Miscellaneous

BOOK TAG |Anonymous Bookaholics

Hello yes I’m stealing this tag I saw on Avery‘s blog because I love book tags.

WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT BUYING NEW BOOKS?

Having… new books to read? I’m not really sure. It certainly gives a temporary burst of happiness because I feel like I treated myself to something nice. Buying physical books and touching the new covers and putting them on my shelves on display is great, but also I mostly buy ebooks.

HOW OFTEN DO YOU BUY NEW BOOKS?

I think I usually buy at least one book a month, but most of these are ebooks that are either on sale or very cheap, between 1-5 dollars. I can’t really afford to spend more than that on books, but I like to buy a physical book at least once every 2-4 months. It also depends on how much money I earn, which is pretty irregular (but honestly I’m usually broke).

Odakint ​sötétebbBOOKSTORE OR ONLINE BOOK SHOPPING – WHICH DO YOU PREFER?

Online shopping, for multiple reasons. Many English books I’m interested in haven’t been/won’t ever be translated into Hungarian, and I generally prefer to read books in English if they were originally written in English. When I go into bookstores here at home, I usually try to look for Hungarian authors – or maybe books by foreign authors that I’ve never heard of. That’s how I found the book I’m currently reading, which is a sort of dark/weird sci-fi by a Hungarian author.

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE BOOKSHOP?

We used to have a bookstore line here called Alexandra, which is my name, so that was my favourite by default. (I even got a little poetry/quote book from them on my name day once.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist anymore. We have two large bookstores currently, but my preference between them is pretty much “whichever’s closest”.

DO YOU PRE-ORDER BOOKS?

I very, very rarely do, which is why it’s such a miracle that I pre-ordered TWO books this month. Maybe I should do it more often, mostly because by the time the book actually arrives I’ll probably forget about it, so it’s a nice present from past-me. That being said, Book Depository (where I usually order from) takes like 3 weeks to ship so I wouldn’t get them by release date anyway.

DO YOU HAVE A MONTHLY BOOK BUYING LIMIT?

I don’t really have a set monthly limit, but if I bought several books recently then I tell myself not to buy any more for a while. (And then usually break that promise. Not always thought.)

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy (Montague Siblings, #2)HOW BIG IS YOUR WISHLIST?

My Goodreads TBR is consistently between 900-1000 books, but let’s face it, I’ll probably never buy all or even half of those books. My Book Depository and Amazon wishlist have a couple hundred titles, but even those are unlikely – mostly, they are just long so I have many to choose from.

WHICH THREE BOOKS FROM YOUR WISHLIST DO YOU WISH TO OWN NOW?

It doesn’t matter because I have so many books to read that I wouldn’t get to them anytime soon tbh. But I wish The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy was out already, and I wish I could actually afford Beneath a Sugar Sky. Also, A Prince on Paper, but that one doesn’t even have a cover yet.

~ Alexa

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Reviews

Sadie: A Brutal Read About Abused Children

SadieTitle: Sadie
Author(s): Courtney Summers
Series: 
Genre: Mystery, Young Adult
Published: September 4th 2018 by St. Martin’s Press
LGBTQAI+: unspecified sapphic MC and mlm MC
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange from an honest review.

A missing girl on a journey of revenge and a Serial-like podcast following the clues she’s left behind.

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie’s story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it’s too late.

Courtney Summers has written the breakout book of her career. Sadie is propulsive and harrowing and will keep you riveted until the last page.

tw: pedophilia, child sexual abuse, drug addiction, murder

rating: 4 stars

You know a book is going to be heavy when it starts with a thirteen-year-old getting murdered, but that doesn’t even begin to describe Sadie.

I don’t expect it to bring her back. It won’t bring her back.
It’s not about finding peace. There will never be peace.

After her little sister, Mattie is murdered, all that keeps Sadie alive is the need to find Mattie’s killer and kill him herself. She knows who she’s looking for, but her search for him unearths more secrets than anyone planned for – not only about Sadie and her sister and the man, but other girls, other kids and other monsters as well.

