Mini Reviews // My Whole Truth and Hearts Unbroken

Hey look I’m alive barely I didn’t mean to disappear like that, but I’ve been really busy with doing both an internship and working at Ripley’s Believe it Or Not. I barely have any free time because of this, and during my free time I mostly,,, watch netflix and play video games I guess? I’ve been too exhausted to blog, that’s for sure. One day I’ll write a more detailed post about how I’ve been and what I’ve been up to, but I still don’t have the energy for that. The only reason I’m here now is because these books should’ve been reviewed at the start of the month woops

Author: Mischa Thrace
Genre: Contemporary // LGBTQIAP+ // YA
Rep: Fat sapphic MC, Japanese female love interest with two dads, f/f romance, black female lawyer
Goodreads rating: 4.03
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

Seventeen-year-old Seelie Stanton never wanted to kill someone. She never wanted to be invisible in her own family, never wanted to crush on her best friend Alyssa, and she definitely never wanted to know how effectively a mallet could destroy someone’s head.

But the universe doesn’t care what she wants. Shane Mayfield doesn’t care what Seelie wants either. When the former high school basketball star attacks her, she has no choice but to defend herself. She saved her own life, but she can’t bring herself to talk about what happened that night. Not all of it. Not even when she’s arrested for murder.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Trigger warning: rape mentions

Oh where do I even start? My Whole Truth is heartbreaking, captivating and so so important. It perfectly captures sexism, rape culture and the corruption of the justice system. But despite the heavy topics, it wasn’t an entirely heavy read, mainly because Seelie has an amazing friend group. They aren’t perfect, neither is Seelie, but they’d go to hell and back for each other. They’re always there for her, no matter what. Even when some disagreements arise, they would never give up on each other.

My Whole Truth is definitely not for everyone, even though I didn’t find it very graphic, it’s still heavy. Knowing our society, it’s hard to stay positive while reading a story like Seelie’s. Just like her, I felt myself giving up hope so many times. But then there was Seelie’s lawyer, Cara, who’s smart, kickass and never wavers. She keeps believing in Sadie and never forces her to do anything she doesn’t want to do. She doesn’t know Seelie at the start of the book, but she’s ready to fight, just like her friends. In the end, she’s more like a friend or family than just a lawyer. Despite not having a great relationship with her mother, Seelie has found her family in her friends and Cara, which was beautiful to see.

Also the romance is adorable and I love it so much.

I honestly can’t say much more about My Whole Truth, except read it if you can handle it. I couldn’t possible do the book justice with a review, but I hope this mini review was enough to convince you.

Author: Cynthia Leitich Smith
Genre: Contemporary // YA
Rep: Own voices Native American (MC and family), Libanese male love interest, two minor sapphic characters who are in a relationship with each other (lesbian and bisexual)
Goodreads rating: 3.74
My rating: ⭐⭐

When Louise Wolfe’s first real boyfriend mocks and disrespects Native people in front of her, she breaks things off and dumps him over e-mail. It’s her senior year, anyway, and she’d rather spend her time with her family and friends and working on the school newspaper. The editors pair her up with Joey Kairouz, the ambitious new photojournalist, and in no time the paper’s staff find themselves with a major story to cover: the school musical director’s inclusive approach to casting The Wizard of Oz has been provoking backlash in their mostly white, middle-class Kansas town. From the newly formed Parents Against Revisionist Theater to anonymous threats, long-held prejudices are being laid bare and hostilities are spreading against teachers, parents, and students — especially the cast members at the center of the controversy, including Lou’s little brother, who’s playing the Tin Man. As tensions mount at school, so does a romance between Lou and Joey — but as she’s learned, “dating while Native” can be difficult. In trying to protect her own heart, will Lou break Joey’s?

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

This one had so much potential. I definitely do encourage everyone to try this one for yourself, as my biggest issue was the writing, which is something that is very subjective. The writing was very passive and just really missed emotion and tension. Some terrible stuff happens to the characters but I didn’t really feel anything while reading the book. Because of the writing it was really hard to connect to the characters and the story.

I also felt like this story still needed a lot of editing. Like Louise and Joey are making their way to the lockers and we get a description of their entire route which was very unnecessary. Or random notes like in this scene:

”Daniel can’t cover his own meets.” [about Daniel becoming the school paper’s sports reporter]
Alexis, the news reporter, had just returned from the restroom. ”I’ll take it. I have an older brother who wrestled. The coach loved him.”
(The first meet isn’t until December anyway.)

I mean??? It completely took me out of the story. It felt so unnatural and it’s not relevant at all?

Chapters often ended in a way that didn’t really make me want to keep reading, nor did they start that way. I mean this is literally how one of the chapters start: ”A freshly microwaved pillow radiated heat into my neck and shoulders as my feet soaked in a copper basin of warm, seasalted water and Legally blonde played on the overhead screens.’ Or another great start: ‘Joey ran with a story tip from Alexis on injuries at the skate park’.

The romance was incredibly forced. We’re literally told that Louise likes Joey, but?? The characters talk as if it’s so obvious but it really wasn’t. There wasn’t really any build up nor chemistry. Also I uhhh kept forgetting they were dating every time I picked the book up. And I read each day until I had finished it, so it wasn’t like that much time had passed.

The book does cover a lot about what it means to be Native American and racism. The plot itself is good, just the execution not so much. Again, I definitely encourage you to try this one for yourself.

How are all of you doing?? Have you read these books or are you planning to? Let me know in the comments!

Bonjour Girl // This Review is a Mess But It’s Okay Because So Is This Book

Author: Isabelle Laflèche
Genre: Contemporary // YA
Goodreads rating: 2.82
My rating: ⭐

 

 

 

When Clementine Liu arrives in New York City to study at the Parsons School of Design, she knows that she’s found her place. It isn’t long before she meets her fashionista soulmate, the loud and charismatic Jake, and Jonathan, a dreamy fashion photographer who turns her world upside down.

