Book Review: Period

period twelve voices tell the bloody truthPeriod: Twelve Voices Tell The Bloody Truth
Edited by Kate Farrell
Nonfiction
208 pages
Published May 2018

Period consists of twelve essays about periods. The authors are wonderfully diverse, covering intersex, disabled, POC, and trans individuals. There are stories about fibroids, about wishing to have periods, wishing not to have periods, pads vs tampons, having periods at work, dealing with a period while being homeless, running a marathon while menstruating – just an amazing variety of experiences with periods. Some of the essays talk about how menstruation is treated in pop culture, from the famous “blue liquid” of pad commercials to the sitcom trope of “angry woman is irrational because she’s on her period.”

I think this is a book that every parent of a young daughter should read. I say that because it’s a little advanced, so perhaps not a book to hand to every pre-pubescent girl, but there’s a lot in it about what we teach our girls about their periods. Any person who has ever wondered if their period is normal should also read this book. There is SO. MUCH. VARIETY. when it comes to menstruation. But while there is plenty of variety that is normal, there is some that isn’t. The essay about the fibroids is an example of this. That level of bleeding is NOT normal, and it’s dangerous to tell people that it is. But because we don’t TALK about periods, people unfortunately assume things are normal that aren’t.

The book also makes me want to put together some hygiene kits for the homeless women I see in Baltimore. I’d never really thought about how difficult it is to deal with your period while homeless. Some pads/tampons, some hand sanitizer, and some cleaning wipes in a ziploc would go a long way towards making their lives a lot easier. The essay about having periods while homeless includes some ideas for kits to give out.

Overall, this is a very educating (and entertaining!) read. For those with periods AND those without. Menstruation should stop being a shameful topic. It’s a health issue.

From the cover of Period: Twelve Voices Tell The Bloody Truth:

Periods enter the spotlight, raising a diverse group of voices on a topic long shrouded in shame and secrecy.

In this collection, writers of various ages and across racial, cultural, and gender identities share stories about the period. Each of our twelve authors brings an individual perspective and sensibility. They write about homeless periods, nonexistent periods, male periods, political periods, and more. Told with warmth, humor, and purpose, these essays celebrate all kinds of period experiences. 

Periods are a fact of life. It’s time to talk about them. 

Book Review: Always Never Yours

always never yoursAlways Never Yours
by Emily Wibberley and Austin Siegemund-Broka
Young Adult Romance
336 pages
Published May 2018

This is the fifth book from my summer TBR – I’m slowly working through them! I mused on the TBR list that this might remind me of high school, and so it did. Megan is much bolder than I ever was, and dated a lot more, but her underlying feelings of being passed over for other girls – oh, I felt those. I wasn’t very socially adept in high school, unlike Megan.

The premise of the story is that every guy Megan dates falls madly in love with the girl he dates after Megan. This has happened enough that she’s come to expect it, so when her last boyfriend broke up with her to date her best friend, she wasn’t even very upset with them. She understood. That’s what her boyfriends DO. Which means she approaches relationships as temporary, and doesn’t bother to fight for them when they end.

The book is really about learning what’s worth fighting for. A family that seems to be moving on without her? A role in a play that her understudy fills better than she does? A boy who will go on to find his true love after her? A best friend who stole her boyfriend? Megan struggles with feeling imminently replaceable and misunderstood, and her vulnerability grabbed my heartstrings and yanked. I wasn’t expecting to, but I LOVED this book.

Megan’s worries are so very real, and her friends are such quintessential high schoolers. Every look, every word, every relationship has so much more intense meaning at that age because EVERYTHING is so important and felt so deeply. I loved how supportive Megan is of her friends, even if she doesn’t always realize that she comes across a little strong. I liked the side plot of Megan’s gay friend Anthony, and the closeted boy he has a crush on.

As a Shakespeare lover, I enjoyed that each chapter started with a line from Romeo and Juliet, the play that Megan’s school Drama department is performing her senior year. I also enjoyed seeing the comparisons between Megan and Rosaline, and characters in the book saying how interesting Rosaline is as a character, even though we don’t actually see her in the play! It reminded me of Bright Smoke, Cold Fire, which is a VERY different book, but another one that delves further into the character of Rosaline. And now I’m wondering if there are any other books that do the same….

I loved this book. It made me cry but then laugh through my sniffles. Books that can do that are special things.

