Raymond’s novel doesn’t follow a strict timeline. Instead it highlights the different stages of their relationship, as well as Deb’s life leading up tRaymond’s novel doesn’t follow a strict timeline. Instead it highlights the different stages of their relationship, as well as Deb’s life leading up to the present day. Though the romance is a dominant element of the story, it’s more hers than it is theirs. It’s told from her perspective, it highlights her hopes, dreams, and fears, both personally and professionally. That being said, their romance is still a highly compelling reason to pick up this book. And it begins on a voyage to Antarctica (the titular continent).
Julie Greenfield is a virgin—a twenty-six year old virgin to be precise. She’s not saving herself for marriage, or waiting until she’s in love, or anyJulie Greenfield is a virgin—a twenty-six year old virgin to be precise. She’s not saving herself for marriage, or waiting until she’s in love, or anything like that. But somehow there’s just never been the right moment. Now here she is a college graduate with a failed athletic career, a full time job that she hates, a boring apartment, and her virginity.
One day she decides: enough is enough. She doesn’t like the direction her life is headed in, so she’s going to change it. She hates her job? She quits it. She doesn’t want to be a virgin anymore? Then she’s going to have sex. There’s just one small problem—she had planned to move back home after quitting to save money but her parents have a surprise announcement of their own—they’re moving to Costa Rica for the summer. So, with nowhere else to go, Julia moves in with her eccentric aunt Vivienne in Durham North Carolina. Once she’s there, however, she makes a startling revelation—her 58-year-old aunt is a virgin too. Which only makes Julia more desperate to complete her summer goals and avoid a similar fate.
Vicky and Jenny are both gorgeous and popular, while Karine is more average looking and awkward. Their relationship could be described as frenemies, aVicky and Jenny are both gorgeous and popular, while Karine is more average looking and awkward. Their relationship could be described as frenemies, at best. Though Vicky and Jenny have boys falling over themselves to get their attention, they can’t help but get extremely jealous when someone is interested in their plain-Jane friend Karine, and so they try and sabotage her.
The Waterside Cafe, where the protagonists of After Hours work, is one of the city’s top restaurants, but like so many other high-end restaurants therThe Waterside Cafe, where the protagonists of After Hours work, is one of the city’s top restaurants, but like so many other high-end restaurants there’s a world, hidden behind the kitchen doors, that most patrons never see. I worked in a number of nice restaurants throughout university, and I can definitely attest to some crazy nights out and enough drama to fill a book of my own one day.
But the staff at the Waterside Café have brought their post-shift drama to another level with a game called Tips....
I know everyone loves it and there are some things this book does really well.
But having one of your character unnecessarily use "faggot" "trannie" aI know everyone loves it and there are some things this book does really well.
But having one of your character unnecessarily use "faggot" "trannie" and similar terms throughout and only ever have someone half heartedly point out to them that it's offensive once is not ok. It didn't add anything. It didn't tell me anything about your character that you weren't already communicating. And it sure didn't make me see him as a viable love interest.
This is not my usual read - for those that read this kind of book I would recommend it whole heartedly. It was very cute and funnier than I expected.This is not my usual read - for those that read this kind of book I would recommend it whole heartedly. It was very cute and funnier than I expected. I was also surprised by how well developed the characters were, there were so many little details that really went a long way.
I wasn't too excited about the plot but that's just me. And there were a couple of eye roll moments but overall a fun read (too bad it's not summer - it would have been perfect for the beach/cottage). ...more
Anna is a housewife. A bored housewife. She feels alone in a foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language. Her husband’s friends are her wholeAnna is a housewife. A bored housewife. She feels alone in a foreign country where she doesn’t speak the language. Her husband’s friends are her whole social circle. She even feels distant from her children at times. She feels as though she has nothing that’s her own. Nothing that she can control. And as her shrink says, “A bored woman is a dangerous woman.” So Anna has an affair. And then another. And then another.