Except it’s not in my head, it’s in my heart, and she’s the same woman who told me if you’re going to follow anything, it might as well be that.

Meanwhile, a man called West McCray follows Sadie’s route in his podcast The Girls, hoping to catch up to her. He interviews Sadie’s family, and everyone she met on the way.

This book is a truly mystery: with the alternating POVs between Sadie and the podcast, we see different sides to every character, hear different sides to every story. We truly learn that people can be biased narrators, and sometimes the stories conflict, or we find out later that something we learned earlier wasn’t true at all – either because somebody lied, or simply because somebody assumed wrong.

I don’t like to treat someone’s sexuality as a spoiler, so I’m not going to put a spoiler tag here, but it was nice to find out that while there isn’t much focus on it, neither of the main characters are straight. West mentions a husband at one point, while Sadie implies she can be interested in people regardless of gender.

Sadie was definitely a heavy read, but also I couldn’t put it down. The short chapters switching between the podcast and Sadie’s own POV really made it easy to just fly through it, and when I had to go out on an errand, I kept waiting to get back home so I could read more. It’s almost 400 pages, but it felt like 200 at most – although that might have been because of the podcast format.

And the ending – well, let me just say that West speaks for all of us in those last lines.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Learning Curves: A Fluffy, No-Drama F/F Novella with Ace, Pan, Lesbian and ADHD Rep

Learning CurvesTitle: Learning Curves
Author(s): Ceillie Simkiss
Series: 
Genre: LGBTQAI+ Romance, Contemporary
Published: August 16th 2018
Representation: Puerto Rican lesbian MC / white panromantic asexual MC with ADHD
This review first appeared on The Lesbrary on 2018.08.12.

Elena Mendez has always been career-first; with only two semesters of law school to go, her dream of working as a family lawyer for children is finally within reach. She can’t afford distractions. She doesn’t have time for love.

And she has no idea how much her life will change, the day she lends her notes to Cora McLaughlin.

A freelance writer and MBA student, Cora is just as career-driven as Elena. But over weeks in the library together, they discover that as strong as they are apart, they’re stronger together. Through snowstorms and stolen moments, through loneliness and companionship, the two learn they can weather anything as long as they have each other–even a surprise visit from Elena’s family.

From solitude to sweetness, there’s nothing like falling in love. College may be strict…but when it comes to love, Cora and Elena are ahead of the learning curve.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Learning Curves is a 70-page novella with little conflict and a fluffy love story between two women at college. One of them is a Puerto Rican lesbian studying family law, and the other one is a white panromantic asexual woman with ADHD. You shouldn’t expect a huge epic plot: Learning Curves is more about everyday life, college, celebrating Christmas, a huge, loving Puerto Rican family, and two women falling in love.

I admit that I easily get bored if I’m reading a longer book with so little plot, but 70 pages was just the perfect amount to still hold my attention and let me enjoy all the little moments. I loved how overly supportive Elena’s mother was, and I loved the two women cooking and baking together, especially Puerto Rican dishes.

There were so many of these little things that I loved. Cora is bookish and loves reading about “magic, dragons and queer people”. Both women are very casual about mentioning their queer identity, and while she doesn’t elaborate, Cora also mentions how even the community itself can be hostile towards certain identities. There was also a throwaway mention of cocky-gate (controversy over one author literally trying to trademark the word “cocky” in romance novel titles), which made me laugh, although it might have been strange to people who didn’t know what it was referring to.

I did have a couple of issues, or rather some things that I found strange but weren’t necessarily bad. This novella felt like it was written from an outsider’s perspective, which isn’t automatically a problem, but I really would have appreciated more insight into the thoughts and feelings of Elena and Cora, or at least one of them. I also felt like the blurb was very misleading: while the two women go to college and meet at one of the classes they have in common, there is really not much focus on their careers, and basically no mention of either of them not having time for love like the blurb says. Moreover, I sometimes found the dialogue strange or clunky. And finally, this is a minor pet peeve, but there were a few acronyms that were never really explained and as a non-US person whose first language isn’t English, I still have genuinely no clue what they are. I could sort of guess from context, but I generally don’t want to be Googling acronyms while reading a book.

