Another month of quarantine down!
Certain states have decided to reopen!
Armed protesters are storming the Michigan capital!
I hate it here!
Despite all the drama, I was able to read 13 books this month! Hooray!
Other than that, there’s not much to report.
My friend Carrie mailed me some yarn.
I cooked portobello mushroom cups and won a book in a giveaway.
Cats came out on DVD.
BiNet tried to copyright the bisexual flag.
I still don’t have a job.
That’s about it. Let’s talk stats.
In April, I completed 13 books. (Is that two months in a row with no DNFs? Look at me go!)
Of the books I read,
- 85% were fiction
- 15% were non-fiction
- 77% were new books
- 23% were rereads
- 62% were Young Adult
- 38% were Adult
This is the first month this year that I read more YA fiction than adult fiction.
Math is a TRIP.
Also, here’s a new statistic for you: my average rating for the month was 4.15 out of 5.
Here’s my rating breakdown:
- 2-star reads: 1 book
- 3-star reads: 3 books
- 4-star reads: 2 books
- 5-star reads: 7 books
SINCE WHEN DO I RATE BOOKS THAT HIGH? WHO AM I?
(Three of those five-star ratings were rereads, but that’s STILL A NOTABLE FIGURE.)
Now for everyone’s favorite part: THE GENRE BREAKDOWN.
Making this graph every month messes with my sense of self.
Though I consider myself a fantasy/magical realism reader, the graph shows that I stick with speculative fiction and CONTEMPORARIES.
That’s right: I’m reading contemporaries again.
My end of the year graph is going to be a hoot.
If the moral of your book isn’t clear, it has a…
I read three books this month with almost-but-not-quite-there social commentary this month.
I thought the commentary in The Sound of Stars was quite strong. Unfortunately, it never fully jelled with the alien invasion plot.
I loved the rep in this book, though, and will probably end up reading the sequel.
Elysium Girl was ALMOST a feminist fable…that lost the moral about halfway through.
If I tried, I could the see the parallels between the characters and modern-day dynamics.
Sadly, just when I thought the novel was going to destroy the patriarchy once and for all, it threw in a desert roadtrip, some dueling goddesses, and THE MOST irritating daemonic fish-out-of-water character. (I hated him. So much.)
I’m realizing that I prefer the “roadtrip to save humanity” plot device in TV and film. In literature, the same trope tends to bore me…which is why I didn’t give The Sound of Stars and Elysium Girls more than three stars.
As for The Water Cure, I think the book was trying to say something about toxic masculinity.
I never figured out what.
Men are bad because they hurt women…but women are also bad…but they are powerful…but they hurt men…but men deserve it…burn down the barbershops.
Was that the moral? I genuinely had no idea what was happening the entire book.
Also, I was unfamiliar with the water cure as a form of torture. Now I feel like I missed something important.
Too centrist for comfort
I mentioned in a previous post my fear that Katie Cotugno’s latest book, You Say It First, would downplay feminist issues with a “not all men” narrative.
Really, I SHOULD have been mad at Chaotic Good for doing that EXACT THING IN 2018.
I HATED this book. The only reason I didn’t give it one star is because I liked the writing!
The plot, though? I am about to tear it to shreds.
(Spoilers for Chaotic Good)
(This review is rated R for language. Children under 17 must read this with a parent or guardian present.)
Cameron, the main character, starts dressing more masculine to avoid criticism from geek guys.
[I have done THIS EXACT THING. It’s not a foolproof strategy, but it DOES HELP prevent SEXIST REMARKS and GATEKEEPING BULLSHIT (at least partially.)]
Once Cameron starts wearing her brother’s clothes, the people she meets assume she is a boy and use male pronouns when they talk about her.
Because Cameron doesn’t correct them, her new geek guy friends are HORRIFIED when they find out Cameron is REALLY A GIRL who LIED ABOUT HER GENDER.
I have several problems with this plot development.
The geek guys were the ones who assumed Cameron’s gender. Maybe the boys shouldn’t have done that??? It REALLY IS their bad for NOT ASKING.
