ARC Review: The Summer of Jordi Perez by Amy Spalding

31246717Seventeen, fashion-obsessed, and gay, Abby Ives has always been content playing the sidekick in other people’s lives. While her friends and sister have plunged headfirst into the world of dating and romances, Abby has stayed focused on her plus-size style blog and her dreams of taking the fashion industry by storm. When she lands a prized internship at her favorite local boutique, she’s thrilled to take her first step into her dream career. She doesn’t expect to fall for her fellow intern, Jordi Perez. Abby knows it’s a big no-no to fall for a colleague. She also knows that Jordi documents her whole life in photographs, while Abby would prefer to stay behind the scenes.

Then again, nothing is going as expected this summer. She’s competing against the girl she’s kissing to win a paid job at the boutique. She’s somehow managed to befriend Jax, a lacrosse-playing bro type who needs help in a project that involves eating burgers across L.A.’s eastside. Suddenly, she doesn’t feel like a sidekick. Is it possible Abby’s finally in her own story?

But when Jordi’s photography puts Abby in the spotlight, it feels like a betrayal, rather than a starring role. Can Abby find a way to reconcile her positive yet private sense of self with the image that other people have of her?

Is this just Abby’s summer of fashion? Or will it truly be The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles)?

Twitter is screaming about this book, so when I saw that it was on Edelweiss, I immediately got over my total confusion with how the damn website works to snap it up.

Just kidding. I still don’t understand Edelweiss. I just made it bend to my will long enough to grab this.

See this review on Goodreads.

Details at a glance:

Title: The Summer of Jordi Perez (And the Best Burger in Los Angeles)

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Author: Amy Spalding

Genre: YA Contemporary

First published: April 3rd 2018

Format: e-ARC

Pairings: F/F

Sexual content: None

Rep: Fat lesbian MC, Mexican-American LI, black supporting character

Ownvoices: Yes for fat rep, unknown for queer rep

Content warnings: Ableist language, weight loss pressure, anti-fat relatives, lowkey anti-gay parent, bi erasure


This is a fun novel about a career-focused plus-sized fashion blogger who’s also a lesbian. My review might be a little messy because I’m trying super hard to be positive even though there was one part that really annoyed me and has kind of ruined my enjoyment.

Let’s start with some positives.

It’s awesome to see fat queer rep. Intersectional stories can be hard to find sometimes, especially in mainstream publishing.

Abby is a great character. She’s bright, cheerful (usually), and has a great sense of style and pink hair! While she is super chatty and usually decked out in bright colours, she does have her insecurities. She’s totally fine with being fat, but doesn’t want to post pictures of herself on her fashion blog because of the potential fallout from anti-fat strangers.

Abby does have to face anti-fat microaggressions fairly often, and she has some great stuff to say about the way “fat” is treated like an insult when it shouldn’t be, because being fat isn’t a bad thing. She’s often put at odds with her mother, who runs a health food blog and regularly pushes Abby to lose weight. She’s also pretty weird about Abby being gay. They have a complicated relationship.

The friendships in this book are super interesting. You have the established best friends Abby and Maliah, plus their larger group of girls. You also have Abby’s newer friendship with lacrosse bro Jax. Abby’s friendship with Maliah has become more complicated since Maliah got a boyfriend and has less time for her. Abby grapples with feelings of abandonment because of this. Jax is such a bro, but he’s also a good friend to Abby and super supportive. It’s really cool to see a character who has both male and female close friends.

 

The relationship between Abby and Jordi is super cute, but I did have some issues with the pacing at times, especially in the last quarter.

On the bi erasure: It’s like the author was trying to avoid bi erasure for a lot of the book but still messed it up. For example, she put liking boys in opposition to liking girls as if they’re mutually exclusive, acted like the only possibility for a character of unknown orientation was to either be straight or gay. There is one token mention of bisexuality, but then not long afterwards, suddenly the characters talking about finding more gay people for the main character to date as if bisexuals and pansexuals and other queer folk have suddenly stopped existing again.

One token mention of bisexuality does not undo the erasure everywhere else. It’s so, so easy to avoid erasing us and yet authors keep failing. I actually thought the author was trying early on and just was really not good at it, given there was more about “does she like girls” rather than “is she gay” but nope. We got into that fun little tradition later on.

I wanted to like this book, but I’m absolutely tired of queer books doing this and I’m really starting to regret getting a review copy because I don’t want to deal with this anymore. This has literally ruined my enjoyment of this book. I hope this changes in the final copy, but I’m not holding my breath.

(If any of this changes in the final copy, feel free to let me know and I’ll add a note to this review, but I’m not spending money to find out myself.)

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WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted by The Little Book Owl and asks three questions:

  1. What Are You Currently Reading?
  2. What Did You Recently Finish Reading?
  3. What Do You Plan on Reading Next?

Note: one of the book covers from question 3 has (cartoony) naked people on it, so maybe don’t look at this while at work.

What Are You Currently Reading

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I grabbed The Summer of Jordi Perez off Edelweiss (I still don’t understand Edelweiss) and and probably going to finish that first. I’m taking my time with The Lifeline Signal because it’s so long.

The Summer of Jordi Perez is super gay, and the main character is a fat lesbian girl with pink hair and a plus-sized fashion blog.

