Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones cover

 


“Down, down, down they went, two little girls who couldn’t have been more different, or more the same. They wore the same face; they viewed the world through the same eyes, blue as the sky after a storm.” (51)


(Chantel)

5/5 – I’m not sure why this review is so hard for me to write and I don’t know if this will do it justice. At least I’ve been avoiding it for the past few days even though I knew it was going to be five stars early on. I absolutely loved this book, but I’m not sure how to talk about it. At least I don’t want to come off as if I don’t know what I’m talking about, but this review is mine and my own so I need to suck it up.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is the second book in the Wayward Children series, but it is a prequel to Every Heart a Doorway which I read a few months back. Down Among the Sticks and Bones follow Jack and Jill as they enter their world, called The Moors which is filled with supernatural creatures like vampires and werewolves, and then subsequently end up back in our world. If you aren’t familiar with this series the premise is about children who fall into portal worlds, like Alice in Wonderland or Narnia, and then get spit back out into the real world. In most cases, they don’t want to return to the real world because they didn’t fit in, in the first place. From the very beginning of Down Among the Sticks and Bones, you understand that Jack and Jill don’t belong in our world. Why is that? Because their parents are awful. I’m serious. They aren’t abusive, instead they refuse to let their children find out who they are and let them be who they want. They force both Jacqueline and Jillian into strict gender roles so that they can get the admiration of their peers.

When I was young, from infancy to about age 4 or 5, my mom loved dressing me up. She made me wear cute dresses and little adorable shoes, she’d style my curly hair, and it was all fine. At some point, she realized that I hated wearing dresses and stopped making me. I wore boys shirts and jeans and wore baseball caps. Even to this day, I won’t wear a dress. I wear jeans nearly every day and it usually is accompanied by a t-shirt. I’m very simple when it comes to clothing. I also was able to explore what I liked and what I didn’t. I played with cars, video games, and other things that traditionally boys played with. I’m not a parent, but I believe it is very important to not shove children into boxes. They will rebel. That’s exactly what happened in Down Among the Sticks and Bones, Jacqueline, the perfect princess became Jack who made and wore men’s clothing. Then Jillian who was the rough tomboy became Jill who loved having long hair and fancy dresses. Self-expression says a lot about who we are and to stifle that can be crushing and can ultimately have negative effects especially if done at a young age.

The writing in this book is stunning, it’s very lyrical and poetic and contains some of the most beautiful prose I’ve read. Some of the phrases in the book repeat, just like as if each paragraph was a different stanza in a poem. The narrator of the book is a character on their own, just like Death in The Book Thief, but this one is unnamed and omniscient. They break the fourth wall and talk directly to us multiple times and their sarcasm comes through in certain passages. I bet this book is great on audiobook.

If you haven’t read Every Heart a Doorway or didn’t like it, I’d still say give Down Among the Sticks and Bones a shot. It’s a fascinating commentary on gender roles and parenting, but also a tragic story about the relationship between two twins as they are separated. They end up finally being comfortable in themselves, but their relationship to each other is strained. Unlike with Every Heart a Doorway, when I struggled to connect with Nancy, this didn’t happen in this book. I also wasn’t left wanting more at the end of this book. Sometimes 200 something pages is all you need to take someone to another world.

Also, since you are probably wondering, yes one of the characters is a lesbian.

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#GetGraphic Readathon Wrap Up

5 Graphic Novels. 923 pages. 3 days.

Holy moly, you guys. I did it. I survived.

I originally had six novels on my TBR for the #GetGraphic Readathon and I stopped at five. This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki was the book I ended up not reading for the readathon. It was the last book added to my TBR and I’ve read three books on Sunday alone and I’m tired. I’ll get to This One Summer sometime soon. I’m sure everyone will be eagerly anticipating that review.

All of these graphic novels have queer character and/or queer themes, and yes this was intentional. Obviously.

I will be talking about each review in the order I read them. Let’s get started!


Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

4.5/5 – First of all, I loved this graphic novel. It was far and away my favorite out of the ones I read and it was the first one I read. I know it’s because this book brought back memories and gave me a feeling of nostalgia that I haven’t gotten from a book before.

