Down the TBR Hole #18

Down the TBR hole is a weekly meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story that revolves around clearing out all the books on your TBR you’re never going to read anyway. I’ll let Lia describe how it works:

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when youre scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well thats going to change!

It works like this:

~ Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.

~ Order on ascending date added.

~ Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.

~ Read the synopses of the books

~ Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’m having a lot of fun doing this right now. My TBR shelf is still enormous, though. In the future, I’ll probably only include book covers from the books I’m keeping so I’m not trawling through dozens of images whenever I click “add media” to put posts like this together.

But I’ll implement that change next time! For now, let’s prune this shelf in the usual way.

Down the TBR Hole

#1: Guardian by Carole Cummings


This may be a perfectly decent book but I can’t bring myself to care, especially given this book is a few years old already.

Verdict: Go

#2: Under the Lights by Dahlia Adler


I mean, I kinda feel obligated to read this eventually, so…

Verdict: Stay

#3: The Miseducation of Cameron Post


With the movie coming out, I should probably read this even though there’s some inaccurate disability rep and I also hate Chloe Moretz (the actor) for her fake feminism.

Verdict: Stay

#4: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee


I’m not really feeling it.

Verdict: Go

#5: Ana of California


This is a retelling of Anne of Green Gables with a Mexican-American MC who has been going through the foster system and for whatever reason has to do well at a farm traineeship if she doesn’t want to get sent to a group home. Probably interesting for some but I was never super into Anne of Green Gables in the first place so there’s no point leaving it on my TBR when I’m not gonna read it.

Verdict: Go

#6: This Song Is (Not) For You by Laura Nowlin


Apparently there’s an ace character (Tom, apparently)? And polyamory.

But some of the quotes I’m seeing in reviews seem to be falling into that same old trap of stereotyping aces as not caring about sex, rather than simply not experiencing sexual attraction. Libido and sexual orientation are not necessarily the same thing. I’m also unsure if he’s actually labelled as ace in the book.

I just don’t feel like dealing with this, even if my concerns do turn out to be misplaced.

Verdict: Go

#7: Beyond the Red by Ava Jae


My Goodreads friends seem to have unanimously enjoyed this. Most characters are dark-skinned and apparently there are queer characters in the cast. I guess I’ll give it a shot eventually.

Verdict: Stay

#8: Liars and Losers Like Us by Ami Allen-Vath


TW: Suicide and anxiety.

I don’t know. This sounds a lot like another book where a random character’s suicide is made to be all about the protagonist, and it seems a lot of the characters in the book behave super inappropriately about it and I just don’t want to read that.

Apparently some people with anxiety like the anxiety rep.

I just don’t think this is my thing.

Verdict: Go

#9: Future Shock by Elizabeth Briggs


Not really feeling it, and a lot of people have shelved this as romance so there’s probably a super prominent allocishet romance in it that I just don’t wanna fucking read.

Verdict: Go

#10: A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry


Apparently a lot of Puerto Ricans really hate the rep in this.

Verdict: Go


#MHBookBingo Wrap-Up

This month I participated in the Mental Health Book Bingo reading challenge run on Twitter. I stuck to my TBR, but moved a swapped a couple of categories when I realised they didn’t quite fit.

Here’s my completed board:

mental health bingo board - filled

And a more easily-digestible list of the books I read for each category:

ED Rep (Ownvoices): Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz. Review.

Graphic Novel with MC With MI: My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness by Nagata Kabi (translated by Jocelyne Allen)

Free space: The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver, book 2 of the Chameleon Moon series. (I do plan to review this eventually but want to try reading some additional short stories in this story-verse to get some perspective of whether I made a bad reading-order decision that caused some confusion for me.)

Anxiety rep (ownvoices): Runtime by RoAnna Sylver, a short story in the Chameleon Moon series. Review.

Romance with MC with MI: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke. Review.

I mostly picked good books, so this was a far more enjoyable reading experience than some challenges I’ve done in the past.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Can’t Believe I Read

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme created by Broke and Bookish that is now hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Today’s theme is: books I can’t believe I read.

This is pretty much a list of books I either hated and should’ve DNF’d, or realised in hindsight that they were fucking awful. Because of that, I’m not giving them any covers. Fuck ’em.

Top Ten Tuesday

#1: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

TW: Suicide

Okay, so I was a teen when I read this and didn’t know better, but what a mess. Huge misrepresentation of depression and suicide, and the TV tie-in just makes it so much worse because for fuck’s sake just let this book fade into obscurity.

