Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (20)

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created by Jill Breaking the Spine.

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Release date: September 18th, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Long ago, a village made a bargain with the devil: to ensure their prosperity, when the Slaughter Moon rises, the village must sacrifice a young man into the depths of the Devil’s Forest.

Only this year, the Slaughter Moon has risen early.

Bound by duty, secrets, and the love they share for one another, Mairwen, a spirited witch; Rhun, the expected saint; and Arthur, a restless outcast, will each have a role to play as the devil demands a body to fill the bargain. But the devil these friends find is not the one they expect, and the lies they uncover will turn their town—and their hearts—inside out.

Why I'm excited: Okay, shallow reason first - this cover is absolutely gorgeous. Like the creepy murderish tree all in silhouette and then the bright red... just so pretty. It also sounds really interesting, and I always want to be more into fantasy. I'm not always that big of a fan, but I always want to, and this sounds like it could be up my lane.

How about you all?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

QSR: Author Interview with Mason Deaver

We have the happy privilege of being Mason's very first interview! How exciting is that?


Q. Tell us a little about your book and yourself!

A. Well, I’m a non-binary author who also enjoys a little baking and gardening here and there. I Wish You All the Best is the story of Ben De Backer, a non-binary teen that tries to come out to their parents, but it doesn’t go as expected. After they’re kicked out of their home they’re forced to reunite with their estranged sister and start a new life at a brand-new school.

Ben plans to keep their head down for the rest of their senior year, but that plans flies out the window when they meet Nathan Allan, a charismatic and charming fellow student. And what started as a tragedy might end up being a chance for Ben to be their true selves, and maybe even find love.

Q. What made you write the stories you did? What do they mean to you?

A. There are so many stories that inspired me. Simon vs. by Becky Albertalli, Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, At the Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson, This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender, and so, so many others.

They each mean their own things to me individually, whether it was finally seeing a part of myself represented on the page or sharing the same types of anxieties and feelings the main characters do. I feel like it’s already rare to see someone like myself on the page, and while none of those stories feature non-binary characters, I still saw a piece of myself in those words.

Q. What are some of your favourite things to read in queer books?

A. There’s a genuine kind of love I see in queer books, specifically ones by queer authors. That might seem a little vague, but I feel like when a queer writer is writing a book where two queer teens are in love, the way they capture it just makes me so happy.

But seeing two people genuinely in love with one another just makes me so happy, I’m always a sucker for love stories.

Q. Did you go to summer camp as a kid? Got any good stories? Or, if that's a no, got any fun summer reading plans?

A. No summer camp stories, which I’m honestly a little thankful for. As for summer reading plans, I’m sticking to contemporary, there’s something so warm and fluffy about young-adult contemporary books and summer just feels like the right time for that.

Q. Tell us one of your favourite experiences with someone who’s read your book.

A. There’s only been a handful of people who’ve read I Wish You All the Best, but a common response is people telling me it made them cry. Which might be a weird thing to pick as a ‘favorite experience’ but hearing that my words got an emotional reaction out of people makes me feel like I did something right.

Q. What are some themes, tropes, or just things in general you would love to see in queer books in the future?

A. Honestly, so many tropes need to be in queer books. We need meet-cutes and insta-love and fake royalty and so many other tropes that queer readers and readers of color haven’t had the chance to see themselves in.

Q. What’s your favourite recent queer read? What queer book are you looking forward to?

A. This is Kind of an Epic Love Story by Kheryn Callender, I absolutely adored this story and was lucky enough to get an advanced copy. I don’t want to spoil much, but keep an eye on it this October. A few of the books very much anticipating are The Love & Lies of Rukhsana Al by Sabina Khani, The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper, A Place For Wolves by Kosoko Jackson, and Reverie by Ryan La Sala.

(Editing note: I have an e-arc of Epic Love Story, so also keep an eye out around here for a review of that. I hope I like it as much as Mason!)

Q. What’s something you always want to say in interviews but no one ever asks?

A. Well this is my first interview, so I’m actually not sure. Maybe what my favorite flower is. Which is a hydrangea, if you’re wondering.

Q. Favourite song to listen to in the summer?

A. Oh boy here we go. Is it okay if I pick more than one song? Basically anything by Carly Rae Jepsen. I’ve also really been into K-pop lately. Groups like Pentagon, Seventeen, SHINee, NCT 217, and Pristin. Also Paramore, any song by Paramore is my summer bop, but if I had to pick one it’d be ‘Hard Times.’

