Miscellaneous · TBR

My Oldest Unread Books

Last year, I started tracking every book I bought, and I made an unofficial rule with myself that I want to read most new books in the year I bought them (plus a couple of months of leeway for the november-december books). I did fairly well on my last go: I read most of the books I bought in 2019 by Spring 2020, although the last one (Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman) evaded me until this month. Right now, it’s August and I am very behind on my goal of reading books acquired in 2020, so we’ll see how long it will take me to check all of them out.

But either way, since I only started tracking this in 2019, this system makes me prioritize newly bought/acquired books and makes me ignore older books that have been sitting on my shelves for… well, years. Honestly, some of them have been there too long that I’d been tempted to just unhaul them without reading, but I hate giving a book away without at least giving it a fair chance and reading some of it to see if I’m interested.

So, instead I’m making this post of my oldest owned books so you all can tell me whether I should bump some of these up higher on my list. Ready?

Date Added: 2017

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Watership DownSandleford Warren is in danger. Hazel’s younger brother Fiver is convinced that a great evil is about to befall the land, but no one will listen. And why would they when it is Spring and the grass is fat and succulent? So together Hazel and Fiver and a few other brave rabbits secretly leave behind the safety and strictures of the warren and hop tentatively out into a vast and strange world. Chased by their former friends, hunted by dogs and foxes, avoiding farms and other human threats, but making new friends, Hazel and his fellow rabbits dream of a new life in the emerald embrace of Watership Down…

 

Lisey’s Story by Stephen King

Lisey's StoryLisey Landon lost her husband Scott two years ago, after a 25 year marriage. Scott was an award-winning novelist, and a complex man. Lisey knew there was a dark place where he ventured to face his demons. Boo’ya Moon, a realm that both terrified and healed him. Now it’s Lisey’s turn to face her husband’s demons.

 

 

 

Moving Target by Cecil Castelluci
(along with Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka and The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry)

Moving Target: A Princess Leia AdventureReeling from their disastrous defeat on Hoth, the heroic freedom fighters of the REBEL ALLIANCE have scattered throughout space, pursued by the agents of the sinister GALACTIC EMPIRE.

One rebel task force protects PRINCESS LEIA, bearing her in secrecy from star to star. As the last survivor of Alderaan’s House of Organa, Leia is a symbol of freedom, hunted by the Empire she has opposed for so long.

The struggle against Imperial tyranny has claimed many rebel lives. As the Empire closes in, Leia resolves to make a sacrifice of her own, lest the cause of freedom be extinguished from the galaxy….

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

https://i.gr-assets.com/images/S/compressed.photo.goodreads.com/books/1431014825l/24790901.jpgFor Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea.

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig

The Girl from Everywhere (The Girl From Everywhere, #1)Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.

Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

What are some of your oldest unread books, and how long have you had them? Tell me about them below!

~ Alex

Reviews

I’m Back, And What is This?! – Also, A Review of Ciel by Sophie Labelle

Hi everyone! After my huge unplanned hiatus, I am back, and – holy hell, what IS up with WordPress?! I am very happy that there is still a “Classic” block I can use that is more or less what I’m used to, because otherwise these blocks look very overwhelming. Useful, maybe, but overwhelming.

You may have noticed that I slightly changed my url – I was also planning a new banner or something, but frankly, I am very bad at graphic design and I haven’t had the energy or the time to do it. Oops? Just being honest with you all.

The quick summary of my absence is that I finished my Masters degree and my thesis that I wrote on Austin Chant’s Peter Darling (with an online thesis defense!) and right now I am looking for a job, which is… very difficult. I returned here because I missed book blogging, although I can’t promise I’m going to update regularly. But I’ll try my best?!

(Can you imagine I was still signing my last blog post as Alexa? Yeah, that’s not a thing anymore.)

And now, on to the review! Ciel by Sophie Labelle is coming out on September 15, 2020, and I was lucky enough to get a NetGalley copy so I can share my thoughts with you.

