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LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT COVER REVEAL!

IT’S HERE, IT’S HERE, IT’S HERE!

When the news dropped last year that Becky Albertalli was writing a companion novel to her award winning debut, SIMON VS THE HOMO SAPIANS AGENDA, I was shook. When we found out this novel was going to be centered around Leah Burke, Simon’s sarcastic, fat best friend… I cried.

If you follow me on any social media (or maybe you’ve seen my Leah shirt?), you already know that Leah won my heart super early on in SIMON. There’s nothing I love more than a tough girl with a soft center, and I will always be trash for fat characters.

I was lucky enough to see an early version of the cover and it was beautiful… but then the final cover was decided on and IT WAS BEAUTIFUL, TOO. Honestly, I can’t decide which one I love more but I am so stoked to have this one on my shelf when it comes out.

Without further ado…

LeahOffbeat Cover_sticker (002)

LOOK. AT. IT.

LOOK AT LEAH!!!!

I am SO glad that we have a fat babe with an obvious attitude on the cover because anything less would have been cheating Leah out of what she deserves. I love the black speckles that totally match the ones on Simon’s book.

I’m in love, y’all.

Art/Design credits: art by Chris Bilheimer; design by @alisondonalty, David Curtis, Molly Fehr, and Michelle Cunningham.

LEAH ON THE OFFBEAT will be released on 4/24/18 but you can preorder now on Amazon, B&N, HarperCollins, IndieBound, and Chapters.

As the date for release gets closer, be on the look out for giveaways through this blog, my twitter, and the Leah Burke twitter account!

Also, today is Becky Albertalli’s birthday! Send her some love!

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

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Reviews

Review: CHICKADEE

13503214Title: CHICKADEE
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 224
ARC?: No.
Format: Paperback
Rep: Ojibwe
Rating: 5/5

Twin brothers Chickadee and Makoons have done everything together since they were born—until the unthinkable happens and the brothers are separated.

Desperate to reunite, both Chickadee and his family must travel across new territories, forge unlikely friendships, and experience both unexpected moments of unbearable heartache as well as pure happiness. And through it all, Chickadee has the strength of his namesake, the chickadee, to carry him on.

I love Louise Erdrich.

When I decided to order CHICKADEE, it was definitely an impulse buy based on two things: It was by Erdrich and the cover was cute as a button. I didn’t quite realize that it was part of THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE series or I would have read those first but thankfully this one definitely holds up as a standalone.

The story follows Chickadee and his family as spring rolls around once more. While his family is collecting maple sap, Chickadee is kidnapped by two men who are mad that Chickadee’s grandmother and brother insulted their very unlikable father. A series of incidents allows Chickadee to escape and he starts his long journey home. Along the way, he makes friends, is kidnapped yet again (this time by missionaries), and finds there is no place quite like home.

While Chickadee is making his way home, his family is rushing to find him. When they realize that Chickadee is missing and figure out who took him, the whole family heads across the plains to reclaim their boy. It was definitely refreshing to see such tight familial bonds in middle grade fiction. Most MG stories these days have distant parents or siblings who don’t get along but Erdrich really captures how much Native families stick together and how unbreakable those bonds are.

I was also pleased with how she presented the missionaries. Yes, not all of them were terrible, but all of them felt that they could “save the souls” of “the savages” and it’s very telling that that instead of trying to find Chickadee’s parents, they just snatched him up from a cabin. While I was reading this with my godkids, Sidda made the remark “It’s like they found a stray puppy and decided to take him home” and that’s exactly how the missionaries treat Chickadee. Like a stray, wild animal.

This has a happy ending that everyone will enjoy and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series!

Reviews

Review: MY BRIGADISTA YEAR

34427289Title: MY BRIGADISTA YEAR
Author: Katherine Paterson
Publisher: Candlewick
Pages: 208
ARC?: Yes, provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Format: Paperback ARC
MG/YA/Adult: Middle grade- historical
TW/CW: Death (mentioned, non-graphic, non-detailed)
Rep: Cuban
Rating; 4/5

When thirteen-year-old Lora tells her parents that she wants to join Premier Castro’s army of young literacy teachers, her mother screeches to high heaven, and her father roars like a lion. Lora has barely been outside of Havana — why would she throw away her life in a remote shack with no electricity, sleeping on a hammock in somebody’s kitchen? But Lora is stubborn: didn’t her parents teach her to share what she has with someone in need? Surprisingly, Lora’s abuela takes her side, even as she makes Lora promise to come home if things get too hard. But how will Lora know for sure when that time has come? Shining light on a little-known moment in history, Katherine Paterson traces a young teen’s coming-of-age journey from a sheltered life to a singular mission: teaching fellow Cubans of all ages to read and write, while helping with the work of their daily lives and sharing the dangers posed by counterrevolutionaries hiding in the hills nearby. Inspired by true accounts, the novel includes an author’s note and a timeline of Cuban history.

