How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake

how to make a wish cover

Goodreads

(Chantel)

5/5 – This book won’t be easy for me to talk about. It’s about a girl with a mother who isn’t a mother. It’s about a girl who had to grow up too fast. It’s about a girl making the decision to put herself first. This book hit me personally. It was well written and we need more books like this. More books with queer characters because one day a queer girl like me will read this and it will inspire her and she’ll be able to relate to it. The good and the bad. There is so much that this book did right and I’m going to lay it out there for you so that you will go read this book and hopefully love it.

Lemme just get this out there because this is important: THERE IS BISEXUAL REPRESENTATION ON THE PAGE. 

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How To Make a Wish surrounds the relationship between Grace and her mother Maggie. It’s always been the two of them since Grace’s father died when she was two. Her mother, not prepared to take on the responsibility of being a mother stops being a mother. Instead, she relies on Grace at a young age to take care of her. She’s an alcoholic and is incredibly selfish. Grace feels obligated to stand by her mother even when she hurts her and ultimately hurts others. As a result, Grace reconsiders her plans to go to college in New York, to be a pianist, because she cannot leave her mother behind. Because who knows what she would do without her. No matter how many times her mom disappoints her, she won’t let her go. 

This in itself is heartbreaking. What makes this story better, is Eva. A girl who has just lost her mother unexpectedly and finds comfort in Grace’s mom because she too has lost someone. From the moment they meet, Grace is drawn to Eva and eventually, a romance develops between them. Throughout the book, their relationship begins and stalls, they have ups and downs, but it always comes back to how they help each other cope.

For the record, I absolutely love them as characters and as a couple. Be still my fucking heart, these two are such a great couple. They are one of my favorite couples of all time because they are just so great and so sweet. Grace might not be the most likable character, she’s “prickly” and her unwillingness to cut ties with her mom is frustrating, but I understand her. It’s not easy to walk away from someone you love, especially your mother, so I understood the dilemma she was going through. Not everyone will. Eva is just fucking adorable. She’s funny, a bit weird, and has such a big heart. She sees that someone is hurting and she can’t help but be there for them. I thought the characters were well written and even the dialogue at times was well done. We talk a lot differently than we write and that’s often hard to get right.

I can see some people complain about insta-love or that the romance happens too quickly. I’m not sure about the exact time frame but it happens within the span of a month, I’d say. Here’s my argument against calling it insta-love. No “I love yous” are ever exchanged between them. We are in Grace’s head and while she does admit to possibly loving Eva, at least being able to love her, it’s never said out loud. The other thing is, they are both going through similar things. Eva’s lost her mom unexpectedly while Grace feels obligated and tethered to her mom, in that way she’s lost her mother as well. With each other, they are in their own world where those issues don’t matter. They are each other’s escape from those things. They allow each other to exist without being overwhelmed with grief or anger. To brush that off as insta-love takes away from their deep connection whether or not we understand it or experience it.

One more thing, one more reason I loved this book. You know how in almost all YA novels when there is a boy and a girl who are friends how they almost always become a thing? This does not happen in this book and I LIVE FOR IT. Luca is (as far as we know) straight. Grace is bisexual. They are best friends and have been for a long time. There is no romantic inclination between them, they even refer to each other as siblings. This is how things are in real life. Not every guy and girl are meant to be in a romance and it’s one of the more frustrating things about YA. However, this book throws that shit in the garbage and they both end up with someone other than each other. It’s all a girl can dream about.

I really loved this book. It had everything I loved in a book and none of the garbage that usually comes with YA. Go check it out if you haven’t because this book deserves all of the praise. It has a 4.2 rating on Goodreads and honestly, that’s too low. Can we please have more books like this?

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We Are Okay by Nina LaCour

We Are Okay cover

(Chantel)

5/5 – Reading is a deeply personal activity. It’s an author making a connection with the reader, or at least attempting to. As a result, books can be deeply personal to each reader. A book that someone adored can be a book someone hated. We all come to a story with our own individual stories. Sometimes they click and sometimes they don’t. The Book Thief, The Song of Achilles, A Monster Calls, these are all books that brought out a physical and emotional reaction in me. That in itself is rare for me. However, I didn’t click with those books like I did with We Are Okay and Marin, the main character. This book made me cry, this book made my body ache, but I saw myself in Marin’s thoughts, in her feelings, in her doubts, in her hesitations.

In On Writing, Stephen King is talking about writing whatever you want. You can write whatever you want, the possibilities are endless, as long as you get to the truth of what you are writing about. Nina LaCour got to the truth of what she was writing which was grief, loneliness, self-doubt, and betrayal. In the acknowledgments at the end of the book, she talks about the aftermath of her grandfather’s death and how it devastated her. Then her wife suggested she write about it and it turned into We Are Okay. Her pain is conveyed through Marin. 

This is a book about relationships. Marin’s relationship with her grandfather is distant but she fails to see that. Marin’s relationship with Mabel who is not only her best friend but the first girl she fell in love with. Marin’s relationship with herself and how she keeps everything to herself because she’s afraid of the thoughts that will rush out if she tells the truth. She runs away from anyone who has ever loved her. It’s so much easier to block out the world than to let people in. Being alone is easy. Then there is the idea of family. Even though she doesn’t have any more family, she refuses to accept offers of familial connection. Sometimes those people are more family than your real family, but she doesn’t realize it until they are there for her when she needs it.

