Wrap-up

May 2019 Wrap-Up + State of the ARC

This month, I tried a thing where moodreading dictated almost every book I read. It was incredibly fun, and also I don’t think I’ll ever do it again. Okay, I probably will, but ironically, letting my mood decide what I read got really stressful sometimes – mostly when after 30 pages I was suddenly in the mood for another book, and ended up with 10-11 currently reading ones… So, yes. Moodreading is fun, but set TBRs to narrow down what you’re reading can be really useful too.

Next month is re-reading, which is another thing I rarely do, but there’s actually some books I’ve been meaning to re-read. Some of them are quite long, and I’ll be doing a summer university thing for half of June, so I’m not sure how much I’ll actually get to, but still.

EMOJI STATISTICS

🌍 Around the Year in 52 Books: 5 (total: 22/52)
🍬 Popsugar Reading Challenge: (total: 36/50)
🧚 Cornerfolds Retelling Challenge: 1 (total: 11/25)
🏮Year of the Asian Challenge: 3 (total: 8)

Moody May: 21

🦊 Total: 28

Yearly stats here.

All books read here.

STATE OF THE ARC

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies).

State of the ARC has a Goodreads groups ARCs Anonymous. Join it here.

🦄 Review copies read: 2

🐇Review copies remaining: 10

I guess it’s kind of telling that in the month where I decided to practice moodreading, I ended up reading almost no ARCs. There are a couple on my list that I’m excited for, but the truth is that I’m really not feeling most of the ones I have at the moment.

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June is going to be busy, but since I’m literally only missing one book to complete this, I’m hoping I’ll be able to pull it off before we enter the second half of the year.

POSTS ON THE BLOG THIS MONTH

READING HIGHLIGHTS

🏳️‍🌈 LGBTQAI+ representation
💐 POC/Indigenous representation
🌱 Disabled or Mental Health representation
✡️ Jewish representation

Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1)🏳️‍🌈💐🌱 Into the Drowning Deep & Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant: Wow. So, I read over 20 books/short stories by Seanan McGuire (otherwise known as Mira Grant) this year, and every single one of them was amazing, but Into the Drowning Deep is really one of my favourites. It’s wonderfully creepy and the mermaid lore is so good, and it actually makes me want to read more horror. Note: some marginalised characters die, since this is horror, but the cast is very diverse and several of them stay alive, so I don’t think this counts as a “bury your X” trope. (adult horror/fantasy with killer mermaids, ensemble cast, multiple LGBT, POC and disabled characters) REVIEW HERE

🏳️‍🌈💐🌱 I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver: This was one of my most anticipated releases for the year – a YA romance with a nonbinary teen! In the end, it didn’t make it to my favourites list and there was at least one scene that made me really uncomfortable, but it still got a solid 4.5 stars from me. (YA, nonbinary/bisexual contemporary romance, POC love interest, anxiety rep) REVIEW HERE

🏳️‍🌈💐 Deadline by Stephanie Ahn: Bless snarky amateur detectives with magical abilities. Extra points if they are queer. This is a relatively short book, but I really enjoyed it and I’m looking forward to the sequel, which is available for pre-order I think. (new? adult urban fantasy, Korean American lesbian protagonist, BDSM)

🏳️‍🌈💐 The Brightest Fell & Night and Silence by Seanan McGuire: Just in case I haven’t screamed enough about the October Daye series yet, here they are again. I am actually caught up now, so I am unlikely to be screaming more about them until the new book in September. I’m linking to the first book in the series, because even the blurbs are spoilery for the later ones. These last two books were super intense: book 11 broke my heart into a thousand pieces, then book 12 put them back together again, so I am really, really glad it wasn’t the other way around. (adult urban fantasy with faeries, multiple prominent LGBT and POC characters, even if Tybalt’s sexuality is STILL only mentioned in a prequel goddamnit. but there are others who are clearly bi/gay/lesbian/trans.)

