Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

14th Nov 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Of Fire and Stars by Audrey CoulthurstOf Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
Published by Balzer + Bray
Pub Date: November 22nd 2016
Pages: 400
Format: ARC | Source: Publisher
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
2.5 Stars

Betrothed since childhood to the prince of Mynaria, Princess Dennaleia has always known what her future holds. Her marriage will seal the alliance between Mynaria and her homeland, protecting her people from other hostile lands. But Denna has a secret. She possesses an Affinity for fire—a dangerous gift for the future queen of a kingdom where magic is forbidden.

Now, Denna must learn the ways of her new home while trying to hide her growing magic. To make matters worse, she must learn to ride Mynaria’s formidable warhorses before her coronation—and her teacher is the person who intimidates her most, the prickly and unconventional Princess Amaranthine (called Mare), sister of her betrothed.

When a shocking assassination leaves the kingdom reeling, Mare and Denna reluctantly join forces to search for the culprit. As the two work together, each discovers there’s more to the other than she thought. Mare is surprised by Denna’s intelligence and bravery, while Denna is drawn to Mare’s independent streak. Soon their friendship is threatening to blossom into something more.

But with dangerous conflict brewing that makes the alliance more important than ever, acting on their feelings could be deadly. Forced to choose between their duty and their hearts, Mare and Denna must find a way to save their kingdoms—and each other.

Of Fire and Stars was one of my most anticipated books of the year; it sounded amazing and looked amazing! I was overjoyed to get a copy at BEA. And even though the world-building and characters were fairly cliché, I was enjoying the first half; it reminded me of The Girl of Fire and Thorns. I liked Mare the most and liked how her relationship with Denna was developing. I was even intrigued with the mystery and political subplot even if the Directorate was totally useless. I couldn’t stop reading.

*Slight spoilers ahead*

Unfortunately it fell apart for me in the last 120 pages. All of a sudden, the pace went at breakneck speed because the story had so much to cram into the end. I’m certain this will be a book with a sneaky sequel. The search for the spy and the dagger was basically dropped; I was left wanting so much more in general. I wanted to know MORE about Affinities, MORE about the different cultures, and I wanted a more natural progression of Mare and Denna’s feelings.

It was so abrupt, from stolen glances and blushing faces to declarations of love and “can’t live without you.” I could feel their emotions in the first half; once they admitted their feelings, it was a lot of telling. I was disappointed to find that Denna was awfully selfish while Mare was somewhat immature. No one else had much personality to speak of.

At the end, I just wanted to finish the book. It didn’t have enough depth for me and had some terrible dialogue in the last 30 pages. I was sincerely happy to see two princesses in love, but I wanted to feel their love and I wanted their story to be more compelling in its other aspects. (Side note: the German cover is so gorgeous I’m tempted to buy it despite everything.)

This is difficult for me because I want this book to do well. Diversity in fiction is important and I’d really really love more f/f fantasy and more LGBTQ fantasy in general, especially from #ownvoices authors. Maybe Of Fire and Stars will work for some readers, but it was mostly wasted potential for me.

Have you read Of Fire and Stars yet? What did you think?

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

7th Nov 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Timekeeper by Tara SimTimekeeper by Tara Sim
Series: Timekeeper #1
Published by Sky Pony Press
Pub Date: November 8th 2016
Pages: 368
Format: ARC | Source: Borrowed
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Two o’clock was missing. 

In an alternate Victorian world controlled by clock towers, a damaged clock can fracture time—and a destroyed one can stop it completely.

It’s a truth that seventeen-year-old clock mechanic Danny Hart knows all too well; his father has been trapped in a Stopped town east of London for three years. Though Danny is a prodigy who can repair not only clockwork, but the very fabric of time, his fixation with staging a rescue is quickly becoming a concern to his superiors.

And so they assign him to Enfield, a town where the tower seems to be forever plagued with problems. Danny’s new apprentice both annoys and intrigues him, and though the boy is eager to work, he maintains a secretive distance. Danny soon discovers why: he is the tower’s clock spirit, a mythical being that oversees Enfield’s time. Though the boys are drawn together by their loneliness, Danny knows falling in love with a clock spirit is forbidden, and means risking everything he’s fought to achieve.

