Review- Guapa

Guapa by Saleem Haddad

9781590517697Genre: Fiction
Format: Paperback
Publication date: March 8, 2016
Publisher: Other Press
Page count: 354
Star rating: 4/5

“This Arabness. This Muslimness. This was all new. A new marker of difference. A “thing” I had been my whole life. A thing which I had previously not given a second thought. But this was not just any old thing. No. This was a thing that killed and maimed and destroyed.”

Rasa is a gay man living in a Muslim country. He has previously been part of the protests and rebellion in his country, but at this point in his life, he is unsure where he stands. Rasa currently lives with his grandmother, who, to her horror, caught him and his lover in bed the night before. The two aren’t on speaking terms, as Rasa flees the house in the morning and his grandmother coincidently sleeps in abnormally late. Rasa is frantically texting his lover, begging that they try and make their relationship work. The responses he’s getting are short and unpromising. In the span of 24 hours, Rasa contemplates his identity—his homosexuality and Arabness—and his place in his country and the world.

Disclaimer: DO NOT READ THIS BOOK IF YOU GET SAD EASILY! Wow, Guapa made me feel depressed. I seriously spent an entire night moping around after I finished this book. It really took a toll on me. That being said, I still enjoyed it very much and want to share my thoughts with you all!

Guapa is a brilliant novel. It has so many components to it: a political revolution, a religious battle, the questioning of the narrator’s Arabness, and homophobia. I feel like I should read this book a second time in order to process everything. The part that grabbed my attention the most was Rasa’s internal dialogue about his homosexuality. He doesn’t like how his lover is one foot in and one foot out the door, ready to cover up all of his feelings for Rasa in order to conceal his homosexuality at the snap of a finger. His lover doesn’t like to spend time at the local drag bar, in fear that someone he knows will recognize him. Rasa is not like this, though he hides his sexuality, he is not as secretive as his lover. It was really interesting reading Rasa contemplate his relationship in his head. He feels like his lover has betrayed him, because he promised that last night wouldn’t be the last time they saw each other, but now he’s acting like he needs to think their relationship over. This fascinated me.

I liked how Guapa took place over a span of 24 hours. Much of the book was told in flashback format, though the writing was not confusing at all. I enjoy books that successfully tell a lot in a short timespan, like The Catcher in the Rye, because it proves that an author does not need to write about many events in order to make a book great. So much went on in Guapa, so much that I’m not sure that I understood it all. Rasa’s entire life, spanning from the death of his father when he was a child, through his cultural experimenting in college, and to the protests in present day, is described in this book. Yet, only 24 hours pass by in the 354 pages. Saleem Haddad did a fantastic job with this book.

I’m so glad I got this book from the Other Press booth at BookCon. I enjoyed getting to know Rasa and seeing him sort through his internal battles about his identities. Guapa taught me a lot of lessons about general racism and internalized racism; some of which I really needed to hear. Thank you, Saleem Haddad, for writing this wonderful book. I look forward to reading more titles from Other Press in the future.

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Review- Cottonmouths (And Update!)

Hi everyone! I’m sorry for being a bit distant over the past week or so. I went on vacation for a week (apartment hunting!) and then attended BOOKCON! Last weekend was one of the best times of my entire life. I spoke with a lot of authors and publishers, some indie and some not, and connected with so many wonderful people. Everyone I talked to was very kind and we bonded over our shared love of diverse books. I can’t wait to read and review all the books I got from the convention! Stay tuned!

Now, for the review.

Cottonmouths: A Novel by Kelly J. Ford

 2.5/5 stars

Binding: Hardcover
Publisher: Skyhorse Publishing
Publication date: June 6th, 2017
Page count: 286

51TkKyf-iOL._SX332_BO1,204,203,200_Emily Skinner, newly dropped out of college, is now back in her hometown in Arkansas. She’s living in her parents’ house, surrounded by gossip and judgment from her mom. To top it all off, Emily’s old crush, Jody, is back in town with her baby. Although Emily knows she’s trouble, she can’t stay away from Jody. After getting kicked out of her parents’ house over a dispute about her sexuality, Jody offers Emily a job as a babysitter and invites her to stay in her spare bedroom. Emily has always dreamed that maybe someday Jody could love her, especially considering the hints she’s giving lately. Soon, Emily realizes the mess that she’s walked into and, more important, realizes that she can’t escape it.

