Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday (44)

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. Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

What I Like About Me by Jenna Guillame

Release date: February 26th, 2019
Publisher's Website 'cause it's not up anywhere else yet and if I wait until it is to schedule this, I'll forget to do it.

Summary (from goodreads): The last thing sixteen-year-old Maisie Martin thought she'd be doing this summer is entering a beauty pageant.

Not when she's spent most of her life hiding her body from everyone.

Not when her Dad is AWOL for Christmas and her gorgeous older sister has returned to rock Maisie's shaky confidence. And her best friend starts going out with the boy she's always loved.

But Maisie's got something to prove.

As she writes down all the ways this summer is going from bad to worse in her school-assignment journal, what starts as a homework torture-device might just end up being an account of how Maisie didn't let anything, or anyone, hold her back...

The part where I talk: I'm always, always down for fat positive books with fat main characters. Always.

That's really all I need to say, isn't it? ;)

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 28, 2019

YA Review: The Cold Is In Her Bones

The Cold Is In Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale

Published: January 22nd, 2019 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Genre: YA Fantasy
Binding: eARC
Page Count: Goodreads says 288 and that seems right.
Part of a series? No, I don't believe so.
Got via: Edelweiss
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Milla knows two things to be true: Demons are real, and fear will keep her safe.

Milla’s whole world is her family’s farm. She is never allowed to travel to the village and her only friend is her beloved older brother, Niklas. When a bright-eyed girl named Iris comes to stay, Milla hopes her loneliness might finally be coming to an end. But Iris has a secret she’s forbidden to share: The village is cursed by a demon who possesses girls at random, and the townspeople live in terror of who it will come for next.

Now, it seems, the demon has come for Iris. When Iris is captured and imprisoned with other possessed girls, Milla leaves home to rescue her and break the curse forever. Her only company on the journey is a terrible new secret of her own: Milla is changing, too, and may soon be a demon herself.

Review: This is my least favourite kind of review to write. This is one of the books that there's nothing really that I disliked a lot or that's wrong with it but I just have kind of underwhelming feelings about. I think people who like kind of mythology/folktale type books might like this better. It's got a very fairy tale feel, kinda like if Gail Carson Levine wrote dark books, and if that's something that appeals to you, this might be more your thing. But I've talked before about fantasy books can be a hard sell for me and this was one of those cases.

Also can we talk about the fact that this is supposed to be a Medusa retelling? Because I didn't get that at all. Like okay, I got that there was a snake thing, and at times I went, "Oh this is Medusa inspired," but I never would have called it a Medusa retelling. I don't think having one thing in common makes it a retelling.

Something I think that really made this not work as well for me is actually how long it is. It's under three hundred pages? Sometimes the plot time-skipped months at a time and yet it didn't feel like time was passing because it happened in a sentence or a paragraph. With that, the characters felt under-developed. They're fine, but they never excited me. I didn't feel like I was getting to know them or understanding them, just... observing them. And what I was observing wasn't that interesting at the beginning.

I think the thing I thought was most interesting was the idea that anyone in the village Iris came from would use the threat of demon possession against any girl who acts angry or has any sort of spine at all. Of course that would happen. It has happened, again and again, historically. But it's so under-explored that it was honestly disappointing. Most of the girls that happened to don't even get names.

Plus like, what about queer girls? How does demon possession effect them? Are they targeted by families more? There aren't any in the book, so I couldn't tell you. There's nada for diversity in this, period, and it's kind of dull to read honestly.

I will say, props to the cover designer for getting a very accurate one. The girl actually looks like Milla, and the snakes are exactly like they are in the book. I also did really enjoy that there was basically no romance in this. It's nice to read books without romance sometimes.

Overall this just wasn't my favourite book in the world.



Sorry if this is a little sparse - I'm not feeling the best today!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, January 25, 2019

Book Blogger Hop (23)

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: How many books did you read last year? Will your goal be to match that number or surpass it?

I read exactly 100 books last year. My goal is to be under that this year! I have other projects I want to do besides only reading, and balance is important to life. I need to go easier on myself. For a full discussion of my reading goals this year, check out this post!

Well, this is a short post. Not much else to say on that though!

Thanks for reading.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday (43)

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. Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

What We Buried by Kate A. Boorman

Release date: February 26th, 2019
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Siblings Liv and Jory Brewer have grown up resenting one another. Liv—former pageant queen and reality-TV star—was groomed for a life in the spotlight, while her older brother Jory, born with a partial facial paralysis, was left in the shadows. The only thing they have in common is contempt for their parents.

Now Liv is suing her mom and dad for emancipation, and Jory views the whole thing as yet another attention-getting spectacle. But on the day of the hearing, their parents mysteriously vanish, and the siblings are forced to work together. Liv feels certain she knows where they are and suspects that Jory knows more than he’s telling . . . which is true.

What starts as a simple overnight road trip soon takes a turn for the dangerous and surreal. And as the duo speeds through the deserts of Nevada, brother and sister will unearth deep family secrets that force them to relive their pasts as they try to retain a grip on the present.

The part where I talk: Again, I really like thrillers and like mysteries and stuff, and this sounds right up my alley.

And I do have a question this week - what's your favourite road trip you've ever been on? If you've never been on one, what's your favourite road trip-themed book or movie?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 21, 2019

Things I've Read Recently (84): Seriously What Do I Call This Post

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. Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

Stone Cold (Lumberjanes, Volume 8) by Shannon Watters, Kat Leyh, Carey Pietsch, and Maarta Laiho

Published: February 20th, 2018 by BOOM! Box
Genre: YA Fantasy Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 112
Part of a series? This collects Lumberjanes issues #29-35.
Got via: The library, as usual.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Five best friends at summer camp take friendship to the max when they team up to defeat the strange forces lurking within the surrounding forest.

