Book Review: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray

The fifty contestants in the Miss Teen Dream pageant thought this was going to be a fun trip to the beach, where they could parade in their state-appropriate costumes and compete in front of the cameras. But sadly, their airplane had another idea crashing on a desert island and leaving the survivors stranded with little food, little water, and practically no eyeliner.

What’s a beauty queen to do? Continue to practice for the talent portion of the program–or wrestle snakes to the ground? Get a perfect tan–or learn to run wild? And what should happen when the sexy pirates show up?

Welcome to the heart of non-exfoliated darkness.

I read this book back when it first came out and I still really love it. However, only some things still hold up for me.

Let’s start with the good things I love about it. I know that for a lot of people, Bray’s over-the-top satire and stereotypes can be a little grating, but I really love it. It’s a super scathing look at our society in general, but especially our society’s ideas about femininity and girlhood. I loved it when I was 20, and I love it now.

I think I can credit this book with my first step to calling myself a feminist and when I first started to realize that not being like other girls was total BS. And I related to Adina so much when I read this years ago, and I found myself yelling at her the way that I yell at past me. I love her journey with unlearning internalized misogyny (and I totally relate too much to hating her mom for jumping to relationship to relationship (but that’s another story)).

What I love most about this, is that everyone learns something about themselves AND others. We all have misconceptions about ourselves and each other, but as women (especially young women) we’re taught to see each other as competition and this book hyper focuses on that. Overall, I think the heavy-handedness of the book works really well and it’s just overly ridiculous and funny and brilliant.

But there are two things that I don’t really like about it, Petra’s forced outing and the back and forth of Jennifer and Sosie’s relationship. Luckily, in these circumstances of fiction, nothing goes wrong too wrong with outing Petra. But in the real world, being forcibly outed as a trans person can be incredibly traumatic AND dangerous. In this situation of a deserted island there are no consequences for the girls that out Petra and they all learn something valuable from knowing a trans person, which is really just gross and that shouldn’t be what we’re teaching young girls.

Jennifer and Sosie’s friendship turned relationship turned friendship is really bothersome to me because, for one, Sosie doesn’t actually say that she’s bisexual, and two, it paints the stereotype that bisexual people don’t know what they want. Jennifer is a lesbian; she knows she likes girls and she went for the girl. Sosie, on the other hand, doesn’t know for sure what her sexuality is and that’s fine! It’s okay to be figuring out your sexuality, but with making Sosie the one that goes back and forth about her feelings for Jennifer, it perpetuates the stereotype the bisexual people are just confused and don’t know what they want and they’ll just leave you and that’s not okay.

So as much as I love Libba Bray, and as much as I do love this book, I can’t give it more than 3 bards.

Author Spotlight: Kelly Jensen

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World is the Young Adult feminist anthology I didn’t know I needed as a teen, but am glad I got to read as an adult. As the last stop for her book tour, editor Kelly Jensen was at BookPeople in Austin, and I was lucky enough to sit down with her before the event.

Midsummer Reads: Hi
Kelly Jensen: Hi
MR: Thanks for agreeing to do this
KJ: Of course
MR: So, let’s just jump right in, when did you first get the idea to do this anthology?
KJ: So, I’d been doing a blog series on stacked for a few years about girls and reading, and why it is we talk about boys and reading but never the opposite. I had for a number of years invited different people in the book world (authors, editors, agents) to write about girls and reading in different aspects in YA fiction and I found I really loved curating these essays and putting together these series, so I wanted to do something similar but do it in a format that teenagers could pick up. Because a teenager is probably not going to read a blog, some will, who are super into it, they will. But I want that kid who is walking around the library looking for something to read. That sort of inspired the idea of doing an anthology and I’d always been fascinated by the conversations that go on online about feminism and it just sort of felt like a good fit to marry the two.

