Birthday Book Haul | 2020

You can watch this haul on IGTV

Hey, friends! Okay, I know my birthday was last month! And I know you’ve seen some of these on insta! But I still wanted to do a birthday book haul on my blog, and share with you some of the amazing books I received, from some very amazing people! 💕

The Picture of Dorian Gray – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Lady Hotspur 
The Dragon Republic – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Dark Tide
The Year of the Witching
Lobizona
Starfish
Summer Bird Blue
You Should See Me In A Crown – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Immortalists
The Falling In Love Montage
Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me
Monstress Vol 4: The Chosen
Come Tumbling Down – ⭐⭐⭐
Waiting For Spring
Not Your Idol
The Odyssey – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Iliad – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Lord Of The Rings – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Hobbit – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The House In The Cerulean Sea – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The Care And Feeding of Waspish Widows
The Trials of Apollo
In The Dream House

💕 Thank you so much: Pamela, Maëlys, Jen, Amy, Stacia, Lea, Chelsea, Sue, Shae, Kaila, Jake, Genny, Landice, Romie, Lacey, & Ness!

I am so thankful, so honored, so blessed, and so very privileged. I never want anyone to feel like they have to give me anything for my birthday! I promise you, all your kind words were everything to me, and meant everything to me. I still hope you enjoyed this post though! And I hope you’re having the happiest of reading! 💕

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August 2020 Wrap Up

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Hey friends! How was your August? I hope it was good and safe and filled with health and love. August was for sure the best month I’ve had in 2020 and I’m feeling very thankful and very happy! But… I’m going to be cautious and not jinx anything, haha! But I promise, a birthday book haul soon! August was also a very good reading month for me and I was able to read a few five star stories, too! And I feel like one of these will for sure make my top five books of 2020! Can you guess what it is? It rhymes with: yearning odd.

Well Played (Well Met #2) by Jen DeLuca ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication: September 22nd 2020 by Berkley
Listen, I am truly just such a sucker for a renaissance faire setting and romance! I dint love this one as much as Well Met, but I enjoyed it immensely while wanting book three desperately!

Fire (Graceling Realm #2) by Kristin Cashore ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with Lea! ❤
This was such a treat to read with Lea, because it is one of her favorite series of all time. But I really loved this one and how different (and powerful) the story felt. Cashore was really ahead of the game with the themes in their books, and it really helps make them hold up extremely well!

The Dragon Republic (The Poppy War #2) by R.F. Kuang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
The way I think that this might be my favorite in the series, which I feel like is a little bit of an unpopular opinion! But this was a masterpiece of a middle book and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Loveless by Alice Oseman ⭐⭐
I’m going to implement self-care right now and just never talk about this book again, but I suggest you check out Maëlys & Lea’s reviews! 😊

HYYH The Notes 1 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life #1) by Big Hit ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with MaëlysLea, & Amy! ❤
Have you all listened to Dynamite yet? Whew. Listen, I kinda just couldn’t get enough of BTS content this month, and it helped make August so very special. Also, #1 Billboard Hot 100 for the first time? We truly love to see it. And…. we love to read about their alternate universe where the members are all dealing with different types of abandonment, while trying to grow and heal with each other and their love and their love for different arts.

Vampires Never Get Old edited by Zoraida Córdova & Natalie C. Parker ⭐⭐
Publication: September 22nd 2020 by Imprint
Buddy read with DestinyMaëlys, & Lea! ❤
Listen, I wanted to love this so badly because of the author list alone. Yet, sadly, this just fell so short for me. I was so disappointed with the vast majority of these stories.

One Dark Throne (Three Dark Crowns #2) by Kendare Blake ⭐⭐
I feel like I just waited way too long to continue on with this series, because this book felt so pointless. Also, all the high-risk situations? They never felt high-risk. I just want to block this out of my mind, and I do not think I will continue on with this series.

The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
This was our August 2020 pick for the Dragons and Tea Book Club! 🐉☕
The way this was perfection. From cultural appropriation, to “the model minority”, to all the different kinds of racism, to being queer in a less accepting culture, this book had everything and it was a completely joy to read. I loved this. I promise a full review before the end of the year.

The Burning God (The Poppy War #3) by R.F. Kuang ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication: November 17th 2020 by Harper Voyager
Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤
Am I still crying? I think? Help. Okay okay, seriously though, this ending was perfect, and I absolutely cannot wait to see how everyone reacts when this book comes out. There was one thing that bothered about this concluding novel, but the rest was perfection. The themes of colorism and the themes of colonization are the best I’ve ever read in my life. This series means so much to me, and I hope it wins everything because it’s a masterpiece.

