Who I Was With Her by Nita Tyndall | Drumsofautumn ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

“Now my heart is with a girl in a coffin in the ground. But that girl wanted me to be better, she wanted my heart to be in it, so I could keep running with her. So for her, I’ll try.”

Who I Was With Her is an incredibly powerful YA Contemporary about grief and figuring out what you want from life.

This story is about 17-year old Corinne, whose girlfriend, Maggie, suddenly dies in a car accident. But because both girls were still in the closet, nobody knew that they were in a relationship and so we follow Corinne as she tries to deal with this loss while nobody knows what Maggie meant to her.

So as you can tell from this synopsis, this is a very hard-hitting novel. The tone of this book is overall rather sad and melancholic and it is definitely not an easy read, so for sure be in the right headspace when going into this novel.
But it is also a very powerful read, that turns a devastating experience into a journey for Corinne to focus on herself and figure out what she really wants from life.

“I start to run down the hill, push myself as hard as I can. Running down this hill doesn’t feel quite like flying, not when I’m trying to pace myself, but it’s sure damn close. I just hope my wings don’t burn up in the sun.”

The grief depicted in this book is incredibly well done. Corinne feels like she no longer knows who she is without Maggie and she has trouble really defining for herself what not only the relationship but also this grief means for her when she can’t even talk about it with anyone or be open about the way she is feeling.

There is also a lot of guilt that Corinne deals with. Whenever she feels a second of happiness or she is laughing with friends, she immediately has thoughts about how she can’t believe she forgot about Maggie and her grief so easily.
And there is a lot of looking back to her relationship with Maggie and wondering about the way she behaved, how she should’ve reacted differently sometimes or certain things that she didn’t know about Maggie.
All those aspects add to a very nuanced and realistic depiction of grief.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t be the girl she saw me as. I loved her, I loved her, I loved her. I don’t know who I am without her. She wanted me to be all these big, grand things; she had these dreams for us and—That’s not me. I am not out and proud; I am scared out of my mind. Maggie wanted, so I didn’t have to.”

The only person who knew about Corinne and Maggie’s relationship was Maggie’s brother, Dylan. They have a really messy but interesting relationship in this book too and you can always feel all the anger and sadness from the grief flowing into their conversations. But at the same time, you can also see how they both know they are two of the people who knew Maggie best and they definitely bond over that way more than they ever have before her death.

Dylan is also the one who introduces Corinne to Elissa, Maggie’s ex-girlfriend. Now this is a storyline that honestly feels a little bit questionable in parts but ultimately also offers a lot of realistic aspects. Dylan hopes that Corinne can find some comfort with Elissa, as they have dated the same person and can lean on each other.. and they do, which quickly turns into there being some chemistry between the two.
This all happens not too long after Maggie’s death and throughout the book you are definitely questioning the nature of these feelings. I felt like this aspect was handled okay and was very much just another part of Corinne’s grieving process but I also wish it would’ve been explored more and especially sooner in the book.

Especially the power dynamic between the two was off sometimes. Corinne is 17 and still goes to high school while Elissa is 19 and at college and Elissa also reads older than 19 to me personally. On top of that, she was definitely placed in this book as someone that Corinne could lean on for support while dealing with her girlfriend’s death. While I understood where Corinne’s attraction and thoughts about Elissa came from, I really would’ve wanted for Elissa to be more of a sensible and responsible person in this scenario. Obviously she is also still quite young and grieving too and you can tell she has her doubts about this whole situation sometimes but I wish it would’ve been on-page a little bit more, especially when it feels like, again, her purpose in this book was to help Corinne with her grief. It just made me feel weird and slightly uncomfortable about their dynamics sometimes.

“I thought I didn’t have more tears left but I guess I do, because I’m crying into her shirt, because I don’t want her to lose me, either. I don’t want to be lost. ”

This story also very heavily deals with Corinne’s family relationship. Her parents are divorced and her mother struggles with alcoholism. While the divorce was a while ago, we can still see Corinne struggle with it and especially feeling like her dad just abandoned her mum and her alcohol issues, which Corinne now has to deal with herself.

Apart from the obvious sapphic storyline and Corinne being bisexual, we also have an asexual side-character, Julia, who figures out that she is asexual and finds this label for herself throughout the story. I thought that it was a really well-done element and showed that this is an aspect that can be easily packed into a side-storyline, while still being done with care.

