Fence, Vol. 3 by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad

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1.) Vol. 1 ★★★★★
2.) Vol. 2 ★★★★

I truly feel like this graphic novel series just gets better and better each installment. I feel like after I finished the last page of this volume, I felt like the story (and real angst) is just now going to be starting and I truly cannot wait. This truly has been such a purely joyous serotonin ride getting to this point, and I already can’t wait to see what happens next. And I also predict the next issues will have a much different tone, as well.

But if you don’t know what Fence is all about, it basically follows some kids trying to join their boarding school’s fencing team! And some of the kids need to make the team in order to be able to stay at the school! And some kids are really just trying to live out their dreams of becoming famous fencers. In this installment in particular, we get to see so many of the kid’s families! And we also get to see some really pivotal matches that will dictate the future for some of these fencers!

The stars of this graphic novel are for sure Nicholas and Seiji, who are currently maybe having the slowest burn romance of all romance! But Bobby and Eugene must be protected forever and I vow to make it my new life mission. And Harvard is my favorite character, and not only would I give my life for his, I also want to remind this fictional character that he deserves the world and to never settle for the best. [rest]

I always do a breakdown on my thoughts and feeling of each individual issue for Fence. So, the next portion of this review will have SPOILERS! Nothing too pivotal, but I will talk about some of the themes and events that each issue had inside.

➽ CHAPTER NINE
Aiden lost to Harvard! Nicholas has a chance at making the team, he only has to win against Kally! Seiji is still very much still thinking about Jesse, and him and Nicholas get in quite the confrontation speaking about him.

➽ CHAPTER TEN
Bobby has my whole entire heart. I love the seeing all the diverse families of color and their relationships! Yet, both Nicholas and Seiji do not have families there.

➽ CHAPTER ELEVEN
Jay vs. Aiden (and maybe they hooked up before this match). I love Eugene and his family a lot. Truly like so much pure friendship going on this issue, please hold my bursting heart. And when coach says “I’m proud of you” I still can’t stop crying. I’m too attached to these kids.

➽ CHAPTER TWELVE
Seiji and Nicholas and their dorm situation. Two reserves = friendship. “Welcome to the fencing team!” and the pure serotonin this issue gave me. And then Jesse shows up and makes me question everything and where this next part of the story is going to go.

Overall, this is really just a top tier graphic novel series if you’re looking for a diverse cast of sports gays! I really recommend it with my whole heart, and it is truly one of my favorites of all time! And again, I really can’t wait to see what happens in Vol. 4, because I truly suspect that the entire story has just now started to begin!

5

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Top Ten Tuesday | Books I Loved but Never Reviewed

TopTenTuesday
Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

Hello, loves! Not at the way this Top Ten Tuesday topic feels like a personal attack at my reviewing habits lately, but… here we are! I feel like I’ve read so many things that I’ve loved these last 6 months, and so many things I really need to review, so maybe this will actually be something to hold me a bit accountable. And if not? Here are some books I really loved that I wish I would have gotten around to writing full reviews for! 💕


The Weight of the Stars by K. Ancrum
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
⭐⭐⭐⭐


Wundersmith: The Calling of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #2) by Jessica Townsend
(mini review!)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Wolf of Oren-Yaro (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen #1) by K.S. Villoso
⭐⭐⭐⭐


Always Human (Always Human #1) by Ari North
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell
(mini review!)
⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa
⭐⭐⭐⭐


The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson
⭐⭐⭐⭐


Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley & Austin Siegemund-Broka
(mini review!)
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐



Whew! Okay! I really hope that this is a T10T that I won’t be able to participate in in 2021! But I’m not gonna beat myself up too much in this wild year that we are calling 2020, haha! I love you all so much, and I hope you’re having happy reading and reviewing! 💗

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Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children #6) by Seanan McGuire | ARC Review

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ARC provided by Tor.com (thank you)
Publication: January 12th, 2021 by Tor.com

1.) Every Heart a Doorway ★★★★★
2.) Down Among the Sticks and Bones ★★★★★
3.) Beneath the Sugar Sky ★★★★
4.) In an Absent Dream ★★★★★
5.) Come Tumbling Down ★★★

“She knew better now. The world was bigger now. She was bigger now, and that made all the difference.”

In this story, we get to grow up alongside Regan Lewis! We are introduced to Regan at seven years old, where she is quickly already learning the expectations that society puts on girls, especially girls who are different. Regan comes from a good family, who love and care about her, and she has a big space in her heart for horses! She also has two best friends, and they do everything together! That is, until she really learns the consequences of what it means to be different, and what happens to girls who don’t play by the rules that society place on them.

“They thought children, especially girl children, were all sugar and lace, and that when those children fought, they would do so cleanly and in the open, where adult observers could intervene.”

We get to see Regan at 11, becoming worried that her body isn’t developing the way other girls’ bodies are. She doesn’t need to wear a bra yet, she doesn’t need deodorant yet, and she hasn’t started her period yet. And once the pressure gets too great to bear, she asks her parents who (very kindly, knowledgeably, and empathetically) explain to her that her body hasn’t started developing these things (or maybe won’t start developing these things on their own without some help) because she is intersex.

