Monday, 20 March 2017

Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin


Symptoms of Being Human

 Series: N/A
Author: Jeff Garvin
Page Count: 352
Published: February 2nd, 2016
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  4 Stars ★★★★

Riley is the child of a congressman, loves rock music, and is genderfluid. They aren't out to anyone but their therapist yet, but they start an anonymous blog under the name Alix so that they can discuss their experiences as a genderfluid person. When Riley moves to a new school, they experience harassment and bullying, but they also make a few friends. Suddenly, their blog becomes extremely popular, and it appears that somebody may know Riley's true identity. Will Riley have the courage to come out before somebody reveals their identity to the world for them?

I was super, super, SUPER excited to read this book. There are very, very few genderfluid characters in books, and so as a genderfluid person myself I was really hoping that someday, a genderfluid character would appear. Then one day, this book was recommended to me, and my wish was fulfilled! I was certainly not disappointed with this book, though it didn't exactly blow my mind, either.

First off, I was impressed with the way that the author depicted gender dysphoria. Actually, by reading this book, I found another way to describe dysphoria, so I'm thankful! It appears that the author did his research concerning what its like to be genderfluid in a world where just the idea of someone being nonbinary provokes confusion or even mockery. I think that the author writing about a genderfluid character was a brave step, and I'm hoping that it's one that will help people to consider including nonbinary characters in their own books in the future.

Riley as a character, as a person, reminded me a lot of myself and of other nonbinary people I know! Riley's taste in music and clothing gave them a distinct image, and their struggle with anxiety and depression was incredibly relatable. While Riley seemed a bit reactive and dramatic at times, these flaws added to their character and deepened my understand of their flaws and struggles. It was interesting how Riley interpreted different interactions, and often their attitude really mirrored real life. 

My main issue with this book was the bullying. Bullying is certainly an unfortunately common occurrence, especially for LGBTQ people. However, the bullying depicted in this book seemed fairly unrealistic or just cliche. The bullying was at times even cheesy, and occasionally I feel it went a bit over the top, or became fairly over-dramatic. Maybe things are different where I live as opposed to where the author lives, but I interpreted much of the bullying that Riley deals with as based on stereotypes, as opposed to real life. Now, the cyberbullying was well depicted, with the various trolls, anonymous haters, slurs, and even the threat of the online bullying extending into real life. I also want to mention that there is an instance in the book where a sexual assault, or at least a near-sexual assault, occurs, and this might upset some readers, so I felt it was important to include a warning in this review. While I think that it's important for some books to exist which don't mention serious issues, serious crimes, like this, against trans people, I think that this book incorporated this assault very well and depicted it realistically. I think this part is obvious, but this book was at times a very emotional experience for me, especially since I have such a connection with the main character.

I also feel like there was a bit of an awkward use of pronouns within the book. For example, the author used things like "she/he" or "she...or he?" and similar pieces, when characters of indeterminate gender were present. At times this felt awkward to read as it didn't fit well into the sentences, and I'd suggest that authors make use of the singular "they", as it sounds smoother and also spreads the general awareness that there is, in fact, a valid gender neutral pronoun for people to use if necessary or requested.

Overall, this emotional book captured a lot of important details of what it means to be a genderfluid person. While I had issues with the somewhat cliche bullying and the awkward use of multiple pronouns, I was not disappointed and I hope to read more books by this author in the future. 

I recommend this book to readers looking for something with a genderfluid main character. If you are a fan of LGBTQ novels, and you like contemporary young adult stories, this book is for you.

(Note: the author uses "gender fluid" with a space, but I prefer to spell it as one word, "genderfluid", so I used my preferred spelling in this review).


