but overall, I liked this one. I learned a few things, too, and I enjoyed it.

Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

Published: February 5th, 2013 by Simon and Schuster
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 275 plus a discussion guide and excerpt and stuff.
Part of a series? This is the first in the Better Nate Than Ever duology.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Nate Foster has big dreams. His whole life, he’s wanted to star in a Broadway show. (Heck, he'd settle for *seeing* a Broadway show.) But how is Nate supposed to make his dreams come true when he’s stuck in Jankburg, Pennsylvania, where no one (except his best pal Libby) appreciates a good show tune?

With Libby’s help, Nate plans a daring overnight escape to New York. There's an open casting call for E.T.: The Musical, and Nate knows this could be the difference between small-town blues and big-time stardom.

Thoughts: This has a great voice. The very first page has a line that made me laugh. I think one thing I would say is this was not as fluffy as I was expecting. There's a fair amount of heavy stuff going on, especially queerphobia and some family issues. I respect that, but I was kind of expecting something a little lighter from the impression I got from other people. It is a really good book, though.

This lacks a bit in representation of non-white people, disabled characters, and queer characters who aren't just cis allo gay. I'd hope if it was published today - it's already been almost 5 years! - that would be better. The other thing that kind of annoyed me were basically cheap jokes. Ableist expressions that were outdated in 2013, a line about Native American people that just seems out of place, that kind of thing. There's not a ton of it, but it's there.

Now I'm gonna rant about other people for a moment - I'm really uncomfortable with people saying Nate is definitely homosexual (and that's a quote from a review I won't link) based on this book. Maybe book two goes more into it, but as of this book, he is questioning, and undecided on what his sexuality is. He full-out says that he's undecided, and doesn't really want to kiss anyone yet. Assigning a sexuality to a kid because of his interests is literally what his bullies do. He could be gay, sure. He could also be bisexual, or straight, or genderqueer, or aromantic, or asexual, or pansexual, or a million other things! The point is he doesn't know yet, and that's okay.

Let this be about a kid who's questioning and doesn't need to decide a label yet, yeah? Because it's okay to not know. That just... irked me, when I was scrolling over reviews.

All and all, this reminded me a lot of books I'd read as a kid, with how much of an adventure in the big city Nate has, and I thought the stuff talked about with his small town was incredibly relateable. I loved him as a character, the voice was great, and I'd like to read the next one. Not a perfect book, but a solid one, and definitely an enjoyable one.

Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

Published: August 8th, 2017
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 327 plus acknowlegements
Part of a series? Not so far as I know
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

Thoughts: I liked this pretty well. I was worried it was going to make me cry, but surprisingly, it didn't. Which isn't to say it isn't honest or emotional, but it wasn't as emotionally walloping as it could have been, and I appreciate that a lot, because I think a lot of books would go there and that can really be exploitive. One thing I thought was especially nifty was that there's a real lack of tokenism in this - there's more than one disabled character, for instance. There is definitely calling out of things like ableism, racism, etc.

There were things I have qualms about, though. I think the blurb is actually really misleading, both in saying that this is much more focused on Suzette's relationship with Rafaela, and villanizing Rafaela. I'm gonna link to some reviews that talk about the bisexuality rep some, and I saw one that mentioned the pansexuality rep could be questionable but I lost it, and this one in general because yeah, this. I would also be very interested in reviews from reviewers who actually have bipolar which I'm having trouble finding, because it seemed...

Maybe not the best. It really made me question why the big drama of the book had to be revolving around Lionel going off his meds and then having a breakdown. Why is that such a common plotline with this kind of representation. Here's kind of an example. My mom actually thinks bipolar people are almost one hundred percent likely to go off meds because that's all she ever sees on TV. I think the book also made taking medication kind of all or nothing. I know that's probably how Lionel felt... but I can't think that's very nuanced.

I dunno. There's a lot to like here, but I have some mixed feelings about some things, too. I really loved the voice, though, and I would like to read more from the author.

Also, the cover is gorgeous.

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Published: January 1st, 2014 by Delacourte Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 256 plus acknowledgements and about the author
Part of a series? Yes, there is a sequel I will be ordering soon.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa.

WARNING: This book contains cat barf, turtle pee, and some really annoying homework assignments.

Thoughts: This was adorable. It is really, really funny. There's a moment where Jason (Papa) asks if there's a way to explain why a soaking wet cat had just bolted through his office while he was video-conferencing, followed by two of the boys, one of whom was wearing nothing but his underwear and a cape, and Tom (Dad) just sits down and laughs til he cries. It's hilarious to read, but also so relateable. Occasionally the boys end in some ridiculous situations, but they're ridiculous in that real kid way. And the moments of their dads being absolute goofs are just wonderful.