CielTitle: Ciel
Author(s): Sophie Labelle
Series:
Genre: Middle Grade
Pages: 192
Published:
September 15th 2020 by Second Story Press
LGBTQAI+: trans woman author, transgender/nonbinary protagonist, bisexual & trans side characters

Rating: 🌈🌈🌈🌈🌈 | 5

And if I’m lucky, I’ll see a fox. 🦊

Ciel was the first book I read by Sophie Labelle, although I’ve been following her online comics for a long time now, so I was already familiar with some of the characters. Ciel as a character has been an inspiration for me as somebody who is unapologetic about their transness and their appearance. These kids are so much stronger than I could have been in high school – but maybe it would have helped if I had examples like these in the books I read.

Ciel is a great book because it has several (THREE!) transgender main characters, as well as a cis (?) little brother who likes wearing dresses and doing feminine things, so it really portrays a variety of experiences without making any of them be “The Trans Experience”. In school, Sophie, who was out and proud in middle school, would prefer to go stealth and not be known as “the trans girl” in their new high school. Ciel is conflicted about this, and also faces the problem where it is pretty much impossible for nonbinary people to “pass” as their real gender, because people are so deeply stuck in binaries.

Ciel is also a great book because the characters in it all appear as real people, with their own interests and love troubles and whatnot. I mean – WE knew trans people were real people, but it’s always nice to show that to the rest of the world! We have three different trans experiences in this book, as well as many different allies who are doing their best in different ways.

Finally, Ciel is a great book because it shows how far we have to go even as a community. I have sadly experienced in both online and offline LGBT groups that the LGB part very often can be transphobic, and even the binary T can be very exclusionary and hostile towards nonbinary people. Ciel’s experience at the GSA is sadly very close to some of my experiences in cis queer spaces, and their conflict with an older trans girl is very close to some of my experiences in trans groups.

All in all, Ciel (the book!) is both realistic and uplifting, and a good way to maybe introduce cis children to the topic of trans kids.

~ Alex

 

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.

bingo

bingo2

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

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

International Rivals to Lovers: 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

videogames

Have I Played This Yet? | D

Aaand here’s another part of the Have I Played This Yet series, started by Tecsie. Check out Avery’s post over here as well!

Since I only had one game starting with C, I listed it together with my B games. I also have no games starting with E apparently, so the next part after this will be F.

Dishonored

Playtime: 15 hours
Status: Main game completed
Achievements: 24/80 (30%)

💛💛💛 This is another one of my all-time favourite games, even though I’m bad at stealth games. I love Corvo’s story so much, and Emily is my favourite daughter. I also love Daud and his journey, but I haven’t actually played much of the DLCs yet, because the enemies there can be really hard and I stress easily. Hence why I’m doing very badly with the achievements.

Darkarta: A Broken Heart’s Quest Collector’s Edition

Playtime: 5 hours
Status: Completed
Achievements: 33/40 (83%)

So this is a really, really weird puzzle game where a woman is searching for her missing daughter but there are all kinds of mythological elements that I barely remember. It’s kind of interesting, but I probably wouldn’t replay it anytime soon.

Deponia: The Complete Journey

Playtime: 83 minutes
Status: Started
Achievements: 3/105 (3%)

This is another puzzle game that I got for free through Humble Bundle because it sounded good, but unfortunately it didn’t really live up to my expectations. Maybe I’m just too stupid for puzzle games, but I don’t like being stuck for hours on a solution that I can find no logic behind. I was also not amused with some sexist and transphobic comments very early on. Maybe one day?

Don’t Starve

Playtime: 2 hours
Status: Started
Achievements: N/A

Oh hey, another game I’m really bad at! This one is actually good, but I stress too much while playing it. I’ll definitely give it another go eventually, someday.

Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator

 

Playtime: 20 hours
Status: Completed
Achievements: 17/19 (89%)

💛 💛 I LOVE THIS GAME AND I CAN’T HEAR YOUR DISCOURSE. Amanda is definitely on my list of favourite daughters, there is a trans love interest, you can choose to be trans yourself, and it’s just a really, really funny game full of dad jokes where you are a single dad who can romance other single dads. It’s so good. Robert and Damien are the best.

Also, did you know there are multiple ways to die in this game? Yep.

Dreamfall Chapters

Playtime: 29 hours
Status: Completed
Achievements: 39/59 (66%)

💛 💛 This is actually the third game in a series, and yet it’s the only one I’ve played. Oops? (The first one is called The Longest Journey.) I also own the other two, but this is another puzzle game series where I tend to get stuck a lot and can’t really see the logic, so I get frustrated easily. Still, in the case of Dreamfall Chapters, the story, the characters and the graphics were enough to make me go on. One of the main characters is also a gay man, although there is some forced kissing with a hetero woman, which was REALLY annoying.

Saga is also on my list of favourite daughters. It’s a long list.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Play it Again: Long-Distance Romance Between Youtubers

Play It AgainTitle: Play It Again
Author(s): Aidan Wayne
Series: 
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 288
Published: 
April 22nd 2019 by Carina Press
LGBTQAI+: M/M relationship between a blind, Jewish bisexual guy, and a homoromantic asexual guy with anxiety. (Aro)ace side character.

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

When Seattle-based blind YouTuber Dovid Rosenstein finds Sam Doyle’s Let’s Play channel, playitagainsam, he’s instantly captivated by the Irish gamer. Everything about Sam is adorable, from his accent to his personality, and Dovid can’t get enough of his content.

Dovid’s glowing shout-out on Don’t Look Now, his own successful channel, sends Sam’s subscriber numbers skyrocketing overnight. He has more comments than he can read. And while the sudden surge in popularity is anxiety inducing, Sam decides it’s only right to dedicate his next episode to Dovid…which soon leads to a heart-pounding exchange of DMs.

They may have never met in person, but Dovid’s never felt this close to anyone before. What they have feels worth exploring—no matter the distance. But is it possible to already be in love with someone who’s half a world away?

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

3.5 stars

Play It Again is a M/M romance by a nonbinary author that involves YouTubers and social media, and one of the main characters is blind – at least that was how much I found out based on the blurb and the author’s bio. As the story went on, I was very happy to find out that Dovid and Rachel are Jewish, along with Rachel being (aro)ace and Sam being ace. (Rachel is only called sex-repulsed ace in the book as far as I remember, but it’s implied she’s not interested in romance either.)

Overall, Play It Again is a sweet, low-conflict romance that deals with internet fame, as well as living while disabled, or having emotionally abusive parents. If you are looking for a comforting read and aren’t too bothered by the toxic parents, this could be a good pick. I also loved how Dovid and Rachel review restaurants and venues based on accessibility as well as their food, taking into consideration not only blind people, but wheelchair users as well. Dovid also mentions a wheelchair user friend at one point, although disappointingly she doesn’t actually appear.

I admit that I didn’t always enjoy this book, although you might have guessed this from the fact that I didn’t give it 5 stars. There were some scenes that gave me intense second hand embarrassment, and sometimes the long discussions about how to handle internet fame and YouTubing were just boring to me. I also admit I have no experience with similar matters, but Sam becoming a sensation and actually getting PAID enough to be able to leave his job so fast felt unrealistic to me. I know realism isn’t the most important, but it was still a little frustrating.

Dovid and Sam are also in a long-distance relationship, with all the troubles that brings – including that most of their scenes aren’t physically together, but through phone or chat conversations. There is a lot of discussion of consent and boundaries, which I really appreciated.

I also couldn’t figure out how old the characters are, but I’m guessing early twenties, which would actually put this as New Adult? It’s definitely not YA, although it doesn’t have explicit scenes.

~ Alexa