Monday, 13 March 2017

Born at Midnight by C.C. Hunter

8705784 

Series: Shadow Falls
Author: C.C. Hunter
Page Count: 398
Published: March 29th, 2011
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
  4 Stars ★★★★

Kylie is dealing with a lot, including breaking up with her boyfriend, being stalked by a strange man, and her parents' divorce. After being caught at a party, Kylie is sent to Shadow Falls, which is a camp for supposedly troubled teens. However, once she gets there, she learns the truth: this camp isn't for troubled teens, but rather for young vampires, werewolves, fairies, and others to learn how to deal with the world and each other despite tensions and feuds. 

There she meets some friends and some attractive "gifted" individuals, including Derek and Lucas. Derek falls for her quickly, and she remembers her secret history with Lucas. However, there's more to worry about than boys and crushes. She, and the others at the camp, are unsure of what kind of paranormal creature Kylie actually is. Having to deal with seeing ghosts complicates things, too. But Shadow Falls is in danger of being shut down, and when some start to suspect her and Lucas of having something to do with it, she must fight to figure out the truth before it is too late. 

So one thing that I will say about this book is that there was definitely some rather cliche aspects to it. The love triangle felt a bit out of place, although it wasn't too major of an issue within the book. The feud between vampires and werewolves seemed a tad unoriginal, but that didn't really take away from the story as a whole. 

My main issue with this book rested with the characters themselves. At times Kylie seemed really shallow. While the narration was not first person, the author did delve into the thoughts of the characters, especially Kylie, even while using third person. There were little things that made me dislike her, for example the long paragraph (on page 105 in my edition) where it is explained why Kylie "gets" the reason that Derek, who is half fairy, would prefer the term "fey". This reason is apparently due to the fact that "no straight guy would want to be called a fairy" (despite the fact that he is literally a fairy). Also notable is the fact that Derek is supposedly "overly female-loving male", whatever that means. I don't believe that books must remain politically correct or entirely inoffensive, because characters, just as real life individuals, aren't all going to believe the same things, they haven't all been raised the same way, et cetera. But because of my personal experiences, I found this to be something that affected me and my view of Kylie and the other characters, so I felt that it might be important to mention for other readers dealing with similar life circumstances or opinions. It seems fairly small, but as an LGBTQ person, it made me roll my eyes.

This wasn't my only issue with the characters. I feel like Derek fell for Kylie way too early in the book. It made his feelings for her seem superficial and I found this really annoying. I also don't really see what Kylie saw in Derek, to find herself attracted to him so early on as well? He seemed quite average. I mean, he could be spectacular and interesting and multidimensional, and in the next book this may become apparent, but the way that the author portrayed him within this book was really boring. 

The thing that I really enjoyed about this book was Kylie's ability to speak with ghosts and how that affected her.  Her struggle with accepting the fact that she wasn't fully human was reminiscent of the struggles that people may face in real life, and I felt that despite the fantasy or paranormal aspect, I could really relate to what Kylie was going through. Denying something that is an important part of you is something that lots of people have to deal with, including the changes that come with finally accepting that you're not who you thought you were. This theme or aspect was well discussed throughout the novel, in a way that I found redeemed Kylie's character enough to keep me reading and excited to pick up the next book in the series. 

I also really loved the setting! I've heard of many boarding schools for paranormal creatures used as a setting within books, but camps appear to be less popular. I thought that this was a unique twist on the idea, and I think that the setting made the story really interesting to read, especially considering some of the myths or legends surrounding the falls themselves. The idea that there might be some kind of sinister entities haunting the waterfall that the camp is named after was something that caught my attention quickly, and while I'm a bit disappointed that this wasn't investigated by the characters within this novel, I'm hoping that in the next books this will be a more important aspect of the stories! I want to know the truth about the falls!

So, while I took issue with some of the characters due to my life experiences and the way they perceived certain things, there were still many good things about this book! Kylie may not have been very likeable, but her struggle ultimately redeemed her, and the setting was captivating. I'm hoping that the next book in this series brings more excitement and character development to the story.

I recommend this book to those who like YA paranormal romances! If you're interested in a series that includes several supernatural or paranormal creatures, this would be a good pick. 


