book review, fiction, reading recommendations

Review: Middlesex

Everyone struggles against despair, but it always wins in the end. It has to. It’s the thing that lets us say goodbye.

Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides

middlesex

Click on image above to purchase on Amazon.

This is one of my absolute favorite novels, and one of the books that I have rated 5/5 stars on Goodreads. So, please prepare for all the praise.

AUTHOR: Jeffrey Eugenides

GENRE: Realistic Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK: school library

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: This is the story of Cal Stephanides, and his journey of self discovery throughout his childhood and most of his adult life. His story parallels the stories of his grandparents and his own parents, each generation’s mistakes resulting in his own unique and challenging genetic condition- so that he transforms from Calliope Stephanides to Cal Stephanides. This is a novel about immigration, about gender, about identity, about romance, and about other topics that are hard to breach- this is truly, though, a novel about American culture and how many different identities can often occupy the same person.

THOUGHTS: So first of all, Eugenides’ writing is brilliant. As a literature nerd who loves nothing more than the pull of good, efficient prose, Eugenides’ writing is like several breaths of fresh air. Not only is his diction skillful, but the figurative language that he employs, such as parallelism and metaphors, could have been all for show but it only helped and supported the plot line that he was conveying.

I also loved how this was a multigenerational story but also very modern at the same time- the Greek immigrants that struggled against several of the issues that face past and modern immigrants alike in America, the parents that struggle with an unorthodox, budding relationship, and the second-generation child that shuns certain parts of their home culture out of a lack of appreciation for it, in favor for more modern, Americanized traditions. There are also many eras covered through the novel in this way- the racially charged riots of the 1960s, the booms of Detroit when it was the ultimate manufacturer of the Rust Belt, and the complexities and challenges that come with the present day.

There is also a rich variety of characters throughout the story besides the Stephanides family; there are the characters that are exhibitionists in San Francisco with ambiguous sexualities and gender identities, the girls that Callie grew up with during her school years, and the many other figures that are recognizable to those who know their contemporary American history also populate the world of this novel. These characters are all beautifully developed, complex, realistic, and completely sympathetic. There are many themes of childhood and adolescence explored, through Callie’s own adolescent experiences, and there are many subjects of adulthood that are breached. Some of these issues were brought together seamlessly, especially though the protagonist who is telling this story as a middle-aged man, breaking the barriers between those issues that strongly identify with youth and with grown-ups: questions of identity and feeling comfortable in one’s skin are not necessarily issues that disappear with age, even though that can often be people’s instinctive conclusion.

I cannot even think of a criticism for this book, and I can be quite the picky reader, but hey, there’s a reason that this novel won the Pulitzer and is proudly listed as a book in Oprah’s book club, right? It’s hard for me to imagine the kind of reader who would not enjoy this story, except maybe those who are only dedicated to certain specific genres, so stop reading this review and just go read the book instead!

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book review, book tour, fiction

Book Tour: Time Reavers

Author: Jacob Holo

Narrator: Tess Irondale

Series: Time Reavers, Book One

Length: 8 hours 36 minutes

Publisher: Holo Writing

Released: July 13, 2017

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy

The monsters are real, and time is their weapon.

 

Fed up with bad teachers and daily fights with her sister, 16-year-old Nicole Taylor yearns for something better. Sadly, she’s in for a letdown, because the world ends next week.

 

Nicole discovers she has a rare gift. She can bend time around her and even stop it completely. With her powers awakening, she must face the Reavers: horrific killing machines that exist outside our time.

 

Plagued with nightmares and ambushed by monsters at every turn, Nicole has one chance to stop their genocidal invasion. With help from a chain-smoking pyrokinetic, a neurotic sword-wielding assassin, and an icy goth chick with a crossbow, she may stand a chance.

 

But the Reavers are tireless foes, and time is on their side.

 

 

Jacob Holo is a former-Ohioan, former-Michigander living in sunny South Carolina. He describes himself as a writer, gamer, hobbyist, and engineer. Jacob started writing when his parents bought that “new” IBM 286 desktop back in the 80s. Remember those? He’s been writing ever since.

