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

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

Blog Tour: The Inevitable Collision of Birdie & Bash Book Excerpt

 

It’s our day on the Birdie & Bash blog tour and we are here to introduce you to a bit of the narrative!  Check out the synopsis, a bit about the author, and an exclusive excerpt below!

Birdie never meant to be at the party. Bash should have been long gone. But when they meet, a collision course is set off they may never recover from.

Sebastian Alvaréz is just trying to hold the pieces together: to not flunk out, to keep his sort-of-best friend Wild Kyle from doing something really bad, and to see his beloved Ma through chemo. But when he meets Birdie Paxton, a near-Valedictorian who doesn’t realize she’s smoking hot in her science pun T-shirt, at a party, an undeniable attraction sparks. And suddenly he’s not worried about anything. But before they are able to exchange numbers, they are pulled apart. A horrifying tragedy soon links Birdie and Bash together—but neither knows it. When they finally reconnect, and are starting to fall—hard—the events of the tragedy unfold, changing both their lives in ways they can never undo. 

Release Date: July 25, 2017

 

 

 

Candace Ganger is a young adult author, contributing writer for Hello Giggles, and obsesswive marathoner. Aside from having past lives as a singer, nanotechnology website editor, and the world’s worst vacuum sales rep, she’s also ghostwritten hundreds of projects for companies, best-selling fiction and award-winning nonfiction authors alike. Candace – aka – Candyland – has a severe Milky Way latter addiction + eats way too many donuts/doughnuts but all things in excess, amiright? FYI: She’s TOTALLY awkward in person (#sorrynotsorry). She lives in Ohio with her family.

 

 

 

Repost: Interview and Book Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

 

28374007In every generation on the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born: three queens, all equal heirs to the crown and each possessor of a coveted magic. Mirabella is a fierce elemental, able to spark hungry flames or vicious storms at the snap of her fingers. Katharine is a poisoner, one who can ingest the deadliest poisons without so much as a stomachache. Arsinoe, a naturalist, is said to have the ability to bloom the reddest rose and control the fiercest of lions.

But becoming the Queen Crowned isn’t solely a matter of royal birth. Each sister has to fight for it. And it’s not just a game of win or lose…it’s life or death. The night the sisters turn sixteen, the battle begins.

The last queen standing gets the crown.

Holy moley this book was an excellent roller coaster of emotions and craziness.

Blake has created an absolutely intriguing story world where the isolated island members are pretty fanatical about their precious queens and they will do almost anything to see their queen crowned.

The narration in this story is a bit muddled at times, because the story seems to flow from character to character third person limited, so that way the reader is in the loop about all of the dealings behind the scenes, and everything that is going on within the three areas of the island where the girls are kept.  Obviously the reader gets the point of view of each of the queens, Katharine, Arsinoe, and Mirabella.  But we also get the point of views of those closest to them, Natalia and Pietyr for Katharine, Jules, Joseph, and Billy for Arsinoe, and Luca for Mirabella.  While I did find the narration switches to be confusing at times and sometimes the narrative voices blended together, it served the story well and it allowed for a few *gasp* moments during my read.

As for the queens themselves as characters: I can’t decide which one I like more.  Fierce Arsinoe who has overcome her faults and accepted her fate only to find her fate different by the end of the novel.  Loving Mirabella who can control raging fire but can’t control how much she loves and misses her sisters.  Shy Katharine who is stronger than anyone will give her credit for, despite her short comings.  They were all raised to hate and want to murder their siblings in order to take their crown, but fore the most part the girls are pretty reluctant.  It seems that for the most part, none of them actually hate each other, but are just kind of resigned to their lot in life…of having to commit murder in order to live.

It’s a pretty dark burden they all carry, but they do manage to find a bit of happiness in their worlds, although an unfortunate love triangle pops up that broke my heart for two different characters. Damn you, Blake for giving me feels.

The narrative has such a sense of urgency throughout the whole book, which is excellent considering the story takes place over a number of months leading up to the final conclusion of Beltane at the end of Three Dark Crowns.

