Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/26/22) – Follow Your Arrow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever read a book because of one aspect people have been telling you about? That was me about Follow Your Arrow—I don’t know if I would have picked it up if not for several people telling me how good the bi rep was. And you know how much of a sucker I am for good bi rep. So I picked it up—and yes, the bi rep and discussions around biphobia were great, but the rest of the story I found to be a little lacking.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Follow Your Arrow – Jessica Verdi

CeCe Ross is an influencer with nearly a million followers. Her relationship with her girlfriend of two years, Silvie, has gained an extensive following, with thousands of fawning followers making #Cevie all the rage. But when she and Silvie break up, her life is turned upside-down—both on and offline. To make matters more complicated, she’s met Josh, a musician who has no idea about her online following. Will she be able to reckon with the storm she’s stirred up online—and keep her secret from Josh?

TW/CW: Biphobia, cyberbullying, homophobia

My feelings about Follow Your Arrow can essentially be summed up by that one Reductress article—“Why I Couldn’t Care Less About Your Relationsh—Oh, It’s Gay? Tell Me More.” I don’t think I would’ve picked up this book if not for several people telling me about how great the bisexual rep was, and I liked it on that front. However, it was definitely lacking for me in some of the other departments.

So, the bisexual rep! That aspect of Follow Your Arrow was what stood out most to me, and it was the most well-executed aspect of the book! Verdi did a fantastic job of discussing so many aspects of bisexuality and biphobia, especially about the stigmas of bisexual people in straight-passing relationships. Even though some of the social media aspects of the book weren’t very well-done (more on that later), the backdrop of social media was a perfect setting for CeCe to come into her own. There’s so much discussion about how bisexual people are pigeonholed as simply straight or gay, depending on their relationship, and how even within the queer community, there’s still so much biphobia present. Follow Your Arrow is a solid book for anyone who wants to learn more about bisexuality, and Verdi did a great job of representing it respectfully.

As far as the other aspects of the book…I wasn’t quite as invested. The romance, although the representation of bi people in a straight-passing relationship was great, didn’t hold a lot for me. It’s a pretty standard setup—”she’s an influencer, he’s a hipster musician who doesn’t even have social media! oh boy, how will this work out? he doesn’t even know what ‘ship’ means, tee hee!” It didn’t help that neither CeCe nor Josh were characterized much more beyond a few base character traits. The combination of the cliche pairing without much of an original spin on it (other than CeCe being bi) and the lack of characterization for both parties made me lose interest more than not.

I also had an issue with the writing—it tried way too hard not to date itself, but it ended up backfiring spectacularly. Even though app names (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) weren’t specifically mentioned (there was only the mysterious App…oookay) , the slang peppered in and the excessive use of hashtags at the end of every other paragraph made it feel painfully like a Gen X-er trying to sound “hip.” (How do you do, fellow kids?) CeCe’s status as an influencer didn’t make the hashtags make any more sense—I doubt that even influencers think in random hashtags. It felt weird. Additionally, Follow Your Arrow couldn’t seem to make up its mind about the message it was trying to share about social media; all it got was that there are good and bad aspects of social media, but it never got much more nuanced than that. Given how large of a role social media played in this book, I wish that were more developed.

All in all, a decent rom-com with great discussions around biphobia and bisexuality, but not-so-great writing and an underdeveloped romance. 3 stars.

Follow Your Arrow is a standalone, but Jessica Verdi is also the author of And She Was (really hoping that’s a Talking Heads reference lol), The Summer I Wasn’t Me, What You Left Behind, and several other novels.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Books

YA Books for Nonbinary Awareness Week

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

This week, July 11-17, is Nonbinary Awareness Week, and today, July 14, is International Nonbinary People’s Day! I’ve done a few specific lists for books with different identities within the LGBTQ+ community, but I don’t think I’ve done a specific nonbinary one. Given that it’s the perfect time to do it, I figured I would shine a light on books with protagonists (and sometimes authors!) with nonbinary and gender non-conforming identities. Representation always, always matters, especially for a community who face scrutiny even from within the LGBTQ+ community. 💛🤍💜🖤

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR NONBINARY AWARENESS WEEK

I Wish You All the Best, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

All at once heartbreaking and tender, I Wish You All the Best is an incredibly powerful story of a nonbinary teen’s journey of acceptance and self-love.