Some reviews from other readers: Hannah Moskowitz (who iirc was also treated badly by the author when she was a teen and tried to bring up the issues she had with it), CW, Avery, and Beth. There are plenty of others on Goodreads as well.

#2: Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

Sorry to any SJM fans, but I hated this book. The writing was frustrating and I wanted to slap all the straight people (aka everyone). It took me months to read and I should’ve just DNF’d, but my stubborn ass saw it through to the end. Hearing what happens to Nehemia (one of the few characters I could stand) later in the series has solidified my hatred.

#3: Interview With the Vampire by Anne Rice

Okay, so I didn’t hate this one, but since I generally don’t touch books by authors who behave badly, I did surprise myself a little bit. The book was okay but I have no inclination to read any of her other ones.

#4: If You Could be Mine by Sara Farizan

I got a weird vibe about the whole “cis person pretends to be trans” plot from the outset but read this anyway because maybe it wasn’t as bad as it sounded. It was. The protagonist is such an ignorant cis person and doesn’t really try to change that. She’s obsessed with finding signs of a trans character’s transness and it’s really kinda gross.

Also, while the girls in the f/f relationship don’t die, it’s still a tragic ending. It does make sense given their circumstances, of course, but coupled with the transphobia, I couldn’t really do it. I never reviewed it and would have to reread to do so, and fuck that.

Some reviews: Janani, Bogi.

#5: Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

I don’t know why I gave this author a second chance. The writing improved but holy fuck the BIPHOBIA WAS OFF THE CHARTS. It took me a while to settle into how I felt about the book, because originally I’d liked it. But the more I thought about it, the more I fucking hated it.

I wrote a review as part of a larger post here.

#6: Char by Kristina Wojtaszek

This is self-pubbed so I won’t harp on it too much, but the LI was creepy and the MC kept being referred to by the colour of her dark skin in a weird way. HER SKIN IS LITERALLY SAID TO BE INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM DIRT. Review.

#7: The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman

I was promised queer rep. There is none. That’s not strictly the author’s fault, but I’m still frustrated as hell. Review.

#8: Fairest by K.S. Trenten

Another self-pubbed book. Basically there’s a fuckload of abuse apologism and also the most random-ass sex scene ever. Review.

Fun fact? Between this and the above book, I was inspired to write my own retelling that didn’t fall into the same traps.

#9: Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown

THIS IS STILL RECCED SOMETIMES AND I HATE IT. I should’ve stopped reading after that first shitty “bi-curious” line but I DIDN’T and I HATE MYSELF. Biphobic, racist and ableist as hell. Review.

#10: The Defectives by Burgandi Rakoska

Okay, so this did have a few good things like conversation around anti-disabled slur reclamation and found family, but the writing really is terrible and the plot virtually nonexistent. I was reading it for a challenge so I forced myself to read it but it was not a pleasant experience.

Review: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

fortitude smashedAfter scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.

Fate is now a calculation.

But loving someone isn’t.

When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.

See this review on Goodreads.

This book hit my radar last year but I really didn’t have the time for it, so here we are!

Details at a glance:

Title: Fortitude Smashed

Series/Standalone: Series (book 1)

Author: Taylor Brooke

Genre: Contemporary (plus one little science fiction-esque element)

First published: 2017

Format: Paperback

Pairings: M/M, side M/F

Sexual content: Non-explicit on-the-page sex

Rep: Queer adoptee MC with dissociative dysthymia and anxiety (pansexual by Word of God), queer MC (bisexual by Word of God), fat supporting character, Latina(?) supporting character, black supporting character, queer Chinese supporting character (her surname is apparently a Cantonese transliteration but she speaks Mandarin; I don’t know enough to know if that’s an issue)

Ownvoices: Yes for bi/pan (even though the rep isn’t explicit), dysthymia, and sexual assault survivor

Content warnings: Ableist language (minimal), anti-fat language, sexual assault (some of the warnings in my edition were inaccurate as the chapter 18 case of sexual assault, nonconsensual kissing, occurs on-the-page rather than off), panic attacks, dissociation, suicidal ideation, suicide jokes (not condoned), ableism (not condoned)

This book took me a while to read so it’s hard to get some coherent thoughts together.

