Saturday, January 18, 2014

If You Could Be Mine

If You Could Be Mine
(Image from its goodreads page)
Sara Farizan

This book was getting a lot of awe and wonder in Diversity in YA-esque groups, so I decided to give it a try. Oh, and this is the book I referenced in my last review of The Lost Remote (inside joke inside joke). So you know.

On my second failed attempt of writing a summary for this, here is the goodreads summary:

Seventeen-year-old Sahar has been in love with her best friend, Nasrin, since they were six. They’ve shared stolen kisses and romantic promises. But Iran is a dangerous place for two girls in love—Sahar and Nasrin could be beaten, imprisoned, even executed if their relationship came to light.

So they carry on in secret—until Nasrin’s parents announce that they’ve arranged for her marriage. Nasrin tries to persuade Sahar that they can go on as they have been, only now with new comforts provided by the decent, well-to-do doctor Nasrin will marry. But Sahar dreams of loving Nasrin exclusively—and openly.

Then Sahar discovers what seems like the perfect solution. In Iran, homosexuality may be a crime, but to be a man trapped in a woman’s body is seen as nature’s mistake, and sex reassignment is legal and accessible. As a man, Sahar could be the one to marry Nasrin. Sahar will never be able to love the one she wants, in the body she wants to be loved in, without risking her life. Is saving her love worth sacrificing her true self?

There. That's good enough. Long, but a fairly good, semi-spoilery summary. Okay. 
This book is possibly one of the most important books I have ever read. Frankly, I think that If You Could Be Mine should be taught in school instead of the same three books every year. There does happen to be one problem, though.
Schools don't like the idea of lesbians. Oh, sure, drugs, alcohol, suicide? Those are cool. We can keep those. But lesbians? God, are you trying to kill us? And lesbians facing real world problems instead of things that will never happen but sound moral-ful? This is clearly a problem. Hold me, I'm feeling faint. 
Ignoring that little rant, yes, Sahar and Nasirin face some pretty serious issues. Drugs and alcohol are referenced, death is faced and people fall into the amazing pit that is the gender spectrum. Religion is mentioned and religion is questioned. These are things that happen. Oh, and apparently other countries exist.

Since this book is a romance book (I know, what is this, the second one on all of Yas Read Yas?), I'm going to start instead of end with the romance. 

Sahar and Nasirin are definitely working on the "opposites attract" idea. I've always that of that as a rule only for magnets, but apparently people generate magnetic fields and it works for humans, too. Sahar is a bit of a tomboy, even though it doesn't quite show in the book. Nasirin, however, is pretty-in-pink feminine. Somehow, though, it works. I'm not sure if my opinion has something to do with the fact that this is a romance novel, so it has to work, or what, but I liked it. There was always a slight (and sometimes less slight) note of irritation with Nasirin from Sahar, but the chemistry was there.

On the actual plot (Whaaaaaaat, the plot wasn't the romance? I know. Crazy. I know non-romance novels that the romance was actually the plot), it was a bit odd. Not in a bad, oh-gods-of-Asgard-and-other-such-holy-places kind of way, but it was just a little strange. The arranged marriage part was interesting, but Sahar's attempt at changing her sex (not gender, though) seemed like the wrong way to go about stopping the marriage. It felt almost a bit forced.

The style was good, maybe not my favorite (Sahar almost sounded lost in her thoughts at random points), but certainly not a turn-off. The pacing was great, almost perfect. Actually, I'm not sure what perfect would be, since this is the best pacing I've seen so far, but I'm sure I'd know it when I saw it.

I really liked the random cultural tidbits about, say, how in Iran you don't put sugar in your tea, you crack sugars cubes between your teeth and drink through them. Though my tea-drinking habits will remain unchanged, it was interesting to learn about the cultures of other countries.

So, I mentioned that there were important (read: somewhat adult) topics in here. Yeah, while drugs and alcohol weren't a focus, and sex wasn't a huge thing, it was still kind of adult. Makes enough sense, since Sahar is seventeen and that's pretty late in the YA spectrum. So, I wouldn't recommend it to anyone who wants to shield their virgin eyes.

 Yay, spoilers! Mostly, I just want to talk about the ending, so I have to put it under the great arch of spoilerhood.

In the end, Nasirin and Sahar have to break up. Sahar goes off to college and Nasirin goes off to a really, really big house.

Sahar eventually visits Nasirin, and they decide the relationship wasn't right for them anyway and blah blah blah.

Now, here's the entire reason I spent the past, like, ten minutes working on that fancy, rainbow text. I have to ask why?! Why can't I find a story about lesbians that ends happily? That ends up with them happy and together? Is it a rule, that as a lesbian, your life must be tragic and you'll feel no love? Why must this happen to me all the time?

