Posts Tagged: LGBTQ

{Review} Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little

October 9, 2013 Review 0

 

Anatomy of a Girl Gang by Ashley Little cover

//  BOOK INFO  //

Title: Anatomy of a Girl Gang
Author: Ashley Little
Publisher: Arsenal Pulp Press
Release Date: October 15, 2013
Source: Publisher *received in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 254
Genres: New Adult — contemporary

A sharp and gritty novel told in multiple voices, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is the powerful story of a gang of teenage girls in Vancouver called the Black Roses, a.k.a. “the city’s worst nightmare”: Mac, the self-appointed leader and mastermind; Mercy, the Punjabi princess with a skill for theft; Kayos, a high-school dropout who gave birth to a daughter at age thirteen; Sly Girl, who fled her First Nations reserve for a better life, only to find depravity and addiction; and Z, a sixteen-year-old anti-establishment graffiti artist.

Cast out by mainstream society, the five girls lash out: they terrorize Vancouver with a raw, restless urgency, setting fire to the world around them to try to erase their painful pasts. As the Black Roses, they rob ATMs, cook crack on stoves, and savagely beat anyone who dares to harm them. Brutal and broken, they claw at the knot of darkness and violence that tightens around their lives.

Told in stark, vivid, and fearless prose, Anatomy of a Girl Gang is a narrative punch to the throat, a screaming, spray-painted portrait of urban gang culture: an unflinching story about lost girls struggling for power, voice and hope. 

//  INTERESTED?  //

 


//  COVER TALK  //

I like the bold, graphic style of the cover — I think it suits the novel very well, and the roses resemble the black roses tattoos that the girls get. I do think I’d like to see a more interesting font choice though.

//  EXPECTATIONS  //

I hadn’t heard about this book until the publisher reached out to me to offer it for review. However, I just KNEW I had to read it once I heard the pitch. Something just grabbed hold of me and wouldn’t let go!

//  MY THOUGHTS  // 

The summary does an apt job at describing this novel, saying it is a provides a “narrative punch to the throat”. This novel is so good and has affected me so much that it is making me anxious and nauseous just typing up this review. It is horrifyingly, vomit-inducing disturbing in a way that is uncomfortably realistic. I know I just used a bunch of horrible ways to describe this book, but in truth, it is one of those books that makes you sick in a good way. Now, I should say this book isn’t for everyone, and there are some MAJOR trigger warnings for: abuse, sexual assault, and addiction. This book doesn’t hold back, that’s for sure.

Anatomy of a Girl Gang tells the story of five young girls and their attempts to survive in Vancouver’s notoriously Downtown Eastside without giving up control of their bodies and money by creating a girl gang so that they can look out for each other. This new all girl gang, led by Mac, is a diverse group, and many of the girls have traumatic histories. There is Mercy, the “Punjabi Princess”, Kayos, who has had a daughter at a young age as the result of sexual assault, Sly Girl, an Aboriginal girl who has fled the violence and poverty of her reserve, and Z, a lesbian graffiti artist with overbearing parents. Each girl brings her own criminal talents to the gang, and as a group, they aspire to move out of the hell hole they live in, to a place where they feel safe, and can live as the family they are. However, the Downtown Eastside doesn’t easily let go of those who have fallen into its grip.

Despite these girl’s actions, I couldn’t help but love them. They’re sort of anti-heroes. I just wanted to give them a safe place to live, where they didn’t have to worry about their safety, making money, and could just be teen girls. Each had a unique voice and way of telling their story (for example, Z, the graffiti artist, tells her story in tags). I didn’t exactly have a favourite character, but they were all equally complex, and well-written. Vancouver, the city itself, was even one of the POVs, and this was a really interesting narrative tool. It allowed the story to pull back, and the reader to see the girls’ story in the bigger picture.  Ashley Little also did a good job of writing a story that shows how oppression is intersectional and experienced uniquely based on race, class, gender and sexual identity, etc. It’s not a happy, uplifting story (although there ARE moments of hope) but it is a story that is a sad reality for many inner-city youth in Canada and around the world. The book takes you on a rollercoaster ride, from riding highs on the lyrical, beautiful prose to the lowest, shocking, upsetting lows.