The writing in this book is stunning. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to write such beautiful lines or connect a character’s story to a work of literature or a painting. Everything means something in We Are Okay. Every choice Nina LaCour makes is intentional. I think this book is strengthened by the fact that it’s told in the first person.

First person perspective doesn’t always work. It can leave a bad taste in my mouth with all of the shitty dystopian YA that used it constantly. But when it’s done well, it allows you to lose yourself in the character’s mind. In my opinion, this book wouldn’t have been as strong in the third person.

The book goes back and forth between the months leading up to Marin’s grandfather’s death and her subsequently running to New York where she is to start college. In the present day, her best friend Mabel is coming to visit. She longs to see her friend again and is anticipating the moment she leaves because then she will be alone again. As the story moves forward, we are getting closer and closer to the reason Marin ran away from California until it’s finally revealed late in the book. My attention was glued to the book because I wanted to know what went wrong in order to have Marin shut out her best friend.

I know that people aren’t going to feel as connected to this book as I did, so take my review with a grain of salt. I do think objectively, it’s a great book. It has a good rating. For me, it was something more than just a great book. It was a perfect book. I don’t know if another book will make me feel this way again anytime soon. It clicked perfectly with my personal story.

Peter Darling by Austin Chant

Peter Darling cover

(Chantel)

4/5 – I’ve never been a fan of Peter Pan. I’ve seen the Disney movie maybe once and thought it was meh. That’s the Peter Pan I know and I wasn’t interested. However, a trans Peter Pan? Yeah, I’m interested in that. I also really enjoy short books, usually under 200 pages because despite being a slow reader I can usually finish them in one sitting.

In Austin Chant’s retelling of Peter Pan, Peter was born as Wendy Darling who is struggling to come to terms with his identity in the early 1900s. This is after his return to London from his initial trip to Neverland. Peter is trying to explain to his family that he is now Peter Darling and tries to make them understand, but they don’t. As a result, Peter calls upon Tinkerbell and runs off to Neverland where he can be the man he wants to be.

Peter strikes up his old rivalry with Captain Hook and rounds up the Lost Boys to join him. The Lost Boys are now young men as is Peter, and nothing is the same as when he first came to Neverland. Hook and the Lost Boys have been content with leaving each other alone in the last decade. When Peter shows up looking for a fight, he is the only one enthusiastic about it other than Hook, of course.

I’ll admit, I found it hard to like Peter at times. He was willing to pressure the Lost Boys into joining a fight that they weren’t interested in joining. He came off as hypocritical when he was angry with Hook because one of the Lost Boys was killed after he had three of Hook’s men killed without regret or thought. I often struggle to like characters who aren’t self-aware, if you did something bad at least own up to it, and sometimes I find characters aren’t called out for their hypocrisy.

For example, Jorg in the Broken Empire series knows he’s a horrible person. He never makes you believe otherwise. He’s self-aware and knows he’s evil. With that out of the way, I can focus on the other aspects of his character.

Peter’s hypocrisy is called out by Hook and I was so happy when that happened because I could start focusing on other parts of Peter. Here are two characters who, at one point, fit neatly into their roles as hero and villain but things are far more complicated than that. There’s a lot in this story that is completely different than the version of Peter Pan that I know of, a version Disney would never make, it’s darker, it’s gayer, and the hero of the story Peter is flawed. However, I can’t forget that Peter is running away from his family, desperately trying to forget the fact that they don’t accept him and force him to live as Wendy. No wonder he’s angry and looking for a fight.

I adored Hook, he was charming and funny and just everything I liked in a character. Even though, he was a “villain” he was there for a reason just like Peter was. Neverland, in this retelling, is a place you can run away to as a way of escaping the real world which all too often doesn’t accept those who are different. Specifically, those who are gay or trans. Again, I have no knowledge of the original Peter Pan story, but I really liked Chant’s interpretation of Neverland.

This book hit many boxes on my LGBTQ+ Bingo board such as:

  • Fantasy with an LGBTQ+ MC
  • Read a book from the perspective of a transman (Hook has a few perspective chapters, but it’s mainly Peter.)
  • Read an LGBTQ+ novella
  • Read an LGBTQ+ retelling
  • Read an LGBTQ+ book from an Own Voices author

Ultimately I chose it for the LGBTQ+ retelling because it’s a retelling with a trans Peter Pan who has a romance with Captain Hook. A romance that was completely different than what I expected. That’s a pretty great retelling. I’m really glad I read it and I’m glad it was the book I started out 2018 reading. 

Idyll Fears by Stephanie Gayle

Idyll Fears cover

(Chantel)

I would like to thank Stephanie Gayle for sending me a copy of this novel. This has no effect on my review. 