In general, the friendship between Corinne and Julia, who is her best friend, was a really interesting and nuanced aspect of this book too. Their friendship definitely suffered in the past year because Corinne spend so much time with Maggie and also could never tell Julia what she was doing and so that definitely created a rift between the two. Within this book, they find their way back together and I very much liked seeing their development throughout.
They also had a short but important discussion about privilege, as Julia is a woman of colour, as is her boyfriend, but I think there is no description beyond Julia having “deep brown skin”.

On top of all that, this book obviously also has a huge focus on coming out and talks a lot about how different circumstances can really influence your experience with coming out. All the actual on-page coming out processes are super good experiences and show that it is also different for everyone but there are definitely discussions in this book that are quite tough when it comes to other people pressuring you into coming out or making you feel not valid for being scared to do so. I think that it was a well-done aspect and the discussions were always nuanced, where you could understand everyone’s POV but I definitely think that in part it very hard to read.

“This is my coming out. One person at a time. No big statement, no grand gesture. Only people I want to tell. Why should I come out the way everyone else wants me to?”

I also very much enjoyed the form of storytelling. We go back and forth in time, to when Corinne and Maggie met or had their first kiss and then back to the current times. This worked perfectly for this kind of book! Plus, all the chapters, but especially the ones in the past, where super short, which is honestly my favourite kind of chapters.

This book also talks about Corinne getting her period and masturbating and there is a sapphic sex scene (with an emphasis on consent) that is not explicit but still makes it very clear what is happening, which are all elements I am always glad to see in YA.

“I have stopped counting how long it’s been since she died. She deserves to be remembered, not measured by the days of my grief or how long it’s been since she left. She deserves to be remembered for who she was.”

Overall, this book just deals with so many different things, so many messy characters and relationships but I enjoyed reading about it all so much. There is a lot of guilt-tripping and forcing people to do stuff and not accepting what people want and changing who you are or what you want for another person.. but after finishing the novel you are left with a sense that all these characters have learned from their mistakes and really developed as people.
And that, ultimately, is all that I wanted as I was reading the book.

The aspects are very nuanced and I am deeply impressed with how many topics were packed into this short Contemporary novel.
If you can handle the tougher themes within this book, it definitely comes with a huge recommendations from me.

Trigger and Content Warnings for loss of a loved one, car accident (off-page), grief, alcoholism, underage drinking/alcohol abuse.

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

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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Night Shine by Tessa Gratton

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ARC provided by the author

“I would destroy a thousand heart to find you, again and again.”

Sapphic enemies to lovers romance, queer bodyguard and royalty romance, dark fairytale setting! Magic, gender and sexual fluidity, yearning! Demons, dragons, unicorns, lots of cute tiny creatures to love! Atmospheric, lush, purple prose perfection! Are any of these keywords getting you? Because I’m still ready to sell my soul for Tessa’s deleted scenes and notes! Okay, how about the Howl’s Moving Castle comparison that completely is 100% accurate? This book is the book of my heart and dreams. Easily the best book I’ve read in 2020, so far.

At the very start of this story, our main character realizes the prince is missing and chooses to set out on a quest with another to try to locate them. Meanwhile, there is a witch who lives in seclusion in the Fifth Mountain, except when she needs to kidnap beautiful girls to steal their hearts, never stopping until she finds the most beautiful girl of them all.

I feel like I should just make a mini paragraph about demons, because this book is very demon heavy! There are so many kinds of demons in this book (from little ones, to big ones, to part demons like one of our characters), but greater demons live in places of power in this world! There is one in the Fifth Mountain and one living in the palace too! Also, there are other mountains (Second, Third, etc) where other powerful sorcerers live! But let’s get into our actual cast of characters!

➽ Nothing – queer, orphan who can’t remember anything from her past, not even her name, and the only thing she has as a reminder is a scar on her chest. She lives in the royal palace, where she is best friends with the prince.
➽ Kirin – non-binary, queer, crown prince, recently kidnapped
➽ Sky – queer, bodyguard for the royal family, demon-kissed
➽ The Sorceress Who Eats Girls – queer witch who lives in a mountain and waits and won’t give up

“Everyone is capable of being bound. By duty or love or blood.”

