Tuesday, July 31, 2018

QSR: 15 Queer YA Books I Like



Yeah, there's not really a theme to this besides "books I enjoyed". I did decide to make this one solely YA, though, since I'm going to be making a separate MG list at some point.

Why fifteen? Dunno, that's how many I found.

Sidenote, this list is kinda whiter than it should be, honestly. That was one of the reasons that I personally wanted to focus more on intersectional queer books this summer, because yeah, that's something I need to do better at. As I remember, I will try to point out prominent characters of colours who aren't the MC where applicable 'cause... I feel like it's a good idea. I'm not putting any judgement on that, just stating it, for those of you who want to know. I apologize in advance for my horrible memory.

I'm also including the publication dates partly to fill space so the formatting looks better, but also because one of our bingo spaces is "a book published before 2017" and I have a handful on here!

Last, I want to mention that there aren't a lot of books with ace rep on here. Books with ace rep kind of take me a while to read. It's not super easy reading them, and they can hurt me really easily, so I'm often reluctant. Of the ones I've read, I haven't loved a lot of them, honestly. And some of the ones I like best are adult books, actually. (I may do another list of queer adult books I like. We'll see.) And I'm not even going to get into aro rep. I don't like this much either, but it's kind of the way it is for now.

These are arranged in no particular order.

The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

Released: April 3rd, 2018

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people's lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn't expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it's a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She's competing against the girl she's kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She's somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.'s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn't feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby's finally in her own story?

But when Jordi's photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

The part where I talk: Fat queer rep is something that is so ridiculously lacking. And this was one of my favourite books of the year so far, plus it's perfect for summer! It has an amazing summer feel. Can't recommend this one enough. Link to review here. This is one of my absolute favourite books in general, let alone for fat rep or queer rep.

The titular Jordi is Mexican.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danford

Released: February 7th, 2012 by Balzer + Bray

Summary (from goodreads): When Cameron Post’s parents die suddenly in a car crash, her shocking first thought is relief. Relief they’ll never know that, hours earlier, she had been kissing a girl.

But that relief doesn’t last, and Cam is soon forced to move in with her conservative aunt Ruth and her well-intentioned but hopelessly old-fashioned grandmother. She knows that from this point on, her life will forever be different. Survival in Miles City, Montana, means blending in and leaving well enough alone (as her grandmother might say), and Cam becomes an expert at both.

Then Coley Taylor moves to town. Beautiful, pickup-driving Coley is a perfect cowgirl with the perfect boyfriend to match. She and Cam forge an unexpected and intense friendship — one that seems to leave room for something more to emerge. But just as that starts to seem like a real possibility, ultrareligious Aunt Ruth takes drastic action to ‘fix’ her niece, bringing Cam face-to-face with the cost of denying her true self — even if she’s not exactly sure who that is.

The part where I talk: Did you know there's a movie coming out of this? This is a heavier book than you'd think it'd be (it deals with conversion therapy and grief among other things) and be careful with yourself reading it, but it's worth reading. It surprises me that this is only from 2012, because it kind of reminds me of a book from like the 90s in a way.

I know in the movie the actress who plays one of the main characters is Black and Maōri, and I cannot remember if that is also true in the book, because my memory is a sieve. Her other friend is Native and two-spirit, and I link to other people discussing that in my review, since that is super not my place.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

Released: May 12th, 2015 by Harper Collins

Summary (from goodreads): Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren't the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona's powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

The part where I talk: This is more of a subtle queer story, which I talked about in my review, but it's good, and I really liked it. I like graphic novels and this one worked for me really well.

Under Threat by Robin Stevenson

Released: March 1st, 2018 by Orca Book Publishers

Summary (from goodreads): Franny is close to her parents, adores her horse and is head over heels in love with her girlfriend, Leah. But Franny's parents are abortion providers at the local hospital, and an anonymous stranger is prepared to do whatever it takes to stop them. A stranger who phones at all hours. Who knows where they live. Who knows Franny's name.

When Leah's older brother, Jake, refers to her parents as baby killers, Franny starts to wonder if perhaps the threats aren't coming from a stranger at all. If she tells the police about her suspicions, she could lose her girlfriend. But if she doesn't - and if she's right - she could lose her parents.

The part where I talk: This is a hi-lo book, which means high interest, low readability. They're for selective readers. They are supposed to be short, easier to read, and highly interesting. And this is really good! I'd totally read more. One thing I really liked and talked about in my review is that it used the word queer positively, and I love seeing that in YA.

A Love Story Starring My Dead Best Friend by Emily Horner

Released: June 10th, 2010 by Dial Books

Summary (from goodreads): For months, Cass Meyer has heard her best friend Julia, a wannabe Broadway composer, whispering about a top-secret project. Then Julia is killed in a sudden car accident, and while Cass is still reeling from her death, Julia’s boyfriend and her other drama friends make it their mission to bring to fruition the nearly-completed secret project: a musical about an orphaned ninja princess entitled Totally Sweet Ninja Death Squad.

Cass isn’t one of the drama people. She doesn’t feel at home with Julia’s drama friends, and she doesn’t see a place for her in the play. Things only get worse when she finds out that Heather Galloway, the girl who made her miserable all through middle school, has been cast as the ninja princess.

