Book Review: Being Jazz: My Life as a (Transgender) Teen by Jazz Jennings

28698224Jazz Jennings is one of the youngest and most prominent voices in the national discussion about gender identity. At the age of five, Jazz transitioned to life as a girl, with the support of her parents. A year later, her parents allowed her to share her incredible journey in her first Barbara Walters interview, aired at a time when the public was much less knowledgeable or accepting of the transgender community. This groundbreaking interview was followed over the years by other high-profile interviews, a documentary, the launch of her YouTube channel, a picture book, and her own reality TV series “I Am Jazz” making her one of the most recognizable activists for transgender teens, children, and adults.

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

So, I super enjoyed this book, even though you can tell it was written by a fifteen year old. At first, the writing style of speaking to the reader sort grated on my nerves (because it was teenager-speak and I am clearly old and crotchety). However, she has a lot of important and meaningful things to say, so eventually I got used to it and I just enjoyed the book. She’s funny and sincere and once I got over my original annoyance, I realized she does have a great voice (I mean, people have been listening to her tell her story since she was tiny).

I really appreciated how she always insisted that she lives a normal life. She also emphasizes that she is really lucky to live that normal life because of her family, and how they’ve supported her for her entire life. She uses her privilege and her platform to remind readers that not every trans person is that lucky. Multiple times throughout the book she throws statistics out there about the number of trans lives that are lost every year. She uses those statistics to remind herself that she is lucky, but also to remind herself of why she has this public platform: to save other trans folks and to educate others about trans issues.

I also really loved that she normalized her mental health issues, as well. She made sure to say they were separate from her dysphoria, but that they were still a part of her. I think it’s important to normalize mental health and getting help and emphasize the fact that it literally happens to anyone and there is no shame in getting help.

I think this is a great book for literally everyone, but most especially parents of trans kids who want to have some kind of perspective on what their child is going through, and for trans kids just so they can see that they’re not alone. Overall, I’d give it 4 bards.

fourbards




Book Review: Dead to Me by Mary McCoy

“Don’t believe anything they say.”

Those were the last words that Annie spoke to Alice before turning her back on their family and vanishing without a trace. Alice spent four years waiting and wondering when the impossibly glamorous sister she idolized would return to her–and what their Hollywood-insider parents had done to drive her away.

When Annie does turn up, the blond, broken stranger lying in a coma has no answers for her. But Alice isn’t a kid anymore, and this time she won’t let anything stand between her and the truth, no matter how ugly. The search for those who beat Annie and left her for dead leads Alice into a treacherous world of tough-talking private eyes, psychopathic movie stars, and troubled starlets–and onto the trail of a young runaway who is the sole witness to an unspeakable crime. What this girl knows could shut down a criminal syndicate and put Annie’s attacker behind bars–if Alice can find her first. And she isn’t the only one looking.

Release Date: March 3, 2015

The most I really know about post World War II hollywood can really be summed up in a few movie titles and one famous murder, The Black Dahlia. McCoy was definitely influenced by the Noir era heavily, and this novel has almost every aspect of a film noir.  McCoy’s novel actually mentions the Black Dahlia murder and references it as “a few years go,” which means that Dead to Me should be set somewhere in 1949 – 1950.

The man character, Alice, is the quintessential younger sister character that idolizes her talented, beautiful, and intelligent older sister for all that she does and everything that Alice believes she is capable of.  Much like Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, Annie has a bit of a wild streak and would be caught drinking and sneaking out during her teen year flashbacks in the narrative.  I really enjoyed that the novel was interspersed with flashbacks to Annie and Alice’s childhood and their friendship in their younger years, because it really juxtaposed how violently their later years are and the circumstances that bring them back together.

There is something to be said about the end of the 40s and the early 50s, and how glamorous it all seems from our point of view now.  The fashion was somewhat seductive but still conservative, the women coy, gentle, but sassy, and the men were supposed to be dashing, passionate, and respectful.  Dead to Me kind of breaks down a lot of those ideals.  All but one of the men are pretty nefarious characters that are self serving, womanizing, and untrustworthy.  I can argue that the one character that I exempted from that description is still somewhat dubious and the main character waffles a bit on weather or not to trust him.  Hollywood itself is described as a pretty trashy town during that time, and the description of the derelict Hollywoodland sign that McCoy gives really sets the tone.

grace kellyEven the women go against type in this book, with most of them still being sassy, but gentle is not a word that describes most of them.  I would argue that Alice is about the gentlest female in the novel, and the rest are pretty wrapped up in some dangerous activities.  I really enjoyed McCoy breaking down these ideals, because it just made the book more fun and believeable for me.  The fashion still sounded pretty fabulous, but it was just details given in passing, nothing too extravagant.

