Book Review: Like Water

like waterLike Water
by Rebecca Podos
YA LGBT Romance
312 pages
Published 2017

I’m always interested in queer young adult books, and this one especially caught my eye with its mention of “performing mermaids.” Because y’all know I love my mermaid books! So Savannah isn’t a real mermaid, she just plays one at a water park. But it was enough to make me pick up the book, and it’s a good book. Young adult books about discovering your identity are always needed, and this book is about Savannah realizing she’s bisexual.

Much of the angst in this book comes from Savannah not knowing if she has the same disease her father does, and she’s not sure if she wants to know. Altogether, in this book we have chronic illness, hispanic teens, bisexual, lesbian, and genderqueer teens, small-town angst….there’s really a LOT of demographics covered in this book.

I like Savannah, but I don’t like her love interest, Leigh, very much. Leigh does NOT have her shit together, and between drinking and doing drugs, all while underage, she poses a very real threat to Savannah’s well-being.

I’m a little nonplussed by the ending of the book. It leaves a few questions unanswered, but not in a cliff-hanger-y way. It’s more of a possibilities-left-open kind of way. Which makes sense for a “first love” romance. It’s not necessarily a “true love” story. It reminds me of John Green novels in that way.

So – it’s a great book for representation, but don’t expect a tidy, wrapped-up ending. You won’t find that here.

From the cover of Like Water:

In Savannah Espinoza’s small New Mexico hometown, kids either flee after graduation or they’re trapped there forever. Vanni never planned to get stuck – but that was before her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, leaving her and her mother to care for him. Now she doesn’t have much of a plan at all: living at home, working as a performing mermaid at a second-rate water park, distracting herself with one boy after another.

That changes the day she meets Leigh. Disillusioned with small-town life and looking for something greater, Leigh is not a “nice girl.” She is unlike anyone Vanni has met, and a friend when Vanni desperately needs one. Soon enough, Leigh is much more than a friend. But caring about another person threatens the walls Vanni has carefully constructed to protect herself and brings up the big questions she’s hidden from for so long.

With her signature stunning writing, Rebecca Podos, author of The Mystery of Hollow Places, has crafted an unforgettable story of two girls navigating the unknowable waters of identity, millennial anxiety, and first love.

Library Loot Wednesday

Five books this week! Camille Dungy’s Guidebook to Relative Strangers is Book Riot’s next Persist Book Club pick. Redshirts was on Book Riot’s recent Ravenclaw reading list, and while I’m not a Ravenclaw (HUFFLEPUFF FOREVER), it looked fun.

Seafire and Darius the Great is Not Okay finally made their way to me, and An Unnecessary Woman was on some other book list recently – I think it was a list about grumpy old people! (Edit: Found it.)

Of these five, I think I’m most excited by Redshirts and Seafire.

Book Review: Many Love

many loveMany Love: A Memoir of Polyamory and Finding Love(s)
by Sophie Lucido Johnson
Memoir
230 pages
Published June 2018

I always pick up new polyamory books, and this one is excellent. Sophie simply tells the story of her love life, from falling in love with other boys while dating someone as a teen, to consciously deciding to date another couple, as a couple, in her adulthood. She doesn’t pretend it was all roses, though. She hurt people unintentionally when she was younger, and struggled with jealousy in a number of different ways.

I liked that she was so real. She didn’t shy away from talking about her heartbreaks, and the situations she found herself in sound all too likely. I also really liked the illustrations. The cover is a good indication of the style within – almost comic-book like. Rather than going with the story, the illustrations are part OF the story – she asks her boyfriend a question, his answer is in the illustration, and then the story continues in text. There’s a chart of types of jealousy, drawn in the illustration style rather than perfect text boxes. Then you get owls asking each other “Whooooo is your favorite?” It gives the book almost a playful feel.