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Narrator Bio

Tess​ Irondale​ is a professional audiobook narrator and voice actress, credited with bringing ​nearly ​5​0 titles to life. ​She ​specializes ​in ​Fantasy, Adventure, and Erotica, although ​her​ work ​has covered​ nearly every genre including Young Adult, Humor, Spirituality, ​LGBTQ, Sci-Fi, Self Help and ​Mystery​. ​She is on Audible’s in-house voice roster, and ​also works directly with authors through ACX.​ When not in the recording booth, she can be found hiking in the woods or hunkered over a crossword puzzle.

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I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jacob Holo. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

The premise of the book was interesting and if you like urban fantasy, this book will be up your alley. The pacing was good- it kept the plot going at a nice pace. Overall, the writing was also pretty good at describing events that would otherwise be difficult to imagine. And the characters are hilarious in their own right.

However, and this is mostly a symptom of my own preferences, it did not do much characterization-wise. I personally really like books that focus on character development and Time Reavers is definitely more about the plot than anything else. I am glad that I listened to this book rather than read it, I feel like it is more exciting to listen to all the action that is going on.

The narrator for this audiobook, Tess Irondale, was absolutely fantastic. Her acting was so good- every cry of pain, every sound of annoyance was spot-on. There are so many characters in this book, but she did such a good job with her voice acting that you could definitely tell which character was which. Also her accents and the noises she made for the monster that are the Time Reavers was phenomenal. Props to her, I would definitely give her other audiobooks a listen just from the spectacular job she did with this audiobook.

There is nothing fundamentally wrong with this book; the only reason that I did not enjoy it more is because it simply didn’t match my reading preferences. If you are the kind of reader that enjoys plot-heavy books with slight fantasy elements that will intrigue you but won’t make your head spin, then I would definitely recommend this book for you!