This really did remind me of books I read as a kid, just with a more modern setting and premise (to some extant - wacky family is pretty timeless as a premise). This would be so great for reading out loud to a younger kid, or reading as a family, because it's funny for both adults and kids. I had a few small foibles, like apparently Frog's class doesn't have an atheist or agnostic kids (it comes up in a discussion of holidays) and occasionally the voice is just slightly off, but I enjoyed it a lot, and I'd really like to read the sequel.

Okay, interesting mix of books here! What have you guys been reading?

Peace and cookies,

Monday, January 22, 2018

Non-Fiction Review: The Secret Loves of Geek Girls

I'm gonna try and do a new kind of review for this. Let's see how it turns out.

The Secret Loves of Geek Girls edited by Hope Nicholson

Published: Originally released December 9th, 2015, this expanded edition was released October 18th, 2016 by Dark Horse Books.
Genre: Non-Fiction Anthology
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 278
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The Secret Loves of Geek Girls is a non-fiction anthology mixing prose, comics, and illustrated stories on the lives and loves of an amazing cast of female creators. Featuring work by Margaret Atwood (The Heart Goes Last), Mariko Tamaki (This One Summer), Trina Robbins (Wonder Woman), Marguerite Bennett (Marvel's A-Force), Noelle Stevenson (Nimona), Marjorie Liu (Monstress), Carla Speed McNeil (Finder), and over fifty more creators. It's a compilation of tales told from both sides of the tables: from the fans who love video games, comics, and sci-fi to those that work behind the scenes: creators and industry insiders.

Review: Some of this I really liked, and some I hated. Perils of an anthology, I guess. One of the things I thought was most interesting about this was because a lot of the contributors are Canadian, it goes more into fandom history in Canada, and that's something I don't read about as much, but find very interesting.

Let's talk about things I didn't like first, though, and we'll go one at a time.

First of all is much of "How Fanfiction Made Me Gay" by J. M. Frey, which you can read a version of here. It has been updated for this edition.

Click to enlarge the photos in this tab, or open them in a new tab. The part I would like to point out is:
When we are becoming women we all want, and we all want to be wanted, but we don’t know how to go about getting it.
Yeah, how about no. Ace and aro women and girls exist. This erasal is not cool. Not all girls and women feel desire, sexual or romantic, and not all girls and women want to be desired.

This picture is giant, apologies. Pertinent line:
And through fanfiction I learned about identities like transgendered, genderfluid, and demisexual.
That should have been fixed in editing. This edition was edited and expanded from previous ones. That should have been taken out. Also, demisexual is not a gender thing, so this is kind of just messy in general. This essay has, in fact, been edited. And I want to show how it has been edited.

The previous version:

The expanded edition version:

For those not in the know, a demisexual is someone who only (or mostly) experiences sexual desire toward someone with whom they hold a deep intellectual and emotional attachment, and is in reference to the physical side of attraction. A biromantic is someone who usually experiences and engages in romantic relationships with both men and women (cis or trans), and deals with the emotional side of attraction.
I'm not going to say that the author of this essay can't identify however they want, and use whatever definition they want. The problem is, the author of this essay is stating that these things are true for everyone who identifies with these labels, and that... is a problem.

One, you can be biromantic or bisexual without ever being in a relationship. Relationships do not orientation make. Two, bi does not mean "men and women". It means "two or more". This erases nonbinary people so much, and erases bi people who aren't attracted to men, or who aren't attracted to women, or who aren't attracted to either.

Third... why the "cis or trans" separation? Trans men are men. Trans women are women. (Thanks Luci.)

Next up, Bemused by Roberta Gregory:

This uses an outdated term for a trans person, and misgenders them by using the wrong pronouns. While the context of the panel takes place in the early 80s, the 2016 editing should have removed this, in my opinion.

From "Yes, No, Maybe" by Megan Kearney. Demisexuality is defined as a lack of "sexual or romantic attraction except in the case of a strong emotional connection with a specific partner".

See a little problem here? DemiSEXUALITY is a lack of ROMANTIC attraction?

Yeaaaah, no.

The last essay I will talk about specifically is "Rise of the Late Bloomer" by Hope Nicholson, specifically:

Apologies that this is slightly blurry. The light was going because I live in Canada and it's winter. We'll go piece by piece, though.

I ended up hanging out with gay men, and women who didn't date. I wonder now if these women were like me and were late bloomers, or whether they were just very discreet in their love affairs. Either way, I never heard about their romantic encounters and it made me feel more at ease.

