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review 2017-07-26 00:03
The Love Interest
The Love Interest - Cale Dietrich

I don't like writing bad reviews. I don't like saying bad things about people's art. Writing is difficult and everyone enjoys different things out of their books. I don't write this to hurt anyone's feelings. That's the last thing I want to do as a reviewer. But sometimes a book is bad, and I feel like I'd be dishonest if I said I felt otherwise. I was so excited about this book. I was so ready to love this. The concept is so up my alley. And yet, by the end I was hate reading it just to get through. 

So where did it all go wrong?
The first person point of view was a mistake, especially since we only get Caden's POV - it might have worked if we got chapters with Dylan. The characters were flat and forgettable, and I didn't care about any of them. The dialogue was the worst I think I've ever read outside of beginning level writing courses. I cannot understate how bad the dialogue in this book is, I really can't. Hell, the writing in general was bad. The world made no sense, and when I started actually thinking about any of it I just got angry. If you start examining any of the world building or the plot structure there are plot holes so big you could drive a fleet of buses through them. The genre is also weirdly off-putting in that the world seems to be this odd dystopia filled with killer robots and sci-fi tech, but the characters keep referencing current pop culture and acting like they live in the here and now...which...I guess really boils down to another plot hole I can't reconcile.

But hey, spies, right? Not so much. For a book about spies no one seems to have any spy skills, nor does any spy stuff happen. At best the spy characters are actors being fed lines through an earpiece or scripts. Not spies. Okay...so romance, yeah? Except the characters have zero chemistry. Also, for a book that's supposed to highlight queer relationships most of the story focuses on the fake straight relationship. SPOILER: And worst of all? The big twist is that the queer relationship is a lie. Which made me so pissed I almost chucked my book across the room. One of the characters is only pretending to like the other. But then at the end he changes his mind and decides he's into it, apparently. In no way is that shift really explained or redeemed in any meaningful way.

So yeah. This book disappointed me, and honestly pissed me off. I waffled between one and two stars because it did have some good things to say about being gay, and what that can be like. But ultimately that's not enough to redeem it. Yes, we need more books with queer characters and relationships, but we can do better. Much much better. I want someone to actually write a book about gay spies, because this was not that book.

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review 2017-07-07 03:07
Queer, There, and Everywhere
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World - Sarah Prager,Zoe More O'Ferrall

I was very disappointed by one of the entries in the glossary for this. Scratch that. I was angry. Under the LGBTQ entry, it talked about other common additions to that abbreviation and mentioned A. It said that A stood for either asexual or ally. It does not stand for ally. Each letter in that abbreviation stands for a type of queer identity. Ally is not a queer identity. They are not part of the abbreviation. Asexuals get erased enough from the queer community, often with people saying the A is for ally and ignoring asexuals completely. I don't need a queer history book that's supposed to be for queer people validating that line of thought. It didn't even mention that the A can also be for agender.

 

Outside of that complaint, the book was a bit of a disappointment anyways. The title is very misleading, as is the introduction which gives a brief history of queer people in each area of the world. With the title including the word "everywhere" and the introduction highlighting areas all around the world, one would think the people chosen for the book would also be from all over the world. Instead, more than half the entries are from the US. The majority of the remaining people are from Europe. The author's notes in the back mention that she left out a lot of people due to not having enough sources to write a chapter for them. But I don't see why shorter sections couldn't have been done for those people. It just was very strange to have sections of the world get a short history in the introduction, but not have a single person featured from that area in the main body of the book.

 

The people who were featured were all interesting figures, although the short chapters meant there was only a brief look at each. There are sources in the back for each person if you want to learn more about a particular person. Also, if you're looking for definitive labels for each person, you'll be disappointed. A number of the entries only have speculation on how the person might have identified.

 

Overall Queer, There, and Everywhere is a short, easy read that features a brief, but interesting look at various queer figures from history (and a couple who are currently still living). It just had a more narrow global focus than I had expected and that issue with one of the glossary terms.

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review 2017-07-05 23:20
Her Body and Other Parties: Dark, feminist, erotica, body horror (yes, that's apparently a thing).
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories - Carmen Maria Machado

I didn't realize you could blend erotica, feminism, and body horror until I read this collection, and now I find myself wondering why this combination hasn't been in my life sooner. Machado has created one of the creepiest story collections I've ever read, and it is made all the more disturbing by not shying away from feminist themes. This deft blending of genres is perfect for exploring topics like the relationships women have with their bodies, and how those bodies are treated by others and society at large. Using both old familiar stories, like The Husband Stitch, and new ones, like Eight Bites, these stories scared me and made me think. If you're a fan of horror you should absolutely give this collection a read.

