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review 2020-01-04 21:25
Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by L.C. Rosen
Jack of Hearts (and other parts) - Lev A.C. Rosen

Content warning for stalking, victim blaming, homophobia, suicidal thoughts, on-page drug use and drinking, and graphic discussions of sex.

Jack is a gay teen who likes casual sex and isn't interested in being in a committed relationship. Maybe one day - he isn't completely ruling it out - but definitely not right now. While he enjoys having sex, he doesn't enjoy people gossiping about his sex life, and for some reason his sex life is a hot topic among the gossips at school. When his friend Jenna suggests that he write a sex advice column for her personal blog, he reluctantly agrees. Maybe if he works in some true stories about his sex life, the rumors about stuff he's never done will go away. And the posts will be semi-anonymous, written by "Jack of Hearts," so there's no way some future college or employer will google him and see them.

For the most part, the advice column goes surprisingly well, but things take a turn for the worse in his private life. Someone keeps putting notes in his locker. At first they look like love notes, but as time goes on, it becomes increasingly clear that Jack has a stalker.

I got an ARC of this at a conference a while back and only just now got around to reading it. The book came out in October 2018, so that gives you an idea of how long I've had it. It looked good, but I was a little afraid it'd have more sex in it than I wanted to deal with. Now that I've read it, I can say that, yes, the advice columns were extremely explicit and did mention, in graphic detail, some of Jack's past sexual experiences as context for whatever advice he was giving. However, even though Jack has sex multiple times in the story, there were no on-page sex scenes. I appreciated that. The advice columns were one thing, but first person present tense on-page sex scenes, especially in a YA novel, would have felt voyeuristic and gross.

Okay, I'll start with the good. I thought that most of the advice columns were well-done. I could imagine the topics and explicitness crossing lines for some folks - I, personally, thought that the last one about roleplay and BDSM would have been more appropriate in a book aimed at adults than teens - but for the most part I liked the way the topics were handled, with an emphasis on communication and consent. There was even one column addressing the fears of a letter writer who was probably asexual, as well as a column that discussed the fetishizing of gay men by straight women.

I liked Jack reasonably well, even if he occasionally made me want to scream in frustration, and I thought his friend Ben was an utter sweetheart. Although most of the prominent characters in this book were very much into sex, usually casual sex, I liked that there was an effort to say "it's okay for teens to not want to have sex, or to want to wait until they meet the right person or feel like it's the right time." And the story's pacing was good and definitely kept me hooked.

However, here's where I get into the things I wasn't as wild about. The stalking plot had several moments that made me incandescently angry. Yes, I understand that there were teens who would not want to tell anyone if they were being stalked, who, like Jack, would want to just wait and see if the problem would go away on its own. And yes, I understand that there are horrible adults out there who'd react like Jack's principal and not do anything particularly helpful. However, it just kept going on and on and becoming more and more awful. The message the book was communicating boiled down to "there's nothing that could possibly be done to make your situation any better, no one will help you, and even the people who try to help you won't be able to accomplish anything." It did resolve in a positive way, but it felt like a stroke of luck on Jack's part, and even then it almost didn't work out. Things got so bad that I was worried the book was going to end in Jack's suicide.

Jack was so frustrating. Every time one of his friends suggested going to someone for help, he trotted out reasons why that wouldn't do any good or just plain said no. No cops, no telling his mom. Considering the principal's reaction when he was first alerted to the problem, I could understand, but as the notes got darker and more threatening, I had a harder time seeing why he wouldn't try again, with a different adult. His mom would have been perfect, but no, he didn't want to worry her. Jack and his mom often felt more like roommates whose paths occasionally crossed than like parent and child. Giving your son space to grow and figure himself out is one thing, but Jack's mom didn't seem to have any rules beyond "don't get blackout drunk and make sure you practice safe sex." And what good was having a "cool" mom, anyway, if Jack still didn't feel comfortable enough to tell her that a stalker was blackmailing him and making his life hell?

