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.

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.

LGBTQIA+, YA

Honestly Ben by Bill Konigsberg

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If you haven’t read Openly Straight there could be some spoilers ahead. Fair warning. I need to refer to the end right now to explain why I didn’t want a sequel to Openly Straight. I thought the ending was perfect because it was realistic. Rafe has his reasons for doing everything he does but that does not make it right at all. Rafe puts Ben through too much. I didn’t want Ben to run back to him.Ben’s reaction at the end of Openly Straight is so warranted in my opinion and I loved that we didn’t get that happily ever after. I had a strong feeling that would turn around in this book because it happens in things like this.

Ben’s narration is better than Rafe’s. That feels blasphemous to say but I don’t even remember why I liked Rafe’s so much. I think with Openly Straight I enjoyed the story and the discussion it brought up but had some issues with Rafe. He’s really privileged in being able to just switch schools so easily when he wants to change how people sees him. He has to money to just go to this pretty expensive private school and pretend to be someone different than he is.

Ben deals with so much pressure. You could see that a bit in openly Straight but don’t really understand it until you read more on Ben. He has a family that is overbearing. A father that puts really toxic ideas in his head and a mother who lets it happen for years. They are in the running for the worse YA parents on the year award in my superlatives later this year. Don’t think they will win but top three right now.

Be Happy just not too happy. Don’t get a big head or you aren’t allowed to show that you are happy about things you’ve accomplished.Carver’s can’t afford this. Carver’s aren’t vulnerable.Carver’s don’t talk about their feelings. Carver’s don’t need extra help.  Everything in Ben’s life is framed by what his father has told him. Ben is so reserved and pretty bad at sticking up for himself at times and I quickly saw it’s because he believes and follows the things his father has told him completely. Ben has several bad habits he picks up because of his father that are a result of all of this.

Everything in Ben’s life is framed by what his father has told him. Ben is so reserved and pretty bad at sticking up for himself at times and I quickly saw it’s because he believes and follows the things his father has told him completely. Ben has several bad habits he picks up because of his father that are a result of all of this.

Through all this Ben is able to deliver a narrative with some great humor and some other beautiful moments. He’s a really great character. Seeing his emotional journey was compelling. Seeing his personal arc was compelling.

One thing that I’m glad was really highlighted in this book was privilege. I feel like it is talked about a bit in the first book. Ben’s roommate leaves the school for reasons that were somewhat related to being the only black kid at this private all boys school and I remember liking the conversations that happen around it. Ben finally calling Rafe out for some of the things that he says made me very happy.

I didn’t think the book was biphobic but can see how it could be harmful to people because it does contain biphobic comments from several characters.  Ben doesn’t deny the existence of bi people. I’m fairly certain his uncle was bisexual and that is pointed out a few times. Ben just doesn’t see himself as bi or gay. The conversations on labels are being continued from the first book in an interesting way. At the end of the day, Ben should be allowed to label or not label himself whatever he wants and people should respect that.

Rafe and his family do say things that are biphobic. Plus other people in the book as well.Biphobia happens. People experience it. I think every time Ben’s reaction is showing that it is wrong even if the people around him keep doing it. I felt like this worked back into the conversation with Rafe’s privilege really well. It was frustrating in a similar way.  If this book did hurt you I’m really sorry that it did and I’m not trying to diminish that at all.

It was revealed that Toby is genderfluid. I was so excited by this. They really were on of my favorite characters in the first book. I raved about Toby and how I’d want Toby to be my friend in a book tag I filmed recently. Not many side characters stand out to me like Toby has. This made so much sense to me from the Toby I saw in the first book.

Konigsberg also reveals that Toby’s friend Alby is Asexual. Toby states that he is. I’d like more confirmation. There are not enough Ace characters at all. As someone on the Ace spectrum, it was still nice to see. I would love a Toby or Alby centered book honestly. I think I would have been more excited for a Toby centered sequel. Toby had other interesting things going on in the first book that were not touched on here. We just don’t get a chance to see Toby enough because he doesn’t have the biggest connection to Ben.

Speaking of connections to Ben. I do see Ben and Rafe’s connection but am still skeptical about how well the two could work long term. I liked the ending of the first book because it wasn’t that magical fix like I said. I know people shipped it and wrote fanfics of the two getting back together but I never thought it should happen and even as I liked seeing them become friends and close again I still struggle to feel that they are a pairing that could work for long.

