Monday, April 24, 2017

Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

"But I'm tired of coming out. All I ever do is come out. I try not to change, but I keep changing, in all these tiny ways. I get a girlfriend. I have a beer. And every freaking time, I have to reintroduce myself to the universe all over again..."

All it takes is one little mistake. Simon forgot to log out of his gmail at the school library. This wasn't just some ordinary email account, it was the secret account that Simon uses to talk with Blue. Simon and Blue both go to the same school, they don't know each others' real identities, and they are both secretly gay.

Class clown Martin reads the emails and uses them to blackmail Simon. He wants Simon to help him get together with Simon's friend, new girl Abby. Simon isn't ready to come out, and he definitely doesn't want to expose Blue, so he makes a few lackluster attempts to help Martin. Abby isn't very receptive to Martin and she eventually starts to date mutual friend Nick. Their other friend, Leah, has secretly liked Nick for a long time, so it's very complicated.

Simon vs. the Homo-Sapiens Agenda was such a good story. Simon is funny and awesome, and I liked reading his point of view. It feels like the teenagers are authentic, but not as scary as real teens. Becky Albertalli's book was so fantastic that I absolutely had to read her follow-up, The Upside of Unrequited, as soon as possible. Actually, that's my next review.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Makedown by Gitty Daneshvari

I first encountered this book at my job at the bookstore. It had a fun cover! It sounded sort of cute and fun!!! Years later, I spotted a copy for sale at the Dollar Tree ("Where everything's a dollar, but people are priceless!") and grabbed it. It was a decision I would come to regret.

The Makedown is completely vile. It's a book that I threw across the room while reading, demoted to a "bathroom book," and still couldn't bring myself to finish it. What I wonder is if it's actually meant to be a straightforward story or if it's some sort of parable or parody or something...?

It's the story of a girl named Anna. She starts the book fat and ugly. Like all fat girls (Insert sarcastic eyeroll), she binges constantly. After her parents divorce, she moves away to New York where she gets a job with a caterer. Her boss, who she secretly refers to as "MFG," or My Fairy Godmother, takes a special interest in her, forces her to walk long distances to lose weight. She also gets the restaurants in her neighborhood to stop selling her food. Eventually, Anna becomes skinny and gets a makeover.

Everything is far from perfect, however. She keeps a "Dear Fatty" journal where she writes horrible letters to herself. MFG should have gotten Anna some counseling. Eventually, she meets an extremely attractive man who is interested in her...but he's maybe a little too attractive? That's when she starts the makeunder, and basically ruins the poor guy's life.

Ben seemed perfectly nice and is into her, but she is riddled with insecurity. She lies to him constantly. He's a vegetarian and she claims to be one as well. (She's not.) She lies to cover up her dysfunctional family, the divorced parents and weirdo brother who still lives at home. Anna ruins him, getting him addicted to junk food (Though a major point is how she switches his granola bars with Heath bars, which...granola bars aren't great for ya anyways), taking away his motivation, and basically making him so unattractive that even she doesn't want him. Then she tries to change him back but can't and it's all. The. Worst.

Usually I don't read bad books. I like to like things, but I said, this book was gross. The characters were awful, especially Anna. As a fat girl myself, I was offended. Still, I have no doubt that this book would also disgust you no matter your size or shape. So, my advice is that you don't read it, a lot, right now and forever.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

“Do you believe in love at first sight?"

He made himself look at her face, at her wide-open eyes and earnest forehead. At her unbearably sweet mouth.

"I don't know," he said. "Do you believe in love before that?”

Attachments was Rainbow Rowell's first book and the last book of hers that I haven't read. Thankfully, I received a copy through Cannonball Read Secret Santa three (?) years ago. Recently I decided to dust it off and give it a go after I killed yet another ereader*.

The story is set in a newspaper office. Lincoln is our main character. He spent a long time in college getting a degree in computers. Now he has graduated and works nights in the IT department. His main task is to read emails that get caught in the filters. Lincoln doesn't like his job, except when he gets to read the emails between Jennifer and Beth. They unashamedly banter with each other through their work emails, and Lincoln keeps reading when they get caught in the filter. For some reason, he doesn't send them a warning like he should. After a while, he starts to feel like he knows them. Soon he finds himself falling in love with Beth.

Of course, it's a complicated situation because he hasn't actually met Beth. He doesn't even know what she looks like. Also, she has a cool rock guitar-playing boyfriend. Finally, there's the tiny matter of how he invaded her and her best friend's privacy. That one is tricky. It gets even cuter/more awkward when Beth starts mentioning Lincoln in her emails, referring to him as "my cute guy."

Overall, Attachments was a good read. I liked all the characters, and the structure of the book was interesting. Beth and Jennifer mostly appear in email form between chapters from Lincoln's perspective. Overall I think Rowell's YA titles are better, but she is an amazing writer and I love all her books. Thank you to my Secret Santa and sorry it took me so long to appreciate your gift.

