1 star · science fiction · young adult

The XY: well . . . I read it

40171030

The XY

author : virginia bergin

summary :

She’s been taught to fear him.
He’s been taught to fear her.
What if they’re both wrong?

In River’s world, XYs are a relic of the past, along with things like war and violence. Thanks to the Global Agreements, River’s life is simple, safe, and peaceful…until she comes across a body in the road one day. A body that is definitely male, definitely still alive.

River isn’t prepared for this. There’s nothing in the Agreements about how to deal with an XY. Yet one lies before her, sick, suffering, and at her mercy.

River can kill him, or she can save him. Either way, nothing will ever be the same.

review :

I have too many thoughts on this book and most of them are not great, so I’ll start with the positives.

The concept was interesting. It hooked me, made me want to read to see where the author would go with it. In The XY, a plague wiped out most of the people on Earth with an XY chromosome, which changes everything. A few generations later, a teen girl finds an XY, a boy, and doesn’t understand what he is or how he’s alive in the outside world. And nothing afterward happens the way you’d think it would.

The problem, or one of them, with the XY is that it has a rather optimist view of women. I’m a feminist, which means believing in equality, and this book is surprisingly hard-hitting when it comes to the gender binary, considering all people born with XY chromosomes after the plague are kept apart from all of society so they won’t die. The book assumes that without these XYs, everything would be . . . Not perfect, but definitely an idealized world. It seems to take the idea that most terrible things in the world happened because of men (which is valid, as historically men have been the ones in positions of power to make these decisions) but then takes it farther. Aggression, suspicion, jealousy, violence–those are all XY traits, in this book. It’s like no woman would ever be selfish or radical or explosive.

The main character knows what dolls are, but she doesn’t know what video games are because those are an XY thing (and only for the very old women, the last generation to live before the plague, and I guess they only like those things because of . . . XY influence?? I don’t know). There’s a whole parody on International Women’s Day because the world in this book has the same but for men, and the main character repeatedly says that spending even one day on the topic is a waste of time. It’s a little too on the nose and enraging.

A lot of the premise of the book focuses on how women in the new world wouldn’t recognize an XY because they can’t comprehend what a man looks like. I’ve never seen a unicorn but I can sure comprehend what it looks like. Even older women who lived before the plague don’t know what an XY looks like?? The world still has access to the internet, to all sorts of communication. They can watch old videos and movies and access pictures. The MC doesn’t watch these because she can’t relate to them. They aren’t realistic. It’s like . . . Suddenly everyone in society has no interest in any entertainment. The MC looks down on her friend, the only person around who appreciates literature. It’s understandable for them not to look for entertainment in a survival situation, but this isn’t one. They’re society is fully functioning. The MC has plenty of time to sit around and feel sorry for herself.

The book tried to be trans-inclusive in its language which was refreshing. It consistently mentioned that this was a genetic plague, so it would refer to killing all the XYs instead of referring to killing all men. There was a vague mention once that people could continue dressing/identifying the way they’d like after the plague, which was never mentioned again and was sort of thrown out the window once it was apparent that no XXs the MC, River, knew identified themselves as trans. It seems like no one in their world understands it as anything but distinctly male and female.

Which . . . For a world where women are the only ones left, you would think we could get some F/F rep. Instead there are like the blandest female relationships here so nothing could be misconstrued and if it is interpreted as a relationship, someone else could claim you misinterpreted it. This is when I start hitting my head against my desk.

This review has gone on too long already and I haven’t even gotten to the plot. There were plot points that were picked up for no reason and dropped out of nowhere. No consequences for anything, no cohesive storyline. The best thing is that the book should have about fifty more pages and it doesn’t. It just ends. There’s no satisfying conclusion. Please don’t keep reading, like I did, and expect actual answers. You’ll get none.

I can’t recommend this book. It’s just not very well done, and it’ll leave you more frustrated than anything else.

