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Yeled Tov ~ Daniel M. Jaffe

October 19, 2018

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Genre: Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Lethe Press
ISBN: 9781590216712
320 pages
Source: TLC Book Tours

Quick!

Someone find me the Venn Diagram of Queer, Coming of Age, Jewish, Mental Health,  and Pleasing-cum-Rebellion.

Oh, hold on a minute.

I think I found something.

No, no, this is not my autobiography.

It is right here and it is Daniel M. Jaffe’s amazing new book, Yeled Tov.

1974 finds sixteen-year-old Jake Stien in a bit of a fix, pitting his faith roots against his heart. It’s a tale as old as time itself in that Jeff’s struggles follow what many have before him, navigating the apparently binary of being queer and being religious.

I have read so many books, stories, and interviews involving this heartbreaking internalized fight that I could tell it by heart, by now. With that said, Jaffe weaves his story in such a brilliant light, so expertly, that it could very well be the first time such a thing has surfaced. Jake’s internal struggle (often written and presented through vivid and imaginative fantasies) is one that can span gender, orientation, faith, and time period. Though so much has changed (especially in the queer community) over the last few decades, there is so much modern-day validity to the storyline.

The cast of characters between the covers of this book all but wandered off the pages and straight into my heart. Rarely are those in conflict with the protagonist written with so much heartwrenching empathy. From Jake, to his peers and teachers, to his family and faith community, the voices surrounding his journey ring true and complex.

This was my first book by Jaffe and I am totally hooked. If you haven’t read it, yet, I highly recommend it.

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Mirage ~ Somaiya Daud

October 18, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult Fiction/Fantasy
Publisher: Flatiron Books
ISB: 9781250126429
320 pages
Source: Owl Crate

It’s been a minute since I’ve read a fantasy book and I am, right now, completely forgetting why I ever let that happen.

I fell head over heels in love with just about everything in this book and I just want to keep diving deeper and deeper into Daud’s magical world. Mirage is sexy, smart, sweet, and absolutely impossible to put down.

My only word of warning is that the first chapter or so, starts off a teensy bit slow.  After that, however, hold on to your hat (and your heart) because the heat picks up and never slows down.

The very generalized premise is a Prince and the Pauper meets Starwars. And that hardly does the magic any justice. Without giving too much away, just know that I was sitting on the edge of my chair (I actually caught myself doing this, literally. It really is that good, y’all,) as Daud moves from the most brilliantly bright explosions to the sweetest, softest forehead kisses, stolen in forbidden moments.

I was so relieved that a quick Google search met my wishes for a sequel because my heart was on the floor at the end of the book. The hardest part, now, will be waiting. You should go read it so we can wait in misery together.

Ship It ~ Britta Lundin

October 11, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Freeform
ISBN: 9781368003131
384 pages
Source: Barnes and Noble

Y’all, it took me way too long to read this because grad school ate (and is currently eating) my life. My friend recommended it right before school started and I thought “Oh, sure! Geeky, queer fiction about fan fiction? I’ll finish it in a day!” And really, I should have. But I didn’t. And I’m glad I didn’t because there are so many layers to think about that it is almost one of those books one NEEDS to read slowly.

The entire story is set around fan fiction and comic convention culture, weaving in the world of social media and a healthy dose of queer, color, gender conversation that absolutely needs to be had around this genre.

The story is told in two (well, three, if you add in a sprinkling of fan fiction) voices, pitting the big booming voice of Hollywood against the small but mighty world of fandom.

Although I’m not exactly known for my stoicism, my spontaneous sobbing at the end caught me quite off guard. I’m not usually someone who cries over books (puppies and sunsets, maybe). Britta Lundin writes obnoxious white dudes, as my friend Kate put it, “frustratingly well” if that gives you any sort of idea as to where the book started and where it ended up.

I have to go, now, before I tell you something top secret (just know that there are a LOT of twists and turns). Just read this. Read it in an hour or take your time but just read it. I promise you’ll love it.

Bess and Frima ~ Alice Rosenthal

October 9, 2018

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Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: She Writes Press
ISBN: 9781631524394
304 pages
Source: TLC Book Tours

When I was originally asked to read and review this book for the tour, I had mixed feelings. I have been so into fantasy and YA, lately, that I wasn’t sure I would connect with Rosenthal’s depth for Bess and Frima.

