Book Review: Something Like Gravity by Amber Smith

somethinglikegravity.jpeg

I have been in the mood for a really good YA romance for a while now, but they just kept alluding me. That is, until I received Amber Smith’s newest book Something Like Gravity. The cover caught my eye, of course, but then the description: “for fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all” I crossed my fingers and hoped it wouldn’t disappoint and it definitely did not.

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

Chris is our main character who has recently come out as a trans man. He suffered a horrific assault at the hands of his peers, and is understandably still reeling. Maia is a cisgender female from a small southern town who is struggling to find herself after her sister has unexpectedly died. Chris and Maia’s families are both integral to the story, and we catch glimpses of them throughout. Where I was a little disappointed was in both Chris and Maia’s friends. Their characters felt very flat and one-dimensional. They were necessary for the story but felt really bland. Smith somehow gives us just enough development that we fall in love with these characters but still leaves us wanting more. The perfect literary balance.

PLOT

The writing style is very fluid throughout even with switching between point of views. This could have just been a light and fluffy summer romance novel, but it goes deeper. There are secrets, pain, trauma, misunderstandings, soul searching, and imperfect relationships. I was surprised by how sensitive the romance was and how important personal growth was to the story. I want more books like this. The pacing is good, and Smith writes in such a way that the pages essentially turn themselves. There were a few times when Smith pleasantly surprised me with a plot development choice.

OVERALL

Is there anything sexier than CONSENT? No there is not, and Smith proves that to us within these pages. Consent is and can be sexy, I hope other authors follow suit. As far as I am aware, this was not written in Own Voices so I hope that it is an accurate depiction of a FTM point of view. I myself have never had this experience so I cannot be sure, and it does give me some pause.

Overall, this was a fun read. If you enjoyed Love, Simon I think it’s safe to say you will love this one, too. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it provoked many important questions within me. I would absolutely purchase this for teens grade 9-12 and adults that enjoy contemporary YA romance. Due to be released June 18, 2019 - you can place your pre-order here.

Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Boarding school trope with a Feminist horror twist

Boarding school trope with a Feminist horror twist

Rory Power takes the well-known and well-loved young adult boarding school trope and marries it with a survival story…and then turns it all on its head. Wilder Girls is a wild ride, indeed. We find ourselves in a hellish world where a mysterious illness named the Tox either kills or deforms all those remaining at the Raxter School for Girls. It’s jam-packed with diversity and luscious, stylistic writing.

"Feminist horror" -- for those of you that are fans, do I need to say more? The gore will not disappoint. For those of you that are skeptical still, this certainly has creepy, skin-crawly elements. At times, I had to squeeze my eyes shut because the imagery was so vivid and horrific. I have to give an extra star just for uniqueness alone, as there are few books that I have read in the young adult genre that have similar story-lines. It has apocalyptic overtones and political undertones.

The first few chapters felt relatively bland to me. It wasn't until we first get Byatt's POV that I was gripped. The way that Powers writes for Byatt is nothing short of poetic. I wanted more Byatt and less Hetty. There was a lot of unnecessary repetition, which could just be my own pet peeve. The world building could have been more descriptive and the ending felt rushed and abrupt. An extra 50 pages, maybe more, were really needed to give some necessary backstory and a less hurried ending. That being said, I would be interested in a sequel. Power's writing style is unique, gripping and nothing short of exquisite.

The entire time I was reading, all I could do was compare this to an M. Night Shyamalan movie. It is that type of "wtf just happened". 3.5 stars from me, rounded up. The rushing at the end coupled with underdeveloped characters had me wanting more. But bravo for a first novel. You can pre-order your copy here, Wilder Girls will be out in early July of this year.

I'm pretty confident that we can all agree the cover is absolutely stunning. It is what caught my eye in the first place. I wish I had a physical copy to photograph because I know bookstagram would be all about this one.

Power does give us a list of content warnings, which I would advise you read before reading or gifting this to someone else.

Book Review: Light From Other Stars by Erika Swyler

This is my review for Erika Swyler'‘s newest book,  Light From Other Stars

This is my review for Erika Swyler'‘s newest book, Light From Other Stars

This is Erika Swyler’s second novel, her first being The Book of Speculation which I absolutely loved reading a few years ago. I was so excited to see that she had a new book coming out with such a beautiful cover. (I still cannot get over that cover, y’all!) I put this on my Ravenclaw book recommendations list and for good reason, Light From Other Stars is moving, expansive, and utterly brilliant. It’s one of those books that you can’t easily shake even once you’re finished.