But when a series of bombings at nearby towers threaten to Stop more cities, Danny must race to prevent Enfield from becoming the next target or he’ll not only lose his father, but the boy he loves, forever.

Let’s start off with a disclaimer: Tara’s agent is one of my very good friends and she was nice enough to lend me an ARC for review, but that in no way affected the honesty of my review or my enjoyment of the book. In some ways, it added a lot of pressure!! Luckily, I needn’t have worried- I loved everything about this book and was pulled in from the very first page.

 

The writing is superb and I love the alternate London with its steampunk elements. It wasn’t too different, just different enough. I loved the historical details.  And I love the mythology behind the clocks and clock spirits! The short interludes with mythology were wonderful and it showed another layer of Sims’ writing and imagination.

Most of all, I loved the characters, especially Danny. They felt so alive and richly drawn. Poor Danny, with the weight of the world crushing his shoulders. His home life is a bit of a shambles, but he loves his apprenticeship, even if most people dislike how fast he’s climbed the ranks- he can’t help that he’s so talented and unique. The fact that he could repair time was such a great addition. He’s stubborn and determined, and has a bit of a Potter streak to him when it comes to solving mysteries and sticking his nose where it might not belong. But he’s endearing and I love his friendship with Cassie. And Colton is quite the cinnamon roll! He’s such a bittersweet character, this spirit pulsing with energy and warmth who loves his clock tower but who wants to experience life (and love) outside his tower.

 

And the rooooomance!! Ahh! Colton and Danny’s relationship was so great, very Casper in some ways, and very sweet despite the myriad of obstacles (with lots of kissing!).  In fact, Danny kisses and flirts more than I expected in this book, and it is excellent. There aren’t any triangles but sometimes you kiss the wrong person before you get to kiss the right one, especially when said person is a spirit. I liked that Danny’s sexuality was part of his story but not the crux of his story.

 

The action really ramps up in the second half and it’s all very exciting and tragic. I couldn’t imagine how the book was so long and part of a series, but now I already want more! The pacing was excellent and it felt magical and charming. There’s so much to this world and these characters. I’ve only read The Archived but I can see fans of Victoria Schwab loving this, along with fans of historical fiction mixed with a bit of fantasy, adventure, friendship, and swoony lovely ships :D

 

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley

15th Jul 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Contemporary Romance Reading Challenge, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley

Bitsy Words: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera MaleyDating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley
Published by Author
Pub Date: July 30th 2014
Pages: 242
Format: eBook | Source: Purchased
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Romance, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Katie Hammontree and Sarah Cooper have been best friends since the 2nd grade. Katie's welcoming, tight-knit family is a convenient substitute for Sarah when her distant parents aren't around, and Sarah's abrasive, goal-oriented personality gels well with Katie's more laid-back approach to life.
But when a misunderstanding leads to the two of them being mistaken for a couple and Sarah uses the situation to her advantage, Katie finds herself on a roller coaster ride of ambiguous sexuality and confusing feelings. How far will Sarah go to keep up the charade, and why does kissing her make Katie feel more alive than kissing her ex-boyfriend Austin ever did? And how will their new circle of gay friends react when the truth comes out?

This is the kind of fluff I’m always looking for! I read Dating Sarah Cooper in about 4 hours and I really loved it. First of all, Katie and Sarah are extremely likeable despite the very unlikeable fake dating scenario they find themselves in at the start of the book. I loved their voices (especially Sarah) and I really liked the other characters as well. Not all of them were super fleshed out but there’s a good bit of “more than meets the eye” going on.

 

I also adored Katie’s parents and how close and supportive they were of her. One of my favorite scenes is when they reassure her they’ve always “known” about Katie because Katie isn’t even sure what she knows about herself! It was very sweet, but also kind of hilarious and a good turning point. Their quarterly family date night was such a fun idea too!