Q. Favourite food to cook over a campfire?

A. Smores! Definitely smores!

Mason Deaver is a non-binary author and librarian in a small town in North Carolina where the word ‘y’all’ is used in abundance.

When they aren’t writing or working, they’re typically found in their kitchen baking, or out in their garden complaining the toad that likes to dig holes around their hydrangeas. Find them on their website, on Goodreads (add I Wish You All the Best to your to-read shelf!), or on Twitter.

Thanks so much for the interview, Mason!!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Claudie Arseneault Chat Reminder

Put your hands together for Claudie Arseneault, author of VIRAL AIRWAYS, CITY OF STRIFE, and the much-praised (especially around here) BAKER THIEF.



August 11th 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Thursday, August 9, 2018

QSR: Laina's Queer Middle Grade Rec List Part 1



Alright, let's first talk about what I'm choosing to include. I am choosing to include both books with queer main characters, and books with significant queer characters, like a parent, older sibling, or maybe even a teacher. One of the reasons for this, as I've mentioned before, is that I think part of middle grade's function is a bit different than what we think of being more of YA's function.

While middle grade is absolutely about reflecting the reader's personal self, I also think that it's really important that middle grade fiction reflects the reader's family, and the world around them. This is one reason that parent and adult figures are very important in middle grade. That's why we need books about things like divorce, and single parents, and parents who are in jail. We need books that reflect a child's family in YA too, but it's especially important in MG. Kids who have queer adults in their lives should see them in books, too. And it shows that queer people don't just disappear at the age of eighteen.

So, let's do non-main characters first:

The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher by Dana Alison Levy

Released: June 22nd, 2014 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Summary (from goodreads): Meet the Fletchers. Their year will be filled with new schools, old friends, a grouchy neighbor, hungry skunks, leaking ice rinks, school plays, wet cats, and scary tales told in the dark!

There’s Sam, age twelve, who’s mostly interested in soccer, food, and his phone; Jax, age ten, who’s psyched for fourth grade and thinks the new neighbor stinks, and not just because of the skunk; Eli, age ten (but younger than Jax), who’s thrilled to be starting this year at the Pinnacle School, where everyone’s the smart kid; and Frog (not his real name), age six, who wants everyone in kindergarten to save a seat for his invisible cheetah. Also Dad and Papa.

WARNING: This book contains cat barf, turtle pee, and some really annoying homework assignments.

The part where I talk: I'm also going to point out for this one that this has a relatively safe cover, where it's not very obvious that this is a queer book. That can also be important. Not something I'm going to point out every time, but something I want you to think about reading this list. Remember, most middle grade readers can't buy their own books or read e-books like teen readers.

Both of the Fletcher dads are gay. You can see my review here. Also I really need to read the sequel to this. I ordered it from the library, so hopefully it gets here soon.

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

Released: March 19th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press

Summary (from goodreads): Best friends Stephen and Marco know a thing or two about impossible missions. It's thanks to them that cell phone thieves at school are apprehended, lost puppies are returned, and gym uniforms are lent out to the forgetful thirteen-year-old masses.

When Marco finds out that Benji - the dream exchange student on whom he has a crush - and his band are playing at the high schoolprom, he enlists Stephen's help to crash prom and get Marco onstage to profess his love. But as most veteran operatives know, not all heists run smoothly. Stephen is sick of Marco calling the shots 99.97 percent of the time, and he's especially sick of being the sidekick.

On top of it all, Marco and Stephen need to act fast - before Benji goes back to England at the end of the school year. Even though these boys are experts in espionage, it's going to take a mission impossible to pull this maneuver off.

The part where I talk: This is told from Stephen's POV, and Marco is gay. See my review here... eventually, I don't think that post is even finished yet. Multitasking! This one is older so there are some choices are made in it that I don't think Hannah would make today, but I still think it stands up and it's got a lot of fun stuff mixed in with some really serious stuff.

Okay, onto the main character books!