A bigger problem I have: what if Cameron was a trans boy? The D&D gang’s IMMEDIATE assumption is that Cameron is a girl who’s “lying” is NOT OKAY. STOP ASSUMING.
Also, one of the boys is attracted to Cameron and later justifies this because he “knew” she was a girl. He triumphantly confirms his suspicions after seeing Cameron wear a dress in public.
AGAIN…WHAT IF CAMERON WAS TRANS?
What if she was a genderqueer or otherwise gender non-conforming person with masc and femme days?
Did we REALLY have to “no homo” the romance? Lincoln couldn’t just have been into her the way she was???
IF YOU THINK THAT IS THE EXTENT OF MY PROBLEMS WITH THIS NOVEL, YOU ARE INCORRECT. GET READY FOR A NONSENSICAL LOVE QUADRANGLE.
I will try to keep things simple:
Wyatt, a gay boy, has a crush on Cameron, a straight girl presenting as a boy.
Cameron’s gay twin brother Cooper has a crush on Wyatt.
Wyatt meets the twins, assumes they are both boys, and develops a crush on Cameron instead of Cooper. (Perhaps because personality sometimes factors into attraction? WHO CAN SAY?)
Wyatt asks Cameron out. Cameron shuts him down and asks to be friends instead.
They start hanging out AS FRIENDS. Despite this, Wyatt’s crush lingers.
A frustrated Cooper demands that Cameron “come clean” about being a girl so Wyatt’s crush will transfer from her to him. He is livid when Cameron puts off revealing her gender and tells Cameron that her she is being selfish and denying him happiness.
He also says that Cameron has never experienced anything traumatic (i.e., homophobia) and puts her masculine front down to, ONCE AGAIN, selfishness.
What the ACTUAL hell.
We are supposed to give Cooper a pass because he doesn’t know Cameron is receiving death threats from men on the internet.
I can’t do that.
Someone who is SUPPOSED TO BE SYMPATHETIC tells his sister that she’s NEVER SUFFERED, his PERSPECTIVE IS NEVER CHALLENGED, and he NEVER FULLY APOLOGIZES.
In fact, the narrative blames Cameron for not telling her twin about the harassment, AS IF WOMEN AREN’T CONDITIONED TO EXPECT THIS BEHAVIOR FROM “TROLLS.” (Lindy West’s books Shrill and The Witches Are Coming explore this topic.)
If the aim of this book was REALLY about challenging the patriarchy and toxic masculinity, MAYBE THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN A MOMENT WHERE COOPER’S BELIEFS SHIFTED AND HE APOLOGIZED FOR HIS MYOPIA.
“You should have told me” is not an adequate apology.
MY LAST AND FINAL CONTENTION:
Brody, Cameron’s geek guy nemesis, is an on-the-nose caricature of a geeky misogynist: neck beard, disgusting jokes, calling out “fake geek girls,” the whole nine.
His friends Wyatt and Lincoln RARELY call out Brody’s disgusting comments.
Much of the time, WYATT LAUGHS ALONG.
Later, Wyatt is hurt that Cameron didn’t trust him with her “secret,” SEEMINGLY UNAWARE THAT THE PEOPLE HE HANGS OUT WITH REFLECT ON HIS CHARACTER.
I THOUGHT THE WHOLE POINT OF THIS BOOK WAS TO CALL OUT TOXIC FANDOM.
WHY ARE THESE BOYS EXEMPT?
WHY IS IT CAMERON’S RESPONSIBILITY TO TAKE BRODY DOWN?
THIS IS NOT ALLYSHIP.
UNSAFE ENVIRONMENTS EXIST BECAUSE PEOPLE TOLERATE BAD BEHAVIOR FROM THEIR “FRIENDS.”
“IT’S NOT PERSONAL,” “HE DOESN’T MEAN IT,” AND, “HE’S ACTUALLY A COOL GUY,” ARE NOT ADEQUATE DEFENSES. TEACH YOUR FRIENDS THAT MISOGYNY IS NOT OKAY.