The high school experience depicted in this book was more like what I see in movies than what I remember of my own high school life. It seemed like everyone was having huge parties, drinking, smoking pot, and having sex. Yeah, there were mentions of kids who wanted to take it slower, like Ben, and that asexual letter writer, but the bulk of this was just...are there really people out there whose high school experience is like this?

And while I do think it's good that sex positive YA books exist, there were certain things in this one that crossed the line. For example, there were multiple instances where Jack admitted that he'd used Grindr to find partners, that he'd lied about his age, and that at least one or two of his partners were probably adult men who didn't realize that he was still a minor. The problems with this were never addressed. Honestly, the "hooking up with older men via Grindr" stuff could have been cut from the book without hurting anything - Jack had zero problems finding people his own age to hook up with via parties.

Anyway, it was a quick read, but I definitely had issues with it and am not really sure I enjoyed it. I could see the advice columns being helpful to some readers, though.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-08-12 23:31
To Terminator, With Love by Wes Kennedy
To Terminator, With Love - Wes Kennedy

Dexter Wu isn't a terribly social guy. He's a grad student whose life currently revolves around his big project, a robot named HAL that's supposed to be able to read stories to children. He has one close friend, Sandhya, who's about to move back to India. He's trying not to let that fact utterly wreck him, but it's hard. He's tired, stressed out about finals and HAL, and...suddenly in a confusing and terrifying amount of danger.

According to a powerful device owned by a shadowy group known as the Agency, HAL is going to destroy the world. Dexter's work on it must be stopped at all costs. The Agency's people don't normally try to kill their targets, but for some reason protocol is being broken this time around, and Dexter's running for his life. Luckily he has one agent on his side, Andre Jackson.

I bought this because it was listed as sci-fi with an asexual main character and its description sounded decent. The title and relatively vague description made me think that HAL would be prominent and that there would be time travel. This turned out not to be the case. There were a few brief Terminator references, but the nature of the Agency's secret device meant that it had more in common with Minority Report.

Sci-fi and fantasy pop culture references were all over the place. The one I enjoyed the most had to do with Dexter's efforts to figure out his role in this action story he'd suddenly been plopped into:

"Because he wasn't Neville Longbottom. He wasn't even Jar Jar Binks; he was Leeroy fucking Jenkins." (76%)

It's the kind of line that's fun if you know who Dexter's referring to but that would be completely incomprehensible to every one else. As it was, I had to google the Leeroy Jenkins reference - I'd heard the name before but that was it. The text is peppered with this sort of thing. I mostly liked it, but I could see it being annoying and exhausting for anyone who doesn't have the right pop culture background.

I was a bit iffy about the asexual rep. While it was nice that there was zero drama and nastiness over Dexter being ace, it felt really weird that he and Andre didn't talk about it at all beyond a brief mention. The two of them started making out, Dexter paused things to tell Andre that he was asexual and that he enjoyed kissing but wasn't interested in having sex, Andre calmly accepted this, and they never talked about it again. Granted, I'm not sure if they could be considered a couple since the story only takes place over a couple weeks, but it ended with Dexter hoping they could keep in touch and continue their relationship. I don't know.

In the end, I wanted to like this more than I actually did. Andre and Dexter were adorably geeky together, and the humor was decent. Unfortunately, the story was so-so, Andre and Dexter's relationship didn't really work for me, and I was disappointed that HAL was ultimately unimportant, little more than another one of the story's many SFF references.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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review 2018-01-27 05:18
MYSTERY OF THE GOLDEN TEMPLE (Pack-n-Go Girls Adventures - Thailand #1)
Mystery of the Golden Temple (Pack-n-Go Girls Adventures - Thailand 1) - Lisa Travis,Adam Turner,Janelle Diller

A 2018 MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN'S BOOK DAY BOOK REVIEW. THANKS TO REBECCA FLANSBURG, PROJECT MANAGER/MCCBD, VALERIE BUDAYR, MIA WENJEN, AND ALL THE MCCBD 2018 CO-HOSTS. SPECIAL THANKS TO LINDA TRAVIS, WHO SENT ME A PAPERBACK COPY OF THE BOOK TO REVIEW.

