Emerjas

Into the Water

Into The Water - Paula Hawkins

Into the Water is a book about the ways women can be blamed for a man's actions whether it be the man himself casting the blame or other people. It's about how men are excused for their wrongdoings because they are good men while women are persecuted for their wrongdoings. It's a book about troublesome women.

 

Beckford is not a suicide spot. Beckford is a place to get rid of troublesome women.

 

Nel's body is found in the Drowning Pool, a spot where a number of women's bodies have been found over the centuries. Nel was in the process of writing a book about these women, and it appears that she chose to end her life as they had. She left behind a 15-year-old daughter, Lena, whose best friend, Katie, drowned herself in the same place a few months earlier and an estranged sister, Jules, who became Lena's guardian upon Nel's death. Jules hadn't spoken to her sister in years, but is now forced to return to her old home for her niece, bringing back old memories as she tries to make sense of her sister's death.

 

This book has a lot of points of view to sort out which made keeping everyone straight very difficult at the start of the book. I eventually got everyone down, but I had to keep reminding myself of who was who for a while there. This made for a slow start to the book, but things did pick up after a bit and then I sped through the book.

 

Somewhere in the middle of the book, I noted that there was a lot of women being blamed for everything. Things like this can make me wary since I'm used to a number of books having all women, except the heroine, depicted as evil, but with the earlier "troublesome women" quote, I was hopeful that this was completely intentional, and I was not disappointed. A later exchange between Lena and Jules confirmed it for me.

 

Lena’s voice grew cold. “I don’t understand you. I don’t understand people like you, who always choose to blame the woman. If there’s two people doing something wrong and one of them’s a girl, it’s got to be her fault, right?”

 

“No, Lena, it’s not like that, it isn’t—“

 

“Yes, it is. It’s, like, when someone has an affair, why does the wife always hate the other woman? Why doesn’t she hate her husband? He’s the one who’s betrayed her, he’s the one who swore to love her and keep her and whatever forever and ever. Why isn’t he the one who gets shoved off a fucking cliff?”

 

And women getting all the blame is what we see throughout the book. One of the first girls drowned a few centuries ago was a 14-year-old girl who was accused of seducing a 34-year-old man and leading the poor, innocent man astray. Nel was blamed for Katie's suicide.

A male teacher blames Katie (his 15-year-old student) for seducing him. Upon learning about the teacher, Katie's mom blames Lena for Katie's suicide because she didn't tell about the teacher even though her son was also aware of it and didn't tell. Jules is blamed for her own rape by her rapist who denies it was rape because all the girls wanted him and he was doing her a favor. A woman blames Nel for her own death after her father-in-law confesses to murdering her in cold blood because Nel was threatening the family with her questions about the death of her father-in-law's wife.

(show spoiler)

 

And when some of the women try to point out that a man should be held accountable for what he's done wrong, they are met with resistance from other women.

 

“He loved her,” Lena said. “Doesn’t that make him a good person, that he tried to find out what happened to her?”

 

“But, Lena, don’t you see…?”

 

“He’s a good person, Julia. How could I say anything? It would have got him into trouble, and he doesn’t deserve that. He’s a good man.”

 

But we got this wonderful thought from the female investigator of the case that shows exactly what she thinks about "good men."

 

There are a lot of them about. My father was a good man. He was a respected officer. Didn’t stop him beating the shit out of me and my brother when he lost his temper, but still. When my mother complained to one of his colleagues after he broke my youngest brother’s nose, his colleague said, “There’s a thin blue line, love, and I’m afraid you just don’t cross it.”

 

I just really liked the last part of the book where it becomes evident that all the women being blamed for everything is part of a larger point. I even appreciated how one of the people who was making those points about one man still was guilty of excusing another for his wrongs because she saw him as "good" and didn't want to ruin his life over it. Despite seeing things so clearly in one area, she still had a blind spot for another area.

 

I also liked the relationship between Jules and Lena who start out on the wrong foot with one another, but grow to understand each other as they learn how to communicate. Both of them are "messed up" as Lena puts it, but that doesn't mean they can't form a family together.

