TTBF Author Repost Guest Review: More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera


Team Midsummer, Jessica & Lyv, are attending the Texas Teen Book Festival again this year in Austin, TX! To prepare and get ourselves amped-up for this event, we are reposting some of our reviews by some of the TTBF 17 authors!

This review was originally posted on October 31, 2016

eveThis review was done by another one of Team Midsummer’s favorite people, Eve.  She has submitted reviews to us before, so we were excited to have her on board for LGBT History Month! Thanks so much, Eve!

 

 

 

In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again—but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely. 

When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is. 

Why does happiness have to be so hard?

I was immediately drawn into narrative of this intriguing novel, although I’ll confess to being a little suspicious of its potential similarity to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, with a sexuality angle rather than the desire to forget a past heartbreaking romantic relationship. But I was impressed by the way the focus wasn’t specifically on any one of the main issues addressed by the story, but rather a cleverly crafted weaving of the elements of grief, mental health, class and social structures, teen relationships, and love developing outside of an expected heteronormative paradigm. For this reason, while the book certainly addresses the complexities and struggle of coming out, I found the whole story to be involving and important – not just the relationship between Aaron and Thomas. It also isn’t a copy of Eternal Sunshine – it has one similar element, the neuroscience of forgetting, but it fans out to be much greater than that.

One thing I will note, because it stood out to me so much while reading that I texted Jess about it at the time, is that Aaron and Thomas say, “No homo” to each other a seemingly inordinate amount of times in the space of two pages. Now, it may be my heterosexual, cisgender privilege showing that I have never had to clarify my sexuality while interacting in an affectionate way with someone of the same sex as me, but I did feel that this phrase was somewhat overused. I’d be interested to know if this is a common experience among young men, because perhaps this phrase is used so frequently and that is part of the culture of hiding homosexual attraction.

Aside from this, the character development seemed very natural and totally solid within a few chapters – I feel like I know Aaron Soto, his friends and family, and have an understanding of his perspective on the world. The outstanding part of this book for me was how bravely and easily it tackled upsetting and painful topics, making it comfortable for the reader to continue (albeit through tears) even when the characters were suffering. Silvera does not shy away from the impact of suicide nor from the violence inherent in some relationships. On top of that, the balance of wit and warmth is spot on, throughout the happy moments and the hard ones.

I don’t want to give away too much about the plot but there are twists, and they’re the delicious ones that you sort of see coming but still have to pause and take a moment to think back on and process them once they do happen. The story will have you feeling all of the emotions and, while it certainly has a central homosexual relationship, I think it actually is a more profound commentary on humanity as a whole.

4.75 Bards

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Blog Tour Review: The Whole Thing Together by Ann Brashares

Summer for Sasha and Ray means the sprawling old house on Long Island. Since they were children, they’ve shared almost everything—reading the same books, running down the same sandy footpaths to the beach, eating peaches from the same market, laughing around the same sun-soaked dining table. Even sleeping in the same bed, on the very same worn cotton sheets. But they’ve never met.

Sasha’s dad was once married to Ray’s mom, and together they had three daughters: Emma, the perfectionist; Mattie, the beauty; and Quinn, the favorite. But the marriage crumbled and the bitterness lingered. Now there are two new families—and neither one will give up the beach house that holds the memories, happy and sad, of summers past.

The choices we make come back to haunt us; the effect on our destinies ripples out of our control…or does it? This summer, the lives of Sasha, Ray, and their siblings intersect in ways none of them ever dreamed, in a novel about family relationships, keeping secrets, and most of all, love.

Release Date: April 25, 2017

When I started The Whole Thing Together, I immediately fell for Sasha and Ray.  I loved the way they spoke about each other.  Almost reverent tones reflected the lovely thoughts they each held for the other.  Ray reminisced about the summer they built a Lego city together and talked about the safety he found in their shared bed. Sasha mused about his stubble in the sink and their shared copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.  I was hooked from the start on the beautiful things they thought about the other and the fact that while they didn’t know each other, they had feelings beyond fondness.