 

Mystery of the Golden Temple (Pack-n-Go Girls Adventures - Thailand #1)

 Linda Travis (Author),                   

 Adam Turner (Illustrator)

Paperback, 118 pages
Published June 17th 2014 by WorldTrek Publishing
ISBN  1936376091 (ISBN13: 9781936376094)
 
 ****I received this book from the Author for Multicultural Children's Book Day (January 27th, 2018). ****
 An enjoyable book. The main character is a girl, Nona May, and she uses some of her Thai language throughout the book which is really cool to see and read. She and her American friend, Jess, solve a mystery about a special family treasure. Lots of action, lots of fun through the book. The writing is simple; but that allows the eagerness and determination of the girls to be the focal point in solving the mystery. Linda Travis wrote her girls as strong, active, spunky, and tenacious. I would definitely recommend this book and series to girls.
 
 
 A 2017 Literary Classics Gold – Best Series – Young Reader
2017 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Silver - Best Chapter Book Series
A 2014 Moonbeam Children’s Book Award Winner - Best Chapter Book Series 
 
 About the Author: Linda Travis
"Lisa Travis dreamed of faraway places ever since she was a little girl who explored National Geographic magazines every month. Looking for ways to discover the world, Lisa studied at the University of Freiburg in Germany, traveled the USA in a Volkswagon camper, and lived and worked in South Korea. She currently finds ways to pack and go by creating global executive leadership programs that take her to cool places like Guangzhou, Hong Kong, Brussels, Copenhagen, and Prague. Her experiences around the world inspired her to create Pack-n-Go Girls. Lisa lives, bikes, and skis in Colorado with her husband, two kids, and two dogs." http://www.packngogirls.com Twitter-packngogirls , https://www.goodreads.com/lisa_travis 
 
About the Illustrater: Adam Turner
Adam Turner is an illustrator, living in Surprise, Arizona with his wife and daughter. He has been illustrating commercially for almost 30 years and has been creating dot to dots for about 10 of those years.
 

Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2017 (1/27/18) is in its 5 th year and was founded by Valarie Budayr from Jump Into A Book and Mia Wenjen from PragmaticMom. Our mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in home and school bookshelves while also working diligently to get more of these types of books into the hands of young readers, parents and educators.

 

Current Sponsors:  MCBD 2018 is honored to have some amazing Sponsors on board.

 

2018 MCBD Medallion Sponsors
HONORARY: Children’s Book Council, Junior Library Guild
PLATINUM: Scholastic Book Clubs
GOLD: Audrey Press, Candlewick Press, Loving Lion Books, Second Story Press, Star Bright
Books, Worldwide Buddies
SILVER: Capstone Publishing, Author Charlotte Riggle, Child’s Play USA, KidLit TV, Pack-n-Go Girls, Plum Street Press
BRONZE: Barefoot Books, Carole P. Roman, Charlesbridge Publishing, Dr. Crystal
Bowe, Gokul! World, Green Kids Club, Gwen Jackson, Jacqueline Woodson, Juan J. Guerra, Language Lizard, Lee & Low Books, RhymeTime Storybooks, Sanya Whittaker Gragg,TimTimTom Books, WaterBrook & Multnomah, Wisdom Tales Press

 

2018 Author Sponsors

 


Honorary Author Sponsors: Author/Illustrator Aram Kim and Author/Illustrator Juana Medina, Author Janet Balletta, Author Susan Bernardo, Author Carmen Bernier-Grand, Author Tasheba Berry-McLaren and Space2Launch, Bollywood Groove Books, Author Anne Broyles, AuthorKathleen Burkinshaw, Author Eugenia Chu, Author Lesa Cline-Ransome, Author Medeia Cohan
and Shade 7 Publishing, Desi Babies, Author Dani Dixon and Tumble Creek Press, Author Judy Dodge Cummings, Author D.G. Driver, Author Nicole Fenner and Sister Girl Publishing, Debbi Michiko Florence, Author Josh Funk, Author Maria Gianferrari, Author Daphnie Glenn, Globe Smart Kids, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Author Quentin Holmes, Author Esther Iverem, Jennifer Joseph: Alphabet Oddities, Author Kizzie Jones, Author Faith L Justice , Author P.J. LaRue and MysticPrincesses.com, Author Karen Leggett Abouraya, Author Sylvia Liu, Author Sherri Maret, Author Melissa Martin Ph.D., Author Lesli Mitchell, Pinky Mukhi and We Are One, Author Miranda Paul, Author Carlotta Penn, Real Dads Read, Greg Ransom, Author Sandra L. Richards, RealMVPKids Author Andrea Scott, Alva Sachs and Three Wishes
Publishing, Shelly Bean the Sports Queen, Author Sarah Stevenson, Author Gayle H. Swift Author Elsa Takaoka, Author Christine Taylor-Butler, Nicholette Thomas and  MFL Publishing Author Andrea Y. Wang, Author Jane Whittingham Author Natasha Yim