Ben Stanley is about to leave for college on a full scholarship. It should be a time for celebratThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Ben Stanley is about to leave for college on a full scholarship. It should be a time for celebration. But it’s hard to celebrate when the mine that keeps your town running is shutting down and the rest of your friends and family are facing a much less secure future. He spends his days torn between excitement and guilt.
But than he meets Lala and something unexpected happens. Lala is like no one he’s ever met before. She’s mysterious, beautiful and has a very particular, formal way of speaking. And she’s a fortune telling daughter of a Romani rom baro. Lala has spent her entire life knowing her place. Her culture has strict rules for women and she has always followed them. Choices are almost always made for her – responsibility, location, and now her fiancé. Like Ben her future is secured. But unlike Ben she’s not sure it’s the future she wants. When Ben comes stumbling into her tent one day for a reading she begins to realize there may be other options she wishes to pursue. That maybe all she wants for her future is the freedom to make her own choices.
Though the romance between Lala and Ben is at the center of the story, I actually found it was the part that held my attention the least. It was actually their relationships with other people, rather than with each other, that made this story so compelling. Lala maintains a close relationship with her mother and sister’s throughout the book and before meeting Ben she never truly considers another life than the one she’s always lived. It was interesting to see how the dynamics between her and her family shifted and changed as she continued to grow as a character.
There is also the relationship between Ben and his younger brother, James. James is gay, and in a small town, in the middle-of-nowhere America, that’s not always easy. I liked the way Elana K. Arnold depicted Ben’s struggles with the revelation that his brother is gay. At first he doesn’t want to believe that it’s true. He loves his brother no matter what, but he’s worried about some of the difficulties James will face and that he won’t be there to protect him when he leaves for university. I think Ben’s reaction is very honest and the conversations between the two brothers were my favourite moments throughout the whole novel.
Burning was not the read I expected it to be. I thought it would be an easy, breezy romance but it was actually a beautiful exploration into familial relationships, the pressure of other’s expectations and the importance of following your own dreams....more
Playing a Part is a Russian young adult novel that has now been translated into English for the fThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Playing a Part is a Russian young adult novel that has now been translated into English for the first time. It tells the story of a boy named, Grisha, who has spent most of his formative years in a Russian theatre, where he parents are both performers. He’s grown up backstage amongst the costumes, the and the puppets.
When he’s not forced to go to school, he spends the majority of his time running around backstage with his friends Sashok and Sam. Sashok is the same age as Grisha, but Sam is a little bit older. Sam is also gay. Neither of these things matter to Grisha, but though he is often a little naive, he’s not quite naive enough to believe that Sam’s sexual orientation doesn’t matter to the rest of society.
This is probably best demonstrated through Grisha’s interactions with his grandfather. His grandfather is old fashioned, but the reader gets the impression that his beliefs may not be that uncommon. He disapproves of his daughter’s career choice, her husband and the way they raise his grandson. But above all he disapproves of the way Grisha is allowed to spend time with Sam. As though homosexuality is contagious and something he could infect Grisha with.
A combination of his grandfather’s judgement, being bullied by the more “macho” boys at school, and Sam’s sudden announcement that he’ll be moving away from Russia, forces Grisha to ask a number of questions about himself, who he is, and what he wants out of life. There is no clear conclusion to this self reflection but why should there be? Grisha is young, he still has years to try and figure things out.
Since I don’t read Russian, it’s impossible for me to say whether this translation does the story justice. However, I do think the translator, Marian Schwartz, did an excellent job giving the text a thoughtful, almost poetic, tone. Though the details of the theatre, the puppets and the characters were sparse, it was still a world that I could imagine and easily understood why Grisha found it so magical and life changing.
However, despite the touching prose and the thoughtful nature of Grisha’s internal struggles I couldn’t help but wish for more. This is a short book, with only 176 pages, and I feel as though I was only skimming the surface of the story. I wanted to learn more about the theatre, about Sashok, about Russian life for homosexuals. But it was just a quick taste and then the book was over.