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: Magical realism, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Anna-Marie McLemore never misses, and this beautiful story of two nonbinary, Latinx, and neurodivergent teens and a secret world beneath a lake is proof.

Mooncakes, Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

GENRES: Fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

An absolutely ADORABLE graphic novel about a nonbinary werewolf and a hard-of-hearing witch!

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, Maggie Tokuda-Hall

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea features a powerful genderfluid pirate as one of the main characters! There’s another prominent side character who is nonbinary as well.

The Ghosts We Keep, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Though I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I Wish You All the Best, The Ghost We Keep is still an incredibly powerful exploration of grief. It’s also one of the only books I’ve seen that features a protagonist that uses multiple pronouns—Liam uses he/they pronouns!

Under Shifting Stars, Alexandra Latos

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Clare, one of the twins featured at the forefront of Under Shifting Stars, is genderfluid!

Mask of Shadows, Linsey Miller

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mask of Shadows is a super fun fantasy novel featuring a genderfluid assassin!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite books with nonbinary and gender non-conforming rep? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

this is so creepy I love it

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

YA Books for Disability Pride Month (2022 Edition) + my experience with SPD and why representation really, really matters

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

It’s July again, which means—though it’s too often overlooked—that it’s Disability Pride Month here in the U.S.! Even as intersectional as feminism and diversity efforts have become in recent years, the disabled community has been left out of the picture more often than not. YA books are no exception—even now, it’s difficult to find good, solid disability rep, and even harder to find books from disabled authors. So uplifting disabled voices is always important, as with uplifting all kinds of marginalized voices.

I’ve talked a little about good and bad disability rep on this blog, but I haven’t talked about how it affects me—I did put it in my bio a few months ago offhandedly, but I’m disabled as well. I have sensory processing disorder (SPD), a neurological disability that causes me to over-respond to sensory input, mainly sound; My nervous system doesn’t translate stimulus like a neurotypical brain would, making me over-respond to certain sensory input. Big crowds, loud noises (fire alarms, stopping buses, and almost anything that you can find in a city) are major causes of anxiety and discomfort for me, and often cause me to go into a fight-or-flight position or overload entirely.

As a result, being in situations with lots of sensory stimuli, such as school or social gatherings, can be exhausting, what with trying to juggle keeping my cool with said stimuli and participating fully in an activity. It also affects how I go about ordinary tasks as well—driving, for instance, has been a struggle, what with my hypersensitivity combined with my iffy-at-best motor coordination. (Part of SPD is that the nervous system doesn’t fully integrate all of my senses, which is why tasks like these are difficult for me.) SPD makes me feel everything—sound especially—far more intensely than a neurotypical person might, which often overloads my system.

Here’s the thing: although I’ve seen other parts of my identity—bisexuality, being mixed race, or even just personalities like mine—represented in books, I’ve never seen SPD represented in a book. Not on TV, movies, or any other kind of media, either. Never. I’ve been looking for years, but most of the time, what comes up when I search for books with characters that have SPD usually ends up being help books for parents with SPD kids. (Not to dismiss the value of those books—just not what I’m looking for.) There have been a few, but even then, they haven’t been available at the library. (I’ve got one on hold though—let’s hope Not If I Can Help It is good) I could always be missing something (PLS IF ANYBODY KNOWS ANY KIND OF MEDIA WITH GOOD SPD REP DROP SOME IN THE COMMENTS BEGGING YOU), but it’s been frustrating going to google and getting something that decidedly wasn’t what you were going for.