1/5 stars

 

 

 

Fantasy · fiction · young adult

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly: yeah I couldn’t fly away from this one

18766773

Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly

authors : stephen graham jones & paul tremblay

pages : [paperback] 280

summary :

This is the story of a girl who sees a boy float away one fine day. This is the story of the girl who reaches up for that boy with her hand and with her heart. This is the story of a girl who takes on the army to save a town, who goes toe-to-toe with a mad scientist.

review :

I’ve had this book on my TBR for a while now because I downloaded it on Netgalley and never fit in the time to read it. Instead I found it on Hoopla recently (my love for that app never ends) and dove it.

This was a quick read. Floating Boy and the Girl Who Couldn’t Fly is a simplistic contemporary fantasy. It opens on Mary (our narrator, and I just had to look up her name because it’s used so rarely in the book) who is at a family reunion when she spots someone she’s never seen before. A boy, who climbs a tree and starts floating up into the sky.

It’s a hoax.

Or . . . is that only what they want her to think? Strange things start happening, spreading through and taking over her town, and Mary starts investigating it because . . . I don’t know, because Floating Boy is hot?

I had a lot of problems with this book, mostly the content because it was pretty well-written. Sometimes Mary’s POV was a little confusing, because her actions don’t really match the tone and content of her thoughts. She’s fourteen, and she’s running all around independent and making mature, rational decisions while her thought process is like that of someone half her age.

Part of the subplot is that Mary has had problems with anxiety and depression, probably stemming from pressure at school, and she’s still struggling with that. I love books where mental illness is not the only plot, just part of who a character is. However, Mary vehemently resists medical help with her anxiety/depression (which are apparently so bad that she mentions several times that her friends and family are on “suicide watch” and seems to look down on them for being worried about her?). She refers to all medication as “zombie pills” and there’s never any point where she realizes that medication actually is the answer for a lot of people and that it can be a good option. I can’t stand YA books that look down on medication like that, when someone young and needing help could read it and assume they shouldn’t consider that option, or think that everyone will judge them for it.

Mary loves to judge people. She looks down on her family. She looks down on her friends. Mary is one of those girls who isn’t like other girls. She needs to explain to other people who Godzilla is, because she’s the only one she knows who has ever seen or heard of Godzilla.

Excuse me what.

I wish we’d gotten to know more about Floating Boy and his past and all, because obviously he was the most interesting part of the book. Unfortunately the explanation for everything was so convoluted that I’m still not quite sure what the answer to all of the mysteries was? It didn’t make very much sense to me, and I didn’t care to try to go back and understand.

I can’t say that I recommend this book. There are so many better options out there to read, that are full of amazing characters, and are more satisfying. This one just really missed the mark.

2/5 stars

 

 

5 stars · graphic novel · young adult

Fence Volume 2: THIS COMIC IS AMAZING

40538763

Fence, Volume 2

Volume 1

author : c.s. pacat

pages : [paperback] 112

favorite character : ALL OF THEM

summary :

Combines Issues #5-8.

Nicholas Cox is determined to prove himself in the world of competitive fencing, and earn his place on the Kings Row fencing team, alongside sullen fencing prodigy, Seiji Katayama, to win the right to go up against his golden-boy half-brother.

Tryouts are well underway at King’s Row for a spot on the prodigious fencing team, and scrappy fencer Nicholas isn’t sure he’s going to make the grade in the face of surly upperclassmen, nearly impossibly odds, and his seemingly unstoppable roommate, the surly, sullen Seiji Katayama. It’ll take more than sheer determination to overcome a challenge this big!

From the superstar team of C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad comes the second volume of this acclaimed, dynamic series.

review :

This series is imPOSSIBLE TO PUT DOWN. All of the current issues are available on Hoopla, an app where you can borrow ebooks/graphic novels, and I borrowed Volume 2 maybe three seconds after I finished the first one.

Fence has so many great characters which makes things difficult when they’re all competing against each other. The competition to get onto the school’s fencing team (who knew fencing teams were SO SMALL) is really heating up now. Rivalries are forming. Rivalries are . . . attempting to form. I love how Nicholas continuously reminds people that he has a rivalry with Seiji while Seiji is on the side like “Stop, no, we don’t, calm down.”