Between schoolwork and glitzy fashion shows, Clementine launches a blog, Bonjour Girl, and her wit, originality, and flair quickly catapult the site to cult status. Unfortunately, this comes with a price: Clementine is faced with online abuse and public humiliation. In the midst of all the drama, she finds out that a classmate is not what she seems, and Clementine has to find a way to save both her reputation and Jake’s fashion collection.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Welp, this one was a disappointment. I was SO excited to see I got approved for Bonjour Girl because:

💛 LOOK AT THAT COVER! Cute AND rep? Yes please
💛 A biracial (half-Chinese!) protagonist??
💛 It’s all about diversity in fashion and making a change??
💛 It just sounded like a cute contemporary on top of all of that and I LOVE CUTE CONTEMPORARIES THAT ALSO DEAL WITH IMPORTANT TOPICS YES PLS THANK YOU

So yes excitement all around. My first red flag was this quote:

Fashion is my religion, fashion is my salvation, and fashion is the way I roll. I don’t do conventional fashion; I’m quirky and different, I have a funny-looking button nose and lots of freckles, and I go my own way.

seriously why does this have the same energy as ‘my name is ebony dark’ness dementia raven way and I have long ebony black hair (that’s how I got my name) with purple streaks and red tips that reaches my mid-back and icy blue eyes like limpid tears and a lot of people tell me I look like Amy Lee (AN: if u don’t know who she is get da hell out of here!). I’m not related to Gerard Way but I wish I was because he’s a major fucking hottie.’

I wish I could say that things went better from here on, but… Yeah.

First of, for a book about characters wishing to promote diversity in fashion it’s… not that diverse. While Clementine is half-Chinese and half-French, her Chinese heritage is barely brought up, whereas we’re constantly reminded that she’s half-French. Other than that there’s a supporting character who’s both fat and gay (and of course stereotypically flamboyant) and a disabled girl in a wheelchair. Maybe I’ve forgotten another minor supporting character, but that’s really it. Clementine is constantly preaching to the reader about diversity and why it matters, but yet the book itself doesn’t really live up to that?

Then there’s the writing itself. There’s so much telling instead of showing, that it got really annoying. There were also so many unrealistic plot elements. Like how most students solely wear black except for Clementine like?? Yes, at a fashion school everyone dresses the same. There’s also the fact that the ‘bully’ throws a gum wrapper at Clementine. WHAT COLLEGE-KID WOULD DO THIS. know people in college can be mean, I’ve seen it myself, but this? And there isn’t even a reason for her to do this? She’s just a ‘mean girl’.

What also really bothered me is the random uses of French, especially when talking to other people, who don’t speak French. At some point she even says an entire phrase in French, and then repeats it in English. It would’ve been realistic if she had started in French, but then switched to English because she realised she was speaking the wrong language. Of course, I’m not French so I can’t say much about this, but like Clementine I studied abroad in a country where pretty much everyone spoke English, so this felt very unnatural to me. I’ve screwed up, trust me, but not like this!* Also while some of the French you can understand by context, not all of it? Like at some point someone texts her ‘bien joué’ (this person isn’t even French by the way) and like,,, I literally only know what this means because of Miraculous Ladybug.

* Once I was saying goodbye to my American friend and I wanted to say both ‘bye’ and ‘doei’ (Dutch for bye, you pronounce it kinda like do-wee) but said boei instead. This still haunts me. At some point she also thinks (and her mom later on says it to her) ‘kick some derrière’ can some French person pls tell me if this is truly something they would say (I may or may not be looking at you Marie) because all I could think of was me saying ‘kick some kont/billen’ and sdjsbhd no

There are plenty of small things I could point out that were just ridiculous* but there are A LOT. So let’s continue on to my biggest gripe after the lack of diversity: everything goes so smoothly for Clementine. Like apart from the bullying (which I can’t say much about because my ARC had a problem with showing the tweets? Some were cut in the middle and some didn’t show up at all? So I had to figure out from context what was being said) which was like one girl tweeting some kinda mean stuff about her, everything went right. She got into a prestigious school, gets to live in a great appartment with her aunt (which she doesn’t have to pay anything for), gets a scholarship to launch her blog, meets a ‘great guy’ (at least we’re told he is he barely has a personality and the romance is so forced), immediately gets a new bff, her first blog post immediately does well and so do all the others that follow, by her second post she gets an offer from a fashion brand to send her samples and by the end she even gets acknowledges by frickin’ Anna Wintour?? Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, reads her blog?? Not only is all of this super unrealistic, she doesn’t even really work that hard for it? And NOTHING goes wrong? Not for her anyway. The worst thing that happens in the book actually happens to Jake. Oh! I forgot! She even gets picked to study abroad in China (when suddenly the author remembers that her protagonist is supposed to be half-Chinese) like,,, why though.

* At some point Jake takes her to an ‘ice cream parlour for grown-ups’?? what is this. Is this a real thing. I am confusion America explain. Why can’t adults go to regular ice cream parlours what is going on at that ice cream parlour for grown-ups what do they do there that makes it ‘for grown-ups’ I have questions

So in conclusion: not that well-written, too much telling instead of showing, incredibly unrealistic to the point that it got ridiculous, for a book that supposed to be about promoting diversity it’s not that diverse and it’s just funny how it’s IMPOSSIBLE to forget that Clementine is half-French (like at some point towards the end she even SAYS ‘I’m half-French’ like yes honey we know couldn’t have missed it!!) but quite a few times I forgot she was supposed to be half-Chinese, and uhhh.. I don’t remember where I was going with this. This review is a mess.