Excited to have Barney starting their first week at the camp, the Roanokes run over to the Zodiac cabin, only to find everyone turned to stone! Between strange shadows and Diane being back, it looks like April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley are going to have their hands full trying to find a cure for their friends... as long as they don’t look the wrong thing in the eye first.

Thoughts: I've had some issues with the art change of the last few volumes, and I'm not sure if there was another shift, or if I've just gotten more used to it, but it definitely didn't stand out at all in this one. I was also really excited about this one because of the stuff going on. Barney's everything is just like so lovely, and while they didn't feature as prominently in this due to being turned into stone, it's still just nice to see them being a Lumberjane.

I also adored that they treat hair as very important, even when big important things are going down. It's really supportive of people looking how they want to look, and that's nice. It was also fun that this one called back on an older arc of the series, and plays with Greek mythology again. I continue to love this series, and can't wait for the next one to come out.

Paper Girls, Volume 4 by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

Published: April 10th, 2018 by Image comics which basically means I've caught up and I'm going to have to start waiting for them to come out. Siiiigh.
Genre: YA Science Fiction Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 128.
Part of a series? This collects issues 16 to 20 of Paper Girls.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The mind-bending, time-warping adventure from BRIAN K. VAUGHAN and CLIFF CHIANG continues, as intrepid newspaper deliverer Tiffany is launched from the prehistoric past into the year 2000! In this harrowing version of our past, Y2K was even more of a cataclysm than experts feared, and the only person who can save the future is a 12-year-old girl from 1988.

Thoughts: It's funny - my review notebook is filled up on one side of the pages and I don't want to waste paper, so I'm using the pages upside down and backwards. Amusingly, the opposite side of my notebook right now has my notes from the first time I read a Paper Girls.

Anyways, this was a really interesting one. I kind of hope they keep exploring the girls' Future!Selves, as that's a really interesting angle. Tiffany was seriously neat to see in the future. Or, past, as it is, since this is centered around Y2K. They also finally started to do the thing with queerness that I have suspected was comng since the beginning of the series, and I still have hopes about what's to come.

I'm so bummed that I have to wait for like four months now til the next one of these is released!

Teenage Wasteland (Ms. Marvel, vol. 9) by G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon

Published: July 31st, 2018 by Marvel Comics
Genre: YA Science Fiction Comic
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 136 pages
Part of a series? This collects Ms. Marvel issues 25 to 30.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Kamala Khan has vanished! But where has she gone, and why? Jersey City still has a need for heroes, and in the wake of Ms. Marvel's disappearance, dozens have begun stepping up to the plate. The city's newest super hero Red Dagger and even ordinary citizens attempt to carry on the brave fight in Kamala's honor. Somehow, Ms. Marvel is nowhere...but also everywhere at once! Absent but not forgotten, Ms. Marvel has forged a heroic legacy to be proud of. But when an old enemy re-emerges, will anyone be powerful enough to truly carry the Ms. Marvel legacy - except Kamala herself?

Thoughts: I was anxious that this would make me cry, and it kind of did, but not for the angst-y reasons I was expecting. This was just... beautiful. Look, I adore Lumberjanes, I really do, but I think Ms. Marvel might be my favourite comic series. The messages and storytelling that they put into this series are just so good.

I went into this expecting to read something that would involve a lot of anger or pain or just, you know, angst, and instead it tells a story that's full of understanding and support and healing. Kamala needs a break, and her friends understand and give her space. Ms. Marvel needs a break, and her friends understand and give her break and also take over for her so she doesn't have pressure to save the city on her shoulders when she needs time to heal. (They also don't connect those dots, somehow. Ah, comic books.) It's just... so nice that they give her time to feel like herself again.

Also, props to this comic book artist. They seem to draw really good fat bodies. Mike's body/size can vary depending on artist, and this one seems to draw her a little larger and more visibly fat than others, and that is great. This one doesn't make her like a perfect hourglass plus-sized model body. You see more of the shape of her stomach and a bit of double chin, and she looks very real. Kamala's sister-in-law's mom is also shown in this one, and she's also fat and she has a very visible, large belly, but is absolutely gorgeous, and seriously, props to that. Good job, artist.

All in all, I just really loved this. It made me feel really good reading it, and made me feel like Kamala had actually had time to heal a little, along with beginning to work on relationships with others. Very, very good, and I can't wait for more. (I've totally already pre-ordered the next through the library.)

Girl-Moon (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, vol. 4) by Brandon Montclare and Natasha Bustos

Published: January 9th, 2018 by Marvel Comics
Genre: MG comic book
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: Goodreads says 136
Part of a series? This collects Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur numbes 19 to 24.
Got via: The library of course.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Journey to the Living Planet! It's Lunella Lafayette's biggest adventure yet, as a voice from the outer reaches of space beckons her and Devil Dinosaur on a truly fantastic voyage - an Ego trip, if you will! Are you ready for Moon Girl to meet...Girl-Moon? Lunella isn't just smart, she's the smartest person on Earth - but what good is that when the problems she faces are intergalactic?

And when our incredible duo makes it back to Earth, they might find things a little different than how they remember. What happened to Yancy Street? And who exactly are Devil Girl and Moon Dinosaur?! The story of a young genius and her T. rex pal gets wilder than ever!

Thoughts: I kind of have already given this one back to the library because it was really overdue and it had a hold on it so I couldn't renew it anymore and it was wracking up the overdue fees something fierce. So it's a bit hard to review it when I don't have it with me.

However, I really like this volume. There's a little bit of fatmisia at one point, but I really just love Lunella and I really like the journey she's on of learning to perhaps be just a little more empathic and thinking about others' feelings a little more. She is only a kid, after all, but she's a great one.

There's also a thing that happens in this one that seriously made me look up future volumes of this because I was worried, so let me assure you that there are several more. And I want them!!