Circus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror BoyCircus Girl, The Hunter, and Mirror Boy by J.Y. Yang: This is a short story that I can’t say much about without really spoiling it, but it’s kind of creepy and it has ghosts and spirits and mirrors and everything.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud: I re-read the Bartimaeus trilogy and then read this by the same author, and I loved all of them. This is a young adult mystery and I’m looking forward to reading more in the series eventually. (young adult fantasy/mystery/horror)

The Last of the De Mullins by St. John Hankin: Yes, this is another one of my readings for the New Woman class that I did this semester, but I really liked this one. (a drama set and written in the early 1900s about an independent woman and her family’s reactions)

🏳️‍🌈💐 Nonbinary: Memoirs of Gender and Identity edited by Micah Rajunov and Scott Duane: This nonfiction book is a collection of memoirs by a diverse group of nonbinary people and their experiences. (adult nonfiction, LGBTQAI+)

🏳️‍🌈 The Queen of Rhodia by Effie Calvin: Remember when I kept squeeing about The Queen of Ieflaria last year? Well, this is a sequel to that, and it was just as amazing. Pansexual princesses, F/F ship, talking dragons, and other awesomeness! (young adult fantasy)

NEW BOOKS THIS MONTH

Review copies

 

(These are actually the only two books on my current ARC list that I am excited for. All the older ones are meh. Help?)

Bought

 

(Somebody take financial decisions away from me. I have spent WAY TOO MUCH on books this year. In my defense, I already read three of these, and the other two were under 2 dollars each. Also, just LOOK at that Queen of Rhodia cover!)

VIDEOGAME UPDATE

You know how The Sims 4 was available for free download for about a week? Yeah. I downloaded it and then played it an embarrassing number of hours instead of studying for my exams. Go me! In my defense, it has customizable gender options where you can very easily make trans sims, so naturally I went and made a family full of them.

Then, of course that wasn’t enough, so I went and made October Daye and her entire family in The Sims 4 as well. Oops?

 

~ Alexa

Reviews

The Queen of Rhodia: F/F Fantasy with Established Relationship and DRAGONS

The Queen of Rhodia (Tales of Inthya Book 3)Title: The Queen of Rhodia
Author(s): Effie Calvin
Series: Tales of Inthya #1
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Pages: 280
Published: 
May 27th 2019 by NineStar Press
LGBTQAI+: F/F main ship between pansexual mains, F/F side ship
Other: fat protagonist

It has been sixteen months since Princess Esofi arrived in Ieflaria, and eight since her marriage to Crown Princess Adale. The princesses have a peaceful life together, preparing to become co-regents and raising their baby dragon, Carinth.

Their peace is shattered when Esofi’s mother, Queen Gaelle of Rhodia, arrives in Birsgen. She has heard about Carinth and believes that she deserves custody of him due to her greater devotion to Talcia, Goddess of Magic.

Adale and Esofi have no intention of giving up their son, but Gaelle is impossible to reason with—and there’s no telling what lengths she’ll go to in order to get what she wants.

5+ stars

This fantasy series deserves so much love. I mean, come on! Pansexual princesses in love! Talking dragons! Goddesses and warriors! What’s not to love?

The Queen of Rhodia follows the pansexual F/F couple who got together in the first book, now in an established relationship, with the F/F couple from the second book appearing as side characters.

Esofi and Adale are married now, and they never run out of things to do. Adele is finally learning how to govern from her parents, Esofi is working on establishing a university for magical students, and they are raising a son together, who just happens to be a baby dragon. But when both news of a dragon wanting to talk to Esofi AND Esofi’s mother arrives in Ieflaria, they have even more to deal with than they would have thought…

I loved how realistically their differences and occasionally relationship problems were written. Esofi and Adale both have their own insecurities, and Esofi, like many abused children, has views that she doesn’t even realise are wrong, because they were normal when she was growing up. I love how Adale doesn’t judge her, but still makes it clear that those things are wrong, and Esofi’s mother was wrong to do them.

We learn more about the dragons and also Lisette, who was one of my favourites in book one, which was great. Svana and her brother are back, which is also great! There is so much worldbuilding potential in this series, and I’m eager to learn more about the elves and the Nightshades and the Empire. I admit I skipped book two, but I’m fully intending to go back and read it eventually, and meeting the characters here only gave me more motivation (but unfortunately, not money).

That being said, there were a couple of things in the worldbuilding that felt like missed opportunities to me. In the world of the series, a third gender, here called neutroi are officially recognised – but at least in the two books I read, we don’t actually meet a single neutroi who has more than a few lines.