What Did You Recently Finish Reading

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I actually really liked Not Otherwise Specified. There were a few things that bothered me, but overall it wasn’t nearly as bad as a lot of (clearly bi-hating) people have made it out to be. I read it for the Eating Disorder category as part of Mental Health Book Bingo (here’s my TBR).

My review.

What Do You Plan on Reading Next

This is the one with the cartoon naked people.

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Whether I read Fortitude Smashed or My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness will probably depend on which arrives from Book Depository first.

Both of these are reads for Mental Health Book Bingo.

Edit: I just got approved for Relay by Layla Reyne on Netgalley, so I might get onto that one first since a) these other books aren’t here yet and b) Relay just came out and I don’t like leaving review copies super late when close to or after the release date.

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Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event currently hosted by Broke and Bookish, but will be moving to That Artsy Reader Girl from the 16th of January onwards. I have a longer list on my Twitter of books I want to read this year here.

This week is all about books we meant to read in 2017 and didn’t get to, but totally plan to read this year. So, in no particular order:

Top Ten Tuesday

Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

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Goodreads page.

So, I’m going to read this for Mental Health Book Bingo (one character has dysthymia) as soon as my copy comes in the mail. I also requested the sequel from Netgalley, but I got approved super fast so now I’m just kind of twiddling my thumbs.

But, anyway, it seems like this is a world where pansexuality is the assumed norm and infants are implanted with chips that count down to when they’ll meet their soulmate. I’m not sure how this factors in for aromantic people at this point, and I hope that’s dealt with at some point in the series.

After 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.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (e-ARC)

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Goodreads page. TW: Rape

So, I requested this late last year but then between getting a corrupted copy (fixed now) and drowning in other books to read, I had to put it off. But there’s still plenty of time until publication so I should still read it well before the book actually comes out.

I’m having trouble explaining this, so I’m just gonna paste the blurb in:

“I need Owen to explain this. Because yes, I do know that Owen would never do that, but I also know Hannah would never lie about something like that.”

Mara and Owen are about as close as twins can get. So when Mara’s friend Hannah accuses Owen of rape, Mara doesn’t know what to think. Can the brother she loves really be guilty of such a violent crime? Torn between the family she loves and her own sense of right and wrong, Mara is feeling lost, and it doesn’t help that things have been strained with her ex-girlfriend, Charlie.

As Mara, Hannah, and Charlie navigate this new terrain, Mara must face a trauma from her own past and decide where Charlie fits in her future. With sensitivity and openness, this timely novel confronts the difficult questions surrounding consent, victim blaming, and sexual assault.

Charlie, Mara’s ex, is genderqueer.

Another Word for Happy by Agay Llanera

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Goodreads page.

I was actually going to read this for Diversity Bingo last year, but I was running out of time so I swapped some books around and put this one off.

Caleb is a Filipino gay boy who’s just started college. The blurb is short so here it is:

What does it take to come out of the closet?

Since he was thirteen, Caleb has always known he’s gay. Now a college freshman, he falls in love for the first time. If it’s true that love conquers all, then will Caleb finally find the courage to reveal his secret?

In this tale about family, friendship and self-discovery, find out how Caleb discovers the path to the freedom he’s always longed for. Here’s a hint: it involves doing things outside his comfort zone, such as joining a spoken word group!

The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed

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Goodreads page. TW: Rape

I meant to read this one during SapphicAThon but fell behind and swapped it out for something super short instead. It’s sitting on my shelf now. Mocking me.

Basically, a bunch of girls avenge the rape of a girl they don’t know. I’ve heard it’s a bit like Moxie, minus the white feminism that has put me off reading Moxie when there are so many other things I want to read.

There’s a queer Mexican-American girl and an autistic girl, and I’m pretty sure the rep is more extensive than that but it’s a good jumping off point.

The blurb is pretty fucking long so I’m just gonna paste the plotty half. The other half is more character-based.

When Grace learns that Lucy Moynihan, the former occupant of her new home, was run out of town for having accused the popular guys at school of gang rape, she’s incensed that Lucy never had justice. For their own personal reasons, Rosina and Erin feel equally deeply about Lucy’s tragedy, so they form an anonymous group of girls at Prescott High to resist the sexist culture at their school, which includes boycotting sex of any kind with the male students.

Told in alternating perspectives, this groundbreaking novel is an indictment of rape culture and explores with bold honesty the deepest questions about teen girls and sexuality.

Huntress by Malinda Lo

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Goodreads page.

This is another one I meant to read for SapphicAThon, but my library was a piece of shit so I had to find something else. It’s available at my library now so I’m gonna borrow it out of spite.

And also because I wanna fucking READ IT.

This is set a few hundred years before Ash, I believe, so it’s a very loose prequel. Fuck it, here’s the blurb. IT’S QUEER.

Nature is out of balance in the human world. The sun hasn’t shone in years, and crops are failing. Worse yet, strange and hostile creatures have begun to appear. The people’s survival hangs in the balance.

To solve the crisis, the oracle stones are cast, and Kaede and Taisin, two seventeen-year-old girls, are picked to go on a dangerous and unheard-of journey to Tanlili, the city of the Fairy Queen. Taisin is a sage, thrumming with magic, and Kaede is of the earth, without a speck of the otherworldly. And yet the two girls’ destinies are drawn together during the mission. As members of their party succumb to unearthly attacks and fairy tricks, the two come to rely on each other and even begin to fall in love. But the Kingdom needs only one huntress to save it, and what it takes could tear Kaede and Taisin apart forever.