4/5 – Idyll Fears is the second published Thomas Lynch novel, this series surrounds a small town police chief, Thomas Lynch. I already read (twice) the first novel Idyll Threats and reviewed it on the blog. He is one of my favorite characters. He’s gruff, grumpy, bristly, but he is a nice guy. Flawed but nice. Sometimes. Oh, and he’s also gay.

The fact that I’m reading a mystery series is a mystery itself. It’s not my favorite genre at all, but I will continue reading books about Thomas Lynch. First and foremost, Lynch is a cop. Even as a Police Chief, he is doing detective work. He loves his job and it shows. He’s also gay, but he doesn’t identify with that as much. Except when he sees an attractive man. At one point, a man he is interested in takes him to dinner with other gay men and women so that he could potentially have a community of similar individuals. Lynch gets upset about this and suddenly the man is no longer a love interest. I’ll admit, I was disappointed by how the character was brushed aside for a super attractive guy with a six-pack, but whatever. Lynch is a ho, I accept that about him.

This book revolves around a missing boy. A missing boy with CIPA which stands for, Congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis. Basically, he cannot feel pain and in a snowy, cold winter this is an issue. There is a race against the clock early in the book to find him before he gets hypothermia. This is very exciting and is very tense. As the novel progresses the Idyll Police struggle to find out who had taken the boy. Honestly, I found this mystery and the reveal of the perpetrator more interesting than the first book’s mystery where it felt like the killer came out of nowhere. In this small town, the crime rate sure has risen since Thomas Lynch came around, something joked about in the book.

I have another character to gush over. Mrs. Dunsmore. She is Lynch’s sassy assistant who knows everything and doesn’t take shit from anyone. Especially not Lynch. The side characters who were introduced in the first book were much more fleshed out in this book, but the book is from Lynch’s perspective and he doesn’t always make an effort to know the people he works with. Throughout the book, Lynch thinks that Mrs. Dunsmore is homophobic because she’s wearing a crucifix. Let me tell you something, Lynch may be observant, but he does a lot of judging and jumps to conclusions. Sometimes this works for him and sometimes it doesn’t. Mrs. Dunsmore puts him in his place and I just love her for it. I was grinning the whole time. She is my favorite side character in the series. Even after she does a few kind things for him, he still thinks she hates him because he’s gay. Very presumptuous, Chief Lynch.

In the first book, Lynch comes out as gay and because it is a small town suddenly everyone knows. In this book, he experiences hate speech on his car and is getting threatening phone calls from some homophobic asshole. However, the second mystery isn’t cleared up at all by the end of the book. I’m thinking it’s going to continue in the next book, as it makes sense that they wouldn’t be concerned with who was doing it with a kid missing, but I thought it was odd that it wasn’t resolved or wrapped up.

Despite all that, I really enjoyed this second installment of Thomas Lynch’s legacy as a rough around the edges Police Chief who likes FBI agents with six packs. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, I am trash for one Thomas Lynch.

 

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Even Stephanie Gayle approves.

 

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay

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(Chantel)

3/5 – What? No, I haven’t been putting off this review! Okay, I have but let me tell you something, there are a lot of essays in this book. There is a lot to cover, but I’m not going to individually review every single essay like I had originally planned. I’m going to pick my favorite essays and talk about those. I could go on about every essay, but I would rather talk about the ones I enjoyed.

I finally decided to read this book after following Roxane Gay on Twitter, she does not bother with the haters and I enjoy her snark at those who take low shots at her. She doesn’t take shit from anyone, and she terrifies me.

This book was a combination of very personal essays and critiques of pop culture which included books, songs, movies, and TV shows. She talks about topics from rape culture, to privilege to trigger warnings. However, the essays could be repetitive at times because they weren’t all written and published at the same time. It’s a collection of essays that were published separately so the themes are very similar. However, despite being published in 2014 it feels like it was written in 2017 as we are still facing some of the issues she brings up throughout the book.

Peculiar Benefits 

Okay, I can see this essay being unpopular because of one word which is thrown around so much that it seems to have a negative connotation: privilege. Usually, this word is thrown around in conversations (or heated arguments) about racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and more. I’ve noticed (particularly on Twitter) that it can escalate the argument and then people get defensive.

However, this essay makes the point that we are all privileged. If you are reading this review right now, you are privileged because you have access to a computer or a phone with internet access. There are people in the world who don’t have that. I’m not saying this to throw this in your face, but internet access and electronics are something we take for granted because they are so common in America.

What about the places where they aren’t? What about the places that don’t have access to food and water? The point of privilege is not to make you feel guilty about being white, or straight, or a man, or cisgender it’s to (hopefully) create empathy for those who don’t have what you have. I think we all forget that sometimes during heated arguments.

I’ll get a little personal here. I’m queer and I use this umbrella term because even in my liberal city, I don’t want to come out as asexual and panromantic to everyone I meet. Even if people, where I live, are more familiar with those terms as someone who isn’t straight you find that you never stop coming out to people. You sometimes stay in the closet because it’s easier to let someone assume you are either straight or gay. That is a privilege straight people have because straight is the default sexuality. It’s in everything we consume as a culture, it’s what we see on the street, and yet you still see homophobic comments (by people who pretend they aren’t homophobic) about forcing gay characters in media. I can’t even go to a random article about a show I’m excited about without seeing these hurtful comments and they hurt. They really do. I have always searched for LGBTQ+ characters in books and movies and today, they are more prominent than ever, but the bigotry is still there.

