Book Review: Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by Lev A.C. Rosen

The Title and cover of this book are perfection and I will not hear otherwise

The Title and cover of this book are perfection and I will not hear otherwise

Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts)
by L.C. Rosen
Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: October 30th 2018
Rating: worth my preorder wait
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Kelly Jensen on the HeyYA podcast

Jack of Hearts and Other Hearts is a story about sixteen-year-old Jack who is very gay and very sexually active. His friend convinces him to start a sex-advise collum on her blog, picks up a secret admirer and that's when things start interesting.

Jack is quite warm and likable. This is actually a pretty remarkable feat of writing because he is also shallow (Does he have any interests outside of sex? The one class that Jack does seems to like, sculpting, he makes sexual), vain, and selfish. He is exceptionally extroverted which is always a hard sell. Pretty much everything that Jack does or wants to do in this book would be one of the lower circles of Hell for me. Even the way he relates to his mom and friends didn't feel familiar. Jack also doesn't have much character development. He starts and ends the book in almost the same place character wise. But while I didn't relate to Jack, I know that there are many out there who will. More importantly, Jack's motivations were understandable and consistent with who he is and it is was impossible not to be invested in his story.

This is definitely the most sexually explicit YA book that I have ever read. If you read the first few pages and can't deal with it, this is NOT the book for you. I can't think of another book that is this sex-positive/sex forward LGBTQIA or not. Be prepared for this book to be challenged and banned all over the place. Because something something teenagers reading about sex shock horror ect. Which is too bad because this book does it's best to normalize all kinds of sex and sexuality. There are more than a few teen readers who need to hear that message. The full columns of sex advice are in the book, and of course, Jack is writing to a reader which makes it feel as if Jack is writing to you. Or seventeen teen year old you. Which pulled me out of the story a bit. YMMV.

You can’t kill a reputation. All you can do is live your life.

This is a fast read. The writing is sharp and entertaining, and the mystery and danger of the plot propel the reader forward at a breakneck pace. I read Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) in two sittings, and it would have been one if I wasn't secretly 110 years old and go to sleep embarrassingly early.

There is also a really important theme about the fetishization of gay men by straight women and the damage that it does. Which is definitely a thing and you can see this even so far as to how much better m/m YA novels sell that f/f. I do kind of wish that Jack didn't say, "Straight people are awful." an explanation so often because it came off slightly meant spirited and he was never called out on it. But that is a minor quibble.

If you are looking for an exceptionally sex-positive LGBTQIA book to read or if you are just looking for a YA book that will push your boundaries Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) is worth checking out.

From Goodreads:

Meet Jack Rothman. He's seventeen and loves partying, makeup and boys - sometimes all at the same time. His sex life makes him the hot topic for the high school gossip machine. But who cares? Like Jack always says, 'it could be worse'.

He doesn't actually expect that to come true.

But after Jack starts writing an online sex advice column, the mysterious love letters he's been getting take a turn for the creepy. Jack's secret admirer knows everything: where he's hanging out, who he's sleeping with, who his mum is dating. They claim they love Jack, but not his unashamedly queer lifestyle. They need him to curb his sexuality, or they'll force him.

As the pressure mounts, Jack must unmask his stalker before their obsession becomes genuinely dangerous...

Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races cover

The Scorpio Races
By Maggies Stiefvater
GoodreadsAmazon | Audible
Series: no
Release date: October 18th, 2011
Rating: OMG, so good
Times read: 3
Recommended by: A student in my book club

Have I mentioned yet that I am a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing? (Spoiler: yes, here, here, here, and here) “Cause I really do. The more of her writing I read the more that I love it. 

The Scorpio Races is an examination of the water horse myth.  Are you aware of water horses?  I may have vaguely heard about them at some point but I had never given them much thought before now.  They are creepy as hell.  Really. You could not pay me enough to get near one.  Horses are big and pretty scary on their own so I found that I needed very little prompting to find the capaill uisce terrifying.

Puck Connolly is (so far) my favorite of Stiefvater’s heroines.  She has spirit nd a sense of humor. In my head this takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland in, like, the 1920’s.  Evidence: general atmosphere, English speaking but not American, I associate horse racing with Ireland, a reporter references the woman’s suffrage movement, the cars are super unreliable, and also just ‘cause. Am I basing this head cannon on flimsy evidence or am I making sense?