 

Most of the characters in this are unlikable, with several being particularly awful, but I still loved a few of them, despite their faults. No one is perfect or without some measure of fault for at least one of the issues in the book. But some of the characters are given more than their fair share of the blame. There's not an easy or clear answer to how much blame someone deserves for each issue. Just an acknowledgement that there's typically an unfair distribution of that blame.

 

Despite a slow start with a large cast of characters to keep straight, I ended up loving the Into the Water. It may have taken a little bit to draw me in, but once it had me, I was glued to it. I have a feeling it will be on my mind for a while.

Star Wars: Rebel Rising

Star Wars Rebel Rising - Beth Revis

Confession: I didn't particularly like Rogue One when I saw it in theaters. I just didn't care about any of the main characters in it, and I'm not a big enough Star Wars fan to have caught a majority of the references in the movie or recognize names of characters beyond the really big ones like Darth Vader. I knew nothing about this book other than it involved Jyn Erso in some way (I recognized her on the cover). I didn't really plan to read this, but my library got the audio book, and I was looking for one really fast to download. This was the only available book in the section I was browsing that I hadn't read and that wasn't a sequel to something I hadn't read or that wasn't a book I had no intention of ever reading. And I'm glad I ended up picking it.

 

Rebel Rising managed to do what Rogue One failed to do which is make me care about the main characters. It tells Jyn's story prior to the movie and gave me a better idea of who she is and why. Her story's not a happy one. She was forced to learn how to fight and survive from a young age under the guidance of Saw Gerrera who took her in after her mother was killed and her father joined the enemy. I loved her complex relationship with Saw who became her surrogate father. And I loved Jyn in general and how she kept trying to keep to herself and not care about others for her own sake, but kept caring despite herself, even when it often led to the very pain she was hoping to avoid.

 

It's a shame this book came out after the movie. I think I would have enjoyed Rogue One if I had read this before seeing it. I would have gone in already caring greatly about one of the main characters.

Even if that would have made the ending hurt more.

(show spoiler)

This book made me a Jyn fan and has made me consider giving the Rogue One novelization a shot just to see if I do enjoy the story (and Jyn) more.

Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One

Wonder Woman Vol. 2: Year One (Rebirth) - Greg Rucka

Despite a disappointing start to Wonder Woman's new run, I had hope the series would improve. And that hope was rewarded with the very next book. As the title of the book suggests, this volume takes us back to Wonder Woman's origins. It starts prior to Steve Trevor's arrival and gives us a glimpse of her life on Themyscira and her curiosity about the world beyond. We also see parallels between her life with the Amazons and Steve's life with his fellow soldiers prior to their first meeting.

 

While I've read Diana's origin story a number of times now, stories like this are why I've yet to grow tired of it. I am so glad the Amazons were back to wonderful, fierce, non-rapist selves in this run. I loved Diana's relationship with her mother and their love for one another. And, although we didn't see much of her, I liked the fact that Diana had a lover on Themyscira, even though Diana's sense of duty and desire to see the world ultimately meant that they couldn't last.

 

Barbara Ann Minerva and Etta Candy played just as big of a role as Steve did in introducing Diana to man's world once she arrived. All three of them were fun to watch as they worked together to try to figure out how to help Diana adapt. They had a nice dynamic. And it looked like Barbara and Etta were flirting with one another by the end of the volume which was very cute.

 

But it was Wonder Woman who was my favorite here. She was sweet, fierce, loving, strong, determined, and brave. Diana had moments of doubt about her choice to come when she was detained shortly after bringing Steve home, but a visit from the gods who bestow gifts upon her convinces her that she did the right thing. Her joy at this was charming to read. Seeing her delight at the world, even with all the misunderstandings, is just so nice. She's fun to watch discover the world.

 

Also, the art in this book is gorgeous. Every page looks amazing.

 

After a few years of reading books where Wonder Woman just didn't feel like Wonder Woman to me, having this book is fantastic. This book captures the heart of the character I love, and I'm so happy for it.

May Books

It's already a couple of months into the year, but I like seeing other people's monthly wrap-ups, so I've decided to join in. Better late than never.

 

I read 27 books this month which is a lot more than I would have guessed. Of the 27 books, 7 were graphic novels and 11 were audiobooks. While I had a handful of bad reads, the majority were pretty great.