Not being LGBT myself (but knowing this book comes highly recommended from people who are), I thought Dating Sarah Cooper did a really wonderful job of exploring sexuality, prejudice, and how that all gets confused and fits into high school life. I loved watching Katie’s journey especially, the way she explained and sorted through her feelings, and gosh, this book was just CUTE ok!?! And had some very swoony kissing and really nice friendships. I totally loved it.

 

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Series Review: Captive Prince by C.S. Pacat

29th Jun 2016 Jess @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Jess, Series Review

Series Review: Captive Prince by C.S. PacatCaptive Prince by C.S. Pacat
Series: Captive Prince #1
Published by Berkley
Pub Date: April 7th 2015
Pages: 270
Format: Paperback | Source: Publisher
Genres: Adult, Historical, LGBT, Romance
Buy the book! | Goodreads
2 Stars

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

I was beyond grateful and excited when I recived this series in the mail from Berkley publishers. I’d heard so many people just losing their minds over it. So I was ready to join in the fun. :)

Captive Prince started out really strong for me. I was instantly intrigued by this Prince (Damen) who was being carted away as a slave and being delivered into the hands of another Prince (Laurent). These guys aren’t friends, btw. Damen killed Laurent’s brother, so he’s always been out for his head, but when they finally come face to face with Damen as a slave, Laurent doesn’t know that he’s looking at his brother’s killer. Or does he?! LET THE GAMES BEGIN!

I was warned that this series would be “pretty dark with some serious sexual slavery portrayals” and it was! And I think a lot of the reason why this book is my lowest rated in the series is because I felt too much time was focused on showing us how bad it was for slaves in Laurent’s kingdom when what I really wanted was just a lot of Damen and Laurent period. But I get that why it was set up this way.

Also, expect nothing to happen between these two. Settle in for the long haul. They have a lot of crap between them before anything romantic or physical can happen between the two of them.

I was worried that since I didn’t love this book I wouldn’t enjoy the rest of the series, so I continued on with tamped down enthusiasm….

 

Series Review: Captive Prince by C.S. PacatPrince's Gambit by C.S. Pacat
Series: Captive Prince #2
Published by Berkley
Pub Date: July 7th 2015
Pages: 404
Format: Paperback | Source: Publisher
Genres: Adult, Historical, LGBT, Romance
Buy the book! | Goodreads
3 Stars

With their countries on the brink of war, Damen and his new master, Prince Laurent, must exchange the intrigues of the palace for the sweeping might of the battlefield as they travel to the border to avert a lethal plot.

Forced to hide his identity, Damen finds himself increasingly drawn to the dangerous, charismatic Laurent. But as the fledgling trust between the two men deepens, the truth of secrets from both their pasts is poised to deal them the crowning death blow…

Prince’s Gambit takes us out of the castle and into the lands and already I liked it so much better! For one, the Damen and Laurent pagetime increased, so YAY! Secondly, with their countries about to go to war, there’s so much scheming and stratergizing that goes on and I really loved that. It made it exciting again.

Something more was building between Damen and Laurent and tension started to get delicious. Will they, won’t they, WHEN, DAMMIT!! All I’ll say is, settle in for the long haul with these two, because the payoff will be worth it.

There’s also the question of will Damen reveal his identity to Laurent. It feels he’s on the cusp of it throughout the book and you won’t get an answer to that until the end either.

There’s this EPIC battle scene near the end that left me saying “whoa” and after it’s over EVERYTHING IS REVEALED! That was a scene I was so looking forward to and it left me so surprised. Definitly not what I was expecting, but in a good way.

Overall the second book made me excited to continue reading. It took away my worries that I wouldn’t enjoy the series after all.

 

Series Review: Captive Prince by C.S. PacatKings Rising by C.S. Pacat
Series: Captive Prince #3
Published by Berkley
Pub Date: February 2nd 2016
Pages: 352
Format: Paperback | Source: Publisher
Genres: Adult, Historical, LGBT, Romance
Buy the book! | Goodreads
3.5 Stars

Damianos of Akielos has returned.