When Candlewick asked if I wanted to review this book, I jumped at the opportunity. Katherine Paterson was one of my favorite authors growing up, even though her books (like BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA and JACOB HAVE I LOVED) pretty much ripped my heart out.

Her newest book follows thirteen year old, Lora, a young girl living in Cuba. The story takes place right as Castro is coming into power. Lora signs up to travel to the country to teach people how to read and write.

Paterson, as usual, did a great job in creating a cast of characters that younger readers will actually care about. The story is engaging and moves along fast enough that I think even readers as young as 7/8 would be entertained.

It lost a star for me because while Paterson does a good job describing the way of life and the big things happening in Lora’s life, without the context of what the political climate was like in Cuba during that time, it falls slightly flat. I read this with my 3 oldest godchildren and they were pretty confused about why there was such upheaval. A chapter or even a foreword about the changing regime in Cuba would have been a nice, needed touch.

Since I personally don’t know much about the rise of Castro, I can’t comment on the accuracy of this story. Lora does mention her friend’s family fleeing after Castro takes control of the government, but he is looked at in a positive light throughout this novel. I’m not sure what the feeling in Cuba was during this time and welcome any reviews from Cuban readers!

 

TBR Beatdown

November TBR: Happy Native Heritage Month!

th3ESBN5CW.jpgHappy Native American/Indigenous Peoples Heritage Month!

November is always a pretty lousy time for me to try and set a concrete TBR. Between YallFest, NaNoWriMo, and my godkids’ various school activities… I usually don’t have much time to read. However, I’m still uncertain about NaNoWriMo this year and I’ll have time to read in the evening at YallFest, so I wanted to go ahead and share some of the books I really want to read this month. All of the books listed below are by Native/Indigenous authors.

9781883953072WHEN BEAVER WAS VERY GREAT: STORIES TO LIVE BY by Anne M. Dunn.

It happened in the long ago. . . . So begin many folk tales in this wonderful collection of traditional legends and recent writings by Ojibwe elder storyteller Anne Dunn. The short pieces range from folk tales of Native American origin myths (the antics of Beaver, Rabbit, Otter, Bear, and others) to nature writing and contemporary stories of peace, justice, and environmental concern. Brimming with insight, vibrant with strength and beauty, these indeed are stories to live by, for all ages. Divided into the four seasons of the year, and set in the mostly in the Minnesota northwoods near Lake Superior, many of the stories are perfect to be read aloud to children. Anne M. Dunn is an Ojibwe storyteller from the Leech Lake area of Minnesota.

13503214CHICKADEE by Louise Erdrich

Twin brothers Chickadee and Makoons have done everything together since they were born—until the unthinkable happens and the brothers are separated. Desperate to reunite, both Chickadee and his family must travel across new territories, forge unlikely friendships, and experience both unexpected moments of unbearable heartache as well as pure happiness. And through it all, Chickadee has the strength of his namesake, the chickadee, to carry him on.

1569141SPIRITS DARK AND LIGHT by Tim Tingle

In the Native American tradition, a strong connection exists between the spirit world and the natural world. What happens in one has direct and often reciprocal impact on the other. In this collection, Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle draws from the rich heritage of the Five Civilized Tribes – the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole nations – and brings tales from the spirit world into our world. These spine-tingling stories not only entertain but provide a window into the native customs and beliefs of these still-vital communities. In “Eagle Slayer,” calamity befalls a Cherokee village when one member violates tradition. The Seminole story “Hungry for Meat” illustrates the premium the once-migratory people place on respecting the remains of the dead – and the penalty for doing otherwise. And the Creek story “Two Friends” takes a horrifying twist on the teaching that we be true to ourselves: trying to be something else violates the natural order and brings a lifetime of pain and isolation. Owls, rabbits, deer, eagles – all of these spirits and more are here, shifting shapes in dizzying sequence and illuminating the values, beliefs, hopes and fears still embraced by the Five Civilized Tribes. These Native American stories will teach readers the importance of courage, resourcefulness and respect.

