Sunday, July 12, 2015

Bad Feminist - by Roxane Gay

My rating: 

Bad Feminist, by Roxane Gay, is another book that I had mixed feelings about. I find this much easier to accept with a book of essays, though, because I can look at each essay as it's own work. Some of them, I absolutely loved, some I didn't enjoy at all. I can say, that there weren't any essays I hated, and I enjoyed this book as a whole. I also think some of my disappointment in certain essays was amplified by how well I thought this book started off. The comparison to the parts I loved really made the aspects I didn't like so much stand out more.

Gay starts off with a wonderful introduction explaining her whole concept of a bad feminist. When women are held to such high standards by society in general, even trying to be a feminist seems like a burden. Some people view you as a crazy man-hater and others expect you to be the paragon of the feminist movement, or what Gay calls 'Capital-F Feminism'. Roxane Gay also admits that she was one of those women who looked down on feminists and didn't want to be labeled as such. Until she realized that being a bad feminist is a completely valid option and, as she puts it, better than being no feminist at all. As a bad feminist, Gay admits that she is imperfect and lives a life full of contradictions, but she is still a feminist. This is something I can really relate to, and I think anyone who is interested in gender equality can as well.

The first few essays after the introduction were very solid in my opinion. Gay writes in a very colloquial way that makes this book seem much more personal than a more academic look at feminism. She does a great job of dealing with tough topics like abortion, rape, or her experiences as a woman of color and then turns right around and makes you laugh with a story about competitive Scrabble tournaments. For me, Gay's weakness is in her essays that come off as an analysis of pop culture, either books, movies, TV shows, or anything else. In almost all of the essays of this type, the pacing seemed extremely awkward. I felt like the essay would trudge along with an overly detailed recap of the book / movie / other in question, then rush to some actual analysis at the very end before ending abruptly. I'll admit that my distaste for these essays might also be somewhat personal, as they remind me of some of my own poorly written essays. You know, the kind where you forget you had a paper to write until the night before and don't have time to do much research or reread the work you're critiquing to actually analyze it. Then you hastily write what little analysis you can think of, which is rushed and lacking in detail, and try to make up for it by filling in the rest of the page limit with an extremely repetitive retelling of the basic plot. Or maybe that's just me...

Overall though, Roxane Gay has put together a very enjoyable collection of essays. Bad Feminist is a book of essays, but is also an equal mix of memoir, humor, social commentary, and critical analysis. While I, personally, could do without the critical analysis, I loved everything else about this book. Bad Feminist is a great read for anyone who has any interest in feminism, especially if they don't want to be called a feminist.

This is also my eighth book for the summer reading challenge from and I will be using it for the challenge to read a book by an author of color.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Parrotfish - by Ellen Wittlinger

My rating: 

I had a hard time decided how to rate this book. On the one hand, I really like that Wittlinger chose to write about a FTM transgender teen who is proud of his identity and open about it. On the other hand, the writing was mediocre and some of the characters were pretty shallow. In the end I decided to settle for two paws.

Grady, formerly Angela, feels that coming out is the right decision. Overall he's glad he did, but he didn't expect how his friends and family would react. Especially his best friend Eve, who completely ignores him at school and when she does talk to him, keeps calling him Angela.

Life at school also becomes harder. Other students stare at Grady in the hallway, he doesn't have any friends since Eve stopped talking to him, and most of his teachers are not supportive at all. Grady starts to feel overwhelmed until he finds an unexpected ally in the P.E. coach Ms. Unger and a new friend, Sebastian. These two characters really made the book for me because they are supportive, but also actually have some personality.

Grady also realizes he has feelings for Kita, but I think this is one of the weaker plot lines. All we know about Kita is that she is half African American, half Japanese, and apparently awesome. Oh, and she has a boyfriend, but because they are fighting Sebastian encourages Grady to make a move. This was one of the few times I really didn't like Sebastian or Grady for going along with him. 

Even with some of the troubles Grady faces, this doesn't seem like a very realistic portrayal of what transgender teens have to face when they come out. But despite this, as well as some lackluster characters and some truly cheesy dialogue, Parrotfish was still an enjoyable book. Especially for a younger audience, this is a nice, light read that also happens to have a transgender teen as the protagonist.

I will be using Parrotfish for the young adult category in the reading challenge from and this is my seventh book of the summer.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Flight of Gemma Hardy - by Margot Livesey

My rating:

I stumbled onto The Flight of Gemma Hardy at the library where they were offering mystery books. These books were in brown paper bags with just a brief description to let you know a little about the genre. Even once I checked out this book, I didn't initially realize that it was a retelling of Jane Eyre, which I will admit I have never read.