This book really made me realize how much I am slacking as a reader and reviewer with reading books with intersex main characters. Off the top of my head, I can think of only two others, and that makes me feel very bad and I hope to change that soon. But, regardless of chromosomes or androgen insensitivity, Regan is a girl and has always been a girl. And I really loved how her parents constantly reminded her that she was exactly as she was meant to be. Truly, I had so many happy tears over her parents, truly a tier above.

Regan is still very unsure of herself and this new information, and after confiding in someone who she probably should not have, and after they say some incredibly hurtful things to her, she runs away into the woods to try to get home, yet a magical door appears and she steps into a world filled with horses, and kelpies, and centaurs, and unicorns!

I loved this world, like, I loved this world so much. Also, I have never been and will never be a horse girl, and this hooved world was still everything to me. And once Regan is discovered in this world by a pack of centaurs who herd unicorns, we find out about a prophecy that states all humans must be given to the queen, because whenever a human shows up in this magical land that means that something bad is about to happen! But it is not stated anywhere when the human must be given to the queen, therefore Regan gets to spend a lot of time with her centaur family.

The heart of this book is about destiny, and what it means to be destined for something. Whether it’s about your gender, your childhood, your family, or even maybe saving a whole magical world filled with horse-like creatures! All these expectations can be so very heavy, but they do become lighter when you have a found family to help with them. They also become pretty light when you are able to realize that you and your journey and your life are worth so much more than the expectations placed on you from society, from friends, and from any kind of destiny that you did not ask for.

“She still didn’t believe in destiny. Clay shaped into a cup was not always destined to become a drinking vessel’ it was simply shaped by someone too large to be resisted. She was not clay, but she had been shaped by her circumstances all the same, not directed by any destiny.”

This entire story has a really beautiful message about found family, and finding your people, and how unconditional love is all about unapologetically choosing the people you love over and over again. Blood will only ever be blood, but choosing the people who are your home is another level of love. We also get to see Regan at 15, when it is time for her to fulfill her destiny after spending four years being unconditionally loved. Side note: I would die for Gristle and Zephyr.

The reason I am giving this four stars is because I didn’t love the end of this one. I truly enjoyed the reveal, and the symbolism about destiny was not lost on me, but I just truly wanted a more concrete ending. I am scared to wish for another book in this world, since I didn’t love the revisit to the Moors, but (without going into spoiler territory here) I just really wanted to see things that I didn’t get to see! Also, in part one, I feel like this author may not spend a lot of time with children in 2020, but that is a very minor critique that I have.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one and I truly felt so much happiness flipping these pages. I love seeing all the different ways you can belong in the Wayward Children series, and I think these stories contain a lot of hope, and healing, and light. And, how I close off every review of each book in this series, I’m going to keep praying that we get Kade’s story next.

Trigger and Content Warnings: blood descriptions, bullying, intersexphobia, abduction, and brief captivity.

4
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Loveless by Alice Oseman | Maëlys Reads Review

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Loveless or the bingo of harmful representation. 

Let me start off this review by saying that this seems to be a very personal book to Alice Oseman and that it is obviously a very valid experience of being aroace and I won’t take that away from it. However, I despised the way it presented this character’s journey as THE aroace experience and as someone on the aroace spectrum, I felt very misrepresented and like my own experience was being invalidated. Not only do I think this can be harmful to others on the aroace spectrum and questioning folks who have different experiences, but this book also constantly diminishes and dismisses other identities. I’m truly happy to see people feeling fully represented by this main character and this book but it also makes me incredibly uncomfortable to see the disregard of other experiences, and the mistreatment of other lgbtqia identities and characters of colour be completely ignored.

If you are on the aroace spectrum and this totally represents you, you are valid. If you are on the aroace spectrum and do not relate to this experience at all, or only a little, you are valid. If you felt hurt in any shape or form by this book, you are so valid. The aroace spectrum is not a monolith, we exist with a plethora of experiences and feelings that many want to dismiss, and it is hurtful to see that being expressed in a book that is supposed to be a safe place, a comfort, something you thought you’d relate to.

I will go forward with this review by doing a character breakdown as I find it easier to talk about each issue I have with the book in this way.

Georgia is the main character of this book and we follow her as she starts her first year of university at Durham and she tries to figure out her sexuality. Georgia is honestly so unlikable and she’s constantly judging other people’s sex lives. While her confusion and wanting to be “normal” is relatable and important to highlight, the way everything is presented feels so reductive. Asexuality and sex repulsion are two very different things and while they can overlap, this is the only ace experience represented in this book while not actually mentioning sex repulsion once. Asexuality and sex repulsion are not one and the same as you could be led to believe here; you can be asexual without being sex repulsed and you can be sex repulsed without being asexual. This book never portrays sex in a good light or healthy way, almost presenting it as a great evil of our society. So you can imagine how hurtful it can be reading pages upon pages of sex shaming when you are on the ace spectrum but not sex repulsed. It’s one thing to have these be the initial ideas and feelings of Georgia but they never get challenged and worse than that it treats Rooney who is sex-positive pretty terribly.