I’ve had two different camp experiences. I don’t remember how old I was the first time I went to camp, but I went to Outdoor School in the sixth grade. Outdoor School is basically just a five-day camp where you learn about nature-y, science-y stuff. Both times I went camping, I had a crush on a camp counselor. Go figure. So, the little baby lesbian in me absolutely related to this graphic novel. For those who don’t know, I knew I was a lesbian when I was ten. I came out as a lesbian and was so confident that was how I identified throughout middle school and high school. Now, things are not exactly as simple as they were then and I don’t identify the same way now, but I know what it’s like to have a crush on the older unobtainable girl. I did not have the same experience here, as I just crushed from afar, which was kinda my thing, but this book hit me in the right place. It took me back to those times, which I can look on fondly now, but seemed crushing at the time.

I really enjoyed the art of the graphic novel, although the eyes creeped me out a bit.

I can see why some people think the ending wasn’t satisfying. I absolutely get that, but this is nonfiction. There are going to be times in life where a relationship isn’t wrapped up neatly, it will end up leaving you unsatisfied. I’m certain there are times when I will never see someone again and that relationship was left open-ended or not the way I wanted. It happens to us all. I’m not going to let it ruin my enjoyment of this book I connected so deeply with. I am disappointed that the author’s other novel has such a low rating on Goodreads because I would like to read more by her.


The Wicked + The Divine, Vol 1: The Faust Act by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie (Illustrations), Matt Wilson (Colorist), Clayton Cowles

3.5/5 – When I heard about the concept of The Wicked + The Divine, I was fascinated. Every ninety years twelve gods appear on Earth then they die two years later. In the first volume of TW+TD, they are all pop stars which makes a lot of sense. Young teenagers worship them and as egotistical gods, they eat that shit up.

The art in this graphic novel is absolutely gorgeous. I just saw the first cover page and was blown away by how stunning the art is. I think out of all the graphic novels I read, the art was the best in TW+TD. The story was a bit hard for me to follow and so I struggled to connect with it as much as I wanted to. That being said, Luci was a blast of a character. She was sassy, funny, and sexually fluid.

I will keep reading the series since I’m interested to see where the story goes, but I think most people who read graphic novels have already read TW+TD and if not I’d recommend checking it out.


The Infinite Loop by Pierrick Colinet and Elsa Charretier (Illustrator)

4/5 – This graphic novel was a lot of fun and while I didn’t completely understand the time travel elements, I had a blast. The main character is Teddy, a no-nonsense, strong woman who is also a lesbian. And a redhead. It’s becoming my new favorite trope, honestly.

This graphic novel is very much centered around the romance, which we don’t get a lot of development of, it starts out as lust and then there is a lot of yadda-yadda with regards to them falling in love. The stakes of the whole plot include getting the girl back, and it’s not really authentic when all you’ve seen is lust and no real relationship development. Especially considering that people in that future world don’t experience love. How quickly Teddy’s tune changes when she meets a gorgeous girl.

However, I really enjoyed this and had a lot of fun. I would definitely knock it down a star for the insta-love, but I was invested in the relationship. This graphic novel was more…sexy than the others I read. It wasn’t constant, but it was there. I will probably read this again one day and might have more to say about the themes and the point of the book, but that’s just not what my mind focuses on.


Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

3.5/5 – I feel like there were a lot of elements to Skim that I would really relate to. A character has committed suicide, multiple characters are depressed, multiple characters are lonely, there is a not-slim protagonist, and she’s struggling with her sexuality. However, it didn’t connect with me as much as I would’ve liked. I read this book in less than an hour and it went by fast. There wasn’t anything that was uninteresting or dull about it. I just constantly felt like an outside observer where I really got sucked into a few of the other graphic novels I read.

The art in this graphic novel is black and white and I know nothing about art, but it looked as if it was pencil drawn. This is by no means a criticism. I thought it added to the book’s appeal, honestly. In fact, I think the art was my favorite part of the book. I may not know what I’m talking about, but I know I liked it and it fit the book. Things aren’t bright and colorful when you are depressed. Not in such an extreme way, but things aren’t as bright and it’s hard to notice the beauty around you.

This book talks about depression and honestly I related to that. Kim, the protagonist, is depressed but because a boy recently committed suicide everyone is worried that she will meet the same fate. As someone who has lived with depression for over ten years, I have not wanted to end my life. I related to a character who is depressed but has no desire to die. That’s my everyday life. This book has a portrayal of mental illness that I think it focused on the subtle ways that depression can affect someone and for that, I give major kudos.