Ultimately, this book left me wanting to curl up in a ball and sleep for a day. It took a lot out of me. However, it was an amazing reading experience, one that really challenged me as a reader, and as a person. I couldn’t help but root for a happy ending for the Black Rose girls. The diverse cast of complex characters is paired with gritty, raw, and at times, lyrical writing to make for a winning combination. Anatomy of a Girl Gang would be great to read with The Harem, which I also loved, as it reminded me a lot of that book, with similar themes and discussions to be had. While it’s certainly not for ever reader, or the faint of heart, I really hope this book makes its way into the hands of those that both need it and will love it. Without a doubt, I’ll be checking out Ashley Little’s other books (Prick: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist & The New Normal).

 

// Share your thoughts… Leave a Comment! //

Have you read Anatomy of a Girl Gang? Will you? Do you know of any other books that deal with girl gangs or are set in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside?


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{Review} Adaptation by Malinda Lo

September 11, 2013 Review 8

 

adaptation malinda lo cover

//  BOOK INFO  //

Title: Adaptation
Author: Malinda LO
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 2012
Source: Purchased e-book
Pages: 400
Genres: YA — science fiction, LGBTQ

Reese can’t remember anything from the time between the accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: She’s different now.

Across North America, flocks of birds hurl themselves into airplanes, causing at least a dozen to crash. Thousands of people die. Fearing terrorism, the United States government grounds all flights, and millions of travelers are stranded.

Reese and her debate team partner and longtime crush David are in Arizona when it happens. Everyone knows the world will never be the same. On their drive home to San Francisco, along a stretch of empty highway at night in the middle of Nevada, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened, where they are—or how they’ve been miraculously healed.

Things become even stranger when Reese returns home. San Francisco feels like a different place with police enforcing curfew, hazmat teams collecting dead birds, and a strange presence that seems to be following her. When Reese unexpectedly collides with the beautiful Amber Gray, her search for the truth is forced in an entirely new direction—and threatens to expose a vast global conspiracy that the government has worked for decades to keep secret.

//  INTERESTED?  //


//  COVER TALK  //

I’m not really sure I “get” the cover, but it is bold and I do like how it is simple. It’s also kinda creep, no? Oh, and the covers on the novella and sequel match, so yay!

//  EXPECTATIONS  //

I’ve previously read and reviewed Lo’s other books, Ash and The Huntress, both of which I enjoyed so I am no stranger to her work. But I had hesitated when it came to Adaptation because I’m not a big reader of science fiction (although, to be fair, I don’t read a lot of fantasy either and I still picked up her books, haha). I ended up reading some good reviews and I was excited for the LGBTQ diversity this book had, so when I saw the e-book on sale, I bought it.

//  MY THOUGHTS  // 

Aliens? ✓ Conspiracy theories? ✓ LGBT romance? ✓ Racial diversity? ✓ Awesome story? ✓

Adaptation is an addictive, thrilling read that checks off so many boxes it is unbelievable! It all begins with hundreds of birds falling from the sky inexplicably, crashing planes all over North America and Mexico. Creepy, huh? Then the protagonist, Reese, and her friend/love interest/debate partner, David get into an accident while driving home from their tournament. Where do they crash? Area 51 of course! Once they wake up, it is crystal clear that something is up, that their procedure was not a normal one, as they are forced to sign non-disclosure agreements. Upon returning home, Reese tries to readjust, and move on, both from her surgery and her crush on David, as she starts dating Amber, but she starts to realize she now has some new abilities. What is the government not telling her about her surgery? And is it somehow linked to all the dying birds? 

Know how I said that I’m not a big reader of sci-fi books? Well, I couldn’t get enough of Adaptation!!! Seriously, it was hard to put down. Every time I had to put it down, for whatever reason, I’d be thinking of what was going to happen in the story and I couldn’t wait to return. The story drew me in in immediately, and the first couple of chapters are action packed and they just have you so curious as to what the HECK is going on!?! The plot is so interesting with conspiracy theories and the romantic tension between the characters!

The thing that actually got me to pick up this book despite my uncertainty for the genre was 1) it was Malinda Lo and 2) I had heard that there was a bisexual character and you don’t get a lot of bisexual characters in YA, for whatever reason(s). I was very happy to see that Reese wasn’t a stereotype of a bisexual female, and that she had chemistry with both of her love interests, David and Amber. Reese actually doesn’t realize she is also attracted to women until she meets Amber, but the process in which she realizes she is bisexual (and later, her coming out to her mother) seemed very authentic and realistic. She’s not defined by her sexuality, and neither is her best friend, Julian, who is gay. In addition to diverse sexualities, there is also racial diversity too. David Li is Asian-American and Julian is African-American. I should mention too that although Julian is gay, Jewish and African-American he never felt like a token character, and actually, pretty important to the plot with all of his conspiracy theory work.