Goodreads

Audible

Q&A with Author Jacob Holo
  • Tell us about the process of turning your book into an audiobook.
    • It was actually a lot easier than we expected it to be! Several of our indie author pals had great success with Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), so when we decided to dip our toes into audiobook creation, it was the first place we looked. All we had to do was select a narrator, send the manuscript, and voila! Finished audiobook in a few months. Of course, there was a little more to it than that: Once the first recording was done, we listened to it multiple times to catch and smooth out any errors, so it was definitely an arduous process – but it was also a lot of fun.
  • How did you select your narrator?
    • I work closely with my wife H.P. on most projects, and this was all her. She scoured ACX’s database of voice actors for days to find the perfect voice, and Tess Irondale was the clear stand-out. The main character of Time Reavers, Nicole, is a teenage girl who is flung from a life where her biggest problem is rivalry with her adopted sister Amy…to a life where she suddenly has superpowers and has to use them to fight giant, dimension-hopping, time-manipulating cyborg insects. That’s a pretty big change, but Nicole is a no-nonsense girl who does her best to keep a cool head, even when faced with problems as big as that, and we wanted a voice actor who could capture that type of character. However, the novel also required the ability to convey a wide range of accents, ages, and even monster noises, so that was another big factor in our decision. Fortunately, when H.P. heard Tess’ voice samples, she hit every checkbox perfectly!
  • How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters?
    • Oh, we worked very closely! Time Reavers is set in at least four different countries with characters from at least as many nationalities, some of whom speak with accents you would expect of their home country (in this case, Russia, Germany, Japan, and the US), one of whom is German but raised in conditions that give him a slight British accent. Then there are the reavers themselves, each of which make unique roars that basically sound like the Balrog from The Lord of the Rings movies combined with a jet engine – which is not exactly an easy sound for the human voice to emulate. Tess did a fantastic job with all of it, though. We went back and forth about the characters’ backgrounds, verbal quirks, and even their fates in upcoming books – the sequel, Mind Reavers, is going to be one of our next projects.
  • Were there any real life inspirations behind your writing?
    • Lots actually, though I’d say the biggest contributor came from the time I spent in Germany. I really enjoyed interacting with another culture up close and personal during the time I was working over there, and I actually visited some of the locations that appear in the novel.
  • How do you manage to avoid burn-out? What do you do to maintain your enthusiasm for writing?
    • I’ve had a passion for writing since a very young age. There are times when I’ll do nothing but write for weeks at a time, often putting in ten, twelve, or even fourteen hour days one after another. Somehow that hasn’t burned me out yet, so I think I’m doing pretty well in that regard.
  • Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you?
    • I’m not. I prefer having an actual book in my hands. But H.P. devours audiobooks, and she loves how a good reader can bring an entirely new dimension to a book. Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle, for example, is one of her favorite series, and though Stiefvater is a stellar writer, Will Patton rocks the reading on the audiobook enough that though H.P. owns the series in print, she almost always revisits the series in audio.
  • Is there a particular part of this story that you feel is more resonating in the audiobook performance than in the book format?
    • I think the characters’ relationships come through more vividly in the audiobook version simply because listeners can hear the emotions behind the words rather than just reading them – and there are a lot of intense emotions in this book. Nicole and Amy have a trying relationship (as teen sisters often do), and Daniel and his fellow Tau Guard Rüdiger have a particularly dark and tempestuous history that bubbles up at tense moments. Beyond that, though, Tess’ unique performances for each individual character gives them all a chance to shine even more brightly than they did in the text version. H.P. said she actually developed a little crush on Rüdiger’s voice.
  • If you had the power to time travel, would you use it? If yes, when and where would you go?
    • I’d travel into the future and pick up some “history” books or whatever the equivalent turns out to be. Then I’d check them out just to see how far off my science fiction is.
  • If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles?
    • It astonishes readers when I say this, but even though my stories play out like movies in my imagination, I rarely have specific people in my for the characters I write. H.P. is the opposite: She pictured teenage versions of Saorise Ronan as Nicole, Daniel Radcliffe as the assassin Daniel Cadinsky, and Rinko Kikushi as the weaponsmith Shoko.
  • What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or as inferior to “real reading”?
    • I don’t consider it cheating, and H.P. finds that sort of elitism very tiring – and frankly, what does it matter? Whether listening or reading, a person’s still experiencing the same content, just in a different package. Plus, one of the reasons why we considered making audiobooks in the first place is because certain groups of people specifically requested them, as reading physical books is somehow difficult for them. For some the reasons were circumstantial – One worked as a truck driver and so had no time to read physical books, but had hours upon hours in which he could plow through audiobooks. For most, though, the reasons were unavoidable – We’ve met a number of people at cons who struggle with dyslexia or similar difficulties, and audiobooks allow them to experience the pleasure of reading while taking away the processing difficulties. All this to say, audiobooks are in no way inferior, just different.
  • How did you celebrate after finishing this novel?
    • I started another novel – or three! Soon after releasing Time Reavers, I released Bane of the Dead, Throne of the Dead, and Disciple of the Dead, which are a complete trilogy of giant robot novels that take inspiration from mecha anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion and Mobile Suit Gundam. Fun Fact: My love of anime actually influences a lot of my writing, so sometimes I’ll stick anime easter eggs into my books. Daniel’s ringtone? It’s “Cruel Angel’s Thesis,” the theme song from Evangelion.
  • In your opinion, what are the pros and cons of writing a stand-alone novel vs. writing a series?
    • I generally find stand-alone novels to be easier to write. Problems come up in the planning and writing of any novel, and the “tools” available to the author in a standalone novel are a lot more flexible since it’s not part of a larger universe. But ultimately, I really enjoy working on a series and getting to dig deeper into difference aspects of a fictional universe as well as show the progression of characters through a series of the events. For instance, I’m really looking forward to exploring the backstory of the reavers in Mind Reavers, which is something I barely touched on in the first book.
  • What’s your favorite:
      1. Food – Sushi is basically its own food group in our house.
      2. Song – Oh, this is a tough one. I’m going to have to go with “Don’t Worry” from Xenoblade Chronicles X, arranged by Hiroyuki Sawano and performed by Aimee Blackschleger. Through a strange series of events (involving my wife’s retina suddenly detaching from the back of her eye, her lung spontaneously collapsing, and this music playing in my car as I drove her around), “Don’t Worry” has, in a strange way, become our song.
      3. Book – Frank Herbert’s Dune. It was the first book I read that really captured my imagination in a way that made me want to create my own worlds.
      4. Television show – Oh, wow. So many good ones to pick from. Hmm, let me think here. I’ll have to go with Doctor Who.
      5. Movie – This one’s easy. Dirty Pair: Project Eden. It’s definitely a product of its time (1986), but once you get past that, it’s a fun, goofy action anime where the simplest mistake can result in a string of explosions.
      6. Band – Anything featuring Yuki Kajiura.
      7. Sports team – The closest I come to watching sports is watching Starcraft tournaments, but if I could choose a favorite player, it would be Scarlet.
      8. City – Kyoto. My brother and I visited the city on my way back from a long term assignment in China, and it was the best vacation of our lives. The city was a fantastic mix of modern conveniences and historical temples and shrines. The weather was perfect, the food was awesome, and the people were ever so friendly.
  • Are any of those things referenced in appearance in your work?
    • Occasionally. For instance, a major sequence in Mind Reavers will take place in Kyoto.
  • What bits of advice would you give to aspiring authors?
    • We encounter a lot of aspiring authors, especially at conventions, and the main piece of advice we give them is always WRITE! A lot of people say they have a great idea for a book but never actually get it down on paper, and that’s the key – If you want to be a published writer, you have to finish your book. It may not be as good as you think it should be, but that’s ok. If you’ve finished the first draft, you’ve already accomplished a lot more than many aspiring authors. From that point, you edit and edit and edit again until you’ve polished it into something you’re ready to share with the world.
  • Do you have any tips for authors going through the process of turning their books into audiobooks?
    • An audiobook can be made or ruined by its reader, so make sure you find a reader who suits the characters and style of your book. Time Reavers would not have been the same book if it had been read by a gravelly-voiced old man (even though that same gravelly-voiced old man might be well suited to some of our other books)!
  • What’s next for you?
    • I’ve had the exciting privilege of collaborating on the first book in a new series with New York Times Bestselling author David Weber! It’s a time travel novel, the first draft is nearly complete, and I hope we’ll be ready to share some of the juicy details soon. Any readers who’d like to learn more can subscribe to our newsletter at https://holowriting.leadpages.co/dragonsofjupiter/. Subscribers are the first to learn about our new releases, as well as any contests or giveaways that we run. (We usually do two a month!)