The Spire by Simon Spurrier, Jeff Stokely (Illustrations), Andre May (Colorist)

3/5 – A fantasy/science fiction graphic novel with a lesbian protagonist, naturally, I’m in. The world in this book is bizarre and I don’t think I can accurately describe it because it’s very complex. Honestly, I don’t think I understand a lot of the worldbuilding in this graphic novel. I had a lot of trouble following the main conflict of the story and the different species (?) and their motivations. There was a lot going on here and maybe if I reread it I’d understand it better, but I can’t say I’m interested.

There were some things I really liked. There was an f/f relationship that was already established. A kind of forbidden affair. I liked that a lot. That’s always fun. Sha is the main character and she was totally badass and snarky, and I like that in my protagonist. A no-nonsense female who kicks ass. This was a theme with a few of the action graphic novels I read and it was a lot of fun to read about strong female characters who were also into ladies. Hey Comic world, I’d like more of this, please. There was an interesting twist at the end that I liked, and it was unexpected but I can’t really talk about it because of spoilers.

The one thing that really bothered me, and this might be me nitpicking, but the swearing was censored with various characters. For example, fuck became @#$%. I didn’t like this especially when there were naked images on the page. I mean, I saw boobs and yet I couldn’t read a bad word. I’m sure they had reasons for doing so, but I’m used to swearing and the censoring the words didn’t really mesh with the story they were telling.


And that wraps up my thoughts on the books I read for the Get Graphic readathon. I’d just like to thank Caidyn for his encouragement, it helped a lot, but overall it was a great weekend and I loved participating in the readathon. I might do more in the future, but I’m far less confident reading actual novels in a readathon setting. I guess we’ll see.

 

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

Not Your Sidekick cover

(Chantel)

4/5 – It took me too long to finish this book. I want to emphasize that this is not a reflection on the book. I’m just a slow reader and was going through a slump last month.

This book was amazing. It’s a post-apocalyptic novel with ladies loving ladies. I know I’ve said before that I’m not into the superhero books, but yet here I am reading another series that takes place in a world where superheroes exist. It also happens to have multiple queer characters and that was the main reason I picked this book up. I know I’ve said so many times about the lack of LGBTQIA books I had access to as a teenager and I’m so glad there are books like Not Your Sidekick and Dreadnought, among others, that LGBTQIA teenagers can see themselves in.

Despite not being a teenager anymore, I definitely saw 16-year-old Chantel in this book. I related so much to having an intense crush on a redhead, not quite bordering on stalkerish. The relationship between Jess and Abby would’ve been a dream come true. Sorry, if that was a spoiler, but it’s pretty central to the book. It starts as a slow burn, a transition from a friendship to more and I thought it was handled very well. I would’ve liked to see more of Emma and Bells, but I know they get their own books so I’m okay with it.

The main plot of the book doesn’t really come to the forefront until over halfway through the book. There are bits and pieces sprinkled here and there, but I would’ve liked more in the beginning just so it wasn’t all crammed in at the end. However, I did appreciate the commentary made of things that are relevant in the present. There could’ve been a better balance between the relationships and the plot. Another bit of criticism is the beginning was a bit slow, but it picks up once Jess starts her internship. Also, this isn’t necessarily a criticism, but there was a huge reveal and I totally guessed it. I don’t think it was well hidden and there were plenty of hints, but I wasn’t surprised by it and that’s okay. I thought it made things more fun.

The characters were just fantastic, even if the villains were a bit cartoonish. I do want to gush about Abby if I may, she was very smart and good with electronics and robotics and while it might be a small thing, I think that’s very important for younger girls to see. Another important thing was the word bisexual being seen on the page and an Asian protagonist whose parents are refugees from China and Vietnam. There is so much representation in this novel, there is an adorable love story and even an interesting plot. I want this book to be in the hands of every little awkward teen who has a crush because trust me, it’s too real at times.

#GetGraphic Readathon TBR

(Chantel)

I am participating in my first ever readathon with the #GetGraphic Readathon which starts Friday the 6th and ends Sunday the 8th. If you want to join in, here is the official Twitter for the readathon. There are also challenges, but I don’t plan on doing them. Some books qualify, but I put together a TBR of books I really wanted to read. 

I am participating in this readathon because it only lasts a weekend and it’s exclusively for graphic novels and comics. After going to Comic-Con recently, I want to start reading more graphic novels because there are so many great stories out there that I’ve missed because they aren’t in the traditional novel form.