His identity now revealed, Damen must face his master Prince Laurent as Damianos of Akielos, the man Laurent has sworn to kill.

On the brink of a momentous battle, the future of both their countries hangs in the balance. In the south, Kastor's forces are massing. In the north, the Regent's armies are mobilising for war. Damen's only hope of reclaiming his throne is to fight together with Laurent against their usurpers.

Forced into an uneasy alliance the two princes journey deep into Akielos, where they face their most dangerous opposition yet. But even if the fragile trust they have built survives the revelation of Damen's identity - can it stand against the Regent's final, deadly play for the throne?

I was a little nervous going in because I didn’t know how Damen and Laurent’s dynamic would be affected by everything being out in the open and oooooh, was it ever affected. But the best part is that even though they were at odds, they still had to work SO CLOSELY together in this one to get their countries in order and out of the hands of usurpers.

I loved that we got to see Laurent in situations where his true self could finally shine. Before this book he’d kept himself really private but I knew there was so much more to him and we finally got to see it. Damen on the other hand was always pretty much an open book throughout the series, aside from the hiding his identity thing. He never wavered, while Laurent wasn’t a sure thing. I always felt he was very cunning and would somehow betray Damen in the end. But I worried for nothing. These guys are loyal!

The ending was really gratifying and when I closed the book I was happy I’d read it and stuck with it. It’s been a very long while since I’ve binged a series like that.

gwtw-separate-line

Some general thoughts on the series as a whole that I wanted to mention:

So much of the story is Damen and Laurent and their quest to take back their kingdoms… I didn’t feel like we got a good sense of what the people of thier land are like. I often wondered why it was that being love slaves was such a high regarded position, or why slavery exsisted at all. It was never really explained. And why mostly men? And why young men? There’s hardly any women in this series, and the ones we do meet aren’t that great.

Obviously none of these things affacted my overall feelings but they are thoughts I had that I wanted to share with you all.

Series Rating: 3.5 Stars

 

Have you guys read this series? Is it one you’ll be reading soon? Let me know in the comments!

 

Jess @ Gone with the Words

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Review: And I Darken by Kiersten White

27th Jun 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: And I Darken by Kiersten WhiteAnd I Darken by Kiersten White
Series: The Conquerors Saga #1
Published by Delacorte Press
Pub Date: June 28th 2016
Pages: 496
Format: eARC | Source: NetGalley
Genres: Fantasy, Historical, LGBT, Retelling, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4.5 Stars

NO ONE EXPECTS A PRINCESS TO BE BRUTAL. 

And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets.

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, who’s expected to rule a nation, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion.

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.

From New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White comes the first book in a dark, sweeping new series in which heads will roll, bodies will be impaled . . . and hearts will be broken.

And I Darken was incredible. I thought this was amazing alternate history because it felt SO real. Kiersten White took details of real countries, people, religions, and politics and twisted them just so. And the characters! Oh my god. From the opening pages, you are painted a very stark picture of brutal Lada and her scared little brother Radu. They ensnared me immediately. But as with any good story there are layers and twists in every relationship. It’s all so complicated in the best way, sometimes loving and sometimes toxic. 

The story is definitely slower paced but not boring; this is a long haul kind of story and we’re setting the scene. The political machinations, the attention paid to religion, and the moral grayness of characters, the sometimes Machiavellian attitudes, really do bring A Game of Thrones to mind. Every action has a reaction. I also loved the diversity in every aspect, from culture (Turkish/Wallachian/Ottoman/etc) to religion (I learned a lot about Islam!) to sexuality (an unexpected but very welcome surprise). Everything was woven into the story seamlessly. I can’t say enough about the writing, I thought it was wonderful. White really knows how to weave a complicated web.

There are also some excellent kisses, a few ships, and some complicated romances, though not in the ways you might expect (no spoilers here!). It was also interesting to watch how Lada and Radu’s characters shifted over time, learning to soften and strengthen in turn.

