Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books. This week we are looking at literary crushes.
Top Ten Characters I Would Crush on If Were a Fictional Character
This is going to be a very short list. I debated on even doing this TTT, since I don’t really crush on literary characters a lot. For various reasons. I know Augustus Waters, Alex from Delirium, and Four are supposed to make my heart go pitter-patter. But they don’t. And cool lesbian characters are so few and far between.
1.) Gilbert Blythe in Anne of Green Gables – Gilbert is so sweet and selfless. He lets Anne spread her wings and be herself without getting in her way.
2.) Warner in Shatter Me – I said crush, I’m not saying I’d act on it. I don’t normally like bad boys, but Warner has my heart.
3.) Frankie Landau-Banks in The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks – She’s totally straight, but totally self-confident, smart, sassy, and cool.
4.) Hermione Granger – I have a weakness for brainy girls.
5.) Nicola in Empress of the World – Brilliant, nerdy, super cute, and a little tomboyish. I wish the book had been better, but Nicola as a character is definitely crush-worthy.
So that’s it. I’d like to see a better variety of lesbian characters in books.
Which literary characters are you book boyfriends/girlfriends?
Title: Hex Hall
Author: Rachel Hawkins
Publisher/Year: Hyperion, 2010
Length: 336 pages
Series?: Hex Hall
Genre: YA paranormal
Source: Gift from my blogging secret santa!
After a love spell ruins prom, Sophie is sent to Prodigium juvie, aka Hecate Hall, until she turns eighteen. Sophie is to work on her powers as a witch among various faries, shapeshifters, ghosts, and other magical beings. On the first day alone she is attacked by a werewolf, finds out she’s rooming with a lesbian vampire, is recruited by a coven, and starts crushing on the hottest guy in school. Witty, sarcastic Sophie isn’t quick to to make friends, nor does she love her new school. Things get worse when students are attacked and the only suspect is her only friend. When Sophie starts learning some of Hex Halls deepest secrets, she realizes that no one is safe — especially her.
I received this book as a gift from my Secret Santa, Amanda at Letters Inside Out, to be my first post-Twilight dabble into the paranormal genre. For the record, my reading of Twilight ended in 2007 with me finishing the first novel, screaming, and throwing it across the room. Hex Hall, on the other hand, did not inspire such violent reaction. I actually enjoyed it. Sophie is a likable protagonist, the plot wasn’t entirely predictable, and there’s a boarding school. They had me at boarding school. Y’all, I freakin’ love boarding school novels. Hecate Hall felt a little bit like Hogwarts at times, so I’m guessing Hawkins was influenced by Rowlings just a smidge. At one point, Sophie even makes a joke by calling the groundskeeper Hagrid. By the end of the novel, the Harry Potter similarities fade a away, and Hex Hall stands on its own and sets its own direction.
Can I also say that I loved the very girly lesbian vampire, Jenna, too? She and Sophie are good friends to each other, and I hope Jenna gets more of the spotlight in the later books in the series. Hawkins doesn’t make a big deal over the lesbian part, so that was also nice to see in a YA novel. It’s more like, “Oh, my roommate’s a lesbian? Cool. I love her hair.” And then they move on to more important things. Like demons. And not dying. And not getting kicked out of school.
FINAL GRADE: B A light, but not too light, enjoyable read. I was expecting more fluff, but was impressed repeatedly by how much I was enjoying the novel. I’ll probably read the other books, too.
Assigned Reading: Since I don’t consider myself a paranormal fan, I’d assign this to anyone who is not a fan of the genre, as you may be pleasantly surprised! I’d also recommend it to fans of boarding school books or Harry Potter. In fact, Hex Hall might be the perfect book for the YA female reluctant readers, due to the relatively short length and general “cool” factor.
Recommendations: Librarians can feel comfortable putting the novel in a high school collection, and daring librarians (I hope you are all daring!) should consider it for middle school, too (there’s mentions of sex, and the obvious witchcraft).
How do you feel about paranormal books? Do you have a favorite in the genre?
While on my quest to read novels strictly for funsies, I also have a list of books I need to read this semester for academic reasons. If I’m looking at gender in young adult literature, I’m always reading/hearing about certain novels. They come up again and again in conversation and journal articles. Most of them appeared in articles I read for one of my papers on gender identity in young adult literature in the fall semester. I figure that I’ll need to have them all in my mental arsenal of knowledge, so I’m starting now. I’ll call this list a sort of self-directed, not-for-credit independent study that I’m embarking on for the spring.