“She thought she’s had fear burned out of her in 1986, that particular emotion replaced by grit. “I didn’t think I would be, but I’m scared,” she said. “So was the first person who ate a lobster. But he was also hungry,”
— Light From Other Stars

Nedda Papas is our main character, she jumps between being an eleven year old dreamer and an adult aged achiever. Nedda and her parents are incredibly science minded. I myself am not science minded, and for that reason it was difficult for me to relate to the characters. With that being said, Swyler does an expert job at marrying the sciences and the humanities. Beyond that, the relationships between the characters are what really stood out for me. Relationship between mother and daughter, friends, colleagues, and father and daughter. The relationships between them reminded me what it means to be human, what separates us from machine. A story ultimately about love and loss, regret and hope and all of the other emotions that make us human.

I was actually surprised when the book took sharp turn towards science-fiction. The entire book is very smart and pushed my understandings of what is and is not possible within the realm of science. There were so many brilliant one liners peppered throughout this book, I have annotation tabs every few pages. Set in our world, and yet not, this one is for all of my sci-fi, space, NASA, science-loving readers out there. You are in for a treat. And for those readers that aren’t particularly into those things, this might not be your favorite book, but you will love it, and perhaps more importantly, learn from it.

Light From Other Stars is one of those books that makes you really pause to ponder, question, and think more deeply not only about the story unfolding before you, but also your own life and understandings. The pacing is perfect throughout. The writing is wonderful, poetic even; the kind of writing that reminds me why I love to read. Trust that Swyler will eventually answer all of your questions, and enjoy the ride. You can expect this book from Bloomsbury in May! You can pre-order your copy here.

There aren’t many books that I say this about, but trust me, you’re going to want to read this one.

Book Review: Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke

“Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help.”

“Sometimes even destiny needs a little bit of help.”

I included this one in my Ravenclaw book recommendations for good reason. It’s a bit like Divination class without tests. This is a story about fate, love, and the choices that we make in the face of both. It is fun, mischievous, fun-loving, and very witty. I have given Star-Crossed by Minnie Darke 4 out of 5 stars.

I absolutely love astrology, and was so excited when I read the premise of this book. I absolutely had to read it, and I am so glad that I did. The story is set in Australia, which was a fun change of pace from the mostly American and British books that I typically find myself reading. The chapter titles are each zodiac sign, with the chapters in between titled “cusp”. It is the simple but fun details that add to what makes this book so good.

Our main characters are Justine (Sagittarius and serious skeptic) and Nick (Aquarius and true believer) who grew up together but fell out of touch. Justine uses her position at work to attempt to sway Nick to choosing to give her a call for a date, but it goes south rather quickly. It’s quite a smart book, and I picked up many little details peppered throughout each chapter that related to the chapter title. For example, in Taurus there were places, events or otherwise that related back to the bull or characteristics of the bull. Darke really made this an entertaining read on many levels. The main characters felt believable and relatable, if not a little predictable.

If you are a fan of movies like New Year’s Day and Love Actually, you will love this book as well. I could see this easily adapting to the big screen. There were many other stories told in Star-Crossed in a similar way of those movies. At the beginning it was hard to follow along to all of these interweaving characters and stories, but as the book progressed it became more obvious how they were all tied together. I really appreciated that Darke mostly kept these other stories within the “cusp” chapters so it was easier to keep things organized in my mind.

It is a small world, after all. Darke reminds us not to take life too seriously, that we are all agents of change in our own lives, but to be reminded that there are larger forces acting upon us every day. This will be available for purchase in the US on May 21st, 2019. Place your pre-order for this one now, you won’t regret it.

Book Recommendations Based On Your Hogwarts House: Ravenclaw

Ravenclaw book recs!

Ravenclaw book recs!

Ah, Ravenclaw. My very own Hogwarts house, so I am a bit partial. Although, it was the most difficult house to put together a book list for. I took the house traits of wit, learning, creativity, and wisdom into consideration along with the house colors. I wanted to include a variety of books as I think Ravenclaw gets stereotyped as the nerdy bunch and it is often looked over that we are the dreamers and the creatives. These are my recommendations for fellow Ravenclaws.

ravenclawtraits.png

Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard || I did choose this book because it has a literal diadem on the front cover, and if you are familiar with Ravenclaw you know that the Lost Diadem of Ravenclaw was a critical horcrux in the Harry Potter series. These books tackle things like royal blood, power, and family. It’s not particularly clever or unique in its plot, but it’s good writing all the same.

