Read Proud Listen Proud

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Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series—I Am Jazz—making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.

In her remarkable memoir, Jazz reflects on these very public experiences and how they have helped shape the mainstream attitude toward the transgender community. But it hasn’t all been easy. Jazz has faced many challenges, bullying, discrimination, and rejection, yet she perseveres as she educates others about her life as a transgender teen. Through it all, her family has been beside her on this journey, standing together against those who don’t understand the true meaning of tolerance and unconditional love. Now Jazz must learn to navigate the physical, social, and emotional upheavals of adolescence—particularly high school—complicated by the unique challenges of being a transgender teen. Making the journey from girl to woman is never easy—especially when you began your life in a boy’s body.

In honor of her upcoming book release, Jazz Jennings has been named Penguin Random House’s Author Ambassador for Read Proud Listen Proud. Read Proud Listen Proud was introduced in June 2015 as an online resource for kids and teens, as well as their parents, teachers and librarians, to find LGBTQ literature that encourages understanding and acceptance, celebrating everyone for who they are through the power of storytelling. You can check out the newly revamped site here and check out Jazz herself in the video below.

Being Jazz doesn’t come out until June 7, 2016, until then here are some other great books to check out:
Lily and Dunkin by Donna Gephardt
Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki
She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Jae is a slave in a dying desert world.

Once verdant with water from a magical Well, the land is drying up, and no one remembers the magic needed to keep the water flowing. If a new source isn’t found soon, the people will perish. Jae doesn’t mind, in a way. By law, she is bound by a curse to obey every order given her, no matter how vile. At least in death, she’ll be free.

Lord Elan’s family rules the fading realm. He comes to the estate where Jae works, searching for the hidden magic needed to replenish the Well, but it’s Jae who finds it, and she who must wield it. Desperate to save his realm, Elan begs her to use it to locate the Well.

But why would a slave—abused, beaten, and treated as less than human—want to save the system that shackles her? Jae would rather see the world burn.

Though revenge clouds her vision, she agrees to help if the kingdom’s slaves are freed. Then Elan’s father arrives. The ruler’s cruelty knows no limits. He is determined that the class system will not change—and that Jae will remain a slave forever.

Paperback Celebration & Giveaway

To celebrate the paperback release of Sophie Kinsella’s Finding Audrey, we are reposting our 4.5 Bard review of this amazing contemporary novel, and we are hosting a giveaway!

Check out the review and enter to win below!

Finding Audrey Paperback Cover

As a reader who devoured Sophie Kinsella’s Shopaholic series, I jumped at the opportunity to participate in the blog tour for her first foray into young adult literature.

Kinsella has expertly tapped into the growing contemporary corner of young adult that focuses on teens dealing with mental illness.  There are a number of narratives out that deal with depression and suicide, but Kinsella takes on the equally complex social and generalized anxiety disorders.

The characterization of Audrey’s family is really a shining point in this story.  I absolutely adore how Kinsella has explored how different parents and children are in relation to technology.  Granted, a lot of this is exacerbated by Audrey’s mother’s obsession with the Daily Mail.  As an American a lot of my knowledge of the Daily Mail comes from my roommate, who is British, and John Cleese.  Both of them hate the Daily Mail and consider it trash news, which is exactly how it is portrayed in this story so it really just firmed up my belief that we shouldn’t read the Daily Mail.  It’s kind of sad that Audrey’s mother is so wrapped up in believing what some article tells her that it dictates what she does in relation to her children, but it isn’t wholly unbelievable or unrealistic.  It makes her a bit ridiculous and endearing at the same time which is why it is brilliant.

Kinsella Jacket Photo credit John Swannell

Audrey is such a wonderfully complex character.  Her voice is distinct and witty, but still reserved at the same time.  In fact, her voice is one of the things that sets her apart and exemplifies her anxiety almost as well as the situations she describes.  I also enjoyed the breaking of the fourth wall in certain parts of the story.  Frank was what I would consider a typical 13 year old boy to be.  He is obsessed with playing a World of Warcraft type of game and aspires to do that as an official job.  I mean, I think that is a dream job for a lot of gamer kids.  He is snarky, stubborn, and just a bit insufferable.  Frank was an excellent character. The other two family members, Audrey’s father and youngest brother Felix, are the least developed, but it definitely didn’t take away from the narrative.  I actually quite enjoyed the father’s befuddled and somewhat absent-minded attitude.