The art is beautiful. The story is both funny and also sort of stressful because I want everyone to make the team and I know they can’t. The characters are so diverse and well-written, flawed and lovable. I suffered because I immediately wanted to read more issues after this volume but I’d run out of borrows on Hoopla. You cannot understand my pain.

Please, PLEASE read Fence because I know you’ll love it and then we can talk all about these stubbornly amazing boys.

5/5 stars

 

2 stars · nonfiction · young adult

Lady Killers: so how do you make serial killers boring?

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Lady Killers: Deadly Women Throughout History

author : tori telfer

pages : [paperback] 336

summary :

Inspired by author Tori Telfer’s Jezebel column “Lady Killers,” this thrilling and entertaining compendium investigates female serial killers and their crimes through the ages.

When you think of serial killers throughout history, the names that come to mind are ones like Jack the Ripper, John Wayne Gacy, and Ted Bundy. But what about Tillie Klimek, Moulay Hassan, Kate Bender? The narrative we’re comfortable with is the one where women are the victims of violent crime, not the perpetrators. In fact, serial killers are thought to be so universally, overwhelmingly male that in 1998, FBI profiler Roy Hazelwood infamously declared in a homicide conference, “There are no female serial killers.”

Lady Killers, based on the popular online series that appeared on Jezebel and The Hairpin, disputes that claim and offers fourteen gruesome examples as evidence. Though largely forgotten by history, female serial killers such as Erzsébet Báthory, Nannie Doss, Mary Ann Cotton, and Darya Nikolayevna Saltykova rival their male counterparts in cunning, cruelty, and appetite for destruction.

Each chapter explores the crimes and history of a different subject and then proceeds to unpack her legacy and her portrayal in the media, as well as the stereotypes and sexist clichés that inevitably surround her. The first book to examine female serial killers through a feminist lens with a witty and dryly humorous tone, Lady Killers dismisses easy explanations (she was hormonal, she did it for love, a man made her do it) and tired tropes (she was a femme fatale, a black widow, a witch), delving into the complex reality of female aggression and predation. Featuring 14 illustrations from Dame Darcy, Lady Killers is a bloodcurdling, insightful, and irresistible journey into the heart of darkness.

review:

Lately I’ve been listening to the podcast My Favorite Murder a lot and realized that while I have a great interest in true crime . . . I don’t really read about it. This made me go onto Hoopla (an app through my library that allows me to borrow ebooks for free) and I quickly found Lady Killers.

It was disappointing.

It was a little boring.

Lady Killers talks about female serial killers (mostly historical ones, as the most recent is from the 1950s). It was intriguing because 99.9% of the murderers you hear about are men (don’t even get me started) so it’s interesting to look at the different motivations and methods women have when committing such horrendous acts.

How do you make murder boring, you may ask? I asked myself the same thing. Several of these stories felt like reading the same tale over and over again. Because there were only a handful of women included in here, there could have been a little more variety between the tales. There are only so many times I can read about a lady poisoning her husband without anyone seeming to notice why he spontaneously became so sick before I lose interest.

I did appreciate that these stories are global and only a few take place in the USA. While the overall perspective of women culturally wasn’t very different from country to country, historically speaking, it was interesting to see how different circumstances/political climates may have factored into these crimes.

The tone of the book, which was so casual it was difficult to tell what was fact and what was speculation, threw me off. Casual tones can work really well in making nonfiction more accessible to a broader audience, but it felt more like I was reading a historical gossip magazine than a nonfiction book.

2.5/5 stars

 

5 stars · graphic novel · young adult

Fence, Volume 1: a graphic novel that I love love love love

36373825

Fence, Vol 1 (issues 1-4)

author : c. s. pacat

pages : [paperback] 112

favorite character : all of them???

summary :

Nicholas Cox is determined to prove himself in the world of competitive fencing, and earn his place alongside fencing legends like the dad he never knew, but things get more complicated when he’s up against his golden-boy half-brother, as well as sullen fencing prodigy, Seiji Katayama.