Cass can’t take a summer of swallowing her pride and painting sets, so she decides to follow her original plan for a cross-country road trip with Julia. Even if she has a touring bicycle instead of a driver’s license, and even if Julia’s ashes are coming along in Tupperware.

Why I chose it: I read this January 2015 so take my review with a grain of salt, but I do remember liking this. I kinda have a thing for this kind of book, and I don't think it falls into the Dead Lesbian trap? Mostly because I don't remember if Julia was queer. Like I said, it's been a while since I read it, but I think it avoids that, and I remember really liking this. Still think the cover's really neat, too.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Release date: September 5th, 2017 by Flatiron Books

Summary (from goodreads): At sixteen, Mina's mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

The part where I talk: This wasn't one of my favourite books, but I liked it still, and it's the only fairy-tale retelling and mostly the only fantasy book on here, so we're including it. I think people who like fantasy more than me would like it more. I wasn't feeling good when I read it, so my review is like nothing, but it's a good retelling.

Gena/Finn by Hannah Moskowitz and Kat Helgeson

Release date: May 17th, 2016 by Chronicle Books

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.

The part where I talk: This is one of those cool books told in emails and texts and blog posts and stuff, and that's always really neat. I also totally understood a lot of the emotions in the book, as I said in my review. I still find the categorization of this super interesting, in that, while I understand why it's called YA (because marketing is weird), this is one of those books I think is actually what New Adult should be.

...I should make a list of THAT some time. "Laina's Books She Considers Actual New Adult Because She Has A Thing About That". Needs a catchier title, though.

Possibly I need a break now.

Okay, I ate some ice cream, let's get back to it.

Oh, and Gena is Jewish in this, and I believe there's some decent mental illness rep but again, mind like a sieve. I thought it was good though.

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

Released: September 22nd, 2016 by Margaret K. McElderry Books

Summary (from goodreads): Greta is a Duchess and a Crown Princess. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. This is how the game is played: if you want to rule, you must give one of your children as a hostage. Start a war and your hostage dies.

The system has worked for centuries. Parents don’t want to see their children murdered.

Greta will be free if she can make it to her eighteenth birthday. Until then she is prepared to die with dignity, if necessary. But everything changes when Elian arrives at the Precepture. He’s a hostage from a new American alliance, and he defies the machines that control every part of their lives—and is severely punished for it. His rebellion opens Greta’s eyes to the brutality of the rules they live under, and to the subtle resistance of her companions. And Greta discovers her own quiet power.

Then Elian’s country declares war on Greta’s and invades the prefecture, taking the hostages hostage. Now the great Talis is furious, and coming himself to deliver punishment. Which surely means that Greta and Elian will be killed...unless Greta can think of a way to break all the rules.

The part where I talk: Whenever I mention this one, no one ever knows that it's queer. Greta is bisexual, as I believe is one of her love interests, and other characters are queer as well. One of Greta's love interests is Chinese, and the other is Jewish. Also, like, yeah there's sort of a love triangle in this, but it's handled so well and not typically at all, that it's not old or tired at all.

Also this is set in Canada, and the Swan Riders (which I also really like) is set in Saskatchewan, I believe. I raved about this one a lot lol.

How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

Released: May 2nd, 2017 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Summary (from goodreads): All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn't have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace's mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

The part where I talk: This is another good summer read, too. Big feels in this one. I mentioned in my review how much I enjoyed how prickly Grace is. I like characters like that.

Eva is biracial in this, also.

Lumberjanes: Bewar the Kitten Holy, Vol 1 by Noelle Stevenson

Released: April 7th, 2015 by BOOM! Box

Summary (from goodreads): FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX!

At Miss Qiunzilla Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet's camp for hard-core lady-types, things are not what they seem. Three-eyed foxes. Secret caves. Anagrams. Luckily, Jo, April, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are five rad, butt-kicking best pals determined to have an awesome summer together...

And they're not gonna let a magical quest or an array of supernatural critters get in their way! The mystery keeps getting bigger, and it all begins here.

The part where I talk: Really, I'm recommending the entire Lumberjanes series, but obviously you gotta start at the beginning when you start with these. This is one that takes a little while to get into its queer stride, but once it does, it's wonderful. I'm not gonna bother linking to a review here because I've read so many of these, lol.

Little and Lion by Brandy Colbert

Released: August 8th, 2017 by Little Brown

Summary (from goodreads): When Suzette comes home to Los Angeles from her boarding school in New England, she isn't sure if she'll ever want to go back. L.A. is where her friends and family are (along with her crush, Emil). And her stepbrother, Lionel, who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, needs her emotional support.

But as she settles into her old life, Suzette finds herself falling for someone new...the same girl her brother is in love with. When Lionel's disorder spirals out of control, Suzette is forced to confront her past mistakes and find a way to help her brother before he hurts himself--or worse.

The part where I talk: I really liked this one, although I didn't think it was perfect, as I talked about in my review, but it's definitely good.

Suzette is Jewish and Black in this, also, and Emil is Korean/Black, plus other characters besides them.

Far From You by Tess Sharpe

Released: March 27th, 2017 by Orion

Summary (from goodreads): Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she's fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that'll take years to kick.

The second time, she's seventeen, and it's no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina's murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina's brother won't speak to her, her parents fear she'll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina's murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.

The part where I talk: Now this is one I don't think is for everyone, as it does play with certain tropes that I think some people may (completely reasonably!) be sensitive to, but it worked really well for me, as discussed in my review. I like this kind of book, and I really liked that it was a thriller.