Eva Evergreen, Semi-Magical Witch (Eva Evergreen #1) by Julie Abe ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤
This was the sweetest and most heartwarming read I’ve read all year. Eva and her friends and their unconditional love and support were just everything. They truly created a magic all on their own, and I can’t wait to see what Eva does next. Also, the settings and imagery in this book was a tier above. Other witch and wizard books are quaking, I promise.

When No One Is Watching by Alyssa Cole ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤
This book had it all, from gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality, to a vast array of different microaggressions, this book is going to make a lot of white and non BIPOCs uncomfortable, and I hope they sit in that uncomfortably (especially Americans). I didn’t love the end of this one, but I adored the first 80% so very much!

Horrid by Katrina Leno ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Publication: September 15th 2020 by Little, Brown
Buddy read with Maëlys & Lea! ❤
I am in the middle of writing my review for this one right now, and it is going to be a hard one to talk about without giving anything away. But this book was so eerie and atmospheric and I never wanted to put it down. Sadly, I just didn’t love the end of it. But I really adored the build up and Leno’s writing will always very much be my exact cup of perfectly brewed tea.


Whew! Quite the month, aye? Blessings all around, truly. Tell me what was your favorite read of August! And I hope September is treating you kindly and you are having lots of amazing reads so far (and for always)! Happy reading, friends! 💗

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Ironspark by C.M. McGuire | Drumsofautumn ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

“Her soft lips against mine felt like hope. Somehow, some way, we were going to see morning, and I was going to have the chance to do that again.”

Ironspark is a book that I picked up because I was very excited by the prospect of it being a book about Fae featuring a lesbian love triangle but sadly I was let down in a lot of aspects.

This novel is about a girl called Bryn, who moved from Wales to the US with her family nine years ago, after her mother got abducted by the Fae and her father was cursed by them, because her father had deemed it a safer place for them.
But even away from Wales and the immediate danger of the Fae, Bryn made it her goal to learn how to kill the Fae in order to protect her family and in this book she needs to make use of those skills.

Now I will start this review very honestly, saying that I am not the biggest fan of any Fae stories in general. But I do enjoy the occasional one, especially if it’s diverse in some way, so I was definitely drawn to this book, especially because a lesbian love triangle sounded so very promising.

But sadly, I found much of this book boring and a lot of the storyline and world building confusing. Some of it definitely is based on the well-known Fae mythology, like the Seelie and Unseelie Court, but a lot of the things in this book I was also very unfamiliar with. There is a glossary but sadly it is at the end of the book, so I had no idea until I finished it. I am sure that it would’ve helped a little bit but my problem was also the connections between all the different kinds of Fae and mythical creatures and I just had trouble following how all of the events connected to Bryn and her family.

“I couldn’t help it. In spite of everything, a startled laugh escaped me. It felt like the worst possible time to be laughing, with everything going on… but it was sort of like grass growing through the cracks in the sidewalk. I couldn’t stop it, and it only made the cracks bigger, and soon I was laughing and tears streamed down my face.”

Now this book definitely brushed on some interesting aspect but none of them were explored enough for me personally. There is Bryn’s panic attacks, which she has throughout the novel but never get talked about more. There is her father’s hallucinations and the fact that (it seems like) doctors diagnosed him with schizophrenia due to it and he takes meds for it which never help because the actual cause is a farie curse. There are her two brothers, who she has basically raised, but the relationship between them or even their own issues they have after everything they’ve been through are never quite get explored enough. It feels like none of the aspects in this book were really fleshed out or that there was much depth to any of the characters.

There are these little Fae-like creatures called shadelings, that are good creatures and there to protect Bryn and her family. There is one in particular called Marshmallow, that basically becomes Bryn’s side-kick later on in the novel and was truly my favourite character and also the one that had the most interesting relationship dynamic with Bryn, which definitely says a lot about the other relationships in this novel.

Other than that, barely any of the side-characters had a personality that stood out and so the relationships with these people seemed dull too.
There is Gwen, a kind of water farie. Gwen and Bryn were in a relationship but Bryn broke up with her because she knew her time in this town was coming to an end soon because of going to college next year. And then there is Jasika, a girl from Bryn’s school who has a connection to the faeries too.