Even though I’ve seen myself represented in other ways, it’s frustrating to not have book characters—even side characters—that have similar experiences to me. Growing up, I had my fair share of not-so-subtle teasing for expressing some of my symptoms, and in that respect, I had no role models, no fictional characters to really look up to in that respect. That’s part of why I’m writing books with protagonists that have SPD—there’s always a kid out there who just needs a fictional character to look up to when they have nobody else. This is why representation matters—for those who never saw themselves represented growing up, and for those to come who may have the chance to feel represented.

So here are my disability pride month recs for 2022—not all of them are from disabled authors, but I’ve done my best to compile a list from a variety of genres, a variety of backgrounds (POC, queer, etc.), and a variety of disabilities.

(for my list from 2021, click here!)

Let’s begin, shall we?

YA BOOKS FOR DISABILITY PRIDE MONTH

One for All, Lillie Lainoff

GENRES: Historical fiction, retellings

REP: MC with POTS (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Three Musketeers retelling featuring a swordfighting, chronically ill protagonist!

The Reckless Kind, Carly Heath

GENRES: Historical fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

REP: MC with Waardenburg syndrome, MC with Brown-Séquard syndrome, MC with anxiety, side characters with post-concussion syndrome (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll be reviewing this one soon—a beautiful and tender tale of a disabled, queerplatonic triad in 1900’s Norway!

The Weight of Our Sky, Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction

REP: MC has OCD

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A harrowing story of a girl with OCD in the Philippines searching for her mother during the race riots of 1969.

The Night When No One Had Sex, Kalena Miller

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

REP: Multiple POVs; one MC has Lupus (chronic illness)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A diverse and funny story of four pairs of teenagers on prom night and a humorously failed sex pact.

The Boy Who Steals Houses, C.G. Drews

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC has anxiety, autistic side character (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A messy and emotional story of a boy and his brother making their own in a world that turns its back on them.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder, Sara Barnard

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC is selectively mute, Deaf love interest

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A tender, sweet romance with disability front and center!

Gallant, V.E. Schwab

GENRES: Paranormal, fantasy

REP: MC is mute and uses sign language to communicate

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Though this wasn’t my favorite V.E. Schwab book, I loved its paranormal atmosphere!

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: Magical realism, fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+

REP: MC with ADHD, MC with dyslexia (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Lakelore is one of the most intersectional pieces of magical realism or fantasy that I’ve ever read—both protagonists are nonbinary, Latinx, and neurodivergent!

Meet Me in Outer Space, Melinda Grace

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC has Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Although I wasn’t as big of a fan of the romance, I loved how Meet Me in Outer Space explored navigating disability in college!

On the Edge of Gone, Corinne Duyvis

GENRES: Science fiction, survival, post-apocalyptic

REP: Autistic MC (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A gripping post-apocalyptic book featuring a determined, Autistic protagonist!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books with disability rep? And please, does anybody have any recs for media with good SPD rep? Kinda desperate over here…

(I can only go with my headcanon that Jean Grey from X-Men has SPD for so long, folks, please…)

Today’s song:

I wanna hate Jack White so bad but HE JUST KEEPS PUTTING OUT SONGS LIKE THIS

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️YA Pride Month Recs (2022 Edition) – Contemporary/Realistic Fiction🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

Here we have the last of my pride month recommendations for this year! This post is focused on contemporary and realistic fiction books, but romance and mystery are included in here as well. And as always with my recommendations: diversify your reading 24/7, but always take this time to uplift LGBTQ+ voices!

(click here for this year’s queer YA sci-fi and fantasy recs!)

So let’s begin, shall we?

🏳️‍🌈THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S 2022 YA PRIDE MONTH RECS: CONTEMPORARY/REALISTIC FICTION 🏳️‍🌈

Perfect on Paper, Sophie Gonzales

LGBTQ+ REP: Bisexual MC, lesbian, bi, pan/nonbinary, and gay side characters, straight-passing relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m saying this as a proud bisexual woman: Perfect on Paper is seriously some of the best bisexual rep I’ve ever read! There’s so many important discussions in this book, from internalized biphobia to how the queer community views straight-passing relationships, all with a sweet and messy romance!