MR: What made it really start coming together, this book in particular? Was there a catalyst?
KJ: I didn’t think that I would be able to do it, in part, because I didn’t have an agent. So, I had no idea how to go about pitching an anthology with literally, like nothing. Nothing to show, except for my own writing. I actually tweeted about it, and my now editor reached out to me and said, “we should talk.” So, we talked and she brought in another editor from Algonquin, we all had a really great conversation, we were on the same page about what we wanted this to look like, both in terms of content and also visually.
MR: Visually, it looks great, it’s really cool.
KJ: They did a great job, they killed it. It was at that point that Elise said, “well, write me a proposal” so I wrote a proposal and then I waited and then I had a contract. And after that I had so many questions through the whole process because I didn’t have an agent, so I couldn’t ask contract questions. They had suggested then, that I find an agent. Apparently, you can do that, after you’ve sold the book

MR: What is the editing process like for something like this?
KJ: I was surprised. I edited the pieces as they came into me and each person had a totally different style and different thing that they needed in terms of editing. It was really neat to see people who wanted to have my input, or bounce ideas off me, the whole way through and then the people that turned in a draft that was pretty much perfect the first time and trying to provide feedback to both of them in a way that is substantial. I really liked seeing how people – their processes are so different. You know, when you’re working with 40 different people and you have 40 different processes, it’s really – it makes you feel better about your own process. When I turned in my manuscript to my editors, there really wasn’t a whole lot in terms of what they had to edit, it was mostly making sure we fit within a page. We had something like 9 or 10 pages over what they can print, so we just had to go and find the places that could be shortened or cut.

MR: So how did you go about getting the authors and their stories? Were there some that you knew you absolutely wanted?
KJ: So, I made two lists. One list was writers who I know had talked about feminism or had some interest in feminism that would at least open an email. And then there’s this dream list of people who weren’t necessarily in the book world but who would have a really interesting perspective. Because from the start we had talked about doing this anthology as making sure it wasn’t just YA writers, so any reader could pick it up and be like, oh this isn’t just in one world, this impact everybody. So, I make this dream list of people I’d like to have in there. I thought to myself well, Wendy Davis really – was a lot of fun to work with. She’s so smart and articulate. When she responded, I didn’t actually expect that to happen, so that was awesome. Some of the pieces are reprint so I just found stuff I liked and then I went through the process of getting the rights to print them. That was nice in terms of rounding out topics and issues and voices, a little of everything. And then as pieces started to come together, I could see where there were holes or places that could use a little bit more or another perspective. It was nice to have this massive list of people, to find someone else. The contributors also suggested other people and that was really helpful to give a broad picture. I got to work with some people who I hadn’t heard of before and that was fun.

MR: One of the stories I really connected with was “Girl Lessons” by Sarah McCarry and I remember reading it, sitting outside on my lunch break just reading and I started crying because I connected so much with this story. Were there any that you really connected with like that?
KJ: Hers is so good. Hers was one that as soon as I read it, I got that feeling as well. The one that really got me, and I was sort of surprised – reading as an editor is totally different than reading as a reader, in terms of, yes, you get the same impact of what a story is trying to tell, but you’re trying make that story have that real “pow” for the reader. So, it wasn’t until I was reading pass pages, I was reading everything out loud, and this time as a reader instead of an editor. I got halfway through the book when Jessica Luthor’s piece comes up. Hers is about her relationship with her husband, she’d been with him for a long time, and sort of how different they are in the relationship as individuals and the relationship together has changed over the course of their time together. I just started crying my eyes out, this is such a nice piece and I related to a lot of what she said in it. I thought it was a beautiful piece about what relationships are like and that’s the type of conversation you don’t have when you’re younger and it’s nice for her to be like, it’s work. This doesn’t happen magically, it takes work and it takes compromise and sometimes terrible things happen and you get through it if you work together.
MR: I remember hers, and I remember at the end she says, this is my relationship, it’s not going to be the same for everyone, I thought that was a really great addition to that piece.
KJ: Yeah