With all the conspiracy theories floating around in this book, it raises some really great questions about WHY we have and believe in these theories, how our governments operates, and democracy. I particularly liked this quote:

Perhaps the real issue is not whether the government orchestrated the plane crashes, but instead, do we trust our elected officials? And if we don’t, why have we elected them in the first place? Democracy, at its root, is based on the faith that our representatives have our best interests at heart. If we as a nation no longer believe that they do, that may even be more disturbing than the idea that aliens are among us.”

This definitely could lead to many great conversations as it is relatable to so many non-alien situations, and I think it is good for teens to think about. Oh, and YAY for having a female President!

I am so SO glad that decided to buy and read Adaptation, and that I did so in September because now I don’t have to wait for the novella, Natural Selections and I only have to wait a couple of weeks for the sequel, Inheritance, which I will be pre-ordering! If you were weary about this book at all, I highly recommend you give even just the first few chapters a try. Whether you like science fiction, thrillers, romance, or books that deal with contemporary issues, this one has a little bit for everyone. Definitely my new favourite Malinda Lo book!

// Share your thoughts… Leave a Comment! //

Have you read Adaptation? What did you think of it? If not, is it on your TBR list? Have you read Lo’s other books? Do you know of any other YA books with bisexual main characters? Do you believe in UFOs and aliens?


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{Review} The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell by William Klaber

September 5, 2013 Review 7

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//  BOOK INFO  //

Title: The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell
Author: William Klaber
Publisher: Greenleaf Book Group Press
Release Date: June 18, 2013
Source: NetGalley *received in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 304
Genres: Adult — historical fiction, LGBTQ

One day in 1855 Lucy Lobdell cut her hair, changed clothes, and went off to live her life as a man. By the time it was over, she was notorious. The New York Times thought her worthy of a lengthy obituary that began “Death of a Modern Diana . . . Dressed in Man’s Clothing She Win’s a Girl’s Love.” The obit detailed what the Times knew of Lucy’s life, from her backwoods upbringing to the dance school she ran disguised as a man, “where she won the love of a young lady scholar.” But that was just the start of the trouble; the Times did not know about Lucy’s arrest and trial for the crime of wearing men’s clothes or her jailbreak engineered by her wife, Marie Perry, to whom she had been married by an unsuspecting judge.

Lucy lived at a time when women did not commonly travel unescorted, carry a rifle, sit down in bars, or have romantic liaisons with other women. Lucy did these things in a personal quest—to work and be paid, to wear what she wanted, and to love whomever she cared to. But to gain those freedoms she had to endure public scorn and wrestle with a sexual identity whose vocabulary had yet to be invented. Lucy promised to write a book about it all, and over the decades, people have searched for that account. Author William Klaber searched also until he decided that the finding would have to be by way of echoes and dreams. This book is Lucy’s story, told in her words as heard and recorded by an upstream neighbour.

//  INTERESTED?  //


//  COVER TALK  //

The cover doesn’t leap out at you, but it IS intriguing. If you look closely the dress form has flowers growing out of it, implying it has been abandoned, which is a nice touch and goes along with the story.

//  EXPECTATIONS  //

I wasn’t sure what to expect – I hadn’t heard anything about the book, and I just came across it while browsing on NetGalley. The cover, along with the title, had me interested, and once I read the synopsis I was excited so I requested it.

//  MY THOUGHTS  // 

“I intend to write a book in which I shall give a full account of my adventures whilst I adopted male attire.”
—Lucy Lobdell writing in 1855

At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to Lucy, a young woman in rural Montana, widowed by her abusive husband, and living with her young daughter, Helen and her dysfunctional family. As a woman though, there are very few opportunities for Lucy to earn enough money to provide for her daughter. Fed up, one night Lucy steals her older brother’s clothes and sets out, intending to live and work as Joseph, a man,  in order to build a better life for Helen, whom she leaves behind at her parents.  Lucy (herein referred to as Joseph) realizes that she much prefers this way of life and begins to truly consider herself a man. The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell tells of Joseph’s journey and his attempts to live life on his own terms. While this makes for a hard life as Joseph experiences unkindness, and even violence,  he also meets supporters, friends and female lovers as he moves from place to place. Lucy and Joseph’s story tells of one person’s amazing journey to challenge sexism, paternalism and the patriarchy on the frontier while crafting a path uniquely his own. 