There is a ritual called Change, where basically they can change one’s sex with magic – it’s something many people use to experiment or to have children, but it is mentioned that there are people who chose to stay permanently Changed, which would be equivalent of transgender people. Again, we never actually MEET anyone who is like this, or at least we don’t know about it. I know it’s probably a personal topic so it would be more difficult to bring up, but I don’t think it would be a stretch to have someone drop a comment about it.

There is also a kind of weird scene where Adale mentally compares gay and straight people (those who are only attracted to one gender) to a woman who refuses to date taller than her. She actually corrects herself, because gay and straight people don’t have a choice about their attractions, and it’s clearly just Adale’s opinion, but it was still weird and I want to mention it for others.

Finally, humans in the series are called Men instead of just Humans, which is… something I would have expected in a “mainstream” fantasy that replicates real-world sexism, but it was jarring to read in a book with pansexual princesses that has very different gender roles from ours. There is also a scene where Adale is speaking about a culprit whose gender she doesn’t know and she defaults to saying “him” instead of “them” (even though her main suspect is a woman, so it can’t even be a Freudian slip). It’s not necessarily bad, but male default language in this world didn’t make much sense to me.

Overall, I loved this book, and I absolutely adore this series and I’m eager to see the other countries that we’ll visit in future books. The next one is titled Empress of Xytae, and the princess of Xytae was mentioned briefly in this book, so I’m excited to see more of her – although she’s a liiitle too young for a YA protagonist.

NOTE: The book does give a trigger warning about past child abuse, but I didn’t really feel like it was accurate/enough. It is true that Esofi is not a child anymore and currently living away from her mother, so the abuse is less obvious, but it’s still clearly there in their present-time interactions, along with its effects on Esofi’s own views. So, consider this an extra warning that the child abuse is a central part of the story, not just a passing thing.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Into the Drowning Deep: Killer Mermaids and Killer Writing

Into the Drowning Deep (Rolling in the Deep, #1)Title: Into the Drowning Deep
Author(s): Mira Grant [ Seanan McGuire ]
Series: Rolling in the Deep #1
Genre: Horror, Fantasy
Pages: 256
Published: 
November 14th 2017 by Orbit
LGBTQAI+: a bisexual main & an autistic lesbian main
Other: two deaf characters

Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.

Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.

Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.

5+ stars

Yes, I do know that post title is terrible, thank you.

Seanan McGuire (Mira Grant) keeps destroying my emotions by writing complicated human relationships. Also, I had a nightmare about killer mermaids while I was reading this.

First impression: I was conflicted about the very long intro. On the one hand, I liked getting to know these characters, and how they were diverse and different, and getting to know them definitely raised the stakes. On the other hand, at around 120 pages I just really wanted to get to the action already.

I liked that there were many POVs (including some unexpected ones), and that not all of the characters were likeable, but in their own POV they justified their actions even if others disagreed.

Despite being a scary book, this was still funny at a lot of points, with the sarcastic comments and cat metaphors I have learned to expect from this author.

Of course, like with most horror books, there are definitely some frustrating parts where you are shouting at the characters to stop being stupid and actually realise how much danger they are in. Still, there were some twists later on that surprised me and that I really liked.

I also liked how diverse the book was (a bisexual main, an autistic lesbian main, multiple deaf mains), although in a book where anyone can die at anytime that’s always a double-edged sword.

I admit that I don’t deal well with books where a lot of characters die (I am invested in most books BECAUSE of the characters, so if you remove them, you remove my main interest), and my interest strongly plummeted at one point when one of my favourites seemed to die. In this case, I was quite lucky because most of my favourites survived, and the deaths were mostly those that I didn’t really care for anyway.

Finally, one of my favourite parts was – well, the mermaids, really. I loved how their intelligence and culture was gradually shown as the scientist found out more, and man, I loved Jillian being so completely done with everyone else. Also, all the conflicting emotions from these people who loved and feared and respected the ocean.

Into the Drowning Deep has a prequel novella, Rolling in the Deep, which was limited edition and currently only the audiobook is available from what I could see. I listened to it and I really liked that one as well, but it was… very similar to the main book. We learned the same things in both of them, and I had pretty much the same likes and dislikes in both, which is why I’m not writing a separate review.