Nicholas, the illegitimate son of a retired fencing champion, is a scrappy fencing wunderkind, and dreams of getting the chance and the training to actually compete. After getting accepted to the prodigious Kings Row private school, Nicholas is thrust into a cut-throat world, and finds himself facing not only his golden-boy half-brother, but the unbeatable, mysterious Seiji Katayama…

Through clashes, rivalries, and romance between teammates, Nicholas and the boys of Kings Row will discover there’s much more to fencing than just foils and lunges. From acclaimed writer C.S. Pacat (The Captive Prince) and fan-favorite artist Johanna the Mad.

review :

Words cannot EXPRESS how much I love FENCE. This first volume is gorgeous. Intriguing. So riveting that I was very grateful I borrowed it on Hoopla (an app through my local library which allows you access to a certain number of ebooks per month) because it asked me when I finished if I’d like to borrow Volume 2. YES YES YES. I needed it immediately.

Maybe you’re like me and you’ve aways vaguely appreciated fencing from afar because it’s, like, kind of like swords so that’s cool and seems very fancy. But you don’t really know how any of it works. BRILLIANT, because FENCE will explain all of the intricacies of fencing to you. Thankfully it doesn’t do so in info dumps or in the guise of a boring lecture. It’s woven very flawlessly into the overall narrative of the story, so you really get to know the stacks of the . . Oh no. Are they matches? Bouts? I think they’re matches. I think I need to reread this volume already.

Really, though, it’s all about the characters and by GOD DO I LOVE THEM. Even the ones that are asinine are so well-done, realistic, and kind of hilarious, so I love them too. This volume is really an introduction to some of our main players (and a rivalry that has me CACKLING and also uncertain of who I want to best who). I just love it. I want them all to be happy and yet I’m entertained by how miserable they constantly make each other.

This book is unlike anything else I’ve ever read (and has me thinking that maybe I DO love contemporary stories but only in comic form). And it’s one of those things that’ll just leave you so happy inside. If you’re looking for a feel-good graphic novel where you’ll be intensely invested in the characters and you’ll also suddenly be REALLY be invested in fencing . . . Read this.

5/5 stars

 

3 stars · Fantasy · young adult

King of Scars: so this is a story all about how . . . I was disappointed

39804936

King of Scars

Nikolai Duology #1

other books in this universe:

Shadow and Bone | Six of Crows

pages : [hardcover] 528

memorable quote :

The monster is me and I am the monster.

summary :

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.

review :

Ohhhhhhhhhh boy.

King of Scars is possibly the most highly anticipated book in the YA fantasy realm in . . known memory? The Grishaverse is truly a force of its own and fans, including me, were very eager for this spinoff duology about Nikolai Lantsov. That charming, handsome king.

Right. Well.

This book read like a sequel, even though it’s book one. It felt like it suffered from second-book syndrome, without at least giving us the lovely, beautiful, content of the first book that we wanted. Here are a few non-spoilery points I’d like to make:

1. Why wasn’t there more Nikolai in a . . book pitched as his story?

2. Nina’s POV could have been a completely different book, BUT I’m not sure that it could have stood on its own. (And I love Nina. I LOVE HER. I would do anything for her. But what is happening. Okay.)

3. You can’t set a book in an already established universe and break all of the rules of that universe for . . . No discernible purpose as yet to be seen.

4. Oh no there are so many things to rant about but I have voWED TO REVIEW WITH NO SPOILERS.

There were also great points in this book. It was so fun to see characters again from the original series that I absolutely loved. It was great to have a lot of the action be entrenched in strategy and political intrigue–when we’re talking kings and kingdoms, it’s interesting to see how the characters interact, one-up, and try to trick each other. There were great pieces of backstory that made me happy.

There was just . . . So much potential. I can see in this book what I wanted out of it, and what I didn’t get. But I think what upsets me most is that I’m not excited for the next book. This one, King of Scars, has amazing, emotional scenes that I’ll definitely want to read over and over again. But the setup for book two?