And Tessa is being very deliberate in naming our MC Nothing (and the love interest the Sorceress Who Eats Girls)! Words have power, names have power, reclaiming things has immense power, what you choose to give to people has power! We are all products of our surroundings and circumstances, but ultimately only you get to decide who you are, and you get to choose all the parts of you, every single part of you. Sometimes it’s easy to just be nothing or a wicked witch, sometimes picking your own name is the most powerful thing in this whole wide world.

“Everyone can be bigger than they seem, hold more than their bodies are capable of holding. You have always chosen to grow.”

Tessa normally doesn’t use actual terms in their books, but always shows constant multiple gender attraction and a lot of non-binary feels throughout. Honestly, everyone always feels pan in their books to me, but it could be me completely projecting. But we have main sapphic relationship (that is truly to die for), and a male and non-binary / gender queer character relationship (which also made my heart very, very full). But truly everyone reads queer and/or gender fluid, and we all know that gender and sexuality can be so very fluid, and we just love it here a lot. Also, like in true Tessa fashion, there are hints of polyamory and a constant beautiful light of how romantic and platonic relationships can be equally as important and… Tessa’s worlds >>>

“You decide what you are. You.”

Also, all of these characters are flawed and make mistakes and can look villainous! There is a lot of ownvoices rep between these pages, and I think that Tessa perfectly executes villains who just also happen to be queer, instead of… queer villains, if you feel me. There are a lot of questionable actions throughout this book, maybe even some villainous acts, but it’s just done in a very realistic way from these characters and their circumstances. (Okay, maybe not Sky, who is a perfect angel always, imo!)

This book does very gently talk about abuse and toxic relationships and how those things can be very hard to see when the word love is involved. Codependency is also something felt in this book, and how that can also be something that is very unhealthy. We also get to see a lot of power dynamics and power imbalances and how those things are not okay and can easily also become dangerous. But people who really love you, unconditionally love you, will not only wait for you on your journeys, but they will support you and respect your boundaries, too.

“I love you,” the sorceress said. “What you are now.”

But seeing Nothing become the person she wants to be? Despite her past, despite her current situation, despite an unknown future? So very beautiful. And to have someone showing her that she is worth the wait, that she has always been worth the wait, that she never has to be alone, and that she has never and will never ever be nothing. Please, hold me. Forever preferably.

“How strange, how thrilling, to be told your heart is half of someone else’s. A gift from a woman who loved you once.”

The romance in this book is out of this world. The perfect one-liners that Tessa has laced throughout this book? Makes me a bit speechless to even think about. All of you who constantly say you love enemies to lovers, who want to viscerally feel yearning, who want the characters to go through hell and back together, and you want it sapphic? Pick this up! I promise you, Tessa has some of the most gorgeous prose to every exist, and the way they weave these lines together is something of magic. Also, I’ll never eat a pear the same again, on all the higher powers.

My only complaint is that some characters in this world can change their appearance magically, and in the ARC I realized that in the past one character had lighter skin, and now her skin is dark because she altered it that way. I am a biracial person with white skin, but it for sure made me side-eye a bit. But every other aspect of this book was absolutely perfect for me.

Overall, I truly believe this will be my favorite book of 2020, just like how Strange Grace was my favorite book of 2018. Tessa and their worlds, and their characters, and their writing just makes me feel so seen in a way that no other author does. This book means so much to me. Tessa truly gave me the romantic, sapphic, whimsical, love story of my dreams. This story is everything I’ve ever wanted, and I feel like I’ve wanted it for so very long. I also feel like Tessa maybe redefined the word “yearning” and their power is just unmatched. I just want to spend the rest of my life reading their stories over and over again and feeling seen, and happy, and in love. Forever.

“Everything poured into Nothing.”

Trigger and Content Warnings: gore, violence, murder, death, blood depictions, self-harm, magical coercion, kidnapping, incorrect use of pronouns upon meetings someone (is immediately corrected and the character learns and corrects themselves) and war themes.

5

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Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤

Horrid by Katrina Leno | ARC Review

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ARC provided by The Novl
Publication: September 15th, 2020

“Three little girls all eating things they weren’t supposed to eat. Three little girls all eating things in order to fill their bodies with something other than the anger, the rage, that would otherwise consume them.”