MR: One of the other things that really struck me was me was the conversation with Courtney Summers and Laurie Halse Anderson, specifically how people call stories like theirs “rape stories.” Could you speak a little bit about why when men write women getting raped for the sake of their stories and why those aren’t called “rape stories?”
KJ: You know, it seems to me that whenever there’s a girl at the center of a story and it’s written by a woman, it’s a book that is for girls and women and it’s very geared towards that specific readership and it gets marketed that way and we don’t see the same thing when men write about women and girls. We don’t see the same thing when men write these epic fantasies and do very similar things. Culturally we see it as a women’s issue and we don’t see the broader impact. It’s an issue of frustration. There is this idea that we already have a rape book, we don’t need another one. And yet, you get 12 fantasies in a row written by men with rape scenes that are just there with no purpose other than to develop the male character and devalue the female character. And that’s an issue. Culturally, outside of reading, that’s a thing that we are really complacent in. [insert really long tangent about Game of Thrones and how dudes should just stop writing]

MR: Speaking of Courtney Summers, though, her other piece was about unlikeable girls. What are some of your favorite unlikeable girls in media?
KJ: I like Theo, in Brandy Colbert’s Pointe, she’s just this really complex character and not particularly likeable, and she’s working through so much internal [stuff] that it sometimes manifests in not likeable ways. But that’s also reality. I regularly say that I’m not likeable person, and most of the time I’m not and that’s fine.
MR: You don’t have to be
KJ: Exactly, I think that’s just how you survive in the world. There are ways to be competent and respectful and pleasant but-
MR: You don’t always have to be nice
KJ: Right, like we’re complex, we’re not one-dimensional people. In music, I don’t know if you know Marina and the Diamonds?
MR: Yess!
KJ: She’s super, at least in the persona that she gives, not likeable but yet I love her and I know so many other women love her. I think because she represents this idea of like, here’s what you think women are, and yet this is not reality.

MR: So, what is next for you?
KJ: I am working on another anthology, it’s another YA anthology on mental health. I’ve got 20 contributors so far. The pieces that they have been submitting are out of this world good. It’s hard, it’s such a different topic than feminism. As much as they are personal stories in feminism, it’s a little bit different –
MR: Mental health stuff – you have to be in the right headspace to go through that kind of stuff.
KJ: Right, and I can only read one at a time and I need so much space between them. Because it’s so much about – how do you tell someone, “can you talk about this terrible time a little bit more?”
MR: Like, “I need you to push a little deeper”
KJ: Yeah, it’s like they’re probably already at that limit. And I also don’t want myself to be so impacted that I can’t work now. It has been interesting in terms of editing since these are people that we are having an open conversation about mental health and we can say, “listen, things aren’t good right now and it’s going to take me a little extra time.” And it’s nice to be able to know that that’s the reason and be okay with it and know that it will get done without pushing.
MR: That sounds great, I’m excited for that. Thank you so much for this!
KJ: Yeah, you’re welcome, this was fun.

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: May 2, 2017

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

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

Book Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Can a text message destroy your life?

Carver Briggs never thought a simple text would cause a fatal crash, killing his three best friends, Mars, Eli, and Blake. Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident and even worse, there could be a criminal investigation into the deaths.

Then Blake’s grandmother asks Carver to remember her grandson with a ‘goodbye day’ together. Carver has his misgivings, but he starts to help the families of his lost friends grieve with their own memorial days, along with Eli’s bereaved girlfriend Jesmyn. But not everyone is willing to forgive. Carver’s own despair and guilt threatens to pull him under into panic and anxiety as he faces punishment for his terrible mistake. Can the goodbye days really help?

Hooo boy, this was a lot heavier than I was expecting. Not even touching on the themes of culpability and guilt, anyone that has lost a friend as a teenager can relate to Carver’s grief. His grief, that comes in waves, where sometimes you forget for just a moment, is so real that it makes reading this book and relating to him so easy.