There is an adorable first love situation going on in Finding Audrey and it is just everything I wish I could have had at 14.  It’s realistic and awkward and really well done.  The synopsis kind of makes it seem like Linus is the whole reason for Audrey being able to start down the path to recovery, but I think that Audrey just needed that little push.  Linus was just a side effect of the push, a good side effect.  Kinsella did such a good job of explaining how recovery and learning to live with mental illness really is like a jagged graph.  There will be highs, lows, stable days, completely messed up days, and everything in between.

Overall I think that Kinsella kicked off the young adult aspect of her career very strongly, and I hope she will continue to contribute to the genre.

4.5 Bards

four.fivebards

 

 

 

 

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Book Review: Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Julia has the unusual ability to be . . . unseen. Not invisible, exactly. Just beyond most people’s senses.

It’s a dangerous trait in a city that has banned all forms of magic and drowns witches in public Cleansings. But it’s a useful trait for a thief and a spy. And Julia has learned–crime pays.

Her latest job is paying very well indeed. Julia is posing as a housemaid in the grand house of Mrs. Och, where an odd assortment of characters live and work: A disgraced professor who sends her to fetch parcels containing bullets, spiders, and poison. An aristocratic houseguest who is locked in the basement each night. And a mysterious young woman who is clearly in hiding–though from what or whom?

Worse, Julia suspects that there’s a connection between these people and the killer leaving a trail of bodies across the frozen city.

The more she learns, the more she wants to be done with this unnatural job. To go back to the safety of her friends and fellow thieves. But Julia is entangled in a struggle between forces more powerful than she’d ever imagined. Escape will come at a terrible price. 

Release Date: June 7, 2016

I will be the first to tell you that the first novel I read after the absolutely amazing second installment of Sarah J Maas’ A Court of Thorns and Roses series was going to have a hard time catching my attention. However, Catherine Egan’s Julia Vanishes was up to the task.

The novel is set in some time period/fantasy world amalgamation of the Gaslight era with a bit of magical Steampunk thrown in.  It’s still a world where there is the clear proletariat/working class and a bourgeois that suppress the continued existence of magic and magical beings.  In fact, within the first third, the main character discusses and witnesses the murder of women who are accused of witchcraft.

Narratively speaking, the plot starts as a very slow burn and advances in a very natural way toward the climax and the culmination of the story.  I really enjoy Julia (also known as Ella) as a character and I found her no-nonsense, straight-forward first person narration to be rather indicative of her personality and it made me like her and connect with her much more on a personal level.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I really love when an author acknowledges and puts sexually active teens into their stories.  It is realistic and befitting of characters, like Julia and Wyn, who are in love to be sexual with one another.  It isn’t blatant and it isn’t smutty, but it is respectful scenes that indicate the act, rather than show it.  Which is still the common practice in YA, but it still gets the point across.  It is okay to be sexually active and safe.  I mean, Wyn isn’t exactly the best of male characters and I’d caution anyone to selecting him as a book boyfriend, but he really is relegated to the background.

This story is Julia’s story of knowledge and coming to find out who she is and what she is willing to do for money versus those she cares about.

I think this is a good first installment, and I have high hopes for the next installment, as this one is billed as Witch’s Child, #1.

The book is already available for pre-order and you can click on the links below my Bard selection!

I’m giving Julia Vanishes a solid 3.5 Bard rating.

3.5bards

 

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: November 15, 2016

Orion does not intend to spend the rest of her life down Tunnel 9. It is her duty as a subpar to mine—as it has been for all subpars, ever since the radioactive flash curtain fell, nearly destroying all life. Orion, the most gifted of the miners, knows she can earn her ticket out and into the protected city of Alara with 400 grams of cirium, the only element that prevents radiation sickness.

