August 2021 TBR

Women and Other Monsters: Building a New Mythology by Jess Zimmerman

A fresh cultural analysis of female monsters from Greek mythology, and an invitation for all women to reclaim these stories as inspiration for a more wild, more “monstrous” version of feminism

The folklore that has shaped our dominant culture teems with frightening female creatures. In our language, in our stories (many written by men), we underline the idea that women who step out of bounds–who are angry or greedy or ambitious, who are overtly sexual or not sexy enough–aren’t just outside the norm. They’re unnatural. Monstrous. But maybe, the traits we’ve been told make us dangerous and undesirable are actually our greatest strengths.

Through fresh analysis of 11 female monsters, including Medusa, the Harpies, the Furies, and the Sphinx, Jess Zimmerman takes us on an illuminating feminist journey through mythology. She guides women (and others) to reexamine their relationships with traits like hunger, anger, ugliness, and ambition, teaching readers to embrace a new image of the female hero: one that looks a lot like a monster, with the agency and power to match.

Like Other Girls by Britta Lundin 

“What if I played football?” I ask. As soon as it’s out of my mouth, I feel stupid. Even suggesting it feels like I’ve overstepped some kind of invisible line we’ve all agreed not to discuss. We don’t talk about how Mara is different from other girls. We don’t talk about how Mara is gay but no one says so. But when I do stuff like this, I worry it gets harder for us all to ignore what’s right in front of us. I direct my gaze to Quinn. “What do you think?”
“I think it’s frickin’ genius,” he says.

After getting kicked off the basketball team for a fight that was absolutely totally not her fault (okay maybe a little her fault), Mara is dying to find a new sport to play to prove to her coach that she can be a team player. A lifelong football fan, Mara decides to hit the gridiron with her brother, Noah, and best friend, Quinn-and she turns out to be a natural. But joining the team sets off a chain of events in her small Oregon town-and within her family-that she never could have predicted.

Inspired by what they see as Mara’s political statement, four other girls join the team. Now Mara’s lumped in as one of the girls-one of the girls who can’t throw, can’t kick, and doesn’t know a fullback from a linebacker. Complicating matters is the fact that Valentina, Mara’s crush, is one of the new players, as is Carly, Mara’s nemesis-the girl Mara fought with when she was kicked off the basketball team. What results is a coming-of-age story that is at once tear-jerking and funny, thought-provoking and real, as Mara’s preconceived notions about gender, sports, sexuality, and friendship are turned upside down.

Britta Lundin’s sophomore novel will give readers all the feels, and make them stand up and cheer. 

Often, women try to avoid the feeling of monstrousness, of being grotesquely alien, by tamping down those qualities that we’re told fall outside the bounds of natural femininity. But monsters also get to do what other female characters–damsels, love interests, and even most heroines–do not. Monsters get to be complete, unrestrained, and larger than life. Today, women are becoming increasingly aware of the ways rules and socially constructed expectations have diminished us. After seeing where compliance gets us–harassed, shut out, and ruled by predators–women have never been more ready to become repellent, fearsome, and ravenous.

The Other Side of the Sky (The Other Side of the Sky #1) by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner 

New York Times bestselling author duo Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have crafted a gripping tale of magic and logic, fate and choice, and a deadly love. Perfect for fans of Laini Taylor and Brandon Sanderson.

Prince North’s home is in the sky, in a gleaming city held aloft by intricate engines, powered by technology. Nimh is the living goddess of her people on the Surface, responsible for providing answers, direction—hope.

North’s and Nimh’s lives are entwined—though their hearts can never be. Linked by a terrifying prophecy and caught between duty and fate, they must choose between saving their people or succumbing to the bond that is forbidden between them.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland 

The Hating Game meets I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter in this irresistible romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?

Both Sides Now by Peyton Thomas 

Gilmore Girls meets Red, White and Royal Blue in this witty and warm-hearted novel about a trans teen finding his place in the world.

There’s only one thing standing between Finch Kelly and a full-blown case of high school senioritis: the National Speech & Debate Tournament. Taking home the gold would not only be the pinnacle of Finch’s debating career, but the perfect way to launch himself into his next chapter: college in Washington, D.C. and a history-making career as the first trans congressman. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, for starters, Finch could develop a teeny tiny crush on his very attractive, very taken, and very gay debate partner, Jonah. Never mind that Finch has never considered whether he’s interested in more than just girls.

And that dream of college in DC? Finch hasn’t exactly been accepted anywhere yet, let alone received the full-ride scholarship he’ll need to make this dream a reality.

Worst of all, though, is this year’s topic for Nationals: transgender rights. If he wants to cinch the gold, and get into college, Finch might have to argue against his own humanity.

People say there are two sides to every argument. But, as Finch is about to discover, some things–like who you are and who you love–are not up for debate.