Sean Kendrick has made the water horses (one in particular) and the stables his family. I love how self-contained he is. You know how most people have to seek out others in order to be themselves.  Sean is complete unto himself and I love that about him.  There is an inner stillness and certainty to his character that makes him very engaging even when he isn’t doing much.

All the supporting characters are so well realized.  All of them feel like real people.  It seems as if there should be a coffee table book with a photos essay about the people of Thisby including each of these characters. In particular, I found Pucks younger brother Finn to be charming.   I loved that while we are following Puck and Sean and there are the center of the book they are not the center of the supporting characters existence.

The island of Thisby should also be mentioned.  There was such a sense of place in this novel. I swear I could see the cliffs and smell the sea.  I think that the island concept was brilliant in itself.  If the islanders weren’t all trapped in some sense much of the tension of the book would have been lost.  Many of the characters see the island as a cage.  Something to escape. Both Puck and Sean see it differently.  To them the island is not just home it is an inner calling.  Almost as if the island itself is part of their consciousness.  A part of their thinking, A part of their definition of self. 

So much of this book was about expectations.  What you expect of others, what others expect from you, and most importantly what you expect from yourself.  And all of these expectations (know or hidden) are related to Scorpio Race.  It is interesting that the Scorpio Races cause such turmoil on the island and yet I never once questioned it’s existence.  Normally I would not be able to stop myself from thinking that they should stop capturing the scary monster horses and having a race where people die.

I did not find this to be a slow story but I can understand it others do.  When I think back on it very little actually happens.  There is a huge amount of character development and I had all the feels but if I was to break down the plot it would look pretty flat.  I enjoy that type of writing.  If it bugs you then Maggie Stiefvater might not be the writer for you. If you are looking for atmosphere and characters that you feel as if you know then you will find this book a treat.

From Goodreads:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. 

Mini Reviews: Adult Graphic Novels and Memoirs

Mini Reviews: Adult Graphic Novels and Memoirs

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
by Alison Bechdel

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: June 8th 2006)
Rating: sharp
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Gabrielle

 Fun Home is Alison Bechdel graphic memoir of growing up in an extraordinary house and funeral home. I am still a bit undecided on this one. It is the story of a woman searching for herself by trying to get to know her father after he is gone. I liked the storytelling and the art, but I had a hard time liking the characters. Specifically, the father. He is unpleasantly sharp and mean. I know that he is hiding a HUGE part of himself from the world and living a lie, but it was hard to see him taking that out on his children. BTW: there is a musical based on this book, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomicby Alison Bechdel

Saga: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan,  Fiona Staples

Saga: Book One
by Brian K. VaughanFiona Staples

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: Saga: Book One
Published: November 25th 2014
Rating: I am very invested
Times read: 1
Recommended by: A bunch of blogs

Two aliens from warring planets fall in love and have a baby and OMG now we have to flee from pretty much everyone in the galaxy because they want to kill us. I AM OBSESSED. This obsession is demonstrated by the fact that I owned these books digitally but rebought them as two HUGE physical books which I had to somehow fit into my suitcase on the way back to China. Alana and Marco are amazing, complex, and satisfying characters to cheer on. There is an emotional depth, familiarity, and truth to the story that pulls you in even as the outlandish visuals show you distant planets and beings.


Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Storyby Debbie Tung 

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story
by Debbie Tung 

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: November 7th 2017
Rating: Sigh of relating
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I saw some of her stuff on Pinterest

I have never felt so seen. Debbie Tung is my soul sister. The book follows her through her last year of university and her first few years as "an adult" as she tries to figure out why she never quite feels as if she can fit in. The art perfectly depicts the mood of the comic while at the same time enhances the story. My favorite panels include the engagement, the perfect date night, and her realization of what introversion means and how her inner journey is going to continue. I will be returning to this book again and again. 

Introvert Doodles: An Illustrated Look at Introvert Life in an Extrovert World by Maureen Marzi Wilson

Introvert Doodles: An Illustrated Look at Introvert Life in an Extrovert World
by Maureen Marzi Wilson

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: July 25th 2017
Rating: Meeeeeee
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Gifted

Listen, I am a sucker for books like this because if there is anything that I love it is meta-perspectives. This was a gift from a former student, so I have a real soft spot for it. It is much more episodic than Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and not nearly as nuanced but it is funny and relatable and if you are an introvert or close to an introvert well worth the read. My favorite parts were the infographics that the author created to explain the needs and moods of the introverted such as the natural habitats of introverts, a fashion guide, and a tour of any reader's bookshelf. It me.