People Like Us by Dana Mele

Release date: February 27th, 2018 by G.P. Putnam's Books for Young Readers

Summary (from goodreads): Kay Donovan may have skeletons in her closet, but the past is past, and she's reinvented herself entirely. Now she's a star soccer player whose group of gorgeous friends run their private school with effortless popularity and acerbic wit. But when a girl's body is found in the lake, Kay's carefully constructed life begins to topple.

The dead girl has left Kay a computer-coded scavenger hunt, which, as it unravels, begins to implicate suspect after suspect, until Kay herself is in the crosshairs of a murder investigation. But if Kay's finally backed into a corner, she'll do what it takes to survive. Because at Bates Academy, the truth is something you make...not something that happened.

The part where I talk: This is kind of another one I don't think is for everyone but I really, really liked. I've got a thing for thrillers, apparently. The review of this should be live by the time this post goes up, so you can check that out here. I just really like this one.

Before I Let Go by Marieke Nijkamp

Released: January 2nd, 2018 by Sourcebooks Fire

Summary (from goodreads): Best friends Corey and Kyra were inseparable in their snow-covered town of Lost Creek, Alaska. When Corey moves away, she makes Kyra promise to stay strong during the long, dark winter, and wait for her return.

Just days before Corey is to return home to visit, Kyra dies. Corey is devastated―and confused. The entire Lost community speaks in hushed tones about the town's lost daughter, saying her death was meant to be. And they push Corey away like she's a stranger.

Corey knows something is wrong. With every hour, her suspicion grows. Lost is keeping secrets―chilling secrets. But piecing together the truth about what happened to her best friend may prove as difficult as lighting the sky in an Alaskan winter...

The part where I talk: This is the third dead best friend book on this list. I have issues apparently, because I love these books. Krya is pansexual, and mentally ill, so if you're not up for reading about the aftermath of her death, I completely get it, but I think that's handled very well, and the format of the book where it's not linear allows her to still have a voice and not be erased.

 As I say in my review, I really, really like this except for one thing. COREY SHOULD BE LABELLED AROMANTIC. She SO is aro-coded in the book, but only labelled asexual, and IT'S SO OBVIOUS OH MY GOD.

*clears throat* So, besides that, this one kinda rang all the bells for me.

Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace

Release date: January 26th, 2016 by Katherine Tegan Books

Summary (from goodreads): Breezy remembers leaving the party: the warm, wet grass under her feet, her cheek still stinging from a slap to her face. But when she wakes up, scared and pulling dirt from her mouth, a year has passed and she can’t explain how.

Nor can she explain the man lying at her grave, dead from her touch, or why her heartbeat comes and goes. She doesn’t remember who killed her or why. All she knows is that she’s somehow conscious—and not only that, she’s able to sense who around her is hiding a murderous past.

Haunted by happy memories from her life, Breezy sets out to find answers in the gritty, threatening world to which she now belongs—where killers hide in plain sight, and a sinister cult is hunting for strange creatures like her. What she discovers is at once empowering, redemptive, and dangerous.

The part where I talk: I think I read this for QSR last year, and I adored it. This is almost more horror than paranormal, even, and it's just creepy and weird and I loved it. I want so many more queer paranormal books like this.

So that's fifteen books I liked!! Tell me some of your favourites in the comments.

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Monday, July 30, 2018

MG Review: So Done by Paula Chase

So Done by Paula Chase

Published: To be released August 14th, 2018 by Greenwillow Books
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: E-arc
Page Count: Goodreads says 304
Part of a series? I don't believe so.
Got via: Edelweiss.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers, having grown up across the street from each other in Pirates Cove, a low-income housing project. As summer comes to an end, Tai can’t wait for Mila to return from spending a month with her aunt in the suburbs.

But both girls are grappling with secrets, and when Mila returns she’s more focused on her upcoming dance auditions than hanging out with Tai.

Review: Well, this is a much needed book. Honestly I kinda don't know what to say here because I'm just like, "yes, good". I can see so many kids seeing themselves and their lives reflected in this, and that's exactly what middle grade is about. There's so many kids who are going to need this, and love it, and that's so excited.

Let's get into the other sections, because it's getting late, and I still have a bunch of books I wanna read tonight!

Plot Talk: To be honest, the first part of the book dragged for me a little. There's not a ton that goes on at first and the plot kind of takes a minute to get rolling. Once it gets its feet under it, it's great, but the beginning is a little slow.

Characters: Tai is hard to like - and I am very sure that is deliberate. I think there are a lot of kids like her, who are prickly and pretend not to care, because they're scared to get hurt if they care about things or people too much. She's hard to like, but it's completely understandable why she is the way she is, and it's worth it to keep reading as she lets her shell down. Tai would be a great character to read a sequel of.

Mila is such a sweetheart, and I think her arc of being more quiet and learning to stand up for herself is great, too. She's so brave and for so much of the book, I just felt so proud of her when she spoke up against being mistreated, and when she told the truth, and ahh, I just like her so much.

Both girls are such great representation of that awkward age when kids are first becoming teenagers and they have to start making choices about their futures and who they want to be. I also appreciated that the book had a variety of adult characters in the book, where some characters are, quite honestly, not the best people, some are great, while others are just trying their best. I think that reflects most readers' lives better than one extreme or the other.

