I read quite a few books this month!
Hello and welcome to my October books wrap up. This month, I read 12 books and it was a good reading month! Let’s just get into it.
The Hammer of Thor and The Ship of the Dead. These were my first two books of the month, and I read them back to back. I’ll just talk about them together. They’re the second and third books of the Magnus Chase series, so I can’t say too much. Obviously, the first has something to do with Thor’s hammer! And if you know anything about Norse mythology, the ship of the dead is gross. (It’s made from dead men’s fingernails and toenails.) I enjoyed both as much as the first book, and Thor introduces a genderfluid character, Alex. I thought it was well-done in terms of how it was handled. Alex would inform people when their pronouns changed, and everyone else just took it in stride. Though it did bother me slightly that Magnus was written to kind of know what gender Alex was that day. At the beginning, when Alex said that today it’s he/him pronouns, in Magnus’ mind, he said something like: “now that Alex had said that, it was obvious that he was a dude, no question about it.” And flip that at other times when Alex uses she/her pronouns. Then later on, when Magnus is talking with Alex, he unconsciously changes the pronouns he uses while talking. Alex looks at him and says how did you know that my gender just shifted? And it’s all *shrug* from Magnus. I suppose you could say that it comes from him being a son of Frey, who’s the god of summer, fertility, and health, but that’s kind of… Off to me? I don’t know, I’m curious what genderfluid people think of this. Overall, this was great. I really like this series because it adds some more diversity in the characters. It touches on things like family, both chosen and birth, how birth families can be great or absolutely horrible to their children. There’s a lot happening for what would be considered a middle grade series. Would recommend.
All the Light We Cannot See. Set in France and Germany, this story follows two children as they grow up during World War II. Marie-Laure lives in Paris, and her dad works at the Museum of Natural History. Nazis occupy Paris when she’s twelve, so her father and she flee to Saint-Malo, where her great-uncle lives. Her father has made an incredibly detailed model of Paris, and makes a new one of Saint-Malo for her because she’s blind, and uses the model to learn how to navigate the city. Werner Pfennig is a German orphan boy who grows up in a mining town with his sister. They discover a radio, and Werner figures out how to make it work. He and his sister get news and are enchanted by stories of places far, far away. Werner quickly learns how to build and fix radios, and is drafted into the German army. Marie-Laure and Werner’s lives intersect later on in this story about people who try to do good, despite their circumstances. When I first started this, I almost gave up because the beginning is a slow burn, and there are time jumps in this that I wasn’t expecting. However, it gets better further in, and once I knew there were time jumps, the reading got easier. If you like historical fiction, this would be a good read.
The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend. Coming from Sweden, Sara arrives in Broken Wheel to meet her pen pal friend, Amy. But when she arrives, she finds out that Amy’s funeral just finished. In complete shock, she’s told by the townspeople she’s welcome to stay and that they’ll take care of her. They don’t understand her need for books, but they put up with it since she was Amy’s friend. Now that Sara is stuck in a dying farm town for the next two months, she decides to open a bookstore in honor of Amy and is determined that the town will learn to love reading. Of course, it isn’t a small town without drama! Some of the choices Sara makes causes some secrets to be dragged into the open and change the little town for better or worse. This was a cute, witty book that has new friendships, blossoming romance, and of course many stories. This reminds me a bit of The Little Shop of Happy Ever After, and I say if you love stories about books and small towns, this is for you.
The House of Impossible Beauties. YES. JUST YES. Okay I’m getting ahead of myself. Set in 1980s New York City, the Harlem ball scene is quickly growing. Seventeen-year-old Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and she wants to create a family for those without, in part due to her traumatic past. She meets Hector, who has dreams of becoming a professional dancer, and falls in love with him. They decide to form the first-ever all-Latino house in the ball circuit, House Xtravaganza. There’s so much more I could say about this book, but I don’t feel like I can do it justice. However, Adriana from perpetualpages has a fantastic 5 Reasons to Read video for this and I live for it. Go watch it, linked here!
Wild Beauty. Another fantastic book! This is a magical realism Latina story. For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended to La Pradera, lush gardens that cover a huge area and draw visitors from all over the world. All the women have overwhelming magic that comes out of them as flowers and plants, so La Pradera is the safest place for them to exist. Also, if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish, taken by La Pradera. After generations and generations of fear and disappearances, suddenly there’s a boy among their flowers, surrendered by the earth. This story deals with family, love, loss, and secrets buried long, long ago. I loved this, the writing is beautiful. Also, all of the women in this family are basically bi, and I am here for it.
The Rest of Us Just Live Here. “Sometimes you have to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.” That’s the sub-title on the copy I read. This is basically about those background kids in basically every middle grade/YA novel, the ones who have to deal with the fallout from whatever the “chosen ones” have done, the ones who are just trying to live their lives and graduate in peace. The characters are very diverse – POC, queer, eating disorders, anxiety, OCD, distant parents, unrequited love. I like how it poked fun at the Chosen One trope, and enjoyed reading this. However, it didn’t blow me away. It was alright while I read it, but it’s not something that’s sticking with me.