Overall, I found it to be a good read though I did feel there were some weaknesses in the worldbuilding. While it’s good that queerness isn’t a big deal, I did feel a serious lack of discussion about what this soulmate thing actually entails. Is it always romantic or can it be platonic? Some people never experience sexual or romantic orientation, and may or may not be interested in romance. Apparently the author has discussed this in social media chats, but it doesn’t show up in the book itself. Maybe that’ll be better addressed in the sequel. There is a throwaway mention of polyamorous triads, which was nice.

In short: I would’ve liked less Word of God regarding the worldbuilding, and even characters’ sexualities, and more actually explaining things in the book.

The two POV characters, Shannon and Aiden, were both engrossing. Shannon is a police officer who is afraid of having to shoot a suspect, and Aiden is an art thief. Aiden also has dysthymia as a result of losing his parents a few years ago, and much of the narrative is about learning to navigate that. Aiden’s mental illness isn’t cured by his relationship with Shannon; he’s just another person he can lean on for support. Aiden’s friend Daisy is far more familiar with his illness. But much of Aiden’s arc is about dealing with his illness for his own sake, not because of the people around him.

I could’ve done without Aiden calling his cat anti-fat names.

Aiden was adopted as a baby into a Black family, and still has a living brother, Marcus. He was fairly prominent for a while, but then kind of dropped off the map for the rest of the story. The ways Aiden and Shannon’s lives intersect regarding the people in their lives does result in some pretty amusing scenes.

I had a hard time with Shannon’s ex, Chelsea, at times. At first, she’s really just there to complicate things with Shannon and Aiden. She did grow on me after a while, but I had to wade through a fair amount of frustration first. Just as well that improved, since she and Daisy are the focus in the sequel.

I found the plot a bit random and jumpy at times. The writing was good, but something about it wouldn’t let me focus properly sometimes. The characters are strong enough that the book was still engrossing, but I do wish the plot had been a bit stronger in places.

Slight nonspecific spoiler:

There is a particular scene late in the book that involves sexual assault that I’m really not sure even needed to be there. The plot would’ve been fine without it, and it did feel like it was being made to be about the characters who weren’t assaulted. I’m not super happy about the whole thing and I know I’m not the only one, but the author is a sexual assault survivor herself and the situation will apparently be unpacked better in the sequel.

I’m not a huge fan of having to wait for sequels for messy things to be unpacked, but that’s what we’ve got.

Edit: I’m not sure is the author paraphrased me or whether they were quoting another reviewer, but reviewers are allowed to dislike things. I don’t think it was written super well from a craft perspective and I don’t like having to wait for sequels to unpack things like this because an author promising to unpack it in a later book doesn’t always eventuate, and all I’ve got to work with is what I have on the page here. If it’s dealt with in the sequel, I will give credit where it’s due… but not before.

It’s the author’s right to handle it like this if they want, but it’s also the reviewer’s right to critique the way it’s done. I’m not the only person who feels it wasn’t done super well and I’m really annoyed by the author getting so angry about readers’ opinions. Once a book is published, it is no longer yours alone.

Yes, the author is a sexual assault survivor AS I HAVE SPECIFICALLY NOTED, but if you’re going to put sexual assault in a work of fiction, readers will have opinions about it… and while I may not be a survivor, other reviewers likely are. I’m not about to engage with the author over this but it does seem like she should stop reading reviews if they bother her this much.

I’ve also mentioned in this review that the plot jumps around a lot in a way that is rather irritating. This is another part of that. I’ve actually knocked a star off the generous Goodreads rating I gave, because the more I think about the plot, the more it annoys me. The plot is the weakest part of this book, and this particular scene, in many ways, is just a symptom.

Also: fiction has to follow more rules of logic and plot than real life does unless you’re deliberately writing a plotless mess.

End spoiler.

I also had some trouble figuring out some characters’ ethnicities at times… like, just say it outright rather than dancing around it.

This review is sounding way more negative than I intended. I love the dynamic between Aiden and Shannon and their respective character arcs. I adore Daisy, the massive nerd. Shannon’s coworker Karman is a single mother who never fully dealt with losing her soulmate, though she is back on the dating scene. Karman has some great dialogue, but she’s also there in opposition to Aiden in many ways due to her general refusal to actually confront her problems, and her impatience with people who are struggling with theirs. There are hints that Shannon’s father is touch-averse. Oh, and I love Shannon’s parents, especially his mother.

I’d go as far as to say that characterisation is clearly Taylor Brooke’s forte.