The readers learn a pretty important plot point there at the end, one that will change the course of the next installment.  Overall the world building was excellent for a first fantasy novel, and I’m sure we will continue to get more details on the history of the prophecy for the triplets (I can hope!), and more insight into what happens if the queens fail to kill one another.

4.5 Bards! Keep an eye out for our interview with Kendare Blake from the Texas Teen Book Festival!

four.fivebards

 

 

 

 


Non-Fiction Friday: The Girls of Murder City & Giveaway

Book Review: Once and For All by Sarah Dessen

Louna, daughter of famed wedding planner Natalie Barrett, has seen every sort of wedding: on the beach, at historic mansions, in fancy hotels and clubs. Perhaps that’s why she’s cynical about happily-ever-after endings, especially since her own first love ended tragically. When Louna meets charming, happy-go-lucky serial dater Ambrose, she holds him at arm’s length. But Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged, now that he’s met the one girl he really wants.

If you aren’t aware of my pure love of Sarah Dessen’s work, feel free to check out my essay titled, “Discovering Dessen,” here.

I want to give a huge shout out to my OTSP Secret Sister for sending me an ARC of this book for my birthday, it was SUCH a wonderful surprise, and I read the whole novel in one sitting the night it arrived. Thank you so much!

Okay, now that my “business” is attended to, let’s get to the real reason any of you are here: the review of Dessen’s 13th novel. Her publishing career is officially a teenager! Now I’m embarassed because that was a ridiculous joke, but anyway…

Dessen never dawdles when it comes to kicking off her narratives and the voice of Louna comes to life immediately.  She’s headstrong, levelheaded, and really good at helping her mom out with the family wedding business. We find out rather quickly how cynical she is and how much pain she is in over a lost love, but the exact details about this are told in a very brilliant way.

Dessen weaves together flashbacks (told from most recent to the very beginning of the relationship that Louna had with her first love), and I think it’s absolutely wonderful.  Not only since she’s telling it backwards, kind of, but that there’s flashbacks to showcase the emotions that Louna was feeling and it really puts the reader head first into the same love that Louna felt.  Plus, we get some shoutouts to former characters and places from her books, which I always enjoy.  I know that some people don’t like the use of flashbacks as a narrative device, but I think Dessen’s way of doing it makes it much more fresh and less like an  old storytelling trick.

My Dessen Collection

I applaud Dessen for including a very heavy topic in this book that we haven’t really seen in her work before (don’t get me wrong, she’s had some very emotional topics), and I think she did it respectfully and showed the effect it can have.  It also brought tears to my eyes, but I guess it really wouldn’t be a Sarah Dessen book if I didn’t cry!

The meet cute for Louna and Ambrose is pretty adorable as she has to literally grab him and drag him to his own  mother’s wedding.  This is just a sneak peek of the shenanigans that Ambrose does throughout the whole novel.  In all honesty, he’s probably my favorite male character/love interest that Dessen has written since Dexter in This Lullaby.  Ambrose is witty, clumsy, laid back, and anxious at the same time.  He is fabulous. I do love how Dessen is able to show the reader, through Louna’s point of view, how much he cares for her…without Louna actually realizing it throughout the majority of the novel. It’s awesome.

Also, the secondary characters of Louna’s mom and her business partner are so well rounded in this novel too.  I think the main issue I have with some contemporary novels is that only the main couple characters will be fully fleshed out, but Dessen doesn’t do this in Once and For All.  They made me laugh out loud multiple times.

Keep an eye out for this one, out next week June 6.  You definitely don’t want to miss this.

5 Bards.

Discovering Dessen: A Brief Essay

There was this old used book store about five minutes from where I grew up that my Mom and Mawmaw used to take me to.  Now, when I say “take me to,” it wasn’t necessarily for my own enjoyment. Although I did fall in love with a good murder mystery there, and it’s where I found my first copy of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None.