I was so beyond wrong, though, and I honestly should have known from the outset. The book follows two women from 1940’s New York (the Bronx, specifically) as they wind their way through love, politics, friendships, and heartbreak during both personal and global upheaval.

Right. So, I am from a socially active, part Jewish, part socialist family and I absolutely adore World War II stories.

Y’all, I honestly could’t tell you what my reservations were. So many questions that run through the book are applicable to our present moment. News spin, parental approval of partners, race, religion, ethnicity, and a sense of belonging all work together to make this one of those books I will continue to recommend and pass forward for a long time.

As can be expected, here I go with my “Yes, I’m a social worker” speech. I know I say that a lot of books fit into a special place in my heart for that reason but y’all have to believe me, this time, when I say that this one does tuck squarely into my professional life.

Please go check it out if you have the chance!

Purchase Link

Amazon

About Alice Rosenthal

Alice Rosenthal was born and raised in 1941 in the same Bronx neighborhood as her protagonists, though a generation later.

To All the Boys I Loved Before ~ Jenny Han

September 3, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
ISBN: 9781442426719
384 pages
Source: Barnes and Noble

I wanted to love this book, so much.

Everyone else has been so enamored with the entire series but it just didn’t hold my attention. And that might just be the mood I’m in (a little bit edgier, at the moment).

I loved Lara-Jean but I don’t think the story gave her enough of a chance to kind of get out from under herself.

It was sweet, though. I’ll give it that. And there are so few stories with single dads and little girls that it totally had the “Aw” and appreciation factor, for sure. I think it was just maybe a little TOO sweet for me.

I may, eventually, get to the rest of the series if I’m in the mood for a light little read but for the moment, the hype is kind of escaping me.

I will, however, go check out the movie, since it is hounding me every time I open up Netflix.

August 21, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult/Contemporary Fiction
Publisher: HarperTeen
ISBN: 9780062308344
432 pages
Source: Barnes and Noble

Emma and Evie have been friends for as long as they can remember though they are as different as any two high schoolers can be. They balance each other in their best moments and repel each other in their worst.

I spend a lot of time clucking my tongue and sighing at the lack of attention given to the nitty-gritty side of mental health in fiction.

There is often an emphasis on normal-spiral-treatment-healed.

A Flicker In the Clarity does no such thing.

Emma and Evie both stumble through their traumas and grief in their own ways, leaning on each other and away from each other in less than healthy or neatly tied up ways.

Because their journeys were presented in realistic, messy ways, the entire book felt pretty frustrating but that was what I loved about it, too.

The writing as beautiful and the story was authentic. In moments of frustration, I had to remind myself that the way each young woman was acting (either acting out or enabling of the other) was far closer to reality than I had come across before this particular book. When I could step back and gain that perspective, I was able to truly appreciate the raw beauty of the book.

The Cheerleaders ~ Kara Thomas

August 10, 2018

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Genre: Young Adult/Mystery
Publisher: Delacorte Press
ISBN: 9781524718329
384 pages
Source: Barnes and Noble

Going into The Cheerleaders, I didn’t know what to expect. Well, that’s not true. I had my assumptions and they were pretty much all wrong. I expected something light and frilly with cheesy stereotypes about high schoolers.

I expected mushy crushes and the stoical love story.

I am so relieved that I was wrong.

The back of refuse jacket describes the book as a cross between Riverdale and Veronica Mars. I had I not read that, that would have been my exact description. I am such a sucker for “smart girl solves the case” storylines and that is exactly what I got with Thomas.

Rather than being dictated by boys or social drama, The Cheerleaders brings a refreshing look at the darker, less desirable grittiness that high school books are so often lacking.

Monica, the protagonist, leads most of the story but it is also periodically interrupted by her late sister, who was killed five years before the book starts. As the two stories weave together, there are so many striking parallels. It makes the ending that much more shocking and welcome (and that’s all I can tell you!).

I’m off to read Thomas’s other two books because I’m definitely hooked. If this is what we can expect from her, going forward, I am officially a lifetime fan.