The exciting adventure prequel to Malinda Lo’s highly acclaimed novel Ash is overflowing with lush Chinese influences and details inspired by the I Ching, and is filled with action and romance.

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassel

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Goodreads page.

Everyone screams about this so I guess I should get around to it soon.

The rules of the game don’t apply off the field in this first Barons novel. 

New York Barons tight end Gavin Brawley is suspended from the team and on house arrest after a video of him brawling goes viral. Gavin already has a reputation as a jerk with a temper on and off the field—which doesn’t help him once he finds himself on the wrong side of the law. And while he’s been successful professionally, he’s never been lucky when it comes to love.

Noah Monroe is a recent college grad looking for a job—any job—to pay off his mounting student debt. Working as Gavin’s personal assistant/babysitter seems like easy money. But Noah isn’t prepared for the electrifying tension between him and the football player. He’s not sure if he’d rather argue with Gavin or tackle him to the floor. But both men know the score, and neither is sure what will happen once Gavin’s timeout is over…

The Gallery of Unfinished Girls by Lauren Karcz

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Goodreads page.

This has a Puerto Rican bisexual MC who’s ability to create art has been hampered by family tragedy. And it’s got a gorgeous cover. I mean, come on.

Apparently the story is more about her coming of age than the romantic element, though that is there.

Mercedes Moreno is an artist. At least, she thinks she could be, even though she hasn’t been able to paint anything worthwhile in the past year.

Her lack of inspiration might be because her abuela is in a coma. Or the fact that Mercedes is in love with her best friend, Victoria, but is too afraid to admit her true feelings.

Despite Mercedes’s creative block, art starts to show up in unexpected ways. A piano appears on her front lawn one morning, and a mysterious new neighbor invites Mercedes to paint with her at the Red Mangrove Estate.

At the Estate, Mercedes can create in ways she hasn’t ever before. But Mercedes can’t take anything out of the Estate, including her new-found clarity. Mercedes can’t live both lives forever, and ultimately she must choose between this perfect world of art and truth and a much messier reality.

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

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Goodreads page.

This is another book about young African Americans grappling with police brutality. A huge part of this one seems to be dismantling the bullshittery of respectability politics.

Justyce McAllister is top of his class and set for the Ivy League—but none of that matters to the police officer who just put him in handcuffs. And despite leaving his rough neighborhood behind, he can’t escape the scorn of his former peers or the ridicule of his new classmates. Justyce looks to the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for answers. But do they hold up anymore? He starts a journal to Dr. King to find out.

Then comes the day Justyce goes driving with his best friend, Manny, windows rolled down, music turned up—way up, sparking the fury of a white off-duty cop beside them. Words fly. Shots are fired. Justyce and Manny are caught in the crosshairs. In the media fallout, it’s Justyce who is under attack.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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Goodreads page.

With every day that passes without me reading this, my friends edge closer to physically fighting me for putting it off.

This is a slightly cut-down version of the blurb.

Frances has always been a study machine with one goal, elite university. Nothing will stand in her way; not friends, not a guilty secret – not even the person she is on the inside.

But when Frances meets Aled, the shy genius behind her favourite podcast, she discovers a new freedom. He unlocks the door to Real Frances and for the first time she experiences true friendship, unafraid to be herself. Then the podcast goes viral and the fragile trust between them is broken.

Caught between who she was and who she longs to be, Frances’ dreams come crashing down. Suffocating with guilt, she knows that she has to confront her past…

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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Goodreads page.

The city library system has a copy of this and I have a shiny new library card. Bi MC, gay biracial epileptic love interest.

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

Review: Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz

22546578From the award-winning author of Break and Teeth comes a raw and honest exploration of complicated identities in a novel about a girl living on the fringe of every fringe group in her small town.

Etta is tired of dealing with all of the labels and categories that seem so important to everyone else in her small Nebraska hometown.

Everywhere she turns, someone feels she’s too fringe for the fringe. Not gay enough for the Dykes, her ex-clique, thanks to a recent relationship with a boy; not tiny and white enough for ballet, her first passion; not sick enough to look anorexic (partially thanks to recovery). Etta doesn’t fit anywhere—until she meets Bianca, the straight, white, Christian, and seriously sick girl in Etta’s therapy group. Both girls are auditioning for Brentwood, a prestigious New York theater academy that is so not Nebraska. Bianca might be Etta’s salvation…but can Etta be saved by a girl who needs saving herself?

I read Hannah’s debut novel years ago, back when I was a teen myself. It wasn’t my favourite, but it was good enough that I’m still interested in reading more of her reading, especially now that she’s developed a bit as a writer.

Details at a glance:

Title: Not Otherwise Specified

Series/Standalone: Standalone

Author: Hannah Moskowitz

Genre: YA Contemporary

First published: 2015

Format: Paperback

Pairings: M/F, F/F, side M/M

Sexual content: Non-explicit sex

Rep: Plus-sized Black (with dreadlocks) bisexual MC recovering from an eating disorder, Japanese diabetic lesbian supporting character/kind-of-LI, gay supporting character, lesbian supporting characters

Ownvoices: Yes for bisexuality and eating disorder.