Despite this, despite being half-black (with light skin), despite having a mental illness, despite having been homeless, I still have privilege and that’s okay. If we can acknowledge that everyone is not treated equally, I would hope we can get to a point where we can have a civil conversation about it and try and do better as a society.

If I was going to recommend an essay in this collection, it would be this one.

Typical First-Year Professor 

For those of you who don’t know, Roxane Gay is a college professor. At least she was at the time of writing this essay. This essay is a personal essay about her journey through her first year as a professor and the struggles she had. I wish I could say more about it, but I really enjoyed it. I found that the essays which had more personal elements were more enjoyable for me than the political essays and the critiques.

Girls, Girls, Girls 

Alrighty, I’ve got to be honest, when the show Girls first aired Lena Dunham was my hero. She created a show in which she was the director, writer, and star. That was huge and something I would’ve aspired to once upon a time. However, Lena Dunham has said so much stupid shit that by the time the final season of Girls was airing, I didn’t give one shit about the awful ending.

In this essay, Roxane Gay also talks about Lena Dunham and Girls, however, this book was published three years ago and I’m not sure the exact year this essay was written. She talks about Lena Dunham and Girls as an achievement. It’s a show where the main character who is not thin and also shows off her body as normal women do. I know that resonated with me. However, the show is incredibly flawed.

Just because Girls was different than all the other shows on TV didn’t mean it was all inclusive. Gay points out that Lena Dunham stuck to her own experiences as a white, upper-class woman in her twenties. All of the main characters were white and if there were characters that were non-white they were love interests. (Spoilers for the last season of Girls coming up, if you care.) Hell, in the last season Hannah (Lena Dunham) sleeps with a guy named Paul-Louis who is portrayed by Riz Ahmed who is Pakistani. This was never addressed in relation to his character and when Hannah ends up choosing to raise the child on her own, it’s never once addressed that she’s raising a child who is biracial. What was the point of introducing a potentially interesting storyline which could address race and it doesn’t? (End spoilers)

One of the main points I took from this essay, was that when you are different you look for breadcrumbs. By that I mean, you’ll watch or read something problematic because you see yourself represented. We shouldn’t be starved for representation that we will consume anything that someone throws at us, but oftentimes we are.

The Careless Language of Sexual Violence 

TW: Rape 

This essay examines rape culture in a very powerful way. She details an article she read about a young girl who was gang-raped by several men. And yet, the article was talking about the ruined lives of the boys and men involved. This article and essay made me angry. I was thinking about that girl the entire time I was reading, and I couldn’t even imagine the pain she was in and would continue to carry with her for the rest of her life.

At times this essay is hard to read, it’s hard to fathom why someone would do something like this. Why someone would let this continue instead of stopping it. But it happened and we need to be angry when it does. We need to be angry at those who did wrong, not the victim. I see so much victim-blaming and it’s disgusting. Why are we blaming the person who was hurt by this? Why does someone’s clothing matter in this situation? Not to mention, women and men (cis and trans) are often not taken seriously when reporting rape. Why? Because justice isn’t always served.

You know Brock Turner? Who was caught in the act raping an unconscious woman, yeah he got six months in jail and served three. What about all the other instances that don’t make national news?

I would love to live in a world where convicted rapists get the maximum amount of time in prison. I don’t care if Brock Turner’s life is ruined, he ruined a woman’s life by raping her. I don’t know why it’s hard for people to see that.

What We Hunger For 

TW: Rape

Roxane Gay loves strong women, she specifically points out Katniss and her love for The Hunger Games. Then she details her own sexual assault which is all too similar to the girl whose story she mentioned in the previous essay. This very personal essay is heartbreaking and it made me angry that this happened. She was incredibly vulnerable in sharing her story. It wasn’t easy to get through, but I think it’s one worth reading and I will never forget it.

Some Jokes Are Funnier Than Others

This essay is about rape jokes. I’m just going to put it out there, I don’t find rape jokes funny at all. If you make a rape joke in front of me, go fuck yourself. However, comedians such as Daniel Tosh think it’s okay. Roxane Gay criticizes him for this but points out that his audience of (mostly) men do. She talks about how they were willing to cross boundaries with women because Tosh told them to. It’s disturbing how some people will do those things because they want to be seen by someone they admire.

I’ve heard many debates about comedians and what they can and cannot joke about, but here’s the thing. We have to recognize that we aren’t going to please everyone so you cater to your audience. With that logic, a comedian can joke about anything and everything. However, that doesn’t mean you aren’t an asshole. When Dave Chappelle makes a transphobic joke, I’m not going to watch his shit, but he has enough of an audience that a joke like that doesn’t ruin his reputation. I’m not okay with casual jokes which feature, sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, or rape. We are heading into 2018 and it’s no longer okay to say those things. So stop it.