Playing a Part offers readers a quick glance into one boy’s unique upbringing. It was not the more detailed look at the LGBTQ experience in Russia that I was expecting, but it was an enchanting read nonetheless....more
A fantastic book and an incredibly moving story. Great for readers of all ages but I definitely think this should be required reading in middle schoolA fantastic book and an incredibly moving story. Great for readers of all ages but I definitely think this should be required reading in middle school. ...more
One night, Douglas Petersen’s wife wakes him up to tell him that she thinks their marriage has ruThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
One night, Douglas Petersen’s wife wakes him up to tell him that she thinks their marriage has run its course, and that they should go their separate ways. But she also thinks they should wait to separate until their son, Albie, goes to college at the end of the summer. Which means the three of them should still go on the “Grand Tour” of Europe they have planned.
From here, Us actually breaks off into two stories – the story of Douglas, Connie and Albie on their vacation, and the story of Douglas and Connie’s relationship. I find I’m coming across this “two stories, one novel” approach more and more these days, and I’m becoming less and less convinced that it works for me. I usually find myself preferring one of the stories over the other, and ultimately wishing that the author had chosen to focus more thoroughly on the “better” story, rather than try to tell both of them.
In the case of Us, I thoroughly enjoyed their Grand Tour. The strained relationship between the family members was evident, and since they were forced to spend time in such close quarters with one another, those tensions often became arguments and those arguments could become quite heated. In particular, I liked the way Us explored the complicated relationship between a father and his son. Families are full of complex layers and emotions and this novel felt very true to that.
The story of Douglas and Connie was a different matter entirely. Douglas may have been the narrator of this sad tale, but Connie was the primary focus. And yet in spite of that, her character fell completely flat. She fell victim to the all-too-common manic pixie dream girl trope – she burst into Douglas’ life in a whirlwind, she was funny and cool and liked things “ironically,” and she gave him the new perspective he needed on life. But despite the reader being told (frequently) how artsy/inspirational/amazing she was, it felt like she had no substance whatsoever. If you’ve ever seen the movie 500 Days of Summer, think of Us like the marriage-length version of that.
It didn’t help that while Douglas was an interesting and dynamic character in relation to Albie, in relation to his wife he became a self-pitying “nice guy.” His reflections on the early days of his marriage/parenthood came off a little clichéd and repetitive. I actually had a similar problem earlier this year with another British novel, The Crane Wife. It’s just not a character that works for me personally.
However, despite some flaws, this was an interesting book. I really enjoyed Douglas and Albie’s relationship and how it changed and developed throughout the novel. Anyone who has children – especially teenage or adult children – will find a lot that they can relate to. And there are a number of humorous moments as well. Douglas is an awkward, stumbling sort, and this leads to some great comedic scenes (knocking over the bikes in Amsterdam comes to mind). Some elements of Us really didn’t click with me, but maybe another one of Nicholls’s novels would be a better fit....more
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom is a different kind of coming out story. It’s not the story of hoThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom is a different kind of coming out story. It’s not the story of how she told her family, or her best friend (although both of those things do happen). It’s the story of one town’s reaction when she wanted to do something as simple as attend the prom. With a girl. While wearing a tux. She never wanted to cause a riot, she only wanted to attend prom as herself.
Though fictional this novel is reminiscent of some real life events. It’s actually really troubling how many unique cases come up when you google “gay teen banned from prom.” However Tessa Masterson’s story seems to be directly inspired by the Itawamba County School District decision in 2010 to ban Constance McMillen from bringing her girlfriend to the prom and wearing a tuxedo. It’s important to remember that though we read books like Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom for entertainment, they are addressing real life concerns. The authors are doing more than telling a story with this book, they’re getting a message out.
The point of view alternates between Tessa and Lucas her straight best friend. And while Tessa is clearly the focus of the novel Lucas plays an important role as well. When he first finds out about her, he doesn’t handle it so great. But then, like so many before him, he realizes he’s being a jerk and spends the rest of the novel trying to make it up to her. Lucas’s character is important for two reasons. Primarily, he represents the importance of being a friend, and standing beside the people you care about when they need you the most. But he also demonstrates just how much one person can do to help – when it looks like Tessa’s parents might lose their store he gets to work trying to make sure that doesn’t happen. I think sometimes people don’t speak up because they don’t think their one voice will make a difference. Lucas proves that’s not true and that by doing something as simple as shopping in a particular store or wearing a t-shirt you are demanding to be heard.
