Book Reviews, diverse books, Retellings, YA

As I Descended by Robin Talley

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I want to start off this review by saying that Macbeth is one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I don’t know how many times I’ve reread it or watched productions of it now. It’s too many to count. I think that me being so familiar with Macbeth was good and bad with reading this retelling. I was prepared for the ends of certain characters and that ended up being a good thing for me at times. I went into it hoping to love the characters and the story as much as I do with the play.

I also knew that it would be a play that would be difficult to make modern with the supernatural elements. In the early part of Macbeth, he gets a prophecy from three witches. You quickly see that spirits are going to be involved with this retelling. Spirits that have talked to Maria (Macbeth) since she was a child. I will say never mess with ouija boards. I’ve said it in past post and I’ll say it again. Don’t do it. I’d rather we had dealt with witches over spirits tbh. This school being haunted for whatever reason didn’t work for me. The spirits needed to keep pushing things in this text which is a change that didn’t help. The witches are really only at the beginning of Macbeth even if their prophecy impacts the entirety of it.

I also have to say that in the latter half of the book there is a major disconnect with the main characters of Lily and Maria. The spirit element almost gets too far to really feel what is happening to the characters. I still feel connected to Macbeth and Lady Macbeth through all the insanity that happens with them in Macbeth. So it was disappointing to not be able to get that same feel in this retelling. That disconnect is truly unfortunate because it definitely took away from the story for me.

Our Macbeth is a gay girl named Maria who ask for the spirits help to get a scholarship that is going to be rewarded to Delilah. That aspect actually worked for me. Somehow becoming the most popular person in school and gaining a major scholarship works as a motive to off your competition Macbeth style. I don’t know why but it did.

Robin Talley made me care for Brandon as a character enough for what happens to him to really bother me. I applaud that because I don’t care about Banquo much when reading Macbeth normally. Unless highlighting or thinking about Banquo’s significance for Macbeth going forward in the play. Brandon was a very compelling character. I cared about him a lot in this. He’s a good hearted person like his Shakespearean counterpart. This modern version is also queer, however. He’s in a relationship with Matteo and shows that he has some body image issues in the text. I felt like he was made so relatable. It’s interesting to think about Macbeth from Banquo’s perspective. As Banquo sees changes in Macbeth and reacts to them. Thinking about the other elements od Banquo’s life. I’m really happy we got his perspective but I also think it changed the way I viewed other characters in this retelling.

I’m a fan of the Macbeths. You know they have to lose in Macbeth because it’s a tragedy but they are brilliant villains to follow throughout the text and what compels you to continue the story. Maria and Lily were not that in this text for me. I was much more interested in Mateo’s story. I never thought much about the character of Macduff but I loved Talley’s modern version of the character. He just worked so well. You wanted to see him succeed more than anything else. Brandon being developed the way he was enforced that as well.

Lady Macbeth is really one of my favorite characters in Shakespeare and love to read studies on the character. I was a little disappointed with Lily’s descent into madness. I felt like I really wanted more from it. I wanted it to work well like it does in Macbeth. Lily has a disability and I thought it was presented well. I liked the way it affected how she felt with the other students. Lily wanted higher status and it did raise the stakes for her. Talley made it play into Lady Macbeth well. I did appreciate that difference but just wanted more from the character. To feel like that agency lady Macbeth originally has even more here.

4 of the 5 perspectives you get in this story are queer characters. The 4 main are people in m/m or f/f relationships. Several die of course because this is a mostly accurate Shakespeare retelling. I applaud Talley on how she was able to get a lot of the story transferred over while bringing new diverse elements to the story. Matteo deserves all the happiness in the world. I really loved following him as a relatable queer male character. Plus he is Hispanic like a few other characters in the cast. The diverse elements did draw me to the story and I did appreciate it a lot.

Overall I did enjoy the story. I really like all the things that Talley brought to the retelling and that you can see how much she tried to stay true to Macbeth. The inclusion of these very diverse characters was done really naturally and they worked for the retelling being in a school setting. There is a lot that I wanted more from this story but overall it’s definitely worth trying out.