What a good group of comics!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, January 18, 2019

This or That Book Tag

This tag by Ayunda originally on Tea and Paperbacks, now at Ayundabhuwana's Blog. No one tagged me because I am not popular, but I wanted to do it anyways.

The questions are:
1. Reading on the couch or on the bed?

My answer: In bed. Our couch is like old and gross so I don't really sit on it anyways. Sometimes in the summer I read outside, too.

2. Male main character or female main character?

My answer: How about neither? Nonbinary people exist, book tag. Those aren't the only two options. Female or nonbinary is usually my preference. Not that into dudes, especially nonqueer ones.

3. Sweet snacks or salty snacks when reading?

My answer: Salty, but I don't eat while reading that often. I take notes while I read, so it can be a bit hard to juggle a pen and a notebook and a book and food. I prefer salt in general over sweet, though.

4. Trilogies or quartets?

My answer: Trilogies, probably. I seem to read more standalone books than anything, though, and I actually really like a good duet.

5. First person POV or third person POV?

My answer: First person for sure. Third person can be good, but I have more trouble connecting to it, and it's just not my preference.

6. Reading at night or in the morning?

My answer: Shockingly, probably the morning. While I read more in like the early afternoon, by the end of the day my brain is kind of done and I usually don't read at night. There will be a very rare time when I read when I can't sleep, but it's very unusual.

7. Libraries or bookstores?

My answer: Libraries for sure. Bookstores are cool, but I'm broke and there's something special about libraries for me. Although if you take me to a used bookstore... I'd be down for that.

8. Books that make you laugh or books that make you cry?

My answer: Probably cry actually? It's cathartic.

9. Black book covers or white book covers?

My answer: 100% black book covers. White book covers get gross way too fast, and I get really grossed out.

10. Character driven or plot driven stories?

My answer: Character driven. I honestly don't mind a book that doesn't have a ton going on in the plot department if the character journey feels strong enough to carry the book.

Okay, that was fun!! Feel free to do this tag yourself and say I tagged you, or just answer that last one, because I'm curious about it especially, in the comments!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday (42)

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. Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

Good Enough by Jen Petro-Roy

Release date: February 19th, 2019
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Before she had an eating disorder, twelve-year-old Riley was many things: an aspiring artist, a runner, a sister, and a friend.

But now, from inside the inpatient treatment center where she's receiving treatment for anorexia, it's easy to forget all of that. Especially since under the influence of her eating disorder, Riley alienated her friends, abandoned her art, turned running into something harmful, and destroyed her family's trust.

If Riley wants her life back, she has to recover.

Part of her wants to get better. As she goes to therapy, makes friends in the hospital, and starts to draw again, things begin to look up.

But when her roommate starts to break the rules, triggering Riley's old behaviors and blackmailing her into silence, Riley realizes that recovery will be even harder than she thought. She starts to think that even if she does "recover," there's no way she'll stay recovered once she leaves the hospital and is faced with her dieting mom, the school bully, and her gymnastics-star sister.

The part where I talk: There are two different MG books about eating disorders coming out this year. (the other being The Year I Didn't Eat) and I have such feelings about that. I think they are absolutely necessary, as the rate of eating disorders rises in younger and younger kids, but... that they must exist makes me sad. We should be doing better for kids.

I also cried my eyes out over P.S. I Miss You, so I have good vibes about this. Also, props to the neat cover.

Anyways, I don't want to be jokey in this post so that's all for this week.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 14, 2019

YA Review: Mammoth

Okay, so. This review isn't like a "Fat Girl on a Plane" situation where I think the book is actively harmful, but the book and the review are going to be discussing some tough subjects, i.e. diet culture, fat hate, self esteem, etc. I want you to be aware of those things going in, so, warning.

Onto the review.

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky

Published: November 16th, 2018 by Turner Publishing
Genre: Contemporary YA
Binding: eARC
Page Count: Goodreads says 304 so I assume around that.
Part of a series? I don't think so but man I would read a sequel.
Got via: Edelweiss.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

(Summary from goodreads): The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

Review: This is a book that I would like much more on a reread than on a first read, but that isn't the fault of the book as much as the fault of books I've read in the past. See, Mammoth is a book where for about 50% of the book, things could go two drastically different ways. And one of those ways, I would be writing a really critical review with a lot of links and also possibly being a little traumatized, and the other is how it actually went.

I liked how it went.

See, Natalie is, to paraphrase a person I follow on Twitter who's very eloquent about these things, still at an earlier point in her body acceptance journey. I mean, she is a teenager. For probably the first half of the book, there's a lot of talk about the bullying Natalie's experienced, her insecurities, her mental obsession with guessing the weight of people she meets (only people perceived as women, though, I noticed), an obsession with shapewear*, food issues. It can be hard to read at times.

(*God I hated how much shapewear was a thing in this. You're in Texas in the summer! WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO YOURSELF. Bodies are allowed to be lumpy and bumpy, and people realize you're fat no matter how much you squish yourself down!)

And if it had gone in the direction of Natalie deciding that her body is wrong and there was something wrong with her/the dieting route, I wouldn't be recommending it. I am very grateful to say that isn't how it went down. As the book goes on, Natalie grows more confident in herself, her body, and especially her capabilities and abilities. It's a great journey and I think that will reflect a lot of peoples' own journey.

Plot Talk: Uh, I think between the start of the review and the summary, we've got enough of a plot summary, right? I don't want this review to be five thousand words.

However, I definitely appreciated how much of the book is actually about paleontology. Sometimes you get contemporary YA that has a really cool premise and then they never actually use that premise, and I was so happy that this wasn't one of them. There's a lot of information about it, and Natalie spends a lot of time actually working. It's nice to see a book where the premise isn't just background for drama.

And, frankly, I'm glad the plot was about more than just Natalie's body/body issues. She's allowed to be fat and also actually DO things.