Asexuality is a spectrum and how it is represented in this book holds no nuance. The most we get in terms of exploring the spectrum, or at least tell us there is a spectrum, are two throwaway sentences at about 70% of the book. These are not enough to drive the point home and especially do not make up for 99% of this book being harmful to acearo people with different experiences. This books truly misses the mark with highlighting that all experiences are valid and squanders every opportunity it has to explore the aroace spectrum with the perspectives of other aroace characters. 

There is also this sense that you need to figure yourself out and that once this is done there is no changing how you identify. I get that in the main conversation where this happens is used as a way to highlight people not taking Georgia seriously but the way it is said does not allow for sexuality to be fluid. This is completely untrue, you can still understand yourself later in life, things can change, and above all 18 is not the time limit you get to figure out your sexuality. Many elements can play into this and it should be highlighted that every experience is different and you can cycle through different labels throughout your life, nothing is ever set in stone.

There is this weird undertone to the way the author presents some of the experiences as aroace exclusive. For example, making up crushes (while being a very relatable experience of the aroace spectrum) or making yourself believe you have a crush on someone is definitely a shared experience for people experiencing same-sex attraction. It can be for various reasons, a lot of them dealing with safety issues and compulsory heterosexuality. The way the book presents some of these struggles as exclusive (including lack of representation in the media) just feels very off and tactless. There is a constant putting down of other experiences and sexualities throughout the story, conversations and characters that left a sour taste in my mouth.

While on the topic of representation, Georgia really tries to drive the point home that everything in our society, from the media and the art we consume to the conversations we have, everything revolves around sex and relationships. While this is a valid point that there societal pressure about sex and love, this book still perpetuates this idea. There is this huge paradox of bashing everyone else around this main character and the whole world for making it all about love, sex and relationship while every character who is not aroace in this book still only get subplots about sex and love. There is more to life than relationships even if you are not aroace, attraction does not mean you will always act on it. 

At one point in this book, Georgia has a conversation with her cousin who is also on the aroace spectrum. Their bonding time could’ve been used effectively to widen the perspective on what being aroace can mean but instead what is basically being said is that anyone who is not on the aroace spectrum, or anyone who wants sex or relationships for that matter, can’t understand the importance and magic of platonic love. Their conversation while aiming to call attention to the importance of friendships actually perpetuates the idea that romance is everything over friendship. It truly paints sex repulsed aroace people are some sort of chosen ones of platonic love instead of showcasing how amazing it can be for anyone.

It also seems pretty ironic to have these great speeches about the magic of friendships and how we should cherish them when Georgia is a truly terrible friend. She constantly shames her friends, fucks them over, and never apologises. She uses grand gestures as a way to make up with her friends and it was truly unrealistic to me that they would all forgive her so easily. There is even a point where she is being congratulated for bringing them all together when she’s the one who did wrong in the first place. She goes around very self-righteously apparently “fixing” everyone’s problems when they wouldn’t exist in the first place if it wasn’t for her. Characters, and especially characters of marginalised identities, never need to be perfect, act perfect, always say the perfect thing, on the contrary. However, it becomes harmful when their ideas are never questioned or put into perspective, and when their own fuck ups are being erased, twisted and put on other characters.

Then we have Rooney, Georgia’s roommate who likes going out and having casual sex, she’s pansexual, and seems to be there only to be used as an antithesis to Georgia’s character. There is literally one scene where Rooney and Georgia are getting ready together and when talking about the outfits Rooney is said to be the devil to Georgia’s angel. I really wish I’d made that up. Rooney keeps being shamed all throughout this book for liking to go out and having sex. It’s possible to make your readers understand that this is not the only university experience, that it’s okay to not want or like it, without bashing people who do enjoy these things. Not only is Georgia sex shaming at every opportunity but it turns out that Rooney is having sex not because she just enjoys it but to “fill a hole” and as a coping mechanism. Apparently going out and having casual sex are only there to make her feel lonely and hate herself and she suddenly seems to be fixed once she stops doing those things. It is so harmful to see a sex positive character being diminished to a promiscuous stereotype. It is beyond me why Rooney had to enjoy something Georgia wasn’t interested in for a deeper reason otherwise they what? Couldn’t actually be friends who understand they’re different people? It’s also appalling to see a past abusive relationship being used for Rooney to feel “ruined” by love. Her whole character just feels like a big “LOVE AND SEX ARE BAD” warning and for a book that should celebrate everyone’s experience being different it does a whole lot of shaming. This honestly almost feels like a revenge plot against society’s pressure to participate in romantic relationships and sex but instead of providing an actual meaningful conversation on it it takes slut shaming to the next level. It is so weird to me that Alice Oseman completely negates and ignores how women who enjoy sex are also being treated. Instead of having a fulfilling friendship between two girls with different experiences and making that into something inclusive and beautiful, this book just paints what Rooney does and feels in a bad light.