 

 

5 Stars

The Lawrence Browne Affair - Cat Sebastian 

 

 

4 Stars

First Test - Tamora Pierce  Rebels Like Us - Liz Reinhardt  Goodbye Days - Jeff Zentner  Allegedly - Tiffany D. Jackson  Page - Tamora Pierce  Saga, Volume 6 - Brian K. Vaughan,Fiona Staples  The Pearl Thief - Elizabeth Wein  Star-Crossed - Barbara Dee  Clean Room Vol. 2: Exile - Gail Simone,Jon Davis-Hunt  Goldie Vance Vol. 2 - Hope Larson,Brittney Williams  The Girl from Everywhere - Heidi Heilig  Squire - Tamora Pierce  The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You - Lily Anderson  We Are The Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson  

 

3 Stars

Love is Love - Various,Phil Jimenez  All Star Batman Vol. 1: My Own Worst Enemy (Rebirth) (Batman - All Star Batman (Rebirth)) - Scott Snyder,John Romita Jr.  You Don't Know My Name - Kristen Orlando  Windfall - Jennifer E. Smith  Through the Ever Night - Veronica Rossi  Siege and Storm - Leigh Bardugo  Rebellion - Kass Morgan  

 

2.5 Stars

Tohyo Game, Vol. 1: One Black Ballot to You - G.O.,Chihiro The Love Interest - Cale Dietrich 

 

 

2 Stars

Black Widow Red Vengeance (A Black Widow Novel) (A Marvel YA Novel) - Margaret Stohl The Last of August (Charlotte Holmes Novel) - Brittany Cavallaro 

 

1.5 Stars

Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak (Rebirth) - Bryan Hitch 

 

Goldie Vance Vol. 2

Goldie Vance Vol. 2 - Hope Larson, Brittney Williams

Volume 2 of Goldie Vance continues to be an adorable series with a fun cast of characters. Goldie's best friend, Cheryl gets greater focus this time around with her connection to the new mystery revealing a couple secrets she'd been keeping from Goldie. Their friendship gets challenged a bit in this book, but their love for one another is never in question. The two of them are a good team.

 

There wasn't as much of Diane as I would have liked, but the little bits we saw of her and Goldie together were too cute. I wouldn't mind the next mystery being connected to Diane so there will be more of her.

 

Goldie's mom played a bigger role this time around, and she is pretty fantastic. She works as a mermaid and wants Goldie to spend some quality mermaid time together. Their dynamic was sweet and funny. And I loved how she helped Goldie out with the mystery.

 

It really is the cast that makes this such a fun series. Goldie is a fun and clever protagonist, and she's surrounded by a diverse group of friends and family that each bring something different to the table when it comes to assisting with the mystery solving. This series is a blast to read.

Asking For It

Asking for it - Louise T. O'Neill

This was a painful read, but I think the very reasons it was painful are also the reasons why it is important. I was angry at a lot of the characters throughout this book, including the main character at times, even as I felt bad for a number of them at various times as well.

 

Even before Emma, the main character, is raped, this book was not pleasant. Emma and her friends were awful. Awful to one another and awful to other people. They are the mean girls of other stories. They put people down, bully others, backstab one another, steal things, and do a number of other things to demonstrate just how terrible they are at the start of the book.

 

But none of that matters when it comes to Emma’s rape. Yes, she was not a nice person. But it doesn’t matter. She didn’t deserve it. She didn’t deserve a group of boys (and an adult man) raping her while she was unconscious and doing other things to her body, all while they filmed everything. Her actions don’t justify their actions. Not that that stops so many people in her community from trying to excuse them by tearing her down. Because they’re all athletes with promising futures that shouldn’t be ruined by this. It’s a familiar story that I’ve seen play out in the news more times than I’d like. It’s an awful one, and none of that awfulness is ignored here. Emma is a shadow of herself after details of the rape come out and has been beaten down by so many people, including those she thought she could count on.

 

This is not a happy story. But it is one, unfortunately, that reflects a reality that some rape survivors face. And no one deserves it, regardless of who they are as a person.

Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak

Justice League Vol. 2: Outbreak (Rebirth) - Bryan Hitch

This volume starts off in the middle of a battle between the Justice League and some kind of being that spreads fear. After the team seemingly defeats it, they all split off only to get hit again with the fear causing everyone to lash out in different ways. Aquaman and Wonder Woman decide to conquer the world together to save everyone. Superman decides he must kill Batman. Cyborg and Baz lash out at those around them during a friendly football game between friends out of fear of being rejected for being different. While on a date together, Flash starts acting like a jerk to everyone and Jessica locks herself in the restaurant freezer to shut out the world. After some painful dialogue from everyone as they fight off the fear, Jessica decides to quit the Justice League because she feels she isn't ready for this. And that's the only consequence we see from this little arc in the rest of the book. Nothing is mentioned about Aquaman and Wonder Woman's declaring of war. No damage control for any of the public breakdowns some of the heroes had. I just have to wonder what the point of it all was.

 

It just feels like the book is going for emotional payoffs that it hasn't put any effort into building toward. Jessica suddenly asking Flash out wasn't the result of a building relationship between the two. Her choice to quit the team due to feelings of inadequacy felt abrupt. This is supposed to be a team book, but there's not any focus on how they are as a team. The fear arc feels like it should come after work has been put into establishing everyone much better as characters and team mates. An arc exposing the cracks in the team doesn't pack much of a punch if I haven't really gotten a good idea of what the team is like together. And it especially doesn't pack a punch if all consequences of the arc are then ignored. The end of the book even lessened the impact of Jessica quitting by having her join in the big battle of the next arc and saying she'll always be there to help. So she'll fight with the team still, but just won't say she's on the team.

 

The second arc in this volume started off with a premise that I found hard to buy. Apparently the giant world-wide crisis of the previous volume that they had such a difficult time with only had a single casualty. I don't understand how only a single person died from all of that. And then we get a computer virus so great it can hack into anything including Cyborg and Baz's ring. I'll admit the Lantern Corps is an area I'm not as familiar with, but I really didn't think their rings could be infected with a computer virus. Is that something I just completely missed? Because it just seems really ridiculous. I don't like it.

And the whole virus ends up being an accident by a girl who just wanted to make a better search engine and ended up with an app that could take on the Justice League without even trying for that. And they needed her help the take care of the problem in the end.

(show spoiler)

There were just too many elements of the story I was questioning for me to enjoy it. And it didn't have any good character moments to make up for things.

 

This Justice League run is not impressing me. The first volume was boring. This one was just painful.

All-New Wolverine Vol. 1: The Four Sisters

All-New Wolverine Vol. 1: The Four Sisters - Tom Taylor, David López

Laura Kinney (X-23) taking on the mantle of Wolverine after Logan’s death is a premise I feel conflicted about. On one hand, who better to be Wolverine than his clone? On the other hand, it feels like a step back for her because she is his clone. Part of Laura’s journey has been establishing herself as her own person separate from her creators’ intended purpose of her being Wolverine’s replacement. Which is why Laura taking on the mantle of Wolverine feels like a step back on being her own person.

 

That being said, this was a fun book for Laura and I loved seeing her being a hero. Laura gets to deal with some clones of her own. Her dynamic with them was excellent. One of the clones, Gabby, was particularly adorable. I can’t wait to see more of Laura and Gabby together.

 

Laura’s new story is a great showing for her overall, even if I am a bit worried about her losing her own identity by taking on the mantle of the man she was cloned from. I definitely plan on enjoying her time as the Wolverine, but I’ll also be waiting for her to step back out of Logan’s shadow and claim her own identity. She deserves that.

Love is Love

Love is Love - Phil Jimenez, Various

The sentiment behind this was lovely. Love is Love is an anthology comic book of short pieces honoring the memories of those killed at the Pulse shooting with all proceeds donated to the survivors. And it has some beautiful works in there celebrating love, community, and their memories.

 

But I felt some of the pieces really didn’t work. Some felt jarring in tone. For a book that seemed like it wanted to be celebrating and honoring love and the memories of those lost, it didn’t seem right to have so many depictions of them dying in the floor in pools of their own blood. That just seemed like a horrible way to remember them for this particular project. There was one piece that when on a rant about guns. Another piece depicted Zeus as a super lover who would be so upset by this, ignoring the fact that the “lovers” Zeus was shown with in the piece were all his rape victims that he tricked into sleeping with him. None of those works really struck me as celebrating love or honoring the dead.