Bonjour Girl is out now so uhhh, give it a try I guess*

* That sounds sarcastic but seriously if you wanted to read this, don’t let my review stop you! You might have a very different experience than I did

Have you read Bonjour Girl? What do you think? Any books similar to this you’d recommend? ALSO WHAT IS AN ICE CREAM PARLOUR FOR GROWN-UPS IS IT REAL WHAT DOES IT MEAN

Cinderella Boy // Genderfluid Cinderella and Queer Kids Fighting Back

Author: Kristina Meister
Genre: Contemporary // Fairytale Retelling // LGBTQIAP+ // YA
Goodreads rating: 4.59
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Declan is the perfect son . . . except for one tiny issue. When his sister Delia comes home to find him trying on her clothes, he fears her judgment, but she only fears his fashion choices. One quick makeover later, Declan is transformed into Delia’s mysterious cousin Layla and dragged to the party of the year, hosted by Carter, the most popular boy in school.

When Carter meets Layla, he fumbles to charm her. He adores her sense of humor and her poise. But when she vanishes in the middle of the night, he’s left confused and determined to solve the mystery of who she is.

As their school year begins, their high school embraces a policy of intolerance, and both Declan and Carter know they must stand up. Carter is tired of being a coward and wants to prove he can be a knight in shining armor. Declan is sick of being bullied and wants desperately to be himself. If they team up, it could be a fairy-tale ending, or a very unhappy ever after.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in exchange for an honest review

Note: Declan uses he/him pronouns

Well this was definitely a fun read! A genderfluid Cinderella, a queer Prince Charming, a cute romance and queer kids fighting for their rights? Yes please!

I definitely would’ve given this four stars if the first half hadn’t been so slow. The first half mostly consists of Declan/Layla going on dates with Carter and while they were cute I also didn’t really care? There just wasn’t much going on and the main plot was nowhere in sight yet. The first half was just really too long as it really felt like a build up to the second half. I would’ve preferred if it had been shorter and if some of the things that happened in the second half were build up more. Like I would’ve loved to have seen more of Declan’s friendship with Yuki who’s supposed to be his best friend, his relationship with his sister (which was great and adorable and I loved how supportive she was) and Carter’s relationship with his father, as that relationship was very important to him as a person and for his growth, and it kind of felt like it was just squeezed in there. Once we get to the second half though, that’s where the book got really good and I had to continue reading it to see what happens next.

One of Declan’s new friends at his new high school wants to start an LGBTQIAP+ club called The Rainbow Corps (A+ name obviously) but the homophobic principal forbids the club and starts to pull a lot of other homophobic crap after that, but the queer kids at the school don’t back down. Seeing them fight back was empowering and inspiring, and I love the way they went about it (really don’t want to spoil it because it’s so much fun reading it for yourself). While it deals with some harder topics, this book was fun, cute and empowering. The romance has some of my favourite tropes, like one of the characters talking about their crush to their crush without saying that they’re their crush. Did that sentence make sense. Also lots of banter and that epilogue was ADORABLE. Very fanfiction-y but hey it’s a fairytale retelling that’s allowed. 

”It’s not a costume for me. It’s not dress-up. It’s not pretend. It’s me, or part of me, an aspect of me that gets to be in that moment.”

I do however unfortunately need to point out that two characters make comments that erase multiple gender attraction. Like when Declan describes his crush to Carter he says ‘he’s just not gay’. Declan knows Carter had a girlfriend, but that doesn’t make him straight? If that comment had been addressed I would’ve been fine with it, but it wasn’t.

If you’re looking for a queer, fun and cute story where a genderfluid MC gets his fairytale ending I’d definitely recommend Cinderella Boy. Please keep going through if like me you have a bit trouble with the first half, because Cinderella Boy is so so worth it and an absolute gem.

Have you read Cinderella Boy, or are you planning on it? Any recs for YA books (fairytale retellings or not) with genderfluid MCs? Let me know in the comments!

Anger is a Gift // A Powerful Look On Police Brutality (Also It’s Hella Queer™ )

Author: Mark Oshiro
Genre: Contemporary //  YA // LGBTQIAP+
Goodreads rating: 4.42
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Honestly I don’t even know where to start I’m so blown away by this book. I’m honestly kind of disappointed at the lack of hype surrounding this one? I’ve barely seen it around and hadn’t even heard of it when I stumbled across it on Netgalley. Let me tell you: Anger is a Gift deserves all the hype and more. It’s incredible, intense, heartbreaking, yet also shows family, friends and an entire community having each other’s back, fighting for each other and always, always being there for one another.

Anger is a Gift is very graphic, and just gets more and more graphic as the book continues. The police brutality described just gets worse and worse, and gets described in some detail, which is something you should know going in if this triggers you. That said, it’s an incredibly important read and Oshiro has clearly done so so much research, making this incredibly realistic and brutal.

Moss watched his father get shot right in front of him by a police officer, leaving him with severe PTSD (it’s never stated that Moss has PTSD, I read it this way myself) and panic attacks, which is described really, really well. He’s also left with a lot of anger, naturally, which only increases in the book, but as the title of the book states ‘anger is a gift’, and Moss learns that his anger is not a bad thing, and that he could use it to try and change things. Moss’ character development is incredible: he went from not wanting to be anywhere near a protest because of his panic attacks to pretty much leading a movement.

While the entire book is very intense, it’s not all heavy stuff, especially when it comes to Moss’ family and friends. His relationship with his mother is so heartwarming to read: they share everything and are very open; something that all characters were with each other. They all just discussed everything, had no secrets for each other… It was so refreshing to see. Plus all the parents actually being involved!

”You realize how lucky I am that my son is one of my best friends?”

And then there’s his friends, who are absolutely amazing. These kids would do anything for each other – which they did. They always had each other’s back, no matter what. They went through hell for each other, and they’d do it over and over again. Also I loved how diverse (none of them are white) and queer they’re group was, without anyone seeming like the token anything. Moss himself is gay, Esparanza is a lesbian, Reg is disabled, Kaisha is ace, Njemile is trans (and has two moms!), Bits is nonbinary and Rawiya is a Muslim. They’re so unapologetically queer and Oshiro has gotten the queer friends group thing so right – the way they talked about their sexualities and gender identities, joked around etc. all felt very realistic and similar to me and my friends. While of course they face discrimination, the people that matter never give them a hard time and are very accepting and supportive, which was great to see.