Don’t Forget Us Here: Lost and Found at Guantanamo by Mansoor Adayfi

This moving, eye-opening memoir of an innocent man detained at Guantánamo Bay for fifteen years tells a story of humanity in the unlikeliest of places and an unprecedented look at life at Guantánamo.

At the age of 18, Mansoor Adayfi left his home in Yemen for a cultural mission to Afghanistan. He never returned. Kidnapped by warlords and then sold to the US after 9/11, he was disappeared to Guantánamo Bay, where he spent the next 14 years as Detainee #441.

Don’t Forget Us Here tells two coming-of-age stories in parallel: a makeshift island outpost becoming the world’s most notorious prison and an innocent young man emerging from its darkness. Arriving as a stubborn teenager, Mansoor survived the camp’s infamous interrogation program and became a feared and hardened resistance fighter leading prison riots and hunger strikes. With time though, he grew into the man nicknamed “Smiley Troublemaker”: a student, writer, advocate, and historian. While at Guantánamo, he wrote a series of manuscripts he sent as letters to his attorneys, which he then transformed into this vital chronicle, in collaboration with award-winning writer Antonio Aiello. With unexpected warmth and empathy, Mansoor unwinds a narrative of fighting for hope and survival in unimaginable circumstances, illuminating the limitlessness of the human spirit. And through his own story, he also tells Guantánamo’s story, offering an unprecedented window into one of the most secretive places on earth and the people—detainees and guards alike—who lived there with him. Twenty years after 9/11, Guantánamo remains open, and at a moment of due reckoning, Mansoor Adayfi helps us understand what actually happened there—both the horror and the beauty—a stunning record of an experience we cannot afford to forget.

Cazadora (Wolves of No World #2) by Romina Garber, Romina Russell

In Cazadora, the follow-up to Lobizona, Romina Garber continues to weave Argentine folklore and real-world issues into a haunting, fantastical, and romantic story that will reunite readers with Manu and her friends as they continue to fight for a better future.\

Living Beyond Borders: Stories About Growing Up Mexican in America by Margarita Longoria 

Twenty stand-alone short stories, essays, poems, and more from celebrated and award-winning authors make up this YA anthology that explores the Mexican American experience. With works by Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, David Bowles, Rubén Degollado, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Diana López, Xavier Garza, Trinidad Gonzales, Alex Temblador, Aida Salazar, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Sanchez Garza, Dominic Carrillo, Angela Cervantes, Carolyn Dee Flores, René Saldaña Jr., Laura Perez, Justine Narro, Daniel García Ordáz, and Anna Meriano.

In this mixed-media collection of short stories, personal essays, poetry, and comics, this celebrated group of authors share the borders they have crossed, the struggles they have pushed through, and the two cultures they continue to navigate as Mexican American. Living Beyond Borders is at once an eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and hopeful love letter from the Mexican American community to today’s young readers.

Aster and the Accidental Magic Book Review

Goodreads Summary

Quiet . . . birds . . . nature. . . .

That’s what Aster expects when her parents move their whole family to the middle of nowhere. It’s just her (status: super-bored), her mom and dad (status: busy with science), her brother (status: has other plans), and . . .

. . . magic?

In her new home, Aster meets a mysterious old woman with a herd of dogs who gives her a canine companion of her own. But when she and her dog Buzz are adventuring in the forest, they run into a trickster spirit who gives Aster three wishes. After wishing for the ability to understand and talk to her dog, she becomes only able to talk in dog language . . . and the trouble she gets into is just starting.

Maybe the middle of nowhere will be more interesting than Aster thought.

Thoughts: This is one that I’m glad to be able to share with my teenage cousins because its such a cute story. I love finding a book that I can share because once the other person reads it we can talk about it. I much more love finding books to share with my family to ensure that they enjoy reading as much as I do.

I love the many characters that Aster meets and the stories that happen as she meets them. I think that each teach her a lesson and each of them make me want to read more. I think that each story blends well with each other and continues the story but I also like how each story can also be read on its own.

I think this is a great middle grade read because of all the action and how quick paced it was. I also like how the story mixes the magic into a very current world and how Aster is your typical teenager. I also like that the ending kept you wanting to know what happens next. 

I recommend this to those of you who enjoy graphic novels or who are looking for a quick magical read.

I received an ARC from Harper Collins in exchange for my honest review. You can preorder this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library starting March 3rd.

Reasons I’m Thankful for the Book Community

I kept thinking what I wanted to post for today since my typical posting days are Mondays and Thursdays. I was going to post a book review like any other day but I felt that this would be a great opportunity to thank all of you and the bookish community for what I’ve been given this past year. There’s so much I’m thankful for this year so ima highlight a few.

