Size Doesn’t Matter (8): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (8): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerChasing Secrets by Gennifer Choldenko
Published by Wendy Lamb Books on August 4, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 288
Format: Hardcover
Source: Publisher
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Newbery Honor–winning author Gennifer Choldenko deftly combines humor, tragedy, fascinating historical detail, and a medical mystery in this exuberant new novel.

San Francisco, 1900. The Gilded Age. A fantastic time to be alive for lots of people . . . but not thirteen-year-old Lizzie Kennedy, stuck at Miss Barstow’s snobby school for girls. Lizzie’s secret passion is science, an unsuitable subject for finishing-school girls. Lizzie lives to go on house calls with her physician father. On those visits to his patients, she discovers a hidden dark side of the city—a side that’s full of secrets, rats, and rumors of the plague.

The newspapers, her powerful uncle, and her beloved papa all deny that the plague has reached San Francisco. So why is the heart of the city under quarantine? Why are angry mobs trying to burn Chinatown to the ground? Why is Noah, the Chinese cook’s son, suddenly making Lizzie question everything she has known to be true? Ignoring the rules of race and class, Lizzie and Noah must put the pieces together in a heart-stopping race to save the people they love.

Back in 2013, I first read Choldenko, having randomly selected the audiobook for Al Capone Does My Shirts as being of possible interest. I was right, though the books were entirely different than I’d expected, coming at history from an angle I didn’t see coming.

Similarly, Chasing Secrets takes on the topic of plague as it’s breaking out, rather than once everyone is already dying. We see this happen through the lens of aspiring scientist, Lizzie. Her favorite thing is joining her dad on his calls to patients, and her least favorite is attending class at finishing school, because she has no interest in marriage and wants to really learn.

When their servant Jing gets stuck in Chinatown due to a quarantine for the plague, she wants to rescue him, especially once she meets the son she never knew he had, Noah. I really love the portrayals of both Jing and Noah, because they resist stereotypes and are super awesome. Yes always to history that focuses on women and people of color. History enthusiasts will appreciate the extensive notes at the end of Chasing Secrets as well.

Choldenko has major talent at writing quiet, intriguing, unique histories about people often ignored by history. Very much worth reading for more than just the beautiful cover.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (8): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerTonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales
on September 15, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 342
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher
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Recklessly loyal.

That’s how seventeen-year-old Arden Huntley has always thought of herself. Caring for her loved ones is what gives Arden purpose in her life and makes her feel like she matters. But lately she’s grown resentful of everyone—including her needy best friend and her absent mom—taking her loyalty for granted.

Then Arden stumbles upon a website called Tonight the Streets Are Ours, the musings of a young New York City writer named Peter, who gives voice to feelings that Arden has never known how to express. He seems to get her in a way that no one else does, and he hasn’t even met her.

Until Arden sets out on a road trip to find him.

During one crazy night out in New York City filled with parties, dancing, and music—the type of night when anything can happen, and nearly everything does—Arden discovers that Peter isn’t exactly who she thought he was. And maybe she isn’t exactly who she thought she was, either.

My expectations for Tonight the Streets Are Ours were mad high after This Song Will Save Your Life had such an impact on me. Honestly, TTSAO was a letdown, but there were still some things I liked about it.

On the good side, Tonight the Streets Are Ours makes a lot of really important points about friendship, love and family. The novel ends up in a really good, healthy place, which is great. There’s a lot of intentional trope-subverting and diversity, as well, which is always a huge plus.

But…I know you saw this coming…as a whole, Tonight the Streets Are Ours lacks cohesion. A writing technique I’m realizing I often hate is when the story opens with a dramatic scene from the middle of the book lifted out of context. It’s meant to hook you, but this can backfire when you start out with all this drama and then descend into boring backstory for almost two hundred pages, which is what happened here. The basic premise is Arden going to find Peter, a blogger she admires, but that doesn’t happen until almost 200 pages into the novel. From that point on, I was engaged in the story but before that I was drifting.