 

Luckily, there were plenty of works that did. There was a beautiful, heartbreaking piece depicting the mother who was killed there dancing with her son at the club after beating cancer. I loved that her memory was honored by showing her dancing with her son instead of her dead body. There was another wonderful piece depicting a phone call between a son and his parents as they asked him to be careful, but also be proud and unafraid to be himself. There were pieces that just showed couples being happy together. Those were the works that had me choking up.

 

And as a superhero fan who knows just how much they can mean to a person, I was glad to see Batwoman, Harley Quinn, Poison Ivy, Apollo, and Midnighter show up several times throughout the anthology, as well as lesser known queer characters like Tremor, Catman, Scandal, Porcelain, and a number of others. There was also a piece featuring the characters from the Archie comics and a piece of artwork of the main Harry Potter characters.

 

While not every piece worked for me, there were enough in the anthology that did. I wish the tragedy that brought about this anthology had never happened, but it is heartening to see so many come together to try to make something positive and to help the survivors.

How to Break a Boy

How to Break a Boy - Laurie Devore

I went into this book expecting a cute, lighthearted read because of the bright cover and the summary promising a fake relationship. That is not at all what I got. This book was dark.

 

Olivia is not a nice character for a lot of the book, and she keeps making terrible decisions. She doesn’t like who she’s become, but she finds it difficult to change after being that way for so long. I was frustrated with her actions throughout the book because she truly did a number of horrible things. Every time she takes a step forward, Olivia would then take a few steps back. She keeps pushing people away, even as they try to help her. It takes her most of the book to truly start changing without the backsliding.

 

Really, a lot of this book is characters making terrible decisions, whether that means actively doing awful things or just standing by quietly while something happens. I was frustrated with most of the characters at one point or another.

 

However, the book did deliver on the fake relationship. Olivia convinces Whit, the golden boy of the high school, to both tutor her and pretend to be her boyfriend. The two grudgingly work together at first, but start to fall for each other the more time they spend together. They are pretty cute, even if Olivia keeps wrecking things with her bad decisions.

 

Even though the book was a lot darker than expected, I still enjoyed it. Olivia was a hard character to follow at times, but I still cared about her and wanted her to do better. It just took her longer than I would have liked to get there.

Rebels Like Us

Rebels Like Us - Liz Reinhardt

I loved the chemistry between the two main characters, Nes and Doyle. The two had some great banter going from the first time they met. Their flirting had me smiling every time. Both of them were fun characters. I was actually surprised how much of the book focused on their growing relationship. I expected more of the plot to be on the racism Nes faced in Georgia as a mixed-race girl and on her efforts to stop the annual tradition of two proms being held – one white and one black. It took quite a while for Nes to even learn about the prom tradition. And once she did learn, it took a while more for them to get around to doing anything.

 

Because of that, the plot was a bit uneven. While I absolutely enjoyed watching the relationship between Nes and Doyle, I felt like the prom plot should have gotten more focus. A lot of their work at throwing an inclusive prom happened off-screen. There were news stories, donations, and planning that we were just told about after the fact. The whole prom plot was mostly rushed at the end after it took so long to even be introduced.

 

In addition to the relationship between Nes and Doyle, I also loved her relationships with her friend, Ollie, and with her mom. Both those relationships are readjusting after the sudden move. Nes and Ollie have to learn how to navigate a long-distance relationship, but they still love each other fiercely. Nes and her mom are trying to figure out how to act around one another after her mom’s affair wrecked their lives in Brooklyn. They’re not in a good place when the book starts, but they still love each other and work on repairing things over the course of the book.

 

Overall, this was a fun read, despite a couple darker moments. The plot may have been uneven, but the relationships were great.

Civil War II

Civil War II - Brian Michael Bendis, David Marquez

When an Inhuman with the ability to see the future appears, Captain Marvel sees an opportunity to prevent problems before they happen. However, Iron Man sees this as a slippery slope and opposes what he sees as an abuse of power. Their disagreement causes the entire superhero community to pick sides and face off against one another.

 

This only got two stars because the art is absolutely gorgeous. I may have hated the plot, but I loved looking at it as it played out. If the art could have been paired up with a story I liked, I would have been thrilled.