Beyond the Struggle Narrative 

Have you ever seen 12 Years a Slave? I have and it’s very hard to watch. It’s based on a true account of a free man named Solomon Northup who is then captured and sold into slavery. The way slaves are treated is brutal and likely accurate. The movie is powerful and disturbing and I never want to see it again. One of the biggest draws of this movie was the fact that it was written and directed by two black men, John Ridley and Steve McQueen respectively. In the essays leading up to this one, Roxane Gay criticizes both The Help and Django Unchained because they were created by white writers.

I would like to make a note here. I personally have no issue with writers writing about things they unfamiliar with. I have done it myself. What is important is to do your research. Make sure it is authentic. Otherwise, it just comes off as exploitative. Alright, moving on.

However, Roxane Gay does not praise this movie. She criticises the movie for not moving past the slave narrative. Black people have more experiences than just slavery or segregation and yet we rarely see movies specifically with primarily black casts about anything else. If you are thinking of Tyler Perry, don’t worry there is an essay about him and his movies too. I found her perspective curious because 12 Years a Slave was considered one of the best movies of that year. Was it because of the slave narrative? I won’t deny it was a technically well-done movie, but what if the story was different?

Last year, I heard rumblings about a movie featuring a young black man that deals with his sexuality. The movie features three parts of his life when he is a boy, when he is a teenager, and when he’s an adult. It is directed by a black man and based off a play written by a black man. The movie features a black cast. If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m talking about Moonlight. I saw this movie in theaters and loved it. It’s harsh, it’s beautiful, and features the experience of Chiron throughout his life as he discovers he is gay in a world that won’t allow him to be gay. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone said this movie is overhyped. It won best picture last year at the Oscars and is critically lauded. What I hope isn’t overlooked, is how important this movie is. How important this story is. It’s beyond the slave narrative. It’s just as raw and accurate as 12 Years a Slave (maybe not as brutal) and we need more stories like this. I’d be curious to see what Roxane Gay’s thoughts were on Moonlight, but I was unable to find any article or essay by her on the subject.

In Conclusion

This book is called Bad Feminist and a lot of these essays were written with a feminist perspective, but it wasn’t limited to that. It was written from the perspective of a woman of color, of a rape survivor, of someone who is not skinny, among other things. I believe some of the essays in this book should be read, all of the ones I’ve talked about in this review are worth reading the whole book. They were the ones that made me think and the ones that have stuck with me most. I would like to read more voices of those who are different from me and voices of those who I disagree with on things. Bad Feminist is just as important now and we need more voices like this in the world we live in.

Quick Thoughts about Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Spoiler-Free)

 

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Written and directed by Rian Johnson

 

(Chantel)

This review will be spoiler free for The Last Jedi, but if you haven’t seen episodes I-VII you are screwed.

When the movie poster above was released, holy shit I was excited for this movie. When the text scroll came up at the beginning of the movie, I started to get choked up. Star Wars is important to me, but I never really connected with the prequels. I’ve seen A New Hope more than any of them. What I love about this new trilogy is the fact that the main character is a strong, badass female. I think Rey is amazing and don’t give me that Mary-Sue bullshit. There were a lot of expectations going into this movie, and while I didn’t love it, I really enjoyed myself.

This movie had a completely different tone than The Force Awakens. I really liked The Force Awakens, I loved the characters it introduced like Rey, Finn, Poe, and my love BB-8.

 

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BB-8: still cuter than Porgs.

 

It also brought back Leia and Han Solo and Luke for like five seconds. It was full of nostalgia and I think it was specifically made for those who loved Star Wars.

This movie didn’t dwell in the nostalgia. It moved the plot forward and there were a lot of important moments in this movie. There were a few times when I was unsure of what was going to happen next. Who was going to make it to episode IX and who wouldn’t. There is a sense of danger throughout the whole movie, but this is also a Star Wars movie and there were characters who I never felt were in danger. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is what it is.

My main issue with The Last Jedi was how many different stories were being told at once. This movie was basically divided up between Rey and Luke, Kylo Ren and the First Order, The Resistance which includes Leia and Poe, then there’s another storyline with Finn and a girl named Rose. This was too much to follow. I understand that separating our main characters allows for different storylines and tones, but I felt like it was too much. I also felt like the movie was too long. All Star Wars movies are over two hours. That’s nothing new. But The Last Jedi was 2 hours and 35 minutes and honestly, it felt like three hours. I was starting to get fidgety.

What I really enjoyed about this movie was there was a lot of humor. I was laughing throughout the movie and even when things were getting tense or heavy, there was something funny going on. Some people might not like this, and even though I just complained about too many storylines, the moments of levity were much needed.

I need to talk about Carrie Fisher. I was heartbroken when I heard about her death and I was eager to see her role in The Last Jedi and what would happen to Leia. Let me tell you something, I love General Leia a lot more than Princess Leia. She’s always been strong-willed and I think she’s an excellent role model. I felt they did justice to Leia and Carrie Fisher and every time she was on screen I wanted to smile and cry. I even waited through the credits to see if there would be a dedication to her and…

 

Dedication to Carrie Fisher

I wasn’t disappointed.