34649348THE MARROW THIEVES by Cherie Dimaline

In a futuristic world ravaged by global warming, people have lost the ability to dream, and the dreamlessness has led to widespread madness. The only people still able to dream are North America’s Indigenous people, and it is their marrow that holds the cure for the rest of the world. But getting the marrow, and dreams, means death for the unwilling donors. Driven to flight, a fifteen-year-old and his companions struggle for survival, attempt to reunite with loved ones and take refuge from the “recruiters” who seek them out to bring them to the marrow-stealing “factories.” 

183893ALL OUR RELATIONS: NATIVE STRUGGLES FOR LAND AND LIFE by Winona LaDuke

This eagerly awaited non-fiction debut by acclaimed Native environmental activist Winona LaDuke is a thoughtful and in-depth account of Native resistance to environmental and cultural degradation.LaDuke’s unique understanding of Native ideas and people is born from long years of experience, and her analysis is deepened with inspiring testimonies by local Native activists sharing the struggle for survival.On each page of this volume, LaDuke speaks forcefully for self-determination and community. Hers is a beautiful and daring vision of political, spiritual, and ecological transformation.All Our Relations features chapters on the Seminoles, the Anishinaabeg, the Innu, the Northern Cheyenne, and the Mohawks, among others.

 

And that’s my TBR for November! Short and sweet but filled with authors I love and authors I hope to love! I hope this gives you a little encouragement to celebrate Native Heritage month with me and pick up a few books by Native authors!

And here’s a thread I made with lots of Native authors and books!

Monthly Wrap-Up

October Wrap-Up!

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What a month.

I didn’t get to read as many spooky books as I planned. Look back on my October TBR, I had some pretty lofty goals and while I read 20 books this month… only three were from my actual TBR. Whoops.

Having said that, most of the books I read were four and five star books, so I’m super excited about that! I also got to attend the Southern Festival of Book in Nashville, and it was a ton of fun especially since I was able to meet Nic Stone, Daniel Jose Older, and Stephanie Perkins. I’m getting more comfortable at book festivals and enjoying myself more when I do get to go, so this month was pretty much a win!

Without further ado… my October Wrap Up!

5

 

34076952THE LANGUAGE OF THORNS by Leigh Bardugo.

I’m usually not a huge fan of anthologies or short stories but when Bardugo announced TLoT, I knew I would buy it… because I’m Bardugo trash. However, I really, really loved this book. I was able to meet her (for just a brief, sweet moment but still!) and she’s just as lovely as her books. If you’re unsure about short stories, I definitely recommend picking this one up, especially if you like fairy tales.

 

 

2THE VANDERBEEKERS OF 141ST STREET by Karina Yan Glaser.

I was fortunate enough to get an ARC of this one and a hardback copy from the publisher! My godkids super enjoyed reading this one with me!

You can peep my full review here.

 

 

 

35833506TAPROOT by Keezy Young.

I usually don’t read graphic novels, but this one came highly recommended and it was super adorable! I love plants, I love ghosts, I love Queer love!

Check out my full review here.

 

 

 

12294652MY LIFE NEXT DOOR by Huntley Fitzpatrick.

This was a reread. I needed something light and fluffy after reading SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES and while I probably could have found something a little more October-esque, this has been my go to feel good book since I read it two summers ago.

 

 

 

17456953LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW by Katie Green.

This was my second graphic novel of the month. It’s a very heavy read in terms of page length and the topics it covers. Please make sure to check out the TW/CW before reading!

You can check my review here.

 

 

 

24974996

DEAR MARTIN by Nic Stone

I had the honor of meeting Nic Stone this month in Nashville and she’s truly a gem. I had planned on waiting until November to read this one but after hearing so many great things about it, I decided to dive in. This book really lives up to its hype.

Check out my review here.

 

 

20172134NIGHTMARES! by Jason Segel and Kirsten Miller

I had no idea this book even existed until I saw it on the YallFest website. I was also super leery of it… I mean, I know who Jason Segel is but I had my doubts about his ability to write a middle grade series.

I was super wrong, though! This is creepy and spooky and made me cry at one point. I can’t wait to read the rest of these!