There are so many cute scenes between Shannon and Aiden, especially once they’ve dealt with the initial WHAT THE FUCK phase of their soulmate clocks pointing them to each other. Aiden can be prickly and confrontational, and Shannon isn’t always sure what to do with that. Fans of the Captive Prince trilogy will probably enjoy their dynamic (and there’s no slavery in this book to contend with).

Fortitude Smashed is a pretty solid first book for the series and I am interested in reading more and have rated it fairly highly on Goodreads despite my issues. Just as well, because I requested–and was approved for–the ARC to the sequel before my copy of this had arrived.


Down the TBR Hole #17

Down the TBR hole is a weekly meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story that revolves around clearing out all the books on your TBR you’re never going to read anyway. I’ll let Lia describe how it works:

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when youre scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well thats going to change!

It works like this:

~ Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.

~ Order on ascending date added.

~ Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.

~ Read the synopses of the books

~ Decide: keep it or should it go?

I’ve decided to do ten books per post for a while, at least until I’m halfway through my TBR. That is going to take a while. Something strange has gone on with my to-read shelf and suddenly I’m on page 2 instead of 4 for a lot of these books. I’m really confused. I think the order’s correct but it’s throwing me off and I don’t like sudden changes like this.

The final book on this list brings me to page 3 and I just… don’t understand what the fuck is going on. (I think they’ve doubled the number of books visible on a given page?) So if there are any double-ups of books I’ve already done in subsequent posts, it’s not my fault.

Down the TBR Hole

#1: Night Study by Maria V. Snyder


I liked the original Study series as a teen but after reading the extremely disappointing glass spinoff series, I’ve lost my taste for them. Sad, because I do like Valek and Yelena together, but I think it’s time to just put this whole thing to bed.

Verdict: Go

#2: The Star Host by F.T. Lukens


This book seems to be well-regarded by reviewers.

Verdict: Stay

#3: Girl Mans Up by M.E. Girard


I already own a copy of this.

Verdict: Stay

#4: Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee


This looks really interesting. It’s about a poor Chinese-American girl who manages to get herself admitted to an all-girls school for wealthy white girls in 1906. Then an earthquake strikes the city and she takes that same determination and cunning to do something about it.

Verdict: Stay

#5: Becoming Darkness by Lindsay Francis Brambles


Vampires created by a Nazi virus? Why, past me. Why.

Verdict: Go

#6: The Love That Split the World by Emily Henry


Apparently fuck-all happens and it’s instalovey. Nah.

Verdict: Go

#7: X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon


A novelisation of Malcolm X’s formative years that was co-written by his daughter. Yes.

Verdict: Stay

#8: Wonders of the Invisible World by Christopher Barzak


I’m not actually all that interested in this.

Verdict: Go

#9: Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne


I was gonna keep this for the OCD and anxiety rep but apparently there are some weird sexual assault jokes and I’m not about that shit.

Verdict: Go

#10: Luck in the Shadows by Lynn Flewelling


Two bi guys (they both express interest in women) in a traditional high fantasy novel. Nice.

Verdict: Stay

Penguin Teen Showcase 2018 (and Love, Simon)

I was super fortunate to snag a couple of tickets to Melbourne’s Penguin Teen Showcase, which happened yesterday (January 24). I don’t go to many bookish events since travelling to the city can be a pain in the ass, but the promise of seeing Love, Simon was motivation enough.

Firstly, it’s been noted by a few other attendees before me that the speakers forgot to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land. Hopefully subsequent events will remember this, since acknowledging the fact we live on stolen Wurundjeri land (in this case) is one of the most basic things we can do.

I have terrible audio memory, so I’m going to include Jes’s livetweet of the event, which starts with the concern I already mentioned:

The two guest authors interviewed by Bec Cavanaugh were Margot McGovern and Eleni Hale, speaking about their respective books Neverland and Stone GirlNeverland has a mentally ill cast, including the protagonist, and Stone Girl is about a girl going through the foster care system and is heavily based on the author’s own experiences.

What really interests me about these conversations is that both authors have M/F romances in their novels, but have written them in such a way to reject traditional “boy saves girl” and “love fixes everything” narratives. Anyone reading my blog or Twitter feed for a significant length of time has probably noticed I’m not the biggest fan of M/F, but the non-traditional approach to these relationships has definitely made me more interested in reading these two novels.

As I said before, I don’t have a great audio memory (even with the visual aids) but I do remember being keen to read The Dangerous Art of Blending In by Angelo Surmelis. Since coming back from the event, I’ve seen some mixed reviews regarding the M/M relationship, though, so I’m not quite as excited about it now. There’s a sample of it in the Super-proof, so maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Speaking of the Super-proof, another cool part about the showcase is, obviously, the swag. God, I hate that word but here I am, using it anyway.

