Saturday, June 30, 2018

Love, Hate and Other Filters - Samira Ahmed

Title: Love, Hate, & Other Filters
Author: Samira Ahmed
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 3.5 Stars

A searing #OwnVoices coming-of-age debut in which an Indian-American Muslim teen confronts Islamophobia and a reality she can neither explain nor escape--perfect for fans of Angie Thomas, Jacqueline Woodson, and Adam Silvera.

American-born seventeen-year-old Maya Aziz is torn between worlds. There’s the proper one her parents expect for their good Indian daughter: attending a college close to their suburban Chicago home, and being paired off with an older Muslim boy her mom deems “suitable.” And then there is the world of her dreams: going to film school and living in New York City—and maybe (just maybe) pursuing a boy she’s known from afar since grade school, a boy who’s finally falling into her orbit at school.

There’s also the real world, beyond Maya’s control. In the aftermath of a horrific crime perpetrated hundreds of miles away, her life is turned upside down. The community she’s known since birth becomes unrecognizable; neighbors and classmates alike are consumed with fear, bigotry, and hatred. Ultimately, Maya must find the strength within to determine where she truly belongs.

Now, really, deep down, I loved this book!  However, I did rate is 3.5 Stars.  And here's why

*The book describes itself as being about a 17 year old torn between two worlds - being a normal American teen, and being a young Muslim who wants to do what makes her parents happy.  Super!  We need more books about Muslims, yes!  HOWEVER, the book barely touches on the Aziz family's religion.  It wasn't important until a terrorist event happened in another Illinois city, and people assumed the terrorist was Muslim.  Then, all of a sudden her parents are super religious and talking about the Qu'ran and going to the mosque every day to pray for the people that got killed in the terrorist attack.  I don't want to go into a whole diatribe, because I know very little about Islam, but based on the description, I would assume that being Muslim is important to Maya and her family - so it felt like that should have been a more central topic in the book.

*The romance between Maya and Phil.  Honestly - the romance between Maya and Phil felt a little forced. It felt like she liked Phil because he was there, and like Phil liked Maya because she was.... an escape from his normal everyday life. 

*The way Maya treated her parents was questionable at best.  She was pretty rude to them most of the time.  Now, I think it's okay, and in fact very important to, stand up for yourself and to ask questions. But you can do that while still treating other people with respect. 

Now: I did like:

*Maya is a pretty strong, independent young lady who isn't afraid to stand up for what she believes in.  She has to fight against a raging racist ass hat who treats her like shit because she's Muslim, and she has to deal with her parents not believing that film making is an acceptable career for her.  But she stand up for that and herself. 

*I love Violet - honestly I think she's the best character in the entire novel. I don't even know how to adequately sum up what I love about her - she's just amazing and fun!

*I like that this novel deals with Islamaphobia, even if Maya's family being Muslim is a bit in the background.  There is so much Islamaphobia in the world, and primarily in the USA right now.  A lot of that is rooted in the fact that too many people genuinely believe that every single Muslim is a terrorist.  (Hey, you know that all Muslims are not terrorists, right?!  A lot of acts of terrorism committed in the US are in fact committed by white dudes who were born and raised in America....)  Anyway, I love that this book did its part to address terrorism and the fact that not all Muslims are terrorists. 

Overall, I would recommend this book. It's definitely worth the read.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

From Twinkle, With Love - Sandhya Menon

Title: From Twinkle, With Love
Author: Sandhya Menon
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 4 Stars

Aspiring filmmaker and wallflower Twinkle Mehra has stories she wants to tell and universes she wants to explore, if only the world would listen. So when fellow film geek Sahil Roy approaches her to direct a movie for the upcoming Summer Festival, Twinkle is all over it. The chance to publicly showcase her voice as a director? Dream come true. The fact that it gets her closer to her longtime crush, Neil Roy—a.k.a. Sahil’s twin brother? Dream come true x 2.

When mystery man “N” begins emailing her, Twinkle is sure it’s Neil, finally ready to begin their happily-ever-after. The only slightly inconvenient problem is that, in the course of movie-making, she’s fallen madly in love with the irresistibly adorkable Sahil.

Twinkle soon realizes that resistance is futile: The romance she’s got is not the one she’s scripted. But will it be enough?

Told through the letters Twinkle writes to her favorite female filmmakers, From Twinkle, with Love navigates big truths about friendship, family, and the unexpected places love can find you.

Having just finished From Twinkle, With Love this morning, I feel everything so much still.  So, let me tell you all the things while they're still floating around fresh in my brain.

1. I LOVE THE SUPERNATURAL REFERENCES!  Seriously, I have just like a deep seated love for those Winchester boys, Castiel, the Wayward sisters, all the demon and ghost hunting, everything!  I mean, it's like:

2. I liked the development of the romance between Twinkle and Sahil.  It was slow, because Twinkle had a crush on Sahil's twin brother Neil.  However, Neil is secondary in this book - he's only in a small portion of the book, so it gave Sahil plenty of time to show why he really was a better match for Twinkle (and he really was - they both love movies, for one thing!)

