Book Review: Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu

Moxie girls fight back!

Vivian Carter is fed up. Fed up with her small-town Texas high school that thinks the football team can do no wrong. Fed up with sexist dress codes and hallway harassment. But most of all, Viv Carter is fed up with always following the rules.

Viv’s mom was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the ’90s, so now Viv takes a page from her mother’s past and creates a feminist zine that she distributes anonymously to her classmates. She’s just blowing off steam, but other girls respond. Pretty soon Viv is forging friendships with other young women across the divides of cliques and popularity rankings, and she realizes that what she has started is nothing short of a girl revolution.

Ever since I heard about this novel I have been waiting, very impatiently, for it to be released. In a time when the party in the White House is fronted by a man who proudly stated, when talking about women, to “Grab ’em by the Pussy,” this novel for young adults couldn’t be coming at a better time. I have high hopes that Mathieu’s novel will show that a movement can start in the simplest way and every action makes a difference.

The positives of this novel are almost unending because I loved all of it.  I did feel like there were certain parts or discourses happening between the characters that seemed a little awkward ONLY because I know that Mathieu was trying to get in the standard conversation about feminism and what feminism means into the narrative, so I forgive that really easily.

Moxie includes the version of feminism that we all should subscribe to: all inclusive and unapologetic. Thank you so much to Mathieu, especially, for including links in the acknowledgements for those coming newly to feminism to visit for more information, and for all of those links being inclusive of women of all races, religions, sexual orientations, and sexual identities. It’s important to remember that feminism isn’t true feminism unless it is intersectional.

I love Viv for being everything I wish I could have been in high school. I wish I had stood up to the patriarchal bullshit that meant the male sports received all of the support, that men didn’t have to subscribe to the dress code, and that their sarcastic comments were ignored while the girls were disciplined for saying anything remotely crass.  Needless to say I identified with Viv and the Moxie girls on a deep level. I played on the high school softball team that played in old uniforms and on an old baseball field with plastic “fences” brought in to mark the end of the field instead of an actual chainlink fence, so the plight of the soccer team in this book brought back some memories.

Seth, oh sweet Seth who I like to pretend was named after Seth Cohen in The O.C., I loved that Mathieu made him learn the hard way that you can be a feminist and still not recognize your privilege as a male. He learned a lot in the book, and was a superb love interest, but I think it was SO imperative for that dynamic to be represented here.

I loved this book so much and I wish SO MUCH that this had been out when I was still a teenager.

5 Bards

 

 

 

 

Check out Team Midsummer’s 67 Questions with author Jennifer Mathieu, too!

Book Review: Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore

Jane has lived an ordinary life, raised by her aunt Magnolia—an adjunct professor and deep sea photographer. Jane counted on Magnolia to make the world feel expansive and to turn life into an adventure. But Aunt Magnolia was lost a few months ago in Antarctica on one of her expeditions.

Now, with no direction, a year out of high school, and obsessed with making umbrellas that look like her own dreams (but mostly just mourning her aunt), she is easily swept away by Kiran Thrash—a glamorous, capricious acquaintance who shows up and asks Jane to accompany her to a gala at her family’s island mansion called Tu Reviens.

Jane remembers her aunt telling her: “If anyone ever invites to you to Tu Reviens, promise me that you’ll go.” With nothing but a trunkful of umbrella parts to her name, Jane ventures out to the Thrash estate. Then her story takes a turn, or rather, five turns. What Jane doesn’t know is that Tu Reviens will offer her choices that can ultimately determine the course of her untethered life. But at Tu Reviens, every choice comes with a reward, or a price. 

This whole book is basically the episode of Doctor Who, Season 4, Episode 11 “Turn Left.” Each decision has a specific reaction that could change the outcome of the universe and Jane, Unlimited takes that idea to 5 different extremes.

At first glance, Cashore’s novel seems like a fun romp of an orphaned girl going to a private island with her rich acquaintance to get away from the hardships of every day life.  But it becomes so much more than that

I need a Jane Umbrella.

once the first part’s introduction is done.

This is a spoiler, so if you are looking for non-spoilery…I’m sorry, I find it almost impossible to review this book properly without being able to explain a certain aspect of the plot.  That is the theory of the multiverse.

Cashore does an excellent job creating what could be almost 5 separate novels based on one decision by Jane toward the beginning of the book.