The book begins with Gemma's childhood, not long after her uncle has died. Gemma was orphaned as a young child and it is her uncle who steps up to care for her. He brings Gemma from Iceland to live with family in Scotland where Gemma is quite content. After her uncle's death, however, Gemma is stuck with a resentful aunt and cousins who don't care for her. When she is offered a chance to take the entrance exams for the Claypoole boarding school, Gemma sees her chance to escape and her aunt is happy to see her go.

If Livesey painted a bleak picture of Gemma's life at home, it is nothing compared to what she finds at Claypoole. Although she is very independent and even stubborn, Gemma is also a bright a fairly studious girl. Instead of finding a place where she can shine as a star student, Gemma is relegated to the status of a working girl. She has to earn her tuition by providing the labor necessary to run a boarding school and her studies often suffer because of her workload. When the school closes down, Gemma is hopeful and happily accepts a job as an au pair on the Orkney Islands.

Gemma arrives at the distant Blackbird with her hope intact and soon finds herself feeling like she has found somewhere she belongs. Even after all her hardships, though, this is really just the beginning of Gemma's journey. As she matures and finds herself drawn to the wealthy master of Blackbird Hall, Hugh Sinclair, Gemma's life will lead her down an entirely unexpected path.  Livesey tells a compelling story of a girl, and a later a woman, who bravely deals with the twists and turns she encounters in life. I found Gemma's character especially intriguing because, even when it seems like her life can't get any worse, some spark of her stubborn personality shines through. Even though I have never read Jane Eyre, I very much enjoyed Livesey's novel and highly recommend it.

The Flight of Gemma Hardy will be my sixth book for the summer reading program at I'm also going to cheat, just a little, and count this for the classic challenge. I admittedly don't read many classics and as a retelling of Jane Eyre, I think this book should count just in case I don't read anything else that would fit the challenge.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

We interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to bring you....A NEW CAT!

I made this blog primarily as a place to share reviews of the many books I read. As you may have guessed from the title of this blog, though, I also love cats and really animals in general. I have a wonderful cat, Felix, who has been a member of the family for almost 14 years now! Recently, I took care of a friend's cat for several days and ever since that cat left, Felix has been pretty upset. I should also note that Felix is huge. Really huge. He's not fat, and the vet agrees that he looks really healthy at about 18 pounds. Jersey, our visiting feline friend, was also a pretty large cat.

Felix & Jersey

Felix, king of the house

Sir Davos
I finally gave in to Felix's rather stinky attempts to let me know he wasn't happy and decided I should find a permanent buddy for him. Before going to the shelter I decided I wanted to find a cat close to Felix's age and size. I also needed a cat that would not only get along with Felix, but also with my dog Davos. Felix is a pretty relaxed cat, but definitely needs to be the king, and Davos is surprisingly energetic for an 8 year old dog.

At the shelter I came up with a list of eight large cats between the ages of 10 and 15 that seemed like promising new family members. After talking to the shelter staff and learning more, we narrowed this list down to four that I would visit. And in the end I came home with this handsome guy who is 14 years old and just about as large as Felix.

Before I got to meet him at the shelter, I was warned that I might not be able to spend too much time with him because of some behavior issues. Little Boy, as he was being called at the shelter, had notes in his file about hissing, biting, scratching, and just being a generally grumpy cat. The woman helping me still suggested taking a look, because he had been at the shelter longer than most other animals and she thought that might be the real cause of his problems.

Little Boy was the second cat I met and during our short visit he spent most of his time rubbing all over me and purring with a few breaks to grab some food. When I decided he was the cat for me, I had to have a mandatory meeting with a behavior specialist and was again warned about his grouchy attitude. Little Boy did great in the car and is now in the spare room in my apartment to let him adjust to his new home. He's seen the other pets and didn't seem too bothered, so I expect that he'll fit into our family very nicely. There haven't been any signs of behavior issues, and he still spends all his time with me purring and begging for attention. 

Little Boy also got a new name and is now called Oskar. This poor cat had been left at the shelter at 14 years old and was stuck there for several months because nobody wanted to give him a chance. Now Oskar has a forever home with some other furry buddies and is one of the most loving cats I have ever met!

Friday, June 26, 2015

Shadow Scale - by Rachel Hartman

My rating:

Shadow Scale is the sequel to Seraphina and I gather that quite a few people didn't enjoy waiting so long for the sequel. Fortunately I didn't discover Seraphina until the second book had already been release, but I still had trouble waiting a few weeks on the library hold list!