I could probably go on and on, but here’s the thing: if you love Star Wars you have either already seen The Last Jedi or plan on it soon and if you don’t love/like Star Wars, you probably don’t give a shit.

It wasn’t perfect or as good as The Force Awakens, in my opinion, but there was a lot in this movie to enjoy and I am pleased with the movie Rian Johnson made.

 

Lady Bird – Written & Directed by Greta Gerwig

Lady Bird poster

(Chantel)

I know this started as a book blog, but movies are my first love. When I was younger, I wanted to be a director and dreamed of winning an Oscar for my acclaimed film in the life of a queer teenager. So whenever a coming-of-age story comes along, I’m interested. Usually, they come in the form of movies directed toward a younger audience. They are often sanitized and something doesn’t quite feel authentic about it. The movie Edge of Seventeen got a lot of praise because it felt more real and the teenagers swore. Gasp! Yes, most teenagers swear. I know I did. It’s hard to connect to movies that don’t present things in an authentic way, and Lady Bird was incredibly authentic.

For those who might not have heard of this movie, it stars Saoirse Ronan and Laurie Metcalf. (Both of them have been nominated for a Golden Globe award.) As of right now, December 2017, it is the best-reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes. It maintains 100% on the site with nearly 200 reviews. This means that every critic gave the movie a “Fresh” or positive rating. Rotten Tomatoes scores should be taken with a grain of salt, but this movie has broken a record that was previously set by Toy Story 2.

That’s not the reason I saw this movie. It’s because of Saoirse Ronan. I have been a fan of hers for years, one of her first film roles was in Atonement and even though I couldn’t sit through that movie, I’ve seen her in other movies. She’s a fantastic actress and she’s got a long career ahead of her. She shines so brightly in this movie as a senior in her last year of high school. She’s snarky, funny, rebellious, curious, and plenty of other adjectives. Otherwise known as a complex character. Christine, aka “Lady Bird” deals with a lot over the course of her senior year. She attends a Catholic school because he mother refuses to put her in a public school and this becomes an interesting backdrop for her character. She has two romantic interests that end up not working out and she struggles with her role at a school where most of the students are from wealthier families. She lies to fit in and is bold in the way she approaches people. Personally, I thought she was an excellent character.

This movie takes place in Sacramento, dubbed “the Midwest of California” in the movie. While I have not personally been there, I felt like Gerwig did a great job of giving us the sense of what it was like. It was a place you wanted to be free from and yet were nostalgic for at the same time.

I think the reason I enjoyed this movie so much was the relationship between Lady Bird and her mother. I am very close with my mother. It was just us when I was growing up and there were many times when we only had each other. When I was close to graduating high school we fought all the time. There were times when our relationship was really tense. The same is portrayed in Lady Bird. For example, Lady Bird wants nothing more than to leave Sacramento while her mother is insistent on her going to college nearby. There is also an issue of money. Her father gets laid off and her mother works her ass off to support five people. It’s a struggle. They struggle and more than once, Lady Bird becomes aware of things she doesn’t know because she’s not paying attention. She’s focused on herself. It’s one of those things where Lady Bird doesn’t realize how much her mother (and father) do for her until near the end of the movie. Things were really emotional toward the end and I thought I might cry. The ending gave me hope that everything was going to be fine for the two of them.

I’d also like to say that I’ve only seen Laurie Metcalf, who plays Lady Bird’s mom, on Roseanne and she was fantastic in this movie. There was so much she said without dialogue. At one point, just a look had people laughing. The two actresses worked really well together and you could almost believe this relationship between a mother and daughter was real.

For me, a great movie is one that sucks you into its world and convinces you that you are there. All of the characters felt real. The relationships felt real. The highs and lows felt real. There is no doubt in my mind this is a great movie. I adored the characters and loved escaping into their lives for an hour and a half. If you get a chance, go out and see it. You don’t have to be a film lover to enjoy this movie, and I think it brings an authenticity to something that is often meant to help us escape.

10 Books I’m Excited for in 2018

Happy December everyone! Chantel here doing this post solo since Caidyn insisted he didn’t have any books he was excited about in 2018. Near the end of the year, I start to get ambitious and this is no exception. I love the end of the year because once the clock strikes midnight on the 1st of January, we get a clean slate. A new year that may or may not go well, but the possibilities are endless.

I’ve decided to make a top ten list of books I’m excited to read in 2018 and these may or may not be good, don’t worry I’ll let you know, but that’s the fun part. These are all books with LGBTQ+ themes and there are a lot of authors on here that I adore who have new books coming out in 2018.

I will be going in order of release date and unknown release dates will be at the end.

Dates and covers are subject to change as well.


January 9th: Beneath The Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire

beneath the sugar sky cover

THIS COVER IS GORGEOUS!

Okay, this one is pretty obvious. I am so excited for the third book in the Wayward Children series that I might actually pre-order it and I don’t pre-order books. I’ve heard that this is a direct sequel to Every Heart a Doorway, which means the same cast that was in the first book will be in this one so I’m stoked. One of the biggest issues I had with Every Heart a Doorway was that I struggled to connect with Nancy. This wasn’t an issue at all for me in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, so needless to say I’m hyped for this book.

