Author Interview

Q & A with B.T. Gottfred

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Happy Tuesday, bookworms! I recently finished The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy and gave it 4.5 stars. I really enjoyed reading this YA novel because it powerfully depicts the fluidity of masculinity and femininity. I’ve always been a fan of gender discourse, so this book was a pleasure to read. Hence, I’m very grateful that the author granted my wish for a written interview. I highly encourage you to pick up THGAHBB when it comes out next month. 😀 If you want to know my thoughts, feel free to check out my review. Happy reading! ❤


 

  1. What inspired you to write THGAHBB? Is the topic of gender stereotypes close to your heart?

“Almost all my books are born first with the character voices speaking inside my head. Unlike some of my books (like Nerdy and Dirty), I always knew Art and Zee would be in the same book opposite each other. So then the question of “If Art and Zee are voices in your head, are you gender and sexuality fluid?” arises and my answer is I think ALL people are, even if many if not most people don’t identify that way publicly or even consciously. So yes, this topic is close to my heart. ;)”

  1. Among all of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community, who do you think is the most marginalized/misunderstood nowadays?

“Trans people are going to be the most marginalized until there is a major break through in understanding gender. If not a total deconstruction and rebuilding of what gender even means. I have friends who are as progressive and liberal as one can be on many topics, yet are downright archaic when thinking about gender.”

  1. Is it possible to identify or label the sexual orientation of Art and Zee?

“They certainly try to make sense of it, in their own way, with the ‘Zert Scale’ (which is a bonus at the end of the book). But part of what both they (and I) are trying to do is say that labels and identification should only be used if they are (1) self defined and (2) self empowering. No one anywhere ever should be telling anyone else who they are or who they should love.”

  1. How much research did you have to do before (or while) writing  THGAHBB? Are you a scholar of Feminism?

“An academic scholar, no;) I’m far too lazy for such a feat. But I was raised by a feminist and I married one so I feel like my scholarship has been lived more than studied. I do think all any writer (or person for that matter) with any ounce of imagination has to do is imagine, “what if I was born differently than I am” and they would immediately realize that equal rights is the most important thing there is. Period.”

  1. What gender stereotypes do you dislike the most?

“Anything aimed at children. I have two small boys (2 and 4 years old) and you can see they pick things up from classmates and others such as “that’s a girl’s show” or “that’s a boy’s toy” and yet, when they are not being tricked into stereotypes, both of them love to sing princess songs and have their toenails painted like their mom. I guess in a broader sense, I hate any stereotypes that tries to limit people’s ability to be the person that makes them most happy.”

  1. If you had the chance to go on a picnic with one of your characters, whom would you pick and why?

“Asking me to pick one of characters is like asking me to pick one of my kids… just can’t do it. I will say that as for Art and Zee, I would bring Art for his joy and Zee for her strength.”

  1. When it comes to gender/sexuality, on which side are you on: nature or nurture?

“I’m on the side of only the individual has the power to decide who they are. There are dangers to both nature or nurture and I don’t want any individual being told who they are by anyone or thing else.”

  1. Are you friends with Cale Dietrich? Who are your YA author buddies?

“I do not know Cale, but I just followed him on twitter because of this question. 😉 Jessica Brody got me into YA, so I will always credit her first. I’m in a writers group with Gretchen McNeil and Jennifer Wolfe and they both helped a ton with my book. I have dozens of others friends in YA and meet more every week. I must say some of the nicest/kindest people in the world are YA writers.


About the author:
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B.T. Gottfred (Brad T. Gottfred) is a screenwriter, producer, director, playwright and young adult novelist. He wrote and directed the digital series THE BOONIES, which premiered on go90 in 2017. His debut novel, FOREVER FOR A YEAR, was released in July 2015 by Macmillan/Holt, followed by THE NERDY AND THE DIRTY in November 2016. His third book, THE HANDSOME GIRL AND HER BEAUTIFUL BOY, will be released in May of 2018.