I have loved Katrina’s books for so long and each of them are equal parts whimsically beautiful and intensely raw. From Summer of Salt and You Must Not Miss are still my favorites by her, but if you are looking for something very spooky, very introspective, and very profound this fall season, then I really recommend Horrid with my full heart. And this Agatha Christie vibe check will make so many of you happy, I just know it.

Jane has recently lost her father to a heart attack, and her and her mother are forced to leave their California home and move back to her mother’s childhood home in a very small town in Maine. Not only is the shift from west coast to east coast big, because LA and New England are so very different, but it is also the extra hurt from leaving everything she has ever known, and the mystery surrounding her family and the big house that she now has to call home.

Her mother made it a point for them to never travel out east to see where she grew up, and she is very secretive about her upbringing and the reason she left so quickly to the west coast. Yet, after people in town treat Jane a little differently when they realize who her family is (and where she is living), curiosity starts to be peaked. Oh, and especially because the house seems very haunted. From Jane seeing lights turn on upstairs by themselves, to hearing music being played by no one, to having mysterious object interacting with her, to the roses in the garden growing back regardless of how hard her mother tries to kill them.

“I think you’ve had a tremendous loss. And grief manifests itself in unpredictable ways.”

We get to see so much grieving in this book. People grieving their pasts, people grieving loved ones, people grieving the unknown, people grieving so loudly it feels palpable. It is very intense, and it feels very real, and very harrowing. There are truly so many ways to grieve, and so many ways to cope with that grief, and this book very much explores that. And this book very much talks about how the weight of grief can be all consuming and the most heaviest of all things to carry. And sometimes grieving isn’t only sadness and weeping, but it can be anger and violence.

“She felt like her hands didn’t belong to her, like her skin didn’t belong to her. Like the only thing real and true in her body was the anger.”

We also get to see Jane (and other characters) show their anger in very not okay ways. Jane does not handle her triggers in a healthy way, and we also get to see many flashbacks from the past that she has blocked out even. Jane has present day moments of blacking out that really makes her a bit of an unreliable narrator. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read where the main character is dealing (and suffering) from their anger management issues.

Ever since Jane was a young girl, and her feelings and anger were overwhelming to her, she sought comfort by eating pages out her books and then replacing those hollowed out books with fresh pages that she could journal in. Pica is disorder where a human will eat things with no nutritional value for a number of reasons, and there are so many components of this disorder and such levels (from ice to sharp objects to poisonous things!), and sometimes this overlaps with other health conditions (like OCD or anemia), but this is a main component of this book, and I have never experienced this before so I’m not sure how people will feel about how it was represented.

“She imagined the paper re-forming in her belly. She imagined the words dissolving off the paper and sinking into her bloodstream. She imagined her body filled with words. Made up of them. Words instead of blood, words instead of organs.”

I also think there is a discussion to be had about mental health and how genetics can very much pass down mental health issues. Also, how important it is for parents to recognize these signs and be in check with their own mental health, so that they can help their children get help if they need it. This isn’t an easy book to read at times, and I think people are going to feel a vast range of emotions for Jane and her mom, but I think their situation is very real and something that needs to be talked about a whole lots more. Depression, and anger issues, and unhealthy spiral grieving is a hell of a combination, but one that is a big reality for so many.

I have loved Katrina’s writing forever now. I feel like she just has such a gift, and her prose is some of the most beautiful in the whole entire world, truly. Yet, her words are so very raw and so very sharp every book. The combination is quite jarring, and the impact is felt very deeply, and her writing is very unforgettable. In addition to the imagery of this small town, or this extremely spooky house, of all these characters dealing with grief so very differently, the entire atmosphere of this story is perfectly done in my opinion.

The reason this isn’t a five star for me (even though it is so close) is because of the ending. Katrina is notorious for ending books in a way that makes the reader think for themselves and kind of pick the ending they want to see most. Which I do adore so much, but this was one I just wanted a tiny bit more from, because I feel like the ending was actually pretty straightforward for the most part. Like, I truly can’t say anything without completely ruining this spooky tale, and maybe it was the perfect ending for a thrilling tale! But I do know I will be thinking a lot about a teddy bear for many moons to come.

“She leaned into it gratefully, letting it fill her, letting it wash over her in a warm embrace. With it, she was not alone. She was never alone. She let it carry her into darkness.”