I’m always on the lookout for upcoming lesbian fiction. I constantly watch and track new releases on Goodreads and BookRiot. I hadn’t picked up a lesbian mystery in a while, so my gut told me to start Cottonmouths. It isn’t my favorite book of June, but it is certainly interesting. If you’re not into F/F storylines, do not fear, because this book doesn’t really revolve around Jody’s sexuality, it’s more of a side topic.

I’m trying to pinpoint why this book wasn’t a 5 star rating for me. It has a lot of components that I usually love, like queer themes, so I’m a bit confused. I’ve done a lot of thinking and realized that Cottonmouths made me really, really uncomfortable. I’m generally not good with books that make me feel unnerved, creeped out, or otherwise squirmy. Some books are just too much for me– too scary, too gory, too cringeworthy, you name it. I’m not sure what this book was too much of, but something left me feeling unsettled. I’m not someone who enjoys uncomfortable books, but this book is perfect for someone who is able and likes to stomach them.

Something that I did like about Cottonmouths was how much it reminded me of Gillian Flynn’s writing style. It’s most comparable to Sharp Objects, in my opinion. There is less blood, but it has the same concept of a protagonist who the reader slowly beings to like less and less as the book goes on. In the beginning, Jody is someone who you can really feel sorry for, since she just dropped out of college and is struggling to find a job. As the chapters go by, Jody becomes less relatable and more unlikeable. This is something that makes me admire an author, because it’s not easy to do well. I think Emily J. Ford did a nice job transitioning Emily from a sweet girl into a dangerous woman in love with the wrong person.

Another great thing about Cottonmouths is the character depth. Emily and Jody both have so much going on inside them. Neither of them is all good or all bad, which can make it difficult for the reader to determine who is the one they should be “rooting for”. Kelly J. Ford does an excellent job making some things obvious (Emily is in love with Jody) but keeping a few key things secret (but, does Jody love Emily back?). I really have a hard time with books with no redeemable characters, so this was a downside for me, but I’m sure it’s an upside for some people.

I really wish I had been able to stomach Cottonmouths a bit more. The characters were very well developed and Kelly J. Ford excelled at making all her major characters very dislikable. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the right pick for me, for personal preference. I’d recommend this to someone who wants a good mystery that leaves them feeling uncomfortable and angry with the main characters.

April 2017 Wrap-Up

April 2017 Wrap-Up

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Hello everyone! If you didn’t notice, I totally forgot to do a March Wrap-Up. I’ve decided to skip it because I didn’t read that much in March. I’d rather just jump ahead to April because….. I got through 11 books this month! I’m so happy with my reading progress over the past 30 days. I read a lot of books that had been on my to-be-read since the fall. Before I do a breakdown, I want to give a quick update on my blog:

  1. I’m trying to post reviews more frequently now, since I’m reading a lot more than February/March. I’m aiming to publish one every 3 days or so.
  2. I want to focus my reviews on books that involve topics that I think should be normalized in literature. These topics include people of color, mental illnesses, LGBTQ people, chronic illnesses, and strong female protagonists. Of course, I’m going to read books that don’t focus on these themes, so if that’s not your thing, don’t worry.
  3. I currently receive one bimonthly book subscription box, Paper Street Books, and will be posting full unboxing reviews every time I get a box from them. So far, I’ve gotten 4 of their boxes and I haven’t been disappointed yet. I just got a box about a week ago so I’ll be posting a review of that shortly!

Now, on to the breakdown!

 

Ascension by Jacqueline Koyanagi (science fiction,) 5/5 stars

This book absolutely blew me away. The main character is a queer woman of color with chronic pain. I’ve never read a book about someone who struggles with an invisible physical illness before Ascension, so this book really makes the top of my ‘favorites of 2017’ list. I actually ended up contacting Jacqueline Koyanagi and telling her how much her book touched me. She was extremely nice and I hope she publishes more work soon. If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

  

Strange Medicine by Mike Russell (fantasy/short stories), 4.5/5 stars

I am so honored that I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review, because I really enjoyed it. I’ve never been a fan of short stories, but I got into this collection very easily and couldn’t put it down. I just received another one of Mike Russell’s books and I can’t wait to start it in the next few days! If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

  

Burned by Ellen Hopkins (fiction), 3/5 stars 

This is the second Ellen Hopkins book I’ve read, and I was really disappointed with it. After Crank, I had such high expectations for Ellen Hopkins. Her verse style of storytelling is so unique and makes for a fast-paced page turner. Burned was not like this. The story is very interesting– a girl raised in a religious family with an abusive father, who is sent away for the summer– but is told in a very boring way. I definitely will be giving Ellen Hopkins another chance sometime soon.