 

 

4

2THE OCTOBER COUNTRY by Ray Bradbury.

This is just an October staple. Written in that unique Bradbury style, this is a collection of stories that will leave you spooked and wanting more.

 

 

 

 

22080193SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES & OTHER LESSONS FROM THE CREMATORY by Caitlin Doughty.

I first discover Caitlin through her YouTube channel, Ask A Mortician. Finding someone who isn’t squeamish about death is always fun and I decided to give her books a chance… and wasn’t disappointed.

Review here.

 

 

28691932THE FORGETTING by Sharon Cameron

I can’t stop thinking about this book.

I really want the sequel.

Good grief, this book.

Review here.

 

 

34068481FROM HERE TO ETERNITY by Caitlin Doughty.

Another #DEATHPOSITIVE book!

Review here.

 

 

 

 

15797848THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE by Stephanie Perkins.

This was my first Perkins books and while I don’t think her other ones are quite up my alley, I really enjoyed this one.

Review here.

 

 

 

33413958YOUR ONE & ONLY by Adrianne Finlay.

Will I ever be done with dystopian YA?

Nope.

Review here.

 

 

 

3

 

27834600IN A DARK, DARK WOOD by Ruth Ware.

This started out as a 5 star book but quickly lost its steam halfway through. It’s not a bad book, it just feels like it is lacking the ‘oomph’ it needs to be spectacular.

 

 

 

 

 

24727094HONOR GIRL by Maggie Thrash.

This was my third graphic novel of the month. Like LIGHTER THAN MY SHADOW, this a memoir about the author as a younger girl. Maggie is dealing with her first real life crush… on a girl.

TW for “romance” between a 15 yo and 19 yo.

 

 

2

MILES AWAY FROM YOU by A.B. Rutledge. This has some super questionable content  as far as the trans rep. I have a copy of this available for any US trans blogger who would like to review it.

TRU & NELLE: A CHRISTMAS STORY by G. Neri. I was really looking forward to this one but it fell really, really flat. When my godkids ask if we can start another book in the middle of one… you know it’s not worth more than 2 stars.

1

THE TEMPTATION OF ADAM by Dave Connis. I’d heard so many great things about this book and it didn’t live up to a single one.

PECULIAR COUNTY by Stuart R. West. The main character… she’s not like other girls. She has a blue bike. She doesn’t like girl things. She’s not like other girls. She’s not like other girls, ok?

 

And that’s my October wrap up! See any books you’re interested in? Or maybe that you’ve already read? Let me know in the comments!

 

Reviews

REVIEW: YOUR ONE AND ONLY

33413958Title: YOUR ONE AND ONLY
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Pages: 320
ARC?: Yes, provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: 2/6/2018
MG, YA, ADULT: YA
TW/CW: Abuse, violence, blood, euthanasia.
Rating: 4/5

Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack? While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Apparently I am falling back into my dystopian phase.

To be fair, I saw the word clones and hit request. I think the whole premise of clones is pretty fascinating, so I definitely wasn’t going to miss the chance to read a YA story about them.

Our story begins in a classroom where Althea-310 is sitting with her sisters (all nine of them… all clones) and the rest of her generation of clones. It’s been 300 years since the last of the humans died out, leaving only 9 “clone types” left. So imagine their surprise (and terror) when in walks a human- a boy named Jack. They are instantly fearful of him because unlike the clones, Jack can’t commune with them (sharing feelings/emotions telepathically) and after a disastrous encounter with the Carsons, Jack is deemed dangerous and is secluded away from the clone children.

Finlay does an excellent job with world building and giving us history and background without info dumping. I’m generally a little lost when it comes to the whole generational thing but Finlay breaks it down easily enough- every 10 years, 10 clones are made. There are 9 prototypes (4 males, 5 females) so there are 90 clones per generation. As the story progresses, we get a better feel of the clones and their governing systems.

It was really interesting to see how when the clones tried to remove the “undesirable” parts of humanity (anger, sadness, illnesses), they actually lost their entire humanity. Even though they are able to commune with each other, it’s an ability that provides no privacy. It’s also a controlling method. Several times in the story, Althea-310 talks about her sisters overwhelming her with calm so that her own true emotions are tamped down.