PG-13 stuff: This book does deal with some pretty serious stuff, including having parents with a drug addiction, having friends who possibly work for drug dealers, and sexual abuse. While this definitely is a MG book, not a YA book, it is intended for somewhat older MG readers, who are ready for that kind of subject matter.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: I wish there had been some fat rep, honestly. Tai is supposed to be "curvy", but there's not really much for actual fat rep, and that kind of sucks. No queer characters, either, or disabled characters. Not to take away from how great it is that the vast majority of the characters in this book are black, but that is a bit of a bummer. There are also a few fatmisic and ableist comments that I felt were unnecessary.

Cover comments: It's a great cover except Tai and Mila are supposed to have different body types, and they're drawn exactly the same size. If anything, Tai might be a little smaller. (Mila has the braids, Tai has the waves and side shave.) Otherwise, it's gorgeous, and I can see it having a ton of appeal to readers.

Conclusion: All in all, while I thought the plot was just a little slow at the beginning, and I had a few criticisms, I think this is a great book. If you have any readers who love Jason Reynolds' books and are looking for more like that, this is definitely a good place to point them. The way the characters talk is so real, and the setting is great. Kids who like contemporary books are gonna love it. Three and a half out of five roses, and I'll round up to four when I put it on goodreads. It's a really good summer vacation book, as well, and I also think it would make a great sequel. Like I would seriously read another book about what the girls are doing next and how they continue to grow as people and friends.



Other notes:

- Naming a set of twins Chris(topher, I assume) and Christol, so they go by Chris and Chrissy, seems a little mean.

- It's a little strange to give Mila a "Me Too" shirt, and have it not refer to the #MeToo movement, especially as she is indeed someone who has been sexually assaulted. (The t-shirt in the book is part of a set where the other one says "I'm hot".)

- I continue to think putting fake social media in books is weird.

Alright, that's all, folks!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Saturday, July 28, 2018

CT Callahan Chat Reminder

Come chat with CT Callahan, author of PLASTIC WINGS and ARE WE HUMAN?



July 28th, 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

See you there!

Peace and cookies
Laina

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (17)

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.

This week I'm interested in:

The House in Poplar Wood by K. E. Ormsbee

Release date: August 28th, 2019
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): For as long as the Vickery twins can remember, they’ve only ever been able to leave the house together once a year, on Halloween. The rest of the year, Lee and his mother serve Memory, while Felix and his father assist Death. This is the Agreement.

But one Halloween, Gretchen Whipple smashes her way into their lives. Her bargain is simple: If the twins help her solve the murder of local girl Essie Hasting, she’ll help them break the Agreement. The more the three investigate, however, the more they realize that something’s gone terribly wrong in their town. Death is on the loose, and if history repeats itself, Essie’s might not be the last murder in Poplar Wood.

Why I'm excited: I freaking love Halloween, I liked Tash Hearts Tolstoy, I like mysteries, and I love middle grade. This also sounds really weird, and I also like weird. Overall, just seems like my kind of vibe.

What book are you excited about this week?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, July 23, 2018

Things I've Read Recently (75)

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.

Choker by Elizabeth Woods

Published: January 4th, 2011 by Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 233
Part of a series? No.
Got via: I think I bought it from Amazon or Chapters or something.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Cara Lange has been a loner ever since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago. She eats lunch with the other girls from the track team, but they're not really her friends. Mostly she spends her time watching Ethan Gray from a distance, wishing he would finally notice her, and avoiding the popular girls who call her "Choker" after a humiliating incident in the cafeteria.

Then one day Cara comes home to find Zoe waiting for her. Zoe's on the run from problems at home, and Cara agrees to help her hide. With her best friend back, Cara's life changes overnight. Zoe gives her a new look and new confidence, and next thing she knows, she's getting invited to parties and flirting with Ethan. Best of all, she has her BFF there to confide in.

But just as quickly as Cara's life came together, it starts to unravel. A girl goes missing in her town, and everyone is a suspect—including Ethan. Worse still, Zoe starts behaving strangely, and Cara begins to wonder what exactly her friend does all day when she's at school. You're supposed to trust your best friend no matter what, but what if she turns into a total stranger?

Thoughts: So think of the most obvious, super ableist thing you could think of to be the "twist" of this book and you'll have guessed it. I'm weirdly slower at guessing twists in books than in on TV (my mom gets annoyed when I guess what's going to happen on TV - I predicted the entire plot of an episode of Supernatural once), but even I got what was happening.

Yeah, I did not like this one honestly. There's a lot that's offensive, like there are two scenes of fairly graphic animal death, so much ableism, weird queerbaiting while having absolutely no queer characters, the love interest's dark secret being that he was a fat kid. (And boy, that was offensive. There's no other fat characters, they imply that fat kids don't ever have friends, and he talks about wanting to tell fat kids on the street, "You'll get through it", like fat bodies are something to overcome.)

Most of the characters are very stereotypical and two-dimensional. They don't really have personalities besides having like one trait, like "Mean Girl" or "Cute Boy" or "Track Friend". And it's so Mean Girl heavy, because, you know, Cara is Not Like Other GirlsTM. Which is like her only personality trait, because Cara is incredibly boring. She has no drive, or agency or anything, besides getting mad at her mom's cat for sitting on a jacket she left laying on a chair (HANG YOUR JACKET UP THEN, CARA). And I don't know if there were any characters of colour because it's never stated, but frankly I think it's just better if we assume all the characters are white because otherwise things were probably pretty racist.

