Prom Queen Perfect

29331371-_uy1600_ss1600_Title: Prom Queen Perfect
Author: Clarisse David
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, YA
Rating: ★★★☆☆ | 2.5

Alexandra de la Cruz is perfect: perfect family, perfect older sister, perfect clothing, perfect life. She’s the most popular girl in school, and she’s on track to become prom queen––just like her sister. Just like her mother’s favourite. And if she becomes prom queen, maybe her mother will stop finding fault with her at every turn.

So when childhood friend-turned brother-in-law turned nuisance Adam Cordero tells her she’s selfish, she’s determined to prove him wrong by taking Christy Marquez on as a project, turning her from social reject to social butterfly. Her plan works, but it works too well, and suddenly the title of prom queen, which was so within her grasp, is slipping away, and she has to contend with the true nature of friendship.

This was a cute pick-me-up during finals week––it’s short, utterly predictable, and its characters were bland and vacuous enough that I didn’t feel so caught up in their struggles that I neglected my studying, which is good. For finals week. Not really so good for when I need a substantial story to keep me occupied.

But I’ve mentioned this multiple times across multiple reviews and I am always going to be the first to say: fluff entertainment has value, too, and I’m not going to dismiss the novel because it doesn’t have substance. Books are entertainment, and English minor I may be, but I will meet you behind the gym at 3:00 pm with my fists ready if you entertain the notion that all books have to meet some arbitrary standard of Literary Value to have Worth™.

That being said, while I enjoyed the novel for what it is––the written version of, say, She’s All That––it wasn’t much beyond that. I don’t really know what else to say. It was cute, it was okay, it’s the equivalent of watching a teen movie with a tub of ice cream and some popcorn on a lazy Saturday when you should be doing other things. I don’t regret purchasing it, but I’m also probably not going to reread it. The characterisation was jerky––who becomes a best friend mere hours after meeting?––but overall it was inoffensive enough that it went down like jello. It didn’t stir up any strong emotions or attachment, but I was also not really expecting it to.

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Comfort Woman

10596Title: Comfort Woman
Author: Nora Okja Keller
Genre: realistic fiction, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction, literary fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

content warning: rape, sexual violence, sexual slavery, child neglect

This was a surprisingly easy novel to read despite its incredibly weighty topic. I’m taking an Asian American lit class this semester, and I was assigned this to read immediately following a really frustrating documentary about comfort woman, and to be quite frank, I expected to have to force myself through this, crying and moaning the whole time. And I did cry––of course I cried, I’m the girl who cried during Madagascar––but there was a sense of effervescence throughout the narrative that made it bearable. The writing was, of course, beautiful, but it wasn’t just that. There was a life to the story, a spirit.

Comfort Woman tells the parallel stories of Akiko, a Korean comfort woman, and Beccah, the daughter she eventually comes to have with the American missionary she chooses to marry in order to leave Korea. After Akiko’s death, Beccah is forced to confront the mother she thought she knew––and the woman who, she comes to realise, she didn’t know at all.

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Forbidden

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Title: Forbidden
Author: Beverly Jenkins
Genre: Historical Romance
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 4.0 out of 5.0

Surely my not having read any Beverly Jenkins before this constitutes as some kind of crime simply because I enjoyed Forbidden so much. Eddy and Rhine actually managed to steal my heart with their sweetness. And I also appreciated the fact that Jenkins doesn’t shy away from dealing with issues of racism during the time period. The story is set in the 1870s American West. Eddy, who lives in Denver, decides to move West to realise her dream of one day owning a restaurant. However, one her way there she is robbed and left for dead in the desert. She ends up in Virginia City in the bedroom of one Rhine Fontaine who rescues her from the desert. Their romance goes from there.

The romance was definitely wonderful and one of the major reasons I enjoyed this book so much. Eddy and Rhine are definitely attracted to one another from soon after the see one another, however due to all the obstacles in their way it does take some time for their romance to amount to anything. Tragically, Jenkins decides to gloss over the wedding night as all moonlight and flowers which was a bit disappointing as it was in my view an important part of their relationship.

The key issue between Eddy and Rhine is that Eddy is black while legally Rhine is white. Early on we find out Rhine’s history and parentage as well as the fact that he chooses to pass as white. This decision is also a significant part of Rhine’s character. Jenkins never shies away from the reality of the life Rhine lived before he decided to pass as white. Nor does she shy away from the internal conflicts that Rhine continues to experience because of his decision.