Oh nooooooooooooo.

Maybe I should petition for a Nina spinoff series instead.

3/5 stars

 

5 stars · fairy tale · young adult

A Curse So Dark and Lonely, more like A CURSE SO DANG LOVELY

43204703

A Curse So Dark and Lonely

A Curse So Dark and Lonely #1

author : brigid kemmerer

pages : [hardcover] 496

memorable quote :

I am always surprised to discover that when the world seems darkest, there exists the greatest opportunity for light.

favorite character : harper

summary :

An instant New York Times Best Seller! In a lush, contemporary fantasy retelling of Beauty and the Beast, Brigid Kemmerer gives readers another compulsively readable romance perfect for fans of Marissa Meyer.

Fall in love, break the curse. 

It once seemed so easy to Prince Rhen, the heir to Emberfall. Cursed by a powerful enchantress to repeat the autumn of his eighteenth year over and over, he knew he could be saved if a girl fell for him. But that was before he learned that at the end of each autumn, he would turn into a vicious beast hell-bent on destruction. That was before he destroyed his castle, his family, and every last shred of hope.

Nothing has ever been easy for Harper Lacy. With her father long gone, her mother dying, and her brother barely holding their family together while constantly underestimating her because of her cerebral palsy, she learned to be tough enough to survive. But when she tries to save someone else on the streets of Washington, DC, she’s instead somehow sucked into Rhen’s cursed world.

Break the curse, save the kingdom. 

A prince? A monster? A curse? Harper doesn’t know where she is or what to believe. But as she spends time with Rhen in this enchanted land, she begins to understand what’s at stake. And as Rhen realizes Harper is not just another girl to charm, his hope comes flooding back. But powerful forces are standing against Emberfall . . . and it will take more than a broken curse to save Harper, Rhen, and his people from utter ruin.

review :

I love fairy tale retellings, to the point that I honestly can’t say how many Beauty and the Beast retellings I’ve read. A Curse So Dark and Lonely is now not only one of my favorite retellings, it’s one of my favorite books.

The story is typical Beauty and the Beast for about . . . ten pages. There’s a curse. There’s the beast. And Harper is taken away to fall in love with him and break the curse. Except . . . she was never the one who was supposed to be brought to the Beast’s castle–she only ends up there because she tries to stop someone else, a stranger, from being taken.

Harper is from our world and one of my favorite contemporary characters I’ve ever read about. She’s thrust into another world filled with magic and royalty (and thankfully, refreshingly, HARDLY ANY SEXISM. three cheers for a magical world that doesn’t make a big stink about a girl wearing pants). Harper Stays Sexy and Doesn’t Get Murdered, though, because she’s determined to get home to her family and rightfully wants nothing to do with these emotionally stunted nerds who’ve kidnapped her. Finally, a Beauty who acts the right way to being stolen away from everything she’s ever known. Her reactions were so realistic? And I was immediately on her side.

I also loved how this book was dual POV, so we get to see from the Beast’s point of view as well. Rhen is verrrrry quickly made out to be a lesser villain in this book. He’s arrogant and sort of has no idea of how to be an actual person instead of a prince, but he was never TOO terrible. The story surrounding his curse, however, quickly gets very intense. Surprising (and amazing) for a retelling. Also surprising, we get beautiful worldbuilding. There are plots in this book outside of the curse. The stakes are higher–more characters are involved. I’m so glad that this is going to be a series because it feels like it needs at least one more book to explore all of the plot lines introduced here. Plus . . . I just want more of these characters okay.

There is a love triangle which I’m not the hugest fan of usually, but I love all of these characters so I didn’t even mind. More importantly there’s fantastic cerebral palsy rep with Harper (I love that it’s just a part of who she is, not her entire storyline) and some LGBTQ rep through minor characters. I want more. I need more. AH.

I can’t recommend this book enough and I’m so glad that I read it! I’ll eagerly be waiting for the sequel.

5/5 stars