Overall, this is just the perfect read for this autumn season if you’re looking for something a little spooky, very beautifully written, with very important themes that I don’t see talked about as much as I wish they were. All of Katrina’s books are just bright lights in the YA genre, even when they are spooky thrillers with a maybe unreliable narrator! I never wanted to stop reading this, and when I wasn’t reading this I was thinking about it nonstop. I really recommend this one with my whole heart, and I can’t wait to see what will come next from one of my favorite authors of all time.

Trigger and Content Warnings: pica (mostly xylophagia/paper, but mention of hair and flowers, too!), loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, loss of a child, talk of hospitalization, intense grief depictions, intense depictions of anger issues, blood depictions, panic attacks, depictions of situations that could make one feel claustrophobic, underage drinking, brief mention of animal abuse in past, child abuse in the past.

4
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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Maëlys❤

#5OnMyTBR | Red Cover

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#5OnMyTBR is a bookish meme hosted by E. @ Local Bee Hunter’s Nook
You can learn more about it here or in the post announcing it. 🐝

All bookish content aside, as I get older I feel like I appreciate the color red more? It might even be my second favorite color at this point in my life? Okay, I don’t really want to have a color crisis, but like the title and this questionable intro suggest, here are five red books on my TBR! Please oh please tell me which one(s) you think I’d enjoy!


The Project by Courtney Summers
Publication: February 2nd, 2021 by Wednesday Books

“When a man shows up at the magazine Lo works for claiming The Unity Project killed his son, Lo sees the perfect opportunity to expose the group and reunite with Bea once and for all. When her investigation puts her in the direct path of its charismatic and mysterious leader, Lev Warren, he proposes a deal: if she can prove the worst of her suspicions about The Unity Project, she may expose them. If she can’t, she must finally leave them alone. But as Lo delves deeper into The Project, the lives of its members, and spends more time with Lev, it upends everything she thought she knew about her sister, herself, cults, and the world around her–to the point she can no longer tell what’s real or true. Lo never thought she could afford to believe in Lev Warren . . . but now she doesn’t know if she can afford not to.”


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

“When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.”


Honey Girl by Morgan Rogers
Publication: February 23rd, 2021 by Park Row Books

“With her newly completed PhD in astronomy in hand, twenty-eight-year-old Grace Porter goes on a girls’ trip to Vegas to celebrate. She’s a straight A, work-through-the-summer certified high achiever. She is not the kind of person who goes to Vegas and gets drunkenly married to a woman whose name she doesn’t know…until she does exactly that. This one moment of departure from her stern ex-military father’s plans for her life has Grace wondering why she doesn’t feel more fulfilled from completing her degree. Staggering under the weight of her father’s expectations, a struggling job market and feelings of burnout, Grace flees her home in Portland for a summer in New York with the wife she barely knows.”


Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha #1) by Tasha Suri

“The Amrithi are outcasts; nomads descended of desert spirits, they are coveted and persecuted throughout the Empire for the power in their blood. Mehr is the illegitimate daughter of an imperial governor and an exiled Amrithi mother she can barely remember, but whose face and magic she has inherited. When Mehr’s power comes to the attention of the Emperor’s most feared mystics, she must use every ounce of will, subtlety, and power she possesses to resist their cruel agenda.Should she fail, the gods themselves may awaken seeking vengeance”


Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

“Summer, 1518. A strange sickness sweeps through Strasbourg: women dance in the streets, some until they fall down dead. As rumors of witchcraft spread, suspicion turns toward Lavinia and her family, and Lavinia may have to do the unimaginable to save herself and everyone she loves. Five centuries later, a pair of red shoes seal to Rosella Oliva’s feet, making her dance uncontrollably. They draw her toward a boy who knows the dancing fever’s history better than anyone: Emil, whose family was blamed for the fever five hundred years ago. But there’s more to what happened in 1518 than even Emil knows, and discovering the truth may decide whether Rosella survives the red shoes.”


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花樣年華 HYYH The Notes 1 (The Most Beautiful Moment in Life #1) by Big Hit Entertainment

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Save Me – BTS Webtoon ★★★★★

“Those days were gone and would never come again.”

A little over a year ago I fell completely in love with BTS. I love their music that they pour everything into, their dedication to never give up and always strive for greatness, and their hearts that they choose to show to their fans constantly in everything they do. Stanning BTS was one of the easiest choices I’ve ever made and falling in love with each of these seven humans was nothing short of magic.