 

Visit B.T. Gottfred’s website

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Book Review

Love Is Love

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful BoyThe Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy by B.T. Gottfred

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

A man who reads effeminate may well be consistently heterosexual, and another one might be gay. We can’t read sexuality off of gender. —Judith Butler

Have you ever been subjected to gender stereotypes? That’s probably a rhetorical question. Hahaha. I myself have experienced being criticized for not conforming to traditional or hegemonic masculinity. Even though there are many kinds of masculinity, most people prefer only one: the kind that includes athleticism, big muscles, and other “macho” qualities. The same can be said of traditional femininity, which is typically tantamount to outward beauty, gentleness, and silence. In college, I learned about a feminist named Judith Butler. According to her, gender is a social construct or performance. In other words, your gender (behavior) isn’t determined by your sex (genitals); males aren’t necessarily “masculine,” and females aren’t necessarily “feminine.” Following this logic, I can’t help but think that gender stereotypes are stupid.

The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy is a novel that powerfully illustrates the latter truth. It’s the story of two teenagers who are bombarded by gender stereotypes. Because of their divergent looks and behavior, Zee’s and Art’s sexuality is always put into question. It eventually comes to a point where they themselves aren’t sure of their orientation. However, as Zee and Art become closer, they realize that gender is not as solid as people want it to be.

It was my first time to read a book by B.T. Gottfred, so I was pleasantly surprised by his humor and candor. He didn’t sugarcoat anything in this supposedly YA book. The emotions and conversations of the characters were raw, and the love scenes were pretty graphic. Hence, although this book features YA characters, its content is for a more mature audience. I personally did not enjoy the explicit scenes, but I commended the author for deviating from the norm, just like his characters. I plan to read more of his novels, so I guess I should prepare myself. xD

Zee and Art were unquestionably quirky and fascinating. I had never encountered such a weird yet perfect couple. Zee was turned on by Art’s effeminate looks and behavior, and vice versa. There were times when I was so confused because I didn’t know if they were straight, gay, or bisexual. Seriously, there were so many mixed signals, and it was impossible to label them using gender stereotypes. In the end, it occurred to me that that was probably the author’s intention. Zee and Art were in love with each other, so what was the point of labels?

In addition to gender discourse, this book had lots of family drama. Zee suddenly met her biological father after losing her mother to cancer, and Art’s parents separated after one of them became unemployed. I found their problems to be of equal magnitude, but I was particularly invested in Zee’s dilemma. She had a lot of hang-ups to address before she could start a relationship with her dad. That being said, I loved Art because he was selfless enough to set aside his issues and help Zee attain reconciliation.

Overall, I gave The Handsome Girl & Her Beautiful Boy 4.5 stars because it was very funny and insightful. Readers who are familiar with Judith Butler’s theory of gender performativity will definitely enjoy it. Art and Zee powerfully illustrate the fluidity of masculinity and femininity, so this book is perfect for anyone who hates gender stereotypes.

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Book Review

A Legendary Sequel

Legendary (Caraval, #2)Legendary by Stephanie Garber

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

She’d thought that she was the key to his entire game. But, of course, Legend was playing more than one game.

Caraval took my breath away last year. This sequel messed with my brain. I delayed my review for almost a month because I needed some time to process everything that happened. I felt so deceived…yet enlightened.

In Legendary, Tella learns that her mother has been trapped in a set of magical cards. To solve this problem, she makes a deal with a malicious prince. In exchange for saving Tella and Scarlett’s mom, he asks her to bring the real Legend to him. The only way to unveil Legend’s identity is to win Caraval, so Tella goes through the typical, difficult process of finding clues in the dead of night. However, the stakes are higher because if Tella doesn’t win the game, she will die. In other words, Caraval might not be just a game this time.

Like its predecessor, Legendary is a testament to Stephanie Garber’s talent for misleading her readers in the best way possible. As much I as liked the characters in this book, I absolutely didn’t trust anyone of them except for Tella. It was implied that Legend could be female, so my list of suspects kept on expanding. I tried so hard to guess who was who, but my efforts were to no avail; I was caught off-guard when Legend’s identity was finally revealed. My usual talent for predicting plot twists was rendered useless by the author’s cunning.