Characters: I don't want to spend too much time on characters because sometimes I feel like I get repetative and this review is really long already, but the author made interesting choices with characters. Natalie is a popular fashion blogger. That puts her more in the spotlight/public eye than the average teen in her situation. Of course she'd use fashion and makeup and all that as armour to keep from getting hurt. Being fat on the internet is hard. That absolutely makes sense.

My other favourite thing was that the character who would usually be her worst enemy, the thin/blond/popular/rich girl is treated like a human being and given an arc herself, and she and Natalie become friends over time. It's so good to see that. She isn't reduced solely to a "mean girl" and the female relationships in this are strong.

PG-13 stuff: There's some underage drinking (which they get in big trouble for, lol) and some language and whatnot. One of the guys Natalie kisses also gets really handsy and she has to be rather forceful pushing him away. She's not like super upset by it, but she does decide she didn't like that all.

Content warnings for food guilt type talk (Natalie is very uncomfortable eating in front of people in the beginning of the book, and doesn't eat enough at first around the other interns, along with a bit of other food morality talk), fat hate, that weird weight guessing thing, a fair amount of self-hate at first, possibly self-harm (Natalie has a habit of snapping a hair elastic against her wrist when she's stressed, to the point of leaving welts) aaaand another character is pretty seriously injured towards the end of the book. I think that's everything. Oh, wait, Natalie's clothing sizes are very specifically said several times in the book. People disagree on how they feel about that, but yanno. Thought I'd mention it.

Cons, complaints, bad stuff, etc.: This honestly lacks diversity in many ways. Texas is not this white and Austin is not this straight. There's like no queer or brown people in this. I find it very hard to believe over the course of a summer being in Austin that Natalie never meets another fat person. She goes thrifting and manages to find stuff so there has to be other fat people in the city. She couldn't even see a fat tourist or something?

This is honestly kind of a pet peeve of mine in fat YA. Why is the MC always the only fat character? It's so isolating. And because Natalie's sizes are mentioned (rather often), it is very apparent that she's a smaller fat person and therefore has more privilege than a superfat person. She doesn't, for instance, need a seatbelt extender on an airplane and doesn't worry about having to buy a second seat or being kicked off the plane or anything like that. Though the shirt doesn't fit right due to sizing inconsistently, she can in fact find her size in the gift shop of the dig site and it seems to be the largest size they carry besides the "unisex" XL. Which is not that large of a size, let's be real.

I liked Natalie, and for the most part I liked this book, but fat rep in YA can be a very narrow experience, almost always (not always, but almost) consisting of nonqueer white girls between a US size sixteen and US twenty, usually who are into fashion... and often vintage or vintage-inspired fashion, at that. And Natalie is another of those. And it's not like we're swimming in fat rep in YA so it always sucks to criticize this, but those shouldn't be the only people who are represented.

...this went into more of a rant than a review, but. It's still true.

Cover comments: I like the cover. It's simple, but cute and Natalie is on the cover and she's rather clearly actually fat. I'm very into covers of fat positive YA where you can actually see their bodies.

Also since I don't have a section for this - there are a few illustrations of Natalie in the book. They're illustrations of some of the "outfit of the day" posts she does on her blog. Again, they show her actually visibly fat. I wish they had included one of her outfits where she wasn't wearing shapewear, but otherwise that was really neat. I liked seeing her illustrated with like thick calves and thighs and stuff.

Conclusion: Wow, this is getting long. This isn't the easiest book in the world to read. The first half especially is hard to read. And that is not a bad thing. Sometimes books make you feel things and sometimes those things don't always feel good and that's okay. And I spent a lot of the book figureatively holding my breath anxious about which direction this would take in the end.

This balances those complicated feelings really well, I'm glad to say. I think it is rewarding to read through Natalie's journey and you really root for her as she starts to believe in herself and stand up for herself. I won't lie and say I wouldn't enjoy reading about fat characters who are further along in their body acceptance journey, but anything with fat positivity in YA is a good start. I think it is well worth the read, but do go into knowing that it can be emotionally difficult to read at times. Overall, I recommend it, and I'm giving this four roses out of five. If I had quarter roses, I would probably give it 3.75 due to things mentioned in my cons section, but I don't so I'm rounding up a bit.

(Roses)

Other notes:

- My eARC was really messed up formatting-wise. I never hold that against the book, but I do wanna mention it because it's annoying. For some reason the publisher's giant logo showed up every page or two, and in general it had bad a lot of bad formatting.

- I feel like Natalie's relationship with her mother, and her mother's food/weight relationship (she's mentioned to diet a lot and stuff like that, but only briefly) was underexplored and could have been left out.

That's all I've got today!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, January 11, 2019

Book Blogger Hop (22)

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: What is your first book of the year?

Well, I've been doing a readalong of Anne of Green Gables on Twitter, but the first book I've finished is Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky.

Mammoth by Jill Baguchinsky

(Summary from goodreads): The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin. Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on the retro style she developed to shield herself from her former bullies, but vintage dresses and perfect lipstick aren’t compatible with prospecting for fossils in the Texas heat. But nothing is going to dampen Natalie’s spirit — she’s exactly where she wants to be, and she gets to work with her hero, a rock-star paleontologist who hosts the most popular paleo podcast in the world. And then there’s Chase the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.

Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s hero turns out to be anything but, and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, Nat has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by dudes. To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying all the rules for the sake of a major discovery.

The part where I talk some more: I'm going to be reviewing this one pretty soon and I have a lot to say, so keep an eye out for that!

What's everybody else's? I'm super curious about this. Are any of you superstitious about the first book you read in a year?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Can't Wait Wednesday (41)

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. Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

The Sisterhood by A. J. Grainger

Release date: February 12th, 2019

Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Seventeen-year-old Lil’s heart was broken when her sister Mella disappeared. There’s been no trace or sighting of her since she vanished, so when Lil sees a girl lying in the road near her house she thinks for a heart-stopping moment that it’s Mella.

