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.

Book Review: Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig

25036310Flynn’s girlfriend has disappeared. How can he uncover her secrets without revealing his own?

Flynn’s girlfriend, January, is missing. The cops are asking questions he can’t answer, and her friends are telling stories that don’t add up. All eyes are on Flynn—as January’s boyfriend, he must know something.

But Flynn has a secret of his own. And as he struggles to uncover the truth about January’s disappearance, he must also face the truth about himself. 

Team Midsummer had the amazing chance to interview Caleb Roehrig and we love him. Check out our interview here.

I read this book in a matter of hours.  The only reason I put it down for a few minutes was to run from one airport terminal to the other so I could make sure to catch my flight home.  Even then, I held the book in my hands, unwilling to let it go or lose my place for too long.

When Caleb said he set out to write a thriller, I’d say he succeeded in spades.

First things first, let’s talk about characterization.

Flynn, oh, Flynn, my sweet snowflake.  He is so well rounded as a character, he has his flaws, he has his snarky sarcasm that made me laugh out loud (to the chagrin of my neighbor on the flight), last-seen-leaving-aestheticand he has a struggle of accepting himself for who he is.  He is brash, he is ridiculously self confident in that he will find clues and information that the cops can’t find about his missing girlfriend, and I assume he must have an extremely trustworthy face, because a lot of people he doesn’t really know open right up to him.  Although, I think my main concern here is that those people’s parents didn’t teach them to not talk to strangers.  But again, I could always talk to a wall, so I’m not the best judge!

January is somehow able to be likable despite all of her flaws and her incessant lying.  For instance, even waaaaaaaaaay before the events in Last Seen Leaving, she was consistently portraying her boyfriend, and so-called best friend, Flynn is a very negative light to those around her.  Not only to some of the kids at her new private school, but also to her coworker, who she also pitted against Flynn to make him jealous.  She’s definitely a master manipulator, and I credit Roehrig for still creating a character that I was rooting for, even though I kind of hated her too.  She reminded me of one of those girls in high school who definitely thought she was better than anyone and everyone, therefore isolating herself from everyone.

The mystery/thriller aspect.

This story kept me on my toes the entire time. While I do have my reservations about girls just giving up a lot of random information about January to a guy they’d never really met before, I loved that Flynn had this whole Nancy Drew thing going on (Side note: Nancy Drew was way better than The Hardy Boys).  He’s definitely a bolder person than I’d ever be.  I’d be persuaded to let the cops handle it and then wallow in my own misery, but not Flynn.  Which I love.  I found it so amazing that he was kind of bad at investigating, and the killer was definitely not someone who I immediately suspected, so I credit Roehrig for laying plenty of false leads throughout the narrative that were pretty convincing.

Romance.

I just fangirl flail about Kaz and Flynn. Just, go read this.

4.5 Bards!

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Keep up with the rest of our LGBT Month Celebration!

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Author Spotlight: Caleb Roehrig

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Unfortunately technical difficulties attacked Team Midsummer and we had to transcribe the interview with the fabulous and wonderful Caleb Roehrig.  We hope he forgives us, because we adore him!

We were lucky enough to connect with Roehrig when he was promoting his book at the Texas Teen Book Festival in Austin, TX on October 1, 2016.

A Midsummer Night’s Read (MSNR): What inspired you to write this novel?

Caleb Roehrig (CR): Well, I love thrillers, especially anything with missing persons.  But also there was very few young adult books when I was growing up, and even less with LGBT protagonists. So I wanted to write a 25036310book that combined both of those elements and it ended up coming out as Last Seen Leaving.

MSNR: Well, you kind of answered this question already, but did you set out to write an LGBT novel?

CR: Yes, as I mentioned, there were very few novels that were written featuring LGBT characters and I really wanted to be able to show readers that there are characters and people like them in literature and in the world. 

MSNR: What is your writing process like? Do you outline, or do you just sit down and write?

CR: Well, I don’t know if you’ve heard but there are two types of writers, pantsers and plotters. I am definitely a plotter, otherwise I will go in too many directions. One time I wrote 160,000 words, but I kept writing myself into a corner, then took forever writing myself out of a corner, then wrote myself into ANOTHER corner.  I definitely have a start and an end, but sometimes I figure it out from there.

MSNR: What was your favorite part about writing this novel?

CR: I think it was being able to put red herrings in everywhere to deter readers from the actual answer. Although I did keep giving everyone an airtight alibi at first, so that made it difficult!

MSNR: What can we expect from you in the future?

CR: Well, I have two finished manuscripts, but my publisher is trying to decide which one will come out next!

MSNR: That’s awesome!

MSNR: What do you hope readers take away from this book?

CR: Well, I really want them to be in suspense and to be thrilled, but also for LGBT readers to see themselves in the main character, oh I think I just gave away a spoiler. SPOILER ALERT. Although the main goal is for all readers to identify with the journey that Flynn takes through the story. 

MSNR: So, your biography says you’ve lived in a lot of different places, where has been your favorite place to live?

CR: It is really hard to choose, because I’ve liked everywhere I’ve lived! I lived in Michigan, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Europe.  We did just move back to LA, and I guess that means I chose LA? I remember not liking it at first when I moved there, but once I found my tribe and my place in LA, I loved it. So, if you go to LA, you have to find your LA.

MSNR: Where would you like to live that you haven’t lived?

CR: Hmmm, well, I’ve always wanted to live in Sweden! 

MSNR: Because it’s neutral?

CR: That and it just seems like such a nice place to live!

MSNR: What do you want to say to young LGBT readers, maybe something that you didn’t hear? 

