Review: #NotYourPrincess

Image result for notyourprincess#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women

Release Date: September 12, 2017

Publisher: Annick Press

Trigger Warnings: violence, sexual assault, racism, violence against Native peoples

My Rating: ★★

Goodreads Summary: Whether looking back to a troubled past or welcoming a hopeful future, the powerful voices of Indigenous women across North America resound in this book. In the same style as the best-selling Dreaming in Indian, #NotYourPrincess presents an eclectic collection of poems, essays, interviews, and art that combine to express the experience of being a Native woman. Stories of abuse, humiliation, and stereotyping are countered by the voices of passionate women making themselves heard and demanding change. Sometimes angry, often reflective, but always strong, the women in this book will give teen readers insight into the lives of women who, for so long, have been virtually invisible.

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My Review

I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I don’t feel like I have a ton to say about this book. When I first saw this on Netgalley, I was super excited to see some native voices in literature. I really, really appreciated what this book was trying to do. However, the formatting of the book detracted so much from the anthology that I found it incredibly difficult to read. Most of the pages in the book had nothing but designs on them (not art made by the Native Women who created the book but literally just designs and borders on blank pages), which ended up really detracting from my reading experience.

In addition, the stories themselves, while I would say were generally pretty good, were not especially interesting, and there didn’t seem to be any kind of organization as I went through the book, so I kept getting confused as I moved from one piece to the next. I think this anthology would have worked a bit better if they’d organized it by either time or publication type (short stories, then poems, then art, etc).

Overall, I feel like this had a lot of potential, and I appreciated that we are highlighting Native Female voices in the literary community. However, the apparent lack of formatting really detracted from what the book was trying to highlight, and I came out of it feeling like I hadn’t really learned anything or gained anything from the story, because I’d been so distracted by the parts of the book that weren’t important. I’d love to read more anthologies and works like this, but with less focus on visual things and more focus on the actual works being produced.

-Sky

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Review: Tess of the Road

Image result for tess of the roadTess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

Release Date: February 27, 2018

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers

Trigger Warnings: misogyny, transmisia/gendermisia

My Rating: ★★ (DNF at 23%)

Goodreads Summary: In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy. Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl–a subspecies of dragon–who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

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My Review

I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I’m going to start off this review by saying that I haven’t read Hartman’s other book, Seraphina, and that my opinion of this book might be different if I had the context that book would have provided. After trying to read this book for a month and only getting 23% through, I decided to DNF it. The main reason I decided to stop reading is because it was just not interesting enough to hold my attention.

This book is long, over 500 pages. In the first 1/4 that I read, not very much happened, and the way it happened didn’t capture my attention and make me want to keep reading. Our main character, Tess, hasn’t had an easy life, and I really appreciated that we have a character in YA who has had a child as a teenager, and I wish that aspect had been explored more than just in passing reference. Tess, unfortunately, was not a very likable character. She spends most of her time wallowing, rebelling, and getting outrageously drunk and ruining other people’s lives, all while complaining that everyone else is horrible to her. It got really old after a while, and since we’re following her journey, it made reading the book frustrating and annoying.

Another big reason I decided to stop reading the book was because of the way a particular subset of characters was handled. They are creatures called quigutl (a subspecies of dragon), and they use a different set of pronouns than humans. This pronoun (ko) is “genderless”, and the quigutl are very reminiscent of genderqueer/nonbinary people. They change genders from male to female and back several times throughout their lives (read here – gender fluidity). Tess refuses to use their preferred pronoun of “ko” saying that because it isn’t gendered, it feels to her like a “lesser” pronoun that would be used for inanimate/non-sentient objects, rather than people, despite the constant reminder that this IS the pronoun that they use, and are very clearly neither “he” nor “she”.

Tess meets one of her old friends, who happened to be female at the time of their first meeting, and is now male at this second meeting. Tess spends almost the entire conversation referring to her friend as “she” even though the friend is now male and refers to themself entirely as “ko”. Eventually, she does make the switch to “he”, but it’s pretty inconsistent overall, and it would have been much easier and less confusing had she just used the quigutl’s pronoun as it was meant to be used.

Overall, this book just wasn’t fast-paced or interesting enough to hold my attention, and the confusing and unnecessary implementation of alternate pronouns got frustrating very quickly. On top of this, I really didn’t like Tess as a main character, and I kind of wish I’d never picked up this book.