 

Small Spoilery After Thoughts

SPOILER WARNING

Spoiler Warning

SPOILER WARNING

Queer people outing other queer people is really getting on my nerves in text or anyone being outed for that matter. It didn’t seem like it was necessary in the case of Matteo and that was definitely another drop for this story with me.

 

Book Reviews, diverse books, Nonfiction

Hidden Figures Book Review

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Hidden Figures was a really fantastic read. It was crazy to me when I started the book because I knew I would be reading about some amazing black women that I never had the opportunity to learn about before. I went to several schools where the majority of my classes were black students and this wasn’t something we learned about in the curriculum of our history classes. I feel like that is truly unfortunate. I saw so many people saying the same thing when the movie first started making a buzz.

This book is really just the facts of what happened to these women. We get the background on these amazing women. We learn about the beginnings of NASA and America’s journey to being able to put a man on the moon while following some amazing black women who helped make it happen. We learn about their passion for math and get an idea of where that passion grew for some of them. We also see how these bright women still struggled to get as far as they did because of the color of their skin.

If you are expecting more of a plot driven thing you might be disappointed as I’ve seen some people were. I’d say go see the movie for more of that even though I haven’t seen it yet myself. I definitely get the impression from what friends who have read the book and seen the movie. This book could act as great background information for the characters you see in the film.

It feels academic in nature. Almost like a textbook which I kind of liked honestly. It didn’t take away from it for me at all. Maybe it’s because I didn’t go into it expecting something else. I wanted to learn about these women that I had not before. I didn’t see the movie so I’m not aware of how it’s different in the film version. I went in with just different expectations and those expectations were met. I learned so much from this book.

I feel that it holds it’s own as a text personally. Margot Lee Shetterly really was able to capture the lives of these women and show what they were passionate about in a way that really captivated me just with the facts. Just by telling us what they went through. Explaining how it felt to be put in the situations they were. The arcs of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson in this book really make me want to see the film as soon as I can.

 

 

Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, YA

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee Review

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I enjoyed the story for sure. I had a hard time not questioning the logistics of the world but questions aside it is really interesting. A solar flare gave a lot of people powers. Meta Humans galore. They are classed at different levels with the higher level becoming superheroes. It is really interesting but felt like I needed more detail still.

I love the representation in the story. I don’t read many books with bisexual main characters in this kind of genre. Jess is also an Asian protagonist. I’m all about superhero stories with QPOC characters. It was great to see how her family’s background affected their life in different ways.I also like the way the main relationship went overall. It was a cute pairing. Felt a bit too fluffy for the story at times but it was nice.

There was too hinting sometimes. I figured out a lot of things really easily. I think the first reveal that Jess has no clue about is something that yeah the reader is probably supposed to figure out. If not it was okay that I did. It was a type of dramatic irony knowing the thing that Jess didn’t.I feel like the other reveals may have had too much laid out too, though. I wanted less predictable in those later chapters.

So Jess has it pretty rough in this book after things really kick off. The twist and turns n her life are a lot to handle and she really handles it pretty well. I also felt like there was a definite hero journey for her that coincided with her deciding she wanted to be her own person. She wasn’t going to live in the shadow of her family or just do what they wanted her to do in order to get by.She is going to do things for herself.

There also is a trans character in this story named Bells. It looks like he will be the main character of the sequel. I’m excited to see the continuation of the group’s story in the following book for sure.

I really wish more had happened by the end of this one or that more have been accomplished. Even knowing that there will be another book I was a bit dissatisfied with the end. The sequel does come out this year so I hope I’m able to get it sooner rather than later. It looks like it will be focusing on Bells like I said. I am glad I read this. Jess is a great main character and I hope she and everyone else makes some major progress dealing with the situation they are all in next time.

Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, YA

History is All You Left Me Review

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History is All You Left Me by Adam Silver is the second book chosen for The Rainbow Library.A landslide in the voting. A lot of members were excited about the book release.I’m really glad it was chosen as well. I was a big fan of More Happy Than Not and had the History Is All You Left Me book pre-ordered. I was going to wait a bit longer to dive into but I’m glad this group gave me the push to do it now.Apologizing now if this review gets too scattered. I took lots of notes.