But everything is not as it seems. When Orion learns a truth that challenges all she’s ever known, she embarks on a quest for something far more precious than cirium: freedom. Along with Dram, her caving partner and the boy she might love, Orion sets out on a mission of rebellion and survival.

Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

Holy nail biting absolutely jaw-dropping awesomeness.

As I put in one of my tumblr posts about ACOMAF, this whole novel can basically be summed up in this gif:

Basically.

The entire novel is pretty much Feyre finally coming into her own as a high fae and discovering her own worth is within herself and that she is not just the woman who saved the entire fae race for the sake of first love.

Speaking of said first love, the best part of me reading this and remembering that the first novel was supposed to be a kind of Beauty & the Beast type of story, was realizing that Tamlin is actually the Gaston of the story and Rhysand is the Beast. Reasoning? Gaston consistently referred to Belle as serving as his loving, doting, “little” wife, who would be responsible for his household while he is out hunting and galavanting.  Belle, and Feyre, want more than this “provincial” life.  The only saving grace for Tamlin in opposed to Gaston is that he seems to genuinely love Feyre, whereas Gaston just wanted Belle because she was the prettiest lady in the land.

As for Rhysand being the misunderstood man who served his time as a beast underneath the mountain and thought he would never see light (literally and figuratively) or love again, gives Feyre/Belle her own space in his home to heal herself and find home.  He even has a merry band of amazing friends a la Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, etc that Feyre befriends and grows to love.  Speaking of his friends, Mor is my favorite of the new characters. Her quote, “There are good days and hard days for me – Even now. Don’t let the hard days win,” is one of my favorites from the novel. MOR YOU ARE A BEAUTIFUL LAND MERMAID AND NO MAN SHALL TAME YOU OR CLAIM YOU, AS YOU HAVE CLAIMED YOURSELF.

There’s such an interesting juxtaposition between the Spring Court and the Night Court.  The Spring Court relegates Feyre, and consequently most women, to her miniscule role within their court, just a figurehead of the triumph Under the Mountain, rather than someone with actual opinions and powers.  However, the Night Court heralds two women as the second and third in command, providing them with the ability to govern themselves and have opinions in the matters of the court.  Not only does this environment allow Feyre to blossom and grow into her new abilities and life as an immortal, it literally restores her from the waif she was becoming while in Tamlin’s household.

Seriously though, Rhysand, Mor, Cassian, Azriel, and Amren are squad goals.

I’m just going to put this here: Chapters 54 & 55 are jaw-dropping. Love it. I refuse to spoil these for you, just read the book and get to this part!

The end was absolutely awe inspiring and the little knowledge at the end that the conflict between these two courts and the King of Hybern is nowhere near completed is making me so anxious for the next novel that I’m tempted to steal a timelord, hop in the Tardis and go get the next novel now.

If you haven’t read the first novel, A Court of Thorns and Roses, you can check out my review by clicking on the title. (Yes you will realize that I was on Tamlin’s side at first. Big mistake on my part. Or was it just clever writing and character construction?) Or if you found yourself underwhelmed by the first installment, I highly encourage you to pick up a copy of A Court of Mist and Fury, you will not be disappointed by the “wow women are powerful,” vibe and the smutty goodness.

I could keep gushing, but I’ll just end it with this:

5 Bards.

fivebards

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

 

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: September 27, 2016

Seventeen-year-old Snow has spent the majority of her life within the walls of the Whittaker Institute, a high security mental hospital in upstate New York. Deep down, she knows she’s not crazy and doesn’t belong there. When she meets a mysterious, handsome new orderly and dreams about a strange twisted tree she realizes she must escape and figure out who she really is.

Using her trusting friend Bale as a distraction, Snow breaks free and races into the nearby woods. Suddenly, everything isn’t what it seems, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur, and she finds herself in icy Algid–her true home–with witches, thieves, and a strangely alluring boy named Kai, none of whom she’s sure she can trust. As secret after secret is revealed, Snow discovers that she is on the run from a royal lineage she’s destined to inherit, a father more powerful and ruthless than she could have imagined, and choices of the heart that could change the fate of everything…including Snow’s return to the world she once knew.