As we stepped into the lives of the rest of the family, however, I had less love.  I felt disinterested in Emma’s perfection, irritated by Quinn’s sage thoughtfulness and downright hated Mattie’s bratty behavior.  I pressed on through the drama and the hardship though.  It was worth it for the beauty and simplicity of Ray and Sasha and their sweetness.  I rolled my eyes at the arrogant Robert, the timid Jamie & Evie and the flighty Lila.  Adam and Jonathan were barely on my radar.  Overwhelmed by character names? I was too, at first.  I often wondered, why did she include all these other character’s stories, why not just focus on Ray and Sasha and their perspective.

However, as I read on I began to relate to Emma and it hit me, this family was a lot like my own.  My parents were divorced when I was young and growing up I often wondered if they would ever be able to be in the same room without a brawl breaking out.  I have five younger brothers and sisters in total and I don’t bother with explaining the halves of any siblings.  As Ann Brashares newest book came to its conclusion, the answer to my question became clear.  Brashares included the stories of each character and the perspective of each kid because that’s how a family works.  If something happens in a family that seems small to one person, it can ripple its way to another and they can get hit by wave.  I used to think about this a lot as a kid.  Worry about how my life choices could hurt my mom or drive away my dad.  Eventually, thankfully, I discovered that our lives can’t be lived that way.  Everything we do can affect those we love but that doesn’t mean we should make choices for everyone else. It is the opposite actually. Choose love, kindness and goodness and it will give you the strength to ride out the waves that can be created.  This book reminded me of the importance of family, the good, the bad and the ugly.

It is a beautiful picture of love in its purest form and its darkest (also known as hate).  Life is not as two dimensional as it can seem; sometimes we are an Emma- overachieving our hearts out, occasionally we are a Mattie- misbehaving for attention or to hide a truth unspoken and maybe a few of you are lucky enough to be a Quinn- wise and thoughtful.  I strive to be a Sasha- modest, brave and overcoming my anxieties with love and beautiful thoughts.

This is a great story for teens and adults and just to top it off, it’s set at the beach, bringing the concept of ripple to wave full circle.

4.5 bards

 

 

Special thanks to contributor Lesley for reading and reviewing this book for A Midsummer Night’s Read.

 

 

 

#ReadIndie Book Review: Colorblind by Siera Maley

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Team Midsummer is proud to support Indie Author, Siera Maley, in our first READ INDIE review of the month!  Special thanks to contributor, Lesley, for reading and reviewing this excellent Indie novel!

Harper has a secret…and it’s not that she likes girls. She has a rare and special gift: she can see how old other people will be when they pass away. Nothing she does changes this number, and that becomes especially clear when her mother dies in a car crash. With only one other person in the world who knows about and shares her gift, Harper is determined to keep her distance from everyone. Then she falls for Chloe… whose number is 16. That means that Chloe doesn’t have twelve months to live. She doesn’t even have six. She is going to be dead by the end of the summer, unless Harper can find a way to stop it.

Colorblind by Siera Maley is a story about two star-crossed teens that fall in love and fight the odds.

Harper, 17, can see the number of each person she meets and that number is the age at which the person will die.  Her best and only friend shares her “gift” and is the only person that really gets her.  This “gift”, coupled with the loss of her mother at a young age has made Harper cynical beyond her years.  A heavy dose of teenage angst plus unusual circumstances have caused Harper to close herself off to life and love.  Like so many of us, Harper avoids joy because she believes it will help her to avoid pain.  Enter Chloe, a self-proclaimed “adrenaline junkie” with pretty eyes and a precocious puppy.  Chloe is trying to live life to the fullest, taking risks and looking brightly into the future.  Only Harper knows that Chloe’s future will be cut short because her number is 16.