Not only are they the biggest band in the whole world (who recently got their first Billboard Hot 100 #1 spot) they also give so much content to their fans! Obviously we get all their music and videos, but we also get so much behind the scenes things, along with their own shows and filmed vacations, to them just interacting with us on twitter and on weverse, to them having their own cartoon characters, and to them having their whole alternative universe!

It is really powerful and really beautiful being able to watch all of these music videos and see these pages truly come to life. They really do also incorporate so many hints and nods at the BU in all of their things, and it’s really impressive. So many times while reading these pages, I could just perfectly visualize what was happening because of all of the mvs!

But basically this is a story about the seven BTS members in an alternative universe where they are not BTS. They all went to school together and met while cleaning for punishment, but they all became close very quickly. That is, until they were all forced to separate for very different reasons, but the timelines can get very dark. Yet, one member has the power to restart, and retry, and relive events to try to save them all, and allow them all to experience safety and friendship and happiness.

BTS -

Seokjin (석진) – Jin truly has an extra heartbreaking storyline, because not only is he dealing with his friend getting taken in the past, he also lost his mother, and is trying to live his life for (and pleasing) his father who sent him away to the US.

Namjoon (남준) – Joon has to work odd jobs (one being at the gas station) to try to pay his dad’s hospital bills. He is from a small village, and likes to pretend everything is okay when it is not. He also has a train container that he seeks solace in and keeps the light on for the boys always.

Yoongi (윤기) – A fire burned down his home, and now he is very self-destructive. He finds comfort in the piano, but is still haunted by a piano key. But music for him will always be hope.

Hoseok (호석) – his mom left him at an amusement park, so he lives in and out of places but mostly the hospital. He finds love in dance, and even though he hurts his ankle, he runs away and travels for a little bit with dancers. Yet, he really is the glue and hope of this friend group, truly.

Jimin (지민) – he has seizures and is hospitalized. Yet, you soon find out that the seizures aren’t the only reason he is being forced to live at the hospital, but because his family wants to hide him away. Jimin loves dancing, and he can’t stop thinking about Green Flower Arboretum.

Taehyung (태형) – Tae is getting abused by his father who is an alcoholic. He for sure has the darkest thoughts about his father and about himself, but we soon realize that Tae also has a power of his own, and that is too see parts of things yet to happen.

Jungkook (정국) – JK’s father abandoned him and his mom, and how he just gets into fights and gets beat up to feel something. Jungkook is so very angry, and himself and at the world, and his chapters were favorite even though I cried every time.

“You must survive […] I must survive”

MV] BTS(방탄소년단) _ Run GIF | Gfycat
All of these boys are dealing (and trying to live with) with so much anger and hurt and abandonment. We get to see them find outlets and healing through the power of dance, and music, and art, and writing. And they are constantly reminding each other that they are good people, and that they are worth more than the horrible circumstances that are placed on them. The power of friendship and the power of finding your soulmates is something I don’t even have words for. Yet, I truly believe BTS would have found each other in any universe and in all the timelines.

Overall, I love this story and I can’t wait to see where it goes. BTS just give us so much, and I’m so happy I was able to reread this before The Notes, Vol. 2 gets shipped out this fall! I was screaming every time Smeraldo was mentioned. I was grinning like an idiot every time we saw white birds, umbrellas, trains, and fireworks. Hell, I even feel for Yoonkookers while reading this. So many dots, and they all just make you think about how BTS really connect everything together. Forever so thankful I live in this world with BTS and all their serotonin-inducing content.

Trigger and Content Warnings: abandonment, abuse, blood, alcoholism, loss of a loved one, self-harm, seizures, talk of suicide, hospitalization, depression depiction, mention of throwing up, and just overall very serious and sad situations that may be hard to picture BTS in. Please use caution while reading!

4
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Buddy read with MaëlysLea, & Amy! ❤

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Out Now: Queer We Go Again! edited by Saundra Mitchell | Drumsofautumn ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

Out Now: Queer We Go Again! Is an anthology that clearly did not learn whatsoever from the criticism of its predecessor All Out.

This is an anthology that features queer stories throughout all kinds of genres but that is about where the variety with this anthology stops. I read and loved All Out but one of the biggest criticism about that anthology was that it did not feature enough different identities on the sexuality and gender spectrum and sadly this anthology was the same.