 

To be fair to the book, its very premise put it at a disadvantage to having me like it. I hate superhero stories that feature heroes fighting heroes. There are exceptions that have managed to win me over, but for the most part, I spend this kind of story incredibly frustrated as the heroes behave like bratty children who resort to violence first and generally stop behaving like the heroes they typically are. And this was not one of those exceptions.

 

Characters just felt needlessly antagonistic to one another just to push the plot along as they all seemed to forget how to speak rationally with one another or act in logical ways. They just made ridiculous decisions simply to push the plot along rather than it being a rational way to act. Like when a vision shows Hulk going on a rampage, they’re solution is to have everyone go and surround Banner’s place and confront him even though he’s been Hulk-free for a year now. If Banner really could transform still, their actions seemed like a really good way of triggering that instead of talking to Banner in a calm and less intimidating way.

And then one of the heroes murders Banner in cold blood anyways and gets away with it.

(show spoiler)

This was the point I knew I’d hate everyone on Captain Marvel’s side.

 

And her side just kept getting worse. They started arrested people and holding them for crimes that they hadn’t yet committed. I don’t understand how I’m supposed to see the sides as both having a point when one side is arresting people for nothing and holding them without a trial or anything. I really don’t get why so many heroes would join that side.

 

The whole conflict felt like it escalated so quickly and no one was willing to rationally discuss anything. I couldn’t understand why characters were acting the way they were and what their reasoning was for the side they chose. And I really don’t understand why so many of them were drawn into this conflict. It didn’t feel like the kind of dispute that would involve the entire superhero community.

 

The art really is the only thing I enjoyed here. This was a great example of why I hate stories about superheroes fighting one another. They usually end up making everyone look bad.

Batgirl and the Birds of Prey, Vol. 1: Who is Oracle?

Batgirl And The Birds Of Prey Vol. 1: Who Is Oracle? (Rebirth) (Batgirl and the Birds of Prey (Rebirth)) - Shawna Benson, Julie Benson, Claire Roe

I wanted to love this because Batgirl, Black Canary, and Huntress were finally back together as the Birds of Prey, but this book just lacked the fun of the previous runs. The three are very different characters from what they once were due to the changes they’ve undergone. They lack the chemistry they once had. They just felt forced together simply because they’re the original team. I couldn’t see why they’d want to work together. It just didn’t feel like a natural team-up.

 

The problem I had was that the book didn’t do much to make me connect emotionally to the characters. And the changes made to them have made them different characters from the ones I used to know, so I don’t have those connections carrying over from previous series. Huntress discovers one of the villains they’re facing is her mother who she thought was murdered, but watching her discover part of her life was a lie didn’t draw any reaction from me. And I’m not excited about the new character introduced to team up with the Birds of Prey. I just found him irritating.

 

Rather than getting me excited for the next book, this made me want to get back to reading the older Birds of Prey books.

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy

Lumberjanes/Gotham Academy - Chynna Clugston-Flores, Rosemary Valero-O'Connell, Maddi Gonzalez, Whitney Cogar

As a fan of both Lumberjanes and Gotham Academy, this was a crossover I was looking forward to. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a letdown. It was still an enjoyable read, just not quite as much as I'd hoped.

 

The cover of the book is beautiful. I was hoping it would be representative of the art inside, but it definitely is not. The story's art isn't bad, but it's much simpler. That style suits the Lumberjane girls, but not the Gotham Academy kids. A good chunk of the story takes place in a cabin where a group of people are being kept. When all the kids went there to rescue them, I had a hard time telling the Gotham Academy kids apart from the people they were rescuing. Except Olive. She was very easy because no one else had white hair. But there were several times when someone was talking and it took me a bit to figure out if it was a character from Gotham Academy or a new character. Pom and Maps gave me the most problems with this after everyone was forced into new outfits. I didn't have any problems recognizing any of the Lumberjanes though.

 

Since this was a crossover between two series featuring groups, the book had a lot of characters to juggle. While they made sure everyone contributed in some way, there really wasn't enough space for everyone to get some focus, leaving a number of the main cast feeling like secondary characters. It was just too many characters for so short of a book once you throw in all the new characters in the cabin.