And oh, oh my god the romance. The romance is just so good I’m still broken over it. It starts out very awkward yet also very cute, and just very realistic? The entire romance was – neither of them had been in a relationship before, neither knew what to do.

Another burst of nervous energy flushed through Moss’ body. ”Yes,” he said. ”I mean, no!” He blurted it out, then shook his head. ”Please sit down,” he finally said, certain he had embarrassed himself beyond repair.
(I made a note on my Kindle app about this that just says ‘Useless Gay™’)

As I said, all characters were very open with each other, and Moss and Javier were no exception. They shared their doubts with each other: doubts about themselves, but also doubts about the relationship because they were both clueless cinnamon roles. Moss felt so safe with him, sharing his insecurities and Javier making sure that he never felt that way. They were absolutely lovely. While they were never really friends before the romance developed, it still felt very much like the relationship was built on friendship. Also everytime Javier kissed Moss on the cheek I died.

Anger is a Gift  is a powerful, incredible, critical look on how rooted racism is in America and the corruption of the police. The ending is so powerful and heartbreaking, because it’s very realistic. I highly encourage you to read Oshiro’s author’s note, as it made the book even better (if that’s even possible).

I could never do this book justice. There are no words to do so, but I hope you’re going to pick this up, because Anger is a Gift is really important, touches on so many important issues that I can’t even begin to list because then we’ll be here for a while, and is just a must-read for everyone.

Have you read Anger is a Gift? Are you planning too? Let me know in the comments!

Starfish // The Best Anxiety Rep I’ve Ever Read


Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Genre: Contemporary //  YA
Goodreads rating: 4.12
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time as her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the West Coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns transformative truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

A luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.Disclaimer: I was given an copy of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

Where do I even start? Starfish has been one of my most anticipated reads for a while now, and boy it did not disappoint in the slightest. In fact I think it went beyond my expectations.

I’ve been having trouble writing this post for weeks now, because putting my love for this book into words?

It’s been a while since I read a book that I loved this much, plus a lot of it hit me personally, making it even harder to write this review. While I haven’t gone through exactly the same thing as Kiko, her relationship with her mother really reminded me of mine with my father, something I haven’t really talked about on here. While of course there are differences between Kiko’s mom and my father, there were a lot of similarities and I’m just so happy to see this represented so well in ya fiction. Because I’m lucky to know that things weren’t okay, so I know that it’s okay to choose to not have a relationship with my father now, but there are so many kids and teens out there that don’t, that think they just have to accept the way it is because they’re family. 

She can’t be the villain if she’s the victim.

Starfish shows us that it’s not okay, not in the slightest, and never tries to normalise her mom’s behaviour or get us to symphatise with her.

One quote that hit me really hard, because I’ve heard pretty much the exact words (except in Dutch of course) were: ”I’m not some evil dictator.” Her mom constantly played the victim, made it all about herself, constantly looked down on Kiko, and meanwhile Kiko badly tries to be perfect as to please her mom. I still have issues trying to do everything perfectly because of my father, so I related to Kiko so much.

Kiko’s anxiety definitely stems from her mother’s abuse, but it also stems from (TRIGGER WARNING: sexual abuse. Yes, this is a spoiler, but I want to mention this so that people know what to expect going in) her uncle sexually abusing her when she was a kid. This only made her mother’s abuse worse, as she doesn’t believe her. Thankfully I haven’t experienced any sexual abuse, but I definitely got my anxiety from my father’s abuse, making me feel a lot more represented in this book than others that deal with anxiety.

That’s not to say that other books I’ve read don’t have great anxiety rep! One of the reasons I loved Queens of Geek and The Upside of Unrequited so much is because of their great anxiety rep, but Starfish? Starfish is so on point. It touched upon things that I haven’t seen before in YA (that’s not to say it isn’t there! I just personally haven’t read it or my memory is failing me once again) and it made me think about my own WIP, as these things Kiko felt and experienced are just so normal to me that I didn’t even think about including them in my own WIP that also deals with anxiety.

I loved the inclusions of what Kiko actually wanted to say, and what she really ended up saying, because same? Not being good at talking to people, hating parties and loud music*, not being able to have fun when there are people you don’t feel comfortable around**, needing someone to hide behind/to talk for you/just be there with you in new situations, quickly worrying that you said the wrong thing and upset someone just because they’re not immediately responding… and just so much more. Starfish captured anxiety so well – anxiety is different for everyone, so there were differences between me and Taylor (Queens of Geek) and Molly (The Upside of Unrequited), but Starfish is the first book that when it came to my anxiety I just felt fully represented in.

Normal people don’t need to prepare for social interactions. Normal people don’t panic at the sight of strangers. Normal people don’t want to cry because the plan they’ve processed in their head is suddenly not the plan that’s going to happen.

* Fun fact: when I was still in my mother’s womb and my mother would go somewhere with loud music I would protest by moving around and kicking until she left lmao sorry mom so yeah that’s something I probably wouldn’t like even if I didn’t end up with anxiety, but now it can be really hard for me to handle?
** Like it didn’t matter I had my friends at school parties I did NOT feel comfortable at all with all the other people around. During our senior trip in Barcelona our teachers surprised us by going to a club hahahaha thanks mates couldn’t you have warned a girl I had a panic attack :) bless the club for having wifi though so I could talk to my mom all evening

I loved how at the end of each chapter Kiko would describe what she drew or painted that day, which always reflected something she went through, felt or experienced during that chapter, and to see how she’d turn that into art. Sometimes it was heartbreaking, sometimes heartwarming, but it was always beautiful. The way Kiko’s written as an artist is something I aspire to write as one of my character is an artist as well. Plus as an art lover it was just fun to read about an artist!

I draw a woman wearing an elaborate dress, twirling like she’s made of light and sun. And then I draw a shriveled girl trapped within her shadow. She doesn’t want the light – she just wants her mom.