But, just for kicks, here’s a gorgeous picture of Grace Kelly.

There are some pretty overt references to rape in this novel, and I think that the secrecy surrounding the topic really mirror how some survivors feel when they try to tell the truth in today’s society as well.

 

I really enjoyed this, and I think you should pick up a copy!

4 Bards

fourbards

Book Review: Talented by Sophie Davis

13466202Block it out. Impossible for Talia Lyons. When you’re a Mind Manipulator, it’s hard enough to block the thoughts of others, let alone your own.

Block it out. The pounding, siren-ready world Talia inhabits as she trains with her fellow Hunters, the country’s top-secret covert operatives. The physical demands. The emotional toll.

Block it out. The secrets that Talia’s boyfriend is hiding. Talia’s unbidden feelings of frustration and annoyance toward her teammate, the Casanova of the compound. The wondering why she cares what he thinks.

Block him out. Ian Crane. The man behind the bloodshed marring Talia’s memories of her murdered parents. The man she’s determined to kill.

Block it all out. Focus.

So I received this book at BEA directly from the author Sophie Davis, and we bonded about being from NC.  I was hesitant to read this because if I didn’t like it, and had to give it a bad review I would feel super bad.  Fortunately I really liked the book.  There were a few problems, but overall not enough to turn me off of the book.

I thought the story was really good.  The concept of this dystopian world was realistic and really well explained.  I thought at times her explanations and descriptions were a bit wordy but almost necessary to gain a good picture of this new world.  Also while I’m talking about things I didn’t care for, the cover, Talia is supposed to have unruly curly hair.  The chick on the cover has straight hair… It bugs me more than it should.

Anyway back to the story, I kind of want her talent, it sounds cool.  And Erik, yum, new man crush there.  I am looking forward to the next book, I hope we get some answers and some stuff resolved!  Good job Sophie Davis!

4 Bards

fourbards

 

 

Book Review: Panic by Lauren Oliver

17565845 Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn’t know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

So like most YA readers I have read Lauren Oliver’s other books and really liked them.  Naturally I assumed that this one was dystopian like her others, I was wrong.  I warn you of this not because it was a bad book, more to prepare you for the type of book you are reading since the cover gives you nothing.  In fact I really don’t care for the cover.  It doesn’t fit with the story.  The synopsis is misleading too.  For example one might think from the write up that the two main characters Heather and Dodge are going to be romantically involved with each other, they are not.   I do actually like that part of the book.  If they were to have fallen for each other it would be too cliché.

Heather and Dodge were likable characters and relatable.  I personally liked the supporting characters Nat and Bishop.  Nat had some significant issues of the OCD variety and Bishop always seemed to have something else going on if you know what I mean.  Anyway there were enjoyable.  I liked the concept of Panic as a game.  I would probably not compete because I am a wimp, but it sounds neat.  I wish that we could have explored games from years past to find out those challenges.

Overall I really liked the book.  There were some parts that had me rolling my eyes but they were few and far between.  I thought Lauren Oliver did a great job writing this book!  Its a must read!

4 Bards

fourbards

 

Book Review: Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen

20708754#EvilLibrarian He’s young. He’s hot. He’s also evil. He’s . . . the librarian.

When Cynthia Rothschild’s best friend, Annie, falls head over heels for the new high-school librarian, Cyn can totally see why. He’s really young and super cute and thinks Annie would make an excellent library monitor. But after meeting Mr. Gabriel, Cyn realizes something isn’t quite right. Maybe it’s the creepy look in the librarian’s eyes, or the weird feeling Cyn gets whenever she’s around him. Before long Cyn realizes that Mr. Gabriel is, in fact . . . a demon. Now, in addition to saving the school musical from technical disaster and trying not to make a fool of herself with her own hopeless crush, Cyn has to save her best friend from the clutches of the evil librarian, who also seems to be slowly sucking the life force out of the entire student body! From best-selling author Michelle Knudsen, here is the perfect novel for teens who like their horror served up with a bit of romance, plenty of humor, and some pretty hot guys (of both the good and evil variety).

 

I was really excited to read this book, the cover is awesome!  I mean look at it!  So cool.  Anyway this book is really geared towards the younger end of the YA genre.  While to topic of the book seems like it could lead to a very scary or intense read, Michelle Knudsen added such levity to the book that it was a very enjoyable read.

While the story centered around Cynthia and Ryan defeating the Demons the best part of the story.  They were hilarious.  Not at all scary or gross, just plain funny.  I loved that they loved musical theater.  Cyn and Ryan’s story was cute.  Lots of build up with little reward, but the book was geared toward a younger audience so it was appropriate.  I love musical theater so I was delighted that it was such a big part of the book.