The idea of goodbye days was a perfect way to showcase that everyone grieves differently and different people need different methods and more/less time to process their grief. And some people need someone to blame. There’s a lot of nuance to the whole situation, and Zentner writes it beautifully. As much as I feel for Carver, I can also perfectly understand the reactions of Mars’ father and Eli’s sister (and even Eli’s parents). The goodbye days that Carver spends with each of them showcase each of those different reactions. Even though Carver does have to deal with his own grief and feelings of guilt, I think those days are good for him (and the reader) to sit with others’ grief and not just his own, even though it’s hard for him.

I think my favorite part of this book, though, was the focus on mental health and wellness. Carver is determined to deal with this on his own, with only his sister as his support system. But when he has a panic attack out of nowhere (as they usually happen), Georgia starts to insist that he needs more help than she can give him. After a second panic attack at school, he agrees to go see someone. As Carver makes his way through therapy and dealing with his guilt and his grief, we get a clear picture of how therapy works, and it’s not always pretty and perfect. Sometimes it’s hard and sometimes you don’t see the point. It was such a refreshing portrayal of therapy

(I was glad to see the references to The Serpent King. Good to know that Dearly is doing well for himself, though the song for his friend definitely turned on the waterworks, so thanks for that, Jeff.)

This book was heartbreaking and beautiful in the best ways, be sure to grab the tissues. 4.5 bards.

Book Review: Sad Perfect by Stephanie Elliot


The story of a teen girl’s struggle with Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder and how love helps her on the road to recovery.

Sixteen-year-old Pea looks normal, but she has a secret: she has Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). It is like having a monster inside of her, one that not only dictates what she can eat, but also causes anxiety, depression, and thoughts that she doesn’t want to have. When she falls crazy-mad in love with Ben, she hides her disorder from him, pretending that she’s fine. At first, everything really does feel like it’s getting better with him around, so she stops taking her anxiety and depression medication. And that’s when the monster really takes over her life. Just as everything seems lost and hopeless, Pea finds in her family, and in Ben, the support and strength she needs to learn that her eating disorder doesn’t have to control her.

Release Date: February 28, 2017

A couple disclaimers before I get started. Jessica originally agreed to write an honest review of this book in exchange for an advanced copy. As someone in recovery for ED, she jumped on the chance to review a new book with positive representation, especially about a relatively unknown ED. However, before she received the book she read this anonymous review by another ED survivor. We talked about it and decided it might be too triggering for her to read it, so we had the book sent to me instead. Full disclosure, I do not have an eating disorder but I am familiar with Jess’s story and one of my best friends from high school almost died because of her struggle with her ED.

Okay, so I slept on it before writing this review and I’m still angry but I’ll try to keep the yelling out. First things first, I am not a fan of second person narration. While overall it was a quick read, it was irritating trying to get through it. Second, Pea spends this entire book putting down other girls, and even gets this idea reinforced from her boyfriend who says, “Maybe that’s what I expect girls to do, pick girlie colors, but you’re different,” and, later on, the quintessential quote, “You’re not like other girls.” Excuse me while I go scream for eternity that THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH OTHER GIRLS.

And that’s just what I thought was disappointing about this book. But Sad Perfect is more than just disappointing, it’s damaging on so many levels. When Pea first gets her diagnosis of ARFID she immediately starts one on one and group sessions of therapy. There’s not much focus on either of these things as part of her recovery. The things we do see of group therapy are her continued thoughts of otherness. She repeatedly mentions that her ED is different than the other girls (only girls, because obviously only white girls can have ED) and therefore somehow worse. This opinion does not change by the end of the book.

While she does continue therapy throughout the book, it seems that the only real help she gets is from her boyfriend whom she met in the very first chapter. She decides that he helps her so much that she stops taking her anti-depressants. So when they get into a fight, she starts self harming with a safety pin (way to glorify that by putting it on the cover of the book, btw). While self-harm can coexist with ED and other mental illnesses, her self-harm was literally a plot device to get her admitted to a hospital on suicide watch, where Elliot vilifies almost all hospital staff and makes gross stereotypes of the people that “need” to be there.