Personally, I thought that Tella was quite annoying in the first book because she seemed to be just a pretty airhead. Hence, I was glad that she became likable and relatable in Legendary. Of course, she retained her flirtatious and secretive nature, but the other layers of her personality were gradually revealed. Despite her tendency to be frivolous, I rooted for Tella because of her ardent desire to be reunited with her not-so-admirable mother. I couldn’t help but notice how she was more empowered than her sister.

Speaking of Scarlett, I was surprised by her suspicious behavior. Just like Tella, I had a hunch that she was in cahoots with the real Legend, who was supposedly someone close to Julian. Since Tella deceived her during the first Caraval, it was possible that Scarlett wanted to return the favor. It was interesting to see the new cracks in their sisterly bond. Still, I wanted them to me more honest with each other; it is an undeniable fact that secrets have the potential to destroy even the closest of relationships.

I would’ve enjoyed this book more if the male characters hadn’t been so…sexualized. All of them (e.g. Dante, Julian, and Jacks) were described to be hot or handsome in Tella’s eyes, and I couldn’t help but sigh. Caraval was a carnivalseque event, so one would expect it to have diverse participants. So why were all of the men attractive? Oh c’mon.

Ultimately, Legendary met most of my expectations. I loved the unpredictable plot as well as the multi-faceted female protagonists. I actually expected this to be a concluding novel, but looking at the last page, I can say that another sequel is a must. Kudos to Stephanie Garber’s powerful imagination.

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Book Review

Crows Are Not Better than Roses

Lost Crow Conspiracy (Blood Rose Rebellion #2)Lost Crow Conspiracy by Rosalyn Eves

My rating: 3.75 of 5 stars

Thank you, Penguin Random House, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

You think because I am a girl, I am weak. Because I speak for those who are given no voice here, my voice should matter less. You are wrong, on both counts. —Anna

Sequels are very unpredictable. You never know if they’re gonna hit the mark or miss it completely. I loved Blood Rose Rebellion when I read more than a year ago, so I was eager to dive into this book, believing that it would be even better. Unfortunately, most of my expectations weren’t met. To be optimistic about it, at least I enjoyed this book enough to give it more than 3 stars.

For the most part, Lost Crow Conspiracy was a very educational read. Just like the first book, it integrated much history into its fantastical plot. I rarely pick up historical fiction, so reading this book was an opportunity to widen my horizons. I enjoyed how the author retold the Austrian-Hungarian War and its global repercussions. She did it in a way that was unique, refreshing, and comprehensible. In other words, it was anything but info-dumpy. I was particularly fascinated by discriminated praetheria because their standpoint in European society was similar to that of the Jews during World War II. I wasn’t sure if this allusion was intentional. Nonetheless, I really appreciated it as someone fond of Christian history.

I also enjoyed Anna’s character development in this book. Anna continued to be underestimated because of her sex, but she didn’t hesitate to address the corruption in her society. Breaking the Binding definitely made her more mature because it pushed her to be a voice for the weak and oppressed. In a world ruled by men, she was one empowered female. Truth be told, the only thing I didn’t like about her was her tendency to lie to her loved ones; her refusal to tell anyone about Matyas’s “death” resulted in much undue stress. xD

As for Matyas, I was surprised that the author decided to keep him. I totally didn’t expect him to be resurrected. I had already become used to the idea of him being dead, so I didn’t care about his story arc. It didn’t help that his chapters were less interesting than Anna’s. In a way, his chapters felt like…fillers or padding. However, in light of his new powers as a shaman, it was clear that he still had much to contribute to the plot. I guess Anna would have had no allies if he hadn’t been there.

This book’s main weakness was its pacing. Oh my, the last 100 or so pages were difficult to get through because I almost fell asleep with boredom. It was weird because the climax was supposed to be the most exciting part of the novel. Anna had a price on her head, and her journey through various forests and villages was a drag. There was hardly any interesting confrontation since all she did was run and hide.