~ Alexa

Reviews

I Wish You All The Best: The Story of a Nonbinary Teen

I Wish You All the BestTitle: I Wish You All The Best
Author(s): Mason Deaver
Series: 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 336
Published:
May 14th 2019 by Push
LGBTQAI+: bisexual nonbinary teen protagonist, bisexual dark-skinned (unspecified) cis male love interest, nonbinary side character, nonbinary author

When Ben De Backer comes out to their parents as nonbinary, they’re thrown out of their house and forced to move in with their estranged older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Thomas, whom Ben has never even met. Struggling with an anxiety disorder compounded by their parents’ rejection, they come out only to Hannah, Thomas, and their therapist and try to keep a low profile in a new school.

But Ben’s attempts to survive the last half of senior year unnoticed are thwarted when Nathan Allan, a funny and charismatic student, decides to take Ben under his wing. As Ben and Nathan’s friendship grows, their feelings for each other begin to change, and what started as a disastrous turn of events looks like it might just be a chance to start a happier new life.

At turns heartbreaking and joyous, I Wish You All the Best is both a celebration of life, friendship, and love, and a shining example of hope in the face of adversity.

4.5 stars

[ source: pre-ordered with my own money ]

I Wish You All The Best is the story of a nonbinary teen with anxiety who gets kicked out of home by their parents after coming out. The coming out scene is in the first chapter, so the book starts with a pretty big punch. Ben moves in with their sister and brother-in-law, who are both supportive, and they make new friends and continue making their art at school. Oh, yes, and there is a boy.

I loved Nathan, he was funny and bright and supportive, and I also liked the two girl side characters, although they didn’t feature as much. I also loved that Ben has a nonbinary long-distance friend (who is older than them, although I’m not sure by how much) who has helped them as both a best friend and a kind of “mentor”.

Ben goes to a therapist and takes anxiety medication, and while they are unsure about it at first, it’s ultimately presented as a positive thing, so that was nice.

Still, this is another one of those queer books that I expected to be fluffy based on the cover and title, and it’s… not really? It has a happy ending and a cute romance, but it also has shitty parents, anxiety, panic attacks, conflict with the sibling, and I feel like there was more of that than the fluff.

Ben comes out to Nathan really, really late in the story. Of course, you as the reader logically know that Nathan won’t react badly, but it’s strange to see them grow closer and have a crush and everything while Nathan doesn’t know such a defining thing about them, and keeps unintentionally misgendering them. It is understandable based on Ben’s bad experiences, but it still surprised me.

I also wished there was some more about what being nonbinary means for Ben. It was nice that it wasn’t the only focus and they had other interests, but there was more about the negative consequences of coming out than the positive, affirming sides of being nonbinary, which I really missed. I loved the small scenes like Ben choosing to have their sister paint their nails, and I would have loved more.

tldr; This is a really good and important debut (!) book about a nonbinary teen, and it has a happy ending with a supportive circle. However, it’s not as fluffy as I expected, and it fell a little short of my expectations in other ways too. That’s just me, though.

content warnings: asshole parents, being kicked out, stressful coming out situation, anxiety, panic attacks, misgendering (both intentional, and due to not being out)

EXTRA WARNING: There is a scene where Ben goes to a party and they are pressured into drinking even though they really don’t want to, one of the guy’s is being loud and I think actually slaps their butt, and then they have a panic attack, so yeah, it was a lot.

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous · TBR

SUMMER GOALS + Life Update!

Wow… May is almost over, and this is my first post this month. You may have noticed this blog has no schedule at all (sometimes I post several times a week, sometimes nothing for a month), and since I mostly just do it for my own fun, that’s unlikely to change anytime soon. Still, I’d love to hear from all of you and what you’re reading!

You know how a lot of people make New Year’s Resolutions and vow to get their life in order next year? Well, I usually do that around May/June, and vow to get my life in order in one summer. I’m not expecting any miracles, but still, I put together a list of what I would like to achieve / should be achieving by September.

Since I’m going to be very busy with exams and the Eramus+ programme in June, this checklist is mostly for July and August, so… I basically want to turn my life around in two months. Uh, yay? Wish me luck!

GENDER STUFF / LIFE UPDATE: I’ve been increasingly feeling more masculine and less comfortable with my body lately. At this point, I honestly don’t know whether I’m a masculine nonbinary person or a feminine trans man, and gender is fake anyway, but what I DO know that I definitely want to be more masculine than I am right now. This is complicated by many things, including that I still live with my parents that I’m not out to, and also I have no independent income and no money. Still, I’ve been looking into small things I can do, and this summer checklist will reflect that.