There’s also a Binding ceremony… and that was probably the most horrifying thing about this story. If a clone sibling was thought to be “fracturing” (that is, feeling their own emotions or being able to block their siblings from pushing down their emotions), the remaining nine siblings could decided to have the “fractured” sibling euthanized. This was supposed to be a gift to the fractured sibling- a respite from their affliction and a chance for the siblings to bond without them. While reading, you realize that the clones don’t ever feel sadness. Not when someone dies, not when they’re deciding to murder their sibling.

Jack, however, is completely human. We find out later exactly why he was born and raised the way he is, but Jack is dangerous to the community because he represents all the parts of humanity the clones have tried to stomp out in themselves. He’s a little reckless and passionate and he has a great need for love. When Jack realizes he’s nothing more than an experiment, he tries to escape only to be caught and accused of something he knows he couldn’t possible have done.

Which makes him wonder… are there other humans?

While this book is INCREDIBLY heterocentric, I still really enjoyed it. There were a few little twists that I weren’t expecting… but really made this an enjoyable read.

If you’re into clones, dystopians, and scrappy humans fighting back… this is probably the one for you.

15299782Originally from Ithaca, New York, Adrianne Finlay now lives in Cedar Falls, Iowa with her husband, the poet J. D. Schraffenberger, and their two young daughters. She received her PhD in literature and creative writing from Binghamton University, and is an associate professor of English at Upper Iowa University in Fayette, Iowa.
She is also an avid soap maker, and sells handmade soap locally to raise money for type 1 diabetes research.

Reviews

Review: DEAR MARTIN

24974996Title: DEAR MARTIN
Author: Nic Stone
Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers
Pages: 210
Format: Hardcover
ARC?: No
MG, YA, ADULT: YA
TW/CW: Racism, death of a character, violence, gun violence, underage drinking.
Rating: 5/5

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates.

Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

DEAR MARTIN is a masterpiece.

I usually can’t connect with characters in books that are as short as this one, especially when they contain such heavy themes. But Nic Stone makes you care about Justyce from the very beginning. She makes you care about his story, his letters to Martin, and who he shares his heart with.

What really makes this book work, despite how short it is, is how realistic Justyce is. He could literally be your classmate, your best friend, that kid down the street- he’s just real. He had a strong character arc and I loved seeing his thought process as he dealt with every day stuff like classes and girls, but also dealing with heavier things like being Black in a predominately white school, police brutality, and intercommunity issues. Stone did an amazing job showcasing how Justyce felt excluded at school and at home.

It was also so important to see Sarah Jane apologize for speaking over Justyce in class and I hope more books focus on this. Yes, she was sticking up for him, but white allies need to learn how to boost PoC/Native voices without talking over them. To see a white character do that and then realize their mistake was pretty awesome.

I’ve seen a lot of people compare DEAR MARTIN to THE HATE U GIVE and while I agree there are a lot of similarities (characters living through police brutality and having their lives changed forever), DEAR MARTIN packed a harder punch to me. It says so much without saying much at all and while I loved THUG, DEAR MARTIN made me openly cry. This should be required reading for every student.

I can’t write a review that would adequately explain how important this novel is. I just can’t, so I won’t try.

Read this book.

 

13525503Nic Stone was born and raised in a suburb of Atlanta, GA, and the only thing she loves more than an adventure is a good story about one. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked extensively in teen mentoring and lived in Israel for a few years before returning to the US to write full-time. Growing up with a wide range of cultures, religions, and backgrounds, Stone strives to bring these diverse voices and stories to her work.

You can find more about Nic on her website or on twitter.

Reviews

Review: FROM HERE TO ETERNITY

34068481Title: FROM HERE TO ETERNITY: TRAVELING THE WORLD TO FIND THE GOOD DEATH
Author: Caitlin Doughty
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Pages: 272
Format: Hardcover
ARC: No.
MG, YA, ADULT?: It’s a book about death practices all over the world. Proceed with caution at any age.
TW/CW: Um, I mean, death?
Rating: 4/5

Fascinated by our pervasive terror of dead bodies, mortician Caitlin Doughty set out to discover how other cultures care for their dead. In rural Indonesia, she observes a man clean and dress his grandfather’s mummified body. Grandpa’s mummy has lived in the family home for two years, where the family has maintained a warm and respectful relationship. She meets Bolivian natitas (cigarette- smoking, wish- granting human skulls), and introduces us to a Japanese kotsuage, in which relatives use chopsticks to pluck their loved- ones’ bones from cremation ashes. With curiosity and morbid humor, Doughty encounters vividly decomposed bodies and participates in compelling, powerful death practices almost entirely unknown in America. Featuring Gorey-esque illustrations by artist Landis Blair, From Here to Eternity introduces death-care innovators researching green burial and body composting, explores new spaces for mourning— including a glowing- Buddha columbarium in Japan and America’s only open-air pyre— and reveals unexpected new possibilities for our own death rituals.