Her character also gets a lot of blame for things that are not her fault and she is almost made into a cartoonish acephobic villain at one point. It just saddens me so much to see how her character was portrayed when we could’ve had… everything. It also feels pretty disgusting to have actual consensual experimentation depicted as negative and used as a plot device for drama just because Rooney initiated it. I promise you, kissing your friends when you’re both figuring things out and you both know that about each other and trust one another is not a great evil of the world.

All of the terribly harmful ideas about Rooney’s character culminate in Georgia’s wrapped perspective of her being the only person who cares about her. She paints herself in almost a saviour’s light as being her only true friend and like Rooney would be helpless without her. Georgia seems to think that staying out late and forgetting your keys once is the epitome of not being able to take care of yourself. She puts down Rooney for going out and this book completely dismisses more casual friendships. Hello, I have a lot of friends but I’m not going to relate to all of them on the same level and that’s okay, it doesn’t mean they’re not my friends or that they would not come open a door for me? This view on friendships and how only one person can be your true friend is concerning, especially when Rooney stops going out to spend all her time with Georgia, making her her only friend and person she relies on. That dynamic just makes me so uncomfortable when you add Georgia’s complete lack of boundaries in this friendship. In one instance she picks up Rooney’s phone when it rings and when it turns out to be one of her old school friends Georgia acts like she is the ONLY PERSON who cares about Rooney and actually knows her. Georgia then goes around making plans to uncover Rooney’s emotional wounds as she feels she is owed chipping at and putting Rooney’s wall down. I’d like to highlight that your friends never owe any explanations of their past, they’ll tell you if they want to, it is up to them to trust you with their experiences and emotions but you can never demand it of them. 

One of the many moments between Rooney and Georgia that made my blood boil is when Rooney is being emotionally vulnerable and open and says she thinks she can’t fall in love. Instead of using this moment to open a conversation on aromanticism Georgia immediately shuts her friend down by telling her “stop erasing my identity”. This is one of the moments that truly shows this book’s absolute lack of nuance when it comes to the aroace representation. Rooney could’ve easily been on the aromantic spectrum and been a wonderful example of sexual and romantic attractions being two separate things. Alice Oseman had every chance to make a pansexual character be on the aromantic spectrum but it seems that Rooney’s enjoyment for casual sex is so evil she is not allowed to be a complex character with a complex identity.

On the topic of pansexuality, it is also quite disheartening to see Rooney figuring out her sexuality be her most prominent character arc and yet have no real explanation of what being pansexual is. In this book bi and pan are always used and lumped together like being either was more of a word choice rather than two different sexualilites. There is never a conversation about how those two things are different from one another and why the distinction is important. There is this rampant problem in media where any character attracted to more than one gender is labeled as bisexual by the people consuming and reviewing it when there is no on-page denomination. This is harmful to both pansexuals whose identity keeps being erased and bisexuals who expect on-page representation but don’t fully get that either. People rarely give any serious thought to pansexuality. It is often treated as a quirky term for bisexual, and as we can see with this book, when the word is finally on-page, the character is portrayed in such a bad light and treated as a stereotype. It’s even more terrible to see in a ownvoices aroace book. These sexualities are often treated as invisible by many and you would think the author would know the feeling of not seeing yourself represented or only badly represented. 

Pip is one of Georgia’s best friends, she is Columbian and a lesbian. Her one subplot in the book is that she likes Rooney and that she is tired of “crushing on straight girls”. This phrasing is constantly brought up and makes me so uncomfortable. Crushing on straight people can be a bit of a running joke for people who experience same-sex attraction but when it is constantly being brought up it feels like Pip’s only personality trait and in direct accordance with the “Oh, you’re gay? You must like me then” stereotype. Not only that, Pip then decides that she will hate Rooney for absolutely no reason other than this crush, making the one woman of colour always appear petty and angry for no reason. I think that this relationship dynamic stems from the author wanting to mimic a fanfiction trope to parallel Georgia’s interest in fanfiction. However, a lot of fanfiction tropes only work because the characters are already known and loved, with an established background and personality. Here the rivals-to-lovers situation falls flat because there is no context to the animosity except that Pip decided it would be so and there is no chemistry between the two of them.

In the big year 2020 we have our dear main character Georgia explicitly say that yes, if she could, she would choose to be gay. It leaves a poor taste in my mouth to have her (and therefore this book since it is never challenged) pretend homophobia does not exist, that exploring and finding out about any other sexualities is easy. And Pip, who identifies as a lesbian, just.. accepts that. It was only a little over a year ago that two women were beaten on a London bus in a homophobic attack. Is being a girl liking girls powerful and magical? Yes. Do I want someone who will never experience this particular brand of homophobia tell me they’d “pick” to be gay. It left my skin crawling thinking about all the reasons why I could be scared walking outside holding another girl’s hand and at how insensitive that comment was. It feels especially dismissive when this remark pops up just after Pip shared the struggle she’s had as being both a lesbian and a latina and how she can rarely find anyone she can relate two on both levels. And then that was about it in regards to her identity as a latina, barely enough of it to check a box.