Was I queer? I had lots of crushes on men both real and fictional, but I never felt any similar type of obsession for women, so that seemed unlikely.
As Luci (again) says, same gender attraction is not a requirement for queerness. And attraction does not have to be the same for every gender you're attracted to. Ignoring the "plump" part because wow do I not have the energy to go there, next:
Was I asexual? I hadn't been romantically involved with anyone, but the thought of being without sex for my entire life left me feeling panicked, not relieved.
Romantic involvement is behaviour. Behaviour does not dictate orientation. Romantic anything doesn't dictate sexual orientation. Asexual people can have sex. Some asexual people do have sex. Some asexual people have high sex drives.

These two are my least favourite essays, and "Rise of the Late Bloomer" really shows one of my biggest problems with the anthology, and that is that aromantic people are completely ignored. And I realize people are going to be like "Well, what did you expect from an anthology about love?" and um. Queerplatonic relationships. What it's like to grow up in a world that expects you to feel romantic attraction. Many essays and comics in this anthology aren't necessarily about relationships that are magic and last forever - what about romantic relationships that led a person to realize they're aromantic? Marjorie Liu's "Ghost" is about the after effects of abuse, for instance. There was room.

This story in particular completely ignores the existence of aromantic people, and since this story is by the editor of the anthology, I think that is reflected in the rest of it. There are very few mentions of aromanticism, and they are all fleeting at best. Sometimes, like in "How Fanfiction Made Me Gay", it's glaringly looked over. This is very much an oversight of the anthology. I love that demisexual and ace authors were included, but the lack of aro authors is incredibly disappointing. And "Rise of the Late Bloomer" really makes me think that the editor was not equipped to deal with asexual or aromantic identities in a way that would prevent harm.

I also wish nonbinary people hadn't been erased so much. There's a handful of phrase like "opposite sex" and "men and women" in different stories and anthologies. And I think that not including someone who's nonbinary but also identifies as a girl at times is kind of an oversight. Like demi-girls, or a genderfluid person.

I liked a lot of this. There's stuff from people I like, and the combination of essays and graphic media is awesome. Some of the things included I absolutely loved. Besides the complete lack of aro inclusion, it is mostly pretty diverse. Reading about this kind of history is really interesting, and I see a lot of my own experiences reflected in the fandom stuff. The "guide to online dating" did like nothing for me, to be honest, but other pieces I thought were great.

Again, there was a lot of this I enjoyed. There was enough I enjoyed that it just makes me sad that I really hate that there was so much that I disliked so much, and so much that actually felt harmful or offfensive. I wanted to enjoy this so much more, but then I read it, and it erased my existence and made me feel very excluded. Three out of five for the parts I did like.

Peace and cookies,

Monday, January 15, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (64): Extraquels

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.

Bad Blood by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Published: November 1st, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 373 plus the acknowledgements.
Part of a series? This is the fourth and, as far as I know, final Naturals book. Beware of spoilers ahead. You can see my thoughts on the first book here, and my thoughts on the second and here here.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): When Cassie Hobbes joined the FBI’s Naturals program, she had one goal: uncover the truth about her mother’s murder. But now, everything Cassie thought she knew about what happened that night has been called into question. Her mother is alive, and the people holding her captive are more powerful—and dangerous—than anything the Naturals have faced so far. As Cassie and the team work to uncover the secrets of a group that has been killing in secret for generations, they find themselves racing a ticking clock.

The bodies begin piling up, the deaths hit closer and closer to home, and it soon becomes apparent that this time, the Naturals aren’t just hunting serial killers.

They’re being hunted themselves.

Thoughts: I think these are actually best read one right after the other, although this does a pretty good job of catching you up. I have like no memory, so maybe other people do better, but I had forgotten some of the details and it took me a little bit to get back into the voice and flow of the book. As this one is also the last book, too, the vast majority of it is about the plot.

I both liked that and had some issues with it. It's super exciting, and so much happens, but some of the characterizations suffers as a result of that. It's not bad with the existing characters, as we've had three other books to get to know them, but one of the new characters especially gets hit with it. That bothered me especially because it was the first and last queer character in four books to show up. Related, something that's started bothering me is how infantalized Sloane is in these books - she's the only character who doesn't end up in a romance by the end of the series, shown to be very clueless when people flirt with her, and the book at one point calls her "the most childlike". It's bordering on problematic honestly, because she's also somewhat coded as autistic or something similar. She's a really funny and sweet character, but I became less comfortable about it the more I read it and the more some of these things were emphasized.

Coding without actually labelling is becoming one of my least favourite tropes because... you could have gone for representation instead!