Now, if anyone knows about happy lesbians, feel free to comment.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Lost Sun

The Lost Sun
(Image from usatoday)
Tessa Gratton

In a world where the Norse Gods are real, it usually pays to be a beserker. Unless, of course, you're Soren Bearskin, son of a previously acclaimed beserker that went insane and killed thirteen people and had to be shot down by a SWAT team. 

His life seems to be going up when he meets Astrid Glyn, a seethkoma who's famous prophetess mother went missing. But his celebrations end when Baldur, the much-loved god of light, fails to rise. Now Soren and Astrid must find the missing god, and confront their own problems along the way.

I vaguely enjoy the summary I just wrote. Isn't it beautiful? However, beauty can't last, so onto the (extremely unorganized) review.

You know that one person you really want to like, but have these little habits that just bother you so much? This book was that person for me.

First of all, I love the plot. I could roll around in the plot all day while giggling like a maniac. A road trip to save a god? Awesome. Beserkers and prophetesses? Heaven Valhalla. Journey of self discovery? I love you.

And the plot was executed so beautifully. It was well-timed and well-written. The pacing was more beautiful than that summary I'm still fairly proud of. In fact, if that was the only way I judged this book, I would probably be shoving it in your face screaming, "READ IT READ IT READ IT!"

And the world? So fabulous. Oh so fabulous. Perhaps not the best built one (Does everything have to revolve around the gods? I mean, a lot of stuff being dedicated to them make sense, but absolutely everything?), but still amazing and great and fabulous and [adjective with a positive connotation]. This may have something to do with the fact that I'm obsessed with most mythologies and folktales, but ignore that. My bias can be ignored.

Wait, no it can't. Because I've read Prose Edda, and I know all you slip-ups and stare into your soul.

A lot of the stories referenced/mentioned in this book were changed for no apparent reason. A couple are reasonable (Freyja magically becoming the goddess of magic, when that's more of Odin's thing, makes sense because too many people with Odin as their patron would be weird). But for the most part, it wouldn't be significant if they were told correctly. For instance, Baldur is not the sun. You may think he's the sun, but he's not. Trust me. I wouldn't lie to you, I'm not a Lokiskin. Sol is the sun. Baldur is the god of light and innocence and other awesome stuff like that, but not the sun. Since the reason the book is called The Lost Sun is because Baldur is lost, its title must be changed. "Sun" has become a random noun. We may replace it with any other noun.

Okay, while that bothers me, it isn't the only mythological mistake in The Lost Paperclip.  The Fenris wolf was the brother (or sister, maybe) of Jormungand with the same parents. Loki and Angurboda. At no point did they turn into a young girl, but illusion magic does exist in all unreality, so whatever.

Jormungand was cut out of no one's stomach.

It wasn't Baldur's mother that refused to weep for him, it was random giantess lady-who-may-have-been-Loki, Thokk. No one but Baldur and Hodr was murdered in that story.

See? Pointless things that could easily be changed. The only reason I even bother mention is to a) say that The Lost Skeleton is by no means a mythology textbook, and b) to point out one of the habits of the person-book mentioned in paragraph one of the actual review.

The characters, even, no, especially Baldur-who-is-not-the-sun, were interesting and unique little ducklings. They had their own drives and personalities and while Soren was basically a steel wall of seriousness, were still extremely cool and fun to read. It makes sense that Soren is the wall he is, I guess- after all, he could potentially kill someone, and that, kiddies, is something to be serious about. Oh, fun fact: the word "beserker" comes from the words "bear skin". I SEE WHAT YOU DID THERE, AUTHOR LADY.

And yes, I enjoyed Baldur's character veddy much. I have no idea why. He was just cool.

Names came to be another of the irritating-habits-no-one-but-me-cares-about. Why did all of the names of things have to be changed? Canadia (although that explains why they're Canadians, not Canadans), Montania? Anglish and New Spain? Why do these names have to be different? Does it matter? Do you like the idea that it takes me a second or two to understand certain things? These are questions that must be answered.

In more, better news that once again only I care about, I could find a lot of queer subtext in this book. Not actual text, but I have my dreams (JUST YOU WAIT UNTIL THE NEXT REVIEW). Of course, this is me just throwing out things that I noticed, so this entire paragraph may be ignored. 

While the style was usually pretty great, the wording could get a little odd. 

Also, I've noticed that out of the 22 books I've reviewed (counting this one), 17 have been in first-person narrative. That comes up to 77%. What could this mean? More unimportant sentences when I should be reviewing. That's what it means.

The romance was decent. Maybe not the best, but definitely not gag-worthy.

More useless text (maybe I should just, like, change the text color of useless stuff to green so you know to ignore it): I've noticed that in novels with a male protagonist, the romance is a lot more touchy-touchy. They want to hug and cradle and otherwise hold their love interest. With female protagonists, it's more emotional stuff that they're concerned about. Just pointing that out.

And since romance is almost always the thing I end with, you all know it's good-bye time. The book was decent with its habits. I might read the next book if I saw it in the library or something, but wouldn't purposefully seek it out.