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Top 5 Wednesday

Top 5 Wednesday: Nostalgic Book Boyfriends

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week’s T5W topic is about characters you swooned over when you were younger!

History is my jam, so every single character is from earlier centuries. I loved me some historical fiction series, and read these books over and over (and over) again.

Almonzo Wilder from the Little House on the Prairie series. This guy was actually real, and truly a hunk. He saved a town from starvation, drove Laura home every week from her far away teaching job, and was willing to take the word obey out of their wedding vows! Hubba-hubba.

Gilbert Blythe from the Anne of Green Gables series.  I was reading the book series during the same time as the mid to late 80’s tv mini-series with Megan Follows and Jonathan Crombie so the handsome, kind and ever so patient Gilbert shall forever look like Jonathon.

Westley from The Princess Bride. While it was a book first, this is a major cheat, for it is Cary Elwes’s portrayal  in the movie that truly made my heart go pitter-patter. Look at the swoop of hair! So dreamy! I wanted to say “As you wish…” to Westley/Cary as he swept me away to a grand adventure.

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This is where my picks start to get embarrassing. The Sunfire series consisted of 32 books of questionable historical fiction. The main character was always a sixteen year old young woman at a pivotal time in America’s history that had to pick between two men who loved her. My favorite was the Jessica book set in 1873 Kansas and she had to pick between Wheeling Hawk or the widowed farmer Will. Spoiler alert- she choose Will and I was distraught. How could she not pick the far superior Wheeling Hawk? I mean look at those arms! For a funny review of this gem of a book read this post from Young Adult Historical Vault.

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I saved the worst for last. In addition to the Sunfire series, I was a fan of another atrocious historical series, White Indian. Set in New York State before the Revolutionary War, a white baby boy is kidnapped and raised by Indians to become a Seneca warrior. Renno was the greatest warrior of the tribe, and just happened to have blonde hair. My grandma had been reading this multi-generational saga and gave the books to my mom to take home and read herself. I swiped the first book and covertly read it in the car on the long way home from Florida. It had history, sex and  a hottie- I was hooked!

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So there you have it, my nostalgic boyfriends of yester-year. While I cringe at some of my selections, they all make me wistful for a time in which I was young and naive. But luckily for me, my real life boyfriend turned husband, turned out to be better than any of these book boyfriends! ♥

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Books Featuring Zombies!

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This month’s T5W topics center around Halloween, and when asked to pick my favorite type of scary creature, I knew zombies was it!

Revival is a favorite of mine, and I have written a lot of posts about it. In this now completed series, twenty three people inexplicably come back to life in rural small town Wisconsin. The “Revivers” are not your typical zombies looking for braaaiins. Instead they quietly rejoin their former lives, not even realizing or remembering their deaths. Their new existence sets the town on edge, with media scrutiny, a government quarantine and religious fanatics taking over the region. The series is being developed into a movie through Shatterglass Films.

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The Walking Dead is the grand-daddy of all zombie series.  A fascinating premise, that is getting a bit long in the tooth now, but is still beloved by many. I list the three compendiums I have reviewed on my blog, but I have also been keeping up with the smaller volumes as they come out, and putting reviews up on my Goodreads account.

Compendium One (Volumes 1-8)

Compendium Two (Volumes 9-16)

Compendium Three (Volumes 17-24)

This book must be listened to on audio…it was beyond good. The story covers the history of the world wide war against zombies, and the narrative covers a reporter getting first hand accounts from survivors that tell about the beginning of the epidemic, the resistance, and the aftermath of the zombie catastrophe.  Some of the standout characters/stories were Todd Wainio, the Redker Plan, the North Korea speculation, the female Russian soldier, the pilot of the downed plane, and the family at the Manitoba campsite. A tiny criticism, is that I figured out every supposed surprise in the stories, and the connections between the world-wide characters strained credibility. The actors voicing the characters in the audio edition were perfect- Mark Hamill! Nathan Fillon! Denise Crosby! Jeri Ryan! Common! Alan Alda! I will definitely be listening to this story again and again.

Negan has been a prominent villain in the long running The Walking Dead series, and is a perverse mix of monster and savior. The question of how he became so twisted and his backstory during the zombie apocalypse is explained in this book that just came out the same week of Volume 28.

After is a strong collection of nineteen short stories about life “after” a catastrophic event. As with any compilation with various authors, some are stronger than others. One of the standouts was  After the Cure by Carrie Ryan. It  took the zombie story trope and subverted it. Vail is a teenager that was previously a zombie like creature but was given a cure to rehabilitate her. Society has a hard time accepting those rehabilitated people back into their communities, and the people themselves still feel some degree of hunger and a need to be back with their undead packs. Despite the melancholic nature of this story, there was a nugget of hope built into the end.