I have… complicated feelings about transition. I wouldn’t want to go “all the way”, just pick and choose certain parts. I don’t particularly want to change my name or my gender marker at this point (since there is no third option, so it would be incorrect anyway), but from what I heard from several other trans people, those might be requirements for top surgery, which I do want. (Honestly, if I did change my name, I’d probably just change it to Alex, and given that it’s currently Alexandra, that would be kind of… a waste of effort?)

Because it’s not enough for me personally to decide which part I want and which I don’t, I also have to 1) have the money, 2) convince several (most likely cis) doctors to allow me to transition, which is… the biggest bullshit ever, right up there with having doctors not tying your tubes unless you’re X age and have X children, because clearly you don’t know what you want. Also, right now the state of transition in Hungary is awful: gender marker and name changes are on hold indefinitely, and the surgeons do such shitty work that the closest doctor people recommended to me is in Serbia.

I used to go to a psychologist for depression and anxiety, but it didn’t really worked out, so I stopped going and never looked for another one. Lately I’ve been feeling the depression less often, but the anxiety is as intense as ever, so that’s definitely a sign I shouldn’t have stopped looking. Since I also need a professional to talk about transition and “diagnose” me as trans, that’s another reason why I should look into finding a good one, which… I have no idea if it’s possible in my city or not, and I certainly can’t afford to travel to another city, so that will be fun. I’m also worried that this cis doctor will not find me “trans enough” because I don’t fit a binary / traditional view of masculinity.

I have also been meaning to start exercising to be healthier, but I never did, because hahahahaha no. However, several other trans people said that building muscle (especially in my back) would be a good way to look more masculine, and it might help with my chest dysphoria as well, so that’s another thing I’ll be looking into.

SUMMER CHECKLIST:

  • Study French (I need a certificate for my degree)
  • Do research for my thesis + try to put together an outline and a bibliography (I’m writing it on Peter Darling by Austin Chant. Yes, really.)
  • Put actual effort into finding work instead of waiting for opportunities to come my way (because I seriously need money for like, everything else on this list. I’m itching to finally find a proper full-time job, but I can’t do that next to university, so at least for another year)
  • Go swimming regularly OR go to a gym regularly
  • Try to find a psychologist that doesn’t suck and I can afford
  • DO NOT buy more than two books a month, seriously, holy shit* (I’d say no books, but I’m trying to be at least a little bit realistic here)

*Exceptions are allowed for books that are less than 2 dollars, and pre-orders placed before writing this post.

SHOPPING LIST:

  • New bedsheets that aren’t pink
  • Masculine or neutral clothes, probably from thrift shops (because it’s cheaper it’s probably less obvious that I’m in the men’s section on my own)
  • Sports bras, that I have been looking for and they are incredibly difficult to find damnit
  • Preferably a binder
  • Sweaters for fall/winter
  • A one-piece swimsuit would be nice
  • I kind of need a new bag that’s big enough to fit my folders because this one is about to fall apart
  • Pattern and yarn for that hippocampi I want my mother to crochet
  • Masculine deodorant? (this will be difficult to pull of and explain to my family, but hey)
  • That “Do You Have a Geiger Counter?” from Redbubble. Possibly the Nick Valentine one as well.

READING CHECKLIST:

  • Continue filling the Around the Year in 52 Books list in order (one book a week)
  • Participate in all the Devour Your TBR monthly challenges with at least a few books (Jazzy June, Sci-fi July and Avid August)
  • Do (my best on) the Goodreads Summer Reading Challenge
  • + Make progress on my other yearly challenges, but I’ll have plenty of time for that in the fall/winter too.

1558392495-1558392495_goodreads_misc_page-0001

That’s it! Unless I forgot something that I will edit in later.

What are you all doing for the summer?

~ Alexa

Wrap-up

April 2019 Wrap-Up + State of the ARC

April was an okay month, but I somehow didn’t read any books that really blew me away. Most of my reads were 3-4 stars, with a couple being 4.5, but I barely gave out any 5 stars this month.