Overall, Lost Crow Conspiracy was intriguing and educational. I loved Anna’s character development and the book’s rich historical content. Still, some parts of the book were utterly boring. I gave the first book a higher rating, so I guess this one suffered from second book syndrome. Hopefully, the third installment will be better. 🙂

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Book Review

The Way You Disappoint Me

The Way You Make Me FeelThe Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Thank you, Macmillan, for giving me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

People who would be there for you even when you messed up and behaved like a jerk? They were the good stuff.

I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has noticed that people of color (e.g. Koreans, Filipinos, and more) are becoming popular in literature nowadays. Readers continue to crave for more diverse books, whether it be in regards to race, religion, and more. With that in mind, books like this are nice because they can make all kinds of readers feel represented.

By looking at the pretty cover, one can easily deduce that The Way You Make Me Feel is about an Asian girl. It follows Clara Shin, who is both Korean and Brazilian. She is particularly famous (or infamous) for her ability to cause mayhem and piss people off. After Clara gets into a catfight with her African-American nemesis named Rose Carver, both of them are obliged to spend the whole summer working on Clara’s dad’s food truck, the KoBra. They continue to get on each other’s nerves but eventually realize that it is possible for them to be friends. To make things more interesting, Hamlet, a hunky, Chinese barista nearby, seems to be crushing on Clara. Get ready to be entertained by a story of family, love, and friendship.

For the most part, this book was a fun read. I gave 3.5 stars to I Believe in a Thing Called Love last year, so I expected to have a similar reading experience. Unsurprisingly, I encountered the same virtues: diverse characters, beautifully simple writing, and touching family dynamics. I also didn’t have a hard time finishing this book because the content was very easy to process or take in.

I particularly loved the close relationship between Clara and her dad, Adrian. Adrian practically raised Clara on his own. Jules was an Instagram celebrity who couldn’t stay in one country, so she wasn’t very involved in raising Clara. Hence, it was interesting that Clara seemed to favor her mom, who clearly didn’t prioritize the right things. There wasn’t supposed to be any competition, but I was on Adrian’s side all the way because he never made Clara feel neglected. He was a permissive parent at the beginning of the book, but thankfully, he became wiser and stricter. At the end, Clara couldn’t have asked for a better dad.

Clara and Rose’s hate-to-love relationship was also fascinating. I was surprised that even worst enemies could become best friends. After spending much time together, they learned to understand and accept each other. I didn’t feel sad at all that Clara decided to “ditch” her old “friends” who only brought out the worst in her.

As for the romance between Clara and Hamlet, it was sweet but instalovey. Even Rose thought so! Haha. She was shocked to learn that Clara and Hamlet became a couple after just one date. LOL. Looking on the bright side, it was nice that Hamlet did not pressure Clara to confess her love for him. According to Hamlet, they would follow “Clara Time,” not “Hamlet Time”. That was such a cute and feminist thing to say.

The only problem I had with this book was…Clara. She was super annoying, especially at the beginning of the book. In fact, she was the one who made me understand the concept of girl hate because she had nothing but derogatory things to say about the females she encountered. And she had a public altercation with Rose, for crying out loud. Clara wasn’t this mean or aggressive to any of the male characters, so I couldn’t help but describe her attitude as a manifestation of girl hate. With that in mind, it was a miracle that she was able to make a best friend out of Rose.

Furthermore, it bugged me that Clara kept on comparing Hamlet to a dog. Chinese people are kinda known for their willingness to eat dogs, so go figure. 😦 I’m not sure if this counts as racism. Thus, please correct me if I’m wrong. Is it okay for Asians to be racist to fellow Asians? Ugh. Whatever.

Overall, I liked reading The Way You Make Me Feel mainly because of its emphasis on family dynamics. Still, in retrospect, some of its themes/aspects were contradictory (e.g. female friendship and girl hate, racial diversity and racism). If you loved I Believe in a Thing Called Love, you might be disappointed in this book. I hope that you’ll enjoy it more than I did.