Study in Charlotte - Brittany Cavallaro || This is an interesting kind of retelling of the Sherlock Holmes trope. Teenage descendants of both Holmes and Watson have become friends and are now solving mysteries together. I would say a fair share of Ravenclaw love to crack a good mystery and enjoy the thrill of a puzzle. These books are for you.

Exit West: A Novel - Mohsin Hamid || My fellow Ravenclaws will appreciate the subtlety in this book. It is quietly powerful, beautiful, and unique. Page after page is filled with gentle truth, and you will be moved. This is the story of the relationship between two young people who are changed by forces out of their control. This is one for the politically minded.

Strange the Dreamer - Laini Taylor || “The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around” This is such a well-loved book. Laini Taylor knows how to world build, and her characters are well done. Strange and beautiful, this is for my fellow Luna-hearted readers.

Star-Crossed - Minnie Darke (May 2019) || A love story with an astrological twist. I thought this was a fun play on love and Fate. Astrology and horoscope are woven through the plot. A fun-loving contemporary for those that look to the stars.

Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafón || I honestly feel like I should re-read this, it has been many years since I picked it up. That being said, it is one of my favorite books of all time. A historical mystery that takes place in the winding streets of 1945 Barcelona. There are banned books, book cemeteries, and dark secrets. I encourage you to get swept up in this immediately.

Light From Other Stars - Erika Swyler (May 2019) || The cover is so beautiful! The main themes of this book are ambition but also dreams. What it means to have a dream, the ways that outside forces can hold us back, and the lengths we go to achieve them. This takes place on the Florida space coast and is for lovers of space, dreams, sacrifice, and feminism.

Binti trilogy - Nnedi Okorafor || You can buy these novellas separately, but they now come bound together in one collection. A sci-fi trilogy about a young girl named Binti who has a knack for math. She has been invited to attend the most prestigious University in the galaxy. If this doesn’t scream Ravenclaw, I don’t know what does. Short and beautifully written, these are a must read for young and older adults alike.

What would you add to the Ravenclaw book list? Let me know in the comments! You can find Hufflepuff recommendations here, and Slytherin and Gryffindor on my YouTube channel.

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue + A Word on Representation in Lit

My review for Casey McQuiston’s debut novel,   Red, White & Royal Blue

My review for Casey McQuiston’s debut novel, Red, White & Royal Blue

Have you ever read a book and wondered 1. if you actually blacked out for some period of time and wrote it or 2. it was written with you directly in mind as the reader? This is how I felt the entire time I was reading Casey McQuiston’s new-adult romantic comedy, Red, White & Royal Blue. The story is funny, sexy, HOT, heartbreaking, important, and relevant. Due out in May, pre-order is available now.

REPRESENTATION MATTERS

Expanding our world with different perspectives is part of the thrill of reading, but it can be very lonely to only read books where there isn't anybody like you. I support authors that include a diverse array of characters in their stories. I want younger generations to read a book and find themselves within the pages, I want them to feel included and inspired to be the hero in their own story.

PLOT AND CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

The First Son of the United States of America falls in love with the Prince of Wales. It’s not insta-love but it is a little bit of enemy turned lover. What at first begins as a fake, Instragrammable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. What would (or could) it look like for a political figurehead of the United Kingdom and the United States to fall in love with one another and discover their sexuality along the way?

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is so lovable, believable, relate-able. I want to be his best friend so that I can tell him to shut the actual fuck up. Prince Henry is a soul-wrenching heartthrob. He has been forced to divorce from who he truly is for who he was born to be. As these two get to know one another and grow together, you can’t help but fall in love, laugh out loud, scream, and cry along the way.

The secondary characters are well developed. June and Nora are the sisters and best friends I wish I had. It is this kind of character development that makes me cross my fingers and hope for a sequel. The kinds of characters you want to KNOW. The complexities and representations of the characters in this story are genius and cleverly done.

WHY I LOVED IT

  • Besides the fact that it was a romantic comedy centered around a queer couple, I absolutely fucking adored the political and historical plot-line and banter within. My undergraduate degree is in international affairs so I felt that it was an added unique layer that absolutely drew me in.