The next character I want to talk about is Sunil. They are aroace as well as non-binary and Indian. Right off the bat Sunil is presented as a helping hand, someone Georgia could turn to and use for her own comfort without ever really reciprocating any of that. Sunil is compared to a Queer Eye member, Sunil is described as always smiling, and well-humoured when it comes to helping out the main white character, Sunil is the only character to every express that they don’t do anything for fun.

Basically their only plot point is to support Georgia as she meanders through her questioning, always magically appearing when she needs emotional labour from someone else. I’m tired of seeing brown characters being treated as a token, only being used to further the white protagonist’s story without an actual character arc of their own. Sunil is the person to give Georgia a Google definition of asexuality that she could’ve found well enough on her own (she even mentions that herself but still takes that labour for granted). The problem with that is that there is no real expansion on what Sunil’s experience is like. Once again, this could’ve been an opportunity to explore the aroace spectrum with another character’s perspective on it. More than that it could’ve actually been a scene to humanise Sunil and paint them as an actual person. POC don’t want to only be there as teaching tools or your “gay messiah”, they want to be, they are, their own person too. And that is definitely something the white lgbtqia community doesn’t seem to quite understand, as portrayed in this story.

In a poor attempt at gatekeeping commentary this book has Sunil “annihilating” Lloyd, a very random, one dimensional “cis white gay” villain. Nothing really comes out of this altercation except that Georgia feels offended by Lloyd’s words but it turns out to be okay because her brown friend was there to speak up. Alice Oseman seems to think that writing down a Twitter clapback and pretending it is fully realised dialogue is enough to count as a good discussion on gatekeeping and also manages to completely gloss over the rampant racism present in the lgbtqia community.

And finally, we have our last character, Jason. He is Georgia’s other best friend, he’s in love with her and she uses him without his knowledge consent for experimentation. Georgia never fully really apologises for that either but instead just plans an outing with their friends all dressed up as Scooby Doo members. This type of non-consensual experimentation is wrong to begin with, Georgia knowing full well that Jason has feelings for her, but there is an added layer of her knowing  he’s emotionally fragile after being in a bad relationship. There are never any real consequences to her actions and Jason’s character is even used to provide Georgia with a very sudden backstory of her being a good friend when she’s been a terrible friend for the entirety of this book.

On top of the poor and harmful representation, this book is just not that good anyway. First of all, the characters of this book don’t feel like real people, they just feel fake to me. The dialogue feels like it’s been taken out of a university AU fanfiction (since the MC makes such a point of liking fanfic) where every sentence is stilted and the banter falls flat. 

I liked the involvement of student societies as it was something that was a big part of my university experience in the UK as well. However it is highly unlikely to me that no one tried to enlist more members to save this society (you ask other societies to help you out and it can be done, especially when a lot of performance societies are very supportive of one another and collaborate a lot) instead of putting on a play for the sake of plot convenience. 

This just was not a good book on every possible level.

Had I read this book at a point in my life where I didn’t feel secure in myself and my identity I would’ve felt like I didn’t belong to the aroace community, I would’ve felt ashamed for even thinking I was on this spectrum. Today I’m thankful that this book only brought me intense disappointment, anger and a little bit of hurt. I just can’t stop thinking about the potential this book has to harm other readers, of the negative impact this could have on someone. If you’ve enjoyed this book and felt represented, all the power to you. I do however hope that this review will let people know what they’ll get into, make them aware. I also hope that if you’ve read this and have felt alone in your anger and your hurt, please know you’re not. 

It is frankly quite concerning to see the lack of nuance, tact and empathy every other experience and identity was treated with in this book and that very few seem to have a problem with that.
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✨ Maëlys needed a place to post this over-character-limit goodreads review! And her voice is so important to me (meltotheany) that I wanted to give her a place to express her thoughts at full-length! Maybe in the future, you will see more reviews from her! ✨

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Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman | Drumsofautumn Backlist Review

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“Because to Lea and me, music wasn’t only about sounds. Music was scenery and smells and tastes and magic, too. But it doesn’t feel like magic anymore – it feels like I’m being haunted.”

Summer Bird Blue is an intense Contemporary novel that deals with grief in a way that I have never come across before.

At the center of this novel Rumi, who, after losing her sister Lea in a car accident, gets sent away to live with her aunt in Hawaii, while her mum deals with her own grief.
We follow Rumi as she tries to process this loss, feeling abandoned by her mother and trying to find her way back into writing music, which was a hobby that she shared with and deeply connects to her sister.

Before I get into my thoughts and feelings on this book, I wanna talk about the representation. The main character, Rumi, is multiracial (Hawaiian, Japanese and white). There’s a lot of biracial side- and minor characters and many of them speak Hawaii Pidgin English.

This book also features some amazing questioning rep. The way Rumi describes being unsure about her romantic and sexual orientation, about not feeling comfortable with even the idea of labels, about being so sure how she feels but becoming insecure about it when everyone tells you that’s not how it’s supposed to be, about being scared that you settle on a label and then you realize it doesn’t quite fit or things have changed.. it all truly blew my mind. Eventually Rumi plays with both the asexual and aromantic label and she is definitely a-spec but it feels like she never quite wants to settle on any labels.