Sick Kids in Love, Hannah Moskowitz

LGBTQ+ REP: Bisexual love interest, straight-passing relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Sick Kids in Love is such an important book for so many reasons (namely its groundbreaking disability rep), but this is what intersectionality looks like—both protagonists are disabled and Jewish, and the love interest is also bisexual! Always warms my heart to see disabled bisexual characters.

The Falling in Love Montage, Ciara Smyth

LGBTQ+ REP: Lesbian protagonist, lesbian love interest, wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A tender and emotional piece of teen romance, complete with messy lesbian misadventures and plenty of rom-com references.

Loveless, Alice Oseman

LGBTQ+ REP: Aromantic/asexual MC, lesbian, aroace/nonbinary, pansexual side characters

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m not ace myself, but I’m certain that Loveless’ coming-of-age asexuality story will resonate with so many ace readers!

Sasha Masha, Agnes Borinsky

LGBTQ+ REP: Trans woman MC

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A beautiful coming of age story about a trans teenager discovering her identity!

Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

LGBTQ+ REP: Bisexual MC, Gay MC

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A nail-biting thriller and a fierce and suspenseful manifesto for the takedown of institutionalized racism!

Heartstopper, Alice Oseman

LGBTQ+ REP: Gay MC, bisexual love interest, mlm relationship, trans woman, lesbian, and gay side characters, side wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Heartstopper here—such a sweet and heartwarming LGBTQ+ romance comic! Plus, I can say with certainty that the bisexual rep is ON POINT. I adored the Netflix show too! (did anybody else full-on SOB during Nick’s coming out scene 😭)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite queer YA contemporary/realistic fiction books? Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

YA Books for AAPI Heritage Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

For those of you who didn’t know, in the U.S., May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month! I made a list of YA reads for the occasion last year (click here if you’d like to parse through), but since I’ve read so many more incredible books by AAPI authors since last May, I figured I would make another list. These are books from all genres, but all of them are from authors of AAPI heritage. And with all of these kinds of posts, I always want to impress the following: reading diversely should never be confined to one part of the year. That being said, it’s always important to uplift marginalized voices—AAPI in this case—and reading is a key way to do so.

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR AAPI HERITAGE MONTH (2022 EDITION)

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea – Maggie Tokuda Hall

GENRES: Fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

One of my favorite reads of last year, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was a raw and tender read filled with pirates, mermaids, and resonant love. Highly recommended!

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction, fiction, mental illness/disability

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A searing and powerful read that follows the story of a sixteen-year-old girl with OCD in the midst of the Malaysian race riots in the late sixties.

Gearbreakers – Zoe Hana Mikuta

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Gearbreakers is no ordinary YA dystopia—filled with mechs, found family, and fierce feminism and queerness, this is a must-read!

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Mind-bending and endlessly thought-provoking, The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a unique and unforgettable tale of sisterhood in the darkest of times.

Rise of the Red Hand – Olivia Chadha

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Rise of the Red Hand certainly wasn’t perfect, but it’s best element was its representation; it’s one of the only dystopias that I’ve seen that’s set in South Asia!

Forest of Souls – Lori M. Lee

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A rich and spooky fantasy that’s perfect for readers who like their traditional fantasy with a dash of necromancy, vengeful souls, and spiders.

Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: Dystopia, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Raw, fierce, and relentless, Iron Widow is a searing ode to those who are unafraid to take down the status quo—no matter the stakes.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know – Samira Ahmed

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A love letter to all of the women that history erases, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a sharply feminist story set in alternating timelines.