“At this point, it was just a physiological reaction my body seemed to have to her, one I doubted I’d ever really outgrow, no matter how long we stayed split up. There would always be the lingering sensation of fireworks inside of me where the smoke hadn’t quite cleared. My lips curled up in an automatic smile. The whole world could be burning around me, and somehow Gwen’s presence would always make it better.”

This is where the supposed lesbian love triangle aspect comes in but.. it is really not a love triangle whatsoever. Gwen and Bryn are still really good friends and Bryn worries about having broken her heart but she doesn’t really have any sort of romantic relationship with her anymore.
Bryn and Jasika develop something along those lines throughout the book but the romantic storyline was not very well done. I didn’t feel any chemistry or romantic tension between the two characters whatsoever. It honestly seemed like they barely knew each other and then one day they kiss and that’s kinda it, they’re dating. They never really talk about what they are to each other after that… or honestly talk much to each other at all, except when it is about Fae stuff. So there was absolutely nothing between the two that made me think there were romantic feelings.

I am also disappointed by the use of “lesbian” love-triangle in the synopsis. I am assuming this was done by the publisher, not the author, because the main character literally says at one point, that “not all girls who likes girls are lesbian”, and clarifies that she likes guys too and isn’t quite sure if she’s bi- or pansexual. Jasika then mentions she is questioning.

But it’s honestly very disappointing to see this labelled as a “lesbian” love-triangle when none of the characters withing this book identify as a lesbian and, even if both Gwen and Jasika would’ve identifies as such, it is still not a “lesbian” love triangle because Bryn is not a lesbian.
I know people will find this nit-picky but.. just don’t bait me with labels that do not exist in the book. Sapphic love triangle totally would’ve done it. Again, not blaming the author here, but just something I wanted to point it.

“Maybe I ought to grab her or kiss her back or do something, but mostly I was trying to wrap my head around the notion that Jasika Witters wasn’t straight and she must have read me like a freaking book and why were her lips so soft?”

The one other character that stood out was a boy called Dom. Next to Marshmallow, he was for sure my favourite character and I enjoyed the friendship between him and Bryn too because there was an actual good development between the two.
Also Dom is asexual and that term is used and explained on page. The scene does include some probing questions regarding this identity like “are you sure you’re not attracted to anyone” and “but have you tried”. I wouldn’t necessarily call it aphobia and it gets quickly challenged but I still wanna mention it.

Upon finishing this book I realized that it is not a standalone. Sadly, the ending was very anticlimatic to me. Now I don’t know if that is just because I didn’t really very invested with the characters and storyline in the first place or if others might’ve felt that way too. But I just found myself extra disappointed with the ending, leaving me with absolutely no motivation to ever seek out the sequel (which I don’t think has been announced yet though).

“People looked at me differently, and unfortunately nobody had invented an armor for pity.”

Overall, Ironspark sadly was a very disappointing reading experience. None of this book really worked for me and I found myself having to push myself through it, to the point where I even thought of DNFing it, but had too high hopes for the love triangle.. that did not happen.
I personally cannot really recommend this book, although you might wanna give this a chance if you are really into Fae stories.

Trigger and Content Warnings for panic attacks (including vomiting due to it), blood, violence, murder, hallucinations, house fire, coma (minor character).

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨

September 2020 TBR

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Happy last day of August, friends! Ahhh, August was a really great month for me (both personally and with my reading!) and I hope the good things continue in September! I do have many books here on this TBR and I really hope that I not only get to all of them, but maybe I’ll be able to get to a few extras too! 🍁


Kingdom of the Wicked (Kingdom of the Wicked, #1) by Kerri Maniscalco
Publication: October 27th 2020 by Jimmy Patterson 
Buddy read with Destiny, Maëlys & Lea 💕

This was on my August TBR, but I just couldn’t get to it with that busy birthday week I had! But I am so excited to give it a try with some amazing friends this month!

Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic #1) by Maya Motayne
The September Book Club Pick for Dragons and Tea 🐉☕

I cannot wait to kick of Latinx Heritage Month with this ownvoice magical story about a thief who can travel between worlds!

Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar
Buddy read with Maëlys! 💗

Ownvoices for the South Asian rep and the Hindu mythos, and is all about a girl who is half a star and trying to save her father? Whew, sounds amazing. Plus, I received two copies of this in book boxes so I very much want to read and review it!

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins
Buddy read with Lea! 💓

The way I’m emotional to finally finish this reread together, but I am so very ready.