The girl is injured and disorientated and Lil has no choice but to take her home, even though she knows something’s not right. The girl claims she’s from a peaceful community called The Sisterhood of the Light, but why then does she have strange marks down her arms, and what—or who—is she running from?

The part where I talk: I think this was already released in the UK in 2018 but it's only being released now in the US/Canada, so I'm counting it for this.

Talk to me about your favourite cult things! Got any documentary recommendations?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Monday, January 7, 2019

Things I've Read Recently (83)

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. Buy links include affiliate links, where I can earn a small commission if you purchase through them.

Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Published: October 23rd, 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books
Genre: YA... well, sort of a thriller but more contemporary. I'll go into that.
Binding: Hardcover
Page Count: 330 plus acknowledgements
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Missing things is nothing new to sixteen-year-old Roz. She lives with macular degeneration, an eye disease that robs her of her central vision (and, it seems, her best friends). Every day, Roz has to piece together fragments to make sense of the world around her. She's always managed to get along fine without help, but when she's placed in a special needs class, Roz begins a desperate attempt to prove she's "normal" - and soon her world spins out of control.

A classmate's body floats to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Now only Roz's ability to piece together she missed that fateful night can clear her name... and lead to a murderer. But not only has her eyesight betrayed her, her memory has too. How can Roz discover the truth when she can't even trust herself?

Thoughts: I think for 2012 this was pretty good, but it doesn't stand up to a harsher look today. Basically I have pros and cons about this book, so let's get into those. First of all, the prose (ha, unintentional pun) is pretty good. I was a bit distracted by an 8-hour power outage and I was frustrated by certain elements of the plot so at times I wasn't as into it as I could have been, but overall it was decent.

Since this is ownvoices, I suspect the representation of Roz's disability is very authentic and personal. I don't have experience here, but that part of the book always felt very much like the author was basing a lot of this on her own experiences, and she does say as much in her acknowledgements. I really did appreciate the idea of that in a thriller because I'm always down for diverse representation in genres that aren't contemporary.

However I did have a related problem, and this is going to sound a little odd so hear me out - this book is kind of ableist. There are several other disabled characters in Roz's special needs class and that's not always handled very well. I think the characters who are physically disabled are okay, if not great, but characters with intellectual disabilities in this are... kind of inspiration porn or otherwise they have no personality besides "disabled side character". There's even a moment where Roz is very "savior"-y and it's just kind of... gross.

Also aromisic language, the music mentioned kinda got dated real fast, and my last negative thing before I get this done with - the drama was boring and a lot of the plot was cliche. If you've read one "rich hot guy dates unpopular girl and then turns out to be a jerk" book, you've got a decent idea of a lot of this one.

The thing I disliked the most was that I thought this was a thriller going in, and I think it was meant to be one, but it spent way more time on the relationship/boy drama. In the end it's more of a contemporary with suspense elements. I don't know, this just didn't work for me like I wanted it to. Very mixed feelings overall.

TWs for a lot of vomiting, drugging, bullying, an implied teacher/student relationship (turns out to be false), attempted rape, and a ton of ableism.

Okay, I actually read this one in 2017 but I was originally planning to put this in a different blog post, but I never got around to it, so this review has just been sitting around for ages. So let's stick it here so I don't go into 2019 with it still in my blog drafts lol.

Thaw by Elyse Springer

Published: April 22nd, 2017 by Riptide Publishing
Genre: Adult Contemporary Romance
Binding: Ebook
Page Count: It says 226 on goodreads, but again, I read a kindle copy.
Part of a series? It is the second book in the "Seasons of Love" series, but the books can act as standalone books.
Got via: Luci gave it to me.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Abigail is content with her quiet life as a librarian. But when she’s invited to a high-profile charity auction, she finds herself dancing with one of the most beautiful women she’s ever met. Abby’s sure she’ll never see her again, but then Gabrielle calls and asks her on a date. And soon after, another.

Supermodel Gabrielle Levesque has a reputation as the Ice Queen—cold and untouchable—except she warms up whenever she’s with Abby. Only Abby isn’t interested in the heat between them; she’s asexual, and she’s worried that admitting as much to Gabrielle might spell the end of their blooming romance.

They’re two different women from two very different worlds, but Abby knows she can love Gabrielle. Her passion for books, travel, and theater prove there’s more to the Ice Queen than meets the eye. But they’ll have to overcome Abby’s fears—and Gabrielle’s own threatening secrets—in order to find their way to love.

Review: Let it be known Luci's talking me into this. Okay, so positives first because... I gotta have something positive in this. The main character is ace and the love interest (Gabrielle) is queer, although how she labels herself is never stated. Gabrielle is also a WOC. So those things are cool. I'll give the book that. I initially wanted to read it because I thought it had some representation that would get me a bingo square, and I'm always down for ace characters. Turns out, it didn't really work for the bingo square, and I didn't really love the ace rep.

On the ace rep front - this is a "doesn't like sex" ace rep book. The book does actually define asexuality as "not feeling sexual attraction" but it doesn't do very well separating the difference between not feeling sexual attraction and not wanting to have sex. It's generally treated as one and the same. When it's defined, too, the person doing it uses a very binary definition (using the phrase "opposite gender") which I was seriously not a fan of.

Honestly, I'm having trouble even knowing what to say. The ace rep in this just kind of made me feel bad. It wasn't really aro-friendly (Abby's mom is super aromisic and it's not really called out by Abby or the narrative) and I didn't connect to it at all. I also found the sex scene incredibly uncomfortable and somewhat coercive. Abby spends like 80% of the book saying she doesn't like sex and doesn't want to have it and then almost out of nowhere, there's a sex scene. And Abby doesn't feel good about the sex, so it's not like she liked sex once in a blue moon and this was one of the times. That doesn't leave me with a good feeling, you know? And especially not when I'm reading a romance!