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A powerful and unforgettable story of grief and starting over. Akemi Dawn Bowman’s writing never fails to stir up all kinds of emotions in me.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by AAPI authors? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

YA Reads for Black History Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

It’s February again, and in the U.S., February is Black History Month! For the past few years, I’ve been making an effort to diversify my reading and read books from a variety of BIPOC authors all year round, but during this month, I like to take the time to uplift Black voices and authors. It’s crucial to open yourself up to new perspectives and insights, and all it takes is picking up a new book. (But as always, read books from BIPOC authors all year round!)

I made a list of YA reads from Black authors last year (you can find it here!), but I wanted to do it again since I’ve read so many amazing books since last year. So let’s begin, shall we?

Black History Month Black Lives Matter GIF - Black History Month Black  Lives Matter Mlk - Discover & Share GIFs

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH (2022 EDITION)

The Kindred, Alechia Dow

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

GENRES: sci-fi, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll start this list off with a recent read from an author who is quickly climbing up the ranks of my favorites! Although this wasn’t quite as good as The Sound of Stars, The Kindred was such a sweet, feel-good sci-fi romance!

The Cost of Knowing, Brittney Morris

Amazon.com: The Cost of Knowing: 9781534445451: Morris, Brittney: Books

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Cost of Knowing is immensely powerful; through the perspective of a teen with the power to see the future of everything that he touches, Morris tackles a multitude of important topics, from mental health to police brutality to grief.

A Phoenix Must First Burn, Patrice Caldwell et. al. (anthology)

Buy A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic,  Resistance, and Hope Book Online at Low Prices in India | A Phoenix First  Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black

GENRES: short stories, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Phoenix Must First Burn is a beautiful anthology of short stories of all genres that depict the Black experience—particularly Black women and nonbinary people. There’s only one short story that I didn’t like as much, but all the rest are fascinating in their own right. My favorite was Amerie’s When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb.

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

Amazon.com: The Good Luck Girls eBook : Davis, Charlotte Nicole: Kindle  Store

GENRES: historical fiction/alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read a lot of alternate history or historical fiction books, but The Good Luck Girls was a fantastic read! If you’re a fan of demons, ghosts, patriarchy-smashing, and sisterhood, this is the book for you.

The Black Flamingo, Dean Atta

Amazon.com: The Black Flamingo: 9780062990297: Atta, Dean: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Again—novels in verse aren’t my usual choice for reading, but The Black Flamingo is a must-read! A beautiful coming-of-age story about growing up mixed-race and gay and discovering drag.

A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water, #2), Bethany C. Morrow

A Chorus Rises eBook by Bethany C. Morrow - 9781250316028 | Rakuten Kobo  United States

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Set in the same world as A Song Below Water, A Chorus Rises explores Naema’s side of the story. Not a lot of authors write separate books from the point of view of the story’s antagonist, and this book was testament to the fact that not everything is black and white—there are several sides to every story.

Every Body Looking, Candice Iloh

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Raw and honest, Every Body Looking is a poetic coming-of-age story of growing up as a woman, growing up Black, and growing up as the daughter of an immigrant. It’s a rough ride, but it packs a punch.

When You Were Everything, Ashley Woodfolk

Amazon.com: When You Were Everything: 9781524715915: Woodfolk, Ashley: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When You Were Everything is the perfect book for anyone who has had a close friendship deteriorate. It’s messy, it’s raw, it’s painful, but above all, it felt so real and wonderfully genuine.

Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Amazon.com: Ace of Spades eBook : Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah: Kindle Store

GENRES: mystery, thriller, contemporary, realistic fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t go for mysteries most of the time, but Ace of Spades was the dictionary definition of edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. All at once a nail-biting mystery and a commentary on systemic racism, this is one you can’t let pass you by.

You Should See Me in a Crown, Leah Johnson

You Should See Me in a Crown - Indiana Authors Awards

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I guess I’ve bookended this list with feel-good reads…I don’t see a problem with that. You Should See Me in a Crown is a fun and tender LGBTQ+ romance about two candidates for prom queen falling for each other!

Tell me what you think! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by Black authors? Let me know in the comments!