I’ll admit that I almost gave up on this book because up until the 30% mark, it wasn’t really holding my attention. It stars out a bit slow, and it took some getting used to the writing style and POV (written as a memoir). However, I am SO immensely glad I didn’t give up because this is a gem of a book! As I read further, both the story and the style grew on me. The plot spans about one third of Lucy/Joseph’s life, and it took some getting used to jumping ahead years and locations, and learning the back story about what had happened via conversations but overall it worked. I also loved the author’s note with the reasons he wrote the book as a fictionalized memoir! I think this format was perfect in the end, as it refrained from having a narrator pass judgments about the characters.

Speaking of characters, all were very well written, and most importantly, complex. Their voices seemed very authentic and real. There was various sexual orientations represented as well. After I finished the book, I found myself getting exciting to return to the characters, only to remember that the book was over! It was if I had actually known Joseph and longed to speak with him, his friends and his wife again!

The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell also raises many questions about religion, gender, sexuality, and male privilege. While the book is historical fiction, many of the these issues are still part of our current conversations, and it is very interesting seeing both the progress and lack thereof on these issues.

This book certainly surprised me, in the best possible way! I had a bit of bumpy start with it, but then the The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell utterly captivated me, as a reader, a lover of history, and as a feminist. Beautiful writing, engaging characters, and a fascinating story, I’ll definitely be recommending this book for a while to come!

// Share your thoughts… Leave a Comment! //

Does this seem like a book you would read? Have you ever read a fictionalized memoir? Had you heard of Lucy/Joseph Ann Lobdell before?


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{Review} Love Among Pigeons by Abria Mattina

August 23, 2013 Review 0

 

love among pigeons

//  BOOK INFO  //

Title: Love Among Pigeons
Author: Abria Mattina
Publisher: Self-Published
Release Date: August 23, 2013
Source: Author *received in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 147
Genres: NA — contemporary, LGBTQ

In this companion novella to Wake, Frank invites the Kirk family home to Smiths Falls for Thanksgiving weekend. Holidays are always a trial for the family that lost their daughter and sister, but Frank is hopeful that this Thanksgiving will be the exception. He has some happy news to share. If only he wasn’t so reluctant to talk about it.

//  INTERESTED?  //

Love Among Pigeons releases TODAY!

 


//  COVER TALK  //

I love the cover – it is simple but very pretty. Pigeons have significance in the story so the feather is a nice touch. 

//  EXPECTATIONS  //

I didn’t really have any expectations going in, because I made a conscious decision to read this one before I read the first novel, Wake, to see how it faired as a stand-a-lone novella.

//  MY THOUGHTS  // 

Love Among Pigeons tells the story of two Canadian families and groups of friends, coming together to celebrate Thanksgiving in Smith Falls, Ontario. However, the Kirk family has a lot of tension to work through, as they are still grieving the loss of their daughter and sister, Tessa. Frank invites his family to his apartment in hopes of telling them some big personal news. But can he do it? How will they react? Will the Kirk family finally come together or will this Thanksgiving go down in history as a disaster?

This was a fast read, but an entertaining one. I found that it held up pretty well to being read as a stand-a-lone novella. It was difficult to know what events were being referenced to, and getting to know the characters, especially the two main characters, Jem and Willa. I wasn’t a big fan of these two, but that may have been because they had little character development, and I didn’t know them from Wake.  Still, I really liked this novella!

Most of the novella focuses on Frank and his story, along with his best friend and husband, Doug’s. I thought this was a wonderfully done LGBTQ storyline! I loved reading the flashbacks which told the story of how Frank and Doug fell in love and how their relationship progressed.

What I liked best was it was very realistic. The family drama and tension wasn’t melodramatic or annoying, but relatable. I think everyone has had at least one family gathering that has been awkward and they wanted to avoid, am I right?

Oh and this book will make you want it to be fall and to have a Thanksgiving meal ASAP. Willa is in school to become a chef, so she dishes up a mouth-watering meal, complete with PEANUT BUTTER PIE!!! The neat thing is the author has these recipes available on her website, so if you really want to make them for yourself and your family, you can!

While it was a bit difficult to relate to some of the characters, Frank and Doug’s story drew me in, and I became invested in how their story was going to play out. The story was realistic and engaging and had me hankering for Thanksgiving dinner. I’m definitely going to be reading Wake soon so I can learn more about these characters! So if you are looking for a quick, contemporary read be sure to check out Love Among the Pigeons (and find out the meaning behind the cute title!).