The book faltered slightly in the middle just because it is a looong book and it can’t keep up the pacing the whole time. And it some ways I expected plots that happened later in Lada/Vlad’s life. But where the story leaves you is perfect and I can’t wait to follow Lada, Radu, and Mehmed to see how their lives intertwine; loyalty (to family, to yourself, to your country) are big themes throughout. If you love historical fiction, and a lot of political cleverness mixed with action, violence, and romance in a non-Western setting, you should read And I Darken.

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

10th Jun 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Bitsy Words: The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerThe Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Published by Ecco
Pub Date: August 28th 2012
Pages: 378
Format: Paperback | Source: Purchased
Genres: Adult Fiction, Historical, LGBT
Buy the book! | Goodreads
5 Stars

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. Despite their difference, Achilles befriends the shamed prince, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine, their bond blossoms into something deeper - despite the displeasure of Achilles' mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess.

But when word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, Achilles must go to war in distant Troy and fulfill his destiny. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus goes with him, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear. 

The Song of Achilles is an absolutely striking novel. The writing is exquisite and lovely; it’s sparse but uses the most wonderful descriptions and turns of phrase. I’ve read and watched my fair share of Troy adaptations but this is the best. It felt fresh and original, accessible, and brought to life these magnificent doomed characters. Ohhhh how you feel for them. The relationship between Patroclus and Achilles is everything you could wish for in a tragic romance. Whether you know the story or not (I did), you can see the twists of fate that bring them closer and closer to impending doom and ugh, it’s horrible not being able to do anything about it!!!

(source)

Madeline Miller humanizes Achilles and makes him a compelling hero worth following, while she raises Patroclus to new heights. There are traces of the gods but it doesn’t feel hokey or intrusive, any more than it is supposed to. Odysseus, Thetis, and Briseis also shine as characters. I felt transported back in time to this incredible story. The emotions are overwhelming and burrowed into my soul. The language is evocative and the action is fierce, the romance tender. Historical fiction fans must read this; I’m so glad I did. I hope we don’t have to wait much longer for Miller’s next novel!

Tumblr is a treasure trove of mood boards, fan art, and on-point fan reactions to The Song of Achilles. Here are a few links to check out:
The Song of Achilles aesthetics
Achilles/Patroclus moodboard
Modern Patrochilles AU aesthetics
The Song of Captain America
Spoilers for Disney fans

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Bitsy Words: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

7th Apr 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Bitsy Words, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Bitsy Words: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Bitsy Words: The Impostor Queen by Sarah FineThe Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine
Series: The Impostor Queen #1
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Pub Date: January 5th 2016
Pages: 432
Format: Hardcover | Source: Library
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4.5 Stars

Sixteen-year-old Elli was only a child when the Elders of Kupari chose her to succeed the Valtia, the queen who wields infinitely powerful ice and fire magic in service of her people. The only life Elli has known has been in the temple, surrounded by luxury, tutored by magic-wielding priests, preparing for the day when the queen perishes—and the ice and fire find a new home in Elli, who is prophesied to be the most powerful Valtia to ever rule.

But when the queen dies defending the kingdom from invading warriors, the magic doesn’t enter Elli. It’s nowhere to be found.

Disgraced, Elli flees to the outlands, home of banished criminals—some who would love to see the temple burn with all its priests inside. As she finds her footing in this new world, Elli uncovers devastating new information about the Kupari magic, those who wield it, and the prophecy that foretold her destiny. Torn between her love for her people and her growing loyalty to the banished, Elli struggles to understand the true role she was meant to play. But as war looms, she must choose the right side before the kingdom and its magic are completely destroyed.

I thought The Impostor Queen was such a fantastic fantasy, it’s everything I always look for! The world-building details are doled out in just the right way.  I loved learning about the Valtia, the Kupari, and life in the temple. And I loved Elli from the start. She goes on a huge journey, physically and emotionally, throughout the book and I thought she was wonderful—strong, inquisitive, compassionate, and ready to learn. It’s also worth noting that she is bisexual, which is all too rare in YA and YA fantasy especially. I really loved how naturally it was presented as part of her character, and I loved Mim and Oskar both as love interests and as individuals.