  • I LOST COUNT OF HOW MANY HARRY POTTER REFERENCES WERE MADE. “Hufflepuff ass bitch” is a direct quote. Need I say more on this?

  • Speaking of Hogwarts, I’m a Ravenclaw, and I appreciate when I can tell that an author did their research. Casey, I see that hard work and I appreciate it.

  • Lots of cussing. I want to read about characters that speak like I speak.

  • The relevancy of the topics within are so good. There are these really smart references to the current political climate that I just could scream about, honestly. It is done in such a clever way. Is the author a Ravenclaw? The wit. McQuiston manages to quietly address gun control, representation in government, “thoughts and prayers”, Brexit, lack of a female POTUS and others that make me want to already go back and read for again. It is in this quiet way that makes it feel even more powerful.

  • I wasn’t sure how it was going to end. There is honestly nothing I dislike more than a predictable ending.

  • It gave me hope. Hope for a future America that looks like the America depicted in this parallel-but-not world within RW&RB

WHY YOU WILL LOVE IT

Would you consider yourself to have a certain amount of sass? Do you identify as a millennial or Gen Z? Did you grow up on Harry Potter? Do you stay up-to-date on current politics? Do you enjoy laughing? Do you wish that there was a show that was a cross between The Crown and Queer Eye? Do you have a soul? THEN YOU WILL LOVE THIS BOOK.

Will this land on my “best of 2019”…the potential is there ya’ll.

Book Review: The Bride Test by Helen Hoang

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review

I received an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review

Helen Hoang outdoes herself in her second novel. Her debut novel, The Kiss Quotient, was a bestseller and a romantic favorite. The Bride Test, due out May 2019, is undoubtedly cute, sexy, sweet and laugh-out-loud funny. It surprised me, however, with its depth and approach to important issues below the surface.

Khai is a Vietnamese-American with autism; Esme is an impoverished, uneducated Vietnamese immigrant living in America. When Khai's mother plays matchmaker with a determination for him to marry, Khai and Esme end up teaching one another lessons they never expected to learn. The secondary characters are just as rich as Khai and Esme, and a great source of my chuckling. Quan, Khai's brother, is well developed, three-dimensional and wholly believable.
This book broaches topics such as immigrating to the United States with no money, no education and a cultural learning curve. It may seem like another love story at the surface, but ultimately is a tale of bravery, mutual respect, and our capacity to love. Hoang makes consent look as sexy as it always should. We have a Vietnamese female protagonist presented in a way that doesn't feel forced. An individual with autism that has built up walls to numb pain but failed to realize it also numbed happiness.
Maybe this a 4.75 for me because it isn't a book that I would re-read (I am generally not a re-reader) but I would whole-heartedly recommend The Bride Test snag a spot on your May TBR list. It exceeded my expectations. Funny, important, HOT, and engaging.

Book Review: A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

My review of Sarah J Maas’s “A Court of Mist and Fury” (ACOTAR #2)

My review of Sarah J Maas’s “A Court of Mist and Fury” (ACOTAR #2)

Oh, Queen Maas. You’ve won my loyalty. In a captivating second installment to A Court of Thrones and Roses (ACOTAR) I can’t help but wonder if this is one of the most riveting pieces of feminist new adult fiction literature that exists. This is my review of A Court of Misty and Fury; I will be giving my opinions on the characters, the love story and the sex but I will mostly be discussing gender, the patriarchy and abusive relationships. This review does contain spoilers.

To the people who look at the stars, Rhys.”
”To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered.”

WORLD BUILDING

“I smelled jasmine first—then saw the stars. A sea of stars flickering beyond glowing pillars of moonstone that framed the sweeping view of endless snow capped mountains. Welcome to the Night Court.”

How could you not ache to travel to the Night Court whilst reading about it? The way that Maas describes the sights, sounds, smells, tastes of each Court, but especially the Night Court... I almost feel like I can really book my flight. Even the architectural details (like that bathtub, where can i get one of those amirite?) left me wanting for nothing. And then there’s Starfell, how sublime was reading about Starfell?

Fanart by  BRENDA GROSSOLANO

CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT

RHYSAND

I feel like it’s possible that I could ramble on forever about Rhysand. I don’t think I’m alone in that. We could feel the pull of him in ACOTAR, but here, we fall. A dreamer, someone who has felt deep, guttural pain and still, he dreams, and loves. Oh, does he love. But more on that later. It’s true of all the characters, but especially true of Rhys, Maas has shown that wholly unique characters can still be brought to life, and that Prince Charming rarely comes in the form of someone like Tamlin.