 

The story felt more like a Lumberjanes story than a Gotham Academy one with it being set in the woods and featuring mystical creatures, but that's not a bad thing for me since I love their adventures. It was a fun story, and the cast was pretty adorable together. It just wasn't everything I hoped for.

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories

Summer Days and Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories - Stephanie Perkins

The cover of this book is a lie. It makes you think this is a collection of cute, lighthearted, contemporary summer romances. And while some of the stories fall under that, most of them do not. I was surprised to find a number of the stories were more sad or dark than lighthearted. The cover just doesn't fit for most of the stories here. I still enjoyed most of them, but this anthology was not at all what I expected.

 

Head, Scales, Tongue, Tail by Leigh Bardugo - This story starts off very strange with the main character's favorite story of why a side character came to her town involving magic. The story then switches to our main character spotting what she thinks is a sea creature in the lake and joining forces with a boy who comes to town every summer to research all sightings of the sea creature. She slowly falls for him over the summers, and it's fairly cute. Then the story takes a sudden turn when

she sacrifices her humanity to save the boy after discovering he's actually a sea serpent who can take on a human form for 3 months every year and they live out their days as sea serpents, turning human for 3 months every year.

(show spoiler)

 I wasn't surprised by the reveal about the guy which was hinted at throughout the story. It was the girl's actions that were very sudden. It was a weird end. Which goes with the strange start, I suppose. 3/5

 

The End of Love by Nina LaCour - This one was more on the sad side, not because of the romance, but because of the main character's situation when the story starts. Her parents are divorcing, and she is not taking it well. To get out of the house, she signs up for a geometry class to audit and finds that the girl she's had a crush on for years is taking it with her friends. They all end up on a camping trip where the girls confess their feelings. Overall, it's a rather cute romance. I liked the relationship between the friends. 4/5

 

Last Stand at the Cinegore by Libba Bray - This story ended up being a horror story which I was not expecting because of that cover. The main character works at a horror movie theater where the girl he has liked for a while also works. On the last night of the theater before it is shut down, a movie that is rumored to be cursed is played. When it turns out those rumors were true, the theater's staff must try to escape before the possessed movie goers kill them all. The guy finds the courage to admit his feelings as they're all fighting for their lives. It was a funny story despite some creepy moments. 4/5

 

Sick Pleasure by Francesca Lia Block - This was another one that was more on the sad side of things. The main character only refers to herself and all the characters in the story by their first initial. She tells the story of the summer before college where she fell for a guy, but ultimately pushed him away out of fear. The story was okay, but it was hard to connect to any of the characters. 2.5/5

 

In Ninety Minutes, Turn North by Stephanie Perkins - Another one tinged with sadness, although it takes a turn for the happy ultimately. The main character is returning to convince her ex-boyfriend to move in with her. She initially just sees it as wanting to rescue him from a life he didn't want, but eventually realizes she still loves him. The two were a cute couple and had nice chemistry. I enjoyed their romance. 4/5

 

Souvenirs by Tim Federle - This one is really more of a break-up story. Two boys who are working at a theme park over the summer got together, but decided on a break-up day early into their relationship. The story happens on that break-up day. I liked the main character, but wasn't too sad about them breaking up because the other guy really wasn't right for him at all. Naturally, this is one of the sad ones since it's all about a break-up, but it ends on the hopeful side. 3.5/5

 

Inertia by Veronica Roth - This story had a sci-fi element to it with a world where science has developed a way for people who are about to die to spend their final moments sharing minds with loved ones to talk and experience memories together, even if that person is unconscious. The main character finds out she was listed as one of the final visitors of her ex-best friend when he gets in a car accident and isn't expected to survive. The two reconnect as they share memories of their relationship and talk about their favorite moments and why they stopped talking. It was a nice story with several sweet moments between the two characters, but I didn't quite connect with the characters. 3/5

 

Love is the Last Resort by Jon Skovron - A guy and girl working at a resort scheme to get some of the guests who have been pining over one another for years together with a ridiculous, but fun scheme, only to discover at the end of it that another coworker was scheming to get them together. I enjoyed the plot to this one, but the dialogue was just too awkward and unnatural for me. It was like everyone was speaking in flowery poetry at one point. That's just not a style I like. 2.5/5