Who would have thought that zombies could be so appealing, but my reading list doesn’t lie!

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite Bromances

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

This week, it’s all about the dudes! And their friendships!

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5. Roland and Eddie – The Dark Tower series by Stephen King

I know this one’s a little out there… but let’s be honest, this whole series is a little out there =P Roland and Eddie meet in the second book, when Roland essentially enters Eddie’s mind and helps him successfully (depending on your point of view) complete a heroin smuggling. Eddie gets sucked into Roland’s world, and though they definitely don’t start out as friends, they do come to a sort of understanding. Really, it just makes me laugh whenever Eddie throws out some word or phrase common in the ’80s and Roland becomes confused XD

(Plz no spoilers in the comments, as I’m maybe halfway through the third book =3 )

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4. Cadvan and Saliman – The Pellinor series by Alison Croggon

The main character of this series, Maerad, finds out she is a Bard when she stumbles across Cadvan in the keep where she lives as a slave. Cadvan becomes her mentor and companion throughout the series, and is just as interesting and complex as a character as Maerad. Cadvan’s good friend Saliman plays a large role in the series as well, and we get to know him better in the third book. Both Cadvan and Saliman speak highly of the other, and reminisce on their younger days when they learned the ways of Barding. Though they are apart for much of the series, you can tell they have a strong bond.

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3. Harry and Ron – Harry Potter

Ever since Ron asked Harry if he could sit on the train with him on their first ride to Hogwarts, these two boys have been best friends. Sure, they have their ups and downs, and periods they don’t speak to each other. But they have a special bond. Ron was Harry’s very first friend, and they’ve stayed together through thick and thin. You can’t really go on a quest to defeat the Dark Lord without becoming BFFs anyway.

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2. … Everyone – The Lord of the Rings

There really isn’t one bromance I’d pick over another when it comes to LoTR. It’s the whole thing. There’s Frodo and Sam, of course, whose rock-solid friendship is at the core of the series. Merry and Pippin are a lively duo, and are just as steadfast to the rest of the Fellowship as they are to each other. Legolas and Gimli each overcome the prejudices they have for the other’s races to become the best of friends. And there are many more besides. In a trilogy full of bromances, it’s very hard to pick just one! =P

(Also see my last sentence for Harry and Ron, ‘cuz it’s equally true here)

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1. Hawke/Inquisitor and Varric – Dragon Age II/Inquisition

Listen… Varric is the bestest best friend in a video game to ever exist. He’s definitely my favorite character in the entire series. Varric is a storyteller and a merchant prince of the Dwarves. He first appears in Dragon Age II, when he offers Hawke a place on his excavation of an abandoned dwarf settlement in the Deep Roads. Hawke and Varric are betrayed and left for dead underground by Varric’s brother, Bartrand, and Varric swears revenge. Hawke and Varric develop a fast friendship; underneath Varric’s storyteller’s swagger and wily ways, he has a heart of gold, and in some ways acts as Hawke’s conscience. It’s easy to fall in love with him as a character, and I was overjoyed to have him as a companion again in Dragon Age: Inquisition. My Inquisitor is probably no match for Hawke… but I hope she’s earned his friendship all the same.

Any of these bromances your favorites, too? =P

– Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Books From Before I Started Blogging

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the prompt is about your favorite books from before you joined the online book community. This also gives me a chance to feature books from other genres besides graphic novels!

 

Roots by Alex Haley: I have read this book several times over, and every time I am struck by the powerful narrative. The character of Kunta Kinte, an African teen captured and sold into slavery in America, put a personal face to the evils of the slavery trade. That he remained defiant and proud of his heritage, showed readers that they too could be proud of their ancestors, and I loved how his family retained some fragments of his past. I was fascinated by the history and the generations of change that Alex Haley described, and he encouraged me and countless others to do our own family research. While Haley’s research has been questioned as to it’s accuracy, this book still remains one of the finest examples of historical fiction. Kunta Kinte and his descendants became real to me, no matter if they truly existed or not.

To me, this book will always be entwined with the outstanding mini series Roots. It was my first introduction to LeVar Burton, and add in his work with Reading Rainbow and Star Trek TNG, and he shall always remain the celebrity I most want to meet.