Star-Crossed by Barbara Dee

Released: March 14th, 2017

Summary (from goodreads): Mattie, a star student and passionate reader, is delighted when her English teacher announces the eighth grade will be staging Romeo and Juliet. And she is even more excited when, after a series of events, she finds herself playing Romeo, opposite Gemma Braithwaite’s Juliet. Gemma, the new girl at school, is brilliant, pretty, outgoing—and, if all that wasn’t enough: British.

As the cast prepares for opening night, Mattie finds herself growing increasingly attracted to Gemma and confused, since, just days before, she had found herself crushing on a boy named Elijah. Is it possible to have a crush on both boys AND girls? If that wasn’t enough to deal with, things backstage at the production are starting to rival any Shakespearean drama! In this sweet and funny look at the complicated nature of middle school romance, Mattie learns how to be the lead player in her own life.

The part where I talk: Mattie is bisexual. In the original hardcover printing, the word "bisexual" is not used, but the paperback is updated so that it is presented as an option, though Mattie has not settled on it as her option, which is fine. I'm pretty sure that this is the first mainstream middle grade book with a bisexual main character. Also, it's just really cute and I liked it a lot.

Drum Roll, Please by Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Released: June 26th, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): Find the confidence to rock out to your own beat.

Melly only joined the school band because her best friend, Olivia, begged her to. But to her surprise, quiet Melly loves playing the drums. It’s the only time she doesn’t feel like a mouse.

Now, she and Olivia are about to spend the next two weeks at Camp Rockaway, jamming under the stars in the Michigan woods.

But this summer brings big changes for Melly: her parents split up, her best friend ditches her, and Melly finds herself falling for a girl at camp named Adeline. To top it off, Melly's not sure she has what it takes to be a real rock 'n' roll drummer. Will she be able to make music from all the noise in her heart?

The part where I talk: And this is the only other middle grade book I know with a bisexual main character. So far, at least, I'm pretty sure there's at least one coming out either this year or next, but I can't name them off the top of my head. This does not use the word "bisexual" (or pansexual, could you imagine that?) as far as I know (I read an arc, not a finished copy), but Melly does have crushy-y type feelings about boys and girls.

Stop being afraid of the word bisexual, middle grade!

This book has not, in my opinion, gotten the attention it deserves. It's so cute!

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

Released: March 6th, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen's house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm--and what's worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy's drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks--and hopes--that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

The part where I talk: The newest addition to my on-going list! Ivy identifies as "likes girls", and doesn't currently feel attraction to other genders. At the end of the book, Ivy has not decided on a label, and that is okay. As such, I am only calling this book a queer book, not a book with a lesbian MC or anything like that, as Ivy has not stated identifying with any term in particular. (It really bothers me when we try to force labels on young characters who haven't picked one yet. Let them have time to figure it out! They don't need to make a decision yet.)

Side note, this book defines bisexuality in a wonderful way, and it's really nice to see the inclusion of other genders in the words an adult uses to Ivy, not just "both boys and girls". Especially in a middle grade book. Good job, book.

What's that, five?

Let's make this five for now, then! Are there any middle grade books you'd recommend I read? Let me know in the comments.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (19)

Can't Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Tressa of Wishful Endings. It's based on Waiting on Wednesday, which was created by Jill Breaking the Spine.


Throw Your Arm Across Your Eyes by Christian McKay Heidicker

Release date: September 11th, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Phoebe Darrow and her mom are lightning rods for monsters.

It seems wherever they travel, they end up fleeing from either flying saucers, flesh-eating plants, blobs from space, or radioactive ants.

Fortunately, Phoebe and her ma can see the man who fills the sky—the one in the bathrobe holding a remote control with a bored expression on his face. Invisible to everyone else, his eyes keep them—and only them—safe by warning them where the next monster will pop up.

All Phoebe wants is to stop jumping from town to town and begin living her own life somewhere like New York or Paris. But when her mom vanishes, Phoebe is left to fend for herself in the small town of Pennybrooke—right where the man in the sky is staring. That’s where she begins to transform…

Why I'm excited: This is actually on Edelweiss and I almost requested it, but I believe it is either fully a graphic novel, or has graphic novel/illustration pages, and my kindle just does not do those justice, and I can't do review copies on my computer. It sounds really neat, though.

What are you all thinking about this week?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

QSR Giveaway: Baker Thief

Well well well, look what we have here! We haven't had a giveaway around here in a while, and I'm super excited.