One of my favourite things in this book is her relationship with the artist Hiroshi, who doesn’t just take her under his wings as an apprentice, but welcomes her into his family. He gives her so much wisdom, love and kindess, and so did the rest of his family. I also loved that this way Kiko could reconnect with her Japanese roots, which is something she was missing. Speaking of the Japanese rep, I’m not Japanese, so I can’t speak for it, nor can I speak for her experience of looking Asian in a white society, as while I’m part Indonesian I’m very whitepassing. So far I have only seen positive reviews from Asian bloggers, but if there’s anything incorrect about the rep that you’ve mentioned in your review, please let me know so I can link to it!

Kiko’s development is incredible. In the beginning she can barely go out by herself (same girl), but in the end she does things outside of her comfort zone, despite her anxiety. She isn’t magically cured, she still suffers from her anxiety, but she learns how to live with it. And that my friends? Is the message I really needed right now as my anxiety has been pretty bad lately.

Starfish is an incredible read, and definitely my favourite of 2018. Of course it’s only May, but I just don’t see anything surpassing it. It has a great balance between heavy and light, but never downplaying the heavy elements. It tackles racism, abuse, family, belonging and so much more.

If you haven’t picked this up yet, I highly recommend it.Have you read Starfish yet? What did you think? Any other great anxiety YA books you’d recommend? What’s your favourite read of 2018 so far? Let me know in the comments!

The Radical Element // Twelve Stories About Badass Girls

Author: Twelve different authors
Genre: Historical //  YA
Series: A Tyranny of Petticoats #2
Goodreads rating: 3.77
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

In an anthology of revolution and resistance, a sisterhood of YA writers shines a light on a century and a half of heroines on the margins and in the intersections.

To respect yourself, to love yourself—should not have to be a radical decision. And yet it remains as challenging for an American girl to make today as it was in 1927 on the steps of the Supreme Court. It’s a decision that must be faced whether you’re balancing on the tightrope of neurodivergence, finding your way as a second-generation immigrant, or facing down American racism even while loving America. And it’s the only decision when you’ve weighed society’s expectations and found them wanting. In The Radical Element, twelve of the most talented writers working in young adult literature today tell the stories of the girls of all colors and creeds standing up for themselves and their beliefs—whether that means secretly learning Hebrew in early Savannah, using the family magic to pass as white in 1920s Hollywood, or singing in a feminist punk band in 1980s Boston. And they’re asking you to join them.Disclaimer: I was given an ARC of this book by Netgalley and the publisher (thank you!) in return for an honest review

I HATE rating and reviewing anthologies – some of these stories were amazing and I would’ve loved to see them as an actual book, others not so much. So while some of these are solid four or even five star reads, I ended up rating it three stars. I’m happy that there’s diversity not just among the stories and their protagonists, but also among the writers themselves, which means we also have some own-voices stories. All of the women featured in this book are incredibly empowering and inspiring. Even if the short story they appeared in didn’t really capture me, they certainly did. I am disappointed that there were no f/f romances though, even though one of the protagonists liked girls.

💛 Daughter of the Book by Dahlia Adler ⭐⭐⭐ // This one tells the story of Rebecca Gratz, a woman who really existed and was an advocate for Jewish women and economic equality. Daughter of the Book shows her as a young girl with a thirst for knowledge of her religion, culture and history. I really liked how determined Rebecca was and how it focuses on how important Jewish women were. I do feel like it was more of a set up though, but it did make me really interested in finding out more about her!

”What do I say when they want to know how you could leave them behind?”
”Tell them I’m Jewish first.”

💛 You’re a Stranger Here by Mackenzi Lee ⭐⭐⭐ // My expectations were really high for this one, as I absolutely loved The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue. This one fell a bit short for me, as I felt like not much really happened. I still ended up giving it three stars because I love Lee’s writing style and I really liked the message of it:

”Finding things that give you hope, and make you want to do good things for others. And if Joseph’s words do that” – she pats the Book of Commandments manuscript – ”then that seems fine to me. Seems like a thing that people could need.”

💛 The Magician by Erin Bowman ⭐⭐⭐⭐ // I didn’t expect to love this one as much as I did! Ray has a reputation as an unbeatable poker player and calls herself a ‘magician’ rather than a cheat. Pretending to be a boy so she could earn more money, she agrees on going on an expedition, which of course could mean having her secret exposed. Besides Ray being a badass, her relationship with Mrs. Lowry, the woman who took her in and raised her, was my favourite aspect of this story. Despite this relationship, she is still desperate to find her biological family and find out more about who she is. While I wasn’t blown away by Bowman’s writing in Vengeance Road, I absolutely loved it in The Magician.

She was tired of pretending, and here along the river, she was a mystery even to herself. She was a boy and she was a girl. She was motherless and she was someone’s child. She was a soul wanting to belong and a soul desperate to escape.

💛 Lady Firebrand by Megan Shepherd ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ // Two girls, one of which black, the other in a wheelchair, being spies against the South during the Civil War, blowing things up and fighting against slavery as a masked hero? Yes please. I would love to read more about these badass girls and their beautiful relationship.

Pauline and she, they were more than coconspirators. They were more than Lord Firebrand. They’d be there for each other in hard times and in good times, no matter the danger, always trusting in each other’s strong heart.

💛 Step Right Up by Jessica Spotswood ⭐⭐⭐ // Ruby wants nothing more than to escape her abusive uncle and become a part of the circus and their family. I would’ve loved to see more of her relationship with the people at the circus over the years, as that would’ve made the story a lot more heartwarming. Although her uncle treats her horribly and her mother turns a blind eye, Ruby does have a good relationship with her sister Pearl, which of course I loved because sisters!! While they loved each other, Pearl understood Ruby’s dream and supported her in any way she could.

”You looked after me the whole time we were growing up. It’s time for me to look after myself now.”

