diverse books, YA

One of Us is Lying Book Thoughts

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I read the concept and immediately thought Breakfast club but with murder. It’s the murder club. I was so excited. It’s on my most anticipated reads list for the year. The Breakfast Club is my favorite movie that contains no queer characters. My top 10 films consisted of all LGBT films and The Breakfast Club. it’s been like that since I first saw the film. I also have really enjoyed YA mysteries and thrillers recently So I was so very excited for this book and I gotta say I wasn’t disappointed.

Sure there were cliches. I kind of expected that with the Jock, criminal, brain, and princess walk into detention thing.The bookish tropes were more of a giveaway of things. On the back, it says Everyone has a secret right? These characters have many. There were also so many layers to these characters.  Yeah, I could guess some of them. Likely before I should have been able to but I still enjoyed it a lot.

The mystery was good. Simon’s killer didn’t elude me forever. The killer was one of my theories. I just had a lot of theories, though. I suspected all of the main four at some point. Even though I love our murder club they are sketchy. I suspected the teacher. I suspected side characters we meet for only small amounts of time. I had a lot of suspects with this one. One of them was right but I gotta say the result was still surprising. This book went in ways I didn’t expect. The way their peers and the media reacted to them was surprising at times. The information is laid out in a nice way. I felt like the pacing was great.

Cooper’s big secret was the only one that was a bit of a letdown. Only because I guessed it about 20 pages into the book. The big secret of his doesn’t get revealed until the very end of the second part. He has some secrets before that but it’s his big one. I genuinely think it was supposed to be a big twist/turn and it was kind of like yeah I’ve known this for over 200 pages. What’s next? I will say that I think me guessing that had more to do with my particularly reading taste. It’s a trope I’ve seen a lot of so I saw the signs even when they were really small and so much else was going on. I do like Cooper. I see the pressure his father put on him with athletics. The only reason I’m not talking about the secret is that I really am not sure that others were able to guess as early as me or if I was supposed to be able to. It was a nice touch really so I can’t even fault the story on that.

Nate’s story was also a bit more cliche than I thought the girls were but It’s fine. Nate’s cool. He has a pet lizard named Stan, which is awesome. So I can ignore cliche book tropes.  I kind of felt like we didn’t get as much time with Nate as we did the others. I feel like, for the most part, we know what the others were thinking or wanted us to think. I also gave him an accent in my head and I have no clue where that came from. I realized it halfway through the book and I just rolled with it.

I don’t usually talk in depth about covers for YA books but I might need to. The cover was one of the things that made this book stand out when I was looking at new releases for the year. I like the paper cutouts. The red writing on front and back. Everyone has a secret right? It all looks goo until I get into the story and have to questions the people used. Bronwyn is half Columbian and the girl representing her on the cover is not how she is described at all. They made a point to contrast Bronwyn and her sister Maeve. It just felt like an odd choice. I also started reading g up more about whitewashing in covers. It’s something I’ve noticed before in M/M romance but never saw how prominent it was elsewhere. It just bothered me a bit. I’ll add that don’t think the other characters are good choices either from their descriptions in the book.

Seeing Bronwyn shift as she gets more wrapped up in this case, was great. I really liked her character from the get-go. The way that her race played into things made sense. I think the reactions from other people, the way the media treats her family as the case gets more buzz, and the way her father is all made a lot of sense. I also like that Maeve and Bronwyn were supposed to speak Spanish when they were at home. We get a bit of that. I would not have minded seeing that a little more.

Addy arguably changes the most. I feel like she is able to become who she should have been all along over the course of this book. At first, she was my least favorite of the murder club but I gotta say my opinion about her really changed as we went through the book. I was actually rooting for her to not be the killer after the second part. At page 100 I wouldn’t have totally been okay with her being the killer. Like I didn’t care but the turn around was fast. I was in her corner after a while.

I really thought this was fantastic. It’s honestly a book I’d read again even knowing who the killer is. I read this from the library but it’s definitely going on my books to buy list. Hope I can get myself a copy of it somewhere down the line. Check out the playlist I put together with songs that reminded me of the book or I listened to while reading.