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights #1) by Chloe Gong
Publication: November 17th 2020 by Margaret K. McElderry Books
Buddy read with Maëlys! 💕

An ownvoices reimagining of Romeo and Juliet set in historical Shanghai is everything I needed to know. But this book has not received less than five stars from all of my friends so the amount of hype I have going into this one is a bit wild.

The Lost Book of the White by Cassandra Clare & Wesley Chu
Publication: September 1st 2020 by Simon & Schuster
Buddy read with Lea! 💓

Be still, my shadowhunter heart! I would not miss this new release of Magnus and Alec’s for anything in the world.

Vampires of Portlandia by Jason Tanamor
Publication: September 29th 2020 by Parliament House Press
Blog Tour Stop: September 21st – Caffeine Book Tours
Buddy read with Maëlys! 💗

Ownvoices story celebrating the aswang and Filipino mythos? Truly sold off of that sentence alone! Also, this is probably the first thing I’ll read in September and I’m so very excited!

A Universe of Wishes edited by Dhonielle Clayton
Publication: January 5th 2021 by Random House
Buddy read with Lea 💕

After not really loving the last anthology I read, I am just craving a good one so very desperately and this one sounds very diverse and very perfect.



September is also #SapphicSeptember which is being hosted by Landice (Manic Femme), who I adore a lot a lot a lot! I plan to pick up a few extra sapphic reads for this readathon, but there are three books that I would like to try to prioritize! 🌈

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She’s Too Pretty to Burn by Wendy Heard
Publication: March 30th 2021 by Henry Holt & Company
Buddy read with Maëlys! 💗

Not only is this a reimagining of Dorian Gray, but it has a pan character, too! Like, those two elements combined are too powerful and I do not think I can wait until 2021 to consume this story!

Out on Good Behavior (Radleigh University #3) by Dahlia Adler
Buddy read with Lea! 💕

I truly cannot believe I have read this, but this is the book that constantly gets recced to be for the pan rep, and I’m finally ready to fall in love too!

The Dark Tide (The Dark Tide) by Alicia Jasinska
Buddy Read with Landice 💓

A sister risking everything for her brother, while also starting a sapphic romance with the witch she had to protect her brother from? Like, too many keywords again! After Night Shine I am just read for all the sapphic maybe enemies to lovers (with witches)!


✨ Also, September 15th is the start of Latinx Heritage Month! So here are a few other readathons and book clubs I recommend with my whole heart:

💕 Latinxathon
💕 Latinx Book Club
💕 Latinx Book Bingo

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What are you reading in September? Or what is the book you’re most excited to pick up this September? I feel like we are starting to get into that second sweet spot book release season where so many books are coming out, and I’m always curious to see what people are most excited for! But regardless, I hope you all just have happy reading. I love you all so much! 💗

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This Is What It Feels Like by Rebecca Barrow | Drumsofautumn Backlist Review

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“She played for the girls they used to be and the ones they were now, and all their fallen-apart pieces that had gotten lost or ruined or discarded along the way.”

This Is What It Feels Like is a really wonderful YA Contemporary, that has so many topics and issues packed into it.

At the centre of the story are three girls, Hanna, Jules and Dia. The three were in a band together for a long time but then two years before this story starts, a lot of things happened in their lives and they stopped making music together. The friendship between the three of them took a toll as well, although Jules and Dia remained best friends.

Jules is a Black lesbian and her love interest, Autumn, is fat and questioning her sexuality. I think that Dia is also Black but the book only mentions that she has deep-brown skin. She is also the mother of an almost 2-year old so this deals with raising a kid as a teen. Dia’s good friend and love interest, Jesse, is also Black. Hanna went to rehab for her alcohol abuse and has been sober for over a year when the story starts.

So as you can already tell, this book dealt with so many amazing and important topics and I thought everything was handled incredibly well. Because all three of them have alternating POVs, we see everybody’s perspective to all of the issues and it offers a really insightful and multi-layered discussion off all these things.

“Dia played a concert for her audience of one, under the clouds, and the moon winked in and out of sight, and she felt the anchor of the earth release her the slightest amount.”