Pea’s stay in the hospital was her catalyst for wanting to get better and taking responsibility for her “monster.” She talks at length about how she created this monster and that really the monster is her and that her ED is her fault. She then goes on to say that she doesn’t deserve to be in the hospital when she has her family and Ben (who she has known for approximately 10 seconds) who love her. But these stereotypically low-income people need to be in the hospital because they don’t have anyone who loves them. There were multiple times that I wanted to throw this book, but during her whole hospital stay I had to physically restrain myself from actually doing so.

At the end of the book, we’re left with the message that Pea is still different from everyone else and that the power of a boy loving you will make you want to get better. I understand that Elliot’s daughter suffers from ARFID and she wanted to shed light on what her daughter and her family went through. However, it’s glaringly obvious that she has no knowledge whatsoever about any other ED and doesn’t care to.

For a better look at ED, check out Jessica’s review of Elena, Vanishing. And for more information about eating disorders and treatment visit the National Eating Disorder Association.

If I could give this zero bards, I would, but I guess I’ll settle for one.

Book Review: Wayfarer by Alexandra Bracken

All Etta Spencer wanted was to make her violin debut when she was thrust into a treacherous world where the struggle for power could alter history. After losing the one thing that would have allowed her to protect the Timeline, and the one person worth fighting for, Etta awakens alone in an unknown place and time, exposed to the threat of the two groups who would rather see her dead than succeed. When help arrives, it comes from the last person Etta ever expected—Julian Ironwood, the Grand Master’s heir who has long been presumed dead, and whose dangerous alliance with a man from Etta’s past could put them both at risk.

Meanwhile, Nicholas and Sophia are racing through time in order to locate Etta and the missing astrolabe with Ironwood travelers hot on their trail. They cross paths with a mercenary-for-hire, a cheeky girl named Li Min who quickly develops a flirtation with Sophia. But as the three of them attempt to evade their pursuers, Nicholas soon realizes that one of his companions may have ulterior motives.

As Etta and Nicholas fight to make their way back to one another, from Imperial Russia to the Vatican catacombs, time is rapidly shifting and changing into something unrecognizable… and might just run out on both of them.

Holy. Cow.

Let me start by saying, that I love time travel. However, time travel gives me a headache because it makes me think too much and ask too many questions. That being said, that only happened like three times over the course of these two books. This sequel is incredible. There’s always so much that’s going on but it never feels like too much. And at the same time, it’s at a pace where you can grasp how the mechanics of traveling work, without questioning it too much because you’re too invested in what’s going to happen next.

I was lucky enough to meet Alex Bracken (and Susan Dennard) on the WayWitch tour, and something that Alex said about how she constructs her characters really stuck out to me, “what about your world has caused you to be this way?” She does an excellent job of portraying that on the page, and for me, the biggest example of that is Nicholas. Not only in his motivations for independence and freedom from the Ironwoods, but in how Etta, and later Sophia and Julian, see him and how the recognize their privilege (the word privilege is actually used multiple times and it’s glorious).

I was so excited to get more of Sophia’s story in this book. Honestly, I loved her in the first one, even though she was always getting in the way. To me, it definitely always felt like there was more to her, and I am so so so glad that Bracken decided to expand on her character. And I’m even MORE glad that she explicitly says that she prefers women and always has. Nicholas’s response was also amazing. I love that they grudgingly come to rely on each other and even care about each other. Their journey and friendship is one of my favorite parts of the book.

In a book about time travel with ruthless people taking the idea of “the ends justify the means” a little too far, for me, this book was more about family. Every single character is on a journey that connects them with family, whether it is blood or found. But at the same time, it shows that family is messy and not perfect and sometimes you have to confront the fact that your parents can make mistakes.