The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara: Best book I had read in years (as of 2013). Fascinating read of how doctor/scientist Norton Perina justifies everything he does and you see how his twisted soul affects his logic. So many interesting characters: Norton, Tallent, Esme, Owen, Fa’a, Kubodera- I can imagine all of them as fully fleshed out people. Loved how the book combined history, science, academics, & memoir into one great story. Questions at the end for readers…when does the balance tip for a person? Do the failings erase the earlier success? Did the end justify the means?

The Wedding by Dorothy West: This beautiful and timeless novel was written by Dorothy West, one of the last surviving writers of the Harlem Renaissance. The story takes place in Martha’s Vineyard in 1953, as Shelby a young woman of an upper class black family, is preparing to wed Meade a white jazz musician. There are misgivings among the couple and the extended family whether this mixed marriage will be successful, and through effective use of flashback we learn about Shelby’s family and the dynamics that have shaped them.

We learn how Shelby’s white great grandmother came to marry her black husband soon after the Civil War, and how Gram’s unresolved feelings of prejudice and self hate affected the family in future generations. The next two generations of marriages were not based on love either, but on class and skin color, resulting in toxic relationships that put a fake successful face towards society. Shelby’s sister Liz experiences reverse discrimination when she weds a man darker than her family, and Shelby is not sure what to do when Lute, a black man, questions her reasons for marrying Meade. Shelby has to face her decisions, and look within herself, so she can make a love match based on character instead of class.

This was a thought provoking novel that I have read several times, and plan to read again. The universal themes of class and prejudice, and historical race relations were fascinating and would be perfect for book club discussions.

My Old True Love by Sheila Kay Adams: One of the most beautiful novels I have ever read- the reader is transported to North Carolina in the mid to late 1800’s to a rural community deep in the mountains of Appalachia. We meet Arty, as real a person as I’ve ever met, who shares her joys and struggles from her teen years onward. Arty marries well and raises a large family on a struggling farm, but the Civil War and heartbreak touch her and her surrounding community. Family connections and music play an integral part in the story, and the author makes you feel as though you are on the front porch with Arty and her family listening to her sing beautiful traditional ballads. This story would be perfect for book clubs, and is an absolute favorite of mine.

A Parchment of Leaves by Silas House: I loved this book. As I am already a fan of Appalachian fiction, I was then doubly pleased to find a reference to people of Melungeon descent in this story. As someone who suspects this ancestry in her family (not proven yet-as records back then were non-existent or hidden), I was interested in reading about Cherokee & Melungeon culture and how people were treated because of it. The book was heartbreaking to see families hide their language and customs, and have the next generation not know of their past. This was a book that was so true to life; that I could imagine Vine, Aaron, Serena, Saul, Esme and Aidia, and see them in my mind’s eye. I would love to read more about Vine and her family, and will definitely read more books written by Silas House.

 

I hope you get the chance read any of these five novels, for they are timeless classics that can be read over and over again!

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Book Covers You’d Live In

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

As some of you may know, I’m also an artist! I looooove me a well-done book cover. Here are some I love so much I’d just crawl in and stay there!

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5. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger Born by Stephen King

The backstory to the titular Gunslinger in Stephen King’s weird Western series. I’m not sure that I’d necessarily want to live in the world of the Gunslinger, but the art in this GN is so beautiful and dark and hypnotic, I’d want to go at least for a visit. A short one =P (Review of this one upcoming!)

 

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4. The Wrath and the Dawn by Reneé Ahdieh

A retelling of the “Thousand and One Nights” with a female heroine. The peek-a-boo nature of this cover is brilliant, and reflects the shadowed intentions of some of the characters. What I wouldn’t give to wander an Arabian palace with screens and decorations like this pattern!

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3. Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

A YA Western adventure novel featuring heroines and heroes of color. I fell in love with the colors and silhouettes of this cover. It makes me want to roam free and be wild! But then settle down and watch the brilliant sunset ;D

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2. The Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz

A favorite guilty pleasure series of mine when I was a teenager, featuring vampires of New York’s richest set. I’ve always loved these covers, and each one depicts a different city featured in the novels as the main characters go on their adventures. The silhouetted skylines make me dream of wandering these cities on my own someday.

 

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1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone: The Illustrated Edition by J.K. Rowling and Jim Kay

The original covers will always have a place in my heart, but I think this cover perfectly captures the spirit and wonder of Harry’s world. Besides, if I were in this cover, I’d be on my way to Hogwarts! =P

Who wants to climb in here with me?

– Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite “Unlikeable” Protagonists

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the prompt is about “unlikeable” protagonists. So I’m going to share the ones I pulled for!