I was originally going to rate this 4 stars, but the ace rep and the way it was handled in the relationship pushed it up. I loved that Elena immediately accepted both that Cora is asexual and that she doesn’t want sex, and it wasn’t an issue for a single moment. It might not be the most “realistic”, but it was really nice to finally read a relationship between an asexual and an allosexual person where the allosexual person is the one who agrees not to have sex instead of the asexual person indulging their partner. Another thing I see a lot is that while the non-ace person agrees not to have sex, they still talk about how this is a huge sacrifice for them, which I find really guilt-trippy, but this absolutely wasn’t the case here.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for this author’s works in the future.

~ Alexa

Readathon/Bingo · Wrap-up

Summer TBR Wipeout Wrap-up + NEWTs Readathon Update

The Summer TBR Wipeout is already over, which is a little sad, since it’s not even the middle of August. You can see my previous posts for this challenge here:

You can see from my July wrap-up that I managed to read quite a lot of books, especially graphic novels. I also got my “owned and unread” shelf on Goodreads down below 400, which is a huge accomplishment, so I’m proud of that.

We’re only 10 days into August, but my August reading has been focusing on the NEWTs readathon. The NEWTs are a continuation of the OWLs, which I did last month:

I didn’t post a separate NEWTs TBR since I was kind of winging it, but let’s take a look at what subjects I completed so far in August.

ASTRONOMY

38469737

Acceptable: Stars on the cover
Ignite the Stars by Maura Milan: 4

CARE OF MAGICAL CREATURES

Acceptable: Animal on the cover
The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden: 5

Exceeded Expectations: A book under 160 pages
Take Me Home by Lorelie Brown: 2

Outstanding: Includes dragons
The Sun Dragon by Annabelle Jay: 4

CHARMS

33080942

Acceptable: A book with magic in it
WARRIOR: a collection of short stories by multiple authors: 4

DEFENSE AGAINST THE DARK ARTS

 

Acceptable: Last book in a series
Exit Strategy by Martha Wells: 5

Exceeded Expectations: A foiled book
Dealing with Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede: 4

HERBOLOGY

Acceptable: A book with a green cover
Not Her Daughter by Rea Frey: 4

Exceeded Expectations: A book with illustrations
Poe Dameron Vol. 2, The Gathering Storm by Charles Soule: 4

Outstanding: Light, air, sun or water in the title
Still Waters by Alex Gabriel: 4

POTIONS

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Acceptable: Has a colour in the title
Poe Dameron Vol. 1, Black Squadron by Charles Soule

TRANSFIGURATION

Acceptable: A book with a grey cover
Rogue Protocol by Martha Wells

Exceeded Expectations: A new-to-you author
Sadie by Courtney Summers

~

So, that’s how I’m doing. Not bad for the first 10 days of August, but there’s still a looong way to go if I want to complete all the subjects… which might not be possible actually.

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous

BOOK TAG | Mulan Book Tag

Okay look I wasn’t tagged in this but I love Mulan and I love book tags. I saw this on Scorpio Book Dreams and it was created by Kirsty and the Cat Read.

Reflection – A book cover that doesn’t accurately reflect what the book is about.

The Deep EndWhen I picked up The Deep End, I knew that it had a lesbian protagonist with a wife, and I sort of knew from the blurb that it’s going to be a mystery around the main character’s missing sister. But hey, the cover has a nice blue sky and a pretty woman in an orange blouse, so surely it can’t be that bad, right? Probably a romantic novel mixed with some mystery. I also expected the main character to be younger, maybe in her 20s or early 30s, although I admit her age is difficult to tell on the cover without her face.

Well, I was wrong. While the main character is married, this is not a romance at all, and the mystery went deeper and became more and more twisted as the book went on. In the end, the cover didn’t really influence my enjoyment of the book, but it definitely made me expect a different kind of story. That being said, I’m not sure what cover would have been more accurate.

A Duke by Default (Reluctant Royals #2)Mushu – A character with a lot to prove.

