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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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review 2017-05-17 22:18
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Wayward Children #2
Down Among the Sticks and Bones - Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway was one of my surprise favorites of 2016, so when I heard there was going to be another book in the series I got really excited. Then, honestly, I got a little apprehensive. What if it wasn't as good, or revisiting the world cheapened it? Yeah, I'll admit it - sequels sometimes make me nervous. In this particular case I needn't have worried. McGuire didn't rehash the job she did in the first book, but rather added new layers on top of what she built. Or perhaps I should say she added new layers below, as this book plumbs into the murky world of the Moors, and the events that occurred prior to EHaD.

 

Before you even get into the alternate world of magic and horror you get to spend time with Jack and Jill in the "real" world. You meet their parents before the sisters are even conceived and follow them all the way through their childhood. McGuire did such a good job with this entire section I found myself marking pages to reread. She made this family so repellant yet realistic, like a less cartoonish version of the Dursleys. There is so much in here about family, and children, that was astute and worth the exploration. And without this grounding the story that follows wouldn't be nearly as rewarding.

 

I love the way this book is written - how it feels like a Grimm fairytale. The authorial voice and the illustrations both add style and depth to the book. The world-building was well done, as was the mood and tone. Character was another win, as I thought Jack and Jill both came to life on the page. I was sucked in from start to finish. As with EHaD my only true complaint was that I wanted more, especially toward the end. Perhaps I'm just greedy. Regardless, this book hit the mark for me again and again, and I heartily recommend it. You can read it as a stand-alone if you so desire, but then you'd be missing out on another great book. I'm looking forward to the third book in the series!

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review 2017-04-27 05:05
The Traitor Baru Cormorant (Or, The Slytherin Handbook)
The Traitor Baru Cormorant - Seth Dickinson

I'm clearly in the minority on this one if you look at reviews, so it was somewhat heartening to meet up with my book club and discover they also had lukewarm feelings. Here's the thing: Dickinson crafts lovely prose. Sentence for sentence he is absolutely masterful. There were passages in this book I read over and over again. But when it comes to crafting a story as a whole? I just didn't buy in.

 

I loved the beginning of this book. The early chapters, when Baru is young and we get our first sense of how the Masquerade is trampling her people, had me sucked in and thinking this book would be a favorite. And then the story picks up, moves to another location, and stays there for the remainder. The rest of the book sets up scenarios, characters, and plot points, and none of them ever grabbed ahold of me or made me care. The plot attempts to twist and turn, but for me it just knotted - it seemed overly complex, and yet at the same time predictable, which is quite the trick. The supporting characters do things that seem convenient to the plot, but ultimately make no sense to me, thus breaking some of my suspension of disbelief.

 

And through it all Baru continues to tell you how awful she is, and is true to her word at least in that respect. That might be the thing that kills this book for me the most: I can't stand Baru. I read for character, and I just did not enjoy hanging out with this person for 400 pages. (Tain Hu on the other hand was pretty great. Lord knows what she sees in Baru.) For any Potter fans, this book reads like the Slytherin handbook - how to influence people and then screw them over for your own gain...the book! It's in the title. It's right there. But somehow that didn't make reading it any more enjoyable.

 

Here's the thing, if you like books that are rooted in political wheeling and dealing this might be your cup of tea. I mean, it's about vengeance through accounting, c'mon! And if irredeemable and terrible people aren't a big turn-off you also might love this book. As for me I need someone to cheer for, and I just couldn't cheer for Baru. I concede I'm in the minority here, so your milage may vary.

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