Content warnings: Ableist language, bimisia/biphobia (not condoned, horizontal aggression), eating disorders (sometimes detailed, could be SUPER TRIGGERING), discussion of the medicalisation of weight and its connection to anorexia diagnosis, talk of conversion therapy, underage drinking, slut-shaming (not condoned)


First of all, I want to say that the cover for this book is a little misleading. While it’s great they have a black model on the cover, what it doesn’t show is that Etta is described as chubby. This is important, because it’s a factor in her body image issues relating to ballet, since most ballet dancers are much taller and thinner than she is.

I really like Etta as a character. She has a strong personality but also a metric fuckton of insecurities. She can be extremely blunt in her narration, though she also holds a lot back when she speaks. Her ability to pick up on another character’s queerness from the way he held his fork was pretty amusing, at least to me. Queer characters developing gaydar will forever be more fun than straight people/characters doing it, because for us it’s more like YOU’RE ONE OF US rather than allocishets being like YOU’RE DIFFERENT.

Anyway, I was invested in Etta’s happiness super early on. I was pissed off on her behalf a lot. As a singer who’s watched a lot of dancers have to learn how to sing, I was also pretty damn sure she wasn’t nearly as bad a singer as she thought she was. They very rarely are, in my experience, especially if they’re as determined as Etta.

(PS: Everyone needs to listen to “At the Ballet” from A Chorus Line and appreciate how fucking hard the part Etta ends up singing really is. Girl has more talent than she knows.)

Another interesting thing with Etta is the portrayal of a toxic friendship. Her friend is controlling at times. She’s the one who convinced her to give up ballet before the start of the story. Ballet can be a super shitty environment, especially for young girls struggling with body image, so while the friend wasn’t exactly wrong, I did feel that she was being pretty damn controlling about it. Etta does come to terms with the toxic friendship later on, though. Obviously I’m not going to spoil things, but I did find Etta’s decisions at the end a huge relief. I’ll get into the other toxic friendships a bit later on since they’re tied in with a larger topic.

It was also interesting that the girl Etta was in love with is never actually seen on the page.

The whole thing with the fourteen-year-old Bianca got a bit weird at times, with characters assuming she and Etta were a couple (Etta is seventeen so WHAT NO) and there are also a few lines from Etta’s internal monologue hinting that she almost wishes they were. It’s super weird and kind of uncomfortable. It is all kind of resolved in the end and it’s obvious that there’s nothing romantic going on, but there were a few times I was genuinely concerned where the story was going. Etta does call out this expectation in her narration at one point, putting it in opposition with the fact that her dating a guy is considered worse than dating a fourteen-year-old in the eyes of her former friends.

The weirdness aside, I really did appreciate Bianca’s storyline. She’s super religious and has been fed all that being gay is wrong bullshit all her life, but she tries really hard to accept her gay brother and even pushes him to talk to a guy he likes. The shift in Etta’s perceptions of her in general is also interesting, given Etta kind of romanticises her anorexia quite a bit early on. It takes Bianca falling from her pedestal a bit for Etta to stop describing her in poetic terms and think of her more as a person. If that makes sense.

Etta’s engagement with bi stereotypes was also super interesting. Etta likes sex. She refers to herself as a slut on more than one occasion, and other characters also use the word against her. There’s a section where Etta sarcastically says she’s “awesome for the community” because she fits some bi stereotypes, which serves as a reminder of the way individuals are often expected to act as representatives for their marginalisations.

Okay, so I guess I have to mention the issue with the lesbian characters in more detail, since I kind of touched on it in the Bianca section. Firstly, I’m not trying to take away from any lesbians who were hurt by this book. However, as a bisexual, I feel it necessary to add my perspective given I share an identity with Etta, and with the author herself, and therefore have some understanding of where she’s coming from.

Basically, there’s a clique in Etta’s high school called the Disco Dykes, which is made up of queer girls who get into the whole 70’s aesthetic and it’s something of a legacy group that has existed for decades at this school. When Etta gets involved with a dude, since she’s bisexual and has been telling them this the whole time she was friends with them, she is aggressively ejected from the group and subjected to repeated bullying.

The thing is, bisexuals face a lot of bullshit in the LGBTQIAP+ community, largely from allocis LGs. While I can’t speak for issues of lesbian rep in this book, I can say that their actions did speak to a lot of behaviour that I have witnessed and experienced. It’s super common for allocis LGs to push bisexuals and pansexuals (and aces and aros) out of the queer community for not performing queerness to their specific standards, i.e. exclusively dating/fucking your own gender.

Furthermore, the issues with the lesbian characters in this particular instance revolve a huge amount on the cliquey nature of many friendship groups in high school. They’ve stuck together because of their shared attraction to girls. They really don’t have anything else in common. On top of that, there is one girl really leading the bullshit against Etta and the other girls just kind of go with it.