There were also things about the writing that I just didn't really like. Like there were a couple times where I had to go back a page and reread a sentence because something was just kind of off, and I don't think it was deliberate. I think it was just messy writing. Like at one point, Cara is excited to get "her parents" to the airport, but she's only driving her mom and her dad is gone already. That does not seem like a purposeful choice to set the mood or anything. It just seems like a mistake.

Just overall I wanted to like this way more than I did, and I didn't hate it while I was reading it, but looking back, it's just not good.

Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz

Published: March 19th, 2013 by Roaring Brook Press
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 247 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

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 school prom, 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.

Thoughts: Okay, first things first, Hannah is a friend, and while I'm capable of being objective, if that bothers you, move on.

Second things second, I really enjoyed this. It reminded me of, like, queer Bruno and Boots, if any of you read that series growing up, but with more realism. Marco and Stephen's antics are a little more likely to actually happen, mind you, but it works well. The exploration of friendship between Stephen and Marco is much more nuanced, and given a lot more thought and dimension than that kind of duo usually is in more trope-y books.

I also appreciated that Stephen was Jewish and Marco is half-Japanese alongside being gay. It's nice to see more diversity in a queer middle grade novel than just one character. Although it would have been nice if there'd been a little more, even, and especially more than just one queer character. Kids need role models, yo... I don't know why I ended that sentence in yo, and I apologize. There's also some minor language choices that I wasn't a huge fan of. Knowing Hannah and how she uses language, I think she wouldn't make the same ones today, but you know, it is what it is.

I will point out that this is not super fluffy because I kind of hate how people gloss over those kinds of things, and this book does deal with homomisia and Marco dealing with a lot of bullying about his sexuality. That could be hard on a young teen to deal about, but I think it's balanced enough with light-hearted moments and just happiness that it doesn't become overwhelming.

All in all, I just really liked this. I really liked the voice, it's got some super cute moments, and I really enjoyed reading it. One of my favourite things, especially, was the relationship between Stephen and his siblings. They don't always get along perfectly, but there's real love and affection in the way they behave. And that's something that I find a lot more pleasant to read about that constant bickering. It's really nice to see sibling relationships where it actually seems like they like each other. And Stephen's family being quite physically affectionate is also nice to read, especially with him and his older brother.

Very nice.

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Published: March 6th, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 307 plus acknowledgments
Part of a series? I don't believe so.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

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?

Thoughts: Oh I have so many feelings about this. It's so good. Honestly I almost have no words for how good this was. Several of my notes are just, "Wow," which, let me tell you, Past!me, that's not very helpful. There's just so much here that I liked, and it's just - wow, this is a terrible review. I have so many feelings about everything in here, from little things like the mention of Ivy's first period being a relatively small thing, normalizing it, to specific language choices, to everything Ivy feels about everything being so big and overwhelming to her because I think that's so realistic for a girl her age going through everything she's going through.

I only have a couple of gripes. One thing is that an OB-GYN (another character's mother who is also Ivy's mother's doctor during her pregnancy with Ivy's little twin brothers) is equated to being a "woman's doctor" and, no, not only women need them, and the other is that there's a character who explicitly says they don't feel any romantic interest and I think that's kind of a lost opportunity where aromanticism could have been talked about. Instead, it's treated like something that will almost inevitably happen when they're older, but they're just not ready yet.

And that's really a shame when the rest of the book is so good, and Ivy's orientation is given so much freedom to be explored. I swear, one day I'm going to write a MG book with an aromantic MC. Besides that, it does lack a tiny bit in other areas of diversity. It's pretty white besides like one (AWESOME) character, and there's like no fat rep, or real disability rep.

One place it really shines, though, is that Ivy knows several other queer people. She has an older teen friend, and meets more than one adult who's queer. Queer role models are so important! It's so great to see adults especially, because kids should see that they can grow up and be whatever they want to be. I also really liked that the book uses the word queer as a positive label. I'll never get over that, honestly. And there's a definition of bisexual used that's wonderful, and inclusive of nonbinary genders. USING the actual word. There are two bisexual middle grade books that I know of, and neither of them used the word in their original printing (one is being changed in its paperback release). That's huge!

I will say that reading a book about tornado aftermath is great until it starts thundering and you live in a place that gets tornadoes. And, yes, there were tornado warnings around us last night, and some funnel clouds nearby. Freaky!

All in all, though, while I had a few small problems, I think this is a great addition to the queer middle grade catalogue, and I'm really glad to have read it. I hope there's many, many more like this in the future!

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis

Published: September 20th, 2016 by Katherine Tegen Books
Genre: YA Thriller
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 341 plus acknowledments
Part of a series? Nope.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.

Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.

As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.

Thoughts: Honestly I really liked this. I really don't feel like writing an actual review for it and there's a whole lot to talk about, so I'm kinda just not going to. I just wanted to mention that I read it since I talk about almost everything I read on here.

Not gonna rate this one on goodreads, either, since I'm not writing a review. Sometimes you just wanna read a book with no pressure, you know?

So, that's what I've been reading. What have you all been reading?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Ashley Woodfolk Chat Reminder

Our second author chat will be Ashley Woodfolk, author of THE BEAUTY THAT REMAINS, and the upcoming WHEN YOU WERE EVERYTHING!