Not sure if I’ll actually read all of these books over the weekend, but I will be happy if I get most of them done. I’ll probably start with the longer ones first. 

Official TBR:

Rose City Comic Con 2017

(Chantel)

As I announced in last week’s First Lines Friday, I attended Rose City Comic Con in Portland. I know it was a week ago, but it had been a long week getting back to work and I didn’t have a lot of motivation to do anything. However, I’ve recovered a bit and I’m ready to talk about some of the things I saw and bought at RCCC.

The con went from Friday until Sunday and while I went Friday and Saturday, I needed to recover before work on Monday so I didn’t attend on Sunday. Sometimes you just need a rest day.

Just for shits and giggles, here is a selfie from Friday and this is the shirt I was wearing. It was the official RCCC shirt from last year and I love this shirt. I don’t wear it outside of any cons and I was excited to wear it again.

Here is a selfie from Saturday and the shirt I was wearing.

Now, I love this shirt. It’s one of my favorite shirts, if not my favorite shirt. It’s puffy, it’s the Tardis, and it’s fantastic. I bought this at Wizard World Comic Con in February from the booth of J&R Apparels. I linked to their website if you want to check out other puffy shirts they have. Their shirts are really cool and super comfy. I highly recommend.

Also, my eyes look weird in that picture, but I’m gonna roll with it.

Saturday is also the day I bought the majority of prints and books. I didn’t get much so this is a fairly small haul, but I want to share some of the things with you and will include links to the artist if possible.

Books: 

Niobe: She is Life #1 

Written by: Amandla Stenberg & Sebastian A. Jones

Illustrated by: Ashley A. Woods & Darrell May

Edited by: Joshua Cozine

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I had not heard about Niobe at all before, but it’s a graphic novel from Stranger Comics and I was sold when I was told the concept of the graphic novel. The art on the front is gorgeous enough and it was written by Amandla Stenberg from The Hunger Games and Everything, Everything. I didn’t get to meet Amandla, the autographs on the graphic novel are from the Sebastian A. Jones and Darrell May. I look forward to reading this in the future. I am trying to read more graphic novels (since I’m not really a fan of comics and graphic novels…yet) so it makes sense that I would walk away from a Comic-Con with at least one graphic novel.

Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

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I think one of the highlights of the convention for me was going to a panel of queer authors and listening to them talk about how important representation on the page is. I went to the booth they were at after another panel. Not only was I happy to get LGBTQ+ book recommendations I’d never heard of before, but to meet queer authors that had books published was a lot of fun. I ended up buying Ardulum from J.S. Fields, but I definitely wanted to buy L.M. Pierce’s book, Trans Liberty Riot Brigade and while I didn’t I do plan on buying/reading in the future. I am always for buying and promoting queer author’s works. 

Prints:

Artist: Jason W. Christman

I really love minimalist prints and this R2-D2 and Tardis print are two of my favorites. I knew I wasn’t walking away from this booth without getting the R2-D2 print. The Tardis print is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to get frames for these and hang them up. 

Artist: Bruce Brenneise

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These two prints caught my eye as I was walking around, trying my best to look around me while everyone else was trying to move forward. The landscape is gorgeous and I love the ship in the top one. These prints are absolutely stunning in my opinion and I’m very glad I was able to buy these from the artist who was kind enough to hold them for me until I was ready to leave so I didn’t have to carry them all day. 

And finally: 

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This year I got the Stranger Things themed Comic-Con shirt. I knew the moment I saw it, I wanted it. They actually had a large variety of shirts this year, but this was the one I wanted. I could’ve gotten the Sasquatch one to match last year’s, but I like having something completely different. Even though I didn’t get to wear it this year, I will wear it next year for sure. 

That is everything I bought at Comic-Con, however, I want to show off one more thing. Even though I didn’t meet any celebrities this year or get any autographs, I went to a panel and I’ll just leave these pictures here. No matter how hard they might be to see. 

I don’t know how good those look, but if you don’t recognize them that is James and Oliver Phelps who played Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter films. It was really fun to watch them answer questions and talk about their experiences during, before, and after the Harry Potter films. 