A huge part of Etta’s character development comes from realising that just because she has one thing in common with these girls (i.e. liking girls), doesn’t mean they’re supposed to be friends. Friends don’t eject friends from their groups for being themselves, which is what has happened here. It’s an experience most people can relate to; we’ve all been friends with people just because we were thrown together with them, not necessarily because we liked each other. And, while we don’t like to talk about it, girls can be shitty to each other, especially to people who don’t conform to expectations thrust upon us. Internalised misogyny is a hell of a drug, and the particular flavour of bimisia that is aimed at women is hugely tied up in the whole idea that women are considered dirty the instant a man touches them.

So, here’s my take based on my own experiences with the queer community: Etta’s experiences of bimisia at the hands of these girls read as pretty damn realistic to me when you take into the account the heightened nature of YA novel bullying in general. The attitudes that underpin the behaviour, that bi girls are less queer and even tainted the instant they have anything to do with a dude, are real attitudes that real people have in our community.

Now, with that aside, maybe I can get out of here without getting murdered.

This book is hard for me to give a Goodreads rating. I’ve been flitting between four and three stars this whole time. I think I’m gonna be generous and go with four, but the rating is probably more like 3.5. I hate being the kind of person who does half-star ratings, but I definitely think this is one that warrants it.

Anyway, I like Hannah Moskowitz’s writing and am going to read more of it. There are usually a few issues that make it hard for me to rate, but I’ll deal.

Down the TBR Hole #14

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?

Posting about New Year stuff disrupted my super vague posting schedule, but we’re back.

Down the TBR Hole

#1: (You) Set Me on Fire by Mariko Tamaki

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I forgot this book existed. And it sounds like the relationship is extremely toxic, on purpose, but I don’t wanna read it.

Verdict: Go

#2: Blood Rose Rebellion by Rosalyn Eves

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Apparently this is boring, info-dumpy and super hetero. I could possibly have dealt with the first two given opinions can be subjective, but not in connection to that last point. Fuck off.

Verdict: Go

#3: This Is Not a Love Story by Keren David

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Pros: Jewish, some queerness. Cons: I’m cutting down on my M/F shit unless there’s a specific reason for a book to stay, I forgot this book existed, I am not invested in reading this book, this book is very long for something I’m not particularly interested in.

Verdict: Go

#4: The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

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I keep meaning to read this one. Apparently the MC is bisexual with a male and female love interest. The reviews are mixed, but a lot of the bad reviews just seem super whiny, so…

Verdict: Stay

#5: Dating Sarah Cooper by Siera Maley

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Fake dating and friends to lovers. It’s probably fine, but the concept of the two girls pretending to date to get male attention puts me right the hell off. I just think this would piss me off too much, even though the bullshit is apparently corrected later in the book.

Maybe I’d consider reading it if it was shorter, like a novella, but it’s not.

Verdict: Go

Review: Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver

31938167The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, stealth and reconnaissance expert with a lizard’s scales and snake’s eyes, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. His ability to disappear into thin air isn’t enough: he needs an escape, and he’ll do anything for a chance. Unluckily for him, Hans, a ghostly boy with a chilling smile, knows just the thing to get one. It starts with a little murder.

But instead of ending a man’s life, Regan starts a new one of his own. He turns away from that twisted path, and runs into Evelyn, fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now Regan has a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.

They join forces with Evelyn’s family: the virtuosic but volatile Danae, who breathes life into machines, and her wife Rose, whose compassionate nature and power over healing vines and defensive thorns will both be vital to survive this nightmare. Then there’s Zilch, a cool and level-headed person made of other dead people, and Finn, one of Parole’s few remaining taxi drivers, who causes explosions whenever he feels anything but happy.

Separately they’d never survive, much less uncover the secret of Parole’s eternally-burning fire. Together, they have a chance. Unfortunately, Hans isn’t above playing dirty, lying, cheating, manipulating… and holding Regan’s memories hostage until he gets his way.

Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…

I know a number of people on Twitter screaming about this book, so I’m glad to have finally found the time to read it.

Details at a glance:

Title: Chameleon Moon

Series/Standalone: Series (book 1)

Author: RoAnna Sylver

Genre: NA Dystopian

First published: 2016

Format: ebook

Pairings: F/F/F, M/NB/M

Sexual content: None

Rep: Trans polyam woman in f/f/f relationship, queer polyam disabled (prosthetic legs) dark-skinned WOC, queer polyam woman, polyam asexual character with anxiety, polyam nonbinary character, character with depression, nonverbal nonbinary side character.* Most characters show signs of PTSD.

*(POV is third person omniscient, so I haven’t specified a main character since there are several who could take the title)

Ownvoices: Yes for nonbinary gender, anxiety, PTSD, asexuality, polyamory. Author is also disabled (chronic pain).

Content warnings: Suicide, medical procedures, loss of limb, panic attacks


This is a monster of a novel. It’s enormous. I’ve probably read longer, but I take longer to read ebooks than paper books, so it’s just as well I spread out reading this over the course of two weeks.

I don’t read many books with the third person omniscient POV, and it’s one that I’d normally ascribe to pretentious literary novels or books from a bygone generation. RoAnna Sylver, however, uses the freedom this POV offers to great effect, and not once did I feel like I was reading some stuffy dead author’s attempts to sound more intelligent than they actually are. With such a large cast, many of whom take the spotlight, Sylver’s decision to use third person omniscient makes perfect sense, though it does make the blurb extremely confusing to read. Sylver juggles her large cast well in the story itself.