The wonderful Claudie Arsenault has teamed up to giveaway her new book, Baker Thief!

Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault

Summary (from goodreads): Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.

Claire owns the Croissant-toi, but while her days are filled with pastries and customers, her nights are dedicated to stealing exocores. These new red gems are heralded as the energy of the future, but she knows the truth: they are made of witches’ souls.

When her twin—a powerful witch and prime exocore material—disappears, Claire redoubles in her efforts to investigate. She keeps running into Adèle, however, and whether or not she can save her sister might depend on their conflicted, unstable, but deepening relationship.

You definitely want to get your hands on this one. I've talked before about how much I enjoyed this one, so let's get to the giveaway.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Complete terms and conditions are in the Rafflecopter, but the important details are this is a giveaway for one SIGNED paperback copy of Baker Thief, and it's open to everyone. Enter one and all! This is a great book, and honestly look at that cover! Imagine having that beautiful cover in your hands.

And remember, we'll be chatting on Twitter with Claudie on Saturday!


Hope to see you there, and good luck in the giveaway!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, August 6, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (76)

If you're new around here, Things I've Read Recently is a series of posts I do that are basically mini-reviews of books that I either forgot to review, didn't have enough to say for a full review, or just didn't want to do a full post about for whatever reason.

So one of my goals this year is to read a lot of mysteries and thrillers and that kind of thing, and I thought since I also do these old book posts as I want to read through books I own/get rid of books I don't want, I'd combine those goal and read some old books along the mystery/thriller theme!

Also, every book on this list is available on Kindle! That's interesting.

The Callender Papers by Cynthia Voigt

Published: Originally released in 1983, my edition is from Fawcett Junior and I believe it was released in 1984.
Genre: YA Mystery with some gothic leanings
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 182 plus an about the author and listings of other books.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: It's a libray reject.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jean was barely thirteen when she agreed to work with Mr. Theil to catalogue his family papers. She was trying to be brave and independent, but he was a frightening man.

Yet, as she went through his papers, a nightmare unfolded. It was a cruel story from the past...events that long ago shook a peaceful village. And the more Jean learned, the more she knew she was in mortal danger...

Thoughts: Once in school my English class had to read Homecoming and my English teacher got kind of annoyed because I couldn't do any of the "predict what's going to happen" work as I had already read the book several times before that class. That has nothing really to do with this book, but it's a fun story to tell. Anyways, suffix to say, I'm quite fond of this author's writing, and I think it's really awesome that she's still writing today. That's a long freaking career and something to really be admired.

And in general I enjoyed this one, too. It has some good atmosphere and while I guessed the twist pretty late, it's not a bad mystery at all. I wish there had been more focus on the titular papers, since those kind of get swept to the wayside only to be brought back at the last minute.

As well, there's some racism towards Native people that I don't think is... inaccurate, let's say, for the 1894 time period, but was rather inappropriate for the author to write in the 1980s, and it's not challenged or anything. There's also some ableism regarding language around wheelchairs.

I have nostalgia for this author, and I did enjoy a lot of the prose and such in this, and the more Gothic atmosphere, so I will probably personally keep this, at least for now, but I wouldn't wholeheartedly recommend you seek it out due to those factors. If you do, be aware of them. If there was slight editing to remove those, I'd totally change my mind, though, as it's an interesting book.

The Vandemark Mummy by Cynthia Voigt

Published: First released in 1991, my edition is from Fawcett Junior and was probably released in 1992.
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 209 plus about the author and acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: Library weeding.
Amazon / AbeBooks

Summary (from goodreads): It's hard for Althea and Phineas Hall to keep explaining to people that their parents haven't broken up; they just have jobs on opposite sides of the country. It's hard to explain because they don't really understand themselves. And although neither one is happy about it, they almost like living alone with their dad, the professor, even if it is on the campus of a small college with practically no one their age to talk to and nothing to do.

But a strange legacy from a rich old man changes that. The mysterious Vandemark mummy and other antiquities are donated to the college with the understanding that Dr. Hall will take care of them. When something happens in the room where the valuables are kept, Phineas and Althea sense that there is danger in the air and that one wrong move could turn a summer mystery into murder.