I could talk about this book all day, honestly, I loved it a lot, 4.5 bards.

#ReadIndie Book Review: The Foxhole Court by Nora Sakavic

Neil Josten is the newest addition to the Palmetto State University Exy team. He’s short, he’s fast, he’s got a ton of potential—and he’s the runaway son of the murderous crime lord known as The Butcher.

Signing a contract with the PSU Foxes is the last thing a guy like Neil should do. The team is high profile and he doesn’t need sports crews broadcasting pictures of his face around the nation. His lies will hold up only so long under this kind of scrutiny and the truth will get him killed.

But Neil’s not the only one with secrets on the team. One of Neil’s new teammates is a friend from his old life, and Neil can’t walk away from him a second time. Neil has survived the last eight years by running. Maybe he’s finally found someone and something worth fighting for.

This is going to be a little different as a review because this is the third time I’ve read this trilogy this year (if that tells you anything about my opinion), and I’ve also read all of the extra content available on Sakavic’s tumblr. After finishing the series, you can definitely see how Sakavic sets up for the final book and where the story is going to go. However, the first time I read it I had no idea where it was going, so if that happens to you, I encourage you to keep going. Especially, since this is a book about a demisexual character written by an aro/ace author. It was probably the first book I ever read about someone on the ace spectrum, so it’s definitely worth it to keep going.

The book starts out about a kid on the run from his father just trying to find some kind of happiness in playing a sport he loves. As it turns out, Neil’s running from more than just his father, he just didn’t know it. The story does get pretty dark and graphic as Neil’s complicated past catches up with him. What I love about Neil though is that he is a survivor. No matter what is thrown at him he continues to get back up and keep living, sometimes out of pure spite (which is definitely something I can relate to).

I do love every single character (that’s not trying to kill Neil) in this series. They’re all flawed and complicated and it makes them more real. But they’re also sarcastic little shits that make you shake your head and laugh in disbelief. Wymack is the perfect example of all bark and no bite when it comes to his team, he yells at them day in and day out, but would lay down his life for any one of them. Andrew becomes the steadying force in Neil’s life if only because he’s been through just as much as Neil and Neil comes to learn that relying on Andrew could be the easiest thing he’s ever done. The rest of the Foxes stick with Neil even through all the crazy drama he brings with him. They make him believe he can have nice things (if he doesn’t up his big mouth and call his biggest rival an asshole on National TV) and a home with them.

At the end of the day The Foxhole Court is a story about home and finding a family, and sticking around on a chance of hope, even when you don’t think you deserve it. That’s why this story resonates so much with me, why I’ve read it three times this year. The struggle to find a balance between what you’ve known your whole life and what you desperately want instead is something I think a lot of people can relate to.

I’d give the trilogy an overall 4.5 bards.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

25558608Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.

But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.

Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.

I love that Laia is coming more into herself and gaining more and more confidence now that she’s no longer under the Commandant’s control. I think her relationship with Elias has a lot to do with that, and I can definitely appreciate that. When he leaves to go be all noble and save her brother before he dies, and she’s left with Keenan, we can still feel her missing him and she starts to realize that she was becoming the girl she was meant to be with him; he helps her feel strong. I just don’t feel that connection with Keenan. Logically, I know they spend a lot of time alone together after Elias leaves, but most of their “bonding” we don’t see, so I don’t feel it.

I liked Elias a lot more in this one than the first one. I wanted to like him in Ember but his total idiocy with Helene made me angry. So, I’m definitely not as annoyed by him. The fact that he’s slowly dying ramps up the angst factor, and because I’m predictable, I love it. While I wish there was still more about the Augurs, I liked that we’re getting to know the fey and the Nightbringer through Elias and his trips to the Waiting Place.

I think I love Helene’s struggle the most. Always the devoted friend, and certainly one of the most faithful to the Augurs and their system, she’s definitely learning what it means to believe in them and what sacrifices she will have to make. Her internal struggle with her belief in the Augurs and whether or not she should save Elias, even if it means her family’s lives is written so well. I never know what she’s going to do or she’s going to react and I think that makes her a wonderful character to read.