After finishing SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES, I knew I wanted to pick this one up right away.

Unlike SMOKE GETS IN YOUR EYES, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY isn’t quite as personal. We get more death customs and less “I really liked this guy and it went badly”. Which is a good thing if you’re more into the death stuff than the love stuff (like me!).

Doughty did a really great job of alternating death customs. We went from Western cremation to having dead relatives in the living room for years to Japan’s high tech funeral homes. Even though I am not interested in westernized death practices, I still found those chapters interesting enough and they didn’t slow the book down. Doughty definitely has a way with pacing.

There was also a self-awareness in this book that I really loved. At one point, Doughty is talking about a tourist who was basically interrupting a death ceremony to get a picture. When the opportunity arises for Doughty and her friend to get a “backstage view” of an exhumation, she realizes that she isn’t much better than that tourist. It was nice to see her realize that even though she was invited and many places do have death tourism, we’re still interlopers.

I personally hope Doughty continues her search for the good death… and brings us along every step of the way!

7802044Caitlin Doughty is a mortician, activist, and funeral industry rabble-rouser. In 2011 she founded the death acceptance collective The Order of the Good Death, which has spawned the death positive movement. Her first book, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, was a New York Times best-seller. She lives in Los Angeles, where she runs her nonprofit funeral home, Undertaking LA. 

Born on a balmy August evening on the decidedly un-morbid shores of O’ahu, Hawai’i, Caitlin was an even-tempered, bookish child. Her parents had little reason to believe that she would ultimately seek a life tiptoeing the line between the living and the dead. It was only when she began to ask the pertinent questions that her parents suspected a proclivity toward the macabre.

(Example: “Mommy, if I was on the edge of that cliff and I fell off and on the way down screamed, ‘Mommy, Mommy, I need you Mommy why won’t you help me,’ and then smashed my body on the rocks, would you be sad? Yes or no, Mommy?”)

After high school, she fled east to the University of Chicago, where she graduated in medieval history. Her thesis, entitled “In Our Image: The Suppression of Demonic Births in Late Medieval Witchcraft Theory,” is the summer must-read for all lovers of demon sex and the late medieval church.

After graduation, Caitlin moved to California, where she has worked as a crematory operator, funeral director, a body-van transport driver, and returned to Cypress College for her second degree, in mortuary science. Unhappy with the state and offerings of the American funeral industry, in 2015 she opened her own alternative funeral home, Undertaking LA, to help people help themselves (handle a corpse).

Caitlin’s webseries “Ask a Mortician” and her work to change the death industry have led to features on National Public Radio, BBC, The New Yorker, Vice, The Atlantic, the New York Times, and Forbes.

She frequently gives talks on the history of death culture, rituals, and the funeral industry, presenting for groups as diverse as the TED, SXSW, The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, and universities and libraries all over the world.

Reviews

REVIEW: THERE’S SOMEONE IN YOUR HOUSE

15797848Title: THERE’S SOMEONE INSIDE YOUR HOUSE
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Pages: 287
Format: Hardback
ARC?: No
MG, YA, ADULT?: Young Adult
TW/CW: Blood, death, gore, abuse, sex (consensual), drug use (by a minor character), sexual abuse (mentions of a minor having a sexual relationship with an adult), trans character having their “legal” name mentioned, heavy violence.
Rep: Biracial MC (Indigenous Hawaiian/ Black), trans (side character)
Rating: 4/5

One-by-one, the students of Osborne High are dying in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasing and grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and the hunt intensifies for the killer, the dark secrets among them must finally be confronted.

So, I never actually intended to every read a Stephanie Perkins novel. Ever.

When I went to the Southern Festival of Books and saw that Perkins had a panel, I was kind of like, “Yeah, ok, maybe I’ll check that out” since there weren’t any other panels I was interested in. It’s not that I think Perkins is a bad writer… over the top contemporary YA with big sweeping romances just isn’t my thing. I was especially turned off by the cheating in ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS and just sort of gave up on anything Perkins related.