 

Even the smallest secondary character had defining traits and a part to play. I loved Freya, Raimo, Sig, so many of the cave dwellers, and I absolutely hated the priests. There are quite a few surprises in the latter half and I really enjoyed seeing how the story unfolded. There is a lot of action and politics mixed in with the magic and romance. I also loved the magic system and how it was used in the book. It took an unoriginal idea (ice magic and fire magic, dual opposites), and made it feel fresh and original in how it manifested itself. There were some heartbreaking moments and scenes that were hard to read but overall I would recommend this without question to fantasy fans.

 

About Sarah Fine

Sarah Fine is a clinical psychologist and the author of the Servants of Fate and Guards of the Shadowlands series. She was born on the West Coast, raised in the Midwest, and is now firmly entrenched on the East Coast.

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

30th Mar 2016 Jess @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Jess

Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff GarvinSymptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
Narrator: Tom Phelan
Published by Balzer + Bray, HarperAudio
Pub Date: February 2nd 2016
Pages: 352
Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
Format: Audiobook | Source: Publisher
Genres: Contemporary, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4.5 Stars

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl?

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is…Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life.

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

If I could, I’d put this book in the hands of every person, but teens especially. Symptoms of Being Human was educational without being preachy. It was relatable and funny and sad and really, really great. I loved how while you wonder if Riley was born boy or girl, by never revealing that to us, it drives the point Riley is trying to make: we’re all human and complicated and it’s never binary. Trying to figure it out is pointless, so just go with the flow and enjoy Riley’s story and message.

This is Jeff Garvin’s debut novel and he did an amazing job. The book had great characters that were well developed. There were moments where I was laughing out loud, then there’s those where I cried (at work, no less!). And there were the moments that made me angry. Intolerance is one of those things that just makes my blood boil. And not just tolerance for the LGBTQ community but race and economic status and just all the bullshit people do to others to make them feel OTHER and that they don’t belong here. I wish kindness and fairness ruled this earth but sometimes all we have the power to change is ourselves, so let’s be kind to one another!

“You know what’s messed up? People tolerate secrecy. I see it in my life. It’s like, it’s ok to have gay feelings or trans feelings or gender fluid feelings–as long as you keep them inside. As long as you don’t “act” on them. Whatever that means. People don’t condemn you for being trans. They condemn you for embracing it.”

GO OUT AND READ THIS BOOK! Or better yet, listen to the audiobook which was incredible.

Audiobook Notes

I think part of the reason this book had the effect it did on me was the amazing narration by Tom Phelan. Tom got the tone just right, but more importantly, he got Riley right. Perfect even!

Also! Pretty cool tidbit: Tom Phelan is probably best known for playing Cole, a transgender teen, on ABC’s The Fosters, a show I LOVE. (FYI – His character on that show was really moving. Check it out if you haven’t yet!)

 

About Jeff Garvin

Jeff Garvin

Before becoming a writer, Jeff Garvin acted in films and TV and was the front man of a nationally touring rock band. He has a BFA in film from Chapman University and lives in Southern California, surrounded by adorable, shedding beasts. Symptoms of Being Human is his first novel.

Jess @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

20th Jan 2016 Morgan @ Gone with the Words 2016, Reviews, Reviews by Morgan

Review: Carry On by Rainbow RowellCarry On by Rainbow Rowell
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Pub Date: October 6th 2015
Pages: 522
Format: Hardcover | Source: Library
Genres: Fantasy, LGBT, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4.5 Stars

Simon Snow is the worst chosen one who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he sets something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here—it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On is a ghost story, a love story, a mystery and a melodrama. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story—but far, far more monsters.

