Top Ten Tuesday: Ten books that Santa should probably bring me or I might cry but not actually

top ten tuesday                wish

Hosted by The Broke and Bookish.  

Want to help support your broke blogger so she can host more giveaways and give swankier prizes?  Click the book covers.  If you like the book and choose to purchase it from Amazon, a little bit of the proceeds goes to Sarcasm & Lemons!   

...among a few others.  

c.j.'s selections                         ten ten ten

The Magicians - Lev Grossman 

I heard about this first from Cait at Paper Fury.  Even though it's gotten mixed reviews, it sounds like just what I love: hard-to-like characters, quirky magic.  I've wanted it for a while.  

The Illustrated Sorcerer's Stone - JK Rowling 

It's so gorgeous but not something I'd usually buy for myself unless I had extra money.  BUT I WANTS IT.  


The Annotated Alice - Lewis Carroll and Martin Gardner 

I learned of this in Splintered by A.G. Howard and, as an Alice fanatic, I must have it so I can know everything about Wonderland!  


The Red Queen - Victoria Aveyard 

I still haven't read this yet because I'm uncool.  Bask in my lameness.  

The Game of Love and Death - Martha Brockenbrough 

I want this in all its pretty hardcovery immortals-playing-with-humans-ness!  


The Fixer - Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

Again, I'm the only one on the planet who hasn't read this.  And apparently it's freaking amazing.  


As You Wish - Cary Elwes 

I don't usually do memoirs and nonfiction, but how can you say no to Wesley!?  Plus he totally shook my hand and meltsintopuddleofalskdfoaie.  

Choose Your Own Autobiography - Neil Patrick Harris 

NPH is all that is good in the world.  That is all. 


Silber - Kerstin Gier 

I know I don't read German, but I love this book to the ends of my toes and it was this cover and this version that made me fall in love with it even before it was in English. 

The World of Tim Burton - Jenny He and Patrick Blumel 

Tim Burton is my soul twin and I need all of everything he's ever done ever.  



Art: #TruthwitchRecreated, a cosplay cover for Truthwitch by Susan Dennard


This week's Witchlanders heist was to make a new cover for Truthwitch, in any medium you want.  Since I'd done up a bit of work for that cosplay all those months ago, I decided to resurrect it for my recreation.  

And if you haven't done it yet, go preorder Truthwitch and send the receipt at thewitchlands.com to get special goodies! 


ARC Review: What We Left Behind by Robin Talley

review         book

I'll Meet You Theretitle: What We Left Behind
author: Robin Talley
pages: 416
format: Paperback
isbn/asin: 978-0373211753
buy it: Amazon | B&N | Goodreads
rating: 4/5 (from hated to loved) or 6.5/10 (all books I've ever read)
recommended for: Fans of None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio, Dumplin' by Julie Murphy, Never Always Sometimes by Adi Alsaid, and other coming-of-age stories.
What happens when love isn't enough to conquer all?

Toni and Gretchen are the couple everyone envied in high school. They've been together forever. They never fight. They're deeply, hopelessly in love. When they separate for their first year at college—Toni to Harvard and Gretchen to NYU—they're sure they'll be fine. Where other long-distance relationships have fallen apart, their relationship will surely thrive.

The reality of being apart, however, is a lot different than they expected. As Toni, who identifies as genderqueer, falls in with a group of transgender upperclassmen and immediately finds a sense of belonging that has always been missing, Gretchen struggles to remember who she is outside their relationship.

While Toni worries that Gretchen, who is not trans, just won't understand what is going on, Gretchen begins to wonder where she fits in Toni's life. As distance and Toni's shifting gender identity begins to wear on their relationship, the couple must decide—have they grown apart for good, or is love enough to keep them together?

in depth

Reader alert:  I'm going to use "she" for Toni a couple of times because that's where the novel starts, and I don't want to spoil the journey.  

If you missed Talley's debut, Lies We Tell Ourselves, go read it.  Now.  It's a stunning novel rich with historical authenticity and truly complex characters.  Talley's sophomore title doesn't quite have the same polish and sheen as her first.  It reads a little looser, a little more like your average contemporary YA in its narration and dialogue.  However, it's certainly not your average YA.  With dual narration and a few flashbacks, Talley tells the story of Gretchen, a sweet vibrant girl who identifies as lesbian, and Toni, her girlfriend, who is grappling with whether she's truly a girl after all.  

This is really the first book I've read that deals with trans or genderqueer youth and I thought Talley's treatment of the subject was so respectful and realistic and multifaceted.  It could get a little teachy sometimes, because there had to be parts explaining concepts that typical readers wouldn't know.  However, since Toni was just learning about these terms too, it did kind of make sense for the characters to be talking about it.  I learned so much about genderqueer culture from reading this book.  It feels genuine, never judgey, often provocative.  

The best part is that Toni is unsure.  Ever wonder what gender really is, what it feels like?  Toni is discovering that across the novel.  Does she prefer "she" or "he" or "they" or "zie" or no pronouns at all?  Does Toni consider herself a boy or does she fall somewhere in between?  Or is Toni's gender fluid?  Toni is adrift and desperate for the label that will reveal her self to her.  Even though Toni can get super frustratingly annoyingly elitist, you can't help but empathize.  And Talley does a great job of having Toni's friends call out the elitism and the harshness and reminding Toni, yeah, people don't all get this like you do.  And Toni grows from it.  Plus her friends all have their own identities and deals and I kind of like some of them more than Toni, especially supersweet Derek.   

On the other side is Gretchen, who's a little vanilla--but that's half the point.  She's always been Toni's girlfriend.  Full stop.  Toni's friends are her friends.  Toni is her other half.  Her life.  Her future.  When she goes to NYU to find out who she really is, she discovers that there's a Gretchen separate from Toni--and maybe being so intertwined wasn't a good thing.  While she drove me crazy quite often with her naivete, she grows hugely over the course of the novel.  And her friend Carroll is adorably snarky, though perhaps a bit of a gay guy stereotype.  

Finally, as much as it's a story about gender and sexuality, it's also solidly a story about high school romance, going off to college, and growing up.  What!?  An NA novel that isn't all bad boys and sex!?  I kid you not.  (Please, more NA be like this?)  I could relate to so many of the college-y "moments", studying over coffee and freezing on the quad and dealing with awkward roommates.  Toni and Gretchen have way more going on than just each other.  

And Talley totally shocked me by taking the plot in a direction that I wanted it to go in, but didn't think it would because I was expecting the cliche HEA.  No ma'am.  Talley bares everyone in this novel to their truest selves, the good and the very bad.  She calls out the ways in which Toni and Gretchen's high school relationship was unhealthy.  And she lets her characters learn and mature and be real freaking people.  It makes up for all the annoyance and frustration I felt during the book--although I was mad at the characters so much, so you do have to bear with them.  Because the ending?  Perfection.  

in a sentence

What We Left Behind is a rich, complex novel about the perils of figuring yourself out--whether it's your gender, your true self, or your place in the newly adult world.  


will i read this author again?  Yep    
will i continue the series?  N/A and I hope it stays that way. I like uncertainty. 

Note: I received this copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks so much to HarlequinTeen for sending me a copy!  The price of the book and its origin in no way affected by stated opinions.