I’ve seen Chameleon Moon described as a hopeful dystopia, and that’s an assessment I definitely agree with. Most of the characters have suffered terribly during their lives in Parole, but still fight to stay positive both for themselves and for those around them. Some characters, like Evelyn and the elusive Radio Angel, have made it their life’s mission to bring hope to their fellow residents in Parole, using their drug-mutated powers to inspire and comfort.

A large part of the novel centres around Regan’s loss of his memories and his journey to regain them. Evelyn takes him under her wing, despite others seeing this decision as ill-advised. Regan takes on the role of audience surrogate for much of the novel, since Evelyn has to teach him how Parole works so he doesn’t get himself killed. When he learns, we learn, as much about himself as the hellhole he finds himself in.

I love all the relationships in the book, be they romantic, platonic or familial. Evelyn and her wives Danae and Rose are very sweet with each other and their son. Regan’s relationship is a spoiler since obviously he doesn’t remember its existence at the start, but it’s probably my favourite one in the whole story.

The larger-than-life characters, the science-fiction mutation of superpowers and the uplifting speeches about hope all remind me of a comic book. I’ve always been rather fond of comics. Evelyn in particular is basically a superhero, and this is even mentioned in the text.

I also want to hug everyone. Or smuggle them out of Parole.

It’s hard for me to articulate a review of this book and I feel like I’m not doing it justice. I love this book so much. The characters are all beautiful and unique, the plot complex but compelling. Regan and Evelyn are probably my faves but I love the others as well, especially Zilch. I’m excited to get to the sequel and the related short stories.

Chameleon Moon is quite possibly the best self-pubbed novel I have ever read. It deserves all the praise it’s getting, and then some.

WWW Wednesday

WWW Wednesday is hosted by The Little Book Owl and asks three questions:

  1. What Are You Currently Reading?
  2. What Did You Recently Finish Reading?
  3. What Do You Plan on Reading Next?

What Are You Currently Reading

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The Lifeline Signal is the sequel to Chameleon Moon and focuses on a different cast of characters, who seem to be younger. It also starts outside the setting of the first book. I’m not very far into it yet but it’s pretty cool that the protagonist (so far; if it’s anything like book 1 there might be multiple MCs) is a Native American nonbinary person and that it seems a lot of weird shit from book 1 will be explained better.

I kinda miss the cast from book 1, though. I hope at least some of them show up.

What Did You Recently Finish Reading

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Runtime is a prequel to Chameleon Moon that focuses on the events immediately preceding that book. I wrote a short review on Goodreads.

What Do You Plan on Reading Next

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Not Otherwise Specified has a black bisexual MC who is recovering from an eating disorder.

Top Ten New-to-Me Authors I Read in 2017

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event currently hosted by Broke and Bookish, but will be moving to That Artsy Reader Girl from the 16th of January onwards. I flit in and out of doing these, but figured this is a topic I can do. It’s basically a better-organised version of the “favourite books” section of my End of Year post that I threw together.

So, in roughly the order I read them and with the book covers that I own:

Top Ten Tuesday

Angie Thomas: The Hate U Give (debut)

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It’s pretty difficult to exist in the bookish world and have NOT heard of this book. At times both hard-hitting and heartwarming, it’s an exploration of what happens when a white police officer murders a young black person, which happens all the fucking time. The protagonist, Starr, lives in a black neighbourhood but goes to a swanky mostly-white school, and the difference in attitude towards her murdered friend in these two worlds is incredibly stark.

Here’s my review. Angie Thomas’s second novel On the Come Up is set in the same neighbourhood and it comes out May 1st this year.

Zoraida Córdova: Labyrinth Lost

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People tend to get confused about what Labyrinth Lost is ownvoices for, so let me just lay that out first: it’s ownvoices for Latinx characters, NOT bisexuality. The author is straight.

That said, the rep seems pretty good so far. Labels haven’t been used yet, but the main character, Alex, did only just figure out she liked girls so it’s fair enough. I’ll reserve judgement for later in the series. I think the blurb is a fairly decent description of the book, and it’s quite short so I’ll paste it here.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

Note that Alex also has a female love interest, even though this isn’t clear from the blurb.

Here’s my review of an older edition, with a different blurb.

Ashley Herring Blake: How to Make a Wish

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Oh, we all knew this would come up. How to Make a Wish is the first of Ashley Herring Blake’s books that I have read but it will definitely not be the last. I will consume ALL THE F/F SHE WRITES.

How to Make a Wish has a bisexual MC and a biracial lesbian LI. They are a pianist and a ballet dancer, respectively. I love me some musician/dancer romances. Maybe it’s because of all the ballet girls I’ve crushed on during my musical theatre training.

Okay, there were two of them. In separate places and years.

Anyway, Grace, the MC, has a neglectful mother and Eva, the LI, has just lost hers. Much of the plot revolves around Grace dealing with her mother, and the friendship Grace’s mother and Eva strike up due to a shared understanding of loss. There’s also a really strong male-female friendship.

Here’s my review.

C.M. Spivey: The Traitor’s Tunnel

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I received a free review copy of The Traitor’s Tunnel, which is a prequel to From Under the Mountain, book 1 in the incomplete Trident Chronicles series. I haven’t read that one yet, but if it’s anything like The Traitor’s Tunnel then I’m sure to enjoy it.