Portia in A Duke by Default certainly has a lot to prove: not only to her parents and family, but to herself as well. She is nearly 30, and yet she has no stable career as she moves from one exciting project to the next. Her parents don’t take her passions seriously and would rather she stayed working at the family company, but they don’t truly trust her enough to think she can do it. They contribute to Portia’s low self-esteem and make her doubt herself and constantly compare herself to her sister.

I loved this book, but I admit that the parental pressure was sometimes difficult to read about. Still, Portia proved just how amazing and extraordinary she is.

The Poppy WarI’ll Make a Man Out of You – A character who develops a lot, or a book with some kick-ass training scenes.

When I read this prompt and started hearing the song in my head, the book I immediately connected it to was The Poppy War. While the Poppy War is historical fantasy, it is based on real historical conflicts in Asia, specifically the second Sino-Japanese War and the Rape of Nanking. It also takes place first at a school where they train soldiers, and later in a group of special soldiers with magical abilities. Rin has to train herself and her skills in both group, and she goes through a lot of development during the years described in the book, so The Poppy War has both a character with development and kick-ass training scenes.

I loved the Poppy War, but you must be aware before you pick it up that it’s a brutal novel that deals with genocide, war, rape, drug addiction and other topics. The main character might be a teenager, but it is far from a YA novel.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)A Girl Worth Fighting For – A ship you will defend until your last breath.

Somehow, my first thought for this prompt was Kaz and Inej, which is interesting, because… I don’t really ship Kaz and Inej romantically? I adore them both as separate characters, and I love their dynamic, but I prefer to see it as a strong platonic relationship and have Inej and Nina be in a romantic relationship instead. However, this doesn’t change the fact that they are important to each other and depend on each other, and if the end of the first book is any indication, there will indeed be a lot of fighting for this girl in the second book.

Shout out to Portia and Tavish from A Duke by Default, because I’d die for that ship but I already mentioned them at another prompt. + Every ship in Chameleon Moon, including Evelyn/Danae/Rose, and everyone Regan is dating, although there are no girls involved in the second one.

Huns – A book/character that gave you the creeps.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?The woman that raised Rin in The Poppy War, for sure. I can’t remember her name, but she was awful. The king in The Seafarer’s Kiss is also awful, but somehow he didn’t truly scare me or “gave me the creeps”, so he’s not the best pick for this prompt.

This is a little different, because I’m picking a nonfiction book, but Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? already gave me the creeps at the title. Back in the 1980s, Jeanette Winterson wrote a novel, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit. The main character in Oranges is called Jeanette and a lot of her life is based on the author’s true life as growing up as a lesbian in a religious home, but much of it is still fiction. In Why Be Happy, a truly nonfiction novel, the author explains why she chose to write that first story as fiction, and that explanation definitely made me shiver. And in the end, isn’t reality the most scary thing?

And I suppose that is the saddest thing for me, thinking about the cover version that is Oranges, is that I wrote a story I could live with. The other one was too painful. I could not survive it.

I wrote her in because I couldn’t bear to leave her out. There was no Elsie. There was no one like Elsie. Things were much lonelier than that.

Tone of Voice (Xandri Corelel Book 2)Mulan – Your favourite bad-ass female protagonist.

Wait, hold on. What do you mean I’m supposed to pick just one?

  • Evelyn, Rose and Danae, especially Danae when she punched a tank
  • Esofi and Adale both, especially Esofi when she fought a duel in a dress
  • Xandri, pretty much always, but somehow I’m thinking of the first contact scene with the Psittacans, and every time she makes first contact
  • Portia, also pretty much always – she’s a multitasking queen that I aspire to be like
  • Eelyn, because I loved Sky in the Deep and just can’t bear to leave her out

tagging: nobody at the moment, but feel free to do it and tag me in it, I’d love to see your answers!

~ Alexa

Reviews

Cold Like Snow: A Polyamorous Ghost Romance

Cold Like SnowTitle: Cold Like Snow
Author(s): Sita Bethel
Series: 
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Published: July 23rd 2018 by NineStar Press
LGBTQAI+: three gay male MCs in a polyamorous relationship
Other representation: 

I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange from an honest review.