Especially knowing that the first anthology was so heavily criticised for it, it feels extra disappointing to look back at these stories and realize that we still got barely any representation on the asexual and trans/non-binary spectrum and (if I am not mistaken) no representation on the aromantic spectrum whatsoever.
And not only that, this story fails at intersectionality in general. I would’ve wanted more stories about queer characters of colour but what was almost completely missing from this anthology were queer disabled characters, characters with mental illnesses, characters with different religious beliefs and fat characters.

Apart from those issues, I also just genuinely was not a fan of A LOT of these stories. And while it is normal that some stories in an anthology will be hit or miss for you, this one had so many misses and stories that I genuinely just DISLIKED, that it really to me stands out as one of the worst anthologies I have ever read.
Victory Lap by Julian Winters was the story that positively stood out to me the most. It provided a lot of comfort and made me want to read more stuff from this author.

But as a whole I cannot really recommend this anthology and I’m also really disappointed by the inclusion of Meredith Russo in this anthology, who easily still could’ve been cut before release.
But here are my individual reviews for all the stories.

Kick. Push. Coast by Candice Montgomery ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I absolutely loved this! It was one of the shorter stories within the anthology but a very wonderful one about the fluidity of both sexuality/attraction and gender, which is something that I always deeply appreciate.


What Happens in the Closet by Caleb Roehrig ⭐⭐⭐

GAYNESS AND VAMPIRES! WHAT A COMBINATION! I didn’t have very many feelings towards this story, if I’m honest. I wasn’t really feeling the characters or the development of the story. But it was fun… because vampires!

“If there’s anything I’ve learned from my brother, it’s that I could die before my life even starts, and I like… I like kissing you. I don’t want to stop. I’m tired of being lonely.”


Player One Fight! By Eliot Schrefer

That was… uh… quite the questionable experience honestly. Like genuinely I do not know what to say about this story, it like.. didn’t really have much of a point and just made me cringe in several ways.


Lumber Me Mine by CB Lee ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was such a lovely story and it featured an asexual love interest! I really was super invested in this one, completely forgetting I was reading a short story and not a full length novel at some point.

“Ash’s eyes are warm and brown and she’s standing close enough for Jasmine to see little f lecks of gold, and she’s so happy, right here in this moment, just the two of them smiling at each other, a moment stretching out into infinity.”


Follower by Will Kostakis ⭐⭐⭐

This was a cute story! There was a lot of talk on what being romantic means and the two boys in this story shared their experiences falling in love. It wasn’t anything special but I had a good time reading it.


Refresh by Mark Oshiro ⭐⭐⭐

Now this was an interesting story. It features two Latinx boys meeting for the first after they’ve talked on a dating app for a little while and it had some important themes packed into it. I can’t really say too much but while I personally wasn’t the biggest fan of one of the elements, I do very much appreciated that this talked about being a guy and plus-size, which is representation that we get so little, and also how that affects your dating life. This was a story that felt really intersectional and that made happy to see.


Victory Lap by Julian Winters: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This story was about a Black gay boy trying to find a date for the winter formal and having a conversation with his dad about it and I loved it so very much. I was really invested in this character’s story and his relationship with his dad and it absolutely warmed my heart. This story also mentioned a bunch of different identities (one of the side-characters is non-binary, they talked about a character potentially being bi, pan or questioning and in the conversation with the father) and while all that was very brief, I always appreciate when we get introduced to numerous labels within a story because it always makes me think that it might get readers to research those more and maybe find something that they identify with too! This was definitely one of the stand-out stories of this anthology for me personally and really made me want to check out Julian Winter’s novels!

“Everyone says it’s a parent’s job to protect their child, but why can’t I protect him? Why are there roles when it comes to protecting the ones we love?”


A Road of One’s Own by Kate Hart ⭐⭐

Oh man, this story was confusing and all over the place. I just had such a hard time keeping all of these characters apart and connect their stories to them. And this story also just felt really unnecessarily long while really not providing all that much content. Plus when I read one of the characters saying she is pansexual but she just tells everyone she’s a lesbian because people don’t know the label… I just personally felt incredibly uncomfortable about this. I loved that this story featured many people of colour (Indigenous love interest, a Latinx and Korean side-character) but too much of this story made me feel uncomfortable.