-Sky

Review: The Upside of Falling Down

Image result for upside of falling downThe Upside of Falling Down by Rebekah Crane

Release Date: January 30, 2018

Publisher: Skyscape

Trigger Warnings: plane crash, flashbacks (possible PTSD?), problems with pregnancy

My rating: ★★★

Goodreads Summary: For Clementine Haas, finding herself is more than a nice idea. Ever since she woke up in an Irish hospital with complete amnesia, self-discovery has become her mission. They tell her she’s the lone survivor of a plane crash. They tell her she’s lucky to be alive. But she doesn’t feel lucky. She feels…lost. With the relentless Irish press bearing down on her, and a father she may not even recognize on his way from America to take her home, Clementine assumes a new identity and enlists a blue-eyed Irish stranger, Kieran O’Connell, to help her escape her forgotten life…and start a new one. Hiding out in the sleepy town of Waterville, Ireland, Clementine discovers there’s an upside to a life that’s fallen apart. But as her lies grow, so does her affection for Kieran, and the truth about her identity becomes harder and harder to reveal, forcing Clementine to decide: Can she leave her past behind for a new love she’ll never forget?

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My Review

I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

I initially gave this book four stars, but the more I thought about it after having read it, the more I realized how many issues there actually were in this book. While it definitely kept me interested and invested the whole way through, there were quite a few aspects to this book that, after some reflection, really bothered me.

I’ll start off by saying the characters are all unique and interesting, but the ones I actually cared about got the least amount of attention. Our main character, Clementine, was by far my least favorite of the bunch. She’s essentially a pathological liar, but for no particular reason other than her amnesia makes her not want to return to the life she had before. I spent the whole book feeling awful for her father, who, after nearly losing his daughter in a plane crash, is instead abandoned by her. I just don’t understand why she couldn’t have at least tried with him. (On a side note I think it’s hilarious that her name is Clementine…. If you’ve seen the movie The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, you’ll get it).

I also wasn’t a huge fan of the romance. For spoilery reasons I can’t really get into why, but the whole premise surrounding their romance really bothers me and I’m not sure why I’m supposed to root for them in the end. Plus, their entire relationship is based on Clementine’s lies, so it’s not a good foundation for a relationship anyway.

I did love Siobhan’s character, and honestly I wish the book had been written from her perspective. It would have been a much more interesting story that could have been far more developed. I want more Siobhan, please and thanks. On a similar note, there are two queer characters that I really wish had gotten more attention in this book. One is Clementine’s nurse at the hospital whom she absolutely adores, but the proceeds to abandon and talk to…. once? Maybe twice? For the rest of the story. He’s Jewish and gay, and I really wanted to see their friendship grow and continue throughout the story.

There’s also Clive, who is another queer character who doesn’t get a label (he’s most likely bi/pan?) but does get to say that he “likes pretty people”. *insert eye roll and groan here* Can we please label queer characters who are more than just the L and the G please? I want more of those.

While I did like the way everything came together at the end, the ending itself left me very frustrated and, frankly, uncomfortable, for spoilery reasons that I won’t share. The writing itself was pretty good, but definitely nothing special. The only reason this book is getting 3 stars from me is that at least while I was reading it, I was invested and interested to see where the story went. Other than that, this book fell pretty flat for me.

-Sky

Review: American Panda

american-panda-9781481499101_hrAmerican Panda by Gloria Chao

Release Date: February 6, 2018

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Trigger Warnings: germophobia, death, emotional abuse/difficult family relationships, racism

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: At seventeen, Mei should be in high school, but skipping fourth grade was part of her parents’ master plan. Now a freshman at MIT, she is on track to fulfill the rest of this predetermined future: become a doctor, marry a preapproved Taiwanese Ivy Leaguer, produce a litter of babies. With everything her parents have sacrificed to make her cushy life a reality, Mei can’t bring herself to tell them the truth–that she (1) hates germs, (2) falls asleep in biology lectures, and (3) has a crush on her classmate Darren Takahashi, who is decidedly not Taiwanese. But when Mei reconnects with her brother, Xing, who is estranged from the family for dating the wrong woman, Mei starts to wonder if all the secrets are truly worth it. Can she find a way to be herself, whoever that is, before her web of lies unravels?

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My Review

I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Prefacing this review by saying that I’m pretty sick as I’m writing this, so I’m trying to make this as coherent as possible, but it might not be, so apologies in advance. I knew going into this book that it was going to be really good, and it definitely didn’t disappoint me, but it also wasn’t quite what I expected it to be. I thought this book was going to be a dorky and funny contemporary that approached some difficult topics in a lighthearted way. This is not that book. It had its comedic moments, but in general this felt like a pretty heavy book. There also wasn’t as much of a focus on the romance as I was expecting.