Oh, and GUESS WHAT: SOMETIMES “GOOD GUYS” EMPLOY TOXIC BEHAVIORS BECAUSE EVERYONE HAS BLIND SPOTS.
HOW ARE YOU GOING TO HANDLE THAT, CHAOTIC GOOD?
WILL YOU ACKNOWLEDGE THAT WYATT’S TWO-FOR-ONE MINORITY STATUS COMPLICATES HIS ABILITY TO CALL OUT HIS WHITE FRIEND?
ARE YOU GOING TO POINT OUT WYATT’S ENTITLEMENT IN LAYING CLAIM TO CAMERON EVEN AFTER SHE REJECTS HIM?
Nope. Cameron apologizes to the boys (including her love interest), Brody keeps making jokes while wearing a dress (I don’t want to talk about it), and the group moves on.
A final complaint: at a con, a female comic book artist tells Cameron to get a job at Brody’s comic book shop, because for some reason it’s CAMERON’S job to create a safe space for women in a toxic environment.
So…instead of dismantling systems and behaviors that disadvantage women, women should TRY HARDER to make men accept them into fandom spaces, disregarding the effects this might have on their physical safety and mental health?
Are you SHITTING me?
To make it worse: the book points out that “not all boys” are bad, because Lincoln is a really nice guy, even though he assumed Cameron’s gender and tolerates Brody’s behavior! You can’t blame nice guys like Lincoln for Brody’s misogyny!
Thanks, Chaotic Good. You have accomplished nothing. Go home.
I read a dystopian novel during a global pandemic.
It simultaneously increased and decreased my anxiety levels.
In fact, a lot of the books I’ve read recently have had disturbing pandemic-related elements.
I’M RELATING TOO HARD TO THE THINGS I READ.
The five-star reads
Speaking of books I related to, here are this month’s five star reads (excepting the rereads):
I had doubts about Crier’s War at the beginning.
The writing and worldbuilding were good, yet the plot felt familiar.
I usually don’t like to tell people to wait for the good part.
Crier’s War, though? The climax made the rest of the book worth it.
I have gushed a lot about Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune in the last week.
I am about to gush some more.
I would gladly eat Natalie’s cooking, EVEN THE MEAT RECIPES.
Want to know how much I liked this book? There was a cheesy and somewhat-predictable plot twist toward the end and I WASN’T EVEN MAD because the EMOTIONAL IMPACT WAS SO STRONG.
READ THIS BOOK. It’s like Hungry Hearts meets The Astonishing Color of After.
If you liked either of those books, you may like this one.
I SAVORED IT.
As you may know, I LOVE Sarah Gailey’s writing and named their novel Magic for Liars one of my favorite books of 2019.
I liked their YA follow-up, We Were Magic, almost as much.
I definitely expected a thriller, not an INSIGHTFUL COMING-OF-AGE NOVEL!
I cried a lot. A LOT. This book really captured the feelings of growing up.
Oh, ALSO WASN’T EXPECTING THE MOVING PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIPS. STOP MAKING ME FEEL THINGS.
Hey. I am not kidding. Buy Felix Ever After right now.
The exploration of identity in this book was VERY HONEST.
All the kids were MESSES and they KNEW THEY WERE MESSES and IF THAT ISN’T JUST HOW LIFE IS.
It also warmed my heart to see kids being such good allies. I would love to have friends like Ezra and Leah. I want nothing more than to get high with these kids at the park or eat burgers with them at White Castle.
These characters felt real to me.
I want every reader to experience this work of art for themselves. It’s that good.
Get ready for feelings ever after.
I…did not expect to go on a rant about Chaotic Good.
I thought I had processed those feelings.
ANYWAY, THAT’S APRIL.
I’m 6 books behind on my Goodreads Reading Challenge, I’m in the middle of eight books, and I have more books coming in the mail!
Will I be able to catch up? WHO KNOWS!!
Happy May Day, all. Stay safe (and preferably inside.)
Don’t cross the picket lines.