Playlist: https://open.spotify.com/user/123126892/playlist/6DiAeGF9fAeiCOPoVaNVGJ

 

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LGBTQIA+, YA

Love is the Higher Law by David Levithan

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I’m in love with this book. It’s definitely my favorite read of the month right now. We follow three characters on the day of the terrorist attack on the two towers in New York. These are three teenagers that live in New York and all experience this event in different ways. I always think Levithan does an amazing job with alternating chapters. These three characters seem like they have no connection at first but all know each other in some way. Gave me Realm of Possibility feels. I liked it. It was able to take you through their experiences on the day of the event then go on to inspire the reader and lift them up.

Claire is a great character. From the first chapter in her perspective, I knew her experience with everything would be different. Claire’s personal journey is really well written. You know that her experiences on 9/11 are going to change her but I didn’t expect the extent that it does. She has some of the more intense passages in this book for me as she’s trying to figure out what to do. How do you move on as a city after something like this? As a country?

There is a moment in the opening of the book where I realize how strong Claire can be. She really holds it together for her younger brother and the kids in his classroom. When she lets herself feel and these intense moments come later and when she lets herself say what all she is feeling to one of the other characters it’s really wonderful. Claire puts in whatever effort she can to make things better in the world. I honestly love this character so much. Claire finds a connection to other people. She seeks out others who are affected in the way that she is.

Two of the three main characters in this book are gay. I didn’t know that going in but it’s a David Levithan book so I should have expected a little gay. Was very happy to have it.  Peter and Jasper are both great characters. They both change a lot because of the events of 9/11 like Claire do. Even if they are in completely different ways.

Peter is so hopeful and innocent in the beginning to me.I really get that impression.He’s the type of character I root for in books. He’s a gay guy who was just super excited about going on a date with a guy he met at a party. He was just hoping for a great experience with someone he’d awkwardly flirted with at a party. Then he runs down the street from his favorite store and sees the first tower of the World Trade Building collapse. His immediate disconnect from what is his norm there was poignant. He isn’t able to play his music when he walks toward school. I loved that part of Peter’s process. His grieving or finding a way to move on process involved music. Music can really help people get through things. I find that so relatable. Music is a big part of my life. His experience at a concert a few days after 9/11 was so nicely written. The camaraderie of the people who still showed up to this show was beautiful.

Jasper wakes up on the day of 9/11 to a phone call from his parents who are visiting his grandmother in Korea. I feel like Jasper is in some ways the most lost of the three characters. I feel like Jasper isn’t sure of his place in things before 9/11 happens. He seems like he’s waded through life. He hasn’t lived much or decided who he is or wants to be. I feel like thinking about all the lives lost really impacts him. Jasper even feels separate from what other people around him are feeling because his experience on 9/11 was very different from most of the people that he knows. It’s definitely different from Peter and Claire. Even though he lives in New York he experiences a lot of the after effect.he doesn’t see the planes hit. He’s not on the streets trying to get away from the wreckage or worrying about where his family is. He’s safe. His parents are away. He doesn’t know what to do or how to feel. As the story goes on I really started to like Jasper and the changes I saw in him.

I can’t even explain what I felt about Jasper and Peter fully. I shipped it so hard but also so hesitantly. Having a first date the day after 9/11 is not the best sign. I still wanted it to work so bad. I love both of the characters. I said before that I could see all these characters were somewhat lost after what happened. Jasper and Peter needed different things in order to find themselves again.Things they needed to find separately. Still, they are able to help each other in small ways. They are so different at the end of the book than they are at the beginning and I love them.

Claire bridges the gap between the three main characters of this book. I feel like she brings the group together. They all know each other in passing small ways. I feel like Claire ultimately is the force that brings three people who need each other together. They find something special. All three of these characters gain something from each other. Something they need to help them along on their journey. Claire really is able to glue them together over time. She keeps that connection to both of them because it’s something she needs. These are two people who have helped her by just listening and understanding. All three characters are different people by the end of the book.

This book left me in a light mood. It was so hopeful. It made you have faith in people. It’s truly excellent. Really happy I finally got around to reading it. I was hesitant because of the topic and I had taken out from the library once in the past without ever picking it up. I’m so glad that I did not do that this time. I definitely recommend you give this book a chance.

 

ARC's, diverse books

Assassins: Nemesis Review

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I didn’t know what I was getting into with this story but I must say I enjoyed it quite a lot. Not at first. I tried reading it a while back and wasn’t able to get into it but I think now was the right time for it.