There are two protagonists: anxious asexual Theodor who’s in a m/m relationship, and probably-bisexual-but-unlabelled Bridget who is in a f/f relationship. Theodor is an engineer-in-training and Bridget is a thief, and they have to join forces to stop a treacherous plot to sell the city out to the enemy.

The romances are super sweet and I didn’t have too much trouble reading this book despite not having read From Under the Mountain, but other readers have said they had trouble jumping in without reading it.

Here’s my review.

Leigh Bardugo: Six of Crows

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This not-particularly-merry band of lovable assholes. I prefer my assholes to be of the larger-than-life unrealistic fantasy kind, so this fit the bill perfectly.

This is probably my favourite execution of multiple POVs that I’ve ever read. That shit’s hard to juggle, but Leigh Bardugo does a fine job. And of course the whole heist storyline is fascinating: a bunch of talented thieves try to break into an impenetrable fortress to bust out a prisoner in exchange for more money than you can shake a stick at.

I have a special place in my heart for Kaz Brekker, because of course I do. I love fantasy-type assholes.

My review.

M. Hollis: The Melody of You and Me, and The Paths We Choose

 

 

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I was first drawn to M. Hollis’s work because she’s one of the few authors who has written a novel with a pansexual protagonist.

The Melody of You and Me is another musician/dancer romance. The MC is pansexual and a guitarist who dropped out of uni and doesn’t know what to do with her life now, and the LI is a Filipino lesbian who’s a dancer. Both of them work in a bookstore and is that not the most perfect set-up ever? Go read the damn thing if you haven’t already. Here’s my review.

The Paths We Choose is in the same series as The Melody of You and Me and follows a supporting character from that book who has a casual sexual relationship with another supporting character from Melody. The MC is a Brazilian and hasn’t taken on an identity label, and the LI is Afro-Cuban and bisexual. The majority of supporting characters are Latinx.

The friends-with-benefits relationship inevitably evolves into romantic feelings, but the LI is about to move away for college. Drama! There’s also a plotline revolving around the MC reuniting with her estranged brother, who she hasn’t spoken to since she left her anti-queer parents’ house. Here’s my review.

Both books have sex scenes but The Paths We Choose has them more frequently.

Austin Chant: Coffee Boy

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Wanna read a respectfully-handled age-gap M/M office romance with a mouthy gay trans guy MC? Austin Chant’s got you covered. It’s also pretty short and ready to slide right into your life. The MC has landed himself an internship at a campaign office. The boss is a total flake, but the guy who does all the boss’s real work is one good-looking dude. Shame he seems to have a stick up his ass. Or does he?

Here’s my review.

Daniel José Older: Shadowshaper

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This is a brilliant urban fantasy/magical realism YA novel with an Afro-Caribbean MC. And she has an afro. Speaking of, this is probably one of my favourite book covers ever.

At the heart of Shadowshaper is a tight-knit community of people who can communicate with spirits, and put them into art among other things, who are under threat by a douchey white guy professor who’s going around killing the Shadowshapers and using their magic for his own shitty ends. As such, this novel deals with cultural appropriation and gentrification. There’s also a side F/F couple in addition to the lead M/F romance between the MC and a Haitian guy.

Here’s my review.

Jen Wilde: Queens of Geek (debut)

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Cute as fuck. Set in a comic book convention with two Australian protagonists who are best friends–a bisexual pink-haired Chinese-Australian girl and an autistic girl with anxiety. There is a F/F interracial romance and a M/F romance (the LI might be Latino but I’m not 100% sure), which are important to the plot but both girls also have storylines about self-acceptance in different ways: learning to stand on your own two feet after a bad breakup, and putting yourself forward to fight for what you really want. Both girls’ storylines are incredible and the writing is as moreish as candy.

Here’s my review.

RoAnna Sylver: Chameleon Moon, and Un-dead

 

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Chameleon Moon‘s length had me putting off reading it for a while, but when I finally got started, I found an incredible world with a super-diverse cast. It’s written in third-person omniscient, which isn’t something I see very often but it was well-executed. It’s hard to pick a protagonist given so many characters get some POV time, so I’ll just pick out a few cases of rep: polyam asexual anxious character with amnesia, polyam trans woman in a f/f/f relationship, queer polyam WOC with prosthetic legs, nonbinary character. Most characters show signs of PTSD.

The plot is a little bit winding at times, but I found myself enjoying it. It’s something of a hopeful dystopian novel with characters that have developed superpowers due to consumption of a drug. It’s all super comic book, and I love that.

Basically, the ace character, Regan, is set to commit a murder but backs out at the last minute. The person who set him on this path steals his memories in retaliation. The trans woman, Evelyn, finds him and takes him under her wing. Much of the novel is dedicated to finding Regan’s memories and escaping from the military police after all their asses.

The love stories woven into the plot are lovely and I ship them all so hard. It’s just so wonderful to see supportive relationships between people who are hurting but are stronger with their loved ones at their back. I’ll never get tired of that shit.

Un-dead is a short story set closely after the events of Chameleon Moon.

Here’s my review of Chameleon Moon.

Mental Health Bingo TBR #MHBookBingo

Hi! I don’t know when to take a break! So I’m back to participate in another reading challenge even though I made a promise to myself to take things slow for a bit after thrashing my brain by reading 22 books in December.