💛 Glamour by Anna-Marie McLemore ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ // This one too I need as a full book it was so beautifully written and magical and just dsjgh It made me super excited to read Wild Beauty wich I finally can now that I’m back home. Glamour follows Graciela who uses ‘glamour’ to make herself look white and works in Hollywood as Grace, and Sawyer, a disabled transgender boy. According to McLemore this story is her ‘wish to give Graciela, a daughter of Mexican-American farmers, and Sawyer, a transgender boy living with a disability, the space that history would have tried to deny them.’ And she definitely did. I just want more haha. The way it was written felt very real, and despite being a short story Graciela and Sawyer were very well-developed. Just,,, give me a full book please

She had told no one why she wanted to become Grace Moran: because the world left so little room for Graciela Morena

💛 Better For All The World by Marieke Nijkamp ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ // Oh my goodness this one was so good. I need to read more by Marieke Nijkamp, something I’ve wanted to do for quite some time now, but especially after reading this. Short stories often feel underdeveloped to me, but this one was truly perfect as a short story. It’s an own voices about an autistic girl, following the trial of Carrie Buck (who really existed), another autistic girl who’s fighting in court for her bodily autonomy as the state wants to sterilize her. It’s an incredibly powerful and important story.

”Carrie Buck is a girl like me. Despite everyone telling her that she didn’t matter, she came here to fight for her choices. She has the inalienable right to do so. But instead of recognising that, we assign vallue to her, to each other, to ourselves. We tell her she isn’t competend enough. She isn’t fit enough. She isn’t equal enough. Do you know what would be better for all the world? If instead of fighting to limit her rights – our constitutional rights, our fundamentally human rights – we fought to embrace them and strengthen them. If we limit equality, we can never be truly equal.”

💛 When the Moonlight Isn’t Enough by Dhonielle Clayton ⭐⭐ // This one was just a bit eh for me. The main character and her parents drink moonlight in order to stay immortal, but this was never really touched upon. It just left me with a lot of questions and I was bored. Nothing really stayed with me and I didn’t hightlight anything. It doesn’t help that it’s been a while since I read this either.

💛 The Belle of the Ball by Sarvenaz Tash ⭐⭐⭐ // This one was fun! The protagonist wants to be a comedy writer, which of course wasn’t easy for a woman back then. It was a fun and interesting read, but it just didn’t blow me away.

💛 Land of the Sweet, Home of the Brave by Stacey Lee ⭐⭐⭐ // I would’ve loved to have rated this higher, but it fell a bit short to me, as if not much happened. Lana wants to become the face of Miss Sugar Maiden, because ‘maybe it was time for a nonwhite on the box. Sugar Maiden’s product comes direct from Hawaii, born of the sweat of thousands of islanders – Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Korean, and Filipinos – yet the girls on the boxes have always been as snowy as its contents.’ The story also focuses on the discrimination her parents as half-Japanese and Chinese faced and another important aspect is Lana’s love for her family, which keeps her going. It just left me with a ‘that’s it?’ feeling, which is why I ended up rating it three stars, but I really loved Lana and her story.

💛 The Birth of Susi Go-Go by Meg Medina ⭐⭐⭐ // As mentioned before, it’s been a while since I read this and well… I don’t really remember this one? It wasn’t badly written, but it wasn’t very memorable either. Susana’s grandparents are finally coming from Cuba to live with her and her parents, which she is very nervous about because she doesn’t remember them. I wish the story would’ve focused more on that and that we had seen her grandparents more.

💛 Take me With U by Sara Farizan ⭐⭐⭐.5 // This one was a lot of fun! Soheila has fled from the war in Iran to live with her uncle, aunt and little cousin, who is her only friend. Until she meets Mai that is. Mai introduces her to pop culture, especially music and eventually Soheila becomes a part of Mai’s band. I really liked how Mai became a big sister to Soheila, Soheila discovering American pop culture and the band aspect. Plus of course how Soheila (and Mai!) hung out with her little cousin. He was adorable.

During that set, I was free to be whoever I wanted to be. Not Apollonia, not Amir’s babysitter, not a self-conscious girl. I was bitchin’ and so was my band.

All in all this is a fun, inspiring and empowering anthology that I definitely recommend.Have you read The Radical Element? Or another cool anthology like this? Let me know in the comments!

Dreams Beyond the Shore // Help I Can’t Come Up With A Title For This Review

Author: Tamika Gibson
Genre: Contemporary | YA
Goodreads rating: 3.71
My rating:  ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

Seventeen-year-old Chelsea Marchand was pretty satisfied with her life. Until recently. Willing to play the dutiful daughter as her father’s bid to become Prime Minister of their island home brings her family into intense public scrutiny, Chelsea is swept along by the strong tidal wave of politics and becomes increasingly disturbed by her father’s duplicity. She finds a reprieve when she meets Kyron, a kindred spirit encased in low riding blue jeans. The two share a bond as he too struggles to get beyond his father’s shadow.

But when Chelsea discovers an even darker more sinister side to her father’s world, a discovery that makes her question the man he is and the woman she wants to be, she must decide how much of her own dreams she is willing to compromise to make her father’s come true. But can she find the strength to stand up to her father and chart her own journey?Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Netgalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Dreams Beyond the Shore had a lot of potential, but unfortunately it left a lot of plot points unexplored. The second part of the above summary promises political intrigue and a horrible discovery to be a big part of the plot. Yet when this reveal finally comes into play, it’s more like an afterthought.

The problem with Dreams Beyond the Shore is that it focused a lot on the romance between Chelsea and Kyron, instead of everything both of them are going through and the political intrigue that is promised. While a bit insta-lovey to me, it wasn’t rushed and it was handled realistically. When Kyron makes a pretty big mistake, it isn’t glossed over and he realises himself how wrong it was. So it’s not that it was a bad romance, I just wish all the other topics like politics, having demanding parents, parents using you for your own gain, standing up for yourself and finding your own path – had been explored more.

Once I got to the ending, the story didn’t feel over because of this. I was left with a lot of questions. It felt like the plot points were introduced only to be forgotten.