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this list! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (12/6/21) – Clownfish

Happy Monday, bibliophiles! Wow, I’m SO relieved to be finally done with that AP Gov project…

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme originally created by Lauren’s Page Turners, but has since moved to Budget Tales Book Blog. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

This one’s been sitting on my TBR for about a year, and it sounds like a strange and wonderfully poignant story of grief.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (12/6/21) – CLOWNFISH by Alan Durant

Amazon.com: Clownfish: 9781406374629: ALAN DURANT: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

Dak’s dad has been dead for seven days when suddenly he reappears. He’s the same in almost every way, with one startling exception: Dad has turned into a clownfish, and now lives in a tank at their local aquarium. Dak is delighted by the news – he has Dad back, even if he isn’t quite as he was before. 

Deciding to keep Dad’s transformation a secret, Dak visits him at the aquarium as often as he can, and ends up spending so much time there that they offer him a job. This is how he comes to meet Violet, the owner’s prickly but kindhearted niece; when the aquarium is threatened with closure, the pair must work together to save it. 

For Dak, the stakes couldn’t be higher … after all, if the aquarium shuts down, what will happen to the fish? In parts wry, moving and undoubtedly strange, this beautifully crafted story will stay with you long after the final page.

So why do I want to read this?

Coral Reef Aquarium gif 02 on Make a GIF

This one’s classified as YA on Goodreads, but it looks like it’s more middle grade—Dak, the protagonist, is 12, according to the reviews. I know I sound like a broken record by now, but I really need to read more middle grade. And this one sounds delightfully strange and sweet.

There’s a challenge in depicting grief in the eyes of a kid, especially with how they process it. The case of Clownfish is particularly interesting; with a little bit of magical realism, Dak’s dead dad is now a clownfish. It sounds like the kind of book that would be great as an animated movie—stop-motion or 2D is the feeling I’m getting. Either way, this one looks like I’d love it, but I’m sensing a 50-50 chance that I’ll cry.

clownfish fish selection | REEF2REEF Saltwater and Reef Aquarium Forum

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/28/21) – Final Draft

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book has been on my radar for at least a year and a half. I was drawn to it because of the premise of a character who is an aspiring sci-fi writer (like me!) going through high school. I bought it on my Kindle recently, and though my expectations were high, I found Final Draft to be enjoyable, but a little lacking–both in development and length.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Final Draft – Riley Redgate

Laila Piedra dreams of becoming a sci-fi author, and she spends every moment she can crafting new worlds on her laptop. Her biggest supporter is her creative writing teacher, Mr. Madison, who is always there to lend a word of advice or support. But when Mr. Madison gets in a car accident and can no longer teacher, he’s replaced by Nadiya Nazarenko, a renowned author who doles out scathing critiques faster than the speed of light. Pressured to impress her new teacher, Laila stretches herself into places that she never would have dreamed of. But what will it cost her dream of writing–and her mental health?

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actual footage of me once I finished the book

TW/CW: underage drinking, fatphobia, depression, death, descriptions of injury

Final Draft had the makings of a great story, but it only felt like half a book. It left me wanting more in the end–everything felt so crammed and rushed, and as a result, all that could have been good ended up suffering. However, that wasn’t to say that it wasn’t at least enjoyable–it was a decent story, but it felt unnecessarily truncated.

I’ll start out with what I liked–the representation! Final Draft was a very diverse book–Laila is mixed-raced and half-Latina, and her rep made me feel so seen! She’s also plus-size and pansexual, and that combination of representation is always fantastic to see. Additionally, her love interest is Korean-American and a lesbian, and there are several Latinx side characters. So I owe a big thank you to Riley Redgate for all of that great rep!