 

Story By Story Impressions and Thoughts:
The Husband Stitch - Brought new life to the old story of the woman who wears a ribbon around her neck.
Inventory - An exploration of sexuality, and sexual encounters, and how those make us human and inform our sense of the world and self.
Mothers - Themes of motherhood, and what that does and does not mean for different people.
Especially Heinous - A dark supernatural re-magining of every episode of SVU, which made me actually want to sit down and watch SVU.
Real Women Have Bodies - Dealt deftly with the visibility of women in society, ideas about beauty, and how appearance and presence are often enmeshed in our culture.
Eight Bites - A story with a heart that revolves around body image and how many women hinge so much of their happiness on being thin.
The Resident - Memory a moving target in this story as it addresses how the damages of the past show their scars on our art and our present.
Difficult at Parties - A gut wrenching look at some of the shadows sexual assault casts across one's sexual landscape in the aftermath.

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review 2017-06-15 23:06
Boy Meets Boy: Or, a gay teen Meet Cute of a book
Boy Meets Boy - David Levithan

I was in the mood for something light and sweet for Pride month, and this delivered. This is one of those books where I feel like its strengths and its weakness come from exactly the same place. This book is refreshingly free of tragedy, which is usually the order of the day when it comes to most teen books centered around queer characters. The town the main character lives in is so fantastically whimsical and diverse it almost feels like magical realism. I mean, the cheerleaders ride motorcycles - it's intentionally unrealistic and utopian. This tone meant I wasn't crying my eyes out and depressed, but it also pulled me out of the story because it was difficult for me to fully buy into the world.

 

As per usual I liked Levithan's writing, heart, and characters. I was rooting for Paul and Noah. I had my fingers crossed for the friendships at stake. But really the character and story arc that captured my heart was Tony, which is telling because that was the part of the story with the most sadness and realism. Tony isn't from Paul's magical town - he's from here and now. And the conversations and mirroring between these two worlds was the best part of the book for me.

 

If you're on the hunt for an adorable gay teen romance without a lot of tragedy and angst then this is the book you have been searching for. Filled with whimsy, sweetness, and plenty of ups and downs to keep you glued to the page, this book is truly fun and nice. It's a dessert of a book, so know that when you dig in and enjoy the fluffy sweetness.

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review 2017-06-06 21:58
Release
Release - Patrick Ness
Once upon a time I read a Patrick Ness book, and it pissed me off so much I threw it across the room. In the years that have followed he has since published numerous books that have sparked my interest, but I always ended up giving them a pass - first impressions matter. When I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of this book (Thank you, Harper!) I was dubious, but curious. I'm so glad my curiosity won out - this is one of my favorite reads so far this year.

Taking place all within one tumultuous day, Release managed to encapsulate what it feels like to have one of those days where everything is changing way too fast to keep up. It's one of those days where everything shifts and goes sideways. It could so easily feel contrived, but Ness manages to make the non-stop hits feel connected and realistic. We've all had that day where it's one thing after another and before you know it things start snowballing. Especially when you're young and feelings run so deep and swift.

(One note on content, since I know some people like teachers, school librarians, and parents occasionally have this question: Yes, this book has sex in it. And the main character is gay, and it is graphic. It's also important to the story, and I wouldn't want it any other way. Still, you might want to take that into account before giving it to younger readers if you have concerns.)

Structurally this book has some ups and downs for me. The action moves swiftly, and the book is divided into smaller chunks, which kept me reading past my bedtime. This book is hard to put down. The one part of this book I'm still not certain worked for me was the ghost story that runs parallel to Adam's story. I'm still not 100% sold that it added to the story - even though the stories mirrored each other the tones really clashed. 

I loved the characters. I loved Adam, and I loved his friends. Even the characters I disliked I appreciated because they felt real and well drawn. Without saying too much I will say I also really appreciated the ending, both in its subtlety and where Ness chose to end the narrative. I set the book down feeling satisfied and I'm still thinking about it weeks later.

This is a book about feeling trapped, not just in the closet but also in your circumstances and family. This is a book about love, both the good and the bad sides, with not just lovers but friends and family. This is a book about acceptance, of self, others, and reality. And more than anything this is a book about learning to let go. I loved this book, and I can't wait to press it into people's hands this fall.

 

 
 
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