The Super-proof is basically an ARC that includes author interviews and samples of several different books set to be released by Penguin this year, including:

A slideshow of my amateur phone photography of the swag is below, and includes two little badges, three bookmarks (Neverland, The Truth and Lies of Ella Black, and Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls on the underside of the Olympic bookmark), a promo flyer for Palace of Fires, the Underline magazine, a promo postcard for Tin Heart, two heart chocolates, and the Super-proof:

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Note: I’ve ended up with some spares. If you’re Australian and missed out on the showcase, I have three to give away, which I’m doing on on Twitter here. First come, first serve. I’ll include everything except the chocolate because that shit ain’t gonna travel well. Also my family descended upon them like vultures. UPDATE: ALL HAVE BEEN CLAIMED.

Now, onto the part I was most excited about: Love, Simon.

Having the opportunity to watch it in a theatre full of people who were just as into it as I am was such a wonderful experience. It was loud in there. There was screaming, crying, cheering, applause. I definitely missed some dialogue here and there and I didn’t even mind because everyone was so happy. I’m so glad my first viewing of this movie was in such an electric and positive environment.

Love, Simon is without a doubt the best book-to-movie adaptation I have seen in my life. There are changes, because that’s necessary to suit the format, but I felt the changes were justified and suited the story. The movie stays true to the heart of the novel and the writing and acting is phenomenal. And the soundtrack takes the whole experience to the next level.

(Again, I am struck with the hilarity that a high school decided to do Cabaret, of all shows. I did Wilkommen last year as one of the female workers and OUR VERSION WAS SO FUCKING INAPPROPRIATE I CAN’T)

IS THIS HOW THE ALLOCISHETS FEEL ALL THE TIME??? I FEEL POWERFUL. I AM 24 YEARS OLD AND THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I’VE SEEN A MOVIE LIKE THIS. I enjoyed Moonlight and Carol but they were more on the artsy, serious side of things. Those are important, too, but I’m a little mainstream when it comes to my taste in movies so Love, Simon was absolutely perfect for me. Here’s hoping we get a broader range of movies like this in cinemas. (Hopefully The Miseducation of Cameron Post, though it’s more serious, I believe, screens somewhere near me.)

I already want to see it again, so you can bet your ass I’ll be buying tickets when it releases in Australia on March 29. I didn’t buy the movie tie-in book because I’m not a huge collector of book editions, but I did snag a poster. And put it on my closet door. The fact Simon’s right outside the closet was not an intentional joke but the serendipity is beautiful.


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Last night was fucking ace.


Down the TBR #16 – Double Trouble Edition, Redux

Down the TBR hole is a weekly meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story that revolves around clearing out all the books on your TBR you’re never going to read anyway. I’ll let Lia describe how it works:

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when youre scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well thats going to change!

It works like this:

~ Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.

~ Order on ascending date added.

~ Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.

~ Read the synopses of the books

~ Decide: keep it or should it go?

I forgot I had this in my drafts and I need to post something so I guess now’s the time.

Down the TBR Hole

#1: Draw the Line by Laurent Linn


Apparently there’s some anti-ace bullshit? Fuck that. I’m not knowingly reading a 500-page book with that shit in it.

Verdict: Go

#2: Without Anette by Jane B. Mason


This just doesn’t really interest me anymore.

Verdict: Go

#3: True Letters from a Fictional Life by Kenneth Logan


I wasn’t really sure I was gonna keep this, but apparently the voice is really good. I’m seeing some warnings about biphobia, though, which is concerning me and I can’t seem to find details on whether it’s condoned or not. Anti-gay slurs are also used quite often, apparently, and I’m not super interested in reading that.

I’m just not invested in reading this book enough to find this stuff out for myself.

 Verdict: Go

#4: Liar by Justine Larbalestier


I was a teenager when this came out. I was loosely part of the book community and I vaguely remember the whitewashing issue with the original cover, which was then changed to this one.

It’s hard for me to decide what to do with this one. I’m not the biggest fan of unreliable narrators, but this is a different kind of unreliable narrator because she’s a pathological liar so you know from the start that she’s unreliable. That’s the whole premise of the book, so I guess it might not bother me as much as with some others.