Reignition of my love for reading

I have always loved to read but there have been times when I put the books aside due to school and lack of motivation. The book community introduced me to so many new books and made me want to read a lot more to keep up with new releases.

A sense of Community and Belonging

As an adult who is no longer going to school and wasnt working I felt like there wasnt a place for me. The bookish community embraced me and gave me new friends. I feel supported and encouraged to keep making content.

New Perspective

As I kept reading so many books across many genres I gained new perspectives on different things. Things I had seen as negative or something harmful in my life are now seen as just something that taught me something. I gained new views on genres I wouldnt have picked up before.

Strength to Move Forward during Rough Times

I started my bookstagram and book blog when I was unemployed and struggling to land a job. The times I was engaging in bookish activities or with my new community I forgot that I was struggling. I was able to put that aside for a minute and return to the job search refreshed. It wasnt too long before i found a job and this community kept my spirits up.

I hope you all have a great holiday. What are you all thankful for?

Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon Book Review

Summary: (Borrowed from Barnes and Noble) The year is 1973. The Watergate hearings are in full swing. The Vietnam War is still raging. And homosexuality is still officially considered a mental illness. In the midst of these trying times is sixteen-year-old Jonathan Collins, a bullied, anxious, asthmatic kid, who aside from an alcoholic father and his sympathetic neighbor and friend Starla, is completely alone. To cope, Jonathan escapes to the safe haven of his imagination, where his hero David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and dead relatives, including his mother, guide him through the rough terrain of his life. In his alternate reality, Jonathan can be anything: a superhero, an astronaut, Ziggy Stardust, himself, or completely “normal” and not a boy who likes other boys. When he completes his treatments, he will be normal—at least he hopes. But before that can happen, Web stumbles into his life. Web is everything Jonathan wishes he could be: fearless, fearsome and, most importantly, not ashamed of being gay.

Jonathan doesn’t want to like brooding Web, who has secrets all his own. Jonathan wants nothing more than to be “fixed” once and for all. But he’s drawn to Web anyway. Web is the first person in the real world to see Jonathan completely and think he’s perfect. Web is a kind of escape Jonathan has never known. For the first time in his life, he may finally feel free enough to love and accept himself as he is.

Thoughts: I had the pleasure to interview James Brandon a few months ago and I immediately put myself on the library’s waitlist for this book after that. Something he said in that interview resonated with me and that was how so many LGBTQ+ people dont know our history and I recognize I’m one of those people. This book was a great way to look at our history and feel some of that pain and sit in the amount of progress we’ve made since then while thanking the people who made that change happen for us.

I loved reading Jonathan and Web fall in love with each other in a world that only I’m privy to as the reader. Its such a beautiful first love and placed me in my memories of my first real love. It reminded me of thinking I was in love but then actually being in love for the first time as I came to terms with my queerness and how beautiful that is. This book made me see that relationship as something different than I kept seeing it as and it helped me heal from the pain the ending of that relationship caused. I appreciate this book for giving me new perspective.

I like how short the chapters are and how easily they blend into each other. The short chapters make the book feel like its passing a lot slower than it actually is. At the end you realize that this whole story took place over the span of 1 summer. It just reminds me how quickly things can change and it reminds me of the quote in the book “Overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now.”

I really enjoy the moment Jonathan starts to be okay with being gay because it means he can be with Web. I love how he’s like nothing else matters because of that and just really knowing what that moment feels like. I enjoy how relatable so much of this book is even of it’s written in a different time period.

It’s also such a coincidence that the story has some of the big things happening on July 13. That was a important date for me in the past and seeing it be important for Jonathan just made that moment so much more emotional for me.

You can get this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.

Best State Ever Book Review

Summary: Dave Barry discusses all things Florida and defends his state against people who talk poorly about it. He includes different attractions in Florida and why they add to the beauty of that state.

Thoughts: This was the library club’s pick for this month and to be honest I was worried that I just wouldn’t get the humor. The whole book is satirical, ironic, and sarcastic which usually goes right over my head. You know that just isn’t my type of humor but I loved this book. There were parts that I found hilarious and others while I didn’t find them laugh out loud funny I still found them interesting.

There is one picture included in this book that I found hilarious, it was of an alligator and he put an image of a tiny UPS truck next to it for comparison. Now I understand the real comparison but I just thought that this was so funny for some reason. I think you just have to see it to understand.

You know sometimes you just get through a book quickly and don’t remember anything about it. Well this is not one of those, there are things in here that i’ll remember for a long time. There’s also things that I definitely want to ask my Florida friends about to confirm that these strange things do occur or maybe I’ll go check them out for myself.

If you are a fan of satirical books then this is the book for you, even if you currently know nothing about Florida.

You can purchase this book at Barnes and Noble or look for it at your local library.