Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

I bought this one on a whim off the back of seeing it all over twitter in the run up to its release. Didn’t even look at what it was about, which I have been known to do when people I trust recommend a book. So I was especially pleased to find out that it was a novel in verse, which are a very under appreciated medium in my humble opinion!

Long Way Down tells a powerful story over the course of 67 seconds of Will’s life; from the point he steps in to an elevator determined to kill the man he thinks shot his brother to when he steps out on the ground floor. On each floor another person steps in to join him, each one from his brother’s past and there to give him another piece of an ultimately tragic puzzle.

2017 has been a bit of a year of poetry for me. After having shunned it since university five years ago I’ve been hooked on modern poetry recently! Long Way Down combines everything I love about it; gut wrenching themes, varying form and it draws you in to a narrative. That it’s also making such a heart breaking comment on gun crime makes it all the more powerful. We see Will’s turmoil over whether to follow the ‘rules’ he’s been taught by his brother, or to move forward in his own way and also see how gun crime in poor neighbourhoods can have ramifications that last generations. It’s a fantastic book that I read in one sitting and would thoroughly recommend.

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My SapphicAThon TBR

There’s been some discussion over on book twitter recently about the prevalence of m/m fiction written by women that borders on fetishisation compared to the distinct lack of f/f fiction being read and promoted online. The Sapphic-A-Thon hopes to redress that balance by encouraging readers to spend a fortnight reading fiction where the main characters are in, or end up in, f/f relationships.

As usual my TBR is ridiculously ambitious and is more of a ‘books to choose from’ than me thinking I’ll actually get through them all in two weeks (saying that I have read thirteen books in November so far and I’m off work from the 20th so who knows!). I’m loosely following the challenges but I’m not overly fussed about getting bingo but I’ve included what squares I’ll be using them for! (I’ve added the board at the bottom!)

I’ve taken most of these from Tasha’s suggestions!

Ghost Girl in the Corner by Daniel José Older

(Established relationship)

Trying to shake off the strange malaise that separates her from even her girlfriend Izzy, Tee decides to take over the Bed-Stuy Searchlight for the summer. But then she finds an alluring violet dress in the newspaper office, and a cute ghost girl no one else can see.

Izzy can tell Tee’s drifting away from her — she misses Izzy’s shows and skips shadowshaper practice — and she won’t stand for it. Yet when a girl goes missing in Bed-Stuy, Izzy needs Tee to get the word out and help investigate. Can they break through their distance and reconnect before someone else dies?

Not Your Sidekick by C.B. Lee

(Bisexual main character)

Welcome to Andover, where superpowers are common, but internships are complicated. Just ask high school nobody, Jessica Tran. Despite her heroic lineage, Jess is resigned to a life without superpowers and is merely looking to beef up her college applications when she stumbles upon the perfect (paid!) internship–only it turns out to be for the town’s most heinous supervillain. On the upside, she gets to work with her longtime secret crush, Abby, whom Jess thinks may have a secret of her own. Then there’s the budding attraction to her fellow intern, the mysterious “M,” who never seems to be in the same place as Abby. But what starts as a fun way to spite her superhero parents takes a sudden and dangerous turn when she uncovers a plot larger than heroes and villains altogether.

Lambs Can Always Become Lions by Charlotte Anne Hamilton

(Retelling)

Robin Hood, along with her group of friends, has been aiding the poor of Nottingham for four years. They have become an hindrance to the Sheriff of Nottingham, terrorising the rich lords and ladies and robbing gold right from under the Sheriff’s nose.

Helping Robin from inside, and proving her most useful ally, is Lady Marian Fitzwalter.

After hearing about a special shipment coming through Sherwood – filled with gold, jewels and weapons – Marian agrees to help Robin gather information so she can ambush it. It is risky and dangerous on both sides but Marian would do anything for Robin. And Robin would do anything to feed her people.

But as the shipment draws closer and tensions rise, Robin finds herself having to decide which is more important: love or duty.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo

(SFF)

Flocks of birds are hurling themselves at aeroplanes across America. Thousands of people die. Millions are stranded. Everyone knows the world will never be the same.

On Reese’s long drive home, along a stretch of empty highway at night, a bird flies into their headlights. The car flips over. When they wake up in a military hospital, the doctor won’t tell them what happened.

For Reese, though, this is just the start. She can’t remember anything from the time between her accident and the day she woke up almost a month later. She only knows one thing: she’s different now. Torn between longtime crush David and new girl Amber, the real question is: who can she trust?

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova

(Both are WOC)

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic.