When René moves into his new home, he didn’t expect it to come with roommates. Two handsome roommates, to be precise. Too bad they’re ghosts.

The fact that they’re dead doesn’t stop them from running their fingers through René’s hair or tackling him onto the bed. It’s not long before things escalate and René finds himself with two ghost lovers that treat him better than any living partner ever has.

However, they can’t eat, can’t go far from the house where they died, and their fingers feel like icicles against René’s skin. The longer René is with them, the more he can sense them, but nothing can reduce the chill of their bodies against his. Still, it might be worth the hypothermia.

rating: 3 stars

I’ve been meaning to read more stories with ghosts (mostly queer romances, but also non-romance stories), so when I saw Cold Like Snow had both ghosts and polyamory, I immediately knew I had to pick it up. The blurb was intriguing as well: after all, isn’t the best thing about ghost romances the little touches that you can’t be sure you really felt?

Cold Like Snow has an established gay couple who died together in their house, and when a third man moves in, they eventually begin a polyamorous relationship that starts purely physical, and turns into genuine feelings. I loved how René gradually saw and felt more of Bastion and Marcus, the ways they found to communicate, and I found some of their banter really funny.

I also loved that the main character, René has a best friend who appears a lot in the story. René and May are both in their thirties and have been friends for twenty years now. They go out drinking together, spend Christmas together because their families are either nonexistent or suck, and only refer to fuckboys as “Gregs”. I loved that they clearly had their little routines and friendship rituals.

My only issue is with the plot, and the issue is that… there isn’t any. That isn’t automatically a bad thing: character-driven novels are great, and as I said, I loved how the character/relationship arcs in this were handled. But sometimes it felt like I was just reading sex scene after sex scene, and honestly, even if I liked sex scenes (which I don’t) I feel like I’d still get tired after the fifth one in a row with some minimal character interaction between.

In short, I loved the concept and characters, but I felt like it was dragged out longer than necessary and just filled with sex scene after sex scene, which I don’t find engaging at all. Thus, 3 stars.

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous

BOOK TAG | The Book Blogger Test

I was actually tagged by both Avery and Louise, so I guess now I have to do it. (Love you both!)

THE RULES:

1) Thank the person who nominated you and add a link to their blog.
2) Answer the questions asked on this post.
3) Nominate and notify some peeps. 5 preferred.

1. What are your top 3 bookish pet peeves?

  • There’s this specific type of paper some books are made of that really irritates my fingers and I hate it, e.g. the paperback I have of Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher has it
  • Love triangles when you could have just polyamory (even worse if it involves cheating, double worse if it’s treated casually/like it’s no big deal)
  • All the main characters pairing up, e.g. there’s 6 mains and they form 3 couples (even worse if it’s all allocishet ships, but tbh it still annoys me if it has one queer couple, like in Six of Crows or The Mortal Instruments. let some people be single and happy! double worse if they all marry and have kids in the epilogue.)

Like Louise, I took this question to mean the smaller, “petty” things and not serious issues. I could talk about those as well, but not here and now.

2. Name a perfect reading spot:

Honestly? I read mostly ebooks on my laptop, and even when I read a physical book, I’m usually at my desk. I like reading outside if the weather is nice, but it’s difficult to find a spot that’s both comfortable, allows me to see the text, and the sun isn’t in my eyes.

The Host3. Give 3 reading confessions:

  • I once bought a second hardcover copy of The Host just because the dust jacket had the actors from the movie and I thought (still think) that they were hot. My mom wasn’t impressed.
  • Back when I was 8-10, either the 5th or 6th Harry Potter book was coming out, and I went to a midnight release with my mom and didn’t go to school the next day. I also openly told this to the journalist who wanted to interview me because I was one of the youngest there.
  • I don’t remember the plot of half the books I read because my memory is horrible. My Goodreads notes/quotes help sometimes.

4. When was the last time you cried during a book?

First one that comes to mind is the Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts, and it had to do with the Chimp dancing. If you read the book, you might understand.