The reason I posted about my weekend at Comic-Con was to demonstrate that someone who isn’t good with crowds and feels very socially awkward can go to a large event like this and still enjoy themselves. It’s definitely not for everyone and Saturday I felt very overwhelmed, yet I still had a great time. One day, I’d like to find a con buddy, but I’m not going to let that stop me from doing something I enjoy. 

 

Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

Fortitude Smashed cover

(Chantel)

I received an ARC for this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

DNF @ 25%

1/5 – I’ve been dreading writing this review, I knew I was going to DNF this book for over a week and didn’t want to review it. I don’t like doing negative reviews and don’t like doing them for ARCs. I’m just ripping this band-aid off so I can move on.

Here is a text I sent Caidyn before reading this book and shows what I expected when reading it: “It sounds like a sci-fi love story that’s hella gay so I’m optimistic.”

A futuristic world with an m/m romance sounds like it would be right up my alley, but ultimately I was disappointed.

My main issue with this book was the lack of sci-fi and abundance of romance. I like more plot with my romance, not the other way around. Things between the characters progressed very quickly and while they never uttered the word love, I felt like it would come out of someone’s mouth soon. This just isn’t the kind of book I’m interested in reading.

Now, I’m a sucker for queer books with queer characters, but I couldn’t get into either character. One was a young Detective named Shannon and he is the youngest in the history of the police department he works for, and he did things throughout that didn’t make sense for a detective who is dedicated to his work. Like not turn in a known thief. The other character was a thief named Aiden. This is the main premise of the book, that two opposites come together and fall in love. My issue with Aiden was he wasn’t this clever thief going around stealing art. The premise of a thief and a cop falling in love was negated by the fact he only tried to steal one time. He had stolen in the past, but after he met Shannon that desire seemed to go away, I don’t know if that changed or not throughout the rest of the book, but that was my experience. I would’ve liked some moral ambiguity with both characters because Aiden seemed more like a sweetheart rather than a morally gray character. That alone would’ve made this more interesting.

There were also inconsistencies with the relationship between Aiden and his brother. It seemed that they had a strained relationship and Aiden deliberately avoids him but then when they meet up for dinner they are very friendly and brotherly with each other. I felt like I had missed something where their relationship had improved.

Very early on the book established the world they lived in with Camellia Clocks and Rose Roads. These are terms we have to interpret what they mean, but 25% into the book I had no idea how these terms came to mean what they meant and I had no idea why this world had established that everyone has a soulmate. I would’ve liked that explanation early on so that I wouldn’t be thinking about it after the characters got together.

That just outlines the issues I had with the book and ultimately why I stopped reading it. I didn’t mean for it to be wholly negative, but I just wasn’t that into it.

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

The Seafarer's Kiss cover


“As the weapon sank, the relieved whales rose. Each of them gently brushed my hip as they took a breath, thanking me in their soft, dignified language of touch.” (16)


(Chantel)

4.5/5 – I absolutely love The Little Mermaid (the Disney movie) and I enjoy the movie as it is. When I heard about a queer retelling of The Little Mermaid with a bisexual main character, I was very much into it. And I loved this book. I read it in about eight hours and that’s rare for me. (Not straight through mind you — the season finale of Game of Thrones was on.) I’m not the fastest reader out there, but I could not stop reading this book. It was only 212 pages and there was so much to enjoy about it. So, prepare for a lot of gushing and a tiny bit of nitpicking.

I absolutely loved the setting and the Norse mythology weaved into this story. I don’t know anything about Norse mythology, but I’m suddenly interested. The writing in this book was gorgeous. The descriptions of the glacier the merpeople lived on just made me want to be a part of that world. There was something calming and serene about this book, and I don’t even like the ocean. I can’t even swim, but dammit I wanted to be a mermaid after reading this book.

Now, I’d like to talk about a few different relationships in this book because I feel like they were at the core of this story. First, I’d like to talk about Ersel and her mother. I teared up during a scene with these two and their relationship was so wonderful. I’ll admit, I thought about my own relationship with my mom and that made it even more emotional for me. I would say more but that would lead to spoilers and I really want people to go read this book. In fact, I’m going to be vague because I don’t want to give too much away.