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Book Review

My Plain Governess

My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies, #2)My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Thank you, Harper Collins, for giving me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

For everyone who’s ever fallen for the wrong person, even though we agree that Mr. Darcy looks good on paper…and in a wet shirt.

I absolutely loved My Lady Jane when I read it two years ago. In fact, it was my favorite novel of 2016. Hence, I had nothing but high expectations before delving into My Plain Jane. In totality, it was a very entertaining novel although I wasn’t familiar with the story of Jane Eyre. Still, I couldn’t give it five stars because it was compared to My Lady Jane, it was not that good.

For the most part, My Plain Jane retains the main plot points of Jane Eyre. It follows an orphan girl who becomes a governess and falls in love with her suspicious employer. But in this case, Jane Eyre is a seer, which means that she is able to see and communicate with ghosts. Alexander Blackwood, the star agent of a failing organization called the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, wants to hire Jane. Unfortunately, she doesn’t want to leave her darling Mr. Rochester. Alexander then enlists the help of Charlotte Bronte (yes, she is a character in this book), a talented writer who has taken it upon herself to write a novel about her best friend (Jane Eyre). To simply put it, this book is both a retelling and an origin story of Jane Eyre.

The Lady Janies sure do know how to make their readers laugh. I really had a good time reading this book, especially when they interrupted the narrative to address me and make me feel that I was a part of the story. The authors utilized this tactic in My Lady Jane, and it worked its magic once again in this book. Another magical thing was the cohesion of the writing. The book was written by three different authors, but I didn’t have the feeling that I was comprehending three different writing styles. In other words, the Lady Janies’ respective literary voices were super compatible.

In retrospect, even though Jane Eyre and the other protagonists weren’t problematic in the truest sense of the word, I didn’t become attached to most of them. I did like them, but they were quite plain compared to the characters in My Lady Jane. Looking on the bright side, at least I was very fond of Helen, Jane Eyre’s other best friend who happened to be a ghost. Helen was the primary source of humor in the story, constantly nagging Jane about things both trivial and important. It was also intriguing to see Charlotte Bronte as a fictional character. My reading experience became more meaningful because I often wondered if her personality was inspired by the real Charlotte Bronte. If the authors had to read biographies or whatnot before writing this book, then I applaud them for doing so. In any case, it was not surprising that I was able to relate to her love for reading and writing.

My Plain Jane actually downplayed the romance between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. This wasn’t necessarily bad because I wasn’t expecting to read a cheesy love story. However, Mr. Rochester lacked character development. He was not in Thornfield Hall most of the time, and most of his brief interactions with Jane Eyre made him seem like a villain. The cause of this phenomenon was eventually explained, but it would’ve been better if I had been given the chance to know the “real” Mr. Rochester. 😉 His “fake” personality was more bothersome than interesting.

The last problem I encountered was the inconsistent pacing. The pacing was generally smooth, but it became rushed, especially during the climax of the book. Many significant things happened in succession to the point that my brain found it hard to keep up. For example, the protagonists were caught in a number of problems throughout the novel, and it didn’t take more than a chapter or two to solve them. Sometimes, this caused the characters to be all over the place, as if they could teleport or something.

All things considered, My Plain Jane was an enjoyable and memorable read. If I took my love for My Lady Jane out of the picture, I would probably give this book a higher rating. Still, a four-star rating is high enough. Haha. I can’t wait to read another retelling by the Lady Janies. I wonder who’s gonna be their next inspiration. I’m sure that history has more Janes to write about. xD

*The featured image was contributed by Dessa Mae Jacobe (@dessatopia)

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Book Review

The Woods of Unmet Expectations

The Hazel Wood (The Hazel Wood, #1)The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Warning: Spoilers Ahead

Thank you, Macmillan, for sending me an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

It’s hard, isn’t it, to find you’re not at all the thing you thought you were? —Althea

The Hazel Wood is one of those books that you can see everywhere. It’s the most requested title on NetGalley, people have been raving about it on Instagram and BookTube since 2017, and apparently, Sony Pictures has purchased the film rights. I myself was affected by all the hype to the point that I persistently asked the publisher to give me a copy. When it finally arrived last Christmas, I was surprised by all the spectacular blurbs in the book. Popular authors, such as Stephanie Garber, Jennifer Niven, and Kristin Cashore loved it, so my already high expectations were intensified. Unfortunately, now that I’ve finished the book, I can’t help but wonder if it deserves a film adaptation.

