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Friday, November 14, 2014

One Man Guy by Michael Barakiva~★★★★

Author: Michael Barakiva
Title: One Man Guy
Release Date: July 3, 2014
Publisher: Macmillian Young Listeners, read by Michael Chernus
Genre: Fiction

Audiobook Cover: "Alek Khederian should have guessed something was wrong when his parents took him to a restaurant. Everyone knows that Armenians never eat out. Why bother, when their home cooking is far superior to anything "these Americans" could come up with? Between bouts of interrogating the waitress and criticizing the menu, Alek’s parents announce that he’ll be attending summer school in order to bring up his grades. Alek is sure this experience will be the perfect hellish end to his hellish freshmen year of high school. He never could’ve predicted that he’d meet someone like Ethan.
Ethan is everything Alek wishes he were: confident, free-spirited, and irreverent. When Ethan gets Alek to cut school and go to a Rufus Wainwright concert in New York City’s Central Park, Alek embarks on his first adventure outside the confines of his suburban New Jersey existence. He can’t believe a guy this cool wants to be his friend. And before long, it seems like Ethan wants to be more than friends. Alek has never thought about having a boyfriend—he’s barely ever had a girlfriend—but maybe it’s time to think again. Michael Barakiva's One Man Guy is a romantic, moving, laugh-out-loud-funny story about what happens when one person cracks open your world and helps you see everything—and, most of all, yourself--like you never have before."

Taryn's Review: I selected this book for an upcoming road trip after its cheery yellow cover jumped out at me from the bookshelf. The blurb on the back interested me, especially since the book was focused on the topic of a relationship between two teenage boys who fall for one another.

My favorite part of the book was Barakiva's discussion of Alek's heritage as an Armenian and how Alek's background and family history was a fundamental part of his upbringing. I don't know much about Armenians apart from my limited knowledge that a famous reality star with the initials of KK is also Armenian (which Barakiva brings up in a book). Alek was a great vessel for bringing attention to Armenians and their collective history to ignorant readers like myself. I even felt proud of Alek as he became more comfortable with his identity as an Armenian as the book developed.

While the book focused on two young men falling for one another, it didn't really feel all that different than if a young woman and young man had fallen for one another. I have element of appreciation for Barakiva for his ability to de-sensationalize (in a positive way) a love that is very natural to many people. Not only did Alek develop an appreciation for his background as an Armenian-American in his growth journey, but he developed a sense of self throughout the book. I actually really enjoyed Alek's parents and their role in the book; the relationship between the parents and Alek was strained at times, but I think Barakiva did a good job of capturing the complex relationship that teens and their parents have at times.

My only complaint about the book was that the teens' word choices seemed out-of-place in their conversations with one another: they either used really dated phrases or they spoke about really complex ideas and issues very eloquently. I would have thought that both boys were in their early-20s and college educated from their discussions, not fourteen and seventeen. My other issue with the book was the complete lack of technology used by the teens in the development of their relationship and in relation to others. Cell phones and computers are mentioned, but Alek never mentions texting, email, messaging, or online forums, which left me a little perplexed. Wouldn't Alek, especially given how astute he was, maybe do an online search with some terms like "maybe gay" once he began to suspect he had feelings for Ethan? Teens gravitate to the internet to answer questions that are big and small, so I wonder if it would have been a resource for Alek. Its lack of presence in the book unfortunately made Alek's world seem a little less valid to me. 

I enjoyed the book and think it's a great resource for all teens and adults, LBGTQ or not. Alek's shift from indifference to dating to absolute excitement about dating was a sweet shift to see, and my heart was happy that Alex was able to find out something about himself. The book is a somewhat idealized (little conflict with Alek's pronouncement), but overall a read that I hope will become more normative in the available book selections.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Honey on Your Mind by Maria Murnane~★★★★1/2

Author: Maria Murnane
Title: Honey on Your Mind
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing
Genre: Fiction

Book Cover: "For PR guru-turned-advice columnist Waverly Bryson, life is pretty sweet. She has an amazing job, a devoted boyfriend, and the best friends a girl could hope for. Things couldn't possibly be better--or so she thinks--until she receives an offer to turn her popular advice column into a regular guest spot on national television. 
The new gig means moving cross-country to New York to work for a woman who can't stand her, not to mention leaving her best friends Andie and McKenna behind while still missing her already too-long-distance boyfriend, Jake. But Waverly wouldn't be Waverly if she didn't tackle these challenges head on, with all the zeal, good humor, and, yes, occasional catastrophe that devoted fans have come to expect from 'the American Bridget Jones.' Witty, lighthearted, and fun, Honey on Your Mind is Waverly Bryson at her irrepressible best."

Taryn's Review: This book is book 3 of 4 in the Waverly series by Maria Murnane. If you follow my blog, you know that Murnane's previous books, Perfect on Paper and It's a Waverly Life, have been really pleasant reads for me. I was a little nervous going into this book because I wasn't as crazy about book 2 as book 1, but I am glad to say that I was not disappointed!

My only issue with the book is that sometimes Waverly's boyfriend, Jake, is just too flawless and too perfect. I don't always think their communication style is realistic, especially after the Christmas episode with Jake's family. It doesn't seem as if he ever gets frustrated with Waverly or remotely irked by her erratic behavior. I get that he loves her and she loves him, but sometimes his "perfection" leaves him so passive that he blends in as if he's a background element in the book.

I really thought Waverly was awesome in this book. She had a huge transition from San Francisco to New York City and Murnane described the little moments of change so well. I also enjoyed it when Murnane had Waverly explore her new city; it really helped me feel like I was experiencing the city alongside Waverly. Of course, Waverly had a conflict in this book (would there be a book without it?), but it was a conflict that felt organic to Waverly's life/work situation. It wasn't some crazy, far-fetched scenario, but a real-world situation that others can relate to.

As the book cover said, it really is lighthearted and fun, but still offers some complexity to keep you engaged. This type of book is so easy to read that I become engrossed and end up staying up way too late to keep reading! I can't wait to read the final book of the series, Chocolate for Two, although I'm a little sad at it being the last!