Negan from The Walking Dead

I love this villain! He is complex, and shows brief moments of compassion and insight, but then rips your heart out with his brutality. I hated the Governor and his over the top inhumanity, while Negan is more believable. I am snatching up the book about his past when it comes out in October.

Amy Dunne from Gone Girl

Amy is twisted. She and Nick are so outrageously dysfunctional, and what she did and all the planning that must have gone into it were awesome. The twists at the end were unexpected, and while I had a bit of sympathy for Nick, he kind of deserves it. I’ve thought about what their future holds, and the child they will raise.

Gertrude from I Hate Fairyland

Gert is a foul-mouthed violent sociopath that you will think of fondly. Skottie Young’s distinctive style will make you laugh and root for a girl who will shank you if you look at her sideways.

Jack from the Fables series

Jack the Giant Killer, Little Jack Horner, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Frost, and Jack O’Lantern…these are all names that Jack of Fables is known by. Here’s another name- a$$hole, but yet you’ll be rooting for him to escape Fabletown.

Prince Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender

I loved watching Avatar with my kids when it was on Nickelodeon. Zuko was the classic  misunderstood anti-hero who just needed someone to love and understand him in order for him to change. I enjoyed his redemption at the end, and how he and Aang were able to end the terrible reign of the evil Fire Lord together.

Rooting for the underdog can be fun, for often these characters are more complex than the typical (and sometimes boring) hero. Who would you pick?

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Fandoms You Are No Longer In

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes. This week the prompt is about writing about fandoms we formerly were super invested in but now are no longer a part of.

Twilight series– Believe it or not, as a grown woman, I actually liked the first novel. My book club choose it, and they had to persuade me to pick it up. As much as I would like to pretend I didn’t like it, I was sucked into the vampire and werewolf saga. As I was firmly entrenched with Team Jacob, the second book gave me a slim hope that Bella would choose him over Edward. By the third book, it was obvious Jacob had never stood a chance, plus I was unhappy about the ridiculous plot and Bella’s moping. The fourth book was a pure hate-read, but I was determined to stick it out and see how everything resolved. It was a flippin’ waste of my time.

Jonathan Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series– I have read 40+ of Jonathan Kellerman’s books, over the course of two decades. Most of the novels are thrillers about psychologist Alex Delaware and his cop buddy solving complex crimes. But after 31 of these books (plus some other standalone books), I can not stand his character anymore. The books are no longer unique, and he repeats the same tropes over and over. Both my husband and I used to read the books and discuss them afterwards, so I had a hard time giving the series up, but last year I decided enough was enough.

Twin Peaks– I am on the fence about this series. A friend of mine had the series (on VHS!), so I binge watched the two seasons and the movie ten years ago. The first season was excellent, and I loved the mystery about who killed Laura Palmer, and the odd supernatural elements to it. The second season went off the rails, and the movie didn’t match the tone of the original series, but it still retained enough atmosphere for me to think of it very fondly as a whole. When I heard of the revival, with many of the same characters, I was excited. But four episodes in, I am a very unhappy camper. Lynch’s psychedelic ideas are just too way out there for me, and there has been little reintroduction to the characters of Twin Peaks that I had loved so much.  Many people are waxing poetic about it, but I just don’t get it. I will watch a few more episodes, but…

Old Man Logan– I really loved the first volume penned by Mark Miller and illustrated by Steve McNiven. I thought it was a fresh way of telling the Wolverine story and rebooting the franchise to reflect a world weary Logan. Obviously the book was a hit, as the movie Logan was based somewhat off this story. But eventually the artist changed, and worst of all, the story was moved to the Warzones/Battleworld universe. I was not happy with the A Force: Warzones series, for I think it is a lazy device to explain an anything goes plot. I refuse to read any book set there.

Tony Hillerman’s Leaphorn/Chee series– Tony Hillerman wrote an amazing mystery series set in the Four Corners region about two Navajo police officers. The books were respectful of the reservation inhabitants and there often was an archaeology subplot(fun fact- anthropology was my minor in college). This was another series that spanned decades, but by his 18th book, the series was limping across the finish line when the author passed away. His daughter took up the mantle and has continued writing the series, even adding in Chee’s wife to reflect a woman’s perspective. Anne Hillerman is a solid but uninspiring writer, and the southwest flavor is gone from the series. I gave two of her books a chance, but won’t be continuing with further novels by her.

Giving up on a former loved series is hard, and I often drag it out longer than I should. What are your thought on the fandoms I mentioned?

