Quality DNA by Beth Martin

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It’s so cool to see books you read in the beta stage get published. This book was one of my first beta reads, and it was a well-polished novel then. I liked it so much, in fact, I re-read it in its final form (and I very rarely do that because reading time = precious!)

Plot: In the future, due to overpopulation, each person is only allowed to have one child. DNA is monitored and men are sterilized after fathering an offspring. Except for some reason, babies are being born matching the DNA of dead men of exceptional talents, and it’s up to the social department’s investigator Irene to figure out how it’s possible.

First of all, I loved the diversity of this book. The main character is a lesbian woman, married to a bisexual Korean woman. You want to read it already, don’t you? Race, gender, and sexuality is represented not only well, but in abundance, and with no negative connotation. A+ in my book!

The characters are another big plus. No one is perfect or pure evil, just like in life. The relationships in this book, be it friends, family, or romance, are very real. I had genuine feelings when things happened to them.

The story itself is quite on the sci-fi side, and more than a dose of suspending disbelief is required. For many of the main points, such as the reasoning for population control, you just have to take them as is and not try to pick it apart. Enjoy it for what it is and you won’t be disappointed.

You can pre-order Quality DNA on Amazon.

Celebrate LGBT pride month with a diverse book.

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This month I see a lot of posts with diverse books in honor of LGBT Pride, and I love it! So here’s another one to add to your list, readers!
Rise of the Chosen is a dystopian fantasy where the main character, Samantha, is bisexual and in a relationship with another girl, Lena. It’s gotten a lot of positive reception on how they are portrayed and needs to be more on the LGBT radar (and it’s #ownvoices!). It’s been compared to Divergent, The Maze Runner, and is inspired by The Walking Dead. Here’s the blurb:
In Sam’s world there are two rules. Rule #1: Nobody dies. Protect the living at all costs. Rule #2: Everybody dies. At least once.

The Waking was a global event in which a force called the Lifeblood invaded all humans who died. The few strong enough to control it came back as powerful immortals. The rest let the bloodlust take over and awoke with one goal – to kill.

Newly appointed Watch Guard Samantha Shields has a legacy to uphold. Her father died a hero defending their city and now she wants to follow in his footsteps. Except for the dying part, of course. Unfortunately, fate has other plans as she discovers deep dark secrets that make her choose between her loyalties and the lives of everyone in her city. Both rules are in play as Sam is forced to make hard decisions that could cost her everything – including the person she cares about most.

It’s not a super long book so find the time to check it out!
Or, for more information, you can find it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30553316-rise-of-the-chosen
And the author website is: http://www.annakoppauthor.com/young-adult

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

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I’m not going to lie, the main reason I got this book is because I saw a bunch of people say it had great f/f bi representation. I’m more into traditional fantasy versus modern, but I still put it on my list, and finally got the chance to read it.

And it was…good. At least that’s how I would describe my feelings after finishing it. I’ll go into more depth here.

First off, it had an amazing diverse cast. Alex’s family reminded me a lot of The Raven Boys’ Blue’s family (which was my favorite thing about that series) but they weren’t your typical white witches. The entire book seeped that Latin American vibe and I LOVED it. I felt like I was immersed in that world, and not once did I see the characters as default-white.

Speaking of the world, oh my Dios, Los Lagos was incredible. It’s no surprise this was picked up for a movie. People compare it to Alice in Wonderland but I disagree. To me it’s more like OZ. There are witches and fairies and everything is alive and filled with magic but not insane or silly magic – real and dangerous and sorrowful. They aren’t mad, they’re surviving.

So then, what, might you ask, is the problem?

There is no problem. It was written well, the bi-love-triangle-that-wasn’t-really-a-love-triangle was fairly well done, and it paced itself perfectly well and wrapped up perfectly well. I liked the characters, there were some twists I didn’t see coming, and overall I enjoyed it.

So, once again, why did it take me a month longer that it should have to finish? I kept putting it down to do other things. At first I couldn’t figure out why. And then I did.

It was that the whole thing felt like a Pixar movie. Somehow, the way it was written, with its little sweet interactions and Alex’s innocence and the darkness and evil and death being so surreal that I saw it in my head like a beautiful animated film. Is this a bad thing? Not at all. I love Pixar movies. They have that darkness while still giving us hope and love and a happy ending. This book was about family and self acceptance, and that’s wonderful, but Alex could have been 13 and it would have still been completely appropriate. Actually, I think it would have been better. Made her a stronger character.

A lot of reviewers are saying they thought it wasn’t intense enough so they didn’t feel scared for the characters, but I think it’s actually that it was too intense. Every corner was life or death, every vision a mirage, every escape deemed impossible. The explanation of ‘magic’ just wasn’t enough to make up for the sheer amount of running and fighting and bleeding and still being able to give more. It was, as I said earlier, surreal, thus taking it into a whole new territory. Still, it’s not a -bad- thing. It’s how this book was laid out and it was great. I just think many of us readers couldn’t relate to the darkness because it’s too cartoony in a way.