5. Number of books on your bedside table?

I don’t have a bedside table, but my desk is near my bed I guess? Right now it has no books on it because I organised it the same day I’m writing this post, but before that it had the Warrior anthology by Ink & Locket Press. Again, I mostly read ebooks, but I actually read some physical books from my shelf lately… I just put them back already. (Note: my desk does have multiple textbooks, notebooks and two colouring books on it, but I didn’t count those for this question.)

6. Favorite reading snack?

No specific reading snacks. I drink a lot of water? I usually don’t eat while reading (anymore).

7. What are 3 books you’d recommend to anyone?

The Queen of IeflariaThis is tough. I love recommending Chameleon Moon (sequel: The Lifeline Signal) because I love the world, but I realise the number of characters and the pacing can put people off. I also tend to recommend The Queen of Ieflaria (F/F YA fantasy with princesses), because I absolutely loved it, but I know for a fact that some of my friends don’t read fantasy. I want to recommend Failure to Communicate (sequel: Tone of Voice) more often because it is a very underappreciated sci-fi book with an amazing #ownvoices autistic bisexual protag, loveable side characters, future polyamorous relationship, and many well-developed alien species.

Oh! Bonus pick because it’s not queer, but A Duke by Default has a Black heroine and an older, Scottish/Chilean love interest, and it’s one of the best romances I’ve ever read.

(Shout out to The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which I loved and would definitely always recommend, but so does everyone else so you’ve probably heard about it by now.)

8. Provide a picture of your bookshelf:

I have two! They’re twins. The one on the left has older books that I don’t really touch anymore (including compulsory reading for elementary school + some books that actually belong to my parents but I have more space). The one on the right has my more recent books, including two and a half books dedicated to English books. The queer books are mostly in one cluster. And yes, I do own the entire Harry Potter series twice – the Hungarian editions are on the left shelf and the English ones are on the right.

9. How much do books mean to you in 3 words?

Fun, Escapism, Validation. Many people talk about how reading or books changed their lives and I always feel awkward because I don’t feel it’s /that/ important – but it is definitely a hobby that I enjoy, and when things are tough, it’s great to pick up a book where queer people can live happily.

10. Biggest reading secret?

I had to look up what deckled edges are and also I don’t think I’ve ever seen them used. Hey, this is unfair, there was already a “confessions” question! I’m really not sure what else to say here. I could list a few popular/hyped books I was unimpressed by but I don’t want to spread negativity.

I tag: nobody at the moment, but if you do it, feel free to tag me so I can see it!

~ Alexa

Wrap-up

July 2018 Wrap-Up + State of the ARC! + Summer TBR Wipeout

Another summer month is over. This is almost my last month of freedom before I go back to uni + work and most likely will have much less time to read, so I’m trying to make the best of July and August to reduce my TBR while I can.

I did several reading challenges this month, including a graphic novel readathon. Since graphic novels are usually shorter and have more pictures than text, they are much quicker reads – and that’s how I ended up with over 30 books read in the first half of the month only.

🏳️‍🌈 = book has a LGBTQAI+ main character (30)
📚 = books that qualify for the backlist challenge we’re doing with Avery (11 – goal: 3, completed)
🌍 = Around the World in 52 Books on Goodreads (4)
👭 = Sapphic Book Club monthly read (0 – DNF, so technically failed)
🍬 = Candybook Land by Elaine Howlin (5)
☄️ = Sci-Fi July by Kathy (13 – personal goal: 10, completed)
💥 = Graphic Novel Readathon for Books and Tea Club (38 – personal goal: completed)
🦉 = OWL Exams Readathon by Book Roast (12 – personal goal: 12, completed)

As always, I’m linking up with Avalinah’s State of the ARC meme:

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.

And this time, due to the timing I am also linking up with The Candid Cover’s Summer TBR Wipeout instead of making a separate update post.

NetGalley

Edelweiss

Author

arcsjuly

Wait, what’s that?! I actually read some author ARCs?? And one for Edelweiss?! That basically never happens! But now I’m comfortably caught up on NetGalley, so I’ll try my best to read the author ones I still have left.