 

Good Luck and Farewell by Brandy Colbert - The main character is upset that her cousin is moving across the country with her girlfriend. At their goodbye party, she lashes out at the girlfriend. The girlfriend's brother is upset at that, but the two are forced to spend time together that night and ending up bonding over the upcoming loss of the person they're closest to, as well as losses in the past. I liked the main characters and their relationships with their family. 3.5/5

 

Brand New Attraction by Cassandra Clare - When the main character's dad runs away, she is forced to turn to her uncle and his stepson to help keep their dark carnival running. This was another story where the dialogue felt unnatural. I didn't feel any chemistry between the girl and her step cousin. And the plot felt rushed with a number of convenient coincidences all falling into place for the main character. I just didn't like the story at all. 1/5

 

A Thousand Ways This Could All Go Wrong by Jennifer E. Smith - This was my favorite story of the bunch. A girl working at a summer camp finally gets the chance to go on a date with her longtime crush. He reveals that he's autistic near the end of the date and pushes her away because he doesn't think they could work, but eventually comes back in a very sweet way. I loved the couple in this and their chemistry with each other. They had a nice relationship and were just ridiculously cute. 5/5

 

The Map of Perfect Things by Lev Grossman - A boy finds himself stuck in a day that keep repeating. Eventually he finds a girl who is also aware of this endless loop. The two decide to find perfect moments throughout the city that happened that day and create little challenges to help ease the boredom. It was a cute story that ended on an abrupt and bittersweet note after a revelation on why the time loop was created. 4/5

 

While I mostly liked the stories in this anthology, I really did go into it wanting a bunch of cute and lighthearted summer romances, so I couldn't help but be a bit disappointed that the cover was so misleading.

Last Seen Leaving

Last Seen Leaving - Caleb Roehrig

Flynn's girlfriend, January, has gone missing, and Flynn is searching for answers to what happened. The two had been growing apart shortly before her disappearance after she was forced to transfer to a private school by her mother and new politician step-father. January started to withdraw from Flynn. Not helping with this is the fact that Flynn is struggling with the knowledge that, while he loves January, he is not sexually attracted to her due to the fact that he is gay.

 

I really think this book would have benefited from aging Flynn and January up to 17. As more of what happened to January is revealed

specifically an adult revealing he raped her because what they had was special and she was an old soul, so it's totally fine (in his messed up opinion)

(show spoiler)

Flynn says that January was just a child. What the book doesn't seem to get is that, at the same exact age of 15, Flynn is also just a child. Which makes the decision to give him an adult love interest seem off, particularly when details of what happened to January come to light. Now there's only a 3-5 year age difference between Flynn and his love interest, but when one is 15 and the other is in college, those couple years mean a lot more than if they were both a mere decade older. This was especially strange when the idea of that same love interest trying to get with January was treated as creepy. But apparently no one, including Flynn's parents, see anything even slightly off about a college guy dating a 15 year old kid who they just met. Then again, I was also questioning the parents giving a 15 year old a curfew of midnight. Basically, what happened to January would have been equally as awful at the age of 17, but Flynn's love life would have been considerably less creepy to me. Which is a shame because other than the age thing, I liked the love interest.

 

I also really liked January, despite only seeing her in flashbacks. She was a mess of contradictions, showing moments of great kindness and great cruelty as she struggled to deal with situations beyond her control. I felt for her, even when her crueler actions were revealed. I liked her relationship with Flynn and could see why he loved her and wanted to be in love with her.

 

Flynn, too, was a good character, although harder for me to connect with which is surprising since he was the point of view character and January was only seen in flashbacks. He was at his most engaging when dealing with his sexuality and his conflicting feelings for January. His relationship with his love interest wasn't particularly interesting. I just didn't feel a real connection between them. They were both nice as individuals, but just lacking in chemistry as a couple for me.

 

The mystery was interesting and appropriately creepy at times. I figured out the gist of it fairly early on, but not all the details. There were a few bits I questioned

(I don't think a 15 year old volunteering at the Red Cross would be taught how to draw blood properly)

(show spoiler)

but I liked it for the most part.

 

The story kept me reading, which is what I look for in a book. I just wish Flynn had been a bit older to make it more enjoyable for me.

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