One thing I really liked is how she talked about friendships and polyamory. In a typical monogamous marriage, (not all!) there are rules about cheating. If you cuddle another person, or spend the night with them, that’s probably cheating, even if it’s platonic. In polyamory, though, there’s a lot more leeway for how relationships can look. Sophie, for a good portion of the book, lives with a couple who are her best friends. She climbs into bed with them for comfort. They have dinner together, and tell each other “I love you.” I really love that she talks about friendships in the context of polyamory; I don’t think that gets discussed often enough. I feel like being polyamorous lets friendships evolve as they will, instead of being constrained by your romantic relationships. If I have a friend who I like to cuddle up on the couch with and watch movies, my husband sees nothing wrong with that.

I plan to buy this book to add to my polyamory shelf. If you’re polyamorous or curious about the relationship style, I highly recommend this book. She also has chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index in the back of the book, so it’s stuffed full of other resources, too.

From the cover of Many Love:

Sophie Lucido Johnson gets a lot of questions when she tells people that she’s polyamorous. Many Love is an intimate look at this often misunderstood practice: its history, its misconceptions, and Sophie’s personal transformation from serial monogamist to proud polyamorist.

After trying for years to emulate her boomer parents’ forty-year-and-still-going-strong marriage, Sophie realized that maybe the love she was looking for was down a road less traveled. In this bold, illustrated memoir, she explores her sexuality, her values, and the versions of love our society accepts and practices. Along the way, she shares what it’s like to play on Tinder side by side with your partner, encounter – and surmount – many types of jealousy, and learn the power of female friendship, along with other amazing things that happened when she stopped looking for “the one.”

In a lot of ways, Many Love is Sophie’s love letter to everyone she has ever cared for. Witty, insightful, and complete with illustrations, this debut provides a memorable glimpse into an unconventional life.

Book Review: Fear

fearFear: Trump in the White House
by Bob Woodward
Current Events/Nonfiction/Investigative Reporting
357 pages
Published September 2018

First we need to address this cover. It’s a great cover, but I hate it. I hate having it in my house, on my coffee table, glaring up at people in the room. It’s creepy. It’s perfect for this book, but I will be very glad to give the book back to the library and have that cover out of my house!

That said. It was interesting comparing this book to Fire and Fury, which I read at the beginning of the year. Woodward is a very respected journalist, and you can tell how much he tries to remain objective and simply report the things that happened. Fire and Fury definitely had a slant to it. Fear doesn’t have a slant, but it still comes off as negative. Which says something about the entire administration when trying to be objective still results in the president shown as a “f*cking moron,” (Tillerson’s words) or a “f*cking liar.” (John Dowd’s words.)

The thing that really struck me about this book was learning how much Trump wanted to pull completely out of South Korea. Even when he was told we could detect a North Korean missile launch in 7 seconds from South Korea, as opposed to 15 MINUTES from Alaska, (out of a 45-minute missile flight!) he still didn’t see that as a good enough reason to stay in South Korea. (You know, treaties and allies aside.) His ignorance and stubbornness is mind-boggling.

It took me three or four days to get through this book, which is much slower than my normal single-day read time. The subject matter is just that weighty, though Woodward’s writing style is fantastic. This is the first Woodward book I’ve actually read, but I want to look up his backlist now, because he’s really good at not putting me to sleep!

One other difference from Fire and Fury – there were things in the book I didn’t know. (And I pay attention to the news.) There wasn’t really anything in Fire and Fury that was surprising to me. Fear did have new information.

It’s a frightening, weighty book, so don’t read it if you’re not prepared for that. But it’s good.

From the cover of Fear:

THE INSIDE STORY ON PRESIDENT TRUMP, AS ONLY BOB WOODWARD CAN TELL IT

With authoritative reporting honed through eight presidencies from Nixon to Obama, author Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies.

Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One and the White House residence.

Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files and documents. Often with day-by-day details, dialogue and documentation, Fear tracks key foreign issues from North Korea, Afghanistan, Iran, the Middle East, NATO, China and Russia. It reports in depth on Trump’s key domestic issues, particularly trade and tariff disputes, immigration, tax legislation, the Paris Climate Accord and the racial violence in Charlottesville in 2017.