*Technically I didn't kill my first ereader. It has a crack in the bottom corner that 1. I can't explain but 2. makes reading on it a pain in the arse. The second died after I dropped it from my locker at the bookstore. The third, and latest, met an untimely end after I dropped it in the parking lot at work. Somehow this drop caused the little chargey thing to break off, and the thing was already having enough trouble charging as is. I'm considering a new one, but the expense is a bit much and I'm nervous because they don't seem to hold up very well and I seem to be a klutz.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

"Both love and hate are mirror versions of the same game- and you have to win. Why? Your heart and your ego. Trust me, I should know..."

Romance isn't my first choice of book genres, but I saw how much my fellow Cannonballers liked this book and decided it was worth a try. I was pleasantly surprised to enjoy the book. There were a lot more adult sexy times than I usually encounter in my mostly YA reading, but I sort of enjoyed reading those as well.

The Hating Game is set in a publishing house that is the product of a merger between two companies. As a result, there are two CEOs who both have separate executive assistants. Lucy and Joshua share an office and a mutual loathing for each other. They face off in psychological warfare every day. Lucy calls them games, such as the HR Game, the Staring Game. We only see everything from her point of view, but Lucy truly believes that Joshua hates her.

Their feud comes to a climax when they are both in consideration for a promotion. It's very likely that one of them will get it, and whoever doesn't get the job will answer to the one who does. Lucy plans to quit rather than work under Joshua, and they make an agreement that whoever doesn't get the job will quit.

In the meantime, Lucy starts to date a coworker named Danny. Joshua is hostile about the relationship, even implying that she is making up dates. We all know that it's because Joshua has the hots for Lucy. She is clueless until he kisses her in the elevator at work. Lucy's feelings are all mixed up. Lucy and Joshua obviously have chemistry between them, but there is so much history with their games and their work relationship.

After the kiss, Lucy finds herself drawn to Joshua. She thinks it's just physical. They kiss and get really steamy, but he refuses to take it all the way. Joshua likes the anticipation. Soon, the former enemies start to relate to each other. Joshua takes care of her when she is sick. Lucy agrees to attend his brother's wedding. It's all actually really nice and made me sort of schmoopy and wistful.

Overall, I enjoyed The Hating Game a lot. Cannonballers know their books. My biggest, and pretty much only, issue was how Lucy tended to blow things out of proportion. I wish that she would talk things out instead of jumping to the worst conclusions (The Wedding Conflict springs to mind, not to be too spoilery). I might call out the "they hate each other but secretly love each other deep down" trope, but honestly I love that one anyways. It's a classic for a reason. I ended up liking this book so much that I'm actually excited to read Thorne's new book when it comes out in July. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Unbelieveable Gwenpool Volume 1: Believe It by Christopher Hastings, Danilo Beyruth, and Gurihiru

I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this comic. Gwenpool seemed like an alternate version of Deadpool, obviously gender-swapped and possibly originally Gwen Stacey, like Spider-Gwen? The cutesy cover really drew me in, so I decided to give it a chance.

It's actually the story of a girl named Gwen Poole (So, not Gwen Stacey...except maybe? I don't think she is, but I really don't know...according to Wikipedia, she is Gwen Stacey. Actually, it's based on a drawing of Gwen Stacey dressed as a version of Deadpool, and fans liked it so much that they created this series). She is from an alternate universe that is basically the real world. Gwen has an encyclopedic knowledge of comic books and the powers of being meta and sort of a scary weapons- and bomb-wielding psychopath.

Gwenpool spends the first part of the book flipping between fighting crime and committing crime as a mercenary. Later, she ends up in MODOK's gang and ends up (kind of) a villain. Another member sees the obvious, that Gwen has no powers and can barely shoot a gun. After a brief encounter with Doctor Strange, she gets identification to open a bank account in her new universe. Unfortunately, MODOK discovers that she doesn't have powers, and that's when the real fun starts...and the book ends.

At first, Gwen seemed really off-putting. She's a little bit of a psychopath. I don't know when it happened, but eventually I started to like her. She's still psycho, but she has some heart and conscience, much like the other Pool who shares her name. I snickered at the meta stuff about Gwen's costume.
Though, honestly, they could just give her pants if they're going to mention it. Her costume doesn't bother me too much, though, and I do like the pink.

Bonus: The Unbelievable Gwenpool 2016 Holiday Special: Merry Mix-Up
I bought it, so I may as well review it! Unfortunately, I'm not sure where this issue fits in the timeline, but onward I go. This issue sees Gwen and the (former) MODOK gang getting ready for Christmas. In this universe, however, Christmas is not the arrival of Santa and his reindeer. No, my friend, presents are delivered by Galactus and his Silver Surfers. There's also a tradition known as Pantsgiving, where you buy your loved ones the gift of hot pants, as seen here:
Gwen realizes that the holidays are mixed up, and it's up to her to fix them by heading to the source of the problem: the North Pole! The issue also features issues starring Miles Morales (the new Spiderman), the Punisher, and Deadpool. I particularly liked the Deadpool story because it featured my favorite character, Squirrel Girl.