1. Boy Meets Boy by David Levithan — Sort of a gay high school fantasty/utopia novel that challenges stereotypical masculinity.
2. I Am J by Cris Beam — The story of a female-to-male transgender teen coming of age and coming out.
3. Ash by Malinda Lo — Like a lesbian Cinderella story.
4. Almost Perfect by Brian Katcher — Logan discovers the secret of the girl he’s been dating: she’s male-to-female transgendered.
5. Luna by Julie Anne Peters — Regan watches her brother, Liam, transform to the beautiful Luna every night in their basement.
I’m sticking with five for the spring, which is about one book each month. I’m pretty sure that’s do-able. This is one of the reasons I love this blog: when I write my reviews, I’ll have a record of what I’ve read and my own summary of each. You never know when I’ll take those and put them in something publishable!
Can you recommend any interesting YA books about gender for my fall 2013 reads? The books I’ve chosen here look at transgender and non-traditional gender, but I’d also be interested in books that representing traditional gender in interesting ways!
A Tale of Two Mommies
by Vanita Oelschlager and Mike Blanc
Review copy from NetGalley
I don’t review a lot of picture books, but this one popped up on NetGalley and I had to check it out. There is a also a related book, A Tale of Two Daddies available.
What I liked: I just love a good picture book with lesbian mommies. Though I like books that have LGBT characters without making their LBGT-ness the focus, children need books that deal specifically with these issues. The child in this book is confronted by kids at the beach asking questions about what roles each mommy plays if there is no daddy. The story shows that moms do everything, including love the child and provide emotional support. The author clearly avoids pigeonholing each mommy into traditional gender roles and answers questions that kids may have about how this family is just like any other.
What I didn’t like: I felt like the rhyming quality of the text was annoying and forced. The kids ask some strange questions, and I’m pretty sure it was for the sake of making things rhyme. Kids won’t notice or care, but as adult I wasn’t impressed with the text.
Should you buy this book? If you are a lesbian couple with kids, yes. If you seek to add diversity to your children’s literature, yes. You could also just check it out from the library. There might be better books for schools and teachers to use for teaching about family diversity. But this would be an excellent resource for introducing children to families with same-sex parents.
After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia
Edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Review copy from NetGalley
[#58 in my 75 book challenge]
Note: Release October 9, 2012
If you know me, you know I love dystopia, and I love post-apocalyptic fiction. It’s my favorite genre, y’all. So when I saw this collection on NetGalley up for review, I could not help myself.
Now we all know that short story collections can be a little hit-or-miss. That’s the fun of it all. With nineteen different stories, there were bound to be some that I loved and some I hated. I realized very quickly that it very hard to write dystopian/post-apocaplyptic short stories for teens. There is so much world building to do, and so little space in which to do it. Most of the authors took on the strategy of just dropping the reader in the middle of the story, giving clues along the way as to how the world ended up that way and what the rules (or lack thereof) are in the society. This alone made the collection very hard to read.
You could take those nineteen instances of complete disorientation as a literary parallel to the disorientation found in dystopian/post-apocalytpic societies. I get that, though I don’t know if it was purposeful. I still didn’t like it. But you know what I did figure out? I now see why so many books these days are trilogies. The world building is complicated, and often takes up half of the first book in a trilogy.
THAT BEING SAID, I did enjoy many of the stories in this collection. It’s actually worth reading/owning if you love YA dystopia, and some of the stories would be great to read again. Some of my favorites:
After the Cure by Carrie Ryan — This is a zombie story where people can actually be cured from the zombie-ness. Imagine knowing that you had once been a human-eating zombie!
Valedictorian by N.k. Jemisin – It is well know that he valedictorian every year is picked for a special task and never returns, but what is the task and whydo they never return? (This could definitely be turned into a longer work. I’d read it!)
The Other Elder by Beth Revis– This comes from the same world as Across the Universe, telling the story of an Elder before the Elder we meet in Revis’ trilogy. Cool if you’ve read the books, probably not as cool if you haven’t.
Rust With Wings by Stephen Gould — Crazy-ass beetle-bug things eat anything metal. Such a cool premise! Do YOU have any metal fillings?
Fake Plastic Trees by Caitlin R. Kiernan — A scientific endeavor went wrong, and much of the world has turned to plastic. Quite sad, but I liked the premise (and the weird ending).
Note: The LGBT tag comes from some of the stories having clear LGBTQI characters. But the fact that the LGBTQI aspect is not the focus of any of the stories was great!