The book doesn’t have much substance but it was a great read.  It was funny, and entertaining, captivating, and an all around enjoyable read.  I would recommend it to middle to early high school aged people.

 

4 Bards

fourbards

 

 

Book Review: Fan Art by Sarah Tregay

Senior year is almost over, and Jamie Peterson has a big problem. Not college—that’s all set. Not prom—he’ll find a date somehow. No, it’s the worst problem of all: he’s fallen for his best friend.

As much as Jamie tries to keep it under wraps, everyone seems to know where his affections lie, and the giggling girls in art class are determined to help Jamie get together with Mason. But Jamie isn’t sure if that’s what he wants—because as much as Jamie would like to come clean to Mason, what if the truth ruins everything? What if there are no more road trips, taco dinners, or movie nights? Does he dare risk a childhood friendship for romance?

Fan Art is significantly different from the other LGBT books that I’ve read recently, in that it deals with two male characters, and the character’s sexuality is the main focus of the narrative.  Whereas some of the other LGBT books I’ve read are more focused on other aspects of the story.  For example, Caela Carter’s My Best Friend, Maybe really deals with the broken friendship between the two main characters and how religion and prejudice concerning homosexuality can cause issues, and not a romance.  You should really read that one too, it was great.  Check out my review here.

Fan Art isn’t particularly jazzy or addicting from a narrating standpoint, in fact, the narration is down right bland.  However, I think that this was a purposeful move on behalf of the author.  For example, Jamie, the main character, constantly tries to fly under the radar at his school in order to protect himself and his sexuality.  I think that the narrative style that Tregay used was perfect for this, because it really added to Jamie’s characterization.

Another thing that I really liked about Tregay’s story is that it really utilizes the whole fangirl process of shipping just about any fictional character with one another regardless of sex or sexuality. If you have ever been an avid fan and scrolled through Tumblr, then you definitely know what I’m talking about.  Example: Captain Hook and Prince Charming from Once Upon a Time.  Anyway, I can’t imagine that this wouldn’t happen at a high school where some guys will fantasize about two girls together, and the girls can ship any of their guy friends together.  Kudos to Tregay for cashing in on this whole subgenre, because it was truly innovative and a lot of fun to read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story even though I totally predicted where it was going before I was even half way through the novel.  I’d argue that this isn’t a bad thing, because I loved the story and where it ended.

Pick up a copy!

4 Bards.

fourbards

 

 

 

 

A huge thank you to Jeremy at Novel Thoughts for giving me the opportunity to read and review this book!

 

 

Book Review: Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer

8130839But now that the final battle is upon her, there’s more at stake than fighting. There’s saving Ren, even if it incurs Shay’s wrath. There’s keeping Ansel safe, even if he’s been branded a traitor. There’s proving herself as the pack’s alpha, facing unnamable horrors, and ridding the world of the Keepers’ magic once and for all. And then there’s deciding what to do when the war ends. If Calla makes it out alive, that is. In this remarkable final installment of the Nightshade trilogy, international bestselling author Andrea Cremer crafts a dynamic novel with twists and turns that will keep you breathless until its final pages.

Wow, that was a long book! It was pretty good, consistent with the first two books, but it dragged on longer than it should have. It is so hard to write a review for a book in a series that I have already reviewed. If you want to see my reviews for Nightshade (Book 1) click here and for Wolfsbane (Book 2) click here. Everything seemed to wrap up together nicely and I didn’t feel like things built up to a tragically short ending. The characters kept pulling me in with their developments and achievements and yes, I cried when some were lost.

I got to say though, the ending through me for a loop. Not in a bad way, but in a different way. I won’t give anything away, but it was definitely a change from the normal. The ending also left all the characters at a good place, but also a place where the series could continue in a different direction if the author chooses.  Just to give you a little something to look forward to, I will mention the two gay teen werewolves scuba diving and chasing turtles.  And that is part of the reason I like this series.

4 Bards

fourbards

Book Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

7263429Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemy, and she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer–one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack–and the man–she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

 

 

Jumping into book 2 of the Nightshade series, I was thrilled to see that it started exactly where book 1 let off. I hate when books have an unaccounted time lapse and this did not, so well done Mrs. Cremer!  And with that, the book had great flow and was adventurous and captivating.

Trusting that the people she was bred to hate would be her and her pack’s savior.  Calla continues her journey towards freedom from a life she can’t go back to. Bumps in the road, betrayals and heartbreaks lead her closer to the goal, yet she begins to feel like she’s going backwards and not forwards. Among the continuing storyline is an undercurrent of a love triangle, one where she must continue to chose between loyalty to her pack or to her heart.