July 21st 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

Hope to see you there!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Can't Wait Wednesday (16)

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.

To Be Honest by Maggie Ann Martin

Release date: August 21st, 2018
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Savannah is dreading being home alone with her overbearing mother after her sister goes off to college. But if she can just get through senior year, she'll be able to escape to college, too. What she doesn't count on is that her mother's obsession with weight has only grown deeper since her appearance on an extreme weight-loss show, and now Savvy's mom is pressuring her even harder to be constantly mindful of what she eats.

Between her mom's diet-helicoptering, missing her sister, and worrying about her collegiate future, Savvy has enough to worry about. And then she meets George, the cute new kid at school who has insecurities of his own. As Savvy and George grow closer, they help each other discover how to live in the moment and enjoy the here and now before it disappears.

Why I'm excited: I'm always here for fat representation in books, and I am interested in more books that talk about how toxic diet culture is. It's much needed, especially in YA.

Also, I get a snicker out of the author's name being so close to Ann M. Martin, as I'm a child at heart. No one else cares, but it amuses me.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, July 16, 2018

MG Review: Scream and Scream Again

Scream and Scream Again by R. L. Stine

Published: July 24th, 2018 by HarperCollins
Genre: MG Horror Anthology
Binding: e-ARC
Page Count: Goodreads says 416
Part of a series? No.
Got via: I requested it from Edelweiss.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): R.L. Stine—the godfather of Goosebumps—and some of the most popular authors today bring an unrivaled mastery of all things fearsome, frightening, and fantabulous to this terrifying anthology of all-new scary short stories.

Scream and Scream Again! is full of twists and turns, dark corners, and devilish revenge. Collected in conjunction with the Mystery Writers of America, this set includes works from New York Times bestselling authors telling tales of wicked ice-cream trucks, time-travelling heroes, witches and warlocks, and of course, haunted houses.

Read it if you dare! With twenty never-before-published scary stories from some of the most popular authors today—including Chris Grabenstein, Wendy Corsi Staub, Heather Graham, Peter Lerangis, R.L. Stine, Bruce Hale, Emmy Laybourne, Steve Hockensmith, Lisa Morton, Ray Daniel, Beth Fantaskey, Phil Mathews, Carter Wilson, Doug Levin, Jeff Soloway, Joseph S. Walker, Alison McMahan, Daniel Palmer, Tonya Hurley, and Stephen Ross—it’s sure to leave readers screaming for more.

Review: Since this is an anthology, and I'm not going to be doing a mini-review like other anthologies I've read in the past, I thought I would talk a little about the anthology as a whole when I'm done reading it, but as I read, if there's a story that I think needs particular attention, good or bad, I'll write it up separately. Got it? Don't worry, just follow along. It'll make sense. I think.

Trigger warnings for animal cruelty, also. Other things, too, but a couple of stories are really bad for the animal cruelty.

Best Revenge by R. L. Stine: Oh my god this is the most ridiculous thing ever. This is the first story and it's not a great start, lol. It's really repetative, and super cliche for a Goosebumps-type story. Like, there's a character named Cletus who heehaws like a donkey. CLETUS. I can't. It's also quite juvenile. This is not one Stine's best works, and it's not a great start.

Bricks and Bones by Emmy Laybourne: This is the third story, and it's not bad, but there's some serious plot holes. I don't think you can play finders keepers with three million dollars worth of gold. I don't think that's how it works. I'm also pointing out that this story is a white woman writing a main character who is a young black boy. This is the second story with a white person writing characters of colour. Haven't gotten the one yet with a writer of colour, but we'll see.

Ring and Run by Steve Hockensmith: There's a Trump joke in this one and I don't know how to feel about that but also I kinda laughed my butt off. I honestly really liked this one? It had a super neat premise and I liked the blending of a real dangerous thing with a paranormal dangerous thing. Good job. Big fan.

Cat Got Your Tongue by Wendy Corsi Staub: I really like this one. I think it's probably the best one at being a story that really fits the "scream" thing. It's really creepy, and interesting, and I'm a big fan. Leaves a few strings dangling, but I liked it enough that I don't mind.

The I Scream Truck by Beth Fantaskey: So you can tell someone's "eaten a lot of ice cream" by looking at the size of their bodies. Six nights of eating ice cream makes you fat. Literally, they gorge themselves on ice cream for a week and end up fat. Kids who were previously thin. And being fat makes them slow and clumsy, obviously. Then the story calls it "a few pounds" but goes out of its way to describe their swollen stomachs in great detail. Are you writing feedee porn, story?

Remember, kids, if your parents are vegans, you'll be so deprived of ice cream because the only option you have is "frozen tofu" and not, like, coconut ice cream or sorbet, that you're willing to jump into a creepy ice cream truck and gorge yourself for a week, and you'll be eaten by cannibals.

No, I'm sorry, how is there a sign that says "Welcome to Nightingale Corners! Home of America's Only Cannibal Feast!" AND NO ONE WHO VISITS OR MOVES THERE NOTICES??

This story is ridiculous and not in a good way.