This story intrigued me right away with the setup. You jump into the story and realize that the chapters will alternate between the present and the past.History and Today. We have a main character that is flawed in some ways too. I’m  talking about the way he handles a lot of the relationships in his life. I could see that it wasn’t the best right away. Especially after seeing how great Griffin’s relationship with Wade and Theo is in the first few history chapters. It’s so interesting trying to connect the history Griff gives us to his present. I was always looking for the clues to see how things came to be this way. Trying to figure out who is at fault for things before history could catch up with the present more.

I have to say I was surprised by how much I loved the history chapters. They start the day that Theo and Griffin admit their feelings for each other,  goes through their relationship and ends on the day that Theo dies. There were so many beautiful moments in their relationship and it really was bittersweet to read knowing that they eventually break up and that Theo dies. The first few history chapters really drew me in and I was excited that I was going to really enjoy those flashbacks.

Early on I wondered how reliable Griffin was as a narrator for not only the history sections. It was a small moment during the funeral of Theo that made me think it. It was just a perspective thing. The way he saw Jackson and how I could tell he blamed Jackson for Theo’s death to some extent. It made him think that other people might see Jackson similarly when that wasn’t the case. It was the first point where I realized there would definitely be some bias with anything revolving Jackson in the history or today part.

One really interesting thing about Griffin as a narrator is that he’s talking to Theo. The whole story is Griffin going over his history with Theo and also telling Theo the things he didn’t know. The things he wanted to but didn’t get a chance to. The “you” he references in the today sections is Theo.He models his actions toward Jackson based on what Theo would want him to do. If Theo would be disappointed in him. I saw it as another way for him to process Theo’s death. Believing that somehow Theo might be out there listening to him. A little odd considering that it’s pointed out that Griffin isn’t religious like Jackson.

Griffin has OCD. I really can’t comment much on the way it’s written besides that it feels accurate. I have a family member that has OCD and I grew up watching them deal with their compulsions. Compulsions that are very different from what Griffin’s are, though.His compulsions dealt with counting and even numbers. He always had to walk on one side of people or he became anxious. I liked the way it was shown throughout the story.I liked the way the people in his life reacted differently to it as well.

This story had what I call the January problem now. It’s where you only see a character through flashback and don’t always get the info you want. January from Last Seen Leaving was a character I had this kind of issue with. Theo can’t tell his story. Griffin has to tell it for him. Jackson and others can share stories of him but they can’t tell us what Theo was thinking. I really just wished I could get in his head. I got to the point in the history chapters where I had some questions. Theo, what are you doing? Do you really think you can stay friends with Griffin and be with Jackson? Do you not see how messy this situation is? Why are you a mess? Plus so many more questions as I realize things that Theo did or said. It’s not a problem that takes anything away from the story for me. I just will have those questions forever.

The last sixty or eighty pages I would read a page. Then stop to process because I needed to before reading another page.It was a long process. Sometimes I would lean against a wall or pace. Adam Silvera takes you on these really emotional roller coasters in his work. The situation between this group of guys was so messy and that was before Theo died. It really just gets worse. There were definitely some cringe moments because I didn’t want to think about how I’d handle the situations they were going through.  Pg 225 I for sure wasn’t ready for. I could not. I still cannot.I didn’t even know how I kept going toward the end right after that.

I really can’t knock this story rating down for anything that happens. There are things that were frustrating but it wasn’t frustrations that would affect the rating I’d give the book.If the situation was different these things would. I’m never a fan of people doing things to emotionally hurt people. Griff definitely does that at points in this story and I feel like Jackson does as well.Griff makes some bad decisions in his History with Theo that might make him unlikeable for people. Theo might be unlikeable for you.However, this was a story about people grieving over the death of someone they loved. It’s completely true that there were moments where I definitely have a problem with things done. Especially by the main character Griffin but all his emotions and actions were valid.This form of grieving was valid. Not right necessarily but it was valid. He’s in a rough spot and you see that throughout the entire book. I went along on this journey with Griffin knowing that he was going to possibly make some bad decisions.