Seditious Teapots by Katherine Locke ⭐⭐

Another one of those stories that I am trying to appreciate because it had such an important discussion on identity and labels and pronouns plus it included anxiety and kinda potential depression rep but… I was just (once again) uncomfortable because this story was really based on someone completely overstepping their boundaries. It all ended up great and the person was just trying to be helpful but like.. YIKES IN SO MANY WAYS! Also the writing was a little bit messy, where I could barely decipher the text messages because they had no quotation marks or any other way to help you distinguish them. Keep in mind I read an ARC copy though, so hopefully changes were made.


Starcrossed in DC by Jessica Verdi ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was definitely one of my favourite stories of this anthology, I loved the setting and important message! And this one also really worked for me because while we got a full story with a cohesive ending and beginning, there is still so much left beyond this story and I really enjoy when I feel satisfied with the story while still somehow craving more. That’s definitely not easy to achieve.

“My whole life, I’ve been in front of cameras and crowds, representing something big, something I didn’t choose. This moment is new. Scary. But I’ve never felt more myself.”


Floating by Tanya Boteju ⭐⭐

I am left a little bit confused by this story because I feel like it might’ve had a main character with autism but.. it’s just never quite clear? And searching through the Goodreads review, NOBODY MENTIONED THIS AT ALL. So I’m saddened by the fact that this might’ve been a story with disability rep (it could’ve been ADHD as well) but it is not actually clarified on-page, which I really would’ve appreciated, considering this anthology features little disability rep otherwise. This story sadly didn’t really draw me in in general.


The Soft Place by Hillary Monahan ⭐⭐

Okaaaaaaay, so.. the main character in this was high as fuck so this story was a little bit exhausting to read. It was a nice idea – describing getting high as it being the main character’s soft place and I liked the message this story tried to portray too but at the end of the day, it was just a little bit too wild as far the writing goes and it ended up not being very pleasant to read. Also it kinda felt like the author was trying to include the message of this story subtly.. but at the end of it I felt more like having been hit over the head with it. But at least it was a hopeful one.


A Pound of Flesh by Kosoko Jackson

I did not enjoy this story and thought it was all over the place and way too convoluted for a short story. I feel like I was supposed to be intrigued by this story but I wasn’t whatsoever because the origin of the curse of the main character was never made clear. Also you will be kinda lost if you don’t know Greek mythology well.. and my eye was twitching a little bit about what Athena was representing in this story. The underlying message in this was lost on me because the way it was written it really seemed like the police stood for justice.. eh. Really not a fan of this one.

“My brother loves you. But caring about someone and loving someone are two very different things. Love is a powerful emotion. Just like hate, or bloodlust, or valor. My brother feels all those things. But he cares only about war.”


One Spell Too Many by Tara Sim ⭐⭐

God, I was so looking forward to this story because I really like Tara Sim as a person and enjoyed her novel Timekeeper so much.. and the beginning of this story was so promising to me because I absolutely loved the concept. But honestly the writing didn’t really speak to me whatsoever, it just seemed really basic and a little bit like the fanfiction that I wrote when I was younger. I also did not enjoy the plot at all because it focused so heavily on miscommunication which is honestly a trope that I am so very sick of seeing and I think in 2020 we have progressed past the use of love potions in stories, even if you enforce boundaries with it.


Far From Home by Saundra Mitchell ⭐⭐

Oh man, I feel like these stories have been cursed for me a little bit since Jessica Verdi’s story because this was another one that I just did not enjoy whatsoever. I thought it was confusingly written in many parts and it was entirely too cheesy for me personally. I mean, I do not mind cheesy usually but when it is just a short story where I am not attached to the characters and their relationship whatsoever, it just doesn’t work for me whatsoever. The best aspect about this story was that the main character was non-binary.


Once Upon a Seastorm by Fox Benwell

I literally have absolutely zero fucking idea what I just read. Like I don’t even know what to say right now because I am left speechless with how.. nonsensical all of this was. I’m sure the author had a really amazing vision but sadly I did not understand what this story was trying to do whatsoever. Content Warning for this being a story about a trans boy who is pregnant!


Overall, this has definitely put me off from reading any more of Saundra Mitchell’s anthologies in the future, even if I enjoyed All Out. It is one thing to not like the individual stories, it is another if I feel like an anthology specifically including queer stories offers barely any intersectionality or doesn’t make any effort to include more underrepresented identities.

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