Jane is a complex and yet somehow still simple character. I love that the umbrellas she creates represent her need to protect herself from the outside world that robbed her of her parents and her aunt. It’s excellent.

I think the crowning achievement in this is that the ending makes it seem like it is up to the reader to decide which ending is THE ending, if that makes sense.  Sure, there is the last scenario in the possibilities as explained in the novel, but it isn’t definitive that this is the clear ending. I love it.

I know this novel is probably going to be divisive between Cashore fans and those readers who haven’t read her previously, because of the nature of the narrative.

However, for my purposes I’m giving this book 4 Bards. It has romance, diversity, intrigue, fantasy, and so much more.

Give it a shot, I promise it will be an interesting read.

Book Review: When the Moon was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

This. Book. Was. Amazing.

It’s been so long since I’ve read a novel of magical realism that touched me as deeply as When the Moon was Ours. It’s hard to live up to 100 Years of Solitude in terms of magical realism, but hell yeah McLemore has earned her spot in my heart along with García Márquez.

This story is so much deeper than what the synopsis implies; in fact, I find the synopsis doesn’t do this narrative justice. I wish that it would mention how inclusive this story is and how beautifully it explains the fears, memories, and secrets that everyone holds inside them wishing no one would hear or discover. I interpreted Miel’s roses as a way of expressing how those things can affect our outward world completely, and while we all don’t have roses growing beautifully and painfully out of our wrists, our emotions affect how we present ourselves to those around us. So much applause for McLemore on this.

Be aware that magical realism might take a few chapters to draw you in, but stick with it- it’s worth it!

Seriously, this review is going to be me gushing for the most part.  I understand the town that McLemore has created around Miel and Sam. The small town where any weirdness is outcast and those who don’t fit into the picture of normality are the topic of hurtful gossip, name calling, and more.  It’s so realistically done even though the narrative is told specifically through the eyes of Miel and Sam.

This is probably a spoiler, so I’m going to preface it by saying that, but Sam’s journey throughout this novel was absolutely wonderful. Sam is a transgender boy and I can honestly say I’ve not read a passage from a book about transgender identity that has described the experience for those individuals better than this one:

The endless, echoing use of she and her, miss and ma’am. Yes, they were words. They were all just words. But each of them was wrong, and they stuck to him. Each one was a golden fire ant, and they were biting his arms and his neck and his bound-flat chest, leaving him bleeding and burning.

He. Him. Mister. Sir. Even teachers admonishing him and his classmates with boys, settle down or gentleman, please. These were sounds as perfect and clean as winter rain, and they calmed each searing bite of those wrong words. 

Beautifully written with the narrative full of lush depictions of nature this is a book you don’t want to miss. Anyone looking for an LGBTQ book recommendation: here it is. Read it, Love it, and Share with others.

4.5 Bards to When the Moon was Ours.

TTBF Author Repost Book Review: Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

 

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 November 3, 2015

 

dumplin

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all. 

As someone who suffered from body dysmorphia and a full blown eating disorder, I’m really proud of Julie Murphy and Willowdean as a character.  I wish that I had been as somewhat confident as she was when I was in high school. I can tell you that I was of average size, but as many high schoolers can tell you, everyone is plagued by self doubt and the feeling that everyone is staring at you and judging you.  I wish that this book had existed when I was seventeen.

Basically, Willowdean lives in a little bubble of a town with her enigmatic, skinny, tall best friend, her former pagent queen mother, the ghost of her aunt haunting her childhood home, and a job at the local fast food restaurant. This book really shows how crazy intertwined our body image is with our self worth.  Willowdean, up until Bo kisses her for the first time, really isn’t that tortured by the way she looks or the way that others view her.  Her kryptonite at this point really is just the class jock who also happens to be the class jerk.  Once she starts being pursued by someone who doesn’t fit into the picture she had of how her life would go, she immediately begins to question everything.

She even goes as far as to self sabotage her own semi-relationship with Bo after finding out that he would be attending the same school as her, out of fear for how her classmateswould perceive their relationship.  Or rather, how embarassing it would be for him to be seen with her since she is just a fat girl.  This is so important, to remember that we only expect the love we think we deserve (to paraphrase Perks).  I’m not a huge Dolly Parton fan, but I do know the song Jolene, so I can appreciate the interpretation of the song within the novel.