Mental Health Book Bingo runs for the month of January and its organisers share a Twitter account called MHBookBingo (@BingoMh). Here’s a rec list (note that some books are suitable for multiple categories even if they’re not listed under them).

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I’m going to tackle the middle column. After running myself ragged for SapphicAThon, I don’t think I’ll be able to handle a more rigorous pace than that. Fortunately for me, I was able to find books that I’ve been wanting to read anyway (except the graphic novel), though I only owned one of them beforehand.

My Mental Health Book Bingo TBR

ED Rep (Ownvoices): Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz (note that some lesbians find the lesbian rep harmful)

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

Free space: Runtime by RoAnna Sylver, a short story in the Chameleon Moon series

Anxiety rep (ownvoices): The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver, book 2 of the Chameleon Moon series

Romance with MC with MI: Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke


I’m hoping to review most of these, but we’ll see how I go. Some books are just hard to review. I’m getting My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness and Fortitude Smashed through Book Depository since the ebooks were fucking expensive anyway.

They should arrive in time.

Should.

Anyway, I have enough to start with. I just have to hope the company doesn’t fold or Australia Post doesn’t act up like it sometimes does.

I’m thinking of starting with Not Otherwise Specified, though I might want to read a chapter of The Lifeline Signal first since it’s probably super long and I’ll need to get going on that.

I’ll figure it out.

In Which I Kick 2017’s Ass and Welcome 2018 with Trepidation

I can’t be bothered spreading my posts out like a normal person, so I’m smashing “favourite books of 2017”, “least favourite books of 2017” and my “goals for 2018” all into one post.

2017 was my best reading year ever. I read 60 books and participated in a number of reading challenges: Diversity Bingo, Asian Lit Bingo (though I did badly) and SapphicAThon. I read 22 books this December alone, because I’m the cramming sort. It’s not a reading pace I can sustain.

My Favourite Books of 2017

There are plenty of books that didn’t make this list that I still liked a lot, but these are all my five-star reads for the year, roughly in the order I read them.

  1. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (review)
  2. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova (review)
  3. How to Make a Wish by Ashley Herring Blake (review)
  4. The Traitor’s Tunnel by C.M. Spivey (review)
  5. Coffee Boy by Austin Chant (review)
  6. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (review)
  7. Quarterly Essay #67: Moral Panic 101: Equality, Acceptance and the Safe Schools Scandal by Benjamin Law*
  8. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older (review)
  9. Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed (review)
  10. Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde (review)
  11. The Paths We Choose by M. Hollis (review)
  12. Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver (review)

* I haven’t reviewed the quarterly essay because it’s hard to review. It basically covers The Australian’s targeted attack against an anti-bullying program that specially designed to provide support for queer students. This essay debunks the myths that trash newspaper keeps peddling and also interviews a lot of the people involved in the program, including queer kids themselves.

My Least Favourite Books of 2017

Mercifully, this one will be shorter than my favourite reads. These are books that I rated lower than three stars, and I don’t do that very often so you know these books have made a special effort to piss me off. Again, these are in roughly the order that I read them.

  1. Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown (review)
  2. Fans of the Impossible Life by Kate Scelsa (I avoided reviewing this so in short: weird pedophilia shit that’s never properly addressed, weird threesome shit, just a lot of weird bullshit that I fucking hated)
  3. The Flywheel by Erin Gough (review)
  4. Meg & Linus by Hanna Nowinski (review)

Fuck these books entirely.

My 2018 Bookish Goals

  • Read at least forty books (I don’t want to up my goal since I don’t know how busy I’ll be yet)
  • Get a novel query-ready (ideally by April but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen)
  • Revise another novel at least a little bit
  • Write two novel drafts
  • Complete NaNoWriMo again
  • Maybe do the Camp NaNoWriMos as well
  • Keep this blog from falling into the abyss

Books I Definitely Wanna Read in 2018 (in no particular order, numbered because I’m too lazy to count)

  1. Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
  2. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
  3. Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (I KEEP SPELLING HER SURNAME WRONG!!)
  4. Finding Nevo by Nevo Zisin
  5. The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde
  6. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (this is gayer than it sounds)
  7. Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
  8. Shadowhouse Fall by Daniel José Older (plus the short stories in this Shadowshaper series)
  9. On the Come Up by Angie Thomas
  10. Surpassing Certainty by Janet Mock
  11. The Gentleman’s Guide of Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  12. The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver (plus the short stories in this Chameleon Moon series)
  13. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (and I’m probably gonna reread Simon Vs. because the movie’s coming out)
  14. Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (I have the e-ARC but ran out of time to read it in 2017)
  15. Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake
  16. The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson
  17. Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst (a friend passed me a physical ARC)
  18. Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova
  19. If I Tell You by Alicia Tuckerman (queer Aussie YA!)
  20. Not Otherwise Specified by Hannah Moskowitz
  21. Runebinder by Alex R. Kahler (queer Aussie YA THAT ISN’T A FUCKING CONTEMPORARY)
  22. Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke
  23. Peter Darling by Austin Chant
  24. The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale

This isn’t an exhaustive list, though. I have a terrible memory for books.


Anyway, that’s it. *throws 2017 out the window*

I wish you all a happy, safe and prosperous 2018.