From the cover of Always Never Yours:

Shouldn’t a girl get to star in her own love story?

Seventeen-year-old Megan Harper is about due for her next sweeping romance. It’s inevitable – each of her relationships starts with the perfect guy and ends with him falling in love . . . with someone else. But instead of feeling sorry for herself, Megan focuses on pursuing her next fling, directing theater, and fulfilling her dream college’s acting requirement in the smallest role possible.

So when she’s cast as Juliet (yes, that Juliet) in her high school’s production, it’s a complete nightmare. Megan’s not an actress, and she’s used to being upstaged – both in and out of the theater. In fact, with her mom off in Texas and her dad remarried and on to baby #2 with his new wife, Megan worries that, just like her exes, her family is moving on without her.

Then she meets Owen Okita, an aspiring playwright inspired by Rosaline from Shakespeare’s R+J. A character who, like Megan, knows a thing or two about short-lived relationships. Megan agrees to help Owen with his play in exchange for help catching the eye of a sexy stagehand/potential new boyfriend. Yet Megan finds herself growing closer to Owen, and wonders if he could be the Romeo she never expected.

In their fresh and funny debut, Emily Wibberley and Austine Siegemund-Broka break down the high school drama to find there’s always room for familial love, romantic love, and – most importantly – self-love.

Book Review: Goodbye, Paris

goodbye parisGoodbye, Paris
by Anstey Harris
Contemporary Fiction
277 pages
Published August 7, 2018

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m not a big fan of Contemporary Fiction. This, however, blew me away. Goodbye, Paris, is one of August’s Books of the Month, and as usual, it is outstanding. I don’t know how they consistently pick amazing books, but month after month they bring a bit of magic.

I started this book thinking “oh, she’s a musician, I can get into that,” but I didn’t know how much the author was going to explore that facet of her life. But right away, on page 14, our main character did something that made me gasp aloud and stop and actually write in my book. Which is a thing I don’t do. Grace plays cello the way I play piano. She’s far more skilled than I am, but – well just read:

My knees poke out, bony and white, cushioning the pointed lower bouts of the cello, and the scroll rests, where it belongs, against my ear. The cello takes up its rightful place and I become nothing more than a mechanical part of it.

This is what I have always done, how I have always found myself when I’ve been lost. When I first went to music college, eighteen years old and paralyzingly shy, when ringing my parents from the pay phone in the corridor just made me miss them even more, I would feel the strength in the neck of my cello, flatten the prints of my fingers into the strings, and forget.

I play and play; through thirst, past hunger, making tiredness just a dent in my soul. I play beyond David’s marriage, his holiday, even how frightened I was when he disappeared below the platform.

I play on until the world is flat again and the spaces between my heartbeats are as even as the rhythm on the stave in front of me.

This is how and why I play piano! To see it so gorgeously described on the page was breathtaking. I am not a concert-level pianist by any means, but I’m decent, and playing piano brings me back to myself. When I’m angry or frustrated or hurt or simply feeling down, the music centers me and makes me focus until everything else falls away. From this point on, I was enthralled with this book and with Grace.

Grace’s partner, however, I was not so enthralled with. Grace and David have been together for eight years when the book opens. David has been married for all of those years, which Grace knew the night they met. (Though after they fell in love – it was one of those lightning-bolt-from-above things) He had two children with his wife, though, and a third on the way, and because of the crappy way he grew up, he was absolutely unwilling to divorce and mess up his children’s lives. Which, okay. Noble. (Though honestly, most children know when their parents are unhappy and wish they’d just divorce already, as Nadia, one of Grace’s friends, illustrates.) He and his wife both know their marriage is only for the children at this point, and are totally okay with relationships outside the marriage. Grace, however, is unaware of this arrangement, and THAT’S where my irritation at David comes in.

I don’t talk about it much on this blog, (though I have mentioned it) but my husband and I are polyamorous. He’s had another partner for almost five years now, plus other occasional dalliances. But everyone knows this. His other partner and occasional flirtations all know about each other and about me. David, on the other hand – his wife appears to know about everything, but Grace only knows about his wife. We’re never told what his other girlfriends know about. This isn’t ethical non-monogamy. He lies to everyone about his intentions and relationships. I think he’s probably incapable of monogamy – some people are – but he needs to be truthful about it. There are ways to make that work without ruining peoples’ lives and breaking hearts!

So David is not a character I like.