Book Review: The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

theravenkingNothing living is safe. Nothing dead is to be trusted.

For years, Gansey has been on a quest to find a lost king. One by one, he’s drawn others into this quest: Ronan, who steals from dreams; Adam, whose life is no longer his own; Noah, whose life is no longer a lie; and Blue, who loves Gansey…and is certain she is destined to kill him.

Now the endgame has begun. Dreams and nightmares are converging. Love and loss are inseparable. And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path.

When I walked into the Raven Boys fandom earlier this year, around two months ago, I was a good four years late.  My experience coming into the fandom so late was kind of like this gif:

Everyone was freaking out about Gansey, Blue, Adam, and Ronan and I was just coming in with pizza and asking to join in the fun.

You can check out my reviews of The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves. I was a bit slack and never wrote one for Blue Lily, Lily Blue because I was too excited about the release of the final installment.

Now, this gif can also kind of describe how I felt going into the final novel of the Raven Cycle anyway, because I was expecting to just be completely surprised, duped, and amazed by what I read.

I was.

First and foremost let me address the obvious: Yes, Gansey DOES die.  I appreciate Maggie being so open and positively adamant about Gansey “going down,” to put it in her words.  It was poignant and necessary, and despite having known about his impending doom since the first page of the first installment, it still was so amazing.  We got everything we desired out of it, the true love’s kiss and all.

The story picks up very soon after the end of Blue Lily, Lily Blue, and readers are thrust immediately into the aftermath of Maura’s return with Artemis (who is literally hiding in a closet), and how it is going to affect the overall arch of the story.

Stiefvater’s writing is just as succinct as in the previous installments, and even the introduction of three new characters was seamless and felt absolutely necessary to the progression of the narrative.

Shippers will be so happy with this installment as Lynch x Parrish finally becomes officially canon (which was confirmed by Maggie herself, so don’t come screaming spoilers to me! *hides*).  I’m not going to lie, I immediately texted Olyvia to tell her that it was happening, and that I was not ready for the goodness.  While it isn’t an overly descriptive section of the novel, it is perfectly done in order for readers to be able to imagine it on their own, and it gives plenty of leeway for those fan fictions that I know are already floating around in the internet-sphere.

Noah. My sweet baby Noah. You deserved to live.  You deserved to be there and celebrate the culmination of the narrative with your best friends.  You deserved so much.  But, I love how Stiefvater still made him so intricately involved in the plot.  He was the most excellent example of a character who had lost his “muchness,” (to quote Alice Through the Looking Glass), but was still so important to the entire Raven gang.  I really wish there had been a little bit more closure between him and Blue, but that is beacause I think they had such a beautiful friendship.

Speaking of developing friendships, I really could not have been more pleased with the development between Ronan and Blue, as I really think they are almost two sides of the same coin.  The loves of Adam and Gansey’s lives, respectively, with hot tempers and overtly opinionated personalities.  A small gesture in the epilogue really brought it to fruition and I loved it.

There were disappointments and great successes in the culmination of The Raven Cycle, and overall I think that the entire plot was well executed and what I would consider the best of Stiefvater’s writing so far.

Olyvia and I both really enjoyed it and we were both left with some questions, as every good novel should provide, but the story was just wonderful.

Make way for 5 Bards for the Raven King!

fivebards

 

 

 

 

Book Review: A Totally Awkward Love Story by Tom Ellen & Lucy Ivison

The summer before college, Hannah swears she’s finally going to find The One. And for five perfect minutes, Hannah does find him. He’s cute and makes her laugh like crazy. She just wishes she’d caught his name, because Toilet Boy Cinderella really lacks sex appeal.
 