 

 

We’d like to also give a shout-out to MCBD’s impressive CoHost Team who not only hosts thebook review link-up on celebration day, but who also works tirelessly to spread the word of this event. View our CoHosts HERE.

 

TWITTER PARTY Sponsored by Scholastic Book Clubs: MCBD’s super-popular (and
crazy-fun) annual Twitter Party will be held 1/27/18 at 9:00pm.
Join the conversation and win one of 12-5 book bundles and one Grand Prize Book Bundle (12 books) that will be given away at the party!

 

http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/twitter-party- great-conversations- fun-prizes-
chance-readyourworld- 1-27- 18/

 

Free Multicultural Books for Teachers: http://bit.ly/1kGZrta

 

Free Empathy Classroom Kit for Homeschoolers, Organizations, Librarians and
Educators: http://multiculturalchildrensbookday.com/teacher-classroom- empathy-kit/
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our
official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.

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text 2017-12-02 02:31
16 Festive Tasks - Square 12 - Festivus
Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me - Carrie DiRisio,Broody McHottiepants,Linnea Gear

Brooding YA Hero: Becoming a Main Character (Almost) as Awesome as Me was hilarious and made me laugh a lot. So it's perfect for this square.

 

 

Book themes for Festivus: Read anything comedic; a parody, satire, etc. Books with hilariously dysfunctional families (must be funny dysfunctional, not tragic dysfunctional). Anything that makes you laugh (or hope it does).

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review 2017-10-22 01:54
Hot Steamy Glasses (manga) by Tatsumi Kaiya, translated by Sachiko Sato
Hot Steamy Glasses (Yaoi) - Tatsumi Kaiya

Hot Steamy Glasses features two stories, although the second one is extremely short, more of an extra than anything. Most of the volume is devoted to the story of Takeo and Fumi. Takeo is the president of a successful I.T. company. He’s been in love with his friend Fumi for the past 17 years. He lives in hope that, despite being heterosexual, Fumi will one day agree to live with him and go on a date with him. Fumi’s younger brother, Shogo, is doubtful of this but does want something to change: either for Fumi to finally give Takeo a chance or for Takeo to move on and fall in love with someone who isn’t quite so mean to him.

Takeo’s an otaku, specifically one who’s into moe characters (romanized here as “moeh”), and Fumi isn’t shy about expressing his annoyance and disgust. Still, Takeo persists and does what he can to appeal to Fumi and make him happy.

I picked this one up after reading a review that described it as sweet and said that it contained surprisingly little sex. I hoped that this meant it’d be non-rapey.

Although Hot Steamy Glasses had quite a few amusing conversations and lines, it didn’t turn out to be the sweet and fun romance I’d hoped for. The first chapter was written from the perspective of Shogo, Fumi’s younger brother, and I was immediately convinced that the real romance would be between Takeo and Shogo. Shogo would finally convince Takeo to stop chasing after his brother, who’d repeatedly told Takeo that he wasn’t interested and who, to top it off, was also a bit of a jerk. Shogo would give Takeo a shoulder to cry on, and gradually the two of them would fall in love. That story would have been so much better than what actually happened.