The continuing character development worked well for all the players and the dialogue and descriptions fit the story perfectly. I had a hard time putting the book down!  Book 1 was a little slow and long, but this book was quick and just the write length.

I give this book 4 bards!

fourbards

Book Review: Unbreakable by Kami Garcia

12371862When Kennedy Waters finds her mother dead, her world begins to unravel. She doesn’t know that paranormal forces in a much darker world are the ones pulling the strings. Not until identical twins Jared and Lukas Lockhart break into Kennedy’s room and destroy a dangerous spirit sent to kill her. The brothers reveal that her mother was part of an ancient secret society responsible for protecting the world from a vengeful demon — a society whose five members were all murdered on the same night.

Now Kennedy has to take her mother’s place in the Legion if she wants to uncover the truth and stay alive. Along with new Legion members Priest and Alara, the teens race to find the only weapon that might be able to destroy the demon — battling the deadly spirits he controls every step of the way.

Suspense, romance, and the paranormal meet in this chilling urban fantasy, the first book in a new series from Kami Garcia, bestselling coauthor of the Beautiful Creatures novels.

 

Ghosts. Yes, I believe in them. No, I am not a fan of reading about them. I tend to scare myself into thinking what’s lurking around in the book is lurking around in my house. That being said, I managed to read this book in two days and loved it. Right from the beginning it pulled me and kept me captivated.

The characters in the story are young and the author really captures their youth as well as the desire and need to be older then they are. They are essential thrown into a world that most have trained for but have never experienced. There is always that one person, Kennedy in this case, that has no idea but seems to adapt out of necessity, and I really felt that was done very well.

Diving into the world of paranormal activity can be tricky. At times it felt like Supernatural and teenage Ghost Hunters mashed together, but then something would happen and it pulled me right back into the story. It was a very easy read and everything flowed together very well. The ending showed the readers there will be more books to come but didn’t leave us in a state of shock, demanding the next book at that very moment.

Despite the fear of ghosts, and the inability to read the series after dark, I will be reading the next book in the series and I look forward to seeing what happens to all the characters as they continue their journey through the world of ghost hunting and slaying!

I give this book 4 spooky bards!

fourbards

Book Review: Riot by Sarah Mussi

It is 2018. England has been struggling under a recession that has shown no sign of abating. Years of cuts has devastated Britain: banks are going under, businesses closing, prices soaring, unemployment rising, prisons overflowing. The authorities cannot cope. And the population has maxed out.

The police are snowed under. Something has to give. Drastic measures need taking.

The solution: forced sterilisation of all school leavers without secure further education plans or guaranteed employment.

The country is aghast. Families are distraught, teenagers are in revolt, but the politicians are unshakeable: The population explosion must be curbed. No more free housing for single parents, no more child benefit, no more free school meals, no more children in need. Less means more.

But it is all so blatantly unfair – the Teen Haves will procreate, the Teen Havenots won’t.

It’s time for the young to take to the streets. It’s time for them to RIOT:

OUR RIGHT TO CHOOSE, OUR BODIES, OUR FUTURE.

Riot is one of those action pact adventure novels that keeps you hooked from the start.  It is focused on a hacker (Tia) and the trouble she gets involved in via her hacking ways.  The plot was interesting.  I liked that it was believable and quasi-realistic.  And can we talk about the forced sterilization?  Yikes.

I really liked Cobain, I thought his character was well developed and likable.  I thought Tia was ok,  she was a teenage girl fighting for the rights of the youth.  She was a bit wimpy in places but lets be honest, we all would be if faced with the same troubles.  I thought the pace of the book moved along well.  It was very action packed, almost a little too much.  I wanted them to catch a break occasionally maybe have a day or two of peace.  What I didn’t like in particular was the end.  It felt too complete, like everything was wrapped up in a nice neat bow.  I feel like with that kind of mass unrest there would have been more fall out involved.  Other than that I thought the book was great.

I am a little confused as to how to classify the genre of this book, it’s not really dystopian as it happens in the near future, and the world didn’t end.  It’s like pre-dystopian, what caused the world to change.  I will give a disclaimer to all the American’s who read this book, it is British, so some of the slang is different, but it doesn’t trip you up too much.  I happen to enjoy all things British, so I enjoyed reading it with my terrible English accent in my head.  It’s a good faced-paced action book, with a little romance to spice things up!  Don’t let the description discourage you from reading the book.  It was about the social unrest of the teens, however it followed 2 main characters and had some romance involved.  I felt like the description was misleading.  It didn’t even mention the characters or the hacking aspect of the book.

 

fourbards

 

I received a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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