It was so very easy to relate to Rumi and I think that many people who have struggled with their identity will. As someone who has been questioning and struggling with orientation well into my twenties, this is some of the best questioning rep I have EVER read. Akemi Dawn Bowman absolutely nailed it.

“I’m not comfortable with the labels, because labels feel so final. Like I have to make up my mind right this second. Like I have to be sure of myself as everyone else seems to be.”

The writing is beautiful and fascinating in every aspect. I have never in my life seen grief described this way. The imagery, the metaphors, the similes.. it made the pain and the anger so vivid and relatable. Whether you’ve ever lost someone so close to you or not, Rumi’s pain grabs every little bit of you and does not let go. I would almost say be careful going into this if you experienced a loss just recently. It is already a tough read as it is!

The music aspect spoke to my heart and soul and is something that I just felt a very personal connection to. I don’t really have a person that connects me to music as Rumi is connected to Lea through it, but I still could really relate to so many thoughts about music, about the songwriting process and about how much music can heal but also hurt and trigger negative emotions. The intense way Rumi feels about music and what it means to her, before and after the accident, is pouring out of these pages.

“Because music is a carnival at night, lit up by a thousand stars and bursting with luminescent colors and magical illusions. Music is magic and lightning and fireworks.”

I loved that as an adult I could read this novel and understand Rumi’s mum while still also very much understanding where Rumi’s anger towards her is coming from and how justified it is. I appreciated that this was a novel, where, eventually, the two found their way back together, but I never felt like this novel was trying super hard to excuse her mum’s behaviour.

Everything, every emotion Rumi had about her mother and the way she behaved during the grieving process, was valid, even after they talked and Rumi’s mum gave a good explanation and it was portrayed like that too. This book does not invalidate Rumi’s feelings or even the way Rumi behaved towards her mother and I feel like this is just generally something that YA, as it’s mostly written by adults, often gets so wrong. It is a genre about the lives and feelings of teens and an adult’s “redemption” does not necessarily need to be part of that.

And honestly, if you’re an adult and you cannot handle Rumi’s behaviour, I seriously think it is time for you to reflect on how you read Young Adult novels because it is NOT written for you.

“My shoulders shake like there’s an earthquake in my core. Every inch of me tenses up like I’m bracing for the room to split apart – for the earthquake inside me to be real. I imagine the room exploding to bits, with pieces of drywall and tile flying in every direction and the tremor of the earthquake breaking the building in half.”

There’s also so many amazing friendships featured in this novel. I always love when a book displays different kinds of friendships and how some friends are the ones you laugh with and others are ones you cry with and some are ones you have adventures with. Sometimes friends are all of those things but I just like when it is recognized in YA that a friendship with a certain person can be especially benefiting for one aspect.

Especially the way that the friendship between Kai and Rumi, a surfer boy she gets to know in Hawaii, is written, is super special. Not only does it portray a “friendship crush” incredibly well, this friendship is also taken seriously as an important relationship in their lives, while being non-romantic and confined to a time and place. It is so special to read about a friendship like this.

On top of that Kai has romantic feelings for Rumi and this book shows that when two people really mean something to each other, you can still work on that friendship and stay good friends, even with one person having romantic feelings. This certainly doesn’t work for everyone and you have to figure things out on the long run but I loved seeing this portrayed as something that is absolutely possible!

There’s also the amazing friendship Rumi has with an elderly man, Mr. Watanabe. This might have been my favourite relationship in this whole novel. I was so emotionally involved in this development and the way these people were there for each other and meant so much to each other’s lives, while barely even acknowledging that. You could feel the impact these two had on each other and I thought that this was an incredibly special relationship.

“I don’t know how something as beautiful and important as music could suddenly feel so empty and cruel. Music used to be life and hope and everything happy. Now it’s full of ghosts.”

Overall Summer Bird Blue is an amazing novel, that deals with loss and grief, friendship and family, hurting and healing and figuring your identity out on top of all that. It feels like Akemi Dawn Bowman lay her soul bare. To me, this is an absolutely remarkable novel.

Trigger and Content Warnings for loss of a loved one, car accident, depression, violence.

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

July 2020 Wrap Up

WrapUp7

Hello, friends! How are you? I hope you are doing well! July was a really successful reading month for me! Again, I truly believe I refound my love for books and reading this summer, and I am praying with everything that it is here to stay for good! The last week of the month, I did participate in a readathon, and that for sure helped boost my books read number, too! But I had a really good reading month, and read three new favorite books of all time, while also reading an accumulation of fourteen books!

The Glass Hotel by Emily St. John Mandel
⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤
I truly loved Station Eleven when I read it many, many moons ago. And this was just nothing like that, which is completely fine, but my expectations were just way too high. If you are looking for a legal case with many strings that do beautifully get tied together, then I would maybe give this one a try.