Ultimately, this book is a character study. It examines the insanely complex and dynamic relationships between Mei and her family members, as well as the realities of Asian and immigrant culture in the United States today. All of these topics are things that I know very little about, and learning about Asian and Taiwanese/Chinese culture in particular was fascinating. I loved the portrait that this book painted of Mei’s family, especially the relationships between Mei and her mom, and Mei and her brother. I wish there had been a bit more exploration of Mei’s relationship with her father, but I loved how much character development that Chao managed to fit into so many of the book’s main characters.

Mei and Darren were also adorable, and I wish we’d gotten to see a bit more of their relationship over the course of the story. Their relationship was “adorkable” and super cute, but I appreciated that they had their own struggles in their relationship outside of their family and it definitely wasn’t perfect. It was also really interesting to see the development of the relationship between Mei and her roommate, Nicolette. College roommates can either go really well, or really badly, and Mei and Nicolette felt like a pretty accurate picture of that balance.

Mei also suffers from germophobia and anxiety, and while I don’t personally suffer from germophobia, I have people in my family who do, and this depiction felt very accurate (I’m not sure if it’s #ownvoices for this rep). I do, however, suffer from anxiety, and this also was a very relatable aspect of the story, particularly the focus on simultaneously wanting to make your family proud but constantly worrying that you will disappoint them.

Overall, while this book wasn’t as funny or light-hearted as I was expecting, it was a beautiful and fascinating character study that you should absolutely be counting down the days to. We need more books like this in the world.

-Sky

 

 

Review: A Quiet Kind of Thunder

51zzvuqggbl-_sx328_bo1204203200_A Quiet Kind of Thunder by Sara Barnard

Release Date: January 12, 2017

Publisher: Macmillan Children’s Books

Trigger Warnings: anxiety, panic attacks, grief, ableism

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: Steffi doesn’t talk, but she has so much to say. Rhys can’t hear, but he can listen. Their love isn’t a lightning strike, it’s the rumbling roll of thunder. Steffi has been a selective mute for most of her life – she’s been silent for so long that she feels completely invisible. But Rhys, the new boy at school, sees her. He’s deaf, and her knowledge of basic sign language means that she’s assigned to look after him. To Rhys, it doesn’t matter that Steffi doesn’t talk, and as they find ways to communicate, Steffi finds that she does have a voice, and that she’s falling in love with the one person who makes her feel brave enough to use it. From the bestselling author of Beautiful Broken Things comes a love story about the times when a whisper is as good as a shout.

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My Review

 I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

This book was sickeningly sweet, and I loved every minute of it. While the plot wasn’t particularly eventful, the wonderful characters and their blossoming relationships (plus dogs!) made it a more than satisfying read.

To start off, reading from Stefi’s selectively mute perspective was fascinating. I knew very little about mutism before reading this book, and it was so nice to see this type of anxiety portrayed in the book. The depiction of Stefi’s anxiety felt very real and accurate, as were other’s treatments and stigmas surrounding her anxiety and mutism.

On top of that, we have deaf rep in the form of Rhys’s character. I can’t speak to how well this representation was handled, as I have very little experience with deafness and deaf culture, but I did appreciate that neither Stefi’s mutism and anxiety nor Rhys’s deafness were treated as novelties. They are both very real disabilities that people deal with, while nonetheless are still capable of living full and “normal” lives. I also appreciated that there was some acknowledgment of the ableism and stigmas associated with these disabilities.

I loved watching Stefi and Rhys getting to know one another, and how they each found their own way of communicating with each other and the world around them. This book also really want to learn more sign language (I’ve taught myself some (really basic) basics) using YouTube), but I don’t have anyone to use it with in real life, so I have trouble retaining it.

Rhys and Stefi’s relationship was so freaking adorable I think my heart burst about eight times while I was reading it. Stefi was such a fangirl every time Rhys did ANYTHING and it was so cute. I really related to being a total sop when you’re crushing on someone, and this was the first time I’ve read a really cutesy romance rather than a super intense one. Though, I must admit it did have its intense moments.

I did at least appreciate how involved both Stefi and Rhys’s families were, and I liked that they weren’t perfect parents, even with the best of intentions. It was also nice to get a perspective on grief that was a bit older, rather than an especially recent loss. I feel like too often the grief depicted in books only reflects how grief has an immediate effect, rather than the reality of the years of grief that follow a tragedy. I liked seeing the ways that even years later the tragedy can still manifest itself in small ways in the lives of Stefi and her family.

My only complaint with this book is that there wasn’t as much conflict as I would have liked, and I felt like the ending was a little bit rushed. I wish the plot had developed a little bit more towards the end, so there could have been a more satisfying conclusion. All in all this was super sweet with a ton of diversity and honestly, that’s all I ever want in a contemporary.