Chloe pursues Harper without shame and Harper likes her in return, although she won’t express that to Chloe.  Harper tries hard to fight her feelings, knowing how hard it will be to lose Chloe.  She also morbidly tries to figure out how Chloe will meet her end and how she can stop it.  An accident brings Harper to the conclusion that she has no control when Chloe will die and she resolves to help Chloe achieve a summer of no regrets. Eventually love overcomes fear and Harper gives Chloe her whole heart.  They have a beautiful few weeks filled with the magic of first love but as Chloe’s seventeenth birthday approaches, Harper begins to panic.

On the surface Colorblind is a teen romance where a fun-loving kid falls for an emo kid and they share a summer of firsts.  As I dug into Maley’s lovely story, I found so much more complexity.  Seeing life through Harper’s eyes, I saw the fears and insecurities of my youth.  I was afraid of everything; coming out, losing loved-ones, being alone or never achieving my dreams.  I allowed that fear to guide, even make my decisions.  At times that fear paralyzed me.  Like Harper, I learned that love overcomes fear.

Maley tackles some of life’s biggest questions in this book.  Do our choices have consequences?  Is life a random bunch of events or is everything predetermined?  If we knew when life would end, would we live it differently?  While I related very much with Harper, the most significant reminder that Siera Maley gives to readers is that joy is found in the everyday, that each day is a gift.

Reasons that I loved this book:

The characters were three dimensional and relatable.  The plot line was unique and avoided a lot of the tropes that queer story lines tend to fall into.  It was a queer love story but it wasn’t about queerness: the action was in the foreground and the lovers just happened to both be girls.

I give it Five Bards!!!

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Guest Book Review: The Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth

 

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Lesley (left) and Cassie (Right)

As you know, many of my best friends are helping out Team Midsummer with our LGBT History Month Celebration, and today’s Guest Book Review is by Lesley!  Lesley and Jess met at church a few years back, enjoyed many a trivia night together, and are now part of the fabulous five best friend group.  Lesley is now married to Cassie (another one of our Guest Reviewers!) and they are the most adorable of the adorable.

 

11595276When 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.

I grew up in a very small farming community in rural Michigan.  My parents were evangelical Christians and most of my friends and their families were, in some form, Christian too.  I was a “jock girl”, very tall, athletic, slightly arrogant and underneath it all, very gay.  Given this information, it would seem obvious to anyone reading the notes about The Miseducation of Cameron Post to see why I might have identified with Emily M. Danforth’s plucky main character.

However, Cam’s tomboy antics, Jesus-loving friends and family and pension for lady love aren’t the only things that make her relatable.  In fact, most of us can identify with Cam’s struggle for acceptance and identity regardless of our experiences or sexual orientation.  In The Miseducation of Cameron Post, we follow Cam on a journey from ages twelve to seventeen as she looks for her true self in her relationships, struggles and daily life.  She seeks acceptance from friends, lovers and the adults in her life the way any child would.  In the end Cameron finds the most satisfaction in accepting herself and in starting a life that reflects her beliefs and choices.

After a youthful crush and sugar-sweet first kiss, Cam experiences a devastating loss.  Forced to navigate her formative years with only her born-again aunt and elderly grandma to guide her, Cam gets into the usual trouble created by the boredom of teens in small town America.  Her trouble is often overlooked until her greatest secret is twisted from the truth and revealed as a dark path from which she must be saved.   Instead of finishing out high school, Cam is sent to a rehabilitation school for kids with similar “afflictions”.

This book is one that tells the story of each of us as we grow in a world that prefers the status quo.  While the subject matter is a bit dark, the depth of Danforth’s characters creates a light and lovely story.  It reminds us to celebrate our differences and that a diverse world is a beautiful one.

I absolutely recommend this book for anyone struggling with self-acceptance for any reason.