Regarding the other things in the book - I didn't really love any of the characters. Gabrielle has boundary issues and some of the things she does are just... big red flags to me. Jealousy is not attractive. Abby is kind of immature, honestly, and she almost acts like a teenager, especially around her mother. I didn't really connect to the side characters, and in fact I was a little uncomfortable with how much they couldn't take a hint. Ace or not ace, sometimes your friend's sex life just isn't your business, and if they aren't responding to your joke, maybe back down.

Overall, the writing was a little clunky and didn't really draw me in. If you like this kind of trope in romance (the, "why is this hot rich person into me when I'm just a dowdy librarian" trope) and would have fun reading it because it's queer, you might like it. Honestly. But I wouldn't personally recommend it, and I had a lot of frustration with things that were included and the way some things were represented.

The Poisoner's Handbook by Deborah Blum

Published: February 18th, 2010 by Penguin Press
Genre: Adult Non-fiction
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 319 including the index, acknowledgements, author's note, reading list, and references. The part of the book where you're just reading is 278 pages.
Part of a series? No.
Got via: The library.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): A fascinating Jazz Age tale of chemistry and detection, poison and murder, The Poisoner's Handbook is a page-turning account of a forgotten era. In early twentieth-century New York, poisons offered an easy path to the perfect crime. Science had no place in the Tammany Hall-controlled coroner's office, and corruption ran rampant. However, with the appointment of chief medical examiner Charles Norris in 1918, the poison game changed forever. Together with toxicologist Alexander Gettler, the duo set the justice system on fire with their trailblazing scientific detective work, triumphing over seemingly unbeatable odds to become the pioneers of forensic chemistry and the gatekeepers of justice.

Thoughts: I read some weird books now and then for writing research. I tend to not talk about those books with you all because... well, they're odd and weird to write about, plus sometimes I'm more skimming them or reading only parts. It's just not as conducive to blogging.

However, I read this entire thing cover to cover, barring a few sections I may have skimmed a bit when the descriptions got a bit much for me. This is, after all, a book about poisoning and forensic science. It at times gets quite in depth into both the methods used to detect and learn about poisons, and the nature of that type of death. It can be rather brutal at times and if you're sensitive to that, or historical animal testing, I would not recommend you read this.

If you are interested in the beginnings of forensic science and, you know, poison, this could be right up your alley, though. As someone who doesn't read a ton of non-fiction, this was written in a very approachable manner.

A Night in Terror Tower by R. L. Stine (Goosebumps #27)

Published: January 1995 by Scholastic
Genre: MG Horror
Binding: Paperback
Page Count: 129 pages, plus an excerpt from the next book, an about the author, another ad for the next book, an ad for the goosebumps calender and a list of other books in the series. Books from this time period are so great sometimes.
Part of a series? Clearly. This is also reprinted as "Classic Goosebumps #12)
Got via: Some kind of secondhand sale. Not a rejected library book! For once in my life.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): ALL LOCKED UP AND NO PLACE TO GO!

Sue and her brother, Eddie, are visiting London when they run into a little problem. They can't find their tour group. Still, there's no reason to panic. No way their tour guide would just leave them. All alone. In a gloomy old prison tower.

No way they'd get locked inside. After dark. With those eerie sounds. And a strange dark figure who wants them...dead.

Thoughts: I was one book shy of 100 in my goodreads goal so I read a Goosebumps book to get me to 100. I have no shame. Did I even take notes for this? I don't think I did at all. It's a Goosebumps book. What do I really need to say here? It's a Goosebumps book. There's not a lot to it, but it was fun and very quick, which was what I needed because it was late and sometimes odd numbers bug me.

Though I will add that this is one of my fave episodes of the Goosebumps TV show XD

Alright, I need to go make some food. What have you all been reading lately?

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Saturday, January 5, 2019

2018 Wrap Up Post + 2019 Goals

This is a little late, oops. It's a busy time of year. 2018 has been... so very long and time no longer feels real. Let's talk about book stuff!

I posted 145 blog posts in 2018, which is awesome. I've actually only had one year with more posts, and that was way back in 2009 when I had motivation and stuff. I re-started doing posts like Can't Wait Wednesday and Book Blogger Hop to add more content, and I'm going to keep doing that. They work well for me.

Queer Summer Reading 2018 also went very well, if I do say so myself. That will return soon as well. Summer is coming eventually. (I tell myself, as it's -40.)

As for books, I read a solid 100. Which doesn't really jive so much with my "read less" goal but oh well. Let's talk about what I read. As usual, I will link my goodreads "Year in Books", and I made the usual pie chart.


Since I read 100 books this year, the percentage is also how many books are in each category. And the last three years for fun. Click to enlarge.



So, definitely a change in the comics section! I more than doubled how many comics I read this year. And as you know, I always read collected volumes, so times that number by 4 to get more of an idea of how many single issue comics I read this year.

Since I'm posting my reading challenge wrap-up first, here's the link to that.

I like having a book to challenge myself to read each month. It really helps with motivation, and doing a challenge that promotes reading diverse books also helps me be more mindful of what I'm reading, and what I need to read more of and I want to continue to do that. This year, I am going to the Fold (Festival of Literary Diversity)'s reading challenge, which I really like the sound of.

There's some stuff on here I don't normally read, and I am excited to read new stuff. I also want to continue to do the "Beat the Backlist" challenge, as I find that very satisfying, even if I didn't do the best at it. I got a new bookshelf for Christmas and I want to organize it XD Remind me to sign up for that once I post this, lol.

And last but not least, I'm setting my goodreads goal to 60 this year, to go easy on myself, and I again am going to the 50 Book Challenge 'cause it's fun, even though the website is buggy as heck sometimes.

So, that's about everything for now! How did your 2018 go? Are you excited for 2019? I am dearly hoping it treats us better than 2018 did.

Thanks for reading all year.