I was really happy to see this book deal with different parent relationships. It was so refreshing to see the parents so involved. Dia’s parents are very supportive and help her raise her kid.
Hanna’s parents are super well portrayed too. They are worried about Hanna and her alcohol abuse, even after her being sober for so long. I loved the way you could tell that they were coming from a good place, even if it wasn’t received by Hanna that way or that, even when she does understand where they’re coming from, she eventually just started feeling suffocated. I thought it was a very important and well portrayed child-parent relationship.
Hanna’s sister, Molly, is also very involved and a lovely character. Seeing her relationship with Hanna, after everything they went through, was really precious.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a book about a teen mum. I feel like usually books that feature teenage pregnancy or being a teen mum are focused on that and it will be the main topic of the story and in that case it doesn’t really interest me. But seeing Dia and her relationship with her daughter was wonderful and really great to read. I also loved that it seems like most of her environment was pretty accepting. We never saw anyone make any inappropriate comments about her young pregnancy (although we know these comments do get made) and on the contrary, people seemed very supportive and I really enjoyed that.

Jules and her developing relationship with Autumn was another wonderful part of the novel. Seeing such a beautiful and wholesome f/f relationship in a book still gets me every time. There is also an incredibly well written sex scene between the two.
On top of that female masturbation is mentioned twice, although just in passing. But I’m always glad to see it in any YA as it is still a very taboo topic and truly shouldn’t be.

“But being drunk made her feel invincible, gave her cover for so many things. She said whatever she wanted, she did anything and everything that she got the urge to, and when she fucked up, she’d brush it off: ‘I was drunk! It’s no big deal.”

And then there’s Hanna’s alcohol abuse which might have been my favourite issue that was talked about in this novel. Now while I was never addicted to alcohol, I found so many of Hanna’s reasons as to why she drank and how it got so bad, incredibly relatable and seeing this in a YA and how much this could open some teen’s eyes? It was fantastic.

We shouldn’t underestimate the power of alcohol, ESPECIALLY for teens. And as someone who grew up and lives in a country, where you can start drinking beer and wine with 16, this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. While reading this novel, I thought a lot about how trivialized alcohol is. I remember a girl from my school who had to get her stomach pumped after a party and I thought a lot about how we talked about this back then, like it was just a funny mishap.. sometimes even like something to be proud of. Looking back at how this was handled back then absolutely haunts me until this day.

On top of all these topics and issues, that were handled so very well, this also had a great storyline about friendship and music and how it can bring people together and reunite them. I loved the portrayal of the bond that you form when you make music together, especially when it’s in your “formative” years. The way these girls found their way back together through music warmed my heart immensely.

“Her skin felt raw, too tight for her body, every movement testing her limits, every rub of her clothes burning. And this whole place felt too small to contain her, pushing back against her, and how dare it, how dare it try to put a limit on what she was feeling right now.”

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And that is still not all. There is also the aspect of grief. And there is a wonderful m/f romance as well. And as I said, almost all of these topics get portrayed from different POVs. So while Hanna’s addiction is obviously important in her storyline, we also see the way Dia and Jules feel about it, the way it impacted their lives and the decisions that they made.

Honestly I can’t quite believe how many things were in this 400 page novel and I could probably write a 400 page novel about all of the things packed into this and how amazing they all were.
But I think you get the picture.

I’m really sad that this book never got the attention it deserved. It is a really beautiful summer-y Contemporary, filled with a lot of intense topics that all get handled well.
So please pack this onto your must-read list! It is so great and important and I hope many more YA books tackle issues in such an amazing and open way.

Trigger and Content Warnings for loss of a loved one, alcohol addiction, grief.

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨

The Secret of You and Me by Melissa Lenhardt | Drumsofautumn ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

“We’d done everything together since we were ten years old. I couldn’t imagine life any other way. I’d never wanted to imagine life any other way.”

The Secret of You and Me is a sapphic adult romance that tackles some very serious topics and issues, all packed into a beautiful second-chance romance.

This story revolves around two women, Nora and Sophie, who fell in love when they were teenagers but couldn’t be together due to the prejudices in their small hometown in Texas. When Nora, after 18 years of being away, comes back into town for her father’s funeral, the old stories of what happened start to get unravelled and Nora and Sophie have to navigate being in each other’s lives again.

I will say that I have read less sapphic adult romances than I would like but the ones that I have read, were mostly more on the rom-com spectrum. And while I absolutely love getting a sapphic rom-com, this novel tackled some more serious topics and I very much appreciated that.

It is hard to really talk about the in-depth aspects of this novel without giving too much away, as I do think that this is the kind of novel that really works best if you go into it knowing as little as possible, especially because a lot of things that happened 18 years ago only get slowly revealed throughout the story.