4 Bards, as I liked the book, but the ending left me hanging, which I didn’t really like.

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Guest Post: Words

Quick Introduction to my Guest Post:  This post was originally posted on one of my best friend’s meandeve
blogs, Queen’s English, and she has suggested we use it here as a guest post.  Many of my close friends are bibliophiles and have amazing insight into the written word.  So let me introduce you to one of my very dear friends, Eve.  She moved here from England a few years back, and once I insulted her eating beans for breakfast, we were practically inseparable.  She so willingly shared her TBT post with us here at A Midsummer Night’s Read. Please be sure to visit her blog as well!

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I am passionate about words. I read a decent amount of them. I’ve been inherently tuned in to lyrics and verse for my entire conscious life, and remember an inordinate amount of songs even when I’ve only heard them once, or not for years. As a child, I read prolifically, and started early. As an adult, I’m extremely picky when it comes to reading. I’ll decide within the first few pages whether or not I can finish a book. I have to be passionate about it. For a long time, I only read poetry, because I valued succinct beauty, not long-winded story telling. I even found a poem that explained that preference, that need. If I’m not totally absorbed, enthralled, engaged, then I won’t finish the book. I’ve given up feeling guilty about it: I’m not a patient reader. I’m a selfish, greedy, gobble-it-up reader, who doesn’t want to read novels that ‘might get better’ or have some kind of ‘classic literature value’. That said, I feel like having more free time this past year has improved my reading habits, and I’ve noticed that I’ve been reading a lot more, and a wider range, too.

 

Book reviews aren’t really my thing, and the last time I think I mentioned a book on this blog in any significant way was when I finished ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’, and that was around this time last year. Since then I’ve read several novels and a couple of guide books, including ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’‘Let’s Pretend This Never Happened’‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy, ‘Dog Training for Dummies’, and (I’m mildly embarrassed to say) ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’. That last one can be chalked up to liking to be informed about things I’m mocking and the fact that, sometimes, an easy book is something I like too. Still in my queue are ‘Me The People’ and ‘A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius’.

 

I recently finished reading ‘Tiny Beautiful Things’ by Cheryl Strayed, and I am absolutely and utterly compelled to write something about it. I’ve not felt this way about a book in a long time, and possibly never about a non-fiction book. One of her readers describes her words as ‘sacred’, and I actually don’t think it’s an exaggeration. You must, must, must read this book. It’s stunning.

 

What started as an advice column on the book club website ‘The Rumpus’ has resulted in – you guessed it – a book. It’s more than just a collection of columns (although essentially those are its main components), because it explains the background of how Cheryl Strayed became ‘Sugar’, and a little of who Chery Strayed is, too. But it’s not just a collection of columns in the figurative sense, either, because these aren’t just columns. They are beautiful, soul-clenching missives that you want to bundle up and somehow ingest, to remember their wisdom, their particular phrasing that rings that distant ‘oh, of course!’ bell. They speak to you as though you always knew their truth; they reassure you that it’s okay to fuck up; they remind you that you’re human in a way that gives you an innate tugging somewhere in your belly, connecting you to it all.

 

I’m a little concerned that I’ll come across as fanatical if I continue in this vein, plus I’m certain that my words aren’t enough to do justice to hers. I’m also reluctant to directly quote some of her letters because I don’t want to spoil the discovery of them for you. Finally, I don’t want to misrepresent what Sugar does. Her work isn’t about mollycoddling, whatever you write to her about. She is honest, sometimes brutally and shockingly so. She swears (I think rather effectively, but this may put some people off). She is soothing, she is open (sometimes using personal stories to illustrate her replies), she is hilarious, and she shows such empathy that sometimes it breaks your heart almost as much as the reason she’s been written to.