 

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{Review} If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan

August 15, 2013 Review 2

Farizan_IfYouCouldBeMine_REV.indd

//  BOOK INFO  //

Title: If You Could Be Mine
Author:  Sara Farizan
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers
Release Date: August 20, 2013
Source: Netgalley *received in exchange for an honest review
Pages: 256
Genres: YA – LGBT, Contemporary, Romance

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

//  INTERESTED?  //


//  COVER TALK  //

I love this cover! It’s beautiful in an understated way, and really does reflect the story of two girls in love that have to be careful due to their country’s laws.

//  EXPECTATIONS  //

When I first heard of this book I was so on board with it! Lesbian relationship between two women of color that is ALSO YA and set in a country other than Canada, US, or the UK?! COUNT ME IN. I automatically followed the author on Twitter, tweeted about it, and then when it went up on NetGalley, hit request ASAP.

//  MY THOUGHTS  // 

If You Could Be Mine is one book that is receiving a lot of buzz lately, due to the book’s diversity. The novel is set in current day Iran, where being homosexual can be a death sentence.  We are introduced to a young teenager, Sahar, who is in love with her best friend, Nasrin. However, Nasrin’s family has just arranged their daughter’s marriage to a well off doctor, unknowingly putting a time limit on the two girl’s relationship. Heartbroken, Sahar is determined to find a way for her to be with Nasrin forever. Through her gay cousin Ali’s attempts to draw her eyes away for Nasrin, she meets others in the LGBT community, including Parvin, a transgendered woman who has transitioned from male to female through state-endorsed sex reassignment surgery. Sahar sees having such surgery as her one chance to finally be with Nasrin legally, this time, as a man, and so she begins her journey.

The thing I enjoyed most about If You Could Be Mine was the setting and learning about Iranian culture. I liked how Sahar introduced us to life in Iran, while questioning some of the customs and how the law has interpreted the Qur’an. This seemed very realistic as we have seen in many of the Arab Spring uprisings that oppressive governments that use religion to rule are now meeting resistance from youth who are becoming more critical of these practices!

However, the setting and diversity of the characters was the only thing that really held my attention, as If You Could Be Mine fell flat for me. There was a lot of potential, but no follow through. I definitely think the story could have used more fine tuning and character development. It just read as if it wasn’t finished!

One of the big issues was that I wasn’t drawn in by Sahar and Nasrin, or their relationship. The two characters seemed younger at times than they were. Nasrin in particular was a bit annoying, and I didn’t feel any chemistry between the two of them. It always felt like Sahar took the relationship more seriously, like Nasrin was just stringing her along. So while I didn’t want anything to happen to these two girls, I wasn’t necessarily cheering for them to them to end up together. I guess my main issue was that 1/2 the book could have been dealt with if Sahar had just TALKED to Nasrin and told her about her plans to have the surgery. She just kept assuming that Nasrin would be fine with it, that she would call off the wedding and that everything would work out in the end!

Fortunately there were some characters that were interesting and engaging, like Ali, Sahar’s gay cousin and all of his antics. I also liked learning about Sahar’s father, and his struggle with depression after her mother died. It was in caring for her father that we come to learn more about Sahar and it felt like the only truly complete storyline that also had character depth.

I question too the explanation of trans bodies and identities. Sahar makes the decision very quickly after meeting Pavrin that she wants to undergo sex reassignment surgery, and while she has to attend meetings with other trans youth she mostly is focused on how quickly she can have the surgery. The actual topic of living as a transgendered person before and after surgery wasn’t explained in a lot of detail. While there was some concern expressed by the trans character, Parvin, about how serious a decision it was to undergo sex reassignment surgery Sahar, for the most part, shrugged it off. Having prior knowledge about these issues, it made sense to me, but I wonder how youth who haven’t been exposed to LGBTQ+ issues will understand it, and what they will take away from this book.

Lastly: the writing. I think, had the writing been really beautiful and lush, it could have saved the book.  However, the writing was very simple, and while there were a few good sentences here and there, overall it wasn’t anything special.

If You Could Be Mine had A LOT of potential: an interesting storyline, numerous diverse characters to work with, and a setting that is fairly unique to YA books. The problem with this book is not the idea, but how it was executed. Empty characters, a rushed plot and lackluster writing did If You Could Be Mine no favours, sadly. While it is great that this book offered up so much diversity, what is the use of celebrating diversity in YA if it isn’t quality work?

 
// Share your thoughts… Leave a Comment! //

Have you read If You Could Be Mine? If so, how did you like it? If not, is it on your TBR list? Did you know about Iran’s laws regarding homosexuality & transgendered people? Any recommendations for LGBT YA that takes place in a country other than US/Canada/UK?


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