-Nancy

Top 5 Wednesday: Books That Would Make Good Video Games

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

I’m going back in time in the T5W bank, because today’s was sci-fi/fantasy related again and I just did one of those! Let’s mix it up a bit =P I’m slowly getting back into games after trying Horizon Zero Dawn~

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5. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Thought of you, Nancy! =P Eleanor & Park is an incredibly cute but incredibly heartbreaking story about two misfit teenagers falling in love. It’s set in the ’80s, but I often forgot that while reading it because the story and themes are so timeless. I think it would make a great 8 bit platformer game. You could alternate playing as Eleanor and Park every other level, and find different comics and tapes referenced in the book to give to the other person. There could be a heart meter that goes up or down depending on how many or what you find and give. And maybe the game would reveal the three mysterious words on the postcard – and change every time depending on how you play and how full you get the meter!

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4. Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy by Laini Taylor

The first book is amazing and even if the sequels aren’t on the same level, y’all should read it. This trilogy is about a girl with blue hair named Karou, an artist who’s raised by monsters. One of her guardians deals in animal teeth, and you find out later he builds other creatures from the teeth he collects and strings together like necklaces. Wouldn’t that be an awesome sidequest in a game??? Finding teeth and stringing them together to build creatures for an army, each animal with different stat attributes? Deal me in!

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3. Wonder Woman by George Perez

Okay, I admit I’ll take any incarnation of WW as a game, but the story and art of this run are iconic and stellar! I think it would lend itself well to a video game. There are also plenty of plot threads – main and side – that would translate well to a game. As it was written in the ’80s, I imagine it as another 8 bit sidescroller… complete with all the melodramatic cheesy dialogue goodness!

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2. Birds of Prey by Gail Simone

There are a lot of angles from which a Birds game could be played. You could play strictly as Oracle, where you choose the heroes you send into the field, and see them from a birds-eye view (pun not intended!), and manipulate them as if you were playing a tactical board game. In addition to moving your heroines around, there could also be puzzles to solve and codes to crack in order for the mission to succeed. You could also play as one of the heroes and go into the field, with Oracle as your AI guide, for a more action-oriented game. I feel no matter which incarnation you get, there should be a role-playing element, to highlight the bond between the Birds so evident in the comics!

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1. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Okay I know we’ve had ports of movie tie-ins to just about every console and handheld from the PS1 and GameBoy on… we had Pottermore back when it was actually a game (and I’m still incredibly salty it’s not anymore)… but wHERE IS MY HARRY POTTER SIMULATOR??? WHEN CAN I MAKE MY OWN CHARACTER AND PLAY AS HER THROUGH HOGWARTS??? WHEN?!!?!? IT’S 2017 AND WE DON’T HAVE THIS YET AND IT’S A TRAVESTY TO HUMANKIND TBH

Honorable mention was a Batgirl game… one half-baked Arkham Knight DLC is never going to be enough… #saltyaboutit

What book to game incarnations would you want to see? =D

– Kathleen

Top 5 Wednesday: Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme from Goodreads, created by Lainey from Gingerreadslainey and now moderated by Sam from ThoughtsOnTomes.

I admit I haven’t read a whole lot of LGBTQ+ fiction, but I will do my best!

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5. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon’s email falls into the wrong hands, and he’s suddenly being blackmailed into playing wingman for the hacker – or both Simon and the boy he’s been emailing (who, by the way, he has a huge crush on) will be outed. A funny story about friendship and family and figuring out who you are.

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4. Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

I spoiled my own post… the official review is coming in 2 weeks! Maggie develops a crush on a camp counselor one summer – a crush that would be innocent enough, if the counselor in question wasn’t also a girl. Heartbreaking and a too-real portrayal of teenage girlhood.

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3. Great by Sara Benincasa

A modern retelling of The Great Gatsby, featuring a fashion blogger and a senator’s daughter as the reincarnations of Jay and Daisy, respectively. A fresh take on an old tale with all the sumptuous summer setting and gossip you could want.

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2. Batwoman: Elegy, written by Greg Rucka

A new cult in Gotham is obsessed with Batwoman – and why they do reveals a painful family secret. Batwoman’s sexuality isn’t a surprise to anyone, but her stages of coming out are revealed through poignant flashbacks.

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1. DC Bombshells, written by Marguerite Bennett

An AU in which DC heroines serve in World War II covertly while their male counterparts are on the front lines. Batwoman is one of the main characters, but feelings bloom between Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy, and it’s hinted there were past relations between Wonder Woman and Mera ;D

Any recommendations for us? =D

– Kathleen

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