“I didn’t realize until I saw you at Mel’s that you’ve held my heart in the palm of your hand all these years. Right now, I’m offering you my heart, Sophie. My soul. Can you promise me a future? ”

We get to read from both Nora’s and Sophie’s point of view in this novel, which works incredibly well and I found their voices to be easily distinguishable. While Nora and Sophie grew up in the same town, they end up having very different experiences, due to Nora leaving town, and so it was very interesting and important for this novel to feature both of their perspectives.

Sophie has known for a while that she is a lesbian but only really confronts this feeling when Nora returns to town. She is married to a man and they have a daughter, who she loves very much and is really the main reason that she is with her husband.
This was easily my favourite aspect of this novel and one that I thought was handled with incredible nuance and care. Seeing Sophie’s journey with her sexuality is powerful and so important to portray.

We see some flashbacks of her realizing that she is gay and that, while she can recognize her husband is an attractive man, she is not actually attracted to him, but that she still loves him and their daughter.
But only in the course of this novel does Sophie actually confront these feelings for the first time and talks about it and comes out to people too.

This novel manages to shine a light on the experiences that many lesbians go through. Being with men, questioning their feelings and attraction towards them and even going as far as marrying and having kids with them. And I love that this novel showed that there can be reasons why lesbians have sex with men that have nothing do with their attraction to them or enjoying or wanting it. It doesn’t make them any less gay if the reasons are something like protecting themselves (from being outed, for example) or compulsory heterosexuality.
Seeing a woman in her mid-30s come to terms with her sexuality and finally realizing that she has a right to truly be who she is and to live happily out as a lesbian, even with having been with a man for a long time, was so good to see.

Sophie is a recovering alcoholic and this is a topic that gets talked about a lot in this novel as well. We get flashbacks of how Sophie and her family realized that she has an alcohol addiction and decided to go to an AA meeting and her sponsor is a very present side-character in this story.

“My body was barraged with tiny explosions of desire and, deep down, I grieved for all the years this had been missing from my life, that Sophie had been missing. I wanted her as I’d never wanted before, and when our lips met, I fell into her.”

On the other hand, Nora has lead quite a different life. When she left her hometown, she joined the military and has PTSD due to it. Nora definitely talks about her life in the military and how it has shaped her.
And living in DC, she has lived a life as an openly bisexual woman. She is in an open relationship with a woman called Alima, who is a closeted Muslim lesbian, married to a man.

There was a paragraph where Nora talked about what identifying as bisexual means to her and I very much enjoyed the discussion on how this is a label that, while it has one general definition, still will mean something different to the people identifying with it.
I will say that in this conversation, Nora said that to her it means “enjoying connections with both genders” and I honestly never thought I would ever have to read the term “both genders” again. Genders outside the binary exist and even if this was a small part, it is very disappointing for a queer novel to not acknowledge that!

“It’s good to see being in the military didn’t turn you butch.” “Depends on your definition of butch. One definition, my personal favorite, is being able to kill a man with your bare hands. In that regard yes, the military turned me butch.””

The relationship dynamics in this novel are all complicated and messy and I think that it is very important to know that a lot of this novel has (grey-area) cheating. I know that this is an aspect that is an absolute no-go for a lot of people and so I definitely find it important to mention that this is a topic that is very present in this book.
But again, everything in this novel is handled with a lot of nuance and care and this not an element that is used as some sort of shock-factor. There is a lot of history between all the characters involved in this story.

In some ways I did think the ending was quite easily resolved. The book did a lot of good, unpacking all kinds of different things all throughout it, and the ending almost felt a little too convenient, ignoring a lot of the issues that are still present, especially considering the overall tone of the book.
That said, this didn’t hinder my enjoyment, as all sapphics deserve happy endings, especially when it is way too often taken away from us, as this story perfectly portrays. Plus, books that are marketed as Romance, especially if they are queer too, should always have Happily Ever Afters!

“Because I want to be with the woman I love, the only person I’ve ever loved. I want to feel your skin against mine, to be reminded how beautiful making love can be when you’re with someone who you want to absorb into your very being because the thought of ever being without them fills you with sense of despair so complete, so bottomless, that you’re sure you’ll never smile, or laugh, or feel whole again. ”

Now, while I loved this story so very much, I do want to point out that it is not ownvoices. The author does not identify anywhere on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum and in the acknowledgements the author talks about the love story between these women coming together as she wrote it, with no initial intention to make this a sapphic romance.

I read an interview with the author and it very much seems like the author is in one way acknowledging that the process of falling in love is not different just because of the genders involved, while also being very aware of the individual struggles that same-sex couples will go through. I am also glad to hear that the author will be donating 10% of her royalties to the It Gets Better Project.