But.

But then I sat in on her panel and she is charming and engaging and an adorable little gem… that’s also full of spook. It felt like finding a kindred spirit, so I knew I wanted to get her last book and her sign it. Would I ever read it? I mean… maybe. Probably not. But when my friend wanted to buddy read it, I decided to give it a go. A few chapters a day wouldn’t kill me, right?

I finished the book in one day.

My friend is so mad.

I’ve seen a lot of negative things about this book but I absolutely adored it. In all honesty, I think you have to be a fan of cheesy, B-movie slasher films to truly appreciate just how good this book is. This isn’t meant to be a psychological thriller. It’s not to be some grand mystery. This is Cherry Falls meets I Know What You Did Last Summer.

I was really impressed with the killer’s “tell”. If you don’t know what a tell is, think of every slasher movie you’ve ever seen. How do you know when the killer is just around the corner? Some movies use music. Some movies go silent. Perkins used a really great tell- things just slightly askew, not quite where the character remembered putting them. That’s pretty genius. Not only does it confuse the character, but it gives the reader a heart stopping “heads up” that… well, someone’s about to die. It also makes us paranoid! How many of us have sworn the cup of water was JUST RIGHT THERE but now it’s not? Now I have to think “Did I actually put it somewhere else… or am I about to get whacked…”

There have been lots of complaints that there isn’t much of a plot and… I mean, I agree. I think most slasher films don’t have a plot either. Sometimes just staying alive in the midst of a tragedy is a good enough plot. Perkins isn’t claiming to be Stephen King- she wanted to write a campy slasher book and she got it right. The other complaints I’ve seen are that there was too much romance and not enough murder. In 287, we see 3 teenagers get murdered and 5 others be brutally assaulted. That’s an average of 1 stabbing every 35 pages. Y’all. As for the romance, it’s not overdone. Every slasher film has a romantic element to it… it kinda makes you root a little harder for the young lovers to survive.

I also want to address some of the issues around Darby’s character. I am not trans so this is definitely not my lane and I am open to linking reviews done by trans people that talk about Darby. Before I read this, I knew there was some controversy surrounding Perkins using Darby’s deadname. In the book, the MC is talking about her friends and she mentions that Darby’s legal name is still Justine Darby but that he goes by Darby. My friend who is reading the book with me (Or, well, was… I’m so sorry, Seth, I can’t help that I read it that fast) is trans and saw no problem with the passage. I have other trans friends who saw problems with it. I have other other trans friends who said that it wasn’t the best way to handle it but it wasn’t exactly problematic. I think it goes back to the point that we aren’t a monolith and there’s no 100% right way to handle every character. Another thing people were upset with was the fact that Grandma Young doesn’t allow Ollie into Makani’s room but has allowed Darby in her room in the past. The feeling is that Grandma Young is misgendering Darby or still sees him as being female. I feel like it was more poor wording than malicious intent by Perkins. Growing up, I was allowed to have male friends in my room but not boys that my parents thought I was interested in (joke’s on you, parents, you should have been watching the girls). I definitely felt more like “I know you’re interested in this boy so y’all stay down here” than anything else.

This lost a star for me just because I thought revealing the killer half-way through the book was, eh, a little too soon. Perkins made this reveal work, but I still like being surprised at the end. Product of the Scooby-Doo generation, I like my bad guys to have their masks ripped off at the end.

Again, I loved this book! If you’re looking for a little romance, a lot of gore, and some teenagers getting whacked, this one is for you!

SP_Blau_Medium

Hi, there! I’m Stephanie Perkins, and I’m a New York Times and international bestselling author of books for teenagers and for adults with teenage hearts. I was born in South Carolina, raised in Arizona, and I attended universities in California and Georgia. Since 2004, I’ve lived in the mountains of North Carolina.

I’ve always worked with books—first as a bookseller, then as a librarian, now as a novelist and editor. My best friend is my husband Jarrod. Every room of our house is painted a different color of the rainbow, and we share it with a feisty cat named Mr. Tumnus.

You can find more about Stephanie on her website, instagram, and twitter!

 

Book Tags

25 Bookish Facts… About Me!

CaptureI was watching some older BookTube videos and came across this 25 Bookish Facts tag. I really wanted to do this so… here we are! The generally consensus is that no one really knows who started the tag, so props to you if it was you!