Verdict: Stay (for now)

#5: Noble Falling by Sara Gaines


The blurb is giving me a headache but that doesn’t necessarily mean the story itself will be bad. It’s on sale on Amazon at the moment. And it’s got a lesbian princess.

Verdict: Stay

#6: Sound by Alexandra Duncan


Apparently this is a standalone companion novel to another book that I don’t have on my shelves for some reason. Book 1 looks super hetero, though.

This one has a Haitian lesbian MC who grew up in India, which sounds way more fucking interesting. Apparently it can be read without the other one, which is just as well since book one does not interest me at all.

I can only seem to get this as a paperback, though it’s not super expensive.

Verdict: Stay

#7: The Art of Wishing by Lindsay Ribar



Verdict: Go

#8: Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian


Practically every single person I know on Goodreads hated this. Also, cheating plots often suck, so…

Also, even though the cheating protagonist is supposedly bi, the word is never used. I bet I could fill a fucking bingo card with all the bad bi shit going on here. Fuck you.

Verdict: Go

#9: The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough


This is some sort of fight between love and death over an interracial black/white m/f couple during the Great Depression. Interesting, but I don’t think I’m ever going to read it myself. No point keeping it on my TBR.

Verdict: Go

#10: Up to This Pointe by Jennifer Longo


I can’t really find a reason to keep this on my TBR. A lot of people like it, but… eh.

Verdict: Go

And with that, I’ve but my TBR down to 408. I might keep doing ten books per post for a while, at least until I’m halfway through my to-read shelf. There are 41 pages to get through and I’m only on page four.

Currently Reading Book Tag

I’m stealing this tag from Benni @ Benni Loves Books because I felt like it… and I didn’t have a blog post lined up for today. This tag was created by BookTuber Charly Reynhorse. Thanks, Google. I also went back to the original video to make sure I get her exact wording since things can be lost in communication sometimes. I’ve shortened one question and added one capital letter, but otherwise left them untouched.

Currently Reading

These questions are about reading routines.

1. How many books do you usually read at once?

One, unless a book I’m reading is really long, I’m taking a long time reading it, or I just really want to read another one/the other one is super short.

I do this with the Chameleon Moon books, for instance, because they’re massive and feel even longer because I’m reading them on my Kindle app.

2. If you’re reading more than one book at a time, how do you decide when to switch to reading the other book?

If I’m reading one long master book and reading shorter ones in between, I usually read the entire shorter one and then read a chapter or two of the longer one before starting the next.

I’ll occasionally read a chapter of the longer book while in the middle of a shorter one, but that depends on how good my focus is for the shorter book. Sometimes I feel like I can’t do that without forgetting everything.

3. Do you ever switch bookmarks while you’re part way through a book?

Not usually. I pick one and stick to it, unless I lose it or it gets damaged somehow.

4. Where do you keep the book you’re currently reading?

Bedside table, often on top of my TBR pile.

When doing reading challenges, the pile can get pretty tall but otherwise I try to keep it shorter and keep my to-reads on the shelf, unless it’s something special like the one physical ARC I’ve ever had in my house or a book I really want to read next.

5. What time of day do you spend the most time reading?

Usually late at night. I’m either a vampire or a huge procrastinator.

(Hint: it’s both)

6. How long do you typically read for in one go?

This varies because my concentration level is all over the place. I try to read at least a chapter every time I sit down to read. Sometimes that turns into several chapters, or half the book, or the entire book if it’s short.

Short stories I often try to read in one sitting, with maybe the occasional break to walk around or pee.

7. Do you read hard covers with the dust jacket on or off?

Off. They get in my way and I’m worried about damaging them if I take the book out of the house.

8. Which position do you mainly use to read?

Various positions in bed. At the moment I’m shifting between sitting upright against the pillow with the book resting (partially) on my raised knees, or reclining sideways on top of the spare pillow that I’ve barely used to it’s still pretty tall with the book resting on the same magic giant pillow, hand often under my head because I’ve got a sore neck at the moment.

I got a double bed recently and it’s great… even if I use it as a shelf half the time.

9. Do you take the book you’re currently reading with you everywhere you go?

Usually, unless I’m specifically worried about it getting banged up in my bag.

10. How often do you update your progress in the book you’re currently reading on Goodreads?

All the fucking time. I try to read at least five percent before doing it, but sometimes there’s a note I want to make or I reach the end of a chapter or I just want a BREAK. I hate leaving my Goodreads updated when I go off and do something else.