Now, I was engaged for sure and I liked the points the book made, but I do find the obsession with Peter’s blog, the titular Tonight the Streets Are Ours, a bit odd. She finds him because they both feel like they don’t receive as much love as they give, but his story doesn’t really speak to her life particularly. She’s fascinated with his Manic Pixie Dream Girl obsession, Bianca and I really do not understand why. That whole thing wasn’t really sold to me, but I went with it for the most part.

gif dan typing gossip girl
Peter writing his MPDG blog

In the first half, it feels like both plot and character were sacrificed a bit for artistry. There’s something very calculated and not genuine about it, leaving it feeling distant in a way the second half does not. The first half feels like it’s being narrated by a Narrator, where the second half reads like standard third person limited.

There are some great things in here, so, if you’re interested, it’s worth picking up, but it’s not Sales’ best. *coughs literally (thanks cold)*  READ THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE.

Size Doesn’t Matter (8): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Marvels by Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic on September 15, 2015
Genres: Historical, Mystery
Pages: 665
Format: ARC
Source: BEA
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Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

Obviously Selznick does amazing things. His art is fantastic and I love that he basically writes highly sophisticated picture books. I’d love to see more books follow his example actually. That said, I didn’t find the story contained in The Marvels particularly compelling.

There’s actually not really a plot here at all. I mean, there’s the pseudo-mystery of Joseph’s uncle’s house, but really not much happens in this book at all. There’s something aged about this book, and I don’t mean the historical setting. It seems more almost to be about Albert than about his nephew.

It didn’t help that the start, the illustrated tale of the Marvels was so much more interesting than the text part. It might have been a more even tale for me had Joseph learned bits of the story as he searched the house, so the illustrations were mixed in.

Worth a read because it’s short and Selznick is worth checking out, but not one I’ll be revisiting.

Size Doesn’t Matter (8): Mini Reviews from a Lazy BloggerThe Difference Between You and Me by Madeleine George
Published by Viking Juvenile on March 15, 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 261
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Jesse cuts her own hair with a Swiss Army knife. She wears big green fisherman's boots. She's the founding (and only) member of NOLAW, the National Organization to Liberate All Weirdos. Emily wears sweaters with faux pearl buttons. She's vice president of the student council. She has a boyfriend.

These two girls have nothing in common, except the passionate "private time" they share every Tuesday afternoon. Jesse wishes their relationship could be out in the open, but Emily feels she has too much to lose. When they find themselves on opposite sides of a heated school conflict, they each have to decide what's more important: what you believe in, or the one you love?

It really upsets me to read a diverse book and not want to recommend it. More than any other book, I’m predisposed to love them and determined to find the good, but some don’t live up to my expectations.

The Difference Between You and Me isn’t a terrible book. It tries really hard, and it’s about good things. Actually, I think part of it’s problem is that it tries too hard and ends up whacking you on the head with the message hammer. The anti-corporate and self-confidence messages are great, but, when the message is the best part, it means the story is lacking.

The writing, characterization, and plot were pretty much meh across the board. There was an upturn right at the end, where the book ended in a way I didn’t expect. Other than that, the highlight was definitely the passionate kissing frequently engaged in by Emily and Jesse. The lowlight was that all three perspectives (Emily, Jesse, Esther) sounded exactly alike, despite the fact that Emily’s the only one in first person.

Much as I want to encourage people to read all the LGBTQ+ books, I’d put this one pretty low down the list. There’s much better f/f out there now.


2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (8): Mini Reviews from a Lazy Blogger”

  1. Hannah says:

    I loved Leila Sales’ debut, but I’ve seen a lot of disappointed reviews for Tonight The Streets are Ours. Pity!
    Hannah recently posted…To All The Tropes I’ve Loved BeforeMy Profile

  2. Lyn Kaye says:

    Boo! I am sorry to hear about The Marvels! It seems like such a cute book. I am a real sucker for that cover.
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Book Review: InfernoMy Profile

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