At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she’s not sure she can trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

(Interracial pairing)

Just out of high school, Emi Price is a talented young set designer already beginning to thrive in the L.A. film scene. But her artistic eye has failed her in one key area: helping her to design a love life that’s more than make-believe. Then she finds a mysterious letter at an estate sale, and it sends her chasing down the loose ends of a movie icon’s hidden life. And along the way, she finds Ava, and at long last, Emi’s own hidden life begins to bloom.

Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

(Hate to love)

Every time Nolan closes his eyes, he doesn’t see darkness. Instead he’s transported into the mind of Amara, a girl living in a different world. Nolan’s world is our world, full of history tests, family problems and laundry; his parents think he has epilepsy, judging from his frequent blackouts. Amara’s world is full of magic and danger and she’s a mute slave girl who’s tasked with protecting a renegade princess. Nolan is an observer only in Amara’s world — until he’s not. At first, Amara’s terrified by this new presence controlling her. But they eventually learn that the only way to protect the princess and escape danger is to work together. It’s a fascinating premise, clearly and compellingly written and imagined.

A Pearl for My Mistress by Annabel Fielding

(Less than 500 goodreads reviews)

England, 1934. Hester Blake, an ambitious girl from an industrial Northern town, finds a job as a lady’s maid in a small aristocratic household.

Despite their impressive title and glorious past, the Fitzmartins are crumbling under the pressures of the new century. And in the cold isolation of these new surroundings, Hester ends up hopelessly besotted with her young mistress, Lady Lucy.

Accompanying Lucy on her London Season, Hester is plunged into a heady and decadent world. But hushed whispers of another war swirl beneath the capital… and soon, Hester finds herself the keeper of some of society’s most dangerous secrets…

The Second Mango by Shira Glassman

(Jewish MC)

Queen Shulamit never expected to inherit the throne of the tropical land of Perach so young. At twenty, grief-stricken and fatherless, she’s also coping with being the only lesbian she knows after her sweetheart ran off for an unknown reason. Not to mention, she’s the victim of severe digestive problems that everybody think she’s faking. When she meets Rivka, an athletic and assertive warrior from the north who wears a mask and pretends to be a man, she finds the source of strength she needs so desperately.

Unfortunately for her, Rivka is straight, but that’s okay — Shulamit needs a surrogate big sister just as much as she needs a girlfriend. Especially if the warrior’s willing to take her around the kingdom on the back of her dragon in search of other women who might be open to same-sex romance. The real world outside the palace is full of adventure, however, and the search for a royal girlfriend quickly turns into a rescue mission when they discover a temple full of women turned to stone by an evil sorcerer.

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy

I’m finally updating! Sorry it’s been a while, I lost all motivation to write book reviews except on Netgalley (my ratio was awful so I focussed on getting through a bunch of ARCs, will write about them here at some point soon!) so I’ve picked a few recent reads, taken some photos and now I’m scheduling some posts!

I’d seen Ramona Blue floating around twitter for quite a while and finally picked it out this month. I gather that it garnered quite a lot of controversy before it was published due to poor blurbing; from what I remember the concern was that it was a story about a lesbian finding the right guy to turn her straight. In reality it’s a YA novel partly about the fluid nature of sexuality and a teen questioning labels, partly about the ties of family and living in poverty in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Ramona lives in a trailer with her hardworking dad, pregnant sister and her babydaddy. She identifies as a lesbian openly but begins to question how fluid her sexuality may be when an old friend returns to her small town.

I’m not personally comfortable commenting on the bisexual rep in the book, particularly as I’ve seen mixed opinions in the reviews I’ve read by bi people. Chelsea points out that the word ‘bisexual’ is never once used in the book (minor spoilers alert) which soured the book for her, but I’ve read other ownvoice reviews (an example here from BisexualBooks contains heavy spoilers) that have praised the rep. I defer to people who have actual lived experience.

Otherwise, this to me was a great story about family love, poverty and learning to take selfish steps in the face of what we perceive to be our duties. Ramona gains a love of swimming, an outlet in her life which otherwise revolves around worrying about money, her sister and her soon-to-arrive niece. Ramona’s life has been heavily influenced by Hurricane Katrina, which decimated her small town years before, and it’s a powerful comment on how the effects of such events have ramifications that last far beyond media interest. The story also touches upon the ways race means different experiences for different people; there’s a scene which is just plain fun for Ramona and her group, but which her friend Freddie rightly points out could have had deadly consequences for him as a black teen.

I really enjoyed this book, it was much more than a romance, which in not generally that interested in!