I think my biggest problem with these is I enjoy the voice and the writing and what they do well so much that what they do badly really bothers me because they could be absolutely amazing if they didn't fall into certain traps, or lack diversity so much. I like the characters so much, though, and the plot twists always surprise me, so it leaves me conflicted. I honestly love these, but they have problems. They're really fun, but I wouldn't expect them to be great on representation, I guess.

Sink or Swim by Shannon Watters, Noelle Stevenson, Kat Leyh, Grace Ellic, Carey Pietsch, Maarta Laiho, and Brooke A. Allen

Published: April 10th, 2017 by BOOM! Box
Genre: YA Fantasy Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 112
Part of a series? This is Volume 6 of the bind-ups, containing issues 21-24.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Knot On Your Life!

Camp is about more than just crafts and acquiring badges when you’re a Lumberjane. When April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley all decide to learn more about the mysterious Seafarin’ Karen, things take a turn for the strange. Shapeshifters, strange portals, and friendship to the max make for one summer camp that never gets boring!

Thoughts: SEAFARIN' KAREN. I love her so much. Lumberjanes is just my favourite in general, and this is a really good one, too. SELKIES. I also can't wait to learn more about the on-going plot arc and I really adore a certain relationship that has developed. The next volume comes out the day before my birthday and I already want it. I'm not a super big fan of the current artist, but I'm still super excited about the series and I really enjoyed this volume. I just end up so happy when I read these.

Triple Threat by Gwenda Bond

Published: April 18th, 2017 by Switch Press
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 357 plus acknowledgements and about the author.
Part of a series? This is the third and I believe final book in the Lois Lane series. See my thoughts on Fallout here, and Double Down here.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): For the first time, Lois Lane has almost everything she wants. Non-temporary home? Check. Dream job? Double check. Incredible BFFs? The absolute best. And now, her online crush, SmallvilleGuy, is coming to Metropolis. If all goes well, they'll turn their long-distance friendship into a some-kind-of-fairy-tale romance. But when does all ever go well?

Before she can check boyfriend off her list, Lois must take down a mad scientist plus a trio of mutant teens, protect the elusive flying man from the feds (including her dad), and navigate her very first date with SmallvilleGuy. In the follow-up to FALLOUT and DOUBLE DOWN, Gwenda Bond's reimagination of DC Comics's first leading lady takes on her toughest challenge yet: Love.

Thoughts: I am both bummed that this is quite likely the last book and very satisfied with it as a finale to the series. It wraps things up in a satisfying way and really shows how much Lois has grown in her friendships, and how far she's come from having none.

The romance in this is just the cutest thing. And honestly, I think one of my favourite things is that there's no love triangle, or real romance drama. The romance is obviously a tiny bit predictable, because we know where it's going to go (I mean... we do, lol), but the book, and the series, does the best thing with that. It takes the time to develope the characters so that we love them as much as they love each other.

One thing I gotta ask - what's with this series and the name James? There's two James (father and son) and also a random "Jamie". It's just that name, but still, I notice these things XD

Overall, I really liked this and I'd recommend the series if you want something fun and comic-book related. I'd really love to read more like this, too.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia

Published: April 21st, 2015 by Amistad
Genre: Historical MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 285
Part of a series? This is the third and final book in the Gaither Sisters series. See my thoughts on the first book here, and the second here.
Got via: Library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern are off to Alabama to visit their grandmother Big Ma and her mother, Ma Charles. Across the way lives Ma Charles’s half sister, Miss Trotter. The two half sisters haven’t spoken in years.

As Delphine hears about her family history, she uncovers the surprising truth that’s been keeping the sisters apart. But when tragedy strikes, Delphine discovers that the bonds of family run deeper than she ever knew possible.

Thought: This is a great way to wrap the series up. I like how things are both kind of wrapped up, and there are new things happening in their life so it's like all beginning and end all at once. That was a terrible sentence. The characters are growing, and things they've been dealing with throughout the series come back and they work through them and learn to not just fall into the same patterns they've always fell into. Characters have to learn new roles and things about themselves.

At the same time, I thought the girls exploring their roots as a family just as they're getting to an age where they're not going to be as close and lean on each other so much was a great idea. They're also away from home again, and thrown into a different environment, shaking things up. Their family story is great, and it's really interesting what a contrast this one especially is from the first one. But at the same time, there's a lot of similarity in what happens in them - the girls spend a summer together, exploring both their relationships with each other and others, and learning about their family.

Great book on its own, and a really great way to wrap up the series.

Trigger warnings for child abuse, racism, animal death, and a near-death experience, which could especially be upsetting for a younger child.

And I believe that's it!!

Peace and cookies,