Harry Crow. What if Harry was never taken in by the Dursleys and was instead raised by goblins? That’s what RobSt asked in this fanfic he wrote about Harry Potter. I won’t go too in-depth about the story, but basically the Dursleys immediately decided that they wouldn’t raise “the freak” and Vernon took him to Gringotts, handing them over to the goblins. They saw it as an opportunity to change things for goblins when Harry was older, because in the Potterverse, goblins are very oppressed and barely a step over house elves. It then jumps to when Harry is 11 and going to Hogwarts for the first time. He helps out a witch on the train, thus meeting Hermione Granger. They instantly connect, and adventures ensue from there which are magical, goblin, and muggle. I don’t normally read fanfic, but someone highly recommended this to me a few years back, and this was a re-read for me. Through my second read, I still do enjoy the concept but have a few annoyances with it. I really liked how the author took goblins, which are barely developed in Rowling’s world, and turned them into a whole civilization with their own history, culture, and mannerisms. I didn’t like how Harry often seemed a good four, five years older than he really is in the timeline. The adults often say they’re surprised by how mature and how much older Harry seems, a little too often. That’s a lazy excuse in my opinion. A lot of the other characters are written quite differently from the Potterverse, but it was interesting to see how, such as Dumbledore and Ron Weasley. I could see the changes work for Dumbledore, but a little too contrived, I think. And for Ron, I got the feeling that the author really doesn’t like him because Ron is basically a big jerk in this, he does get redeemed much later in the story though. It’s more like the author took the concept of Harry Potter, the names, and some of the events, then wrote his own story rather than trying to stay more true to Rowling’s characters. One big thing that I really liked is that the author made a point of breaking down barriers of all types – Hogwarts House lines, species lines (magical, goblin, muggle), bloodlines (pureblood, half-blood, muggleborn), and several others. It has a good message, even if it is repeated a lot throughout the story. I would recommend this, but also tell you to read this as if it’s a new story, rather than a fanfic of Harry Potter. Here’s the link where you can read it.
What If It’s Us. This is adorable!! Arthur is in New York City for the summer, interning at his mom’s law firm. Arthur has a firm belief in the universe doing things when you least expect it. Ben thinks the universe can just get out of his business. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be taking a box of his ex-boyfriend’s things to the post office. But when they meet-cute at the post office, what does the universe have in store for them? At least, that’s what they think until they get separated by a marching band. But then they get reunited. WHAT’S HAPPENING? Well, I love this. It was co-authored by two fantastic authors – Becky Albertalli who wrote Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda and Leah on the Offbeat, and Adam Silvera who wrote History Is All You Left Me and They Both Die at the End (which I still need to read). You can really see their styles but they blended so well. Becky writes Arthur, who is Jewish and has ADHD, while Adam wrote Ben who is Puerto Rican. This story has heartbreak, fluffy romance, it’s awkward, humorous, touching, and hard to put down! I actually finished this in one day, putting it down only to get food and use the bathroom. You know, the minor things. I liked that this was a twist on the typical meet-cute, with the “missed connections” angle and the very awkward and terrible dates. You will have feelings with Ben and Arthur, annoyance and anger but at the same time, understanding fully where they’re coming from. It was a little predictable at times, but I loved it nonetheless. The ending was a pleasant surprise and was a very satisfying end. Definitely not your typical ending of a YA contemporary romance. RECOMMENDED!
Transgender History. It’s literally what the title says. It takes a look at trans history in the US from the mid-20th century to today (that being 2008), and does so chronologically, covering major movements, events, and writings. I want to be clear here that it focuses more on the activism of trans people, less the actual lives of trans people. It’s fairly comprehensive, and still nuanced. It traces the roots to the civil rights movement, gay liberation, counter-culture, and still remembers that all of that was fraught with transphobia, providing details on how the trans community was affected. I do feel like it has a lot of information on activism done by trans women, and not much by trans men or nonbinary people. Also, keep in mind that this book was published in 2008, and a lot has changed since then. Another thing of this book having been published in 2008 is that it has quite a few dated terms like transgendered, transgenderism, etc. A part that did bother me though, at the beginning there’s a quick overview of terminology and such. One section discuss pronouns and gender-neutral ones. There’s NO mention of they/them at all. Yet it mentions ze and sie in place of he/she, and hir in place of his/her. It’s just odd to me because they has long been a singular pronoun in English. Anyway, I would say it’s a good overview of trans history for people who aren’t that knowledgeable (and even for those who are! you might learn some things).
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. This is Hank Green’s debut novel, and I love it. April May, a 23-year-old going home from work at 3 AM, almost walks past a giant sculpture that’s just another extraordinary thing in NYC. But then she takes another look, gets excited, and calls her friend, Andy. They make a video with it, naming it Carl, upload it to YouTube, and go to sleep. April wakes up to a new life with their video going viral. She quickly learns that Carls have shown up all over the world, but she was the first to document it, so she’s in the center of the spotlight. April has to learn how to deal with the strain on her relationships, pressure on her identity, and all of the trimmings of fame. All at the same time as trying to figure out what the Carls are and what they want. This is amazing, Hank really draws on his experience with social media, fame, all the weird things that come with it. It’s nerdy, has political messages, but also touches on deeply personal subjects such as relationships with her best friend and her ex girlfriend. Also, April May is bisexual, but is forced to lie and say she’s a lesbian “because it’ll be an easier sell” which is a good parallel with the queer community where biphobia and bi erasure is rampant. I definitely recommend this book.
Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation. This is an anthology of different stories from trans and genderqueer people put together by Kate Bornstein, who wrote the first Gender Outlaw, and S. Bear Bergman. This book has essays, commentary, comics, conversations from a diverse group of trans-spectrum people who live and believe in barrier-breaking lives. It would be easier to summarize some of the stories: a trans man’s experience with pregnancy, being Muslim and trans, trying to explain their experience when they don’t fit within the binary, and many more. This anthology was made in 2010, which is very recent but at the same time a long time ago. There’s some outdated terminology in the book. So much has changed for the trans community since then, but there is still a lot that’s remained the same. I actually had to pause a few times reading this, there were some stories that really hit me. Fun fact: over 300 people submitted to this anthology. I can’t imagine how many would submit today! I would buy Gender Outlaws 3 in a flash if it was made this year. So yes, I recommend this if you want more trans perspectives!
Whew. That was a long post! Have you read any of these and what did you think of them? Have I convinced you to read any of them? Let me know!
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