Fangirl was one of my favorite books a couple years ago and I enjoyed all the Simon Snow parts, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to read Carry On. I’m glad I chose to because I read this behemoth in a DAY and it was so much fun!  From the first chapter, I was hooked. I loved the Harry Potterness that felt like a wink wink rather than something derivative. It felt clever and like a magical system and fantasy world fully realized on its own, with parallels and allusions for Potter fans to find. I also liked the allusions to past events and adventures in Simon’s world. Plus Simon’s preoccupation with food was adorable and very funny.

At first the spells annoyed me but then I decided I liked them- instead of made up words like Alohamora, they are rooted in the power of real life words and phrases, like Up up and away– it’s more about the intention behind the words. And I liked the Humdrum business! The mystery was intriguing and I liked the different viewpoints which helped piece it all together.

I loved (most) of the characters and I REALLY loved Simon, Baz, and Penelope. All amazing for different reasons…. sort of Harry/Draco/Hermione in this case! Simon and Penny had the best friendship, she might have been my favorite. As far as romance, I could have done with more (on page) kissing but I always want more kissing and oh my god the first kiss was worth the wait! The tension throughout the book between Simon and Baz was unreal! Hate to love is the best and they had such chemistry. I loved watching their relationship shift.

My main gripe is that I wish a few of the revelations had come to light in the end. I feel like we as an audience knew enough but I wanted the characters to uncover the truth too. Particularly related to the Lucy chapters. But otherwise this was super fun and makes me want to read Fangirl again as well. If you like hate-to-love romance, a cheeky magical system, character friendships, and easy to understand but well-done world building, read Carry On. It’s worth it.

 

 

Morgan @ Gone with the Words

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Review: Hushed by Kelley York

1st Dec 2011 Jess @ Gone with the Words 2011, Reviews, Reviews by Jess

Review: Hushed by Kelley YorkHushed by Kelley York
Published by Entangled
Pub Date: December 6th 2011
Pages: 229
Format: eARC | Source: NetGalley
Genres: LGBT, Romance, Suspense, Young Adult
Buy the book! | Goodreads
4 Stars

He’s saved her. He’s loved her. He’s killed for her.

Eighteen-year-old Archer couldn’t protect his best friend, Vivian, from what happened when they were kids, so he’s never stopped trying to protect her from everything else. It doesn’t matter that Vivian only uses him when hopping from one toxic relationship to another—Archer is always there, waiting to be noticed.

Then along comes Evan, the only person who’s ever cared about Archer without a single string attached. The harder he falls for Evan, the more Archer sees Vivian for the manipulative hot-mess she really is.

But Viv has her hooks in deep, and when she finds out about the murders Archer’s committed and his relationship with Evan, she threatens to turn him in if she doesn’t get what she wants… And what she wants is Evan’s death, and for Archer to forfeit his last chance at redemption.

From the start, the story sucks you in and it had me on the edge of my seat. Archer is in the middle of committing one of his murders and you can’t help but want to find out what happens next or why he’s even doing this in the first place. I simply couldn’t put this book down.

I wanted to read Hushed because it was something I don’t normally see in YA novels, a thriller and it has an LGBT relationship. I thought Evan and Archer’s relationship was so profound. Evan could see the good in Archer and, in turn, Archer wanted to become a better person because of Evan. I really loved their moments together, right from the start.

Now, Vivian and Archer’s relationship was the complete opposite. It was so emotionally destructive. They both needed some serious therapy after what they both went through as kids. Which made me think of Marissa, Vivian’s mom.  I understand that she was a nice person and took care of Archer when his mom wouldn’t…but why didn’t she take Vivian to therapy after what happened to her? I can’t help but think that if Vivian would’ve received help as a kid, things would have turned out differently for both her and Archer. And maybe Archer wouldn’t have had to feel like he needed to avenge her.

I will say, in my opinion, this book is more for a mature young adult audience because there is some sex, some drugs, and lots of violence. The steamy parts are very well done, and not overly graphic if it’s something that worries you. Overall this book was so well thought out and written. I felt the emotions of all the characters…the despair, the guilt, the love, the hope. So if you haven’t looked into this book yet, do it now!

 

Jess @ Gone with the Words

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