  

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (young adult fiction), 4.5/5 stars

I read an ARC of this book, so I’m not sure how much it differs from the final publication. That being said, this was a great first YA read for me in April! It is unconventional, as the two main characters are different genders but they do not have any romance between them. Alice Oseman wrote their relationship perfectly and it made for a very feel-good novel. I also like how she included a lot about internet culture. I can tell she really did her research into ‘fandom’ communities and networks. This book reminded me about why I love YA lit!

  

Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (fiction), 4.5/5 stars

Reading Crank last month inspired me to pick up this book in April. I was looking into more books that educate people about addiction, especially in young people, and this was at the top of many lists. I’m not going to say much in this blurb because I don’t think I can type anything without it turning into a rant about how addiction is a disease and needs to be treated as one. If you want my full review, please click here: x.

  

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz (young adult fiction), 4/5 stars

Yay! I spent all of last year waiting for Benjamin Alire Saenz to release a new book after Aristotle and Dante. I think he is a master at developing wholesome relationships between friends, but especially between parents and their children. This book doesn’t have much of a plot, but it is still so worth it. If you liked Benjamin Alire Saenz’s writing style from his previous publications, then you’ll absolutely love this book. If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

  

Such Small Hands by Barba Andres (fiction), 2/5 stars

This was the only book I read in April that I truly didn’t like. I found this book on the New Release Index on Book Riot Insiders, which often has books that I wouldn’t hear of otherwise, and it seemed really interesting. It ended up being a creepy novella about girls taking turns dressing up as a doll every night and performing rituals on said doll. Maybe, if the book had been longer, I would have liked it more.

  

Stuff I’ve Been Feeling Lately by Alicia Cook (poetry), 3.4/5 stars

This is another book that I found thanks to Book Riot Insiders! I picked up this book because I read that it was written for anyone who has struggled with addiction or loved someone who struggles with addiction, which is something I’ve recently been striving to read more about. I thought, maybe, it would include poems from the perspective of the addict, but they were mostly written for people who have a loved one who is an addict. To me, this made it a lot less interesting. I was hoping it would give more education about the disease, but the poems were too vague to teach the readers much. I did find a few that I liked a lot, though.

 

One Year Left by J.C. Robinson (romance), 3/5 stars

I’m so grateful that I was given a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This was my first romance of the year and it was a great start! The characters were both extremely likable, although predictable, and were a match made in heaven. I do wish there had been more depth to their character development, but, overall, they were very fun to read about. If you want to see my full review, click here: x.

 

Colorblind by Siera Maley (LGBTA, young adult), 5/5 stars

This was the only young adult book I read in April with a lesbian protagonist. Of course, with me being me, I LOVED it. It was so cute that I needed to put the book down a few times to just take it all in. Reading F/F young adult books is so refreshing because it reminds you that there are authors out there who want to normalize lesbian characters (especially teens!) and relationships. If you’re looking for an queer YA book, this is it. I’m excited to write a full review for this soon, so keep an eye out!

  

A Closed and Common Orbit by Becky Chambers (science fiction), 5/5 stars

If you’ve been following my blog since I read The Long Way to A Small, Angry Planet (review: x), then you know how much I adore Becky Chambers. I was so pumped for this book, that I ordered the UK edition, because I’d have it sooner than my fellow US readers. Rationally, I NEEDED the hardcover in order to survive, so I did what I had to. I’m mad at myself for putting this book off for so long because it was the perfect sci-fi book to finish the month off. This is a companion novel to Becky Chamber’s previously mentioned book, so you don’t necessarily need to read the first one before A Closed and Common Orbit. There are some references to the Wayfarer crew, so I think at least reading up on the first book is important. Becky Chambers will remain one of my favorite science fiction writers for a very, very long time. I plan on writing a full review for this book soon!

  

And there you have it! I’m looking forward to reaching my reading goal of 40 books this year (I’m already at 36) and I’m excited to be sharing some of my favorites with all of you. I’m working on making big changes to my blog this summer, as I stated at the beginning of this post, so bear with me. Thank you for your continuous support, I really appreciate the people who read my blog.