 

Time Reavers Giveaway: Signed Copy of Time Reavers

Sep. 20th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

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The Literary Apothecary

Sep. 21st:

Jazzy Book Reviews

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Sep. 22nd:

It’s Novel to Me

Notes from ‘Round the Bend

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Buried Under Books

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book review, fantasy, reading recommendations

Book Tour: Corruption

Author: Adam Vine

Narrator: Kevin Meyer

Series: Corruption Cycle, Book One

Length: 13 hours 57 minutes

Publisher: Lilydog Books

Released: July 18, 2017

Genre: Dark Fantasy

A dishonored swordsman running from his past.

A city shrouded in dark magic.

An antihero born.

Daniel Harper was champion, until a single mistake destroyed his fencing career forever. With nothing left to lose, he flees to Eastern Europe, where he can start over… where he can be someone else.

In the exotic, lantern-lit crevices of a nameless city, Daniel meets two people who open very different kinds of doors than the ones he is searching for: the troubled flower girl Kashka, who holds the key to a nightmarish otherworld; and the enigmatic street magician and self-professed love tourist Ink, who has the power to bend others to his will.

As Daniel plummets into a downward spiral of hedonism and dereliction, he is tormented by macabre visions of a frozen world in endless darkness where an evil tyrant has stolen the sun, where humanity’s remnants fight to scrape out a cruel existence underground, and wandering spirits inhabit the bodies of the recently deceased. Daniel is doomed to return to this Night Country every time he falls into a deep sleep. But the longer he spends there, the more Daniel realizes his curse is anything but an accident….

Adam Vine was born in Northern California. By day, he is a game writer and designer. He has lived in four countries and visited thirty. He is the author of two novels and many short stories. When he is not writing, he is traveling, reading something icky, or teaching himself to play his mandolin. He currently lives in Germany.

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Narrator Bio

Kevin Meyer is a devoted Midwesterner, raised in rural Wisconsin and transplanted to Tulsa, Oklahoma over three decades ago. A career-long voice-over and music radio guy, his iPhone playlist ranges from Alice Cooper and Waylon Jennings to Twenty One Pilots and The Zac Brown Band. Favorite reads are dominated by political biographies (Lincoln, Truman, Kennedy)… and Stephen King.

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I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Adam Vine. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

RATING:

4/5 stars

THOUGHTS:

Kevin Meyer, as narrator, did a terrific job as a voice actor. There was enough distinction between actors to make it clear which character was speaking (and there were a lot of characters) and his tone varied appropriately so that I listened intently for every plot point. There were times throughout the audiobook that I felt as though I was listening to a radio drama rather than being read a story. This kept the story engaging and entertaining, although the plot on its own was already pulling, the voice acting added an extra dimension to it and made it easier to digest as I said before, there are a lot of characters and complexities in the plot. I felt as though if I read a physical copy of this book instead, I’d have a less clear perception of the whole story.

