THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers

Screen Shot 2015-02-01 at 6.34.37 PMSo, let me just say this up front: I don’t usually like autobiographies. Maybe it’s because I spend most of my days in the hospital listening to people talk about themselves, or maybe I’m just emotionally stunted and only like YA/NA. Regardless, a friend really recommended Coming Out to Play, so I thought I’d give it a shot. And guys, let me tell you — it was sort of awesome.

A little excerpt from the book blurb:

“Robbie Rogers knows better than most that keeping secrets can crush you. But for much of his life Robbie lived in paralyzing fear that sharing his big secret would cost him the love of his family and his career as a professional soccer player. So he never told anyone what was destroying his soul, both on and off the field.

While the world around Robbie was changing with breathtaking speed, he knew that for a gay man playing a professional team sport it might as well be 1958. He could be a professional soccer player.  Or he could be an out gay man. He couldn’t do both.”

I feel like I could go on and on about this book for days, but I’ll boil it down to this: Coming Out to Play is insightful without being preachy, inspiring without being nauseating and hopeful without being cheesy. It’s also full of some damn good writing.***

You can buy Coming Out to Play here (Kindle edition here). Or, if you’re feeling old school, you can probably find it in one of these.

Happy reading!

xo Elizabeth

*** “You don’t grow up hating yourself by accident. You don’t learn to lie about your true nature on a whim. You don’t pretend to be straight just for the fun of it. You have to learn and be taught these things, and I was a good student.”

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THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

4/5

Screen Shot 2015-01-24 at 3.12.38 PMSo, I’m really on the fence with Fangirl. I enjoyed reading it — hence the 4/5 — but once I put it down I felt a little…meh. I didn’t quite dislike it — I just doubt I’ll ever read it again.

I guess I’ll start with the things I liked. First, the relationship between the MC, Cath, and her twin sister, Wren. It’s the twins’ first year of college and Wren is ready to branch out and make some new friends, while anxiety-prone Cath feels left behind. Very realistic dynamic. I also liked Cath’s relationship with her father, who suffered from bipolar disorder (I’m assuming), and with her roommate Reagan.

But while I liked all the relationships, I’m not sure I liked Cath herself. She felt a bit… whiny, I guess. Nothing was ever her fault, she was always the victim, and she didn’t seem to change or grow that much over the course of the book. And while I love love love to see portrayals of mental illness in YA books, I have no sweet clue what Cath is supposed to be portraying. Generalized anxiety disorder? Social anxiety disorder? Avoidant personality disorder? If you know (maybe Rowell has clarified somewhere?) feel free to let me know in the comments.

Honestly, at the end of the day, I think this is just a classic case of It’s Not You, It’s Me. This is a great book, and I can totally understand why so many people love it. It’s just not for me. I found the Simon Snow snippets boring, I couldn’t really relate to Cath, and I think it ran about 10 or 20K too long. But this is just my opinion — if you’ve read it, feel free to sound off in the comments, and if you haven’t, pick up a copy and see what you think 🙂

Happy reading!

xo Elizabeth

 

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: The Living by Matt de la Pena

2/5

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 5.14.29 PM“Shy took the summer job to make some money. In a few months on a luxury cruise liner, he’ll rake in the tips and be able to help his mom and sister out with the bills. And how bad can it be? Bikinis, free food, maybe even a girl or two—every cruise has different passengers, after all. But everything changes when the Big One hits. Shy’s only weeks out at sea when an earthquake more massive than ever before recorded hits California, and his life is forever changed.”

So, there are very few things that make me instantly dislike a book. Actually, scratch that — there’s only one thing.

Sexism.

And I don’t mean characters who are consciously written to be sexist, I mean an overwhelming sense that the author him/herself is sexist. And maybe I’m wrong about this, maybe this author doesn’t have a sexist bone in his body… but that’s the feeling I got reading The Living. From the very first page, with the MC referring to women as “females” (ugh) to the main love sex interest, Carmen. Oh, Carmen. How can I explain the problem with her?

I think it’s a very subtle form of sexism — having one main female character who is liked and desired because she is “one of the guys”. She has “male” characteristics, e.g. she’s tough, doesn’t ever cry or giggle (God forbid), doesn’t care about clothes or anything “girly”. She will also, of course, be smoking hot (but completely unaware of it! Funny how often that happens). She’ll be the main female interest, and the male writer will think by writing this “tough” female, he’s safe from us irritating feminists.

But take a look at all the other female characters and you’ll see how the author really feels. All the rest are “typical” women — you know, whiny, bitchy, obsessed with dieting, boys and clothes.**

It’s a trend I’m seeing more and more often and it bugs the hell out of me. Having one tough female character who is only admired because she is “like a boy” is BS. And while this book actually did improve (and piss me off less) as it went on, it was too little, too late. Which is a shame, because if you wiped out the overwhelming sexism, you’d have a reasonably well-written, fast-paced survival story with two diverse main characters.

Either way, I think I’ll skip the sequel to this one. I’m too busy giggling and counting calories, anyway.

xo Elizabeth

** It is taking an enormous amount of energy to contain a huge rant here.

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris

4/5

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 10.33.33 PMI’m branching out from YA/NA reviews with this little gem — Neil Patrick Harris’s autobiography, Choose Your Own Autobiography – a second person POV autobiography written like a Choose Your Own Adventure book (!!!).