Mr. Williams and Nadia, however, are amazing. So besides playing the cello, Grace also makes cellos. And violins, and double-basses. Nadia is her shopgirl, and Mr. Williams is an old man who brings her a violin to repair. These three become such an incredible little trio! Nadia and Mr. Williams are the ones who put Grace back together when her life gets turned upside down, and are saved themselves in turn. Nadia is a little prickly, but I think it was her way of protecting herself. Mr. Williams is too old for games – at eighty-six, he doesn’t fool around anymore.

I loved this book. Book of the Month has once more made an outstanding pick. The characters and emotions are beautiful and heart-rending and magical. I think this is one of my favorites of the year!

From the cover of Goodbye, Paris:

Will Grace Atherton fall out of love . . . and into life?

From the simple melody of running her violin shop to the full-blown orchestra of her romantic interludes in Paris with David, her devoted partner of eight years, Grace Atherton has always set her life to music.

Her world revolves entirely around David, for Grace’s own secrets have kept everyone else at bay. Until suddenly and shockingly one act tips Grace’s life upside down, and the music seems to stop.

It takes a vivacious old man and a straight-talking teenager to kick-start a new song for Grace. In the process, she learns that she is not as alone in the world as she had once thought, that no mistake is insurmountable, and that the quiet moments in life can be something to shout about . . . 

For fans of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine and Jojo Moyes, Goodbye, Paris is the story of a woman who has her heart broken but then puts it back together again in the most uplifting and exquisite way.

Book Review: The Summer of Jordi Perez

summer of jordi perez best burger los angelesThe Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)
by Amy Spalding
Young Adult GLBT Romance
274 pages
Published April 2018

This was a great little read. It only took me a couple of hours to read, and I identified with the main character SO HARD. Abby is also a plus size blogger, and while she blogs about fashion instead of books, and her hair is pink instead of purple, a lot of her insecurities about the way people see her (both online and off) are things I share. I even share her trepidation about learning to drive!

It’s a clean romance; no one ever does more than make out. The book focuses far more on friendships than it does on sexual matters. The friendship between Abby and her female friends, between Abby and Jax, and between Abby and her girlfriend. I like that Abby had supportive female friends who didn’t pull the “So are you attracted to me? You’re not?! But why not?!” that so many people try to pull on their queer friends. I also loved how the author flipped the trope of “gay best friend” on its head, and gave us Jax, the straight boy/close friend.

The book is apparently pretty indicative of Amy Spalding’s work, so I might have to look into more of her books. This was an absolute delight to read!

And I have to say how much I love this cover! From the stripey rainbow title font to the rainbow back cover, it’s just gorgeous and summery and positive.

From the cover of The Summer of Jordi Perez:

A summer of first love, fashion, friendship, and cheeseburgers

Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby’s been happy to focus on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a great internship at her favorite boutique, she’s thrilled to take the first step toward her dream career. Then she falls for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Hard. And now she’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win the coveted paid job at the end of the internship.

But really, nothing this summer is going as planned. She also unwittingly  becomes friends with Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro-type who wants her help finding the best burger in Los Angeles, and she’s struggling to prove to her mother – the city’s celebrity health nut – that she’s perfectly content with who she is.

Just as Abby starts to feel like she’s no longer the sidekick in her own life, Jordi’s photography surprisingly puts her in the spotlight. Instead of feeling like she’s landed a starring role, Abby feels betrayed. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image others have of her?

Book Review: Red Clocks

red clocks dystopiaRed Clocks
by Leni Zumas
Feminist Dystopia
350 pages
Published January 2018

Red Clocks first caught my attention because it’s set in a small fishing town in Oregon, my home state. After that, learning that it’s a dystopia where abortion and in vitro fertilization have both been banned outright meant I HAD to read it. Of course, I got it from the library some weeks ago and had so many other books to read that I didn’t get to it until the day it was due back to the library! Luckily, I read fast!

I think the cover description oversells the book a little. I wouldn’t call Gin’s trial “frenzied” nor the drama exactly “riveting” but it did keep my attention throughout the book. I really enjoyed the relationships between the characters, and the point that none of them really know what is going on in each other’s personal lives. One moment I particularly liked is slightly spoilery, but I loved how Ro was able to put her personal feelings aside to help Mattie, her student. That was really, really hard for her, but she recognized how much damage it would do to Mattie to not help her.