Friday, 10 March 2017

50/50 Friday - Best/Worst Royal Character


This meme is hosted at The Butterfly Reader and Blue Eye Books

This week's topic is best / worst royal character


Best 

 Between the Lines (Between the Lines, #1)

Prince Oliver from Between the Lines is an awesome royal character. He is a sweet, hopeful love interest, and I'm really glad this book got a sequel!


Worst

 Lament (Books of Faerie, #1)

For worst, I'm going for one of the royal characters that I despised the most. This would have to be the Faerie Queen from Lament. I mean, she wants the main character dead! And the main character is actually quite a nice person! No, I don't like this royal character at all.  

What do you think of the royals from these books???
 

Monday, 6 March 2017

Thirst No.1 by Christopher Pike


Thirst No. 1: The Last Vampire, Black Blood, and Red Dice (Thirst, #1)

Series: The Last Vampire
Author: Christopher Pike
Page Count: 594
Published: August 7th, 2009
Publisher: Simon Pulse
  4 Stars ★★★★

In this bind-up, readers get the first three books of Christopher Pike's series, The Last Vampire. This series features a five thousand year old vampire named Sita, or "Alisa", living in the modern world. The first book starts with Alisa discovering that somebody is investigating her, and after she promises a dying man to look after his son, she meets Ray. Alisa is drawn to Ray, but there is more at stake than friendship and love. Her life may be in danger, along with the lives of those around her.

As with many of the books I own, I found this at a thrift shop. I'd enjoyed Christopher Pike's Remember Me, so I could not resist buying myself a copy of Thirst. After reading six of his books - three in the Remember Me bind-up and now another three in this one - I have come to the conclusion that Pike's stories are addictive. 

While his writing style isn't the best writing that I have ever come across, once I start reading it, I find it hard to stop. This was true for Thirst, as I gave the first book only three stars, but the next two went up to four stars. His writing got better and better as I went along. 

The main character, Sita, or "Alisa", was absolutely captivating. Written in first person, the reader gets to hear all of her thoughts, memories, and fears, and I think that the author did a marvelous job of putting me in the head of a five thousand year old vampire! She was extremely intelligent, with a nice mix of ruthlessness and compassion mixed in. She was truly a bloodthirsty vampire, though she held on to pieces of her humanity. There was nothing boring about the main character.

The origin of the vampires in this book was very unique from what I've read in other novels. There is an interesting mix of Indian mythology and religion in Sita's past, and it made for a very memorable read! This was a nice change from the usual vampire myths and legends.

The characters around her, from other vampires, to the humans she gets to know, were interesting as well and all played important roles in her story. My only issue is that sometimes, the author wrote the characters' dialogue too much like Sita's. For example, some of the main teenage characters spoke like our five thousand year old protagonist at times, which got on my nerves. This did get better as the books progressed.

The books were very short, and it took me very little time to get through them. While it was nice to have some short reads after getting through some longer books, I think that the books could have been a little longer. Some things happened too fast, particularly this sort of insta-love with Ray. While I don't always mind this instant love or attraction, the author didn't do a great job of writing it so it got on my nerves. Their romance didn't seem that believable. Other situations could have been a bit more drawn out as well, this would have added more tension and suspense to the stories!

Overall, I enjoyed this and I'm glad I picked it up. I'll definitely be continuing the series, and I hope to read more books by Christopher Pike in the future. 

I recommend this book to readers looking for unique vampire stories. If you're interested in a bind-up containing short novels with a very interesting main character, this book is for you.

Friday, 3 March 2017

50/50 Friday Best/Worst Book Read in February


This meme is hosted at The Butterfly Reader and Blue Eye Books

This week's topic is best / worst book read in February


Best

 The Awakening (Darkest Powers, #2)

The Awakening by Kelley Armstrong! It was a quick, exciting read, and I enjoyed every page of it.


Worst

 Watch the Sky

I didn't read any horrid books in February, but I liked this one the least, I think. It wasn't bad, I've just preferred other books.