The first half of the volume was okay, even after I realized, to my dismay, that Fumi really was the person the author planned to pair Takeo off with. The chapter where Fumi got sick had some nice funny moments, and I particularly liked Reiko, the secretary Takeo sent to take care of Fumi after he had to go back to work.

The volume took a sudden turn for the worse when Fumi finally agreed to be Takeo’s boyfriend. For one thing, Fumi’s change of heart came practically out of nowhere. He’d spent 17 years telling Takeo “no,” and here he was, changing his mind because of a few comments from Shogo and because Takeo reeeally loved him. Never mind that he’d repeatedly said he wasn’t gay and that Takeo had shown some tendencies towards controlling behavior, asking Fumi to quit his job and move in with him so that he could take care of him. Fumi’s response to Takeo telling him to quit his job was one of the few times I cheered for Fumi.

For another, there was the issue of sex. It strained my suspension of disbelief that Fumi had more of a problem with the lack of sex in their relationship than with the idea of having sex with a man for the first time. Again, he’d spent his entire life up to this point believing himself to be heterosexual, and there were no prior signs that he was interested in Takeo or other men. Even so, the only thing that bugged him was that his and Takeo’s relationship wasn’t much different after they officially became boyfriends than it was before. They didn’t really go out on dates, they didn’t kiss, and they didn’t have sex.

And boy did the lack of sex bother him. That’s when the volume got slightly rapey. Fumi decided that the two of them were finally going to have sex, and that was that: “Even if he resists, I’m gonna force him!” Thankfully, Fumi was gone when he got home, or it might have gone from slightly rapey to “this includes rape.”

Or maybe not. Their first sex scene was very sudden, and also initiated by Takeo. There was none of the awkwardness I would have expected, considering. Just BOOM, sex. Even Fumi found himself wondering why Takeo was so skillful and confident considering that he was probably a virgin.

Okay, let’s go back to the “Fumi really wants sex and isn’t getting any” stuff for a bit, so I can talk about something else that bugged me. I’m sure it was completely unintentional on the author’s part, but this part of the volume became a bit acephobic. As Fumi tried to feel his way around how to handle this part of their relationship, his frustrated thoughts included statements like “What is he, still a middle school student…?” and “I’m almost thirty years old! ‘Going together’ = ‘sex’ - I’m sure I’m not mistaken on that point.”

The implication was pretty clear: if Takeo really hadn’t been interested in having sex, Fumi couldn’t have handled it. And then the volume might have included rape instead of, say, the two of them talking through their differing needs and maybe breaking up if they couldn’t figure out a resolution that would work for both of them. The last time I had to deal with crap like this was in a book actually featuring an asexual character. This wasn’t quite as bad as that, but I still really could have done without it.

The volume’s ending was the one thing I’d agree was sweet. It took place several years after the events of the bulk of the story, showing how things were working out for Takeo, Fumi, Shogo, and Reiko. That said, it couldn’t make up for Takeo and Fumi’s shoddily constructed “romance.”

The volume ends with a short unrelated manga, “Young Love Graffiti.” Naomi fell in love with his tutor, Aki, when he was in junior high, but he didn’t realize it at the time and they both went their separate ways. He was excited to reconnect with Aki when they were both invited to the same wedding reception, but their relationship since then hasn’t been nearly as wonderful as Naomi could have wished. Naomi worries that he’s more in love with Aki than Aki is with him.

This story was so forgettable that I had to reread it before writing this review. It accomplished little more than adding to the volume’s page count, and I’ll probably forget it again in a few hours.

All in all, Hot Steamy Glasses wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, and the artwork didn’t do much to make up for the story’s deficiencies - many of the male characters looked alike, and characters’ expressions could have been better.

Extras:

The volume includes a 2-page manga-style afterword by the author. The afterword was a little funny. Kaiya’s editor noticed that both of the stories contained characters with the same family name, and both of those characters looked kind of similar, so Kaiya came up with a quickie explanation that relied on both of the stories being set in the same world.

 

Rating Note:

 

I struggled with rating this. Parts of my review make this sound like a 1-star read, but I didn't hate it enough for that. I finally settled on 2 stars. Either way, it's going on my "offload to free up shelf space" pile.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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