-Sky

Review: Paintbrush

51wtjrkw71lPaintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

Release Date: July 11, 2017

Publisher: Blaze Publishing, LLC

Trigger Warnings: ableism, domestic abuse, cheating, mild violence

My Rating: ★★★★

Goodreads Summary: Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner. But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support – and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is – and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

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My Review

 I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

This book was a super cute and fluffy contemporary, which is exactly the kind of book I need to read during finals week. I want to start off by quickly commenting on my mark of this books ableism. There is literally one sentence that I noticed in the book that I considered to be ableist, where the main character makes a joke about people who use rolly backpacks. So, it’s not a hugely prevalent idea or anything, just something I noticed.

Now – for my FEELINGS! I had so many while reading this book. If there’s one trope that I absolutely adore, it’s friends-to-romance. And oh, boy! This was a good one. This book definitely deals with some heavy stuff, like cheating and domestic abuse, but the main relationship between Mitchell and Josie was so sweet and supportive. I really liked that they were so open with each other. There wasn’t a whole lot of secret-keeping between them. They may have kept a lot of things private from their friends and family, but they were super trusting of each other and were both so comfortable sharing their feelings with each other, which was really refreshing to see.

Another refreshing thing in this book – there was NO SEX! It wasn’t ever even discussed as a possibility, a choice both characters were completely comfortable with, which was a nice change from the typical YA relationship. But, it made me able to identify with the relationship a lot more, as I’m not interested in sex when I enter into a relationship with someone (though of course I understand that many people are interested, and will have sex as teenagers).

I really liked that we got to see such an in-depth picture of both Josie and Mitchell’s families. Mitchell’s parents and Josie’s sister play huge roles in the book, and I loved seeing teen-parent relationships plus interesting sibling relationships. Josie’s mom was a really interesting character, and I wish we’d gotten to hear a little bit more of her story, but we got just enough that I could understand why she made the choices she did. On Mitchell’s side, I would have liked some more interactions with his father, as Mitchell spends most of the book avoiding both of his parents, and I’d have like some more closure in their relationships, rather than just with his mom.

I also loved getting to read about the Indian Paintbrush Community Village for Sustainable Living. I’ve never read a book that takes place in a commune before, and I feel like I learned a lot about what life in one would be like. It was really interesting to see how everyone lives together in such a harmonious way, as a real community amongst themselves and nature. It also didn’t feel like a stereotypical depiction of a commune. Sure there were aspects of it that matched the image in my head of life in a commune, but a lot of people that lived there had completely “normal” (for lack of a better term) lives.

The only thing about this book that made me knock it down one star was the dual POV. I couldn’t always tell which perspective I was reading from, until either Mitchell or Josie referred to the other person. Towards the end I started to get the hang of the differences in their narratives, but they were so similar that the nuances were hard to catch sometimes.

Apart from that, this was a super cute and fast read. I flew through this book despite the struggle to get through finals in one piece, and it was exactly what I needed to decompress after the long week ended. I would definitely recommend this to fans of Stephanie Perkins and Kasie West – a perfect fluffy contemporary with some heavier stuff mixed in.

-Sky

Review: Kaleidoscope Song

29620980Kaleidoscope Song by Fox Benwell

Release Date: September 19, 2017

Publisher: Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers

Trigger Warnings: homophobia/misia, corrective rape, sexual assault, murder, abuse/domestic abuse

My Rating: ★★★

Goodreads Summary: South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings… Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted. When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage. It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

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My Review

 I received this book as an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

It took me two months to figure out how I wanted to do this review, and I’m still not entirely happy with it. I’m still not entirely happy with my rating for this, either. But, alas, I must post a review. I will say that the trigger warnings are a little bit spoilery, and I’m going to go into a little more detail later on, so if you’d rather not know the details, be warned.

I absolutely adored the first 3/4 of this book. Seeing Neo discover herself and her love of music was both inspiring and empowering. I loved the description of the music that she listened to, and her experience of Tale’s concert. The writing in this book is phenomenal, and it drew me in from the very first page. I fell in love with this book from the very beginning, and it seemed to only get better and better as it went on. It was a powerful story of self-discovery and self-empowerment for women and artists everywhere.

Then, the last 1/4 of the book happened. I am, in all honesty, really tired of dead lesbians. I absolutely appreciate this book and the story it tells. The events in this book (such as corrective rape and homophobia/misia) are powerful realities for people all over the world, and it is important that their stories be told. That being said, they are not stories that I enjoy, and unfortunately that meant my rating dropped down from what might have been a four or five star book to a three. I don’t really have much more to say about this book, other than I hope a lot of people read it, because it’s important, but it is not a story that I can take in and “enjoy” like I enjoy other books.

-Sky