Area Code 666 by Carter Wilson: Ugh, this one has fat-hate too. The MC's teacher is just soooo fat and gross, and of course he's sweaty (because sweating is a moral failure) and waddles. One of her friends literally calls him a "fat monster". Overall the theme of this story is technology is evil and you are brainwashed to check your phone every time it makes the least noise because silencing your phone isn't a thing that exists.

Also if you say "red balloon" and horror, I'm kinda just thinking about Pennywise. And also, balloons aren't scary. What happens after the balloon is scary. (In It, I mean, not in general. Balloons don't rain from the sky when I see a spider or something.) The ending of this one is just kind of a let-down, and the screaming thing here is super tacked on.

The Only Child by Joseph S. Walker: This is incredibly creepy. Like I'm straight up adult creeped out, not just kid-level creeped out. Wow! There is an episode of Alice Isn't Dead that I consider one of the scariest, creepiest things I've ever encountered. This is right up there with that.

The Nightmare Express by Daniel Palmer: This starts out really promising, and then flops right down onto a racial slur. (The g-word.) And then it rolled over onto a pile of racist stereotypes about Romani people. And it follows that up with ableist language.

The Girl in the Window by Tonya Hurley: The author expects you to believe that girls are still freaking out over "frocks" on Snapchat (I guess Forever21 doesn't exist in this world?) and they get birthday dresses as their "big gift" to wear to school the next day, and this is a giant deal that the rest of the school cares about. It also expects you to believe that a family that barely has enough money for food and rent with the mom working two jobs has enough money that her eleven year old daughter has a phone so she can Snapchat and Instagram and all that jazz.

Meanwhile a page before, it says that the mom only buys the main character and her brother a new pair of shoes on their birthdays because new shoes cost "a tiny fortune". She buys her a pair of navy blue sparkly flats. I guess it doesn't get muddy or snowy there? If you only can buy one pair of shoes for your kids a year... well, first, you better hope their feet don't grow fast, but also would you really buy cute flats? Like, what if it rains? Also, she apparently spent "a week's salary" on these flats. Let's do that math actually. Lowest wage in the US is $2.13 for tipped workers (like waitstaff, so, you know, tip your waitstaff), so let's times that by 8 for a full-day. If you go by 5, that's $85.20 before taxes, and if you go by 7, $119.28. I have a lot of feelings about spending that much money on flats for a child who can't wear them in the winter.

I wasn't even going to write about this one, but I got annoyed trying to write about it in the summary thoughts because it was just so frustrating. It felt like the author took a short story set in the fifties and then added Snapchat because that's what the kids are into, you know!

Feed the Birds by Stephen Ross: This is a good one. It's set in 1872, and it's about the only story of the grouping that isn't set in modern day. It's creepy, it's weird, it's got a good atmosphere. All good.

Over all thoughts: A middle grade horror anthology is a great idea, and a lot of these stories I really liked. However, some really flopped. Kind of what you get in an anthology, though, I guess.

Some of the authors handled having modern technology well, and use it well to add to their stories. Others really do not. Some stories, the inclusion is just really awkward and unnatural, and some of them feel like they really don't like the idea of having to have technology in them but they're just doing it because that's what they're supposed to do.

There's also another underlying problem. Specifically, only three out of twenty of these stories are about kids who aren't white. And all of those stories that feature characters of colour are written by white authors. Now, a few of these authors don't really have online prescences so it's hard to really know for sure, but near as I can tell, at least seventeen of the authors are white. There's a possibility some of the three I couldn't find anything about aren't, but if they are, and I highly suspect they are, this is an anthology where out of twenty authors, all are white.

Even if some of them aren't white, that's still seventeen out of twenty! That's ridiculous! Not to mention The Nightmare Express which is entirely based on the idea of "g*psy curses" which is horribly racist. There's almost something of an attitude where it almost feels like some of the authors are... well, to be frank and to use phrasing I don't love, they have a political agenda. Like they're annoyed that they have to be thinking about diversity now that we've made a big stink out of it. One story makes a big point of saying "this isn't politically correct, but (sexist thing)" and I just don't get that. Why do you want that message going out to kids??

Cover comments: This is an amazing cover and I think kids will love it. It's creepy and draws your eye in, and it has the R.L. Stine name that's a big draw.

Conclusion: My final words honestly are that I cannot feel comfortable recommending this. I cannot ignore the fact that this is an entirely or near-entirely white-authored anthology and recommend it in good faith. I'm white. It is not appropriate for me to look at an anthology with *twenty* authors and be like,"they're all white? Cool, that's fine! I see no problem with this!" That's not okay!

So, while I enjoyed this, and I think it's something that kids would love, I can't recommend it in good faith. Two roses mostly for the stories I did like.



Other notes:

- BALLOONS AREN'T SCARY

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Saturday, July 14, 2018

RoAnna Sylver Chat Reminder

Week two is a go! What have you all been doing this week? How's your summer going?

This week, we're chatting with RoAnna Sylver, author of CHAMELEON MOON, THE LIFELINE SIGNAL, STAKE SAUCE, and MOON-BRIGHT TIDES!



July 14th 6pm UTC / 11am PDT / 2pm EDT

To find your time, click here.

We'll be tweeting from @queer_reads and remember you must use the hashtag #qsrchat for us to see your tweets!

Peace and popsicles,

Laina

Friday, July 13, 2018

Book Blogger Hop (10)

The Book Blogger Hop was originally created by Jennifer from Crazy-For-Books and is now hosted by Billy of Ramblings of a Coffee Addicted Writer.