Now, Final Draft started out with a lot of promise. The setup in the first third or so had the makings of a great story–a clear setup and a difficult conflict for Laila to overcome. But at about the 40% mark, everything felt crammed into a scant amount of pages. Everything happened at almost breakneck speed, shoving key conflicts into far fewer pages than was necessary to develop the events of the novel. (For reference, the Kindle edition of Final Draft was only 272 pages, so there could have been so much more content to bulk everything up and make it coherent!) It all felt so rushed, and as a result, the message came across muddy and underdeveloped. There are so many themes that are so important to discuss–the cautionary tale of the “suffering artist,” mental health and depression, and grief, to name a few–but they were all glossed over in such a short amount of time that they were all unfinished and badly handled.

That being said, although the story was unnecessarily rushed, at least the topics discussed were there. For creative people, mental health is so often neglected in the face of criticism and perfectionism, and having a story like Laila’s is an important one not just for writers, but any young person with creative passions. Laila’s story needs to be told–I just wish it was fully fleshed out.

All in all, a book that had the potential to be potent and powerful, but suffered from excessive rushing. 3 stars.

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Final Draft is a standalone, but Riley Redgate is also the author of Noteworthy, Seven Ways We Lie, and the forthcoming Alone Out Here, which is slated for release in April 2022.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/21/21) – Harley in the Sky

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Akemi Dawn Bowman ever since I read Starfish around three years ago. This is the latest of her books that I’ve read, and I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint – just as poignant and gut-wrenching as her other novels!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Harley in the Sky: 9781534437128: Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books

Harley in the Sky – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Harley Milano grew up surrounded by vibrant costumes and trapeze artists in her parents’ circus. Her dream has always been to join the circus, but her parents want her to go to college for computer science instead.

After a fight on her eighteenth birthday, Harley goes against everything that they’ve ever wished for–she runs away and joins the Maison du Mystère, the rival traveling circus. There, she is thrust into the world of the circus, quickly falling in love and rising to the top of the hierarchy as one of its lead trapeze artists. But Harley’s past is catching up to her, and she must grapple with the people she betrayed in order to see her dreams come to fruition.

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TW/CW: depression, racism, emotional manipulation, suicidal ideation

I think all of us have read plenty of books about characters running away to pursue their dreams and leaving everything they knew behind. But very few discuss the consequences–the people they leave behind and the emotional wounds that they may open up. Harley in the Sky is one such book, and man, it was just as heart-wrenching as Akemi Dawn Bowman’s other novels. All at once tender, heavy, and messy, it grapples with all sorts of hefty emotions and handles them all with aplomb.

Harley was, by all means, a very unlikeable character. She has a plethora of issues that she leaves undealt with when she takes off in search of her circus dreams, but you can’t help but root for her. I will say that I related to her on one plane: that of her mixed-race identity. Both of Harley’s parents are biracial, and as a result, she feels as though she doesn’t fit in anywhere. As a mixed-race person myself, Bowman handled her identity in a way that really resonated with me. And despite how tangled of a character Harley is, she displays some significant growth over the course of the novel, and by the end, she begins to reconcile with everything that she’s done and everything she’s left behind.

The rest of the characters also shone! There was such a unique and diverse cast, and the circuses that Bowman created felt like ones that might travel cross-country in the real world. Each character was refreshingly distinct, all with unique backstories and personalities. I especially loved Vas–yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker for the brooding British guys who play instruments, but he was such a well-fleshed-out character, both standing on his own and as a love interest for Harley.

As with all of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s novels, Harley in the Sky deals with some heavy topics. I won’t lie–it was a hard book to read at times, but Bowman handles all of these topics, from undiagnosed mental illness to toxic relationships, with incredible skill. All of her books stir up such profound emotion in me, and this one was no exception.

All in all, a novel that was all at once tender and heartbreaking that will leave a permanent mark on your heart. 4 stars!