3. There was some good character development with Sahil and Twinkle - they both changed and grew by the end of the book.  Twinkle especially was able to make some changes that were important for her.  She saw herself making some choices that weren't so flattering, then changed that attitude and worked to stop making such crappy choices.

4.  There was enough tension throughout the story that it made me want to keep reading.  I also liked the story enough that I wanted to find out what happened at the end - especially with Twinkle's secret email admirer!  The story flowed well and everything worked together well.

5. Draculass!  I loved the feminist changes to a patriarchal industry in this book!  See awesome gif above.

The only thing - and it's not really much of a thing - is that there always seems to be some drama in YA books.  HOWEVER, I think it works, because the drama wasn't really drama per se.  It was more just teenage stuff that seems to happen because teens are going through all sorts of weird shit anyway.  It was just teenagers trying to develop and learn and understand or misunderstand - and things worked out in the end.

I would recommend this book to any teen or YA lit lover who wants to read a fun lighthearted romance filled with Dracula, Supernatural references, and so much cuteness!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Some of my favorite {LGBT} Books!

Happy Pride Month, y'all!  So, ahem, I thought it would be fun to create a post with some of my favorite books that feature LGBT+ Characters.

Here we go

They Both Die at the End - Adam Silvera 
 Reading TBDATE was like having my heart ripped out and stomped on over and over and over again.  It was amazing, and the two main characters are both gay!

 Every Heart a Doorway, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, and Beneath the Sugar Sky - Seanan McGuire 
 The three books above are weird and dark and prominently feature several characters on the LGBT+ spectrum, including a character who is an ace, which I think is phenomenal because asexuality is very underrepresented in literature.

 Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda - Becky Albertalli
 What can I say about Simon that I haven't already said?!  I loved this book and the fact that the main character is gay!  We need more books with LGBT main characters!

 Autoboyography - Christina Lauren 
 Autoboyography is a fabulous book that looks at the difficulties that arise when a teen living in a Mormon-centric city falls in love with someone who is gay and Mormon, but who is struggling with his identity.

 The God Box - Alex Sanchez
 The God Box was a book that really challenged me, because at the time I read it, I was still sort of coming to terms with not really being super religious, and trying to marry this idea that you can be religious and gay.  This is a great book to read for teens who are gay and religious, or gay and raised by religious parents.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Leah on the Offbeat - Becky Albertalli

Title: Leah on the Offbeat
Author: Becky Albertalli
Format: Hardcover
Rating: 2 Stars

Leah Burke—girl-band drummer, master of deadpan, and Simon Spier’s best friend from the award-winning Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—takes center stage in this novel of first love and senior-year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic. An anomaly in her friend group, she’s the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high. It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

I picked up Leah on the Offbeat because I loved it's predecessor, Simon Vs., so much!  However, I found that Leah on the Offbeat just didn't hold up.

The one thing I liked about this book:

-Simon and Bram!  There characters are just as fabulous in Leah as they were in Simon Vs.  The promposal that Bram has for Simon is THE BEST!  They are the only reasons that this book was worth reading. 

Now, let's talk about what I didn't like:

-Leah.  I didn't like the main character. At all.  She was rude to everyone, especially her own mother.  Her mom tried so hard to be nice to her, and she was such a bitch to her mom.  Leah had a bad attitude towards her friends as well, and it left me wondering why anyone would want to spend time with her.  For example, at the end of Chapter 20, Abby is giving Leah all this great advice about what she can do to earn money with her drawings.  Leah, instead of thanking Abby for the advice, says "I'm not sure why you care."  Then through her internal m voice, Leah thinks to herself, "It's not like I'm opposed to what Abby is saying.  I just feel like being bitchy to her.   Fucked up, I know.  But that's where we are."

I mean, seriously?  Leah "just feels like being bitchy to" Abby?  Because who wouldn't love to be friends with someone just feels like being bitchy to them?! 

I also hated the way Leah treated Garrett.  He liked her so much, and she just jerked him around, because she said she'd never had anyone like her before.  So because this is the first time that anyone has ever liked her, it's okay for her to jerk him around?! 

My anti-Leah rant could just go on and on, so I'll just put it down to one sentence: Leah is a selfish, egotistical, brat who doesn't care about anyone but herself. 

Now, the rest of the book.  Okay, so here's the thing:

1. Abby dumped Nick, them messed around with Leah and just fucked with her because Abby was confused or something.  They went to a UGA tour, and Abby kissed Leah, all this time thinking that they are both straight, then finds out that Leah is bi.  Then, THEN after finding out that Leah is, in fact, not straight, she keeps messing with Leah, by like holding her hand, and making all these veiled references to Leah without telling Leah that she might be bi as well. 

2. The secondary characters in this book were not as well developed as they were in Simon Vs.  It was hard to get attached to them, because I felt like they were all just a little bit flat. 

Overall, this book was a dud.  I rated it 2 stars only because I know how much effort it takes to write a book.  But, I wouldn't recommend this book to anyone. If you really want to revisit Simon's world, I recommend just re-reading Simon Vs.