 

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, LGBTQIA+, YA

When The Moon Was Ours Review

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To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

I can’t talk about this book without first mentioning the dedication. I’m pretty sure I cried when I first opened the book and didn’t even start the story until quite a while later. It’s such a beautiful dedication that I needed to just share it with people. I showed my fiance and then had to take a picture to send to some family and friends from Pride so I had people to gush over it with. It’s brilliant. Read it.

Now, this book took me a long time to finish. I got a bit confused about some things in the story. I had to put it down for a bit. I think it may have just been because of the magic and lack of magic at times.What I mean by that is that there is magic in this story. A good amount of it.I love magic in stories. There is also superstition and rumors.in this story. I think the way the story is written I was confused about what was because of magic and when things happened just because people made themselves believe it if that makes any sense.

Samir and Miel have such a beautiful relationship. As friends and more.They pulled me into this story. They are both so different from other people. They understand each other. They love each other as they are. The relationship has these beautiful delicate moments in the story that are written excellently. Their love felt like one of the most magical things in this story. It was beautifully written. I felt wrapped up in it.

The romance was beautiful but the intimate moments were as well. The two were intertwined really. This is a YA story that shows sexual desire in a way I wish I saw more in books in general. It was so honest and the characters still felt the ages they are.

Samir and Miel both have such intense backgrounds. Miel’s is shrouded in mystery for much of the story. We know how she arrived in town from the water tower. We know she has a fear of pumpkins and La Llorona. We just don’t know the why’s or the how’s. I loved the way the picture became clearer. We get pieces as Miel gains some memories and I still didn’t understand until it was all revealed.

Samir is struggling to accept himself and to be ready to claim himself. Claiming his name is shown as a really major moment and I absolutely loved it. Also claiming one’s own body is something you see with Samir and Miel in this and I can’t get over how great that is to see when I wasn’t expecting it. The messages in this book that stick with me are things that snuck up on me in the story.

I didn’t really understand what was going on with the Bonner sisters for a lot of the book. I didn’t understand why they really wanted the roses. They weren’t effective as bad guys for me.They annoyed me more than anything. That definitely changes a little throughout the story when we get to learn more about them. I honestly wish we’d seen their parents a couple times because I have questions for and about their parents. I do think that the Bonner sisters eventually lead into the theme that is throughout the whole book.

This is a story about accepting yourself and being proud of who you are. As magical as this story is I feel like anyone can relate to some of the struggles the characters in the story feel. If you’ve ever been lost you can see yourself in Miel and Samir’s journey in this book. Very glad I picked this book up.

p.s. Read the Author’s Note too. It was so lovely. Really enjoyed hearing Anna Marie McLeMore’s experiences. You see where she learned some things that may have helped her come up with the stories for Miel and Samir.

Book Reviews, Readathon, YA

The Sun is Also A Star Review

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.

Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.

The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

2017 is off to a great start when it comes to my reading at least. I didn’t think I was going to like this story nearly as much as so many other people have. I heard all the amazing things about the book but I was skeptical. One reason was because within the premise and the way people were describing the story I was concerned I would be reading some serious instalove in this book. Another reason might have just been that I honestly haven’t read a contemporary that didn’t focus on queer characters in a long time. Many many books ago. However, this book turned out to be something I really loved.

Daniel does feel a connection to Natasha quickly and even if she does feel something. It is not ‘love’ right away. Natasha doesn’t believe in love at first sight. She doesn’t even really believe in love at all. She isn’t feeling Daniel as deeply as he is her. I was with her on that. I really didn’t like Daniel right away. As they got to know each other Natasha slowly falls for him and I was too. I was starting to like Daniel then starting to love Natasha and Daniel as a couple.

Natasha wants to be a scientist. She looks at things logically. Daniel is more of a creative type. He’s an artist. He’s about passion even though he feels like he has to follow the path his parents have laid out for him. They are different in a lot of ways but also really similar.You see why they connect as they spend part of their day together.

Nicola Yoon’s writing is really fantastic. Right away the back and forth between the two perspectives seemed effortless and that continued throughout the story. Then there are sections which give the history of different things. Always tied to something the characters have encountered or said. I feel like that was such an interesting addition to the story. It pulled me in and made me think about things I never questioned before.