It’s a crazy action packed story. We’ve got espionage and assassins galore. You really get thrown into it in the first chapter and need to read past there to allow things to settle before getting back into action. Blake is going through all of it pretty suddenly and just making their way through. We are along on the journey with them.

Blake is not an Assassin. I believe the first book followed someone raised to kill. That is not Blake. Blake is after the people who put the hit on their father but not fully ready for the harsh realities. The uncomfortableness when they first shoot someone is the first indicator of that. They continue to shy away from violence when the people around them are more prone to using it in missions. it was interesting to see these spy operations through Blake’s perspective.

I liked that inclusions of talk about sexuality just happened. It’s part of life. You don’t need a reason to make Blake genderfluid or intersex.This book has an intersex protagonist without being about being intersex and I love that so much.They just are. We don’t need to put too much more focus on it than that in this story. It’s just part of Blake’s life. I think that was the best way to go with a plot that had so much going on already. Staying committed to the plot and to the character by showing all that is a part of them.

Blake identifies as “mixed race, multiethnic, allergic to more things than I want to name, intersex because of partial androgen sensitivity syndrome, expressively genderfluid but mentally agender, and panromantic graysexual.” Blake states what her/his pronouns are at the time and we keep going. I like that a lot. Also, Daelen and the others asked so they wouldn’t misgender her/him. They cared and it was really nice.

I was excited to see a romance blooming for a genderfluid character as well. I could ship Daelan and Blake. Not sure if I do ultimately but I could. I feel like the connection is surprisingly strong and well-written. They just meet right at the beginning of this and it works. It’s really only a thing I’ve started seeing in books I read this year for genderfluid characters. It’s also a romance with a gray ace character. I loved that so much. I felt like it was presented well. It made me so happy.

I loved the characters and the way that the author handled them in this so I’m really happy I’ve had the opportunity to read this. I fell like it’s something I could reread. Also, I have to say that the Shakespeare nerd in me got real happy about some things in this book. Shakespeare references will get me every time.

YA

Diverse Characters in Hammer of Thor

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Have I talked about how much I love all the diverse elements Rick Riordan has brought into his books? It’s honestly so nice to see as a person who grew up with the Percy Jackson series. To see the world become more and more real if that makes sense to say in a fictional world where Gods and demigods exist. Heroes of Olympus had such a diverse set of heroes and I might say that made me love it even more than Percy Jackson. Now Magnus Chase is on it’s way to being that way as well.

In this book we have Magnus and friends in search of Thor’s hammer. They have to obtain the hammer before Loki enacts some crazy plan of his. Loki is up to Loki things as always. He’s always got a reason for the things he does. Probably not something that will work out well for the good guys. I mainly want to talk about some of the awesome characters in  this book for this review.

Samirah is such an interesting character to me. She is a Muslim girl who is devoted to her faith. She’s also a  Valykyrie. I like that we got more conversation on how this all adds up for her. How she is able to reconcile the two very different beliefs. Samirah is a really great character. You really see the toll that being a child of Loki has put on her in this book through her relationship with her sibling Alex. Plus because of everything Loki puts the both of them up against over the course of this book. Loki gets no points in the parent department even if he’s not complete trash all the time. I feel like Alex and Samirah need to meet Nico and Hazel. I feel like they’d be able to compare experiences a little. The stigma with being a child of Loki vs. being a child of Hades. I’d like to see it.

I love Hearthstone and Blitz’s friendship. In the first book you definitely see it but here you see how much they really mean to each other. Blitz is Hearthstone’s family. Hearthstone’s real family didn’t treat him well. Partially because of his inability to hear. Anything different was a problem for them. Hearthstone’s father is really frustrating to read when we finally meet him in this book. It definitely made me want to see more about Hearthstone’s background but also made me excited to see Hearthstone get more powerful going forward. His reverence for the Gods is also really nice to see in this story. I’m ready for more magic use. I didn’t know about the Norse God Vidar. often known as the Silent God. Having Vidar draw a connection to Hearthstone because of it was interesting.  Vidar even signs to Hearthstone in a type of sign language only Hearthstone understood. Possible Alf Sign language.  It was a really cool moment to me.

