Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Review: Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

Title: Sweaterweather
Author: Sara Varon
Publisher: First Second
Age Group: Everyone
Category: Graphic Novel
Release date: February 2nd, 2016
Pages: 128 (Hardcover)
Rating: 3 out of 5
Source: Publisher
Goodreads | Amazon Author

Back before Odd Duck, before Robot Dreams, Sara Varon created Sweaterweather. This endearing, quirky volume is a captivating look into Varon's creative process. It combines short comics stories, essays, and journal entries, and invites the reader into the world of Sara Varon: where adorable, awkward anthropomorphic animals walk the streets of Brooklyn and a surprising, sideways revelation is waiting around every corner.

Sweaterweather is a combination of cute, funny, and meaningful comics.  All of them are quite short- only a few pages long at most- but enjoyable to read for graphic novel lovers at any age.  My favorite part of reading this collection was the author's thoughts at the beginning of each comic, explaining the inspiration and ideas behind them.  I was surprised to find that many of the stories had little to no dialogue, but that made it better, seeing as there was so much expression in the art.  Sara explains that many of the scenes and characters were taken from her everyday life, so although I wasn't familiar with her work previous to this book, I found it interesting that she's taken real people and turned them into the animals you see in each comic.

Overall, Sweaterweather is a charming look into what goes into Sara Varon's work.  There are ice-cream-eating dinosaurs, cats that long to fly, and many more stories that will bring a smile to your face as you read through.  Some are more informative, like a comic on bee-keeping, while others are clever, such as a comic that has one scene per letter of the alphabet.  While this book is aimed more towards older fans of Varon, newer fans will still be able to get a taste of her storytelling abilities.
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Monday, February 1, 2016

Review: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin

Title: Symptoms of Being Human
Author: Jeff Garvin
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Age Group: Young Adult
Category: Contemporary/LGBT
Release date: February 2nd, 2016
Pages: 352 (ARC)
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Source: Publisher
Goodreads | Amazon Author

The first thing you’re going to want to know about me is: Am I a boy, or am I a girl? 

Riley Cavanaugh is many things: Punk rock. Snarky. Rebellious. And gender fluid. Some days Riley identifies as a boy, and others as a girl. The thing is . . . Riley isn’t exactly out yet. And between starting a new school and having a congressman father running for reelection in uber-conservative Orange County, the pressure—media and otherwise—is building up in Riley’s so-called “normal” life. 

On the advice of a therapist, Riley starts an anonymous blog to vent those pent-up feelings and tell the truth of what it’s REALLY like to be a gender-fluid teenager. But just as Riley’s starting to settle in at school—even developing feelings for a mysterious outcast—the blog goes viral, and an unnamed commenter discovers Riley’s real identity, threatening exposure. Riley must make a choice: walk away from what the blog has created—a lifeline, new friends, a cause to believe in—or stand up, come out, and risk everything.

Symptoms of Being Human is the first book I've come across with a gender fluid main character, so I knew that it was one I needed to pick up.  While the LGBT community is becoming stronger and gaining privileges and support they've never had before, many people still don't know the term "gender fluid".  I've mentioned this book to several friends as I read it, and the main question was "what does that mean?".  Many people now understand the differences between gay and straight, or transgender and cisgender, but what about when you identify as both male and female, depending on the day?  Riley will bring readers into the day-to-day life a gender fluid teen to show the struggle of finding your true identity.

Riley changes schools in hopes that public school will be more understanding, but it's still intimidating being "the new kid", especially when everyone looks at you with the question "boy or girl?" in their eyes.  After a break-down that lead to the discovery of what it meant to be gender-fluid, Riley is encouraged to start a blog in order to interact with other teenagers looking for help.  Surprisingly, the blog gains thousands of followers and Riley's anonymous persona- Alix- becomes internet-famous.

The author did a great job in making this story about the person that Riley is, not what gender they were born as.  Some may not get that while reading and could miss the message presented here.  I know that I tried to figure it out at first, myself.  As people, we tend to put things- even other people- into categories without realizing.  Riley does this several times throughout the story, finding out how easy it is to judge before you really get to know someone for who they are.  That being said, the relationships in this story were exactly as I hoped they'd be.  Bec and Solo are the first to accept Riley at school, and they make it clear from the start that they're willing to be there when no one else is.  Riley's parent's are very loving and accepting as well, although they may not understand everything that Riley is going through.