EMOJI STATISTICS

🌍 Around the Year in 52 Books: 4
🍬 Popsugar Reading Challenge: 0
🧚 Cornerfolds Retelling Challenge: 2
🏮Year of the Asian Challenge: 0

🐇 #ContemporApril: 2
🦉 OWLs 2019: 12

🦊 Total: 26

All books read here.

STATE OF THE ARC

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies).

State of the ARC has a Goodreads groups ARCs Anonymous. Join it here.

🦄 Review copies read: 5

🐇Review copies remaining: 12

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POSTS ON THE BLOG THIS MONTH

READING HIGHLIGHTS

🏳️‍🌈 LGBTQAI+ representation
💐 POC/Indigenous representation
🌱 Disabled or Mental Health representation
✡️ Jewish representation

🏳️‍🌈💐 Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy: A sci-fi retelling of the King Arthur myths where King Arthur is a queer teenage girl, and pretty much everyone else in the cast is queer as well. This is supposed to be a duology, and I’m really looking forward to the sequel. Still, I had some issues and I think this would have worked better as NA than YA.

🏳️‍🌈🌱✡️ Play It Again by Aidan Wayne: Nonbinary author, blind Jewish bisexual MC & homoromantic asexual MC with anxiety. This is a sweet, relatively short romance with a long-distance relationship and learning how to be a YouTube sensation.

🏳️‍🌈 Chimes at Midnight, The Winter Long & A Red-Rose Chain by Seanan McGuire : I still adore the October Daye series, even if it’s really bad for my nerves. I also love that most of the prominent side characters are queer, although my favourite was still only confirmed in short stories and not in the main books, which I really hope changes soon.

🏳️‍🌈Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk: Another nonbinary author, with a historical paranormal romance that has witches and cat shifters. Somehow, my obsession with Toby Daye came with an obsession with both faeries and cat shifters, so I’m looking for more stories like this, and this one was pretty good.

🏳️‍🌈 The Love Song of Sawyer Bell by Avon Gale: F/F love story with two musicians, with bi and ace side characters. I really enjoyed this one.

Ólomerdő by Csilla Kleinheincz: A Hungarian fantasy book with fae, because apparently I’m having a fae phase at the moment. I had some issues with the ending, but I rarely read Hungarian fantasy so this was pretty good compared to what I expected.

NEW BOOKS THIS MONTH

Review copies

Bought

 

Last month, I got way too many ARCs and only bought one book – this month, it’s the other way around. Only two ARCs accepted, and I have already read both of them.

I did buy five books, but three of those were used and cost as much together as one new book separately, and the Seanan McGuire books were Easter gifts, so my father paid for them. I’m excited about all five of these, so I might get to them during Moody May!

VIDEOGAME UPDATE

The plan was to play all the Assassin’s Creed games I own in order, to understand the modern story better, but… yeah, that didn’t happen. I was really struggling with the first game, and when I realised that I was just mindlessly doing the quests and not paying much attention to the story anyway, I decided to skip it. Maybe I’ll return one day, but the second game is already much more interesting.

I also did one chapter of The Longest Journey, but I’m still not enjoying it much. I have this thing where I play new games in a series, love them, and then try to play the older ones and regret it very soon. I have the same problem with The Witcher and Fallout as well.

I’ve also played some of AC: Rogue, and grabbed AC: Unity while it was free, although unfortunately the latter lags too much to be enjoyable.

~

How was your reading month? Tell me about the best or worst books you read!

~ Alexa

Wrap-up

OWLs 2019 Wrap-Up

I managed to finish my OWLs a few days ago, and I am finally making a separate wrap-up post about it, before the monthly wrap-up in a few days.

It was a funny coincidence that I did my OWLs in April both in BookRoast’s reading challenge, and in the Hogwarts Mystery game, so I’m going to be sharing my results for both!

First, Hogwarts Mystery:

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I did pretty well, with perfect grades in everything except two subjects! And one of those was history of magic, where I expected a much lower score.

As for the reading challenge, I was aiming for the Curse Breaker career:

curse breaker

But I managed to complete all 12 prompts, so technically I can go for anything else if I change my mind based on the NEWT prompts.