I put two new titles on my bingo chart, and I also listed a few upcoming ARCs I haven’t read that might fit the remaining squares. I hardly ever read nonfiction, but this bingo is for the rest of the year, so I’m sure I’ll find something on NetGalley before December.

arcs

And now for the books that weren’t review copies:

Favourite books this month (more details in the list above):

  • Gale: a queer sci-fi retelling of The Tempest by Shakespeare
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: historical fiction with a bisexual male lead, biracial male LI, and a sister who wants to be a doctor
  • Shattered Empire: all my favourite Star Wars characters in one graphic novel!
  • Gunnerkrigg Court series: fantasy graphic novel series in a very interesting school
  • A Duke by Default: a romance novel with a black protagonist and a grumpy older LI

Reviews on the blog this month:

Book tags:

Challenges:

Miscellaneous:

**

Next month: NEWT exams! This is a reading challenge that has 12 x 3 prompts, which is 36 total, sooo… it’s not likely that I’ll complete every one of them? It would technically be possible with a lot of graphic novel as the above shows, but I kind of read most graphic novels I own this month and several of the NEWT challenges have length requirements.

I’m aiming for 5 x 3 as a minimum, and we’ll see if I can complete any more of that.

Readathon/Bingo · Wrap-up

OWL Exams Wrap-up!

Related post:

The OWLs are exams that students in Hogwarts (in Harry Potter) take in their fifth year. Book Roast on YouTube came up with the amazing idea to turn these exams into a reading challenge. The original challenge took place in April, which I unfortunately failed – but since August is the month of the NEWTs, an even bigger reading challenge, I decided to complete the OWLs this month as preparation.

There are twelve subjects total, and thus, twelve OWL exams. The marks are the following:

  • Acceptable – Complete two subjects
  • Exceeded Expectations – Complete three subjects
  • Outstanding – Complete five subjects

In the end, I managed to complete all twelve challenges, but since I wasn’t sure I could do that, I picked my five favourites that I definitely wanted to complete.

ASTRONOMY – A Science Fiction book
Shattered Empire by Greg Rucka

CARE OF MAGICAL CREATURES – Magical creature in a book
The Backstagers Vol. 1 by James Tynion VI

CHARMS – A Fantasy book
The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

HERBOLOGY – Nature-related word in the title
For Whom The Roses Grow by Rebekah Blackmore

TRANSFIGURATION – Shapeshifting in a book
Not Your Villain by C.B. Lee

ANCIENT RUNES – A book with a symbol on the cover
The Dry Season by Cassidy Taylor

ARITHMANCY – A book with a number on the cover or in the title
Three Times as Deadly by Erin Wade

DEFENSE AGAINT THE DARK ARTS – Book with a secret society or club
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

DIVINATION – A book with a prophecy
The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan

HISTORY OF MAGIC – A historical fiction book
Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen

MUGGLE STUDIES – A nonfiction book
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson

POTIONS – A book about or with alchemy
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

~

See you next month with the NEWTs! I have a tentative TBR, but honestly there are so many prompts and many books that fit several categories, so I don’t want to post it. I’m just going to wing it and post regular updates as I go through the subjects!

~ Alexa

Reviews

Secondhand Origin Stories: The Queer Superhero Team We Deserve

Secondhand Origin Stories (Second Sentinels Book 1)Title: Secondhand Origin Stories
Author(s): Lee Blauersouth
Series: Second Sentinels #1
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction/Superheroes
Published: March 15th 2018
LGBTQAI+: 1) nonbinary bisexual MC, xe/xyr pronouns, 2) asexual Deaf cis guy MC, 3) two sapphic girl MCs, one of them a dark-skinned Black girl
Other representation:
multiple Deaf/HoH side characters
I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Opal has been planning to go to Chicago and join the Midwest’s superhero team, the Sentinels, since she was a little kid. That dream took on a more urgent tone when her superpowered dad was unjustly arrested for protecting a neighbor from an abusive situation. Now, she wants to be a superhero not only to protect people, but to get a platform to tell the world about the injustices of the Altered Persons Bureau, the government agency for everything relating to superpowers.