Tessa Masterson Will Go to Prom is a humorous but relevant book, with characters you can’t help but fall for. It will make your blood boil but also warm your heart....more
I’ll admit that when I first heard about this book I had my doubts. It was back in May and CaitliThis review originally posted at More Than Just Magic
I’ll admit that when I first heard about this book I had my doubts. It was back in May and Caitlin Moran had made some comments about her upcoming book, How to Build a Girl, and YA novels as a whole. In an interview with The Bookseller she stated “I think it’s really important which sexy books you read — particularly when you’re a girl… These form your sexual imagination and I wanted to get in there before anyone else and talk about sex.” and then later “You don’t see teenage girls anywhere unless they’re being bitten by vampires so I wanted to write about a funny, weird teenage girl having adventures, particularly sex adventures.”
Of course the idea that there aren’t already authors tackling these issues is completely untrue. There are plenty of authors writing about girls and their sex lives. Courtney Summers, A S King and Emily M Danforth come to mind. And funny weird teenage girls having adventures? That describes a good chunk of the young adult books I’ve read this year.
But then Caitlin Moran’s name kept popping up. And I read more of what she had to say. Not about the book but about feminism and sexuality in general. She is incredibly smart, funny and unapologetic in her opinions. I decided I needed to read How to Build a Girl because there was a very good chance those traits would translate into her writing.
And they did.
How to Build a Girl is a clever, hilarious, daring novel that I simply couldn’t put down. Johanna Morrigan is the kind of protagonist you instantly relate to. She’s funny, awkward and self-conscious. You want her to succeed and you want to laugh at her antics along the way.
True to her word Caitlin Moran has written a book about a funny, weird, teenage girl having adventures – particularly sex adventures. How to Build a Girl is fantastically frank about topics like masturbation, sex and promiscuity. In her quest to become a music journalist, Johanna decides to “fake it” until she “makes it” and creates the persona of Dolly Wilde for herself – a crazy, Goth Lady Sex Adventurer. As Dolly, Johanna is not only able to lose her virginity, she finds the power to seek out sex. Does she always make good choices? No. But do any of us? And because of that I think it will be easy for readers (especially female readers) to find pieces of themselves in Johanna.
How to Build a Girl is as much about music as it is about sexuality. Johanna Morrigan/Dolly Wilde is a music journalist and as such the reader is given a pretty extensive look at the 1990s music scene in England. If you’re a big music fan you’ll easily be transported into the world of music journalism – the gigs, the interviews, the drunken antics. But I liked the emphasis on music for a more…personal reason. I am tired of teen female protagonists who love the Smiths. There are so many other bands than the Smiths. And I don’t even like their music, but every time a character goes on and on about them I have to hear their songs playing in my head. But they only pop up once in passing in How to Build a Girl. Instead bands like the Smashing Pumpkins, Pet Shop Boys and U2 get featured throughout the novel. It was a refreshing change to see some of the bands I loved as a teen get featured instead of the same old, tried and true choices.
But it’s not all sex and rock n’ roll. How to Build a Girl also tackles poverty and the challenges faced by working class families. Johanna lives in British council housing and her family struggles financially. There was one quote in particular that stood out for me:
“When the middle class gets passionate about politics, they’re arguing about their treats – their tax breaks and investments. When the poor get passionate about politics, they’re fighting for their lives.”
The Morrigan family proves just how true that is over and over throughout the novel. And it is an important part of who Johanna is, impacting not only how she views the world but how she exists within it.
How to Build a Girl is a brilliant and insightful coming of age novel that perfectly captures how confusing and difficult it is to find yourself and carve out a place for the person you want to be in the world. It’s funny and poignant and I highly recommend it to all, especially to those of us who were trying to build themselves in the 1990s....more