In conclusion, I thought that Gwenpool was a fun new character. She's not on my regular rotation, but I'd like to read the second volume in the series once it comes out. 

Friday, December 30, 2016

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

"Stuff and nonsense," he whispered, the words cracking. "Nonsense and stuff and much of a muchness and nonsense all over again. We are all mad here, don't you know?"

We all know the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. She has a temper and dislikes white roses. Her husband is tiny and ineffective. Her favorite phrase is, "Off with their heads!"

Heartless gives us a look at her origin story. The Queen was once a young girl named Catherine. She is a Lady, daughter of the Marquess and Marchioness of Rock Turtle Cove. Her passion in life is baking, and she dreams of opening a bakery with her maid Mary Ann.

Catherine's parents don't approve of her baking. They think it isn't a fitting hobby for a Lady, but it catches the King's attention. He is her biggest fan, and everyone believes that he will propose to Catherine any day. Her parents pressure her into accepting the proposal, but it isn't what she wants. She doesn't love the King, but her mother threatens to fire Mary Ann if she doesn't agree to marry him.

Everything becomes complicated when the King hires a new jester. His name is Jest, and Catherine falls hard for him. They have a moment together in the palace gardens, then Jest invites her out to Hatta's mad tea party. Catherine performs a story for them, impressing them with her rose macarons. The party is broken up by an attack from the jabberwocky, a horrible monster.

After that perfect night, Catherine plans to cut Jest out of her life completely. It isn't proper for a young lady to love a jester, especially not a young lady who is being courted by the King. Yet she can't stop thinking about the handsome young man with the golden eyes. Is it possible for her to get her happily ever after? Honestly, we already know the answer, but it's always good to see how we get there.

I loved Marissa Meyer's Lunar Chronicles. Therefore, I was excited to read her new book. Heartless  doesn't have the extra twist that the other books did, by which I mean that it is basically a straightforward reimagining. It's still really great. Catherine was a great character, and I really sympathized with the choices she faced (To an extent...she kind of sucked at the end. I'd say more, but there's some major spoilers involved). It's interesting to read a standalone (I believe?) novel in a new series by Ms. Meyer, and I look forward to seeing what she writes next.

I received my copy of Heartless from Edelweiss, courtesy of Feiwel & Friends. It's available for purchase now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Unmentionable by Therese Oneill

"Remember, the center of a woman is her uterus. Her crazy, crazy uterus..."

The fabulous Jenny Lawson, AKA The Bloggess, recommended Unmentionable. It sounded really interesting and funny, and I do occasionally read books that aren't kept in the YA section, so I asked my library to add it to their collection. They did, because I have some pull there. Not to brag or anything, but I'm a card-carrying member. (Banter is fun, and I may have been watching too much Gilmore Girls this weekend, because it makes me all babbley.)

Unmentionable promises to tell the dirty secrets behind the scenes of Victorian life. Movies and novels make it seem like a carefree jaunt full of gentlemen callers, dances, feasts, and flattering empire-waisted dresses. The reality was somewhat of a shock, full of crotchless undergarments, chamber pots, and poop in the streets.

Oneill uses excerpts from medical journals and instructional books to show how a well-off Victorian woman lived. These men, women, and men pretending to be women mused upon all aspects of daily life. There was advice on grooming, romance, even that special lady time of the month. It's funny, interesting, and a little bit scary at times. The author's summaries, captions, and comments were always hilarious.

It really does show how far life has progressed. The majority of medical advice back then was that having a uterus was evil, and the only thing to be done for it was to fill it with babies made in wedlock. It was fun to read about grooming and dressing, and the fun of flirtation. The chapter on menstruation was just as awkward as the actual subject, and mostly focused on those evil uteri again. Because if you have difficult periods, you must be an evil sinner. Obviously. The least fun of the chapters was on hysteria, that crazy women disease that comes with having that old uterus (again). Women were locked away in asylums. They had to undergo barbaric treatments and shock therapy, and the symptoms of "hysteria" were actually quite broad and could cover any number of actual maladies.

It can be fun to imagine living in another time, maybe trading in the complications of modern life for a simpler time. Whenever I think of that, though, I remember the freedom that comes from living in modern time that wouldn't have been available to me then. I like being able to vote and go places without a chaperone. I want to wear pants and not be thrown in an asylum! There are a million things to feel lucky for that wouldn't have been possible then. However, I know that there is still a long, long way left to go. It's going to be difficult with our future president, a decidedly anti-feminist political party in control, and a culture that still doesn't seem to understand concepts such as no means no. Maybe there is a little light at the end of the tunnel in the very fact that women went through so much and still persevered? That we have come so far in the time since then? I hope so, and I definitely hope that years from now, we will also be able to look back and marvel at how far we have come. Hopefully, it won't be very many years.

Sorry for so much digression! I highly recommend Unmentionable. It's great as a historical book, and even better as a humor book.