March 6th: The Unbinding of Mary Reade by Miriam McNamara

the unbinding of mary reade

Pirates. Queer ladies. Sounds like there is some gender-bending going on. I’m in. This book sounds great. It sounds like the queer pirate novel I’m craving, and pirates is a theme that comes up again later, but for right now I’m more excited about this book. I will be doing my best to read this as soon as possible.

March 6th: Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst

Inkmistress cover.jpg

I don’t know a lot about this book and I want to go in as blind as possible, but it’s by Audrey Coulthurst and I’m all there. Her first book was Of Fire and Stars which I absolutely loved. It was this hate to love, forbidden romance with a bit of political drama thrown in there. There were some flaws, but honestly, I’d read it over and over again despite that. The romance was so good and it was done very well, in my opinion. I don’t know if there is romance in this one, but I’ve heard the word bisexual thrown around. So yeah, this one is a no-brainer for me.

April 24th: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

Leah on the Offbeat cover

This cover is fantastic!

I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda before I started writing reviews and before I started this blog with Caidyn, so my thoughts aren’t put down in a rambly post about how I felt about this book. The bottom line is, I really enjoyed it and yes I will go see Love, Simon because fuck yes. It was super cute and I’d absolutely read it again. By the time this post has come out I still have not read The Upside of Unrequited, a book I was pretty excited for earlier this year. Oops. BUT I WILL GET TO IT. Anyway, I’m excited about a book with Leah as the main character since she is bisexual according to Becky Albertalli and it’s right there in the freaking synopsis. I will read this in 2018 even if it kills me.

May 22nd: The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde

The brightsiders cover

Contemporary isn’t exactly my genre, but Jen Wilde wrote Queens of Geek which spoke to me so deeply. I will read anything she writes based on that book alone. It sounds like this book will deal with someone in the spotlight coming out as bisexual, something that was touched on in Queens of Geek with the character of Charlie. I don’t know much more about it, but I’m excited to read it when I do get my hands on it. Also, this is the second book with a bisexual female drummer on this list. The other is Leah on the Offbeat.

July 17th: Hullmetal Girls by Emily Skrutskie

hullmetal girls cover

One of the books I five starred this year was The Abyss Surrounds Us. It was a science-fiction book featuring queer ladies, pirates, and giant monsters. Plus it had an ending that shocked me, and yet I was delighted by the possibilities of what was to come in the sequel. Ultimately, I was lukewarm on The Edge of the Abyss, but that definitely won’t stop me from reading Emily Skrutskie’s new book. In The Abyss Surrounds Us, she explored grey morality. People that aren’t wholly good or wholly bad, and if that theme continues in this new book then I will be happy. I think she explored it well before and I felt like her worldbuilding was really good for having a limited amount of pages. I’m excited to see her writing a new book with new stories and characters, so I can’t wait to check it out.

October 2nd: The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzi Lee

This is a sequel to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue which I read earlier this year and really enjoyed. It was a book that got a lot of hype and I think it was (mostly) everything I expected it to be. The sequel, however, is from the POV of Felicity, Monty’s sister. This is going to be a lot of fun. Felicity did not put up with Monty’s shit and was constantly annoyed at Monty and Percy’s lack of awareness. I have heard that Felicity is canonically asexual. I don’t remember if I saw that confirmed by the author herself, but if it’s true I’m even more pumped for this book. Now, as of this post, the book doesn’t have a cover or even a synopsis, but there is enough information to get me hyped. I need a good pirate book where girls kick ass.

UnknownThe Time Traveler’s Guide to Modern Romance by Madeline J. Reynolds

There is not a lot of information on this book on Goodreads at least. Just a very short summary which involves time travel and a potential m/m romance. Two of my favorite things and I can’t wait.

Unknown: Someday by David Levithan

“Another book that made me feel totally and completely alone.” This was what I wrote on Goodreads about Every Day, the first book in this series. Geez, dramatic much past me. It’s technically a trilogy, with there being a companion book from Rhiannon’s POV, but honestly, I had no interest in re-reading the same story through another character’s eyes. Every Day was an incredible book about A. A does not have a gender, instead, they are in a new body every day and go through that day in another person’s skin. That is so powerful and sad because it’s really lonely. This changes when A meets Rhiannon and falls in love and every day does their best to find this girl. Which sounds a bit stalker-y, but it’s good, trust me. I’m interested to see how the story concludes because I felt like the first book could’ve been a standalone, but I look forward to reading this.

Unknown: Starworld by Paula Garner & Audrey Coulthurst

Hm, Audrey Coulthurst co-writes a contemporary YA novel. I’m intrigued, to say the least. Especially because there isn’t much to go on right now. I’m not the biggest fan of co-written books, but like I said earlier: I will read anything Audrey Coulthurst writes. Did I not say that? I’m saying it now.


There you have it! Those are the top ten books I’m looking forward next year. This might change as more information comes out about a few of them, but this is my list as of December 1st and I’m very excited going into 2018. The fact that I could easily find ten books with queer themes just makes me incredibly happy.

What books are you looking forward to in 2018? Have you read any ARCs of some of these? If so, I’m jealous.