Second, I’d like to talk about Ersel and Ragna. It’s no secret there is an f/f romance in this book. If it’s a surprise to you, well surprise! There’s a scene, again being vague, that was so beautiful and I was blown away. Maybe it’s just because I’m a romantic person, but I loved it. Also, even though their relationship escalated quickly, Ersel acknowledged she didn’t know if things would work out. It was something worth giving a chance and I liked that. It’s not insta-love, but there is potential for love to blossom.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about Ersel and Havamel. Now, I liked Havamel and yet I’m not a huge fan of his role in the plot. This was one of my few nitpicks and something that bothers me in general. In the beginning of the book, Ersel is already upset with him and considers their friendship over. In my mind, a romance between them isn’t going to happen, but then to have him do something so wrong that Ersel might not forgive him was unnecessary because he’s not a bad person. I think showing their friendship throughout would’ve been nice because as I’ve said before, two people can be friends without the potential for romance.

I should also talk about Loki. In this book specifically, Loki’s gender is not male nor female but both and neither at the same time. I’m not labeling them specifically because I don’t know the specific label. Basically, they go back and forth between male and female forms and it’s amazing. However, Loki wasn’t the most likable character by a long shot. I’m sure that’s part of Loki’s mythology, they are clever and funny, but also awful. Horrible things happen because of Loki. Personally, I just loved the idea of a character with no fixed gender and everyone accepted them as such. However, I acknowledge that I’m cisgender and I might feel completely different if I wasn’t.

I just want to continue talking about this book and encouraging others to read it. It’s a fantasy book with an f/f romance and body positivity. I need more books like this. I want more books with a folklore I’m unfamiliar with and a world I can just sink into. It’s a great time to read LGBTQ+ books right now and I wish I had more books like this when I was a teenager.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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Caidyn also read Gentleman’s Guide this month and already reviewed it. If you want his opinion on the book, here it is: Caidyn’s Review.


“It occurs to me suddenly, as I look down the deck to where Percy’s sitting with his fiddle and two of the men, who are singing a tune for him in hopes he can pick up the melody, that this must be the first time in his life he’s around men who look like him. Men who don’t assume he’s worth less than them just because of the color of his skin. Among the pirates, he has nothing to prove.” (406)


4/5 – It’s rare that I read a book that’s recently come out. I’ve been burned before when it came to books that were hyped. However, I’m glad I didn’t wait to read this. It wasn’t the book I thought it would be, but sometimes that’s perfectly fine. There were some things that were unexpected, some things were predictable, and at the core of it were these two boys who wouldn’t tell each other how they feel.

Let’s just get this out of the way, I’m not a huge fan of angst at all. I found the angst in this book annoying. Especially because it was clear they had feelings for each other, but it wasn’t clear to them. This just isn’t a trope I’m fond of. It went on for so long and it got tired quick. Without it, I might have rated it higher. That being said, this book features an openly bisexual male, and his best friend/love interest Percy is black. That’s a lot more than most YA books have and I love that about this book.

Also, I absolutely adored Percy, he was my favorite character throughout the book. He was just so precious and adorable. It was a relief to see that they didn’t shy away from the prejudice he would’ve faced in that time because of his skin color.

Monty was complex and I still don’t have my feelings on him sorted out. I think I like him, ultimately, but I didn’t like him at first. His lack of self-awareness really bothered me and he made several decisions that were very selfish. However, there is far more under the surface when it comes to Monty and he has a nice character arc and ends the book being a character I like. His love for Percy was his one redeeming quality, but again it took a while for that to amount to anything. In the end, all his decisions were true to his character and his growth throughout didn’t feel unnatural or forced in any way. It felt realistic.

Felicity, by comparison, was a lot of fun. A determined, smart woman in the 18th century who didn’t take Monty’s shit. Sign me up! She provided a lot of humor and a nice relief from the angst. If she hadn’t been there this book would’ve been harder to deal with. I cannot wait to read the next book which I believe is from her point of view. Not to mention, I’ve heard murmurings that she’s asexual and I’m absolutely down for that if it’s true.

The plot of the book takes quite a few twists and turns and there was a lot I didn’t expect out of it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the plot, it was the reason a lot of the things I did like occurred. Plus, the adventure starts with Monty doing something incredibly stupid, which was in character for him at that point in the book. It was a fun, quirky adventure which I wasn’t expecting. Let’s just say it wasn’t one’s typical Grand Tour.