Symptoms of Being Human is very honest and informative.  I think that it will be a great book for many teens to read in order to open up their minds to those around them.  While it's about self discovery and acceptance, it's also about the impact- both positive and negative-that others have on us.  Riley is one of the most important characters I've read about in a while, and I know that I'll want to keep sharing this story with others for years to come.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January Wrap-Up and February TBR

The books I managed to read in January:
-Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore
-Firsts by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn
-The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
-Shade Me by Jennifer Brown
-The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman
-Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
-Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin
-Sweaterweather by Sara Varon

This was such a great start to 2016!  The Love That Split the World was definitely my favorite of the month.  So beautifully written and bittersweet.

The books I plan to read in February:


There are a few more February and early March releases on my TBR, but I'm trying not to overwhelm myself, especially because February will be such a short month.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

WTF, GFC?

Years ago, many bloggers retired GFC on their blogs and moved onto new forms of following.  I stuck with it because that's how I personally prefer to follow.  I may follow a good amount of blogs on Bloglovin', through email, or over Twitter, but I like seeing everything on my Blogger homepage.  I've added other forms of following to my blog since, but my highest follower count has always been on Google Friend Connect.

Yesterday I noticed a significant drop in followers (nearly 200) at once, which I've never experienced, even when the blog was inactive for a year and a half.  I wasn't sure if I'd done something wrong to deserve it or if it was just glitching, which has happened before...So I decided to google the problem and came across a blog post that explained what was going on.

If you've noticed a decrease in GFC followers on your own blog, it's because Google is getting rid of all accounts who don't use Google to follow.  Meaning if you used Yahoo, Twitter, etc. to follow through GFC, you will no longer be able to follow your favorite blogs.

This isn't okay with me.  After all these years, why now?  Numbers aren't everything, but it's taken a long time to build a following, and now some of those people won't see my posts.  If you are seeing this, I would like to encourage you to follow in any other way.  There's always Bloglovin', Twitter, Facebook, Instagram... 

If there are any other ways that would be easier for you to follow, please let me know and I can try to make that an option!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

That's What Chey Said: Let's Talk About ARCs

There have been many opinions floating around the blogosphere regarding advance review copies, especially as of late.  I'm not going to lie, I've noticed a big change upon coming back to my blog last year after calling it quits in mid-2013.  While it was always exciting to receive a book you coveted months before it hit the shelves, it seems that there's so much more pressure now.  Not only that, but there also seems to be a stigma that comes with sharing that excitement


No one is going to tell you "I started blogging to get free stuff", but I'm willing to bet that there's a good number of bloggers who have and are very motivated by that.  Is it a bad thing?  Not necessarily.  As long as people are sharing their own opinion and putting work into their blog, who cares if they view it as a reward?  When I began my blog in 2011, I didn't even know what an ARC was, much less how to get one.  I never loved books as much as I do now, but I loved the fact that there was a community that helped me broaden my horizons.  I've picked up dozens, if not hundreds, of books I may have never even looked at twice if I were browsing in a bookstore, all thanks to bloggers who have taken the time to share their thoughts.

Do I blog solely to get review copies from authors or publishers?  No.  Do I view it as a huge perk?  You bet your ass I do!  I'm not afraid to admit it.  

While I didn't start blogging for ARCs, once I learned of a way to get them, I worked harder to increase my readership and get to that point where other people would want to work with my blog.  Five years later, getting book mail still makes my day and I feel lucky to have those connections.  I genuinely enjoy helping promote new titles because I know it could help other readers find a new favorite just as it helped me when I wasn't sure what to read next.  I don't mind being used as a promotional tool, because I'm getting something out of it--gratification.

I've seen a lot of shaming going on recently, and it makes me kind of sad, especially since the book blogging community has always been pretty tight knit.  It's okay to feel ARC envy, but bashing is not.  There are certainly people who abuse the opportunities they are given, but what matters are the ones who want to do good.  Even if I don't find the time to read every review copy I receive, I try to find some way to spread the word.

Let me know what you feel about ARCs and their place in the blogosphere; I'd love to hear your opinion!