 

So, I’ll just tell you how I found ‘Dear Sugar’, and maybe drop in one quote and leave it at that. A friend posted Sugar’s Column #48on their Facebook page and tagged me and a few others in it, meaning to give some inspiration for being perseverant in the pursuit of one’s dreams. In all honesty, I thought that the letter to Sugar was the thing I was supposed to be reading to start with, as that was pretty damn good. But then Sugar came in, responding to that young female writer-who-couldn’t-write’s cry for help. I was… entranced? Breathless? All sounds a bit like a romantic novel, doesn’t it?! But I sat with goosebumps up and down my arms, a few happy tears trailing down my cheeks, and an immediate desire to read it again. And again. And again. The way Strayed could be kind, firm, funny, inspirational, sweet, tough, and caring all at once impressed me so much. The ability to unify these elements, to simultaneously open out and condense the writer’s issues, and then to find on reading the collection that she could do it with each and every diverse, painful, wonderfully human letter written to her – ah.

 

“The unifying theme is resilience and faith.”

 

Read this book.

 

–Eve

Guest Post by Fiauna Lund

Seventeen-year-old Brit Kavanagh is hiding something: Just before her mother disappeared, she gave Brit faery wings … sewn into her skin.

When her father’s death forces Brit to leave the only home she’s ever known, danger follows her like a shadow. Catastrophe strikes again and again, and at every turn, she is confronted by the terrifying apparition of an otherworldly banshee. 

Desperate to unravel the mysteries behind her wings and the curse of the banshee, Brit turns to Gentry O’Neill, a handsome stranger who knows more than he’s telling. With Gentry’s help, Brit pieces together her mother’s troubled past and discovers the horrifying truth of her own existence. 

Her mother gave her wings, but she never meant for Brit to fly.


I loved the idea of writing a guest post from the prospective of one of my characters. Then I thought, what if we took that a step further? How about an interview with one of my characters? Maybe I’ll learn something even I don’t know about the characters in Indigo when I interview the ever-fashionable Bailey Morgan, Brit Kavanagh’s acquaintance-turned-bff. 


Fiauna Lund: Bailey, you live in Tigard, Oregon. Have you always lived in Tigard? How do you like your community? 

Bailey Morgan: Tigard is great! I’ve lived her practically all of my life. I was born in Beaverton, but that’s pretty much the same thing, right? I like it here. We’re so close the city. The shopping is good. Oh, and there are so many cute guys here! 

FL: You mention boys. That leads me to ask about your romantic life. How are things with Kevin these days? 

BM: Kevin can be such a bonehead. It’s been on-again off-again with us for, like, ever. Things were going really good until Brit moved in. And then he went all crazy. 

FL: Crazy? 

 BM: He’s always trying to get her attention and junk. It drives me nuts. 

FL: Is it working? Is Brit interested in Kevin? 

BM: I don’t think so. I have a feeling she has a thing for Gentry O’Neill. But then again, who doesn’t? 

FL: I’m intrigued. Tell me more. 

BM: What can I say about Gentry O’Neill beyond the obvious: he’s hot, he’s rich, and he’s hot. He’s got the whole mysterious stranger thing down. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of Brit. You should see how Gentry looks at her. He can’t take his eyes off of her. The thing is, she doesn’t seem to notice. I mean, the girl turns heads; there’s just something about her. She doesn’t get it. She has no idea how stunning she is. 

FL: You were involved in some rather scary incidences lately. There was a train wreck and then, not too long after that, you were almost killed in a house fire. Let me ask you, how are you doing? 

BM: I’m doing better, thanks. But, man, that was scary. Both times I thought I was going to die. 

FL: What do you remember from those nights? 

BM: I don’t remember much about the train accident. One minute we were pulling away from the station. The next minute we’re all flying through the air and landing on top of each other like a tossed salad. It was crazy. Kevin, Brit, and I were all okay, but it’ll be a while before I get back on one of those commuter trains. You know what I mean? 

FL: Ah, yes. I can imagine. And what about the fire? 

BM: I don’t mean to get all weird or anything, but I’d rather not talk about that night. I really thought I was dead. It was too much—just too much. 

FL: That’s fine, Bailey. We’re all just glad that you are okay. Thank you. 

BM: Thanks.


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A huge thank you to Fiauna Lund and Bailey Morgan!  Be sure to check out Lund’s website: www.FiaunaLund.com and pick up a copy of Indigo!

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