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Harley in the Sky is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Summer Bird Blue, and the Infinity Courts series, which includes The Infinity Courts, and the forthcoming The Genesis Wars.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

YA Books for Bisexual Visibility Week 💗💜💙(2021 Edition)

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

As well as this month being Latinx Heritage month, September 16 – September 23 is Bisexual Visibility Week! Celebrate Bisexuality Day/Bisexual Visibility Day is also on September 23rd. It’s such an important week/day to celebrate; even within the LGBTQ+ community, bisexual people are often at the brunt of all kinds of horrible stigmas and are often invalidated and passed off as simply gay or straight. Let the record show that bisexual people are always, ALWAYS valid! No matter your dating history, relationship, or where you stand on the bisexual spectrum, you are loved, you are valid, you are beautiful, and you are bisexual no matter what anyone else tells you. YOU are the only person who gets a say in your identity. 💗💜💙

I did a post like this last year (click here if you want to read it!), but I figured I would recommend some more YA reads with bi characters that I’ve read since then. I’m always trying to read more, so if you have any recs for me, please don’t hesitate to comment!

Let’s begin, shall we?

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THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BISEXUAL VISIBILITY WEEK (2021 EDITION)

Sick Kids in Love, Hannah Moskowitz

Amazon.com: Sick Kids In Love eBook : Moskowitz, Hannah: Kindle Store

GENRES: Romance, realistic fiction, disability

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

You know what’s even better than disabled characters? Queer disabled characters! Both Isabel and Sasha (the protagonist and love interest of Sick Kids in Love) are disabled, and Sasha is bisexual too!

The Henna Wars, Adiba Jaigirdar

Amazon.com: The Henna Wars eBook : Jaigirdar, Adiba: Kindle Store

GENRES: Romance, realistic fiction, contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Flávia, the love interest of The Henna Wars, is bisexual, as well as Black and Brazilian-Irish! It’s always refreshing to see queer POC characters and romances, and this one 100% delivered.

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre, Robin Talley

The Love Curse of Melody McIntyre by Robin Talley

GENRES: Romance, rom-com, realistic fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’re a fan of musical theatre and rom-coms, this is the perfect book for you! Both Melody and her love interest, Odile, are bisexual!

Ghost Wood Song, Erica Waters

Amazon.com: Ghost Wood Song: 9780062894229: Waters, Erica: Books

GENRES: Paranormal, fantasy, horror, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Atmospheric and creepy, this book is the perfect read for fans of Sawkill Girls! Shady Grove, the protagonist, is bisexual.

Verona Comics, Jennifer Dugan

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GENRES: Retellings, romance, realistic fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

If a Romeo & Juliet retelling where the families of the two protagonists own rival comic shops doesn’t sell you, then I don’t know what will. Ridley is bisexual, and Jubilee is pansexual!

Music from Another World, Robin Talley

Music from Another World by Robin Talley

GENRES: Historical fiction, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This is a fantastic piece of historical fiction set at the forefront of the gay rights movement in 1970’s San Francisco! It also centers around the romance of a lesbian girl and a bisexual girl.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn, Melissa Bashardoust

Amazon.com: Girl, Serpent, Thorn: 9781250196149: Bashardoust, Melissa: Books

GENRES: Retellings, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you’re a fan of fantasy with atmospheric prose, then Girl, Serpent, Thorn is the book for you! Based on Persian mythology, this was an interesting retelling.

I Wish You All the Best, Mason Deaver

Amazon.com: I Wish You All the Best: 9781338306125: Deaver, Mason: Books

GENRES: Contemporary, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The great thing about the bisexual rep in I Wish You All the Best is as follows: not only is the protagonist nonbinary, but the bisexual rep isn’t boiled down to just girls and boys! Ben is attracted to men and masculine-presenting people; it’s really important to acknowledge that bisexuality isn’t the concrete attraction to girls and boys – while it’s true for a lot of bi people, there are plenty of bi people whose attraction spans over different parts of the gender spectrum.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite YA books with bi rep? Do you have any recommendations for me? Have you ever read any of these books? Tell me in the comments!

Bi shy and ready to cry bi GIF on GIFER - by Karamar

Today’s song:

this isn’t the version I have on iTunes but I LOVE this version

That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!