Jenkins’ characterisation was my favourite part of the novel. The novel has a fairly large secondary character cast and Jenkins manages to make each of these characters individualised. Each character had their own personalities, dreams, and families. They went beyond their occupations and their relationships to either Eddy or Rhine. I finished the novel wanting to read books about the secondary characters.

However, Forbidden is not without its faults, hence the rating of four stars. Jenkins plays to the ‘psycho ex girlfriend’ trope to an extreme level. In my view it ruined what would have otherwise been a great ending. Rhine’s ex Natalie, a young rich white woman, cannot handle Rhine leaving her and so resorts to extreme measures. It is something that is played out too often across our tv screens and personally a trope that I despise. So, to see this trope in historical romance which is very much escapist literature for me was not something that I wanted.

Overall, since reading this I’ve already personally recommended Beverly Jenkins to three friends and read two more of her books so I think that should say enough about how much I enjoyed this book.

The Obelisk Gate

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Title: The Obelisk Gate
Author: N.K. Jemisin
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ★★★★★ | 5.0 out of 5.0

Note: This is the sequel to The Fifth Season.

I pre-ordered this book and started reading at 12:30am after I received an email from Amazon saying it had been delivered to my kindle. I got as far as the dedication before I started crying so much that I needed to take a break.

To those who have no choice but to prepare their children for the battlefield

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Portrait of Us

portrait-of-us-9781481451901_hrTitle: Portrait of Us
Author: A. Destiny & Rhonda Helms
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, YA
Rating: ★★★★☆ | 4.0 out of 5.0

In these last few days of summer, I’ve been feeling especially compelled to read light, fluffy romance novels. This is in part summer nostalgia but also, and I think this might be the larger part, because light fluffy romances are always good for getting me through a reading slump. I’m still not out of the forest, but I can see the edge of the trees.

This novel was given to me by a friend who assured me that it was cute, almost tooth-achingly so, and that it was, but what really caught my eye was the description: [Corinne’s] dreams become muddled when she finds out she has to work with Matthew––the arrogant, annoying jock whose postmodern style seriously clashes with her classic aesthetic. Hi. Yes. Sign me the fuck up, please, this is the stuff I eat for breakfast.

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Girls Love (2016)

cefc1e178a82b901991ddf50748da9773912ef25Title: 错了性别不错爱
Starring: 何佳颖, 米勒
Genre: Drama, Romance
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ | 2.0 out of 5.0

warnings for casual homophobia, sexual harassment, public outing

So it’s not the best English title in the world, but then, English is also not the only language in the world, and I’m quite willing to forgive an indie web film about queer girls falling in love just about anything but killing their protagonists.

This film, shot after and in partial response to the popular BL webseries Heroin 《上瘾》, became quite popular among young Chinese people. It follows the story of Yu Xiaorou (on the left), who finds herself developing feelings for Mi’le (right), her college roommate, and is forced to process those feelings. Meanwhile, she juggles dealing with casual homophobia from her classmates and an obnoxious boy who just won’t take no for an answer.

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Not Otherwise Specified

teaserbox_14435678Title: Not Otherwise Specified
Author: Hannah Moskowitz
Genre: Contemporary, Realistic, YA
Rating: ★★★★★ | 4.5 out 5.0

warnings: biphobia, bullying, ED, homophobia

Etta Sinclair doesn’t fit in anywhere, not with the Disco Dykes, who turn against her when she begins to date a boy. Not at ballet, where she’s too curvy and defiant to follow the strict rules of the discipline. Not even at home, where her mother can’t even bring herself to say the word ‘bisexual.’ She is, as far as she can tell, Etta Not Otherwise Specified.

But when she hears of an opportunity to audition at Brentwood, a prestigious performing arts school in New York City, Etta sees it as her ticket out of her rural Midwestern town. But practicing for the audition brings her into the orbit of Bianca, a talented singer from Etta’s eating disorder recovery group. Bianca is sick, much sicker than Etta, and she may not even want to get better. But she’s the first person to love Etta without condition. Etta quickly becomes friends with Bianca, Bianca’s handsome older brother James, and James’ friend Mason. Being with them, though, makes Etta question some of her own assumptions, and question the way she thinks of herself and who is wants to be.

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