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Friday, January 4, 2019

Book Blogger Hop (21)

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: Any books you are looking forward to for 2019?

THERE ARE SO MANY. I legit have a goodreads shelf with 150 books I'm excited about coming out in 2019/2020. Plus I do a post every week, you might have noticed?

Here's a few others!

ROW 1: The Bone Garden by Heather Kassner, The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf, Come Find Me by Megan Miranda, Castle of Lies by Kiersi Burkhart, and The Owls Have Come to Take Us Away by Ronald L. Smith.

ROW 2: Girls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young, Squad by Mariah MacCarthy, Death Prefers Blondes by Caleb Roehrig, Someday We Will Fly by Rachel DeWoskin, Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams.

ROW 3: Midsummer's Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca, Before the Broken Star by Emily R. King, These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling, The Pursuit of Miss Heartbreak Hotel by Monique Bonneau, and Going Off-Script by Jen Wilde.

ROW 4: Again, but Better by Christine Riccio, Missing, Presumed Dead by Emma Berquist, The Goodbye Summer by Sarah Van Name, Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo, and Tinfoil Crowns by Erin Jones.

ROW 5: Last Girl Lied To by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn, In the Neighborhood of True by Susan Kaplan Carlton, Love and Other Curses by Michael Thomas Ford, The Black Coats by Colleen Oakes, and Other Words for Home by Jasmine Wargo.

ROW 6: The Multiplying Mysteries of Mount Ten by Krista Van Dolzer, Emily Out of Focus by Miriam Spitzer Franklin, My Fate According to the Butterfly by Gail D. Villanueva, Just South of Home by Karen Strong, and Hot Dog Girl by Jennifer Dugan.

That's a pretty good start, I think!

Peace and cookies,
Laina

Thursday, January 3, 2019

2018 Reading Challenge Finale

In 2018 I did a couple reading challenges. The first of which was Platypire's Diversity 2018 challenge, which frankly wasn't my favourite challenge. Some of the phrasing I really am not too fond of and it seems like the host kind of abandoned it, but it was all I could find at the time.

Let's talk about what I read, though. I have reviews for most of this, but I don't feel like linking them up so just search if you want to find them.

January's theme - "Biracial Awareness"

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Published: September 8th, 2016 by Duet Books
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Welcome to Andover… where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef-up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship—only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain.

On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, who Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

February's theme - "Black History Month"

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Published: August 28th, 2014 by Nancy Paulsen Books
Genre: Middle Grade Non-Fiction/Memoir... in verse.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.

Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

March's theme - "Woman History Month" and non-fiction only

All Day: A Year of Love and Survival Teaching Incarcerated Kids at Rikers Island, New York's Most Notorious Jail by Liza Jessie Peterson

Published: May 2nd, 2017
Genre: Adult Memoir
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Eighteen years ago, performance artist Liza Jessie Peterson never thought that her day of substitute teaching at Rikers Island C-74 would change the course of her life, but it did. It ignited a lifelong passion--which continues in her work with incarcerated kids today--to make a difference in the lives of youth in trouble.

Her powerful narrative captures the essence, humor, intellect, creativity and psychology of children in the penal system. She intimately introduces readers to her students. We see them, smell their musk, feel their attitudes, hear their voices and learn how they came to be jailed--residents of "the island."

Everyone in the classroom grows-including the teacher-in this must-read memoir for anyone who cares about children and education. Peterson's perspective and insights will make any teacher a better teacher. This book will encourage and empower anyone committed to social justice.

April's theme - "Arab Heritage Month"

A Girl Like That by Tanaz Bhathena

Published: February 27th, 2018 by Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers which I believe is an imprint of Macmillan.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Sixteen-year-old Zarin Wadia is many things: a bright and vivacious student, an orphan, a risk taker. She’s also the kind of girl that parents warn their kids to stay away from: a troublemaker whose many romances are the subject of endless gossip at school. You don't want to get involved with a girl like that, they say.

So how is it that eighteen-year-old Porus Dumasia has only ever had eyes for her? And how did Zarin and Porus end up dead in a car together, crashed on the side of a highway in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia?

When the religious police arrive on the scene, everything everyone thought they knew about Zarin is questioned. And as her story is pieced together, told through multiple perspectives, it becomes clear that she was far more than just a girl like that.

May's theme - "Asian/Pacific Islander History Month"

Shadow Girl by Liana Liu

Published: December 19th, 2017 by HarperTeen
Genre: YA horror
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): The house on Arrow Island is full of mystery.

Yet when Mei arrives, she can’t help feeling relieved. She’s happy to spend the summer in an actual mansion tutoring a rich man’s daughter if it means a break from her normal life—her needy mother, her delinquent brother, their tiny apartment in the city. And Ella Morison seems like an easy charge, sweet and well behaved.

What Mei doesn’t know is that something is very wrong in the Morison household.

Though she tries to focus on her duties, Mei becomes increasingly distracted by the family’s problems and her own complicated feelings for Ella’s brother, Henry. But most disturbing of all are the unexplained noises she hears at night—the howling and thumping and cries.

Mei is a sensible girl. She isn’t superstitious; she doesn’t believe in ghosts. Yet she can’t shake her fear that there is danger lurking in the shadows of this beautiful house, a darkness that could destroy the family inside and out… and Mei along with them.

June's theme - "LGBT Pride Summer"

Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault

Published: To be released June 26th, 2018 by the Kraken Collective
Genre: Adult Urban Fantasy with some science fiction elements
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound / Gumroad / Everywhere else

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.

July's theme - "LGBT Pride Summer"

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Published: March 6th, 2018 by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
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?

August's theme - "Mental Health Awareness"

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Published: March 14, 2017 by Swoon Reads
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

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.