There were chapters early on where I wished we could see more of Wade. I think it’s because I loved Wade in the chapters in the past. He was a great friend and added something to those scenes before Theo and Griffin start pushing him out a little unintentionally.I also wondered why he became more distant. What did Theo do or say to push his best friend away? Another question I had. Later in the story, we do finally get to see what’s going on with Wade. I have to say that there are things about Wade that I related to in a this is hurting my soul kind of way. I really wish we could have seen more of his character. Jackson and Griffin get to m0urn together for a big portion of this story. Wade mourns his friend alone and that is really rough.

I have to applaud Silvera on somehow throwing in a subtle twist that was just as jarring as the twist in More Happy Than Not even if on a smaller scale. More Happy Than Not had a sci-fi element.The thing that shocked me there was a big deal. History is All You left Me is just all real and still had these emotionally jarring moments that are so brilliant and unexpected. Adam Silvera is really becoming one of my favorite authors really quickly.I’m excited for his next book They Both Die At The End.I know I will likely be a complete emotional wreck after that one but I don’t mind that when it’s an Adam Silvera book. This story comes out to a 5-star read for me.

Comics, diverse books

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang

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This comic was pretty amazing.It was intended to be one of my short reads for #Diverseathon but was pushed to this month. I’m so glad my library had it. I never heard of the comic before. it was just a great comic I found on my shelf. Gene Luen Yang recreates the story of the first Asian American superhero The Green Turtle.loved getting a little history on the character int he back of this collection.I’m really happy to see that mantle being taken and shown in a much bigger way here.The origin of the hero of this collection is really rooted in Asian culture.

You first see how our hero Hank’s family got to America.You see the struggles his mom has in the country since hr family first immigrates there when she is a child. You see how she met her husband and the rut she falls into after that. I thought it was a great decision to focus so much on the mother. She really pushes her son to be a hero even when he has no reason to want to be a hero at first. No powers or any desire to do more than he’s already set up for his life. She’s misguided in a lot of ways. She puts him in danger but shows that she loves her family by the end.

As for Hank. He’s out trying to be a superhero before he even gets any powers. Just for his mom really and I love that.he cares about his family. The origin of his father bonding with the turtle spirit was awesome.We get that story in the first few pages. The turtle spirit has to live in a human shadow to survive in our world. The turtle is really wise in a different way than you’d expect and he nags a lot too. So that was pretty funny.

Hank makes some really dumb moves in this story, though. Like one, in particular, I won’t spoil.I just knew immediately it was a bad idea. Still, he is able to make some important decisions for himself. The decision to be a hero, by the end is ultimately something he feels he needs to do. He has become the Green Turtle.He also makes the decision on what kind of hero he should be. I do wish we’d seen a bit more of what he went through internally. He’s almost too good really. I wanted to know if he had any doubts about one decision he makes but I also like to think that maybe he didn’t. He’s just that good.

I don’t know how many of the comics are collected in this edition. I hope there are more out there. I was really entertained. I definitely recommend you pick up the collection. If you started off with the first section I’m not sure it would be enough to pull you in. It takes a while for Hank to really get started as The Green Turtle but I found all the set up really interesting and loved following his family. Definitely, check it out if you are interested.

 

 

 

 

Book Reviews, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, The Rainbow Library, YA

None of The Above by I.W. Gregorio

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None of The Above was the first book chosen for The Rainbow Library. On the Rainbow Library, you can see member reviews of the book the entire week starting January 23rd. We chose the novel because it focuses on a part of the LGBTQIA = community that we don’t often read about or see people talking about.

This book follows a teenager named Kristen who finds out that she is intersex during a trip to the hospital. Kristen has to deal with what that means for herself personally. She has a lot of fear and confusion about her diagnosis.She confides in her friends and family. However, things really blow up when her secret is leaked to the entire school.

I enjoy the story. I just have some problems getting into it. I think the novel explains what intersex is and what it means to be intersex really well.You also learn about AIS and DSD.If you are looking for a book to get you more familiar with what intersex is I definitely recommend this. The novel has me interested in reading more books with intersex characters as well.