The store was built out of what looked like singed wood from a moldy forest, and it smelled like moth balls inside.  The majority of the store was filled with old Harlequin romance novels, the same thing that my Mawmaw always read.  You know the type; the covers were always a beefcake with no shirt and a scantily clad woman in what looked like ripped lingerie.  Either way, she’d wander her way through the stacks, and I’d just play hide and seek with an invisible friend while I was in my early years, and then would just strut around bored in my early teens.  

Until one day when I discovered a new shelf.  It was small, maybe twelve books that were for middle grade or young adults.  Granted, I can honestly say that the shelf wasn’t necessarily labeled, not that I remember, at least, but that the covers weren’t so risqué.  The covers were either illustrated or were of inanimate objects to indicate some sort of theme in the novel.  However, the book that caught my eye was a lonely pier jutting out into a beautiful blue body of water, and it had a solitary human image.  Naturally this was the book I picked up and begged my Mawmaw to buy for me for the $1.25 that the store was asking for. (I feel like it’s needless to say at this point that the store is no longer open, as their prices weren’t exactly sustainable.)

This book was Dreamland by Sarah Dessen.

Honestly, I don’t remember exactly what impact this book made on me, or if it was one of my favorite reads at the time, but her name stuck with me. I liked Dessen’s novel enough to remember to look for her name in the bookstore.  It wasn’t long before I had devoured her other three novels, That Summer, Keeping the Moon, and Someone like You. During this time I was playing on a traveling softball team on the weekends, so we would end up in the car for a few hours driving to and from fields, and we would also have an hour or two to kill between games…so I would read.

No other book that I can remember stuck out to me more than Dessen’s next novel This Lullaby.  This was the book that I found by chance in the bookstore when we were at the beach for a softball tournament as this was way before I got into book blogging or even knew what day new books were released.  We were just killing time, hitting up the food court for lunch, and wandering in and out of stores. Even then I was known as a bit of a book nerd, since I was the one who always had a novel on hand and a book suggestion on the tip of my tongue.  So it was no surprise that I practically demanded to go into the bookstore.  

At this point, I don’t remember if there was a specific young adult book shelf like there is now, or rather, a whole section, but I remember seeing Dessen’s name and immediately grabbing the hardcover off the shelf. This novel quickly became one of my all-time favorite books, and that hasn’t changed 15 years later.
Remy’s extreme negative attitude toward relationships and love spoke to me on so many levels.  As a teenager, I was extremely jaded already, because this character made me feel like I was reading my own thoughts.  Not only was Remy an amazingly relatable character, but Dexter quickly became my first book boyfriend (Huzzah!).

My first copy of This Lullaby eventually fell apart from me carrying it in my bat bag, my friends’ borrowing it, and from reading it over and over. I went to the store to pick up a new copy, paperback, this time, and found The Truth About Forever.

I cannot credit anyone with my love of young adult literature more than I can credit Sarah Dessen.  

When I was a teenager struggling with first love, my eating disorder, deaths in the family, etc, her novels spoke to me on a level I didn’t realize books could.

Two years ago I finally had the chance to meet Sarah in person for the first time, and it was like meeting a lifelong hero for me.  I was 28, but I may as well have been 13 again, because all those emotions of reading Dreamland and This Lullaby came back.  It was one of the highlights of being a book blogger and reader, so the release of Dessen’s thirteenth novel reminds me that I’ve been reading her novels since I WAS thirteen.  It’s serendipitous, in a way, because Once and For All takes me back to all of the feelings I had about This Lullaby more than any of her others.

Louna and Ambrose will sit in my mind just as much as Remy and Dexter, Macy and Wes, Auden and Eli, and so many more Dessen characters.

So I have to throw out a thank you to Sarah Dessen for being there for me since I was 13 and for being a go-to read for me for seventeen years. That’s crazy! Seventeen (which is fewer than the number of times I’ve read This Lullaby. Not a lie.)

Once and For All comes out on June 6, 2017 and it is not a book to be missed.

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