Shadow Scale picks up a few months after the events of the first book and we jump right into the conflict arising from the dragon civil war. In Seraphina's home country of Goredd it looks like the humans will soon be involved in the war as well. Along with Queen Glisselda and Prince Lucian Kiggs, Seraphina makes a plan to gather all the ityasaari (half-dragons) that she can. The hope is that together the ityasaari can use the mind powers they are all gifted with in defense of Goredd.

The first half or so of this novel mainly follows Seraphina and Abdo as they travel throughout different countries search for their fellow half-dragons. Shadow Scale is definitely more plot driven than the first book, but this section does become somewhat tedious and predictable. Abdo is able to help lead Seraphina to the ityasaari they are looking for, but they also end up having to face Jannoula. This half-dragon has the ability to invade the minds of other ityasaari and continuously thwarts Seraphina's attempts to gain the loyalty of the others.

In the second half of the book, we see more of the dragons and their actions in the war. Seraphina also begins the search for her uncle Orma who fled Goredd in the previous book, but is interrupted by more of Jannoula's plots. While Jannoula is a formiddable opponent, Seraphina seems to take a lot of time thinking about how helpless she feels and not actually trying to do anything about it. Seraphina seems a little too helpless in this book and I also didn't like that the tension between her and Kiggs isn't a present as it was in first novel.

Overall, though, I still enjoyed this book very much. Even with a much larger cast of characters, namely all of the ityasaari, Hartman still makes you feel like you know them just as well as Seraphina. I also LOVE the diversity in this book! I've read a lot of YA novels that are specifically marketed at LGBTQ populations, but seeing these themes in a fantasy book was even more exciting. While it isn't marketed to these audiences, Shadow Scale (and Seraphina to a lesser extent) manages to include gay, lesbian, and transgender characters in a completely natural way. I'm just disappointed that Seraphina's story won't be continued in a third book.

Shadow Scale will be my fifth book for the summer reading program from and I am using it for the fantasy book challenge.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sorteo Internacional El príncipe Lestat

For any Spanish-speaking readers, be sure to check out this contest to win a copy of Anne Rice's newest book (in Spanish of course)!

Particpo en el sorteo internacional del Prícipe Lestat por Anne Rice, gracias a Nanny Books. Como puedes ver en mi blog, leí El Príncipe Lestat hace poco, pero de la biblioteca y me gustaría mucho tener copia propia.

Bitch Doll - by Orfa Alarcón

My rating:

I had already read Dead Doll (another book in the series), by M.B. Brozon when I was finally able to find Bitch Doll. Of the two in the series I have read, I think I prefer Bitch Doll. Dead Doll is a fun novel, but it doesn't carry the same weight as Bitch Doll. I think that in Bitch Doll, the author treats the main themes in a much more mature way than what I saw in Dead Doll. I had also previously read Perra Brava, by Orfa Alarcón and was very impressed by her writing.

Bitch Doll focuses on the very relevant topic of bullying, both in school and online. Shanti, a student at the Secundaria 33 and the main character, discovers her talent for drawing and decides to create several comics. When she publishes some of these comic strips that make fun of her classmates on Facebook, she is forced to confront the consequences. She also has to navigate arguments with her best friend, who she has fallen in love with, and her family. This book also very clearly shows Alarcón's love of animals, an aspect that I really enjoyed, reflected in Shanti's thoughts. Even though this is a young adult book, Bitch Doll can teach all of us what it means to be friends and what family really is.

This is my fourth book for the summer reading challenge at and I will be using it for a book containing bullying. Also, because I read this book is Spanish, I wrote my initial Goodreads review in Spanish for practice. Feel free to check it out below if you're interested!

Ya había leído Dead Doll antes de (finalmente) encontrar Bitch Doll, y creo que de las dos prefiero Bitch Doll. Dead Doll es una novela bien divertida, pero no tiene el mismo peso que Bitch Doll. Me parece que en Bitch Doll, la autora aborda los temas principales de una manera bastante más madura de lo que vi en Dead Doll. También había leído Perra Brava, de Orfa Alarcón y su escritura me impresionó mucho.

Bitch Doll se trata de un tema muy actual, el bullying, tanto en la escuela como en las redes sociales. Shanti, una alumna de la secundaria 33 y el personaje principal, descubre su talento por dibujar y decide hacer unos cómics. Cuando publica unas tiras burlándose de sus compañeros en Facebook, tiene que enfrentar las consecuencias. Además ella maneja discusiones con su mejor amigo, de quien se ha enamorado, y con la familia. También se ve el amor que Alarcón tiene para los animales, un aspecto que me gustó mucho, reflejado en los pensamientos de Shanti.

Aunque sea una novela dirigida a los adolescentes, Bitch Doll nos puede enseñar a todos lo que siginifica ser amigos y lo que es la familia.