Ancient Runes – A retelling: The Gospel of Loki by Joanne Harris
Arithmancy – A work with multiple authors: New Suns edited by Nisi Shawl
Astronomy – Star in the title: A Walk Between Stars by Tyler R. Parsons
Care of Magical Creatures – Land animal on the cover: Hexbreaker by Jordan L. Hawk
Charms – An adult work: A Small Country About to Vanish by Victoria Avilan
Defense Against the Dark Arts – Title starting with R: Red Dove, Listen to the Wind by Sonia Antaki
Divination – Set in the future: Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta & Cori McCarthy
Herbology – Plant on the cover: Full of Briars by Seanan McGuire
History of magic – Published 10 years ago: Ólomerdő by Csilla Kleinheincz
Muggle Studies – A contemporary book: Play It Again by Aidan Wayne
Potions – A sequel: Chimes at Midnight by Seanan McGuire
Transfiguration – Red cover: Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward

~ Alexa

Reviews

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell: Awesome Bi Rep and Musicians

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell (Tour Dates Book 1)Title: The Love Song of Sawyer Bell
Author(s): Avon Gale
Series: Tour Dates #1
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 256
Published:
(originally) September 23rd 2017 (re-published) July 8th 2019 by Carina Press
LGBTQAI+: main F/F relationship between bi and lesbian main characters, bi side character, ace side character

Indie rocker Victoria “Vix” Vincent knows a good thing when she hears it. The moment Sawyer Bell picks up her fiddle, magic happens. Beautiful and wildly talented, Sawyer is the perfect match for Vix’s band—and, just maybe, for Vix. The dynamic in any group is a delicate thing, but with Sawyer and Vix thrown together on tour, it’s not long before the line between bandmates and lovers gets a bit blurry.

The indie rock life is not what Sawyer ever saw for herself. She worked hard to get where she is—in her second year of Julliard, with a bright future in classical music. But instead of spending her summer working and rehearsing, she’s on tour with her secret high school crush. And even though it was only supposed to be temporary, Sawyer feels like she’s finally found a place she belongs.

This summer with Vix has been like a dream. But every tour must come to an end, and when Julliard comes calling, Sawyer will need to make a choice: continue on the path she’s chosen, or take a leap of faith and follow her heart.

4.5 stars

Yes, I know I’m super late to this party, but the book is getting re-released so it counts, okay?

The Love Song of Sawyer Bell is a wonderful F/F New Adult romance between two girls who just really love music. Although Vix has hookups and I know some people might find this bad rep, but it is made clear on several occasions that this is not because of her bisexuality. Personally, I loved the bi rep, and I especially loved that while there were some ignorant comments, they were all addressed and dealt with.

Meanwhile, Sawyer is just realising that she is a lesbian, while also figuring out that her prestigious, super competitive school is not making her happy. This was so important and nice to see, because often what you dream of and really want to achieve can turn out to be bad for you as well. Just like Sawyer, you need to recognise it and walk away.

Vix and Sawyer go from hooking up to falling in love. The book has a lot of sex scenes, but even as a sex-repulsed person I wasn’t as bothered as I usually am, because the sex scenes were full of consent, dialogue, jokes, and just generally felt like two real people who really like each other wanting to please the other.

There was also a side friendship between a bi girl and a bi guy, which is one of my favourite dynamics and I really need more of it. If you have any books like this, recommend them in the comments, please!

My only complaints are that 1) there was a brief comment where Sawyer is worried that if Vix can’t get her off then she is “defective”, which sounded pretty anti-ace to me, 2) while Sawyer’s jealousy is addressed, I felt like it wasn’t REALLY addressed that biphobia contributed to it. Like, it was kind of brought up but I still found it lacking?

Still, there was a lot of addressing of stereotypes, communication and consent, and despite some arguments this is still mainly a lighthearted and music-filled romance.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Gender Queer: The Memoir Teen-Me Needed

Gender Queer: A MemoirTitle: Gender Queer: A Memoir
Author(s): Maia Kobabe
Series: 
Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir, Graphic Novel
Pages: 240
Published: 
May 28th 2019 by Lion Forge
LGBTQAI+: memoir by a genderqueer bi/asexual author

I received a copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In 2014, Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, thought that a comic of reading statistics would be the last autobiographical comic e would ever write. At the time, it was the only thing e felt comfortable with strangers knowing about em. Now, Gender Queer is here. Maia’s intensely cathartic autobiography charts eir journey of self-identity, which includes the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, grappling with how to come out to family and society, bonding with friends over erotic gay fanfiction, and facing the trauma and fundamental violation of pap smears. Started as a way to explain to eir family what it means to be nonbinary and asexual, Gender Queer is more than a personal story: it is a useful and touching guide on gender identity–what it means and how to think about it–for advocates, friends, and humans everywhere.