The production overall was of good quality; the sound was clear, which of course, is the most important quality of an audiobook for me. The audio progressed nicely, so that pauses were of the appropriate length.

Like I said, I enjoyed listening to this book and I think I got more out of the story by listening to it rather than reading it. I would definitely recommend it for those audiobook aficionados out there.

Not to mention, the plot of this book and the overall skill displayed by the author Adam Vine were phenomenal. The world building that Vine engaged in and the imagery that so often accompanies fantasy books were exceptionally well thought out. One of the best things I liked about this book is that it was ambiguous- the villains were given humanity, the so-called good rebels succumbed to the uglier parts of humanity, and our protagonist struggles between defining himself as a good person or a bad person. I also appreciated reading from the perspective of an insecure, average, middle-aged man who deals with issues of masculinity, love, and career. I think that is a perspective that is often hard to come by in literature and I really appreciated seeing that it got its voice in Corruption.

Guys, if you like fantasy, you have to step inside the world that Vine has created. It is so complex, and riddled with things like technology, religion, politics, astrophysics, sexually transmitted diseases/memories, genocide, cultural clashes, cultish followings, and the like. There was so much thought put into the creation of this alternate reality and it was a joy being plunged into the complexities, beauties, and issues of a world that exists in another place and time. If you enjoy fantasy, this is a MUST READ for you.

One of the biggest compliments that I can offer a series is that I desire to and cannot wait for the next installment. I can say this for the next installment in the Corruption cycle, and that’s possibly the best recommendation I can give you to read this book!

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Sep. 13th:
Notes from ‘Round the Bend

The Literary Apothecary

Sep. 14th:

Dab of Darkness Audiobook Reviews

It’s Novel to Me

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book review, young adult

Review: If I Was Your Girl

You can have anything once you admit you deserve it.

If I Was Your Girl, Meredith Russo

I am still venturing into the genre that is LGBTQ YA fiction, and it’s because of books like these that I want to keep reading this genre.

AUTHOR: Meredith Russo

GENRE: Young Adult

BOOK FORMAT: audiobook

RATING: 4.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Amanda Hardy is the new girl in school and has one goal: survive high school as a transgender teen and graduate, then move to the Northern states for college where she might have a better chance at living her truth. However, her plan becomes skewed when she meets a kind, nice boy named Grant and she can’t help but let herself become closer to him. However, she struggles with how close she wants to be to her new boyfriend and her new group of friends…and how much she wants to let them know about her. Trigger warning: outing scene of multiple lgbt characters, sexual assault, bullying, suicide

THOUGHTS: Okay so first of all, I want to say that I am a cisgender individual so if you’d like to know how a transgender person felt about the representation in this book, I would point to On Wednesday’s We Wear Capes for a co-authored review in which one of the reviewers is a transgender individual and can speak to the representation accurately.

I loved this book, and not because it was perfect. It was far from perfect- it fell into some of the many cliched traps that YA books often fall into. The whole plot line in which the new, quiet, kind, Southern, and charming girl moves into town and instantly gets the boyfriend on the football team and the gaggle of popular girl friends felt a little unrealistic to me. It’s the kind of thing that you’d expect from any other YA book. BUT this might have been intentional on Meredith Russo’s part, because that whole traditional storyline is subverted by the very fact that Amanda is transgender. So the normal events in the book, such as going to church with her Southern Baptist friend and dating an athlete in high school, suddenly became events ringed in tension and potential danger.

One thing that I really valued about this book is that it is an own-voices novel, as Meredith Russo is also a transgender woman, and this meant that she could speak to all of the small things about the process of getting surgery, taking hormones, and learning to inhabit the gender that people truly are but were not born into. This story could have easily and rightfully been a narrative full of drama, since the life of a transgender individual is inherently more dangerous than the life of a cisgender individual, especially in an environment such as the American South. However, Russo based most of the novel in ordinary teenage girl experiences, which I really admired. It speaks to the potential for the future of transgender teens in a more accepting society.

One thing that I absolutely adored in this novel, even though it played a minuscule role, is the treatment of religion. Church was a place of danger for Amanda- she was in the presence of many Christian fundamentalists, after all. However, Amanda learns to come to terms with religion with her own faith in a small way; she chose to believe that God still loved her no matter what society told her. I loved this because I feel like the subject of religious LGBTQ individuals is not represented enough- in literature as well as in media in general. LGBTQ religious individuals’ stories are important too.

