In the Blood of the Greeks by Mary D. Brooks
Rating: 5/5 stars
*I was approved to review this book on NetGalley and received an e-book copy*
“Am I going to Hell?”
“For what? Breaking a promise that you couldn’t possibly be able to keep? You can’t control your heart, Eva…I also don’t believe in Hell.”
Zoe is growing up in Greece during World War II while her town of Larissa is taken over by the Nazis. Her hatred for the Germans grows daily, as she has lost family and friends to the war. Eva, a German girl in her early 20’s, moves into Larissa with her father, a powerful Nazi leader. Zoe reluctantly becomes Eva’s maid in hopes of taking down the Germans from the inside. Zoe and Eva, despite their differences, develop a unique friendship and eventually growing feelings for each other. Already been through conversion therapy once, Eva is reluctant to begin another relationship with a female. Still, the two find it hard to deny their mutual attraction.
Yes, yes, yes!! This is one of the best LGBT young adult books I’ve ever read. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this novel to any young girl (or woman) trying to explore her feelings and sexuality. This book put such a positive spin on coming out as gay and self-acceptance that many lesbians struggle with. Books like this give me hope that F/F relationships will become more mainstream in YA fiction.
I really loved both main characters and found that switching between their POVs was helpful in understanding their thought processes. Zoe is 14, the appropriate age for women to marry in Greece, but still very much a child. She is naive in the best ways, seeing nothing wrong with her feelings towards Eva and embracing herself. As a result of losing so many loved ones and experiencing death everywhere around her, Zoe grows into a fearless young adult. She was such a pleasure to get to know.
Eva, on the other hand, broke my heart. I read her narration as someone suffering from PTSD (due to past trauma and conversion therapy). Her inward struggles display themselves physically and mentally and it was so sad to see that through her words. Eva starts off as a shell of a person who once played against the rules and develops into a character who is learning to love again (with Zoe’s help). Although Eva’s mental conversation was less exciting than Zoe’s, I enjoyed reading her’s a little bit more.
I’m so thankful that I was approved to receive and review a copy of this book. I look forward to reading the next few books in the series!
Tiger Tail Soup by Nicki Chen
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
“All my heroes has horses and armor, a double-bladed sword or an eighteen-foot spear. They had their blood brothers to save the day. And I? My spindly arms fell to my sides. I should have been a man.”
I received an e-book copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
An Lee is pregnant with her second child when the Japanese begin bombing her town in China. Her husband is off fighting in a war that seemingly never ends, leaving her in care of her mother, step-mother, and children. Through the food shortages and enforced curfews, she finds herself joining an anti-Japanese group–something her husband would never approve of. An Lee sees death, war, and hatred all around her, but must keep it together for the sake of her family and husband, if he ever returns.
I really wish I could say that this book was fantastic because the ideas behind it were well-thought out and intracate. Unfortunately, Tiger Tail Soup read more like a series of events than like a book with an actual plot. Once I reached the halfway point, I realized that there still was no major climax or central issue/conflict. This was definitely an interesting read…but I didn’t really get the point of the novel.
That being said, I also felt like the author was telling me things instead of showing me. I don’t feel like I got to know An Lee very well, because her actions were merely described to me. For example, Nicki Chen writes about how much An Lee misses her husband throughout the entire book, but I never got any more proof of that other than the author’s word. I wish this, what I imagine to be, intense longing and grief over a missing husband had been shown instead of told to me.
I still enjoyed reading Tiger Tail Soup and learning more about what the war was like for people living in China circa 1940. Nicki Chen definitely played with my emotions with the novel. I found myself both grieving and celebrating along with An Lee.
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown
“Why would people get upset over something that feels so good? Me being a queer can’t hurt anyone, why should it be such a terrible thing?”
cw: suicide mention, homophobia, transphobia
This book is about coming out, I mean really coming out, in a world against anything different, or “queer”. Queer is such an inclusive term now, it encompasses so many forms of oppression (eg sexuality, race, class, gender identity, etc) and really shows how they all intertwine in a system of institutional biases. But for the main character of this book, Molly, it’s a derogatory term for people who are attracted to the same gender as themselves.
Molly discovers that she likes women during her early middle school years, but continues seeing men well into her adult life. The thing I love about Molly is that she simply doesn’t care what other people think and tries to not put a permanent label on herself. Towards the end of the book, she does call herself a lesbian, but it takes her many sexual experiences to get to that point. I admire her for staying true to herself the entire novel
What I really love about this book is that its a real coming out novel. Molly faces homophobia from everyone around her– her parents, counselors, and friends. I really felt for Molly and experienced the pain of rejection along with her. Molly was so determined to never let other people get to her, and that made me proud to be feeling these emotions with her.
Although this novel is set in the middle 1900’s, LGBT youth and adults still face these problems today. This really opened up my eyes to how much things haven’t changed in the past 50 years. Yes, lesbians are not constantly called “dykes” and “queers” in a derogatory way, but homophobia and transphobia still exist in the everyday world. LGBT youth are 7 times more likely to attempt suicide that straight youth because of this very reason. Although I can absolutely admit that we have come far in the gay movement, there is still a lot of work to be done. I praise Rita Mae Brown for writing such a powerful novel about the struggles of coming out in this world and hope to read more books like this one.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr“
Rating: 5/5 stars
It doesn’t hurt, she explains. And there is no darkness not the kind they imagine. Everything is composed of webs and lattices and upheavals of sound and texture”
Marie-Laure LeBlanc goes blind at age six, living with her father who works at a museum and dedicates his entire being to making sure his daughter is loved and well taken care of. They live in Paris during the German bombings, and are forced to flee their home and head to London, where her crazy, but tender great-uncle lives.
Werner Pfennig is a young boy living in an orphanage in Germany. His exceptional skills in engineering land him a place in one of the most prestigious schools in all of Germany. Werner knows that serving the Germans without believing in their cause is wrong, but he is expected to follow the rules and fulfill his duties. In his final call to action, Werner must decide to obey his military instructions, or follow his heart.
This novel is beautifully woven, told in many different perspectives that eventually intertwine. I found Marie-Laure’s storyline to be the most interesting, although I believe that Werner’s character was also very well-developed. Doerr does an excellent job giving these two children deep characterization, giving the reader full understanding of their personalities.
This book tore me to pieces. Before reading All the Light We Cannot See, I haven’t cried during a book since I read To Kill a Mockingbird 8 years ago. I had to take a mental rest from the heaviness of this novel every 75 pages or so. Still, I absolutely adored it.
The writing was beautiful, the characters were beautiful, the story was beautiful. I’m not usually a fan of historical fiction, but this definitely makes my list of Top Books I’ve Ever Read. No wonder this book has won so many awards. Congrats, Anthony Doerr, you’ve officially changed my life as a reader.