That said, it was really interesting to see a YA book set in Trinidad and Tobago, read about their culture and a bit about their politics. It’s not badly written at all either. There is a lot of slang, which was a bit hard to get through in the beginning, but soon I got used to it and I flew through the book.

In the end, it was an interesting read but just a bit underdeveloped. A lot of plot points felt barely touched upon to me, the characters themselves needed more development and we needed to see them more (like Chelsea’s grandmother who was an absolute gem) – I didn’t feel attached to these characters at all and didn’t really care what happened to them.

Have you read Dreams Beyond the Shore? What did you think? Have you read a YA book set in Trinidad and Tobago, or another place that’s rarely used as a setting in YA? Let me know in the comments!

Take Me With You // Beautiful LGBT+ Poetry That Broke Me Hi I’m A Mess

Author: Andrea Gibson
Genre: Poetry | LGBT+
Goodreads rating: 3.38
My rating:  ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea Gibson explores themes of love, gender, politics, sexuality, family, and forgiveness with stunning imagery and a fierce willingness to delve into the exploration of what it means to heal and to be different in this strange age. Take Me With You, illustrated throughout with evocative line drawings by Sarah J. Coleman, is small enough to fit in your bag, with messages that are big enough to wake even the sleepiest heart. Divided into three sections (love, the world, and becoming) of one liners, couplets, greatest hits phrases, and longer form poems, it has something for everyone, and will be placed in stockings, lockers, and the hands of anyone who could use its wisdom.Disclaimer: I received arc of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review, this means that the author may have made changes in the final print and some of the quotes used in this review may have been changed

Me during and after this book

This book was absolutely beautiful and it’s so hard to put my thoughts and feelings into words. First, let’s talk about the formatting though, because that confused me a bit at first and looking at some Goodreads reviews, I wasn’t the only one.

This book, as I understood it, consists of three poems. Not multiple short ones, but three long poems. You can distinguish them because they’re numbered and by their names: On Love, On The World and On Becoming, but I can see why some people on Goodreads are confused and thought there are multiple short poems, because I did at first too.

Another important thing to know going in this book, is that Andrea Gibson is at the forefront of the spoken word movement. Before I knew that, I thought the poems read like spoken word poetry. Knowing that Gibson is a spoken word poet, I think this was deliberate. Some reviewers on Goodreads criticised the use of all caps, but I read that as Gibson raising their voice, like they do in spoken word poetry.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about the book in more detail. I absolutely love spoken word poetry. I’m not an expert on poetry, but it’s probably my favourite form. Thus, Take Me With You was right up my alley, especially since it’s LGBTQ+ poetry.

I found Take Me With You absolutely beautiful, heartbreaking, powerful… I’m starting to feel like Lady Gaga here

But seriously, I am in awe and in love with this book. I have no words. Once I finished it, I immediately reread it again and cried my eyes out a little bit more. I’ve marked pretty much the entire book on my kindle app and I need a physical copy to hold close and take with me* asap.

* Ha see what I did there

There were so many powerful quotes, but I also loved how easily Gibson switched between serious or beautiful and funny

I find great comfort in believing anyone who has ever broken up with me has probably never gotten over my dog.

I cannot for the life of my choose one favourite quote, as there are so many. I laughed, smiled and cried (hard) at this amazing book. Some of the sentences in her poems are pure and wholesome, and like I said funny, others? Broke my heart completely and left me a mess.

When the first responders entered the Pulse nightclub after the massacre in Orlando,
they walked through the horrible scene of bodies and called out, ”If you’re alive, raise your hand.” I was sleeping in a hotel in the midwest at the time but I imagine in that exact moment my hand twitched in my sleep – some unconscious part of me aware that I had a pulse,
that I was alive

Again, I have no words to describe how I feel about this book, what it meant reading it and how much I love it. I highly recommend picking this one up when it comes out 23 January.Have you read Take Me With You, or are you planning to? What’s your favourite poetry book, or who’s your favourite poet? Do you like spoken word poetry? Let me know in the comments!

Snow White and the Seven Angels // A Cute Queer Retelling

Author: Rhys Christopher Ethan
Genre: Fairytale retelling // Short story // LGBTQIAP+ // Suitable for all ages
Series: Queerky Tales #1
Goodreads rating: 3.11
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

White has a secret. One he has shared with his family to no avail. When he meets the Prince of his dreams, he decides he can no longer live a lie, but in order to do so, he will have to face his worst nightmares (Goodreads).

Snow White and the Seven Angels is the first queer retelling in this series, and I really like the idea of Snow White being a trans girl. The Evil Queen (who is Snow’s biological mom, like in one of the original versions of the tale but not the one most of us are familiar with) doesn’t fear that Snow White (at this point in the story called White) is/will become more beautiful than her. While the Queen at some point does (sort of) accept that White wants her Fairy Godmother to turn her into a girl, she keeps referring to her as a him (which is italicised every time to emphasize that while the Queen says things like ‘I don’t want him to be miserable’ that she isn’t being a good parent at all) and as soon as the Mirror tells her that White is going to be more beautiful than her, she changes her mind completely. The Evil Queen in this tale isn’t just a vain woman who wants to be the fairest of them all, she’s a transphobic parent who refuses to let her daughter be who she is.

The romance is very insta-love-y and not that deep, but since the entire story was written like a fairytale, it might have been on purpose. And while the romance is important to the plot, it’s not what’s most important, so it’s okay that it didn’t take up that many pages. I do wish it had been a bit more developed instead of them talking once and the prince then showing up at her castle and being like ‘I love you’. That said it was cute and when White tells the prince she’s not a boy but a girl, the prince says ‘I’m in love with you no matter what’ which I really loved. 

While I get that the story was written in a fairytale style (at least it felt that way to me and I assumed it was on purpose, but maybe this is the author’s writing style?), it was a bit too simple for me. This also means that it’s perfect to read to young children though, who would learn some great messages from this book. It’s clear that The Evil Queen’s views are not okay and it’s never excused. Snow White (the name White takes towards the end of the book when she has a girl’s body) being a girl and the prince loving Snow White no matter her gender are normalised. Not to mention Snow White gets her happy ending.