Then there is the fact that you get other perspectives besides Natasha and Daniel in this story. You get snapshots of the people they encounter. The security guard at a place Natasha goes to for example. It can be someone they barely interact with but it’s all connected somehow. All these people connect to Natasha and Daniel in some way. Sometimes they connect to each other at some point during the day. It made me think about when people say we’re all connected in some way. I found it really subtlely beautiful.

I fell for this book pretty hard. I literally had to stop reading it in public at one point because I could not stop myself from reacting to everything. When Daniel did something cute or awkward or when a situation got dramatic I could not contain my reactions. This is a sign of a great book. Highly recommended by me.

 

 

Comics, Top Ten Tuesday

Authors I Discovered This Year

I got a great amount of reading done this year and a lot of it is from authors I never read until this year.Here is a list of some of my favorite New to me authors.Some from debut authors, some from classic authors, and some from comic writers. Check out Brokeandbookish.com for Top Ten Tuesday topics every week.

1. Shaun David Hutchinson 

I don’t know why it took me so long to read a Shaun David Hutchinson book. I started off this year by reading Five Stages of Andrew Brawley pretty early on then reading We Art The Ants. I love Shaun David Hutchinson’s mind. We Are The Ants is a book that should have gotten way more attention this year. It’s an emotional journey with really compelling characters. Plus a big red button that can save the earth from Aliens.One of my most anticipated releases for next year is At The Edge of the Universe. I really can’t wait for the book to come out. I’m a little obsessed in a good way.

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2. Caleb Roehrig 

I was so excited when I got an advanced copy of this book in the #YaPride challenge unboxing and that’s an understatement if you’ve seen the video. Last Seen leaving is one of my favorite books of the year and it’s a debut work. I loved the pace of the novel. It had such a compelling coming out story thrown in with a great mystery. I’d love to see this get some kind of movie adaption because visually this could be a great film.

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3. G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel is probably my favorite comic of the year and the first time I was caught up on a comic book series. Read all five volumes over a couple of months because I love following Kamala’s journey. She also works on Unbeatable Squirrel Girl which I’ve been enjoying a lot so far.

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4. Truman Capote

I started off by reading Truman Capote’s short stories which are really amazing. Then read Breakfast At Tiffany’s and loved it. I read a couple of biographies about Truman Capote this year too. He had a really interesting life.Need to get my hands on his remaining works.A Christmas memory may be my favorite story I’ve read from him.One of the sweetest stories I’ve ever read.

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5. Annabeth Albert 

I thought i read some works from this author last year but according to Goodreads, my fist time was earlier this year with Waitin For Clark. The #Gaymers series is what made me a huge fan. Annabeth Albert writes romance stories between men that are realistic and beautiful. I have a thing for road trip books too so The #gaymers series is completely my thing. Reading Albert’s new book Wrapped Together right now and I’m loving it.

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6. Riley Redgate

I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed Seven Ways We Lie. I often have found myself thinking back to this story over the year. Redgate did a great job with telling so many very different and compelling stories. including great representation of a character on the ace spectrum.

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7. Tim Federle

 

The Great American Whatever had a relatable MC. A creative style I wasn’t expecting. Plus one of the best friendships I’ve seen in a book this year. I really love Tim Federle’s writing. So much wit and this book actually made me laugh at points. I absolutely need to read more of his books next year.

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8. Steve Orlando 

I’ve now read both volumes of Midnighter and I’m obsessed.Super happy with the direction Steve Orlando has gone with the character right now and a lot of the supporting character as well.The world building is fantastic too. Planning on reading some of his older series of other characters soon. Virgil is next on my list right now.

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9. Michael Barakiva

I loved One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva. It was a story i thought I’d like but didn’t know how humorous and fun the story would actually be. It still touched on many serious issues as well. Cute teen romance with an interesting coming out Arc. Excited to hopefully read more from this author next year.

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10. Gary L. Blackwood 

This year I finished my first ever trilogy. I liked the first book of the trilogy so much I had my boyfriend get me the other two so I could read them as soon as possible. I wasn’t disappointed with the trilogy at all and had to put the author of that trilogy on this list. I’m a big Shakespeare Stealer fan so.go check out these books.

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