FEYRE

Feyre is both feminine, sexy and soft and also strong and fierce. You don’t have to be one or the other, you don’t have to fit inside the box that society laid out for you. I appreciate this so much, Sarah J Maas.

Feyre admits to Rhysand, “I’m thinking I was a lonely, hopeless person, and I might have fallen in love with the first thing that showed me a hint of kindness and safety.” And that right there is such a powerful lesson to teach women. Humans, really. That we all are deserving of authentic love, kindness and connection. That you don’t have to settle for less than what you deserve.

On page 533, I almost felt as if Feyre was giving her vows to Rhysand, and I felt emotion well behind my eyes, press at my throat. They reminded me of my own wedding day.

“My friend through many dangers. My lover who had healed my broken and weary soul. My mate who had waited for me against all hope, despite all odds.”

The female characters in this book are varied, but all strong. They are complicated, they have depth. Mor, especially, highlights how Maas has painstakingly included such backstories, so much attention to detail. Feyre, about Mor, “a special strength in enduring such dark trials and hardships...and still remaining warm and kind. Still willing to trust—and reach out.”

GENDER ROLES, TOXIC MASCULINITY AND ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS

I begin to hate Tamlin with such simmering rage. He represents all that is wrong the patriarchy. The ways that men believe they own women, the way they believe they control them, have a right to them. The ways in which they tell us what we can wear, what we can say, where we can go and with whom we go. The control that they seek above all, in order to protect their toxic masculinity. When Tamlin imprisoned Feyre, when he began to forbid her comings and goings, stopped including her in conversation, when he lost his temper so completely that Feyre had to cower in fear for her life...my heart ached for every survivor of abuse at the hands of a lover. That is not love, it never will be.

It is interesting to note that during Feyre’s time at the Spring Court how women are permitted to being sexually active. They are permitted to have multiple partners and yet, still held to the rules of the patriarchy, or traditional expectations as Lucien would called them, at being a “good bride”.

Freedom is a topic woven throughout this book. It begins early on when Feyre is discussing how, in the human realm, even wealthy women, who one would assume to be more free, actually have their freedoms and roles restricted the most. Under The Mountain, freedom was but a dream. And to be expected of that tortuous, terrible place. But in her own home? From the man she thought she loved and that she thought loved her? I love that Maas juxtaposes Rhysand next to Tamlin in this way. Rhysand makes it a point to have Feyre know with a conviction that she is free. That freedom is a relationship is an inherent right, not a privilege. 

One major critique of mine, though. I do find it upsetting that Rhysand and Feyre resort to this whole “you’re mine” thing. I’m a little disappointed that Maas wrote the story in this way. I understand the concept of the mates, I’m as hopeless of a romantic as the next. But, after talking so much about freedom, to have those two characters then repeatedly claim their right to the other? It felt contradictory and strange. People are not possessions. Individuals don’t belong to anyone, as Rhysand said, freedom in a relationship is an inherent right, so I just felt it was really off to include the “you’re mine” thing. 

A WORD ON SEX

ICYMI this is not a “young adult” book. This is some new kinky adult trip, feel me? I’m talking Fifty Shades of Gray type of orgasming. Let’s just say that I noticed there were 69 chapters, and I don’t think that was a coincidence.

Speaking of orgasming, I get that it’s a book but do you think just ONCE we could get a woman that is too distracted by the enemy/concerns about her body/the laundry that needs folded/her ex that she is unable to reach completion? I won’t hold my breath.

Don’t get me wrong, this book has its steamy moments. I appreciated that Rhysand and Feyre didn’t rush into the physical aspect; Rhysand put her pleasure before his own. AND to make my conviction about this being an excellent piece of feminist literature, Rhys and Feyre even discuss birth control.

This is the book that young women need (minus the whole “you’re mine” bullshit). Feyre is the independent, strong-willed, feminine, sexy “princess” that girls need to look up to. Rhysand is the type of character that Prince Charming should be modeled after. And Maas is the author that we should all be reading.


Thanks for reading my review, and if you have read this far I hope this is a book you’ve already completed, so let me know your own thoughts on it in the comments!