Definitely an important (and cute!) book, but the writing style made me give it three stars. Though it makes it perfect for a younger audience, it just kept me from really enjoying this one.

Have you read this one, or any others in the series? Or other queer fairytale retellings? If the latter, give me recommendations please! Let me know in the comments

It’s Not Like It’s A Secret… That I Have Very Mixed Feelings About This Book

Genre: YA // Contemporary // LGBTQIAP+
Goodreads rating: 3.69
My rating: ⭐⭐⭐

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

When Sana and her family move to California she begins to wonder if it’s finally time for some honesty, especially after she meets Jamie Ramirez. Jamie is beautiful and smart and unlike anyone Sana’s ever known. There are just a few problems: Sana’s new friends don’t trust Jamie’s crowd; Jamie’s friends clearly don’t want her around anyway; and a sweet guy named Caleb seems to have more-than-friendly feelings for her. Meanwhile, her dad’s affair is becoming too obvious to ignore anymore.

Sana always figured that the hardest thing would be to tell people that she wants to date a girl, but as she quickly learns, telling the truth is easy… what comes after it, though, is a whole lot more complicated (Goodreads).

Oh boy. Okay, so I have a LOT of mixed feelings when it comes to this book, so I decided to make some lists of things I liked and didn’t like. Because 1) I like lists 2) It will hopefully help me gather my thoughts. So let’s go

What I liked

💛 Sana is Japanese, and so is the author, so in that aspect we get own voices (what I could tell from the author’s note at the end she isn’t a part of the LGBT+ community herself)
💛 Sana’s parents speak Japanese a lot in the book and Jamies mom speaks Spanish (though we don’t see her much) It made the book feel authentic and no worries if you don’t speak one or both of these languages! It’s clear from the context what’s being said
💛 Speaking of Sana’s parents, while her dad isn’t around a lot, it’s clear he loves her. While Sana and her mom don’t always see eye to eye (actually, most of the time), towards the end of the book they have a beautiful heartfelt moment which is one of my favourite scenes.
💛 Sana’s new friends. I do wish they had been developed a bit more and had a bit of their own arc outside of Sana (and besides getting a boyfriend), but their interactions with each other and Sana were really fun to read and it was great to read about Sana finding friends that understood her
💛 It’s a pretty quick read
💛 There’s quite a bit of racism in this book that gets adressed, whether it’s aimed at Sana or comes out of her own mouth (or other characters). While I wish some more time had been spent on Sana’s own racism towards Mexicans, it’s made clear that what she said and thought wasn’t okay and it wasn’t resolved that easily
💛 Sana gets the assignment to keep a poetry diary, and the poems she collects and analyses are a part of the novel. Before she got the assignment, she already loved poetry and bonded with Jamie over this. They start to exchange (romantic) poems which is really cute
💛 While I have mixed feelings about the obstacle between the two girls, the way Sana asks for another chance is really romantic and super cute. I’m a sucker for stuff like that.

What I disliked

💛 At some point some boys are clearly interested in Jaimie’s ex-girlfriend, and Sana wants to yell at them to give it up, because she’s a lesbian. Um. Sana. Is she sapphic? Yes. Does that mean she’s a lesbian? No. Bisexuality does exist. There were a few other times that I felt like there was some bi-erasure, but I don’t know if I was overreacting? At some point Sana says to a boy that she would like him if she were straight, and at first I screamed ‘BI-ERASURE’ in my head, because why not say ‘if I were into boys’? She knows bisexuality exists, because at some point she does wonder if she may be bi (though briefly). But I don’t know if I’m overreacting here? It definitely stung though and  put a bad taste in my mouth
💛 Insta-love. Honestly, I have NO IDEA why Sana and Jamie are into each other, besides probably attraction? Oh and they share a love of poetry. Of course this book doesn’t solely focus on romance (it focuses on family, friendship and racism to name a few as well), but since the romance is a big part of the book, the fact that we don’t really see the relationship build up, or actually see much of them as a couple, it just doesn’t work. Were they cute? Sure. Did I ship them? Not really. I honestly couldn’t care less what happened. Of course there’s an obstacle at some point (which I’ll get to later) but I wasn’t invested in their romance at all. I was told they’re in love, but I wasn’t really shown it, let alone why they fell in love. So when things got rough? I didn’t care at all. Besides I knew there was a 99 percent chance things would work out anyway. Also at some point Sana was like ‘it’s only October’ and I went ‘HOLY IT’S ONLY OCTOBER?!’. It’s been a little over a month. A few weeks. WHY
💛 So. The obstacle. Sana did something stupid. And I really wish that what she did (spoiler: she cheated. She thought Sana was cheating on her and thus kissed a boy that liked her, even though she didn’t like him) wasn’t the obstacle in their relationship. On one hand I feel like she was forgiven way too easily, but on the other hand I also understand why she did it. She let her insecurities get to her, then she panicked and only made it worse by not telling the truth to the parties involved and just made it worse. She’s only human, but it still left a bad taste in my mouth.
💛 Like I said before, I wish Sana’s friends had been developed more and had gotten an arc of the own. Same could be said about the other supporting characters. They were flat and I didn’t really care for them. Since they weren’t well-developed and I barely knew anything about them, they didn’t really stand out from each other. 

That definitely helped me get my thoughts about this book a bit clearer. There are things I liked (or even loved) about it, but when romance is a big part of a book, and I’m not feeling the romance, it’s hard to enjoy the book to it’s fullest. While the other problems I had with it didn’t help either, I think the fact that the romance wasn’t developed is the biggest reason why I didn’t enjoy this book as much as I had hoped.

Have you read It’s Not Like It’s A Secret? What did you think of it? Any similar books that you think I would enjoy more? Let me know in the comments!