I had to give this book such a high rating because of how emotional and touching it was. It made me laugh multiple times, it made me freeze with fright and it made me cry. It was so realistic that it made the story so touching. It was also of some personal value to me because I have been at a loss several times in conversation with a transgender friend because of my misunderstandings of their experiences, and this novel allowed me to better educate myself so that I can be a little more prepared in the future. I am grateful for that and for being able to hear a perspective that is so different than my own.

I’d recommend this to everyone.

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Review: Two Boys Kissing

Ignorance is not bliss. Bliss is knowing the full meaning of what you have been given.

Two Boys Kissing; David Levithan

I ticked another book off my extremely long TBR list…and managed to pick this delight of a book. I am making an effort to read more LGBTQA books or books about the LGBTQA experience.

AUTHOR: David Levithan

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK / WHAT FORMAT: local library / audiobook

RATING: 5/5 stars

SUMMARY: The novel is narrated by the general gay man that died during the height of the AIDS crisis, and in this novel, the gay men of the past narrating observe the gay boys of today. The novel follows seven different gay boys: one (Cooper) that is dealing with the depths of despair and feels unaccepted by the community around him, two  (Avery and Ryan) that are trying to navigate a new relationship, two (Peter and Neil) that are trying to navigate an older relationship, and two (Craig and Henry) that are trying to break the world record for the world’s longest kiss. In doing so, Craig and Henry are trying to make a statement to the world: that two boys kissing is not scary, that two boys kissing is normal and acceptable. Their feat touches on the lives of the rest of the boys in the novel in some way, whether in a minuscule way or in a way that is meaningful and lasting. Ultimately, this novel maps out the past, the present, and speculates on the future of the American gay experience.

Trigger warnings: There is an outing scene, and talk of suicide.

THOUGHTS: Okay so I absolutely adored this take on the contemporary gay generation. I am familiar with the AIDS crisis and its victims through fiction and theatre only – the men that were wracked with disease are only those that I have seen on stage, on screen, and in cherished books. This approach to the perspective of those men was unique and gave their story more hope than others would have by allowing those men to see how radically the gay experience has changed in America from the realities that they had known. At first I was a little hesitant about how this approach would work out but it played itself out beautifully.

This was my first novel by David Levithan, and I will definitely be reading more of his work because his writing was sublime. This novel had a tone of breathy wonder, of saddened acknowledgement, of weary resignation, and of renewed hope. I honestly just want to brew tea with Levithan’s prose and drink it all day long, it is that good. This book is so well written that even if I had not liked the storyline or the characters (and to be clear, I LOVED both), I still would have enjoyed the experience of reading it. The prose is heart and tear jerking, full of universal truths and general musings on life and existence itself, and the narration was so wonderfully done that even though this book is Young Adult, it lacks the immaturity that other Young Adult books are subject to because they are narrated by teenagers.

I also think Levithan did a good job of captivating the general contemporary gay experience- some of the minor prejudices approached in everyday life, what it means to be a person of color as well as a gay boy, what it means to have a supportive or unsupportive family, what it means to hate your sexuality or love it, etc. All of these gay characters are approaching their sexuality from a completely different background and mindset, which makes the novel that much more honest. Of course, I can only talk about this with the authority that a straight, not-gay-boy, person can have so please keep that in mind.

I adore how this is an own-voices novel, as Levithan himself is a gay man that was born in between the generations that he writes about, so he is in the perfect place to discuss each different and separate experience while still having a degree of separation from each generation as well. It is a lot more powerful to know that an author is drawing from his own experiences and his own interactions to draw inspiration for a book, especially for a book as relevant and significant as this one is.

I would absolutely recommend this book for anyone and everyone, no matter your reading preferences. It is a short read, and I’d be surprised if you managed to make your whole way through without feeling the prick of tears at least once.

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reading goals, to be read

September TBR

Summer is at a close…which means that the time period in which I am able to get most of my reading done is also at a close. The month of September brings new beginnings for me…I’m starting not just one but two (TWO!) internships and I am delving back into the life of a full-time student. So understandably, this TBR is not going to be that ambitious.

  • Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

anna_karenina9780143035008b

I definitely want to get through this book before school starts, because it is tremendously long and I honestly don’t think I can commit to such a dense read during the school year. I am currently about halfway through and am really ejoying this one.

  • The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

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I’ve heard so many good things about this book and I am so psyched to read it cause it seems like a cute, fun read and also I adore Jane Austen. I’ve only read three out of her six novels so far, but those three are among my all-time favorite books.

  • If I was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

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I’m trying to read more diversely and I have yet to read a book with a transgender main character in it. I honestly think YA is a great genre to try and introduce more diverse characters to the larger world of literature in. I am excited to see what Meredith Russo has done, especially as this is an own-voices novel. (BTW: the model on the cover is a transgender model. Well done, publishers!)

  • Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

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This is a novel with Lithuanian characters set in the Soviet Union, cause this girl is all about the historically accurate fiction. This book is about a family that gets deported to Siberia by Soviet police and the struggles they face there while the father of the family is sent to a labor camp. As soon as I read the synopsis, I knew that I had to read it!

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

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My friend has been begging me to read this, and as I am a sucker for historical fiction novels, I caved. I also made this particular friend read All The Light We Cannot See with me, so I guess fair is fair right? But her begging aside, I am always down for a well written book set in WW2.

  • Lighter than My Shadow by Katie Green

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Yet another YA book on this list, and a diverse, mental-health focused book at that! This is supposed to be a graphic novel concerning issues like eating disorders and abuse. I received this book from NetGalley and it comes out October 3rd, but I’ve already heard so many good things so I’m sure this is going to be a fantastic read.

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book review, young adult

Review: Fangirl

To really be a nerd, she’d decided, you had to prefer fictional worlds to the real one.

Fangirl, Rainbow Rowell

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I have checked off one book from my insanely long TBR list! 126 more to go…

AUTHOR: Rainbow Rowell

GENRE: Young Adult Fiction

WHERE DID I GET THIS BOOK / WHAT FORMAT: local library / ebook

RATING: 3.5/5 stars

SUMMARY: Cath is one of the biggest Simon Snow fans in the world, and a popular fanfiction writer in that fandom. She is about to start her freshman year of college with her twin sister and best friend Wren, but things go amiss when Wren declares she’d rather not room with Cath. Cath, who deals with crippling social anxiety, struggles to thrive in the social atmosphere of college without her socialite sister to guide her, and also struggles to reconcile the real world that she lives in and the fictional world that she would rather inhabit.

THOUGHTS: Okay so the worst thing about being a book blogger/reviewer is that as you read a book, you start to determine what its rating will be from the very outset. I began hating this book and evolved to like it. I enjoyed Fangirl, although I probably liked it a lot less than those who read Young Adult exclusively. A lot of YA reviewers gave it a 5/5 but honestly I didn’t love the book like that, nor did I not like it.

I found Cath to be kind of immature, even though I know this is an aspect of Young Adult fiction, it sometimes got on my nerves. Cath isn’t that young- she is a freshman in university. I am going into my second year of university, so Cath isn’t that much younger than me, and there are a lot of aspects about Cath that I could appreciate and relate to: her preference for books over parties, her reluctance to partake in overwhelming social activities, and her love for fictional worlds and characters. However, the way that Cath just shrugged off some of her school work or even her important relationships in order to tend to her literary commitments seemed ridiculous and acts that belonged to an angsty sixteen-year-old rather than an eighteen-year-old. Other characters comment on Cath’s pettiness and immaturity throughout the book, so Rainbow Rowell had made a deliberate choice there, but honestly? I wasn’t the girl’s biggest fan (see what I did there?)

Other than that, the rest of the book was enjoyable for me. I liked the family drama it encompassed, Cath’s journey to breaking a little more out of her shell, and her experiences with the harsh realties of real life breaking her out of her fantasy-induced stupor. All in all, the characterization was done quite well- none of the characters were too tropey, not even the introverted, fangirling nerd that was Cath. The relationships between characters, and how they broke, mended, and strengthened is what really gave this novel its life.

Also, I was LIVING for the frank portrayal of mental illnesses, self-medication, and family drama. This could have easily been a super fluffy, cute book, but instead, it also incorporates some serious subjects that fiction exists to take us away from sometimes. If anything, this book speaks to the self-medicating powers that fiction writing and fiction reading can have- for a few short moments, it can give us a place to hide from ourselves and our own issues.

If you like YA in general, I’d recommend this to you.

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