Idyll Threats by Stephanie Gayle

Idyll Threats cover

(Chantel)

Caidyn did a review of this earlier this month and you can find it here if you want to know his thoughts.

4/5 – It’s rare that I step out of my comfort reading zone and read a genre that’s completely foreign to me. I read Idyll Threats in 2016 and I only read it because the main character was gay. To me, a gay protagonist with his own series is incredibly compelling. I absolutely adored the book when I first read it and upon a second read, I still loved it. Thomas Lynch is such a great character, in my opinion, he is just a normal guy. He reminds me a lot of Chief Hopper from Stranger Things actually. They are no-nonsense cops who are married to their work. Going forward, I wouldn’t mind seeing a softer side to Thomas Lynch but nothing that would feel too out of character.

This is a mystery novel and at the center of it is a murder of a young twenty-year-old woman. Multiple times Idyll Police and Lynch hit multiple dead ends. In a town where nothing happens, there is a lot of pressure to get this murder wrapped up and solved. But who fits the bill? I’ll admit I wasn’t completely satisfied with the reveal. I would’ve liked more of a foundation laid for who ended up being the killer. Everything up until that point was very interesting to me. Especially the way Thomas approached his work. Instead of sitting in his office doing paperwork all day, supposedly what a Chief of Police would normally do, he is interviewing people who knew the victim and chasing down meddling kids. He is good at his job and he almost single-handedly solves the crime.

He also almost runs it into the ground. One of the most interesting parts of the mystery was that Thomas had seen the victim before she was found dead. He had been attempting to hook up with a guy, and instead of revealing that information and subsequently outing himself as gay he keeps it to himself. Ultimately, though, this doesn’t amount to anything. He doesn’t get revealed, instead choosing to come out on his own.

This series takes place in 1997 so the cops make a lot of jokes at the expense of gay men. This presents another problem for Thomas in that his men might not be okay with him being gay. Nearly everyone who is gay in the town keeps it private because maybe Idyll isn’t the most accepting town. There is definitely some tension that will continue through the next book and I’m interested to see how it’s handled.

In the end, I read this a second time so that it would be fresh in my mind when I started the sequel and it just reinforced how much I enjoyed the book and how much I adore Thomas Lynch as a character.

Zealot by Reza Aslan

Aslan sketch_10.indd

(Chantel)

3/5 – I am going to be completely transparent in that I am not religious at all. That is the perspective I am going into this book with. I’m not well versed in the Bible at all and I know very little of it. This book has a clear bias from the author, as most non-fiction books do, and this is only one point of view. My goal with this review is not to offend anyone’s religion. This book is simply viewing Jesus through a historical perspective and that’s what I found most interesting about it. Even if the book, on the whole, didn’t fully engage me.

The first part of this book is setting the stage for the time and place Jesus lived in. A lot of this part was focused on the area of Judea and Galilee which was under Roman rule at the time. Several who called themselves messiahs had come forth to rid their land of the temples and wealthy priests. They usually did so with violence. One by one they all failed. As someone who doesn’t know a lot about history, this was fascinating to hear. Roman history is very interesting to me as well, and I frankly had no idea the Roman Empire extended that far into the Middle East. I sure did pay attention in history. So to have some background history was helpful moving forward. It was easily the most interesting part to me.

When talking about Jesus, Aslan had to disprove a lot of what the Bible claimed about the figure we know as Jesus Christ. He specifically was focusing on Jesus of Nazareth who was a Jewish peasant that went around Judea spreading his message. He points out that some of the gospels contradict each other and tell different versions of Jesus’s life and story likely because they wrote the gospels after Jesus was crucified. Most, maybe all, had never even met Jesus when he was alive. The focus of this book is to show that there is a disconnect between who Jesus, the man actually was, from the divine figurehead of Christianity. “The memory of the revolutionary zealot who walked across Galilee gathering an army of disciples with the goal of establishing the Kingdom of God on earth, the magnetic preacher who defied the authority of the Temple priesthood in Jerusalem, the radical Jewish nationalist who challenged the Roman occupation and lost, has been almost completely lost to history” (215). Aslan argues that the man, Jesus of Nazareth is just as compelling a person to believe in and I think it makes him easier to relate to, which may or may not appeal to everyone. However, I find myself drawn more to someone if I can relate to them.

Then there was some history of Paul and of Christianity itself. What I found the most interesting about Paul is how he helped define the religion almost singlehandedly. His version of events is the one that has stood the test of time. It is very interesting the versions of history that end up being the definitive version of events, whether they are true or not. History is all we have in order to look back on the past, but who and how is it decided what becomes the most commonly accepted history. However, by this part of the book, I just wanted to finish it.

All-in-all, I found this book hard to follow at times with all of the different terminology and names, and with my lack of knowledge of the Bible didn’t make it easier. There was a lot of repetition in what he was saying and by the end, I was just trying to get through it. However, I found a few interesting things in this book and I don’t regret reading it. Aslan is a great storyteller, the way he describes certain events occurring was excellent and I think I might read more of his books in the future. Also, he has a soothing audiobook voice.