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Jess sucks and this photo is blurry, but he’s awesome.

CR: Okay, you might hear this a lot, it does get better. Everything feels heavy when you’re a teenager and that it might be the end of the world, but it really does get better. Please, never stop having adventures.  You’ll always have time for new ones.  I mean, I just started this whole new book adventure, and that could be you. 

Thank you so much to Caleb and Fierce Reads for being so enthusiastic about Team Midsummer. We are so honored to support this sweet and enigmatic debut author and his novel!

Be sure to keep an eye out for our review of Last Seen Leaving in our celebration of LGBT History Month.

Also, we not so low key are in love with Caleb, so you should be too.

You can follow Caleb on his social media outlets:

Twitter. Instagram. Website.

Order his book now!

 

 

Book Review: Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

14061957The Darkling rules Ravka from his shadow throne.

Now the nation’s fate rests with a broken Sun Summoner, a disgraced tracker, and the shattered remnants of a once-great magical army.

Alina will have to forge new alliances and put aside old rivalries as she and Mal race to find the last of Morozova’s amplifiers. But as she begins to unravel the Darkling’s secrets, she reveals a past that will forever alter her understanding of the bond they share and the power she wields. The firebird is the one thing that stands between Ravka and destruction—and claiming it could cost Alina the very future she’s fighting for.

I spent three books thinking Mal was gonna be the worst thing ever and I just didn’t see it at all? Maybe because I was expecting the worst, but I think Alina could have done a lot worse. Like the Darkling, for instance. And I get that that seems to be an unpopular opinion in the fandom, but here’s the thing, the relationship that Alina has with the Darkling reminds me so much of Buffy and Spike in Season 6 that I just cannot get behind it.

Every private interaction she has with the Darkling he talks about how she could “balance” him and make him a better man, and both times her response is that he wouldn’t do the same for her. She wants him, but she doesn’t want to want him, and that I think is the most important thing about Alina. She takes to power well, she’s a natural leader, but she doesn’t want to be a monster.

The Darkling is a terrible person. He has no qualms about using/killing people to get what he wants. Those rare moments of humanity we see in him are only brought out by Alina. He’s relying on her to be his gatekeeper, and honestly, I’m not here for that. But I also think that’s what makes readers love him so much. Bardugo does an amazing job of making this character, who should be totally unlikeable (he is the antagonist, after all), not just likable, but somehow relatable.

I don’t have super strong feelings on Mal one way or the other. I think the fact that he was important to Alina made him important to the story, but also that she didn’t necessarily need him. I will say that the best part about Mal is that he recognizes that. Like I’ve said, I kept waiting for him to screw up so badly that I would hate his guts and that never happened. Instead, I was always surprised by how much he cared about Alina to stop being so selfish and step aside for her be as powerful as she was meant to be.

I am not ruined. I am ruination.

Genya’s storyline has to be my favorite. “I hope the taste of me was worth it.” Just. Damn. That whole interaction with the King (and Nikolai!!! bringing his own father to justice!!!!! I just love him a lot, okay?) was one of the best parts of the series for me. I’m glad that she was able to come back from that and I’m glad that she stopped hiding herself after what the Darkling did to her face and I’m also glad for David and that he finally had some good words for Genya rather than just talking about science. (I’m never getting over this scene, sorry, not sorry.)

Nikolai continues to be the best thing ever. I love how just completely dramatic he is, but it’s not obnoxious, it’s just who he is. Bringing honesty and candor and just overall lightness to everything. I don’t have anything else to add. Except that I wish he were real.

I did like the ending, though I think it may have been more impactful if it had gone the other way. Overall, I loved the series, I read all 3 in 3 days. They were so easy to get into and they kept me on the edge the whole time I was reading. That being said, I don’t know if I would have loved them as much if I had read them before Six of Crows so I’m glad I read that first. 4 bards for the conclusion of this wild ride.

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Book Review: Broken Hearts, Fences, and Other Things to Mend by Katie Finn

Gemma just got dumped and is devastated. She finds herself back in the Hamptons for the summer—which puts her at risk of bumping into Hallie, her former best friend that she wronged five years earlier. Do people hold grudges that long? 

When a small case of mistaken identity causes everyone, including Hallie and her dreamy brother Josh, to think she’s someone else, Gemma decides to go along with it.

Gemma’s plan is working (she’s finding it hard to resist Josh), but she’s finding herself in embarrassing situations (how could a bathing suit fall apart like that!?). Is it coincidence or is someone trying to expose her true identity? And how will Josh react if he finds out who she is? 

Oh boy. I went into this novel being super excited and ready to have a new summer read.  The first few pages are so awkward and weird when the main character gets dumped in a parking lot at Target, but then refuses to acknowledge the fact that the relationship is over for a few good days.  Which then makes it easy to believe that as a young teen the character had an entire summer of intense denial.

I was especially bummed that I knew what was happening from almost the very beginning, and it just made reading it a lot less fun.  In addition, there is just an unrealistic amount of naivete that Gemma displayed throughout the entire narrative was both unbelievable and ridiculously annoying. Josh, however, I adored as a character, and I might be a little bit partial due to the fact that him and my boyfriend share a name and some similar personality traits.

It really just all ended up being like a really juvenile episode of Revenge (even in the same setting!) I hate that I didn’t enjoy this novel, because Katie Finn is really just the pen name for Morgan Matson, and if you are a regular reader then you know that I adored Since You’ve Been Gone.

Seriously though, there’s going to be more? An ongoing war in a series of books between two girls? This is definitely a series I’ll be skipping.

2 Bards (because I liked Josh and I liked the consistency of Gemma’s delusional self.)

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