Chasing Lucky by Jenn Bennett
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys & Isabella 💕
I feel like at this point, I just have loved everything I’ve read by Jenn Bennett! If you are looking for a cozy small town feel, with small glimpses of a book store, and large glimpses of two kids finding themselves and finding how they could work together with their pasts and futures, then I recommend this!

The Library of the Unwritten (Hell’s Library #1) by A.J. Hackwith
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤ | 🌈
Be still, my heart. Most impressive debut ever? Maybe. The writing, the concept, the unique ideas left and right, I am blown away by this story, these librarians, and this so very beautiful writing. Also, we love a pan main character in this house.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤ | 🌈
Yikes, I know, please, just look away. All of my friends love this one, so please take this rating with a grain of salt. I loved the f/f romance (especially the love interest) and I loved the premise (it is ownvoices for the Persian mythos) and the directions this tale took. Sadly, it was just so convenient, and nothing ever truly felt at stake, because everyone was so in love with the main character. I don’t know, this just really didn’t work for me, but again, I am for sure in the minority with my feelings!

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) by Suzanne Collins
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Reread | Buddy read with Lea! ❤
The way this whole series is going to hold up in 2020? Okay, we love to see it. Truly still blown away, and I cannot wait for me and Lea to finish this trilogy off soon!

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Dragons & Tea Book Club 🐉☕ | 🌈
This book was everything. Without question it will make my best books of 2020, list. And the diversity? My heart. Our main character is Black, queer, living with high anxiety, living with her grandparents because her mother passed away, and is helping take care of her brother with sickle cell. This book heavily talks about microaggressions, being marginalized, having to make yourself smaller, and how on top of all of this it is extra unfair to try to go to college. But this is such a hopeful story, such a beautiful story, such an important story because it is unapologetically happy. And the f/f romance in this is truly out of this world. I loved this book with my whole heart.

Night Shine by Tessa Gratton
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤ | 🌈
Ready for me to gush about about f/f story? Here we are. Night Shine is my favorite book of 2020 so far, full stop. This story is truly so romantic, so beautiful, and so fantastical. Many people have said this is a “dark, queer Howl’s Moving Castle” and that is 100% accurate. I was yearning, screaming, falling in love, right beside our main character. But this is also a book about discovering yourself, and surrounding yourself with people who choose you, who pick you, and who love you every single time.

Ice Planet Barbarians (Ice Planet Barbarians #1) by Ruby Dixon
⭐⭐
Listen, I don’t know why I did this. Actually, I do. I was finishing off my Audible Escape membership and I was like “this will be a quick read” and hit play. I wish I wouldn’t have. I feel like so many people also love this? But like… I knew from the very triggering content at the start that it was going to be a very rocky road space ship journey for me. And I think I’m just maybe too gay to enjoy reading about women having sex with blue alien space men, tbh. All respect to the blue alien though, because he was the best character and he could have done better, imo.

Fence, Vol. 3 by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Reread | 🌈
I just really wanted to read Vol. 4 because it had just came out here in the US at the end of June! So I quickly reread Vol. 3 just for to refresh my memory!

Fence, Vol. 4 by C.S. Pacat & Johanna the Mad
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | 🌈
I love the sports gays always, but I really love these sports gays. The slowest of all slow burns, but so many ships are starting to at least dock in the harbor, even if they are not sailing any time soon. Also, love me a good teamwork storyline.

Where Dreams Descend (Kingdom of Cards #1) by Janella Angeles
⭐⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys & May! 💕 | 🇵🇭
My heart at this one. I really wanted to love it, truly. But just… nothing happened. The settings were cool, and the premises and questions being asked were cool too! But, it really ends with us figuring out nothing except for the mystery I didn’t care about. The romance and swooning did have me invested though! But I’m not sure if I’m invested enough to read book two, we will see.

The Lady’s Guide to Celestial Mechanics (Feminine Pursuits #1) by Olivia Waite
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤ | 🌈
I really loved this a lot! I especially loved all the different kinds of reclaiming in this story! Maybe all it took for me to fall in love with a historical romance was sapphics in STEM (and art)! Who would have guessed? :]

Across the Green Grass Fields (Wayward Children #6) by Seanan McGuire
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | Buddy read with Maëlys, & Destiny! 💕| 🌈
My favorite Wayward Children world? I think so! And I’m not even a horse girl, horse girls are gonna love this even more! But this is truly a story about becoming the person you want to be, in a world that makes us feel like we constantly have to conform, especially at young ages! Also, this story stars an intersex main character and it made me realize how much I am slacking with reading that representation. But full review for this to come soon, and it is the highest of four star ratings!

Witchy by Ariel Slamet Ries
⭐⭐⭐⭐ | 🇮🇩🌈
But I really enjoyed this story and I can’t wait to see what comes next! I truly always love a good magical story about people choosing their own destiny, even if the path to figuring that out can be a little difficult at times! And starring Asian witches, created by an ownvoices creator? Be still, my Filipino heart. Give me all the queer, witches of color stories, please oh please!