For Sam, the summer is off to a bad start for a million reasons. But for five minutes his luck changes: in a fancy restroom painted purple like it belongs in a Bond villain hideaway, Sam falls head over heels for some strange and hilarious girl. Of course, he doesn’t know her name. With his luck, he’ll never see her again, and he’ll remain a girlfriendless, moony-eyed virgin. Forever.
 
But another chance meeting brings them together, only to have a chance misunderstanding drive them apart . . . and then the cycle starts all over again. Madcap mishaps, raunchy hilarity, and deep romance follow these two wherever they go. For two people so clearly destined for each other, they sure have a hell of a lot of trouble even getting together.

True Fact: I am a giant Anglophile. My best friend is British, my cousin and her husband live there, and my college roommate and friend is British as well.  I grew up in a household that lauded The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Monty Python, and Doctor Who.  My point is that any novel that is set in Britain, imported to the American market from Britain, or has a character vacationing or visiting from Britain is going to capture my attention immediately.

So suffice it to say that when I realized that this was a quintessential British teen novel I was pretty excited.

Side note: Apparently the original title was “Lobsters,” a reference to Ross and Rachel on F.R.I.E.N.D.S. I kind of wish this title had stuck!  Although, it is possible that maybe publicists didn’t think some of the newer teen generation might not understand the reference, but I have faith they would have.

While I do find the whole archaic idea of “needing to find the one,” or “losing your virginity,” before you graduate from high school/secondary school a bit ridiculous.  However, in this case, I feel that the narrative is somewhat aware of this farcical ideal and takes it to a hilarious level.

meevegalentines

Gratuitous shout out to my main Brit, Eve. (She’s the brunette. She looks pretty damn British, right?)

After being close friends with one and best friends with another British woman, I know how different the culture of sex and alcohol is in Britain compared to here in America, specifically in the South, where I grew up.  Sex is much more accepted in teenagers in Britain and it is much less of a taboo subject, so I find the frankness about virginity, hormonal and horny teens to be a breath of fresh air and something that should be more widely accepted in the young adult genre.  Sure, it can be a little polarizing for some readers who are not used to that type of open discussion, but I think it is well done and done in a hilarious way.  But, for parents who are worried about that, then maybe this book should be better suited for your older teens.

The drinking age in England is 18, but it is widely accepted that adults can buy their 16 and 17 year olds a drink.  It isn’t a big deal there like it is in America.  So I found this a completely normal aspect of the British teen novel.

My only real issue with this novel is all of the point of view shifts, because sometimes it really just didn’t create distinguishable voices at points. But overall the book is funny, endearing, blunt, risky, and just plain entertaining.

totallyawkwardlovestory

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One of my favorite parts is probably little noticed by other readers: “I only became aware of how ridiculous I looked when I turned onto the main street.  No one else was walking by themselves, let alone in their pajamas.” –pg 149.  I literally laughed out loud at this part, because the last time I was in England it was winter and my best friend absolutely refused to let me go outside and down the block in my pajamas to just get a bottle of water. It is just NOT DONE, she told me, and INAPPROPRIATE. So this just reminded me of the ridiculous fight we had about whether or not I could go out in my sweats. See?  You’ll learn all kinds of things about British culture.

4.5 Bards.

four.fivebards

 

 

 

 

Waiting on Wednesday

waiting on wednesday

Every week Breaking the Spine hosts the bookish meme for book bloggers to share what books they are waiting on to be released!  This week I’m waiting on:

Release Date: June 28, 2016

Modern-day Toronto: Sisters Crystal and Becca Hatcher are reunited after reclaiming the Bronze Codex and narrowly escaping death. They have no one to trust but each other, and the only thing keeping them safe is the book that sent Becca’s spirit to Ancient Mytica–the same book that their enemies would kill them for.

Ancient Mytica: Maddox grapples to keep his newly discovered powers under control, while the ruthless goddess Valoria hunts him down.

Modern-day Toronto: Farrell embraces his dark side as he unwittingly falls further under the spell of Markus, the mastermind leader of the nefarious Hawkspear Society, who will stop at nothing to find Crys and Becca–and the remarkable book in their possession.

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