This week's question is: Does a cluttered blog have you not returning? By cluttered I mean too many columns, small type, too many photos, difficult to follow, etc.

My answer: Yes! I am a person who gets visually overloaded very easily, and certain things also trigger eyestrain and headaches fairly easily in me. I'm really sensitive to what's going on with the backgrounds, too. I do not like reading white text on black or generally even dark backgrounds. Give me that black text on white contrast, please and thank you.

I also have a real pet peeve of giant headers. I'm probably alone here, but if your header fills my entire computer screen, I find that incredibly annoying. Maybe it looks good on like a big Mac screen or whatever, but I've got a laptop here and it does not, lol. Also, a ton of incredibly large pictures make a blog inaccessible to some, in my opinion. For a long time, I had very slow internet, and it could not handle that kind of blog because it would just be too much. It used to be very frustrating.

I finally got my mobile layout to not be transparent and just have a white background, and it's such a relief. The flowered background was so hard to read against. Thanks to Ren for that, who helped me fix the piece of code that I just could not get figured out. Ren's great, and you should hire him if you need something like that.

You might also notice that on mobile my menu is a lot different. I did actually figure out how to do that because my menu is pretty image heavy and, while the mobile menu isn't as pretty, it's functional and much less crowded in a small space. I also chose not to have the sidebar show on mobile, so that things are simpler and easier to read and load.

I'm not going to say my layouts are shining examples of perfection, but I think they balance looking nice with being easy enough to read and navigate. Tell me if I'm wrong, I suppose!! Maybe I just have weird preferences that no one else likes.

Oh well!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Laina's (Possible) To-Read List



I'm not one hundred percent actually sure what I'm going to read yet, but I think I've mostly narrowed down my main books, plus some options if I want to swap books or feel like reading something else.

No More Heroes by Michelle Kan

Released: Originally published in 2015, the edition I have is from February 2017 from Fish and Swallow Publications and yes I'm kind of just filling space here so my formatting isn't all wonky.

Sue me.

Summary (from goodreads): The peaceful nights are kept under the clandestine and watchful eye of young, gifted vigilantes the world over. But a sudden rash of vigilante deaths heralds the arrival of a new and unfamiliar enemy – one whose motive is as unclear as their identity.

Someone or something seems determined to disturb the peace, and they're going straight for the watchmen to do it. In a city where those who are gifted make up their own rules, who will step forward when the threat of a swift end is real and there stands so little to gain?

Why I chose it: Luci bought me this ages ago, and I've just been putting it off for some reason, and now's the time to knock that off!

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Released: March 14th, 2017 by Swoon Reads

Summary (from goodreads): Charlie likes to stand out. She’s a vlogger and actress promoting her first movie at SupaCon, and this is her chance to show fans she’s over her public breakup with co-star Reese Ryan. When internet-famous cool-girl actress Alyssa Huntington arrives as a surprise guest, it seems Charlie’s long-time crush on her isn’t as one-sided as she thought.

Taylor likes to blend in. Her brain is wired differently, making her fear change. And there’s one thing in her life she knows will never change: her friendship with her best guy friend Jamie—no matter how much she may secretly want it to. But when she hears about a fan contest for her favorite fandom, she starts to rethink her rules on playing it safe.


Why I chose it: I actually was thinking about reading this last year, but my library didn't have it when I went to order it, so it got away from me.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Released: January 18th, 2016 by Riverdale Avenue Books

Summary (from goodreads): Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

Why I chose it: It just sounds really good. I also kind of adore the cover.

The House You Pass on the Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Released: September 8th, 1997 by Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Summary (from goodreads): Staggerlee is used to being alone. As the granddaughter of celebrities and the daughter of an interracial couple in an all-black town, she has become adept at isolating herself from curious neighbors. But then her cousin, Trout, comes to visit.

Trout is exactly like Staggerlee wishes she could be: outspoken, sure of herself, beautiful. Finally, Staggerlee has a friend, someone she can share her deepest, most private thoughts with. Someone who will teach her how to be the strong girl she longs to be. But is Trout really the girl Staggerlee thinks she is?

Why I chose it: This is quite an older book, and as someone who reads quite a lot of older MG and YA, I'm really curious about it. And I really enjoyed Brown Girl Dreaming so I'd like to read more from the author in general, and the historical impact intrigues me.

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

Released: May 22nd, 2018 by - Tor Teen? I didn't know Tor did contemporary. Huh, that's interesting.

Summary (from goodreads): Six years ago, Moss Jefferies' father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media's vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Why I chose it: Not gonna lie, I heard there was ace rep in this and I was like "Oh really". What can I say? Ace characters are a good way to shoot a book to the top of the read pile.

Hurricane Child by Kheryn Callender

Release date: March 27th, 2018 by Scholastic

Summary (from goodreads): Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She's hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and -- worst of all -- her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother.

When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline's luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls.

Why I chose it: Along with wanting to work on my queer middle grade rec list, I have another book by Kheryn up on my review stack (erm, virtual review stack, it's an earc) and I'm really excited about both of them.

That's a good start for me! I'll include other books, I'm sure (I do have a large stack I'm working on), but for now I'm satisfied with this to cover my basis, plus some. I might switch things around as I feel like it, but this is a good place to start.

Tell me about what you're planning to read this summer!

Peace and popsicles,
Laina