1. When I started hanging around the book community, it was strictly on tumblr… which probably was not the best initiation into the book community. But I thought the word “bookish” was super cute until someone commented on one of my posts with “Ugh, I hate that word!” They were pretty big in the community and I was SUPER humiliated because people were agreeing with them… on my post… so I got to see all of their responses. It took me a while to be like “Psch, I love the word bookish!” (That person is STILL a killjoy)

2. I rarely mark my page. I just have a really good memory for what page I was on.

3. I don’t care different covers. When everyone else has a heart attack about cover changes, I’m just like “Yeah, ok.”

4. I also don’t care if I own a series in paperback/hardback mix. A lot of times I end up with a paperback first book and hardback sequel… and that’s no big deal to me.

5. I took a reading class in sixth grade, not understanding it was supposed to be for kids who had problems reading. Somehow the school missed that and when the teacher realized I really, really loved reading and had great comprehension, she just let me read books and write book reports for class grades. That was probably the happiest school year of my life.

6. In 9th grade, my English teacher held a competition to see who could read the most books in the school year. I won with 112 books and she gave me a $100 gift card to the book store.

7. I don’t understand the obsession with bookish candles. Y’all could find the same thing at the store, I’m just saying.

8. I am super terrible at remembering characters in series. If I have any gap between the first book and the next, I’m like “WHO ARE YOU PEOPLE??”

9. I almost dread the Q&A portion of book panels because someone ALWAYS asks a question with a spoiler attached. Y’all. Not everyone has read the book in question. Please don’t do that ish!

10. I’ve read the entire Harry Potter series 7 times. Magical numbers, y’all.

11. When I was in elementary school, I always entered those young author conferences and my first year doing it, I got to meet Bill Martin, Jr., the author of CHICKA CHICKA BOOM BOOM. A few “young authors” were invited to his friend’s house who lived very close to where we lived at the time. I went with my teacher and… it was mostly adults there because the other kids had backed out. When he was signing my book, I started crying because I was really overwhelmed by all the adults (I had anxiety even as a kid) and I just remember he was so kind to me and asked me to sit behind the desk with him and have snacks.

12. I was also published in an elementary school poetry anthology. I had written a poem about my dad and it was selected… and that sounds really good until the anthology was published and a parent complained because they said my poem couldn’t have been written by a kid. (It wasn’t JUST me. She picked 4 or 5 other poems out, too, because no one could write poetry better than her child, apparently) It became a “thing” and we actually had like this meeting where my Mom was like “We hate poetry… it’s pretentious, why would we write it for her?” I think that convinced them.

13. I never look at the maps in a book. Whoops.

14. I don’t ever plan to have a clear TBR shelf.

15. HOWEVER, I would like to get that TBR shelf down to a manageable level.

16. I am super bad about requesting books on NG before seeing what the rating is on Goodreads. Probably would save me a headache…

17. I try to take notes on individual stories in anthologies… but I generally get tired of that about half-way through and just stop.

18. When I fancast a male lead in any book… I just imagine Matthew Daddario. I don’t care if the author says he’s skinny, blonde, and short- he’s Matthew Daddario.

19. All female leads in a book are Devery Jacobs. I don’t make the rules. She’s beautiful.

20. I used to never read more than 1 book at a time but lately I’ve been reading 2-3 at a time. It helps me balance books I really want to read, review books, and projects.

21. I can’t do audiobooks. I’ve tried. I don’t know if it’s because I’m HoH, but I feel like I don’t retain anything from the book.

22. I don’t lend my favorite books to anyone. It’s silly because if something terrible was to happen, I could just buy another copy but my brain tells me it wouldn’t be the same.

23. Twilight is the book that got me into YA.

24. I always take the dust jacket off of my book before I read it. I hate the way they slide around and basically try to undress themselves. Like, just let me do it for you. (That came out weird)

25. My parents have NO IDEA how I learned how to read. Apparently when I was 3, I just picked up the newspaper and asked my Dad what a freedom reward was. When he took the paper, he realized I was actually reading the paper. We sort of believe it’s because my parents read to me with the book turned towards me so I just… learned how to read that way? I don’t know but I haven’t stopped reading since!

 

Those are my 25 Bookish Facts! I always feel weird about tagging people, so if you want to talk about your bookish stuff, please feel free to do so!