I think I found Gin the most interesting – given all the reading I’ve been doing lately about autism, her entire personality screams autism to me, but she was never labeled as autistic. So I’m marking her as a possibly autistic character. (I’d love if any of my autistic readers could weigh in on that, if you’ve read the book!) Between preferring to live in the woods with animals and NOT around people, specifically, and the way she reacts to the textures and smells in the jail when she’s arrested (shoving the bleach-scented blankets as far away in the cell as possible, and refusing to eat the food), and how she stumbles over her answers in the courtroom when she’s interrogated – it seems likely.

My only actual complaint about this book had nothing to do with the writing or plot! But it refers to the ghost pepper as “the hottest pepper known to man” which the Carolina Reaper growing in my backyard would have an issue with!

Other than that very minor quibble, I thought this dystopia was pretty good. I’m always interested in Reproductive Rights-related dystopias. This isn’t as good as The Handmaid’s Tale, but it’s MILES better than Future Home of the Living God. It’s good at showing the lengths women will go to, to ensure their own reproductive freedom. Outlawing abortion doesn’t eliminate abortion. It just makes it less safe.

From the cover of Red Clocks:

In this ferociously imaginative novel, abortion is once again illegal in America, in vitro fertilization is banned, and the Personhood Amendment grants rights of life, liberty, and property to every embryo. In a small Oregon fishing town, five very different women navigate these new barriers alongside age-old questions surrounding motherhood, identity, and freedom. 

Ro, a single high school teacher, is trying to have a baby on her own while also writing a biography of Eivor, a little-known nineteenth-century female polar explorer. Susan is a frustrated mother of two, trapped in a crumbling marriage. Mattie is the adopted daughter of doting parents and one of Ro’s best students, who finds herself pregnant with nowhere to turn. And Gin is the gifted forest-dwelling herbalist, or “mender,” who brings all their fates together when she’s arrested and put on trial in a frenzied modern-day witch hunt. 

Red Clocks is at once a riveting drama whose mysteries unfold with magnetic energy, and a shattering novel of ideas. In the vein of Margaret Atwood and Eileen Myles, Leni Zumas fearlessly explores the contours of female experience, evoking The Handmaid’s Tale for a new millennium. This is a story of resilience, transformation, and hope in tumultuous – even frightening – times. 

Book Review: Furyborn

FurybornFuryborn
by Claire Legrand
Fantasy
516 pages
Published May 2018

I’d seen several glowing reviews of this book, but I was always put off by descriptions of events that happened millennia apart from each other “intersecting” and affecting each other. Like, no. The past can affect the future, but the future can’t change the past. That appears, however, to just be a problem in the synopsis of the book and not the book itself. At least in this, the opening volume of the trilogy, the future does not change the past. The book alternates between the two women, Rielle in the past and Eliana in the future. Each chapter flips back and forth. I was much more intrigued by Rielle’s chapters, but that could be because there was a lot more magic in Rielle’s time.

The magic system is really interesting! I love that through Rielle’s trials we learn so much about the magic system, each school and guiding saint and prayers. It’s really fleshed out and I enjoyed that.

The “shocking connections” aren’t shocking, they’re predictable. But the book was no less fantastic for it. I really think the synopsis is where the problems lie. The first couple chapters pretty much reveal all the surprises the description hints at, and the book details how we got to that point. (Mostly, anyway!) It was great, don’t get me wrong, but the description of the book feels a little misleading.

The GLBT content in the book is only about two sentences, but it was a surprise and made me grin.

I really enjoyed this book. I’m looking forward to the rest of the trilogy to discover the rest of Rielle’s story and what Eliana is going to do about it.

From the cover of Furyborn:

When assassins ambush her best friend, Rielle Dardenne risks everything to save him, exposing herself as one of a pair of prophesied queens: a queen of light, and a queen of blood. To prove she is the Sun Queen, Rielle must endure seven elemental magic trials. If she fails, she will be executed…unless the trials kill her first.

One thousand years later, the legend of Queen Rielle is a fairy tale to Eliana Ferracora. A bounty hunter for the Undying Empire, Eliana believes herself untouchable―until her mother vanishes. To find her, Eliana joins a rebel captain and discovers that the evil at the empire’s heart is more terrible than she ever imagined.

As Rielle and Eliana fight in a cosmic war that spans millennia, their stories intersect, and the shocking connections between them ultimately determine the fate of their world―and of each other.