Fear presents vivid details of the negotiations between Trump’s attorneys and Robert Mueller, the special counsel in the Russia investigation, laying out for the first time the meeting-by-meeting discussions and strategies. It discloses how senior Trump White House officials joined together to steal draft orders from the president’s Oval Office desk so he would not issue directives that would jeopardize critical intelligence operations.

“It was no less than an administrative coup d’etat,” Woodward writes, “a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world.”

Book Review: Headscarves and Hymens

headscarves and hymensHeadscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs A Sexual Revolution
by Mona Eltahawy
Nonfiction – Women’s Rights/Feminism
240 pages
Published 2015

Headscarves and Hymens was the third book in Book Riot’s Persist: Feminist Book Club, which is what brought it to my attention. We’ve been reading roughly two chapters a week and talking about it via Instagram Live. It’s certainly not my favorite venue to use – for one, I can’t seem to find a setting to let me know when someone goes live on Instagram, so I have to set myself an alarm. (I missed one book club session because I just forgot.) I also can’t seem to watch the videos after they’re over, so I can’t catch up on what I missed. I much prefer the Twitter chat that YA_Pride does. I can go back through those, and still have conversations with other people that read the book (and follow them!) where I can’t do that easily with Persist.

But you’re here to hear about the book, not the club! HH is short, under 250 pages, with seven chapters and an epilogue. Each chapter is basically an essay on a topic, from driving (“Roads Through the Desert”) to veiling (“Black Veil, White Flag”) to purity and Female Genital Mutilation (“The God of Virginity”). Eltahawy is well-researched, mixing anecdotes and statistics to show us both the big picture of what is going on, as well as making it personal and hard-hitting.

I’m glad we read it in small chunks – some of the chapters are harder than others (the chapter on FGM and sexual “purity” was particularly rough). Spacing it out let the information really sink in before moving on to another topic. Additionally, we were reading it at the same time as the Kavanaugh hearings, and that was also….unsettling.

This is a really eye-opening book, but be sure you’re emotionally prepared to read it. It’s probably healthier to set it down and walk away for breaks, rather than to read it straight through.

From the cover of Headscarves and Hymens:

The journalist Mona Eltahawy is no stranger to controversy. Through her articles and actions she has fought for the autonomy, security, and dignity of Muslim women, drawing vocal supporters and detractors. Now, in her first book, Headscarves and Hymens, Eltahawy has prepared a definitive condemnation of the repressive forces – political, cultural, and religious – that reduce millions of women to second-class citizens.

Drawing on her years as a campaigner for and commentator on women’s issues in the Middle East, she explains that since the Arab Spring began in 2010, women in the Arab world have had two revolutions to undertake: one fought alongside men, against oppressive regimes, and another fought against an entire political and economic system that represses women in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Libya, Yemen, and other nations.

Eltahawy has traveled across the Middle East and North Africa, meeting with women and listening to their stories. Her book is a plea for outrage and action on their behalf, confronting a “toxic mix of culture and religion that few seem willing or able to disentangle lest they blaspheme or offend.” A manifesto motivated by hope and fury in equal measure, Headscarves and Hymens is as illuminating as it is incendiary.

Friday 56 – Like Water

like waterThe Friday 56 is hosted by Freda’s Voice. The rules are simple – turn to page 56 in your current read (or 56% in your e-reader) and post a few non-spoilery sentences.

Today’s quote is from Like Water by Rebecca Podos.

In the ringing silence that follows, Leigh turns to me. It seems like she wants to say something more, but I’m already up and shuffling away across the beach. Because I did not switch shifts with Jake for this, I did not cram myself into a car with strangers just to have a staring match with Leigh Clemente. I had another goal in mind, and for a moment I have every intention of trailing after Lucas. Maybe this night can be salvaged.