FINAL GRADE: B- One of my favorite things about dystopian short stories was that there was very little time for romance, so we got to focus on the actual world-building and action of the stories. Sometimes I think the romance takes over in dystopian trilogies (and I’ll admit that I get caught up in it). The B- is an average score for all of the stories in the book, with points take off for having a few too many stories in the collection (nineteen is a lot). Of course, casual readers can always skip stories they aren’t getting in to! As a librarian, I’d definitely buy this volume and put it on display in my library. It might even be a cool purchase for reading short stories in a language arts class (lit circles, anyone?). I recommend it to anyone, 10 and up, who love dystopian world building and short stories.
Do you think 19 stories are too many for a short story collection? How do you feel about the idea of dystopian short stories?
Between You & Me
by Marisa Calin
Review copy from NetGalley
[#60 in my 75 book challenge]
So if I tell you this is a story about a girl named Phyre (yes. Phyre) told in a semi-screenplay format with a vague second-person character, would you run for the hills?
Between You & Me (not to be confused with Between You and Me…the ampersand is crucial in the title!) is pretty darn good LGBT romance. And you KNOW I’ve been searching for good LGBT romance for a long time.
The story is about Phyre’s realization that she has obsessive/romantic feelings for her theater student teacher, Mia. It’s the basic student-loves-teacher tale with a lesbian twist. But that’s not all. Phyre’s best friend, referred to in the story only as “You,” appears to be hiding some pretty intense feelings for Phyre. The magic in the story comes from the character of You. We don’t know You’s gender — it’s totally ambiguous. However, we get a pretty good sense of You’s character, which is all that we really need to know.
I fell in love with You. I was picturing You as a girl for most of the story, but there were also moments when I saw You as a boy in my head. The genius of the story is that it works. You is both. Either. It’s up to you. Calin challenges our heteronormative nature by leaving the whole thing open.
More than that, though, I fell in love with the sexual tension in this novel. Calin gets the emotions right. She gets the feelings, the secrets, the anxieties, and the confusion right. Is that first lesbian crush just an isolated incident, or is it a sexual awakening? Can you have feelings for boys and girls at the same time? Does crushing on a girl mean you no longer can love a boy? When does a friendship between two girls become something more?
FINAL GRADE: A It’s not perfect, but it’s pretty darn good. It’s pretty light and fluffy, and I could identify with so much of the story. Definitely recommended for middle grades and high school libraries, since this is the perfect PG-rated middle school-friendly LGBT book (nothing dark and no sex). I recommend it to all of my friends who love romance, YA, contemporaries, and gender-bending books. And, like David Levithan’s Every Day, it would be the perfect book for a teen book club.
Have you read this novel? How did you picture You?
Empress of the World
by Sara Ryan
Library copy from Follett
[#14 in my 75 book challenge]
This is a lesbian love story.
The story here is classic girl-meets-girl. The setting is the Siegel Institute Summer Program for Gifted Youth, housed on a college campus. Nicola Lancaster is a theater techie studying archeology, and she meets a fun group of kids who instantly become her summer pals: computer chick Katrina, beautiful Battle, music-obsessed Kevin, and sweet Isaac. Like nerd kids do when then finally find themselves with their own kind, this quintet start developing feelings for each other. But Nicola finds that her feelings are for Battle.
I really, really want to like lesbian love stories. No, I take that back. I really, really want to LOVE lesbian love stories. Instead, I end up just liking them. Lesbian love stories are eternally in my friend zone. Unfortunately, Empress of the World ended up in the friend zone, too. Don’t get me wrong — friends are great! More friends are even better! But I’m still searching for that great romance that works as both a great read AND a great lesbian love story.
Where this one fell short was in the characters. I never got attached to Nicola as narrator, and I never got attached to Battle as a love interest. I kept comparing the characters to the kids from Anna and the French Kiss, and the characters in that story were far more developed. I wish Ryan had put a little more character development into the story so that the actual plot would make sense. I had trouble understanding Nicola’s motives and Battle’s reactions and why they even fell for each other in the first place. Ditto for the secondary characters of Katrina, Isaac, and Kevin. Normally I complain about books being too unnecessarily long, but this one was unnecessarily short.