The Hazel Wood is the story of Alice Proserpine, a girl who seems to never run out of bad luck. She and her mother (Ella) have spent most of their lives on the road in order to prevent misfortune from befalling others and themselves. Their circumstances become worse when Ella is kidnapped by someone who claims to come from the Hinterland, the fantastical world where Alice’s grandmother’s fairy tales are set. To save her mother, Alice must venture to the Hazel Wood, her grandmother’s mysterious estate.

Reading this book was similar to watching an episode or a season of Once Upon a Time. Alice’s world (New York?) was like Storybrooke, while the Hinterland was like the Enchanted Forest. Characters from the Hinterland were “breaching the barrier” and causing mayhem in the real world, and like OUAT’s Emma, Alice was the hero who belonged in both worlds. As a fan of OUAT, it was super easy for me to comprehend the world-building in The Hazel Wood. The similarities between the TV show and the book made my reading experience nostalgic and more interesting. However, since the book has been receiving much buzz, I expected it to be more original.

It must also be noted that The Hazel Wood had some tropes that were reminiscent of Frozen and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. For example, Alice had emotionally triggered ice magic like Elsa, and she suffered from gradual petrification like Anna. Moreover, just like Harry Potter, Alice could hurt beings from the Hinterland by merely touching them (i.e. their faces). I didn’t understand what exactly caused the latter phenomenon, but at least it wasn’t related to maternal sacrifice or whatnot. xD

One of the major plot twists in this book was utterly ineffective. You can call me jaded, but I didn’t believe for a second that Finch was dead. I also refused to accept that the author would dare to eliminate a colored protagonist, of all people. Anyway, Finch’s supposed death felt like an excuse to discontinue his character development in favor of Alice’s.

As for the side characters, most of them were underdeveloped. Hence, I could hardly connect with them or appreciate their significance. For instance, the villains, such as the “stalker boy” and Twice-Killed Katherine, seemed to be mere plot devices. After attempting to force Alice to commit suicide, they suddenly disappeared from the story as if the author had forgotten them. It was disappointing because they were actually very intriguing characters. I would have loved to learn more about them. 😦

Looking at the glass half-full, Alice was an admirable heroine. I liked that she stayed devoted to her mother even after she learned about her true identity. Alice also possessed a lot of inner strength, which helped her overcome emotional turmoil. The idea of losing Ella nearly crippled her, yet she always found her way back to the path toward her happy ending.

Furthermore, it was nice that this book featured a colored protagonist. Finch’s characterization provided an opportunity to reflect on the Black Lives Matter movement. Because of the color of his skin, Finch was afraid that pale-skinned police officers would treat him unfairly. To my delight, Finch ended up being Alice’s savior. Without him, she might’ve been stuck in the Hinterland and forever separated from Ella. Racism is still present in society nowadays, so I liked that The Hazel Wood did something to address the issue (and turn the tables). Who said colored characters couldn’t be heroes?

The last thing that I liked about The Hazel Wood was its dark and fantastic fairy tales: Alice-Three-Times and The Door That Wasn’t There. These stories were very enjoyable in spite of their not-so-happy endings. If the author published a collection of fairy tales someday, I would definitely buy it.

To conclude, I did like The Hazel Wood, but it didn’t live up to the hype. This just goes to show that blurbs are not always good; they can make you have expectations that are likely not going to be met. You’ll probably enjoy this book a lot more if you go into it blind.

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