So, yeah. Needless to say, it’s amazing. Even if the content weren’t interesting (which it is), the mere interactivity of it, with pathways that lead you to drowning in quicksand with Big Bird at your side… it’s just a hoot and a half. It’s fun without being gimmicky (or maybe it’s so blatantly gimmicky that it’s fun?) and the second person POV works brilliantly.

The only hiccup preventing a 5/5 is not NPH’s error, but my own. I downloaded this and read it on my (er, 2007) Kindle, which for some reason would not let me move within the book that easily, resulting in lots of grumbling as I flipped through things I’d already read. So if you decide to read this, I would recommend buying the hardcopy. Or maybe just reading it on an eReader that is not from like, the ice age.

If you’d like to buy NPH’s awesome book in hardcopy, click here.

If you’d like to hear me rant about second person POV, click here.

If you’d like to watch a video of an abusive baby goat, click here.

xo Elizabeth

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Half Bad by Sally Green

4/5

Screen Shot 2015-01-04 at 10.49.15 AMSixteen-year-old Nathan lives in a cage: beaten, shackled, trained to kill. In a modern-day England where two warring factions of witches live amongst humans, Nathan is an abomination, the illegitimate son of the world’s most terrifying and violent witch, Marcus. Nathan’s only hope for survival is to escape his captors, track down Marcus, and receive the three gifts that will bring him into his own magical powers—before it’s too late.”

So, let me first say, this description did not really appeal to me. It sounds kind of vague and dry, but the book had gotten so much buzz, and I’m always on the hunt for YA/NA with male protagonists – so, I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did, because Half Bad is pretty darn good. (I really really wanted to say “it’s not half bad!” but I couldn’t bring myself to do it.)

The main character, Nathan, is pretty likeable, his sister Jessica is deliciously awful, and the rest of the side characters are great (although does anyone else sort of dislike Annalise, for no specific reason? No? Just me? Mmk). Honestly, the whole thing is very well-written, and I would have no qualms recommending it to anyone looking for a great YA read.

That being said, can anyone explain to me why the first few chapters (and then a few random chapters in the middle) are written in second person while the rest is in first person?? It’s not that I didn’t like it, exactly, I’m just confused. Is it just a gimmick, or is there some sort of meaning to it that I’m missing? Anyone??

xo Elizabeth

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: Proxy by Alex London

3/5

Screen Shot 2014-12-25 at 3.25.15 PMSo, here’s the thing. This is not a bad book. Not at all. It’s got an intriguing premise, a diverse cast of characters and a relatively surprising ending. Unfortunately, it has one fatal, rating-killing flaw. But I’ll get to that. First, a quick excerpt from the Goodreads summary:

“Knox was born into one of the City’s wealthiest families. A Patron, he has everything a boy could possibly want—the latest tech, the coolest clothes, and a Proxy to take all his punishments. When Knox breaks a vase, Syd is beaten. When Knox plays a practical joke, Syd is forced to haul rocks. And when Knox crashes a car, killing one of his friends, Syd is branded and sentenced to death.

Yet Knox’s father is no ordinary Patron, and Syd is no ordinary Proxy. When Knox and Syd realize that the only way to beat the system is to save each other, they flee. The ensuing cross-country chase will uncover a secret society of rebels, test both boys’ resolve, and shine a blinding light onto a world of those who owe and those who pay. Some debts, it turns out, cannot be repaid.”

So, the book starts off alternating chapters between Knox and his proxy, Syd – all third-person close POV. We’re introduced to each of their lives: their friends, their personalities, what makes them tick…it all works so far. Interesting characters, interesting world…I’m already writing the 4/5 star review in my head.

Then, about 40% into the book, Syd and Knox meet.

And here’s where things start to slide downhill.

Instead of alternating chapters between Syd and Knox’s POVs, their viewpoints are suddenly mashed together. As in, one paragraph is in Syd’s POV, the next is in Knox’s. Then three paragraphs of Syd, one of Knox, then one of another character, then back to Syd, then over to Knox… are you confused yet??

I think maybe it was intentional – the author wanted to mash up their POVs once they met – but for me, it just did not work. It’s head-hopping to the extreme, and it’s ridiculously hard to follow.

I wish I could overlook it, because there is so much to love about this book – clever concept, great LGBT main character, relatively strong female lead. And I would never call it a bad book.

I just wish I could call it great.

xo Elizabeth

THE SUNDAY REVIEW: The Help by Kathryn Stockett

5/5

Screen Shot 2014-12-21 at 8.01.13 PMI know, I know– this book is five years old and everyone’s already read it and seen the movie and NO ONE needs to read a review of it now.

But just in case you are one of the five or ten people who hasn’t read it…omigosh, go buy it right now. It’s absolutely fantastic. The writing is beautiful, the plot is intriguing, but what stands out most of all is the voice. There are three narrators: Minny, Aibileen and Skeeter. Each unique, each lovable, each absolutely captivating. The story moves seamlessly between the three of them, and there is never a point where you think, “I wish I was back in the other character’s head/story”.

I won’t say anymore (because I’ve been awake for about a hundred hours, and I’m not even sure this is making sense), but if you want to fall head-over-heels for three brilliant, inspirational women this Christmas, pick up The Help. You won’t be disappointed. 🙂

xo Elizabeth