So Willowdean makes mistakes.  She is so wonderfully realistically constructed as a character that it was almost impossible for me to not feel connected to her and her journey.  I strongly encourage you to pick up a copy of this book and enjoy this character’s journey.

4 Bards to Dumplin’

fourbards

Book Review: Warcross by Marie Lu

For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation.

Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 

Truth time: I’ve only read the Legend series by Marie Lu and I am now kicking myself in the ass for not reading my copies of The Young Elites before now because holy hell Warcross kept me on my toes and was absolutely wonderful.

It has everything a modern reader could want: advanced technology, a love story, rags to riches narrative, an intricate game, and so much more.

This book was addicting!

Emika is a seriously relatable character. I found myself completely invested in her narrative, the struggle she had from her parental background and her monetary problems. (Let’s be honest, what millennial wouldn’t relate to that?) Her intense love for art in all forms, her hair, her father’s, and the graphics of Warcross was so believable and it made Emika truly breathe off of the page.

I was completely engrossed in this story from start to finish.

Lu picks up with a chase for a criminal and then snowballs into a hacker being given all she ever dreamed of…but it comes with a price.

I think the only thing I wish had been elaborated on further was the friendships created within the Phoenix Riders.  Why? Well, I just wish I could have spent more time with these characters that Lu created. I know that they should be back for the sequel and I can only hope we get more of their development as well. Although I know the narrative for Warcross was so fast paced (and it needed to be) that some of this development had to be sacrificed, I just wish there was more!

On Twitter there were people complaining about one of the twists in the novel and I have to say that I whole heartedly disagree with their feedback on that. I found it absolutely twisted and excellent. Kudos to Lu for putting that in. Want to know what it is? Buy a copy of the book now.

4.5 Bards for Warcross

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

475-bards

TTBF Author Repost Book Review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart


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! Today features one of Jessica’s all time favorites: E. Lockhart!

This review was originally posted on August 14, 2014

 

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

When I met E. Lockhart at Book Expo America, I was trying so hard not to fangirl because I had been looking forward to this book for months.  Not only did I get a chance to meet her, but she also write an essential message in my copy of the book (which I’m sure she wrote in everyone’s) “Please Lie About This Book.”

Well, it is impossible for me to lie about how much I enjoyed this book.  I want to tell you so much about it in order to convince you to read it, but this is a book that needs to be discovered by each person individually.  The story line is excellent.  There I will tell you that much.

Lockhart’s writing style in this novel really helps add to the characterization of the narrator, Cadence (which is a elockharttweetname I’ve always loved), and it allows the reader to discover things as Cadence does…kind of.  This novel really explores the idea of an unreliable narrator.

I’ve said too much!

I cannot praise this book highly enough, and I won’t tarnish your reading experience with anymore.  Trust me, you will enjoy it immensely.

5 Bards  (I know you asked me to lie, E. Lockhart, but I decided to just withhold information instead!)

 

fivebards

Book Review: Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

The story of a young woman whose diabolical smarts are her ticket into a charmed life. But how many times can someone reinvent themselves? You be the judge.

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was. 

I am a massive fan of We Were Liars by E. Lockhart (Click the title to read my 5 Bard review)  so when Random House announced Genuine Fraud I was over the moon excited.

I can honestly say that I did not expect this book. Anything about it. It has everything that I love about some of my favorite classic novels:

An unreliable narrator (Example: Wuthering Heights)
Nonlinear Narrative (Example: Wuthering Heights) ***Look, I really love Wuthering Heights
Intrigue (Many classics)

Epic Beach Read

I could go on, but those are the basics that I am referencing. Lockhart is literally the queen of unreliable narrators in my book, because Jule and Cadence are similar only in their nonlinear unreliableness, but I love them both because of this and much more. Jule is much more hardened than Cadence and she spun so many lies and stories throughout this book that I found my head spinning but wanting more.

There are some incredibly hard things to read in this book and some of the plot points mentioned in the synopsis definitely happen.  Why yes, Murder is a part of the narrative (all True Crime fans rejoice!) and so are some doomed romances. Plus, Jule and Imogen get to visit some amazing places and have some epic experiences.

This is not one to be missed. I read it in 5 hours of sitting out in the sun on the beach, but I would have sat and read it in one sitting regardless.