The book contains resources where you can get more information. I always have to point out when a book does a great job at doing that. You never know who will be needing those resources and it’s great that the book contains several. There are some fiction and non-fiction book recommendations that include and intersex characters and talk about what intersex is in the back of the book as well.

One of the main reasons this book didn’t hook me is because Kristen can be really annoying in this story at times. So can her friends and boyfriend. This is before she even finds out that she is intersex.The story is first person perspective from her perspective. She’s 18 I believe. There may have been just the age gap thing. The way she thinks about things or talks about things was a bit much sometimes. I thought she was much younger than 18 at points in the novel.

I didn’t feel bad when things go sour in the novel with the boyfriend because I really did not like him from the beginning. The way he said certain things rubbed me the wrong way. Again before Kristen even finds out she’s intersex.It really only gets worse from there. So I found it hard to think it was the end of the world like Kristen seemed to feel over the breakup.

You get more and more angry as the book goes on because of how much Kristen goes through. I felt like the book picks up through the middle for me. Kristen experience so much hate and bigotry and I think the way she handled it was realistic considering the fact that she’s never experienced anything like this before.

One really great thing is the relationships with some people in her corner. She has a solid support system there even when things are falling apart around her. Even if she doesn’t see how much they are there for her at times. Favorite parent of the year award so far goes to her father figure in this. I’m only 8 books into this year but that’s still pretty good.

The romance was kind of meh. It was pretty obvious where things were going. Plus Kristen being way too hung up on her first boyfriend and annoyingly never being sure of what she wants.She makes some decisions for the wrong reasons in this story. She doesn’t think about herself when she should be making decisions for herself. I felt like the end of the story was abrupt but the last part did make me smile.

 

Comics, diverse books, LGBTQIA+, Readathon

#DiverseAthon Potential Reads

It’s time for the first Diverseathon of 2017. Super excited. I am the biggest mood reader ever. I will stop a book just because I’m not feeling the genre at the moment so I will be doing a very long list of potential reads for this Diverseathon. My list consists of primarily queer lit as it normally does. I did try to focus on books with queer characters of color a bit more and get some Own Voices books in the list as well. You can look at my rundown on my Youtube post or read through my choices here. Check out Naz’s DiverseAthon post on his blog ReadDiversebooks.com  for more information on the readathon.

 

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None of The Above is the book of The month for The Rainbow Library. Members of the group will be posting reviews all this week. Super excited to finish this story. It follows a teenager who finds out they are intersex. I definitely have not read much on intersex people before and I’m glad I’m doing it with a group. There has been some great discussion around the book already.

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Dreadnought is a story about a trans girl whose body transforms when she accidentally gains superpowers. The book comes out on January 24th. I have a digital ARC and am really enjoying it so far. About 30% into the story. Hoping to see a bit of a hero journey with this character.

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I loved More Happy Than not. I feel like Adam Silvera’s new book might wreck me like it did but I’m excited. The main character is gay. He’s dealing with the death of his first love. He has OCD I believe. I definitely want to read a story with a character who has OCD and have for a while.

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I didn’t finish this during #DAReadahon so I hope I can finish it now. Really love the main character from the part I did read. I’ve wanted to read more stories with LGBTQ + Asian protagonist for a while.

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I am so excited to read this story. I love queer superhero stories. This one follows a teenage superhero named Javier Medina. You get to see how he balances or fails to balance his life as a junior superhero and his life at school.

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A revelatory novel about being queer and Muslim, set in war-torn Iraq in 2003.Ramy is a young gay Iraqi struggling to find a balance between his sexuality, religion, and culture. I’m excited to read this story. I feel like it’s going to be intense and wonderful. Really happy I got a copy of this novel.

 

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This is written by the author of Nimona. It’s been on my radar for a while. It has queer characters and that’s really all I know right now. Hopefully, I will like it. Definitely will get to this soon since it’s due back to my library in a few days.