Final Grade: C Here’s a book that solidly earned a C, and I quickly assigned it the grade with no waffling. A C is a good grade. Average. But I wasn’t blow away. It’s a quiet, sweet little book that would be worth reading. While I won’t run out and buy a copy, I’m glad I read it. It is middle school appropriate (I’m pretty sure these girls were having sex, but it’s only alluded to and an “innocent” kid would probably not catch on to that), so I would recommend it to kids that seem to have an interest in lesbian literature or romances.
Ohmygoodness. Top Ten Tuesday this week is a FREEBIE week, which means I get to pick the topic. As always, the meme is hosted by the ladies over at The Broke and the Bookish, where bloggers all post their lists to share. You should check it out. This week should be particularly interesting, since there will be so many different lists for this FREEBIE topic.
I picked this topic because I doubt it will ever be an actual TTT topic. So I’m going to introduce y’all to some great books in a category that is near and dear to my little heart:
Top Ten YA Books With Great LGBT Characters
[Books with positive or realistic gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered characters]
Five Books I’ve Read (summaries are my own)
1.) Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden
This was one of the first YA lesbian books I read, and it is iconic in the canon. Published in 1982, this is the story of two girls (Annie and Liza) who meet at a New York museum and realize that they are more than friends. Though they struggle to hide their relationship, they also wish to stay true to each other despite the possible consequences.
2.) Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Though not a LGBT book specifically, the inclusion of lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered girls as main characters in the story were amazing. Libba Bray wrote some amazing LGBT girls into this quite feminist novel.
3.) Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
**2011 Stonewall Honor Book** “Tiny Cooper is not the world’s gayest person, and he is not the world’s largest person, but I believe he may be the world’s largest person who is really, really gay, and also the world’s gayest person who is really, really large.” Tiny Cooper is amazing. The gay Will Grayson is realistically flawed. And this is a wonderful, hilarious story about love and friendship in high school.
4.) Keeping You A Secret by Julie Anne Peters
Holland is a high school student, involved in clubs, dating a guy, and getting ready for college. One day she meets Cece, a girl who plans to start a Lesbigay club at the high school, and everything changes. Holland’s story isn’t always a happy or ideal one, but it reflect the realities and fears of students as they come out to themselves, their friends, and their families.
5.) The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
A verse novel depicting the voices of several high school students and the complicated web of relationships between them. Everyone can relate to at least one of the characters, and I loved that the relationships were so complex, unexpected, and interconnected. Secret crushes, secret fears, and secrets about identity are expressed in each point of view.
And Five I Want To Read (summaries from Goodreads)
6.) Empress of the World by Sara Ryan
Nicola Lancaster is spending eight weeks at the Siegel Institute Summer Program for Gifted Youth, a hothouse of smart, articulate, intense teenagers. She soon falls in with Katrina (Manic Computer Chick), Isaac (Nice-Guy-Despite-Himself), Kevin (Inarticulate Composer) . . . and Battle. Battle Hall Davies is a beautiful blonde dancer, and everything Nic isn’t. The two become friends-and then, startlingly, more than friends. What do you do when you think you’re attracted to guys, and then you meet a girl who steals your heart?
7.) Shine by Lauren Myracle
When her best guy friend falls victim to a vicious hate crime, sixteen-year-old Cat sets out to discover who in her small town did it. Richly atmospheric, this daring mystery mines the secrets of a tightly knit Southern community and examines the strength of will it takes to go against everyone you know in the name of justice.
8.) Luna by Julie Anne Peters
**A 2004 NBAYPL Finalist** For years, Regan’s brother Liam has been nursing a secret. By day, he is Liam, a passably typical boy of his age; at night, he transforms himself into Luna, his true, female self. Regan loves and supports her brother and she keeps his Liam/Luna secret. Things change, though, when Luna decides to emerge from her cocoon. She begins dressing like a girl in public; first at the mall; then at school; then at home. Regan worries that her brother’s transgender identity is threatening her own slippery hold on normalcy.
9.) Putting Makeup on the Fat Boy by Bil Wright
**Winner of the 2012 Stonewall Award!!** Carlos Duarte knows that he’s fabulous. He’s got a better sense of style than half the fashionistas in New York City, and he can definitely apply makeup like nobody’s business. He may only be in high school, but when he lands the job of his dreams–makeup artist at the FeatureFace counter in Macy’s–he’s sure that he’s finally on his way to great things.But the makeup artist world is competitive and cutthroat, and for Carlos to reach his dreams, he’ll have to believe in himself more than ever.