Overall, I didn’t love this book, but I think it’s a great addition to the collection of LGBTQ+ books out there. I’m not surprised this book is popular because it’s a lot of fun and I thought the representation was fantastic. It’s also hilarious. If we have more books like this, I’ll be happy to keep reading them.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Takes a Breath cover

“What did it feel like to be so committed to something that you’d die for it? I didn’t feel that way that about anything. Not about being gay or trying to become a feminist, nothing.” (134)


(Chantel)

4.5/5 – This book follows Juliet from The Bronx when she gets the opportunity to do an internship with her favorite author in Portland, Oregon. I’m not going to lie, the fact that a majority of this book takes place in Portland is a huge reason why I picked it up. I wanted to see how an author used Portland as a backdrop to a story because Portland is my home and has been for many years. I think it was used perfectly as a setting for someone who is coming to terms with their sexuality while simultaneously opening her up to new ways of thinking about the world and herself. Not to mention, Powell’s was mentioned multiple times and I can’t walk in there without buying something because I have no self-control. There was something exciting about reading what an outsider thought about Portland. And yes, it’s true, the buses smell that bad.

Juliet comes from a place so drastically different from Portland. Juliet sees Portland as a hippie, queer haven and while I think that’s a little exaggerated, just like the show Portlandia, there is some truth there. However, Juliet isn’t just a fish out of water in Portland, she is a fish out of water in both the LGBTQ+ and Feminist communities. She arrives in Portland and has an encounter where someone asks her what her preferred gender pronouns are and what she identifies as. She is so overwhelmed by the interaction because she has no idea what those terms mean. Back home, she hasn’t been able to talk about being a lesbian with other people because she was in the closet. Throughout the book, she ends up finding people to relate to on numerous levels.

It’s hard to straighten out my thoughts about this book because it made me think hard. I’ve never been so stumped by a book and had so many thoughts jumbling around about race and feminism. Ultimately, I really enjoyed this book. It was entertaining and Juliet was a great narrator with tons of humor. I related a lot to her. I was someone who was so sure of who I was when I was 18-19, even before then, and then one college course changed that completely. Now at 25, I don’t feel that sure about anything because people change. Juliet experienced this over one summer and I experienced over the course of a college term, things change quickly, and you can either deny it or lean into it.

I will say there is some levity in this book with one of my favorite romances I’ve read about recently. Which says a lot because I like my queer romances. While doing research at the library (if I’m not mistaken Rivera was referring to the Central Library downtown) Juliet meets a cute girl named Kira. I was totally invested in these two and while the romance didn’t overtake the book I loved it. In fact, I wanted more but that’s because I’m a sucker for romances.

This book will make people uncomfortable, and I won’t deny that. I am half black, but I grew up with my mom who is white. I was never fully immersed in my dad’s world or culture. This is something I’ve struggled with but ultimately, I don’t think my race matters on the opinion of this book and instead of commenting on what the book provides I’d recommend going and reading. If nothing else, it’ll make you think.

My final words on this book? Come for the deep dive into feminism and race, stay for the adorable romance.

Taproot by Keezy Young

Taproot cover

(Chantel)

I received an ARC of Taproot from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

3/5 – This is the first ARC I’ve ever gotten from Netgalley and the first ARC I’m reviewing. That’s pretty exciting for me. I always found the idea of reading and reviewing a book that wasn’t out yet was a bit intimidating, so I picked this short, cute graphic novel as my first. Here we go!

This graphic novel centers around a ghost named Blue and his best friend Hamel who can see ghosts when nobody else can. Blue also happens to secretly be in love with Hamel. In addition to dealing with his feelings, he must deal with unusual events happening around him and Hamel which leads him to make an important decision.

Simply put, I thought this graphic novel was adorable. Hamel was a giant teddy bear who loved flowers and Blue was a ghost who was in love with his best friend, despite his attempts to appear as if he isn’t. This provides multiple misunderstandings between the two as is expected. I thought the art style gave the book a sense of whimsy and complimented the graphic novel’s tone well. At its core, it was a sweet love story between two young men. It made me smile.

My issue with the story lies in the supernatural elements that come in around halfway through the book. I felt that it wasn’t properly explained what was going on and I struggled to comprehend what was happening. I don’t usually gravitate toward books with supernatural elements, so there were some terms that were unfamiliar to me. Someone who is familiar with reading books similar to this might not have this issue. However, it was confusing to me. Some more explanation of the term necromancer in the context of the story would be helpful.

Overall, I’d recommend this graphic novel. It’s a quick read and I think it’ll make anyone smile who enjoys a good love story.