But just after Opal’s high school graduation, a supervillain with a jet and unclear motives attacks the downtown home of the Sentinels, and when Opal arrives, she finds a family on the brink of breaking apart. She meets a boy who’s been developing secret (and illegal) brain-altering nanites right under the Sentinel’s noses, another teenage superhero-hopeful who looks suspiciously like a long-dead supervillain, and the completely un-superpowered daughter of the Sentinels’ leader. Can four teens on the fringes of the superhero world handle the corruption, danger, and family secrets they’ve unearthed?

rating: 4 stars

(Please check the specific sections for warnings, especially the nonbinary and Deaf sections.)

Secondhand Origin Stories is about the children of famous superheroes who want to help people as well – and as the title says, this is truly an origin story, where the “real” superhero fights only really happen towards the end. It is a very character-focused novel about both blood and adopted/found family, about growing up in the shadow of your famous parents, and even about the unrightful imprisonment of many Black people.

The characters and the plot: I loved the four main characters in this one, although their dynamic was sometimes a little strange. Jamie, Issac and Yael are friends and siblings who grew up together in the same family, while Opal comes into their world as an outsider. And yet, almost from the beginning they are ready to fight for each other and for the truth. Opal fights for her father who was wrongly imprisoned, and the other three fight with and for their superhero family and the secrets it hides. I loved Yael’s struggle with the identities of xyr birth parents, and I’m sure it will be an important plot point in the rest of the series as well.

This book was emotional, funny, with an all-queer main cast, and I think it handled issues and questions about family nicely. Once I really got into the plot, I ended up loving it. There is also one character that I would love to squee about but I can’t really do it without spoilers, so let me just say this: I LOVE MARTIN SO MUCH.

The nonbinary representation: … So why did I almost decide to abandon it less than halfway in? Because the beginning of the novel was close to torture as a nonbinary reader. One of the characters, Yael is nonbinary and uses xe/xyr pronouns in xyr own POV, but xe isn’t out to anyone other than Jamie and Issac at first, which leads to unintentional misgendering from xyr older family members – and, most importantly, constant misgendering from another POV character, Opal. It’s not really Opal’s fault because she doesn’t know better, but she assumes Yael’s gender (twice, both wrongly), and keeps referring to Yael as “she” in her internal narration. As a nonbinary person who passes as a cis girl, every little “she” by Opal was like another knife wound. It was horrible to read. I would like to say that the author is nonbinary, so I’m sure they have a reason for writing the book this way, but for me, it almost made me put it down. There is also a pretty ugly comment from a bigoted uncle later on.

The asexual representation: I don’t have much to say about Issac being asexual, mostly because it’s never mentioned outside the coming out scene. All I can say is that I /did/ like how the coming out scene was written, and I liked how Issac was defiant and prepared for the others to not think him queer enough, which is unfortunately a sad reality I face as an asexual person. I wish his identity was actually mentioned outside this one scene, but I realise you can only fit so much in one book, so I hope for more of this in the sequel.

The sapphic characters: Okay, so I’m not actually sure what the identities of the two girls are. I think Opal is a lesbian, but the word isn’t used for her. In her coming out scene, Jamie says something along the lines of “I’m not completely straight”, which might imply that she’s bi/pan and not exclusively attracted to girls, but it also might be downplaying it because she’s still questioning.

The Deaf main character: I would like to state that I am not Deaf, so I’m not going to make a judgment of the following, I’m just stating facts so potential readers can be prepared. One of the main characters loses their hearing early on, and trying to “fix” this is a big plot point for the rest of the book. In the end, this character seems to give up on “fixing” themself… for now. It is implied that they might try again in the far future. Also, there are many, many comments that talk about “fixing” and “being normal again”. (There are also positive aspects, especially later on, for example the siblings immediately making steps to learn ASL to make this character more comfortable.)

Overall, I loved this book, although I really wish that the beginning with Yael being closeted would have been handled differently, because it was really hurtful to read. Still, once the correct pronouns were used, I didn’t really have any other issues and just enjoyed the plot and the characters.

~ Alexa