Okay, loves! That’s everything! I’m feeling very grateful this summer! July was the month that I started this blog back up, and it truly has been such a safe haven for me. I’m very thankful for my friends, who never make me feel alone, and who always are buddy reading with me. And I’m forever honored by everyone who takes the time to read my words. I hope you’ve been treating yourself kind this August, already. And I hope I keep treating myself that way, too! Happy reading! 💗

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The Tea Dragon Tapestry (Tea Dragon, #3) by Katie O’Neill | ARC Review

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ARC provided by Netgalley
Publication: September 1st, 2020 by Oni Press

1.) The Tea Dragon Society ★★★★★
2.) The Tea Dragon Festival ★★★★★
*.) Aquicorn Cove ★★★★

”You feel like you’ve lost your path. It’s natural to be sad… it’s alright to let those feelings wash over you, and give them time to soak into the earth. That’s when things start to grow again.”

This entire series is just so special to me, and this newest installment is probably my favorite thing by Katie O’Neill to date. The Tea Dragon Tapestry truly feels like a love letter to remember loving yourself through all your phases.

I think something we just don’t really talk about enough as readers and reviewers is that sometimes we truly read a book at the most perfect moment in our lives, almost like it was destiny for us to choose this particular story at this particular moment, and that was very much me with The Tea Dragon Tapestry.I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much this story means to me at this time in my life, but I suppose I should give it a try still.

”The sadness, the loss, the hurt, as well as the joy, the love, the friendship – it is all part of you tapestry.”

This is a series about a small little village, where some of the community members have tea dragons! Tea dragons are little dragons that sprout little tealeaves when they are being well taken care of. And even though tea dragons are very rare, we get to fall a little bit more and more in love with their caretakers each installment!

This is also one of the most inclusionary graphic novels, which has some of the most beautiful diversity. This story has sapphic characters, gay characters, characters of all different skin colors, disability representation, nonbinary/genderfluid representation, and one of the most beautiful found families of all time.

Like always with my graphic novel reviews, I’m going to try to do little breakdowns of each chapter so I can come back and recap when needed! I’m going to try to keep this relatively spoiler free because this beautiful volume isn’t out yet but use caution still if you’d like to go into this one not knowing anything!

➽ Chapter One:
Brick is the cutest little coal sprite in the whole wide world. My heart’s quadrants still belong to Ginseng & Greta and Chamomile and Minette! Hesekiel and Erik and their tea dragons and little tea house mean everything to me too. And in this chapter, we get to see how tea dragons have an extremely strong bond with their caregivers!

➽ Chapter Two:
Minette starts to have magical dreams (that are drawn… so breathtakingly beautifully, oh my word, I’m still rendered absolutely speechless) and Greta is going to try for a blacksmithing apprenticeship!

➽ Chapter Three:
A lot happens in this chapter, but this is where the graphic novel starts to talk about our life’s purpose, and how sometimes our lives do not go the way we thought they would (even if extremely planned and laid out for us), but that is okay. We all experience phases where we question things, even ourselves, but we are never alone with that experience. Also, being nostalgic is very human (and dragon) things, that we all love to feel, but we shouldn’t compare the happiness of the past to the sadness we could be possibly experience in the present.

”It sounds strange, but I feel homesick for the person I used to be…”

➽ Chapter Four:
We get to see Rinn and Aedhan from The Tea Dragon Festival again and my heart felt like it had wings of it’s own! And how sometimes all our senses work together to remind us of happy or sad things and times.

”Taste has a strong association with memory”

➽ Chapter Five:
This was my favorite chapter, and I kind of just wept while reading it. Life can be so hard, and so sad, and so unexpected, and so all of these things at the very same time, but you just have to remember that it will get better, it can get better, and that this is only part of where you are at in life right now. One of the most beautiful things about life is that it is a full journey, where we will change, and people will change, and that’s okay, an that can be beautiful, but we have to keep changing and keep growing and keep living.

”…Little one, you are the person you are meant to be”

➽ Chapter Six:
And even if your journey might be a little unexpected, be happy that it is your journey. I truly know I sound like a bit of a self-help reviewer right now, but this chapter is just so beautiful, and hopefully, and left me so very excited to see where the rest of my journey will take me, no matter how many sad days are left and coming, because there will always be even more happy ones along the way, too.

”…Remember, that you are already whole.”

➽ Epilogue:
This epilogue was so good because it shows you the history on tea dragons! And Hesekiel is too kind to us to show us these secrets and stories of the tea dragons. And to remind us that all our stories are so very important and worthy to be told. And it’s also important to go on your own path and make many more new stories to keep on telling your loved ones who make you feel safe.

”Everything that happens is part of your wholeness”

The Tea Dragon Series is just a gift to the whole world. It feels like a comforting hug from my very own family and friends who are too far away to give me one. Again, this series just means a lot to me, and if you’re looking for a little light in a world that feels easy to be dark, then I really just recommend this installment with my whole heart and soul. Words and stories really have healing power, and this one truly made me feel so much lighter. And I promise, you are right where you are supposed to be too, friends.

5

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Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