5 hundred stars

While reading this graphic novel, my most common thought was “holy shit”, usually paired with “that’s me!”. It was like the author reached into my brain to pluck out my thoughts, memories and experiences, and turned them into drawings. Only, of course, e was doing the same with eir own memories – which happened to be hauntingly similar to mine. I firmly believe that if I had read this book before I was 18, I would have found my identity much sooner.

120Gender Queer is a memoir that tells a story of a person growing up questioning both eir sexuality and gender. It addresses many issues that are described in the blurb, such as coming out to friends and family, feeling ignorant around your peers who seem to have more experience than you, relationships and being ready to be in them, listening to David Bowie, wanting to have life experiences as research for fanfiction, feelings about menstruation, having children, and much else.

Maia tells the story of eir childhood with beautiful illustrations, and honest even about the uncomfortable truths. Like most teens, Maia also used to be ignorant about some issues that e now knows better about, such as the dangers of using ace bandages. The only thing I would have appreciated more critical thinking on is the erotic gay shipping that is often used to fetishize gay men. There are several scenes where Maia and eir friends write fanfiction, including about real people, and mention several popular gay ships – and again, I don’t judge em and eir friends for these, but I still would have appreciated a couple of sentences about this shipping can be toxic as well as validating.

179

But really, what really struck me was how much I related to these experiences. Some scenes, like realising other girls shave their legs and I don’t, not being able to describe what haircut you want and then hating it, having a conversation with a mother about having children, wearing pants to graduation, and even playing a boy character in drama class brought up memories that happened to me, occasionally ones that I haven’t thought of or related to my gender journey.

Overall, Gender Queer is a beautifully written and drawn, honest account of a genderqueer bi/asexual person’s life. It’s special to me because I related to it so much, but I think anyone can enjoy it, and many queer people regardless of identity can find relatable moments in it. (There were also a lot of aro-relatable moments, although I’m not sure if the author identifies as aromantic as well or not.)

  • “It was everyone else being silly, not me.”
  • “This seed put out many leaves, but I didn’t have the language to identify the plant.”
  • “Friendship is NINE THOUSAND TIMES better than romance!”
  • “I’d be constantly resenting my kid for taking up all my time. I’m way too selfish for parenting.”
  • “I wish I didn’t fear that my identity is too political for a classroom.”

59

~ Alexa

Reviews

The Queer International Romance We Deserve: Red, White & Royal Blue

Red, White & Royal BlueTitle: Red, White & Royal Blue
Author(s): Casey McQuiston
Series: 
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 432
Published: 
May 14th 2019 by St. Martin’s Griffin
LGBTQAI+: bisexual & gay male leads; bi, gay, trans and pansexual side characters
Other representation: biracial Mexican/white lead, Latino side characters

I received an ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him.

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?

5 (thousand) stars

There was so much goodness in this book, I barely know where to start.

Red, White & Royal Blue is written from the perspective of Alex, the biracial son of the first female president of the United States. His parents are divorced, but his Mexican father is still a supportive presence in his life. Along with his older sister and their bisexual friend Nora, they form the White House Trio. And of course, there’s Prince Henry – grandson of the Queen of England, who has been Alex’s rival for years, and he’s all boring and white and not handsome or cute, not at all, not even a little bit.

Henry and Alex go from rivals to forced friends to real friends to secret lovers, separated by an ocean, as well as the expectations of their families and their entire countries. Through long-distance calls, pop culture references, quotes from love letters by historical figures and a painting of Alexander Hamilton, this romance is one history will remember.

Interwoven with the romance, there is also heavy criticism of British imperialism, corrupt and predatory politicans, racism and homophobia in history, the price of trying to keep a traditional image, and more. Henry and Alex are surrounded by families and friends who love their respective countries and wish to see them flourish, but without ignoring the bigotry in their past and present.

Also: give me more New Adult fiction with 20-something protagonists!

In short, this book is easily one of my favourite reads this year.

~ Alexa