10.) Ash by Malinda Lo
**Winner of the 201o William Morris Award** In the wake of her father’s death, Ash is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother. Consumed with grief, her only joy comes by the light of the dying hearth fire, rereading the fairy tales her mother once told her. When she meets the dark and dangerous fairy Sidhean, she believes that her wish may be granted. The day that Ash meets Kaisa, the King’s Huntress, her heart begins to change. Instead of chasing fairies, Ash learns to hunt with Kaisa. Though their friendship is as delicate as a new bloom, it reawakens Ash’s capacity for love-and her desire to live. But Sidhean has already claimed Ash for his own, and she must make a choice between fairy tale dreams and true love.
BONUS: Anything by Alex Sanchez, who writes fun books featuring gay male characters in high school. I’ve always wanted to read one of his books.
GOOD AUTHORS TO CHECK OUT FOR GLBT LIT: ME Kerr, Jacqueline Woodson, Lauren Myracle, James Howe, Julie Anne Peters, and David Levithan
By Libba Bray
[#54 in my
52 60 book challenge]
Let this one be named the most bizarre book I’ve read in 2011. It’s like Miss Congeniality meets Lost. Beauty queens are trapped on an island after their plane crashes and they must figure out how to survive, but there are so many things getting in their way: corporate greed, dictators, secret agents, and pirates, just to name a few. It’s like a three-ring circus of campy weirdness.
From the beginning of the novel it’s very clear that this is intended to be over-the-top. There is a lot going on. Sometimes too much, because I know I felt overwhelmed at points. Even at the end I was still trying to figure out who some of the characters were. I liked a lot of what I read, but sometimes I was ready to give up. Overall, though, I’m glad I stuck with it because this is a very different book. Refreshingly different. And I liked that.
Believe it or not, Beauty Queens is probably one of the most feminist books I’ve read. At least, it’s one of the most modern feminist books I’ve read. I do love, love, love my Ruby Oliver books, which are probably my favorite modern feminist reads, but this took feminism to a whole different level. Each of the girls on the island has something different to add to the pot when it came to different aspects of feminism (which is probably why it felt like such a circus). Two girls dealt with being racial minorities (black and Indian). Two dealt with owning their own sexuality and romantic relationships. There’s a bisexual, a lesbian, and a transgendered pageant girl, as well as a cross-dressing pirate. It’s kind of like one big, happy, hilarious after school special for girls. And boys. And everyone.
The message in Beauty Queens is clear: be yourself. Whatever that is. Whoever that is. I don’t recommend the novel to everyone because it is overwhelming, but I recommend it to anyone who wants something feminist. Or satirical. Or anti-commercialism. Or ridiculous. I’m think it would be one of those books that would be excellent as an audio book, so I would strongly recommend picking it up in that format from your public library. Just know that this book exists, and be happy that it does.
Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the bloggers over at the Broke and the Bookish. Book bloggers from all around create lists based on the chosen topics, and post links to the host blog to share our love of books! This week’s topic made me laugh, because it probably reveals more about me as a reader than anything else of this blog:
Top Ten Books That Have Been On My Shelf For The Longest But I’ve Never Read
1. The Bermudez Triangle by Maureen Johnson — Two things I love: lesbian fiction and Maureen Johnson. That explains why I purchased it, but nothing explains why I haven’t read it.
2. The Uglies by Scott Westerfield — A lot of people really love the Uglies series (trilogy? or are there more than three?), so I bought it…and moved on to something else without reading it.
3. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi — Terrible librarian confession: I’ve had this one for six months. Technically not as long as others on this list, but the fact that it’s a library book gives it an instant bump to the list.
4. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger — I have read 1/2 of it. It always escapes my shelf-purging fits of frenzied weeding because somewhere, deep down inside, I know I’m going to read the whole thing one day.
5. Plain Truth by Jodi Picoult — This one will be read and reviewed soon. I’ve been saying that since I bought it in the Seattle airport in the summer of 2009.
6. Thirteen Days to Midnight by Patrick Carman — Eh. Someone convince me to read it. Please.
7. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood — I was so excited when I finally bought this at Pegasus books in Berkeley last fall. However, I get intimidated by the length when I look at my too-read pile and give up.
8. Unwind by Neil Schusterman — I bought this from my first book fair in the fall of 2009 and it’s been in my nightstand ever since.
9. Lord of the Flies by William Golding — I still have guilt from not reading it for ninth grade English, so I keep it around saying, “one day…”
10. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle — Currently reading it and I’m halfway done. I will finish it this time. Take that, fifth-grade me! It’s only been seventeen long, long years…