I was really excited when Alex was introduced. It’s so refreshing seeing a genderfluid character in a series that spins off from a series I grew up watching.  Also, I have to wonder if Alex is Magnus’ love interest. When you read the first Percy Jackson book you already have a feeling who might be endgame.  You don’t get that with Magnus Chase book 1. The Sword of Summer. There is definitely a connection between Magnus and Alex in this book that is making me think it could happen.

Magnus reaction to meeting Alex was so well done. Magnus spent most of his life homeless. Living on the streets. He’s met many queer homeless youth in that time. He knows people who are non-binary. He’s been in shelters with people that are Trans and genderfluid before. So he really doesn’t have a big reaction to it at all like a large portion of Valhalla seems to. If Magnus is falling for Alex I’m wondering if Alex is possibly pansexual too. Magnus never has shown attraction to anyone in the series yet so he is an open book in a book that explores many different identities. Maybe Magnus just likes Alex. We’ll have to see. Either way having the protagonist of the series in a queer relationship would be really awesome.

The characters keep me coming back to this series. They are all so great. I love the direction the plot is going. Ragnarok could be coming if our heroes don’t prevent it. Maybe Loki is actually up to something else entirely. I really don’t know. I’m just excited to see more of these characters going forward. Especially some of the new characters we are seeing. The Gods we met were interesting as well. The Norse Gods are something else. I really like the ones that are being incorporated into the story so far. I think I’ll talk more about the book and some other elements in a Youtube video soon. Until then tell me what you thought of the book if you’ve read it and if you haven’t I definitely suggest you try out this series.

Book Reviews, diverse books, YA

The Hate U Give Book Thoughts

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Angie Thomas delivers a fresh and extremely real story here. I feel like this is a book that so many people could benefit from reading. It could be timeless. Many important discussions can be had from the book. This book ties into current events and I feel like it’s a book many people can really get something from. This book really makes you feel things.

I also have to say that Thomas does an amazing job at taking us on this journey. Such a variety in scenes all handled really well. It’s pretty straight forward. Here’s what’s happening. Here is what Starr is feeling. It works. Starr witnesses a friend who is unarmed get gunned down by police. It’s intense topic. There are scenes and moments where you feel so frustrated for Starr and what she is going through throughout.

Thomas finds moments to fit in humor that works really well. I can go from being frustrated by Starr and her situation. Feeling frustration for her family. Anger over the reactions of some people. Then have these moments where things are lighter. I can laugh along with Starr. Part of that was how relatable Star situation was. How similar Starr’s family and friends were to people in my life.

Starr is s relatable to me throughout this book in many ways.  Hiding parts of yourself depending on the group you are hanging out with. The vulnerability Starr feels in certain situations that weren’t that different from some things in my past. Her connection and love for her family. Her relationship with her boyfriend Chris. The emotions she expresses as she deals with loss. Sometimes I felt like I related to so much to what was happening.

I’ve talked about crappy YA families this year on too many occasions. The family Dynamics in The Hate U Give are amazing. I could not believe how much time we were getting to see the way this family worked. An unconventional family maybe but it’s a family that was relatable to me so many times throughout this book. You have a group of people who are not perfect but they take care of each other and love each other. You can feel the love coming off the page. There is nothing Starr’s parents would not do to protect their kids. You don’t even have to be a blood relative to them for them to treat you like family either. I loved that.

The sense of community at times in this story was amazing. Moments where you saw people really coming together like a family.Even with their differences.  Even when they’ve been fighting for so long. There are these moments that were beautiful to see.

I loved Staar and Chris’ relationship.I felt like there was such a nice arc for it in this. I saw the way they struggled and related to some of the things they struggled with. I’m in an interracial relationship and even if my experiences were not exactly the same as Starr’.Some definitely were. I have family who talked down about black people who decide to date someone that is white growing up. Off hand comments from family growing up caused me to be a lot more cautious than was good for me with revealing many things about myself. While seeing the way Starr took that in and made decisions based on it all I could do was nod along because I’ve been there.

This story is one of the most real stories I’ve read in a while.I love that this book had a   13 publishing house auction, I love that people knew this was a book that needed to get out there. I hope this book continues to get so much love. If you haven’t picked up this book I definitely think you should. I highly recommend it.