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review 2017-11-13 22:08
That Inevitable Victorian Thing: Or, Austen in the future.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing - E. Russell Johnston Jr.

Do you like regency stories? Ones with coming out balls for young ladies, elaborate teas, and awkward exchanges between suitors while they try to remain proper? Do you, in fact, love all that stuff but wish those stories had more diversity in their casts? Yes? Then you should read this book. It has all of that and more, and captures that light floaty tone impeccably.

I, however, don't particularly care for any of those things, which is why this book didn't blow my socks off. It's not you, book, it's me. The premise really intrigued me on this one - I was expecting much more of a sci-fi influence. Really though, it just feels like a regency romance with some technology and alternate history sprinkled in. Which is totally fine, but not what I was hoping for.

There's a lot to love about this book. The diverse cast was refreshing. The world was interesting. The tone was carefully crafted and the prose decent. And I will say I quite liked the ending, which is why I'm giving the book as many stars as I am. I can already tell this is going to be a lot of people's favorite book of the year. As for me it wasn't really my cup of tea. If you're looking for intricate sci-fi and cultural analysis this one might be a miss for you. If you want a fluffy yet diverse regency romance then snap this one up post-haste.

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review 2017-09-28 23:40
Borderline: Urban fantasy meets an exploration of borderline personality disorder
Borderline - Mishell Baker

It is impossible for me to read, and thus review, this book without constantly thinking about my past. To keep it simple: Once upon a time I was deeply involved with someone with BPD. That person then spent a decade of their life focusing all their energy into making my own life a living hell. So yes, I'm very familiar with BPD, which meant I went into this book with quite a bit of experience, but also baggage. Because of this I could never trust Millie. At all. And I also strongly disliked her. Whenever she did something terrible she would then remind you she had BPD, which felt like disingenuous apologism to me. This technique might be effective for a lot of readers, but because I never trusted Millie it only make me dislike her more.

 

Rationally I know this is a pretty strong urban fantasy. The fey and magic were neat. There were some good ideas in here. I particularly liked Baker's description of what living with disability was like, both physical and mental. The voice was strong and distinct, and it was a quick read. The climactic scene was a muddled mess, but that felt like a stumble not a fall. It was a solid first novel.

 

Here's the thing, since I read for character, and I felt personally adversarial toward this imaginary person, I couldn't enjoy reading this book. For once I feel like it would be 100% accurate to say it's not the book it's me. If you're hunting for an urban fantasy with a fresh take, and want to read about a deeply flawed main character, maybe give this one a shot. If you have experience with the darker sides of BPD then go into this book knowing it might raise your hackles.

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review 2017-08-20 07:19
Song of Achilles: Or, heartbreaking epic romance
 The Song of Achilles: A Novel - Madeline Miller

I wasn't originally interested in reading this book, but after a couple people (whose opinions I trust) recommended it I thought I at least owed it a try. I wouldn't say I'm an expert on the Greeks, but I would say I'm a fan. I know the story of the Illiad, and I'm familiar with Achilles and some of the mythology surrounding him. That's honestly part of why I was originally disinterested - Achilles is a bit of an arrogant ass. That foreknowledge, however, also contributed to what ultimately made this book so achingly sad.

This book broke my heart on every page. In a good way. Miller's prose is wonderful. She does an amazing job of bringing her settings and characters to life. I felt like I was there, in the castles and caves, and on the beaches and battlefields. I was completely transported. The Gods that walked through the pages felt as natural as the wind and the sea, never once breaking the tone of the book, or making it feel fantastical. Patroclus and Achilles became real, and their relationship was one I both believed and invested in, despite knowing how their story would end.

This book is amazingly well written, genuinely romantic without being sentimental, and truly heartbreaking in the best possible way. An epic romance in the truest sense.

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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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