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Monday, August 14, 2017

Things I've Read Recently (54)

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.

The Land of Forgotten Girls by Erin Entrada Kelly

Published: March 1st, 2016 by Greenwillow Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 299 in my copy
Part of a series? No, but I wish.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Soledad has always been able to escape into the stories she creates. Just like her mother always could. And Soledad has needed that escape more than ever in the five years since her mother and sister died and her father moved Sol and her youngest sister from the Philippines to Louisiana. Then he left, and all Sol and Ming have now is their evil stepmother, Vea.

Sol has protected Ming all this time, but then Ming begins to believe that Auntie Jove—their mythical, world-traveling aunt—is really going to come rescue them. Have Sol’s stories done more harm than good? Can she protect Ming from this impossible hope?

Thoughts: I really like middle grade books about sisters, I'm realizing. I love that Dicey Tillerman, Delphine Gaither type of character. Sol reminds me so much of them that I feel like I should start keeping a list of this type of book. Her voice is so mature and that lends itself very well to a character that feels the weight of the world on her shoulders.

I actually went into this expecting something quite a bit fluffier in tone, mostly because of the cover. (Side note, as adorable as the cover is, Sol is a little um. A little lighter on the cover than she's described in the book, where she talks about being fairly dark skinned. Cover, what's going on?) The subject matter of this, though, is quite serious. There's child abuse, the heroes bully a girl (and later come to realize how wrong that was), and it can be a little intense.

Overall, I loved the voice of this and the characters were great, so vibrant and interesting. The only thing I don't love is that the abuse in the book is left kind of unresolved. I realize this is realistic and try in the real world, but sometimes I don't want books to be one hundred percent true to life because I want kids reading to know it's okay to tell someone about something like this, and to have hope things will get better. And they do, but I guess I want a way that's a little more drastic and permanant than what happens in the book, I guess. I just feel like there wasn't enough resolution for the abuse subplot. I would honestly be wholeheartedly behind a sequel to this.

Otherwise, I really enjoyed this and the voice was so good that I really want to read more of the author's books.

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Published: May 17th, 2016 by Chronicle Books
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 287
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Gena (short for Genevieve) and Finn (short for Stephanie) have little in common. Book-smart Gena is preparing to leave her posh boarding school for college; down-to-earth Finn is a twenty-something struggling to make ends meet in the big city. Gena’s romantic life is a series of reluctant one-night-stands; Finn is making a go of it with long-term boyfriend Charlie.

But they share a passion for Up Below, a buddy cop TV show with a cult fan following. Gena is a darling of the fangirl scene, keeping a popular blog and writing fan fiction. Finn’s online life is a secret, even from Charlie. The pair spark an unlikely online friendship that deepens quickly (so quickly it scares them both), and as their individual “real” lives begin to fall apart, they increasingly seek shelter online, and with each other.

Thoughts: Hannah is a friend so factor that into this as much as you need to, but I enjoyed this. I've read a couple books with non-standard formats this year, and I've really enjoyed them. This is true of this as well!

This reminds me so much of being in a fandom. (Yes, I am, and no, you don't get to know which one or what my name is there, lol. I like my things separate.) It reminds me of that blurry space between friendship and love and romance and queerplatonic relationships and how complicated and confusing that can be. (Spoiler ahead.) I love how this depicts a non-conventional relationship and it's not about "picking" one person.

I also think it's really interesting that this is definitely a YA book, but one character is twenty-two and graduated from college and one is eighteen and just starting college. It's really different from most YA and what you'd think of as YA, but it works very well. Honestly, I think this is sort of what we originally thought New Adult was going to be before it turned into all college-set erotica. I wish that we'd gotten more like this, frankly, because this is a lot more interesting to me.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Published: September 29th, 2015 by Henry Holt and Company
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: A very heavy hardcover
Page Count: 462 plus
Part of a series? This is the first of the Six of Crows duology, which itself is a sequel series to the Grisha trilogy. You don't have to read the Grisha trilogy to read this. I didn't, and I was cool, and the general consensus of my informal twitter poll was people agreeing it was cool.
Got via: The library.
Amazon and there's a free Kindle sample / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he'll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:

Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)

Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)

Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)

Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done - and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable - if they don't kill each other first.

Thoughts: I definitely didn't love this as much as everyone else, but I liked it. This is not my favourite genre (I think I mention that every time I review a fantasy book similar to this), but it never made me get well and truly lost like some books do to me, and I appreciate that. Someone mentioned that a lot of the world-building is done in the first trilogy, and maybe that actually worked in my favour. Maybe too much world-building just doesn't work for me?

I do think this is a little slow in the beginning and definitely takes a while to get moving, and maybe a couple too many flashbacks in the first 100 pages or so that drag a bit. Again, not my favourite genre, so it might be I have a little less patience, but I do feel like it took a little while to get into the action. I think also that, while I know some characters were coded as POC, no one really seemed to have skin darker than "bronze" and that could probably have been done better. I didn't find any reviews addressing this, but hit me up if you know any. (This book has like fifteen thousand reviews - it's so needles and haystacks.) I did like that there were a couple queer characters, though.

All in all, I enjoyed this enough that I've already ordered the sequel from the library. I liked the characters a lot, and the world is cool. If you actually like fantasy, you'll probably love this, but as someone who doesn't generally love it, it was still pretty cool.

TW for some serious gore at one point. (Page 158 specifically - why is it always that thing also? That thing always gets me. *shudders*) Also, the pages of this are edged in black and I cannot accurately state how freaking cool that is. It really does stand out.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Published: February 28th, 2017 by Brazer and Bray/HarperTeen
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 444 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Thoughts: I am way, way, way too white and too privileged to act like I have any right to really review this or talk about how things are handled in it. This is another one where I want to give my platform and my support and love for a book but I also don't think my review actually matters.

But also I have feels and a blog and I gotta let them out, dude. This seriously amazed me. It's just... all the feels. I have been reduced to a puddle of Tumblr ooze. And there are a lot of things in this I wish I saw more in books - people with tattoos that aren't magic tattoos (seriously, I didn't realize how little I saw this in books, especially parents, until Starr talked about her father's tattoos in such a beautiful, positive way), parents who have been incarerated but aren't completely villanized for it (I'm gonna link an article here because relavant), like everything.

I am going to say though... this book does lack some positive fat rep. It's not fat-shaming, generally, (being called fat is treated as an insult at one point, and there's also a bit of body shaming towards very thin girls) but there isn't great fat rep. And I'd be a really, really bad fat activist if I didn't talk about it, because fat rep is incredibly white (and cis allo straight, etc, not the place for this rant) and we owe so much to amazing black and brown fat activists. Come to think of it, it is lacking a little in queer rep too. Queerness, fatness, disability, race, these things can't be separated from each other when they exist in the same person. A lot of the book is about Starr struggling with feeling like she lives in two worlds but fits in neither, like she has two halves of herself and has to pick one depending on who she's with. How incredible it would have been to talk about that with queerness or fatness or disability, because people don't break down into tidy boxes where you get to choose just the parts you like.

But (editing Laina: Wow, you had caffeine when you were writing this, didn't you?) those things, while they would have been a nice addition, don't take away from this being really, really good. It's so engaging and... just wow.

That was a lot of rambling and I apologize. I had many feels.

And I think that's it for this post!

Peace and cookies,

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