September's theme - "Hispanic History Month"

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez

Published: August 22nd, 2017 by Viking Books for Young Readers
Genre: Contemporary MG
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): There are no shortcuts to surviving your first day at a new school--you can't fix it with duct tape like you would your Chuck Taylors. On Day One, twelve-year-old Malu (Maria Luisa, if you want to annoy her) inadvertently upsets Posada Middle School's queen bee, violates the school's dress code with her punk rock look, and disappoints her college-professor mom in the process. Her dad, who now lives a thousand miles away, says things will get better as long as she remembers the first rule of punk: be yourself.

The real Malu loves rock music, skateboarding, zines, and Soyrizo (hold the cilantro, please). And when she assembles a group of like-minded misfits at school and starts a band, Malu finally begins to feel at home. She'll do anything to preserve this, which includes standing up to an anti-punk school administration to fight for her right to express herself!

October's theme - "Physical Disability Awareness Month"

Blind Spot by Laura Ellen

Published: October 23rd, 2012 by Harcourt Children's Books
Genre: YA... well, sort of a thriller but more contemporary. I'll go into that.
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Missing things is nothing new to sixteen-year-old Roz. She lives with macular degeneration, an eye disease that robs her of her central vision (and, it seems, her best friends). Every day, Roz has to piece together fragments to make sense of the world around her. She's always managed to get along fine without help, but when she's placed in a special needs class, Roz begins a desperate attempt to prove she's "normal" - and soon her world spins out of control.

A classmate's body floats to the surface of Alaska’s Birch River six months after the night she disappeared. The night Roz Hart had a fight with her. The night Roz can’t remember. Now only Roz's ability to piece together she missed that fateful night can clear her name... and lead to a murderer. But not only has her eyesight betrayed her, her memory has too. How can Roz discover the truth when she can't even trust herself?

The part where I talk: I thought I accidentally skipped a month but I guess not. Okay, I didn't actually read it until December, but I still read it, so I'm counting it. I was sure I dnfed a challenge book, but maybe I just didn't read it that month.

November's theme - "Native American History Month"

Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knuttson

Published: June 5th, 2012 by Atheneum
Genre: YA Dystopian
Amazon / Book Depository / Indiebound

Summary (from goodreads): Two hundred years from now, blood has become the most valuable commodity on the planet— especially the blood of aboriginal peoples, for it contains antibodies that protect them from the Plague ravaging the rest of the world.

Sixteen-year-old Cassandra Mercredi might be immune to Plague, but that doesn't mean she's safe— government forces are searching for those of aboriginal heritage to harvest their blood. When a search threatens Cassandra and her family, they flee to the Island: a mysterious and idyllic territory protected by the Band, a group of guerrilla warriors— and by an enigmatic energy barrier that keeps outsiders out and the spirit world in. And though the village healer has taken her under her wing, and the tribal leader's son into his heart, the creatures of the spirit world are angry, and they have chosen Cassandra to be their voice and instrument...

The part where I talk: I also only read this one in December. Possibly on the last day of December. Close enough to November :P I also cheated this one a bit, since I wanted to read something speculative and I was interested in reading something by a Canadian author, so I didn't exactly follow the guideline.

December's theme - "Religious Minorities"

God Smites and Other Muslim Girl Problems by Ishara Deen

Published: January 15th, 2017 by Deeya Publishing Inc.
Genre: Contemporary YA
Amazon / Author's website with other links

Summary (from goodreads): LIKE NANCY DREW, BUT NOT...

Craving a taste of teenage life, Asiya Haque defies her parents to go for a walk (really, it was just a walk!) in the woods with Michael, her kind-of-friend/crush/the guy with the sweetest smile she’s ever seen. Her tiny transgression goes completely off track when they stumble on a dead body. Michael covers for Asiya, then goes missing himself.

Despite what the police say, Asiya is almost sure Michael is innocent. But how will she, the sheltered girl with the strictest parents ever, prove anything? With Michael gone, a rabid police officer in desperate need of some sensitivity training, and the murderer out there, how much will Asiya risk to do what she believes is right?

And for Beat the Backlist, I read

1. Angels Fall by Nora Roberts
2. You by Charles Benoit
3. Ruined by Paula Morris
4. The Haunting of Cassie Palmer by Vivian Alcock
5. The Gifting by Ann Gabhart
6. Below the Root by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
7. The Dark Garden by Margaret Buffie
8. The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson
9. Abel's Island by William Steig
10. The Summer of the Falcon by Jean Craighead George
11. Sarah and Katie by Dori White
12. Cheater, Cheater by Elizabeth Levy
13. Sisters Red by Jason Pearce
14. The Clearing by Heather Davis
15. Remembering Raquel by Vivian Vande Velde
16. The Callender Papers by Cynthia Voigt
17. The Vandemark Mummy by Cynthia Voigt
18. The Weekend Was Murder by Joan Lowery Nixon
19. The Specter by Joan Lowery Nixon
20. Choker by Elizabeth Woods
21. No More Heroes by Michelle Kan
22. Three Sisters by Norma Fox Mazer
23. Do You Want Fries With That? by Martyn Godfrey
24. Who Let Girls in the Boys' Locker Room by Elaine Moore
25. Veronica the Show-Off by Nancy K. Robinson
26. Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai
27. The Assassin Game by Kirsty McKay
28. A Night in Terror Tower by R. L. Stine

I would have liked to do more than 28 out 100, but that's not a bad place.

Oh I took pictures too! Okay, these are fun. So I started putting all the books I'd read that I own in a box in my closet around May or June, because I wanted a physical representation of them. Let's talk about that.


The books on the left are books I read and decided to get rid of, and the books on the right are the books I read and decided to keep.


These are books I started to read and dnfed or thought I was going to read but decided I wasn't really interested in them, and I'm going to pass along. I liked doing this, honestly. It was very interesting to look back on the physical proof of my Beat the Backlist challenge.

And that's everything for this year's challenges! Nice to be all caught up again.

How did you do on your reading challenges this year?

Peace and cookies,
Laina