Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Review: What To Say Next by Julie Buxbaum

This novel was a very pleasant surprise. A co-worker recommended it me, thinking I would like it, and initially I was like 'oh yeah, sounds okay'. But after reading, I can see why she recommended it, and now I want to recommend it to all my friend who might like it, too.
What To Say Next is a duel POV novel following Kit, who's father died a month ago in a car accident, and David, who's still figuring high school out. Kit wants to get away from her friend's pitying stares and decides to sit at the table David sits at by himself everyday at lunch. It doesn't seem too complicated, accept there's a lot more going on in Kit's life then anyone realizes, and David was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome as a kid (though it's not a current term for the way his brain works, Buxbaum works in that now David would be placed on the Austim Spectrum). So it's a lot more than you think it is.
Kit is also Indian-American, (like David points in the novel, India-Indian, not Indigenous) which puts some awesome diversity into the mix.
After reading about Tiberius in Cassandra Clare's The Dark Artifices series, I loved reading from the POV of another character on the Autism Spectrum. It's not something we've really talked about in teen novels until very recently, and it's interesting to see the perspective of the world from someone like David and Ty.
Despite the heavy stuff going on, it's actually a pretty light-hearted novel. Yes, there were a few tears at the climax of the plot, but other than that, it touches on serious topics in an incredibly easy way to digest.
I respect this novel a lot. The writing was very well done, and though I get very weary about duel (or multiple) POVs in novels, this felt very smooth. It wasn't choppy between the POVs, the voices were distinct, and you weren't left waiting between the POVs if something dramatic was revealed. There were a few cliche moments, though I'm still waiting to find a teen novel that doesn't. But I really enjoyed the ending. The characters are incredibly well-rounded, as well.
Something else I really appreciated about this novel was the family dynamics. A lot of teen books try to avoid parents and families as much as possible because it takes away from the teen-adventuring. The parents that do show up tend to be incredibly relaxed and borderline non-existent. But in this novel, the parents genuinely care and support their kids, and there's an actual parent-child relationship with both authority and friendship. David's parents continually support him while he tries to figure out how to socialize and high school. His sister got on my nerves a little bit, but she obviously supports him whole-heartedly. Kit's mom also supports her unconditionally, and they have a really open relationship, and are pretty open about their feelings surrounding her Dad's death.
All in all, I'm giving this one a 4.5 stars. I don't think it'll necessarily be an all-time favourite, but I'm going to be recommending this to as many people as I can.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pride Month Recs!

I was originally not going to do Pride Month recommendations. I am a LGBT+ Ally, but I'm not a member of the community, so it felt wrong to put a list together and claim that I had good recommendations. With June coming to a close, it felt wrong to not do anything, though. I've been pretty active on Twitter, retweeting as much as I can to support members of the community throughout the month, and in a last minute decision last night, I decide to put together a giveaway.
So over on Twitter (@emilyxspeaks) you can retweet my pinned tweet and be entered to win an LGBT book your choice! I wanted to give to the community, and give away a book to someone who may not have the best access to them or not know where to start.
So, in lieu of that, this post is going to be a few short list of LGBT books I love. To be specific, they're books that highlight the experience. There of plenty of books with LGBT characters that are fantasy, or they just skim over the fact that a character is gay, and that's awesome. But after reading this thread from Adam Silvera on Twitter, it can be confusing to recommend a book that just has a gay character on a list like this versus recommending a book that actually highlights the experiences people in the community go through. AND I'm going to tell you which letter in the LGBT+ acronym the book falls under, so as not to be confusing. It's a great thread, and you should check it out!
And if you don't want to read about my recs, I've got an on-going list of other's recs at the end of this post!

1. Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agendas, Becky Albertalli - G
It would be impossible to create a list like this without including Simon! This book made me laugh, cry, and helped me gain perspective! This novel follows Simon, who hasn't come out to his friends and family yet. He met a boy through a chat room online, and knows they go to the same high school, but they're not revealing their true identities to each other. Not until they're ready. But one of Simon's peers discovers the messages he's been sending back and forth and tries to use them to blackmail Simon into playing matchmaker. It's a great novel that touches on the boundaries of knowing someone who is gay, as well as the importance of diversity in general. 
2. Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy - L, B, & P
When the synopsis of this novel was first released into the world, there was a ton of backlash. I think the backlash of this novel says a lot about the biphobia that can occur.* This is about a girl who is certain in her identification as a lesbian, but when she starts having romantic and sexual feelings for her friend, Freddie, she questions her identity. This book highlights the fluidity of sexuality, and the difficulties of trying to define sexuality. Shelly at readsleeprepeat.org wrote a great goodreads review you should read. And recommended it in her own Pride month list
*If you want some great conversations about this, you should follow @TheBreeMae on Twitter and her account @QueerEnough!
3. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - G 
This novel talks about so many things, but it mainly follow Aristotle and Dante as they come of age and discover their sexuality through their feelings for each other. If you've read this already, you'll know how much of an understatement that is, because it's so much more than that. If you haven't read this, you just need to. 
4. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde - B 
This novel follows two best friends, one of who is a bisexual internet celebrity. This one is less a coming-of-age novel about her discovering her sexuality and more of a dealing-with-the-world novel about her already being confident with her sexuality. Different, but a good different! This novel, while it touches serious subjects, is also just fun, which doesn't happen enough in teen novels. I read this one after Riley (@rileymarie1196) kept raving about it, and she was right! 

That's where I'm gonna end this list, as those are the novels I can definitely recommend. I have a lot more LGBT reading to do, and I hope next June, my LGBT Goodreads shelf will be much, much longer. Also, I'm incredibly disappointed I have nothing to represent the T on my list. I haven't read them, but George by Alex Gino and If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo are novels that have been recommended to me many times. 
So here's other bloggers who've made lists you should check out: 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Review: Public Relations by Katie Heaney and Arianna Rebolini

PUBLIC RELATIONS came out back on May 9th, and I couldn't stop thinking about it after reading the back when discovering it on a table at work.
It follows twenty-six year-old Rose, who quickly moved up the ranks at a Public Relations company. Her company has recently taken on a contract with Archie Fox, who got famous on YouTube and quickly became a pop-sensation. But since, his fame has been dwindling and his public reputation... well, it sucks. When Rose finds herself in a meeting with Archie, it's her knowledge of young girls and the internet that makes her propose the idea of staging a relationship. While Archie and Raya (a cool, young, upcoming star - think Halsey, or Lorde) are staging their relationship via Rose's instructions, Rose and Archie find themselves spending a lot of time together.
This sounded totally up my alley. I'm obsessed with "elite" lifestyles, and, of course, sexy/edgy pop stars. The Harry Styles, boyband, concert-loving me ate up this plot.
I finished this novel in about 3 days and rated it a 4 out of 5 stars. I really enjoyed the plot and it's homage to young teenage fangirls. Rose consistently defends fangirls around her white-male coworkers, which I loved and appreciated. Fangirls don't get enough credit. They're the ones buying hundreds of dollars worth of concert tickets, albums, merch, and provide endless amounts of free promo through social media.
Rose is suuuuper relatable. Well, for anyone that's career driven, I guess. She's not had a ton of relationships (I feel like having a ton of romantic relationships has been the exception, not the rule), she lives with a roommate from craigslist, and she's moved up in her career simply because she's good at it. She's a strong character, though, and always ready to defend the people she needs to. I appreciate that.
At the beginning of the novel, Rose's relationship with her best friend (Harper) is very important, but as the novel continues and drama ensues, their relationship takes a backseat. What I loved is that this doesn't go unnoticed by our authors. Rose and Harper have to work at their friendship when their love interests start to come first. It's a great example of girl-friendships that fail because they feel their love lives are more important, and a great example of working past that and learning from it.
Let's break it down:

  • Sexy singer/celebrity? Check!
  • Relatable main character? Check!
  • Positive female friendship? Check!
  • A little bit of steamy romance? Check!

My biggest complaint with this novel is that the ending wasn't long enough. I felt it ended quite abruptly, and the romance-lover in me hated it - I need more time with my couple! I found the novel as a whole was a bit choppy as well. The scenes didn't flow together as smoothly as I'd like them to. However, I felt the interactions were well-written and genuine, and not cheesy. Sometimes with novels like this, I find that the author tries to put in all these cheesy lines and metaphors and it doesn't work with the tone of the novel - but that did not happen here (thank goodness)! It was also a bit predictable, but I sort of expected that from the synopsis.
This one is an easy recommendation for me. You'll love it if you loved AFTER (Anna Todd), KILL THE BOY BAND (Goldy Moldavsky)w, or WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU (Julie Cross). While your at it, if you loved this one and need some recommendations, I loved all of the above ^.

Next on the TBR: What to Say Next, by Julie Buxbaum