Thoughts: One thing I find interesting about this is that while Althea is fifteen, Phineas is definitely the main character, with the book being told from his POV only, and he's only twelve. However, I would be very hesitant to label this middle grade - it's pretty solidly young adult. And I find it very interesting how that used to be much more common, for YA to have protagonists who were twelve or thirteen, and now that doesn't happen. In this historical period there was still a pretty solid middle grade/YA divide, however, when you compare books like this to books like Goosebumps or Baby-Sitter's Club. It seems like things were divided much more on a content basis than an age basis.

I find that very interesting on a historical level. The book itself... eh. It's really dated. Like there are a lot of references to stuff that really dates the book. Like the book references the 1989 Batman as just coming out in theatre, and that was three years before the book was even released. And there's a ton of that, which feels so much like the book was trying to be trendy or something? It's weird, and kind of unnecessary.

There's also... there's a lot of talk about feminism and I have trouble telling if the author is exaggerating or if that was kind of just the attitude at the time or... I don't know. It seems very exaggerated, like all the stereotypical "feminist" things that people say, but maybe that's what the author believed? I really don't know.

I also wish there had been a bit more history about the mummy and Egypt and all that. It seems a little lacking in that area. In general, I did like this, but despite my above stated nostalgia and fondness for this author, I didn't like this enough to keep it, and I think I'm going to be passing it along. Which is kind of shocking to me because I'm kind of a hoarder and I really like having complete book collections. But while I did enjoy this, I didn't enjoy it enough to keep it.

This Weekend Was Murder! by Joan Lowery Nixon

Published: First released in 1992, my edition is from March 1994 from Laurel Leaf
Genre: YA Mystery
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 193 plus other book listings and I think an about the author but my nose is really itchy and I don't wanna touch the dusty book more than I have to.
Part of a series? It is the second of two books starring Mary Elizabeth, but you don't need to read the first to read the second.
Got via: Garage sale, I think, since there's no library stamp or anything on it.
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Mary Elizabeth can’t wait for the weekend to begin at the Ridley Hotel, where a famous mystery writer and a troupe of actors are coming to enact a murder mystery for 150 amateur sleuths.

Mary Elizabeth’s role is to discover the “body” in Room 1927, which is supposed to be haunted. But nothing prepares her for the real body she finds in Room 1927…

Thoughts: This was really fun. Compared to modern books, this isn't the least bit diverse, and that's a bit of a bummer, but this really is kind of nostalgic, easy fun. You don't get a lot of books like this these days, where it's not really meant to be super serious even if there is murder. It's fun murder. That's totally a thing. I really liked Mary Elizabeth's voice, and the lighter tone of this is great.

I really like that it's not too serious, or scary. For a lot of the book, the author almost seems to poking fun at herself, with the slightly silly author character, and the amateur mystery readers. It's a really fun idea, and executed very well. I'm excited to read the other book I have by the author, and I would love to read more, too.

The Specter by Joan Lowery Nixon

Published: Originally released I believe in 1982, this edition was probably from February 1993, which means it is about two months younger than me.
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 184
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: Library reject!
Amazon / Abebooks

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Dina is fighting cancer and is angry at the whole world. But when Julie, a nine-year-old survivor of a car accident, becomes Dina's roommate at the hospital, there's no time for Dina to keep on being angry. Because Julie is frightened. Desperately frightened. She's sure that someone caused the accident she was in ‒ someone who will return to kill her. Now she's insisting on being with Dina all the time.

But by befriending Julie, is Dina making herself the target of a dangerous killer?

Thoughts: Now this was a lot less lighthearted and much more serious. Besides like five nasty comments about fat people, I liked this. I really liked the blending of Dina's cancer recovery with the mystery plot, because it wasn't just a Lurlene McDaniel cancer book. (Which is not to say there isn't a place for those in my heart, but sometimes a girl wants more.)

This isn't the best of the best, but it's certainly not the worst. Bad attitude about fat people, possibly some kinda racist stereotypes, but a creepy story, and a good mystery with clues for the reader to figure out. I enjoyed this one, honestly, besides the fat comments. I would still enjoy reading more from the author, especially for my own personal nostalgia. I wouldn't necessarily recommend these automatically and whole-heartedly to modern reasons, but for nostalgia reasons, I'm keeping it. Mostly because I love the cover.

Alright, that's it for this one! This was certainly an interesting group.

Thanks for reading!

Peace and cookies,
Laina