All in all, a great story that would make a great Pixar animated film, but I think the target audience is middle grade/teen, not young adult+.

Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg

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One thing I can get behind is trying to get behind a label. When people see you as a geek/queer/jock/whatever, they see what those labels define, not the actual person beneath them. Once you fall into one, it’s branded on you until you do something drastic to change it.

How many of us wished we could just start over? Leave our old lives behind and be someone new? That’s what this book is about.

It’s also about the fact that you can’t. Making new friends doesn’t change who you are. Trying new activities doesn’t make you stop liking your old ones. You can always better yourself, but if you’re lying and repressing your true feelings then it’s not worth it.

Openly Straight was the kind of book that comes with a message, and it’s not afraid to show it. Not a ‘gay is ok’ message, but a ‘the only person who cares about your image is you’ message. How you see yourself is half of how others see you.

I have to say, I really enjoyed this book, the story is interesting and engaging and fun to read, but for some reason I couldn’t quite connect with the characters, aside from Ben. They all felt so judgmental. It didn’t matter which label they were on, they all judged others based on theirs. Even at the end, Rafe (the MC) has his revelations and still (subconsciously?) criticizes his ex-friends for being who they are. It was a bit off-putting. Still, Rafe did accept responsibility for his actions, and that’s what matters.

Overall, it’s a great book for teens, and I would recommend it to anyone struggling with self-identity, queer or not.

Celebrate love with a diverse book this Valentine’s Day.

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Valentine’s day is a day for love – and what better way to honor it than to read a diverse book?

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Rise of the Chosen is a dystopian fantasy where the main character, Samantha, is bisexual and in a relationship with another girl, Lena. It’s gotten a lot of positive reception on how they are portrayed and needs to be more on the LGBT radar (and it’s #ownvoices!). It’s been compared to Divergent, The Maze Runner, and is inspired by The Walking Dead. Here’s the blurb:
In Sam’s world there are two rules. Rule #1: Nobody dies. Protect the living at all costs. Rule #2: Everybody dies. At least once.

The Waking was a global event in which a force called the Lifeblood invaded all humans who died. The few strong enough to control it came back as powerful immortals. The rest let the bloodlust take over and awoke with one goal – to kill.

Newly appointed Watch Guard Samantha Shields has a legacy to uphold. Her father died a hero defending their city and now she wants to follow in his footsteps. Except for the dying part, of course. Unfortunately, fate has other plans as she discovers deep dark secrets that make her choose between her loyalties and the lives of everyone in her city. Both rules are in play as Sam is forced to make hard decisions that could cost her everything – including the person she cares about most.

It’s not a very long book so find the time to check it out!
Or, for more information, you can find it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/30553316-rise-of-the-chosen
And the author website is: http://www.annakoppauthor.com/young-adult
Happy Valentine’s Day!

If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

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First things first: I love this cover. Gorgeous. The moment I saw it I was like YES PLEASE. When I read the description? There was no doubt in my mind I had to buy it.

This book is written by a trans author about a trans teenage girl trying to fit into a new school without anyone knowing she used to be a boy. She makes friends, falls in love, and struggles with her secret. The emotional aspects were conveyed beautifully, and I never once believed Amanda was anything but what she was. It felt so real, something you just can’t get from anything but an #ownvoices book.

I am not trans and cannot possibly know what a trans person feels or has to go through, but as a queer person I could relate to a lot of internal struggles of the MC and her friends. At six years old I wished I was born a boy because then how I felt inside would make sense. I thought my mind was broken, though I never hated my body. It wasn’t until my teenage years that I found out what it really meant, much like Chloe, the lesbian character in the book. It brought up a lot of memories and feelings for me.

The story itself was…cute. And sweet. And heartbreaking, but in an ABC Family special kind of way. Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if this book was made into one. I can see why many reviewers are turned off by it. An understanding family. A loan for the surgery. An appearance that passes for a beautiful girl. Immediate friends and perfect boyfriend. These are things that trans people struggle with the most and this book seemed like one big dream come true.

However, I feel like this is what it was meant to be, and I can’t fault the author for trying to show us how it could be in real life. I was reading it and dreading the ‘big reveal’ (pun intended) and how it would go over, and I was happy to have a satisfying conclusion.

Overall, this was a nice story that everyone should have a chance to read. It wasn’t depressing and it brought up a lot of powerful emotions. I enjoyed it from start to finish and while it didn’t show the harsh reality of being trans in today’s world, it does offer a glimpse into the mind of someone who is trans, and that’s always a good place to start.

 

Cross-posted to My Trending Stories.