While none of these things influenced my personal opinion or enjoyment of this book (and I had no idea prior to reading it), I do find it important to point all of this out, so that every reader going into it is aware of this.

I definitely wish that especially a storyline like Sophie’s would’ve been written by an ownvoices author but from what I have read, both as far as interviews and the book itself, the author took so much care in writing this story and I do think it is well done, to the point where I am truly in awe of how well this was written, considering it is none of the author’s own experience at all.
But at the end of the day, I wanna leave the decision to every reader themselves and that is why I thought it important to mention this.

“I pulled her to me and kissed her, pouring into her every bit of admiration I had for her generous heart, gratitude for her courage, and hope for our future. ”

Overall, this was a very intense reading experience for me and I think that the trigger warnings and general tough topics of this novel should not be underestimated. While this book made me very happy because of the representation and themes involved, it was also not an easy read.

But if you can handle the themes and topics, I absolutely recommend this story. It was really beautiful to read about these two women finding their way back to each other and finally getting the happy ending they deserve.
The Secret of You and Me is a novel that I will carry in my heart for a long time.

Trigger and Content Warnings for PTSD (after military service), loss of a loved one, homophobia (including physical violence due to it, mentions of/being threatened with conversion therapy and homosexuality being called a mental illness), biphobia (immediately challenged), alcohol abuse, cheating, racism, chronically ill loved one, sexual harassment.

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨

Loveless by Alice Oseman | Drumsofautumn Review

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Before I go into any of this review, let me say that I am very aware that this book has made so many people feel incredibly seen, for many for the first time, and I am so very happy about that. But I want to share my personal experience and perspective as honestly as possible and I do not like to hold back when I think something is genuinely doing more harm than good. I not only found many things portrayed in it not well represented whatsoever but this book was really hurtful to me personally in the way that it portrayed one experience as THE aromantic asexual experience. And I hope that this community can respect my opinion without me disclosing my own orientation.
Also this will have mild spoilers, so I can actually go into detail.

Loveless tried to do a lot of good but ended up just being harmful, hurtful and offensive, invalidating literally everyone that doesn’t have the exact same experience as the main character.

This is one of those books that shows that ownvoices does not necessarily mean a book can do no harm or has perfect representation. This book would’ve immensely benefited from having sensitivity readers for the other identities portrayed AND for the aroace representation too, especially as aromantic and asexual is such a huge spectrum.

I think that a lot of the questionable things in this book could’ve been avoided by having gone through a sensitivity read by someone who, for example, is asexual but not sex-repulsed.

And by that I do not mean that this book needed to be relatable to everybody on the aroace spectrum but the least it could’ve done is make more of an effort to explain the differences and not invalidate everybody who is anywhere else on the spectrum. This identity gets explained literally once and when the main character, Georgia, actually does some research herself, she quickly logs off because she finds it too overwhelming. And while that is valid, is it just not enough for a book like this.

Georgia is clearly sex-repulsed but the word does not get used on-page ONCE and I just think that this is a problem. A sex-repulsed experience exists but it is not THE aroace experience, even tough this book sadly ends up portraying it like that.

And I get that this is a story focused on figuring your sexuality out but it really took 45% for us to get to that ONE explanation of what asexual and aromantic means. Basically no one had ever heard of this term before, except Georgia, who didn’t know what it was, even though she clearly spends a lot of time on the internet (and NOT the straight corners of it). It quite frankly seemed very convenient but made all of this unbelievable.
And what would’ve been so wrong with the character understanding these words earlier in the story but still coming to terms with the fact that that is how she feels and identifies? Instead we have to go through this character bulldozing her way through literally everybody else’s feelings, experiences and identities in order to figure this out.

But this book does not only have an aroace coming out story. It also has the storyline of Rooney, Georgia’s roommate, who she becomes friends with very quickly, figuring out she is pansexual. And we get so little pansexual representation in books, that it’s especially harmful when the little rep we do have perpetuates a harmful stereotype like it does in this case.

This character is portrayed as someone who seems very sex positive but throughout this book we find out that she basically only slept with people as a coping mechanism for her feelings and emotions that she doesn’t want to deal with. And I am not saying that this experience can’t be valid but, first of all, this book really needed this perspective of sex being something that many people do enjoy and can do without any commitment, and, again, all of this just perpetuated an already harmful stereotype without ever talking about it.