11. Who would you like to tag?

I HATE TAGGING PEOPLE. If you see this and haven’t done it yet, YOU’RE TAGGED.

ARC Review: Relay by Layla Reyne

35918522Captain is not a title Alejandro “Alex” Cantu takes lightly. Elected by his teammates to helm the US Men’s Swim Team, he proudly accepts the role, despite juggling endless training, team administrative work, and helping out on the family farm. And despite his ex-lover, Dane Ellis—swimming’s biggest star—also making the Olympic Team.

Dane has been a pawn in his celebrity parents’ empire from crib to pool, flashing his camera-ready smile on demand and staying deeply in the closet. Only once did he drop the act—the summer he fell in love with Alex. Ten years later, Dane longs to cut his parents’ strings, drop his too-bright smile, and beg Alex for another chance.

Alex, though, isn’t ready to forgive and forget, and Dane is a distraction he doesn’t need on his team, until an injury forces Alex to accept Dane as his medley relay anchor. Working together, their passion reignites. When Dane’s parents threaten reprisal and Alex is accused of doping, the two must risk everything to prove Alex’s innocence, to love one another, and to win back their spots on the team, together.

Second-chance romance about gay Olympic swimmers? Sign me up. I actually requested this e-ARC from Netgalley on release day, so I’m sort of surprised I was approved. Go Riptide.

See this review on Goodreads.

Details at a glance:

Title: Relay

Series/Standalone: Series (Changing Lanes #1)

Author: Layla Reyne

Genre: Contemporary/Romance

First published: Jan 8 2018

Format: eARC

Pairings: M/M

Sexual content: Explicit

Rep: Gay Mexican MC, gay MC, black supporting character, bisexual supporting character, unlabelled queer supporting character

Ownvoices: No

Content warnings: Internalised homophobia/homomisia, anti-gay parents, suicide joke, parent with breast cancer, ableist language, “more than friends” rhetoric

I wasn’t sure whether I’d like this going in, but I ended up really enjoying it. Some of the writing came of a little fetish-y to me, but I have trouble figuring out whether it was or whether it’s just my grey-aceness biting me in the ass again.

Alex and Dane are both supremely well-drawn characters. Both of their shitty attitudes make sense in context of the story. Alex is worn out from taking on too many tasks including captaining the swim team, working part-time and trying to be there for his sick mother, and now has to contend with the guy who just up and left him and all the hurt feelings that brings back. Dane has been forced to play a role his entire life, and that has left him isolated and forced to be an asshole to grab what his parents have decided he deserves. Neither of them knows about the other’s circumstances, which only adds fuel to the fire.

Alex is well and truly out as a gay man and is proud of that and his Mexican heritage, but Dane’s circumstances have forced him to remain in the closet for over a decade. There are multiple times where Alex is put in a position to potentially out Dane, but even when things are bad between them or it’d make things easier for Alex, that’s not ever an option to him. I really felt like this author understood how serious outing someone can be.

I ended up being really invested in Alex and Dane’s relationship, and the state of their careers. Both men have made a lot of mistakes they need to fix, and part of their stories is becoming self-aware about their own fuckups and how they affected the other person. Dane’s story is largely about becoming independent after a life of living under his parents’ conservative thumb, while much of Alex’s story is geared towards forgiveness and learning to let other people share his burdens.

I also love Alex’s entire family. They didn’t have a huge amount of page time, but his mother and sister were really well-rounded. They serve as a huge contrast to Dane’s shitty family, who I definitely want to fight even though I’ve never in a real fight in my life.

There are some iffy “more than friends” lines which annoyed me as someone on the aro spectrum since that’s the sort of thing that implies romantic relationships are superior to platonic ones. I’m used to seeing it in romances but it’s still annoying.

There’s also a throwaway line about Bas, the bi character, wanting to fuck everything that moves, but the rep is good otherwise. He’s a three-dimensional character who actively stands up for his teammates. There’s a section where a straight character talks about some “gay for you” bullshit and he’s fully prepared to fight the guy for being a dickhead.  He’s also a white dude with dreadlocks, which is annoying, but overall he’s written pretty well. He’s actually one of my favourite characters. Bright, cheerful, ready to start an all-out war for the sake of his friends. Apparently he’s one of the protagonists in the sequel, so I guess I’m reading that one as well.

Overall, I really enjoyed this and will keep an eye out for the sequel.