Much like my review of We Were Liars, I can’t say much without giving a ton away!

Thank you, E. Lockhart, for doing it again.

4.5 Bards.

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. With her uncanny ability to read people’s secrets, she’s become a media darling, and earned the title “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” Everyone’s in love with the city’s newest It Girl…everyone except the other Diviners.

Piano-playing Henry Dubois and Chinatown resident Ling Chan are two Diviners struggling to keep their powers a secret–for they can walk in dreams. And while Evie is living the high life, victims of a mysterious sleeping sickness are turning up across New York City.

As Henry searches for a lost love and Ling strives to succeed in a world that shuns her, a malevolent force infects their dreams. And at the edges of it all lurks a man in a stovepipe hat who has plans that extend farther than anyone can guess….As the sickness spreads, can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld to save the city?

Libba Bray’s follow-up to The Diviners saw many improvements – and one major disappointment. I cracked the spine hoping for more about the other characters in Libba’s ensemble, and I definitely was not disappointed! We learned so much about the backstories for Henry and Sam, which was welcomed… but I missed Theta and Memphis. One of my major complaints about The Diviners was that Evie wasn’t a particularly likable character, and she sunk even further this time around. I found myself hating every moment that Evie was on the page and wondering how much longer it would be until someone else showed up.

The book is long, starts a bit slow, and, dare I say it, a bit too Henry-focused, but it is well worth the ride. Henry really grew on me as the book continued, and I found myself thankful for Libba’s portrayal of such a unique gay character who wasn’t a stereotype or a caricature. As Henry walks in dreams to find his lost love, Louis, we learn so much about his past and the path that has brought him to New York.

The villain of this book didn’t give me the same chills and creeps that Naughty John did in the first book but instead provides more of a psychological horror. I felt leagues of dread for the characters, which kept me hanging on to every word as each piece began to fit together. This puzzle feels a bit disjointed at the beginning, but as we collect more and more information and the picture starts to come together, you realize what you’re seeing is an emotional gut punch. Make sure that you’re prepared.

One of my favorite things about this book was Libba’s attention to realistic diversity. She isn’t afraid to discuss the KKK, the Chinese Exclusion Act, and the general hatred faced by interracial relationships. Diversity for Lair of Dreams doesn’t feel tacked on – it is an integral part of the story.

There’s really not much that I can say here without giving the story away – and trust me, you will want to experience this one’s twists and turns for yourself. This one is well worth it!

The third book in the four-part series comes out next week, and I can’t wait! Libba is a master of cliff hangers, and I’m dying to know what happens next.

4/5 Bards

 

TTBF Author Repost Book Review: Legend by Marie Lu

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! First up is Keynote Speaker Marie Lu! 

This review was originally posted on January 19, 2012

 

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’ death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Let me preface this by saying that I am a bit of a dystopian fiction junkie due to my Master’s thesis being focused on it. However, this first installment hasn’t provided much of the background information concerning how the Republic and Colonies came to be–so I can’t judge it on the political aspects of it yet (cough, Marxism, cough). Perhaps the second installment will give us more information…I hope.

I see the problem that many of reviewers have mentioned that the two narrators’ voices sound very similar. However, I’m not sure that this was unintentional. Both of them are prodigies in their own world, and have similar thinking patterns. This means that, YES, these characters will sound the same to an extent. Do I think there should have been more definition between the two? Of course, because it would only strengthen the novel, which is already strong in its own right. I agree with Lu’s decision to split this narrative into two point of views, because the reader would not understand Day’s story as deeply if told strictly from June’s point of view (and vice versa).

I’m not sure why people do not empathize with June as much as Day, because she has had her share of hardship as well–again this can explain why both characters are similar in personality and voice. I definitely enjoyed reading this, and hope that this trilogy isn’t another Matched fiasco, because Crossed ruined that trilogy for me.

Much like Divergent and Blood Red Road, these characters must complete a journey (of sorts) in order to discover secrets about themselves and the society in which they reside. Since Lu’s story is a somewhat typical young adult dystopian novel, there are some obvious similarities plot-wise. However, I do believe that the difference in the characterization really changes the perception of the story.

While it is not something completely new and groundbreaking, I still thoroughly enjoyed reading Legend. I recommend this for those who really enjoy any of the dystopian fiction coming out of the Young Adult genre. 4 Bards.

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