And with an identity that is so little represented, when you want to feature a full coming out story of a character (even if it is a side-character), you need to do a better job at explaining what pansexuality actually means, ESPECIALLY if you also constantly put pan and bi in the same bracket. We never once got an explanation of what pansexuality actually means or what the difference between bi and pan is. Quote: “She said she just doesn’t think she really has a gender preference and that felt like the right word for her!!!!” That is not enough if you feature a pansexual coming-out story so prominently.

And do not even get me started on when Georgia said “stop erasing my identity” in a conversation with Rooney about falling in love, when she could’ve brought up a very legit discussion on aromanticism or the difference between romantic and sexual attraction to her. Instead, she treats Rooney in the dismissive way she was so tired of being treated by everyone else.

I even would’ve found it completely valid to have this portrayed as an experience that is realizing “oh wait, this is not how everybody else feels?” instead of a “finding people you relate to”-experience, but the main character’s thoughts towards everybody else were constantly shaming them. It is okay to be sex-repulsed but you can’t place that on everyone else when sex is such a natural part of many people’s lives and something that they enjoy.

You cannot yell at and shame your friend, who you know has a lot of sex and just shared personal things with you, like what gender she fantasizes having sex with while she masturbates. Quote: “‘This has to be a fucking joke,’ I blurted. Rooney paused. ‘What?’ I sat up, pushing the covers off my body. ‘Everyone has to be fucking JOKING.’ ‘What d’you–’ ‘People are really out there just … thinking about having sex all the time and they can’t even help it?’ I spluttered. ‘People have dreams about it because they want it that much? How the–I’m losing it. I thought all the movies were exaggerating, but you’re all really out there just craving genitals and embarrassment. This has to be some kind of huge joke.’”

Also I wonder how a book that focuses so heavily on sexuality, has a super prominent non-binary side character AND a character that comes out as pansexual, could still READ SO BINARY! No one ever ACTUALLY acknowledged the existence of there being more than two genders.

And the fact that Sunil, the one non-binary character, wears a pin that says “he/they” but never once gets addressed with they/them pronouns, not even by their BEST FRIEND, is on another level too. Why introduce them using they/them pronouns when you are not going to use it? Genuinely makes me wonder who edited this book too.

There is a lot to say on how the people of colour get treated in this book as well. Like for example the way that Sunil, who is Indian, is only there to do all kinds of (emotional) labour for the main character. Or how Goergia’s best friend, Pip, who is Latinx, is portrayed like a stereotype. Or how terribly Georgia treats her throughout this entire book. Or how she says “I would choose to be gay” to her face after they just had a talk about how it hasn’t been easy for Pip to be a Latina and lesbian.. seriously, I could go on and on and on. I would encourage you all to check out Maëlys’s review, if you haven’t already, because she talks about this (and many other things too) in great detail.

And while the book definitely tried to put out the message that platonic love can be just as or even more valuable than romantic love, it just missed the mark. This is a message that I always find so important and absolutely love seeing portrayed in books but here it was almost like Georgia felt superior and like she was the only who could truly and fully love someone platonically because she would never develop romantic feelings or sexual attraction.

This book could’ve used this opportunity to talk about the existence of platonic relationships and how there are people who live as non-romantic couples.. instead it just ended in this weird triangle situation with Georgia, Rooney and Pip, introducing no boundaries whatsoever, and I cannot even get into the mess that all of that was.
And the fact that Rooney having been in a toxic relationship is getting used as an opportunity to say that platonic relationships are better than romantic relationships, is something I can’t even begin to unpack either.

I could write many more paragraphs for many more hours on this book, for example about the time when Georgia just picks up her roommate’s phone without her consent and the roommate is just like “okay no prob”. Or when the lesbian character is the one who says “how do you know you won’t find someone one day?”, so Georgia gets to be the one to say “how would you feel if I said this towards you” and on and on and on.

I’m not saying characters can’t be flawed or unlikeable or fuck up. But this book is one big fuck-up. From the way Georgia behaves and treats other people to the things that this book portrays and talks about in general. Considering all the things that this main character says and does and thinks throughout this book, there is just not enough repercussions for it. There is not enough people calling Georgia and her bulldozing behaviour out and it is not okay.

At the end of the day, despite knowing how many people saw themselves in this book and the main character’s experience, I simply cannot recommend this book whatsoever. A book that shames and invalidates everybody else’s experiences to further a main character’s journey is just not a good book.

If you’re looking for something else to read instead, I highly recommend Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman for a book with amazing aroace questioning rep without invalidating anybody else!

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