Down the TBR Hole #15 – Double Trouble Edition

Down the TBR hole is a weekly meme created by Lia @ Lost in a Story that revolves around clearing out all the books on your TBR you’re never going to read anyway. I’ll let Lia describe how it works:

Most of you probably know this feeling, your Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when youre scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well thats going to change!

It works like this:

~ Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.

~ Order on ascending date added.

~ Take the first 5 (or 10 (or even more!) if youre feeling adventurous) books. Of course if you do this weekly, you start where you left off the last time.

~ Read the synopses of the books

~ Decide: keep it or should it go?

My TBR shelf has gone back up to 416 books because of course it has. In honour of my continued TBR-hoarding, this edition of Down the TBR Hole will have me assessing ten books instead of five.

Down the TBR Hole

#1: Black Iris by Elliot Wake

CW: The book cover and Goodreads page both use the author’s deadname. The blurb on Goodreads also includes ableist slurs (most are positioned as uncalled-for but one of them is used casually).







Okay, so this is one that I’ve been going back and forth about. I know Elliot Wake did something shitty on Twitter (I seem to have a vague recollection of him harassing black women?) so I don’t want to spend money on his work. However, I did find this in my local library system, which is weird since the city library system doesn’t have it. Weirder still? The city library system has Bad Boy but my local one doesn’t. What are you people doing?

So I guess I’ll read it at some point even if I don’t plan to read everything the author has ever done. Just this and Bad Boy, probably. If my friends hadn’t rated this so highly, it’d probably be off my TBR.

Verdict: Stay

#2: The Good Girls by Teresa Mummert


I was checking the low-star reviews on Goodreads and came across someone mentioning this author has behaved badly, so I’ve been googling and found this case of her apparently celebrating extreme hostility towards a blogger. Questionable, but it happened a couple of years ago and she’s not front and centre.

However, I can’t find this book in either of the library systems I use and reviews are telling me that the blurb is inaccurate. There also seems to be a huge amount of anti-gay bullshit that isn’t properly resolved.

Verdict: Go

#3: The Gravity Between Us by Kristen Zimmer


I was bored the instant I looked at this book, honestly.

(TW: for an uncensored quoted ableist slur in the linked review) Oh and HOLY shit apparently the R-slur is used REPEATEDLY??? And of course there’s anti-bisexual nonsense because why wouldn’t there be

get the fuck outta my house

Verdict: Go

#4: Pointe by Brandy Colbert


I’ve been meaning to read this forever. TW: rape.

Verdict: Stay

#5: Spirit Level by Sarah N. Harvey


Don’t be fooled by the cover and title. This is a contemporary about a girl conceived via a sperm donor and raised by a single-by-choice mother.

Apparently there’s a trans guy supporting character and one of the MC’s donor-siblings is biracial Asian (can’t find specifics in the reviews). I think another donor-sibling has two mums but I’m not 100% sure.

Sounds interesting, but the ebook is expensive as fuck and I’m not interested enough to fork out money and shelf-space for a paperback.

Verdict: Go

#6: Symptoms of Being Human by Jeff Garvin


Oh, I already know what I’m doing with this one. Genderfluid MC, I was gonna read it last year but then didn’t, available from the library…

Verdict: Stay

#7: My Year Zero by Rachel Gold


Eh, sounds like every bi character is a flirty, flaky stereotype, the Jewish rep is factually inaccurate and the bipolar rep is potentially questionable but I can’t seem to find an ownvoices review for that.

Verdict: Go

#8: The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle


This book keeps appearing in my life. Mostly in the library. A person I’m close to really disliked this book, and apparently there are some shitty references to seizures? Eh. I’m not that desperate for queer rep.

Verdict: Go

#9: Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki


Oh. Girl hate. Great.

From what I’m reading in the reviews, there’s some good stuff in there but the voice isn’t great and you have to slog through a lot of the book to get to the good stuff.

On the upside, she has two mums, though. So that’s nice. But still.

Verdict: Go

#10: The May Queen Murders by Sarah Jude


*calls up past self to ask her why she thought I’d want to read this*

Verdict: Go

That was a pretty harsh one, but at least it got my TBR down to 409. By the time I post this, it will probably have shot up again.

*checks TBR right before scheduling this post* Yep, it’s back up to 416 again (update: it’s since gone down a bit because I’m reading a lot). Maybe the next one of these I’ll do will also be a ten-book ordeal. I started out doing five books because I was worried I’d have a hard time kicking books off my TBR, or I’d have too easy a time and run out of TBR really quickly. Neither of those things seem to have happened.