The story itself is excellent, enough magic and intrigue to keep you guessing, but also non-stop action picking up right where Ember left off. There are a couple slow parts throughout the book, and there are times when it jumps too fast from one time to the next. It seems like it’s still trying to find a good rhythm.

Overall, four bards.
fourbards

Book Review: How to be You by Jeffrey Marsh

An interactive experience, How to Be You invites you to make the book your own through activities such as coloring in charts, answering questions about how you do the things you do, and discovering patterns in your lives that may be holding you back. Through Jeffrey’s own story of “growing up fabulous in a small farming town”–along with the stories of hero/ines who have transcended the stereotypes of race, age, and gender–you will discover that you are not alone, can deepen your relationship with yourself, and find the courage to take a leap that will change your life.

So, first things first, if you haven’t heard of Jeffrey Marsh, please go check out their vines! I’ve been following them for a while now, and they’re always so inspirational. I was so excited when they announced their book.

I wish that I had actually read the full description and known that it was interactive ahead of time. As it is, I didn’t have time to sit down and actually interact with this book. But the beauty of this book, is that I can come back to it again and again and I can do the exercises every time I read it with different results.

This book is so great for anyone of any age. Even those of us who think we have it figured out. (Spoiler: we don’t.) Jeffrey Marsh does a great job of relating the their ideas of loving and being yourself to all people. The struggle of trying to find yourself is universal and they not only tell us you don’t have to “find yourself” but they also tell us the best ways to stop trying to find yourself and stop trying to fit into other people’s expectations of you. The best piece of advice in all of this, though, is that you can congratulate yourself just for trying. The goal is not to “complete” something, the goal is a journey of learning. And that journey doesn’t stop.

My favorite parts of the book are the Hero/ine segments. They talk about pioneers of equality throughout history and just people they regard as a hero/ine (including my future wife, Wonder Woman). The segments show that people are much happier just being themselves, even when it’s hard. He emphasizes that you shouldn’t try to BE those people, but rather use them as an example to be YOU.

A quick read (without the interactive parts) and really fun and inspirational. 4.5 bards.
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Book Review: Far From You by Tess Sharpe

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

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

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

I looooooooooove this book. I couldn’t put it down. I’ve had it for almost a year and I can’t believe I didn’t read it right away. In the last year or two I’ve realized I really love mysteries, and this book is perfect for that. I love trying to figure out who did it. But even though I guessed who it was, I still think that Sharpe does an excellent of keeping readers of track with other possible suspects.

The back and forth from present to past was done really well. I’ve read a few books where authors don’t have the right rhythm and it ruins the whole flow of the story. But Sharpe does an excellent job of keeping us in the present while still giving us a great glimpse into the past. Especially, since this is the only way we get to know Mina. Get to know how Sophie really feels about her. Their entire relationship takes place in the past before Mina died and we don’t get a chance to see them in the present time, but we still get great insight into Mina’s character through those flashbacks.

Their relationship is flawed and beautiful. From best friends as little kids to growing up to realize that what they felt for each other was more than just friendship. As we see more flashbacks we see that Mina struggled with her identity because of her religion, and with her feelings for Sophie because of her brother’s feelings for Sophie as well.

The fact Sophie actually says the word “bisexual” makes me so happy. In so much of today’s media, it’s almost like it’s a bad word to say. Which is so damaging to anyone who identifies as bi, like no one in the world can actually validate their identity. It’s so important that Sophie says the word, that she doesn’t struggle with it (even if Mina did). One of the things I loved the most about this book is that it felt real. The characters and their relationships and their struggles are just so wonderfully done, and I can’t wait to read more from Tess Sharpe.

5 bards for this.
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Be sure to keep up with Midsummer’s LGBT History Month Celebration by keeping your eyes on our schedule!
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