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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