 

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The is a story based on the Green Turtle. The Green Turtle was the first Asian American Superhero in golden age comics. Super excited to read this. It’s own voices with the writer and artist. The art looks so good.

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Teen guys who are neighbors. One is a popular jock and the other is a nerd. We get to see them fall for each other. Super excited. Reminds me of the gay version of You Belong With Me by Taylor Swift. Hope I love it.

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I’ve wanted to read an Elliot Wake book for a while. I have followed Elliot Wake on Instagram and twitter and am really excited to finally read one of his books. I love that this one follows a Vlogger who is also secretly a vigilante. I’m excited to see how this story goes.

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Two awesome authors writing two gay characters who meet during Pride weekend and have an adventure. I love books that focus on friendships. Especially queer friendships. This book has been on my shelf unread for way too long. I even have two copies. I need to read this soon.

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Last potential read is Boy Robot. I’ve wanted to read this since I found out Simon Curtis was writing it. I love his music. I’m excited to see the story of Isaak in this. He finds out he’s a robot and his adoptive parents are killed in one night. I know this book is LGBTQ in some way and I am excited to read it.

This is my tentative TBR for this week. Super excited to read some of these great books. Also really excited for the #Diversathon twitter chats. The conversations were amazing last year and I can’t wait to see what everyone has to say this year.

 

diverse books, LGBTQIA+

Juliet Takes A Breath Review

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Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

This is a really good novel.I think a lot of that is because of Juliet’s voice. She’s beautifully insightful in some moments of the book. She’s nerdy and quite funny at times too.Juliet is just a great character and it’s great to see how much she develops over the course of this novel in various areas of her life.

Juliet goes on a journey throughout the four parts of this book and I didn’t really get into the story until further along her journey but all of it is wonderful. Juliet takes this internship and doesn’t really know what she wants to get out of the experience. In the end, she got a lot more than she really thought she could. She has a place to move forward from.

This book starts out with Juliet in a stressful and relatable time. She’s coming out to her family. Juliet decides to do it at a family dinner. I like how much this book dealt with family. Even with Juliet away from them for a majority of the book you could see how important family was. Just from conversations with her mom or cousin Ava over the phone. Sometimes just from Juliet contemplating the way they reacted to things or might react to something. She thinks about her family often and I liked the focus on the family bonds.

Juliet meets some amazing women of color in this book. I felt like I was learning from Maxine and Zaira through Juliet’s encounters with them in the novel. This is a novel about feminism but more importantly intersectional feminism. Juliet is able to start figuring out where she stands in the feminism she sees on tv or reads in one of her favorite books. I absolutely loved the conversations Juliet has around this.

Sometimes as Juliet struggled I just wanted to jump in the book and answer things when she had questions she wasn’t asking anyone out loud yet.It takes her a while to feel the confidence needed to do more than just contemplate the tings she didn’t understand about queer terms or why Zaira made spaces specifically for women of color. I liked seeing Juliet learn and make mistakes while learning.Her exploration into all things queer and feminism. It was really well done.

Sidenote.There is a really odd character who is only in the story for a short time and never appears again and I didn’t understand the point of his words toward Juliet and couldn’t stop thinking what was the point there or if it was needed.Juliet never really thinks of him again after that section so it didn’t feel like it mattered.

The most relatable moment in this book for me was a feeling. The feeling that Juliet has when she is in an all QPOC space for the first time. She’s freer than she has been able to in a long time.No one is going to judge her or say the wrong thing. She won’t have to deal with microaggressions or blatant racism there. She is able to make decisions about how she perceives herself.

For me, that was an impromptu caucus for queer people of color at TheMidwest Bisexual, Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Ally College Conference. It was a room filled with QPOC and a space for us to talk about issues we face separate from all the other events of the conference.I didn’t even know there was that many of us in the conference. It was a major moment for me. I was dealing with not being able to embrace all aspects of my identity depending on the situation I was in. I had some rough school years and I feel like that was one of the moments that got me through. It changed things for me.It gave me perspective, I really needed.You see how much Juliet’s experience changes her on the final sections of the book.She’s able to take on the world after having run away from her problems before that. It’s great storytelling.