Like Water by Rebecca Podos

Thank you to edelweiss and Harper Collins for sending a me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Vanni had always planned to leave her small home town that everyone else gets stuck in, but then her dad get’s diagnosed with Huntington’s, which can be passed to the next generation. So her fear of also being diagnosed stalls her in her plans so she spends her summer working at a water park and flirting around with different people.

So I really liked the exploration of being bisexual in teenagers and whilst the MC does eventually identify as being bi, I really liked that for a while there is a lot of talk of fluidity and a lot of it just kind of happens. Which felt really realistic to me, because it is such a complicated thing to go through. And I liked that it was in a majorly hispanic community as I feel like the majority of novels I’ve read with a bi MC have been very white and it was refreshing to read from another point of view.

As well as there being bisexual representation there is also a character who struggles with their gender identity, and as I am cis myself I didn’t really pick up on it properly until the end, but I think people who themselves have struggled with it would pick up on it much earlier. When I realised it was very much like “oh yeah of course”. I tried to hunt to see if any genderqueer people had reviewed it on goodreads but came up blank, and obviously I’m not going to ask people what they identify as for sake of a review. But yeah I’m cis so I can’t say if the rep is good but it felt good.

As with the genderqueer rep, I don’t have Huntington’s so I couldn’t tell you if it deals with that well but I really appreciated that it was part of the novel. It’s not a well talked about disease and it’s not as famous as things like MS.

I think the one thing that made this read not a favourite was just that I didn’t find any of the characters particularly likeable. And when I say that I don’t mean like they were all awful people and I hated reading them. They’re well developed characters and have their own driving forces. I just got annoyed with them a lot, but hey teenagers can be pretty annoying so they definitely felt realistic.

I think if you’re looking for a diverse summer contemporary with a wide range of issues this is the book for you.

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Tales From the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson & Robin Wasserman

On the whole I really liked this anthology of Simon at Shadowhunter Academy stories, spoilers if you didn’t know Simon is a shadowhunter. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about other people writing CC’s characters along with her but I think in this context it really works because it’s a different point of view to her other books and often there were little historical stories within each story that explained some lore.

The two stand outs were The Whitechapel Fiend and Born to Endless Night. I think because it mixed the stories of other characters that I knew in with Simon’s experiences. The Whitechapel Fiend really got me going because it was a little snippet into Will, Jem and Tessa’s lives after the events of Clockwork Princess and I’m always wanting more about those characters because I really fell in love with them. And Born to Endless Night is all about Magnus and Alec and it was so darn sweet that I just couldn’t deal with it.

Some of the stories were a little on the weirder side, like The Evil We Love which was about Robert Lightwood and reading the parts about him I felt very meh but it was intermingled with stuff that was going on with Simon and Izzy.

There were some pretty sad stories but it helped me understand a lot more of the politics in the world. And though I haven’t read it I’m aware that Lady Midnight deals with a lot of the political stuff so I feel like I’ve made the right decision by reading this first to prepare me.

This book also introduced a few new characters, one of the most memorable with George Lovelace. He was so loveable. He’s Scottish and I enjoyed reading him, which I don’t say often as a lot of authors really screw up Scottish characters, but he worked. He made me laugh a lot and he did actually feel Scottish. I commonly find reading characters who are supposedly Scottish just feel like the author has just thrown that in as a quirk and they don’t have traits that as a nation of people we have.

Though this is an anthology the main story of it is linear and so I’m just going to say that the end had me so upset I could see it coming but I was in denial and I don’t think I’ll forgive CC for it.

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Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Thank you to netgalley and Hodder and Stoughton for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This was also the fairyloot book for May so I was inundated with copies, but I’m not complaining. The cover for the UK paperback has just been revealed as well and I kind of need it to be honest.

After Mariko is attacked in the forest on her way to meet her future husband she assumes a disguise of a male to find out who wants her dead and why and takes up living in the forest with a band of thieves.

This was probably one of my most anticipated books of the year and whilst it wasn’t a favourite it was really good. I really liked the main characters and the world building. It felt really cohesive and Ahdieh had put a lot of thought into the world. I find this applaudable in authors when they write very different fantasy world’s but have such good world building, as I’m aware Ahdieh’s other series is more Middle Eastern in inspiration and this is East Asian/mainly Japanese inspired. The magical parts really intrigued me as we don’t get to see much of it in this novel but there is definite murmurs of it and a bit of build up.

There was some mix up with the PR with this book where some people thought it was a Mulan retelling, which it isn’t, it has some inspiration taken from Mulan and there were definitely a couple parts that I picked up on this and really enjoyed when I realised. Like the scene in Mulan where she’s bathing and the guys all come along, that makes somewhat of an appearance.

There was a lot of Japanese terms in this book but Ahdieh presented then well enough that I rarely found myself going to the glossary because her writing gave enough context for the reader to understand exactly what she meant.

At times the book did feel a little bit slow, but it wasn’t hard to read. The pacing varied a bit so some parts I flew through and some parts were a bit heavier. Now I don’t have a problem with this but I just wanted to note it.

I cannot wait for the next book because I have no idea what’s going to happen but I know there’s gonna be some wild magic stuff in it.

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The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

Thank you to netgalley and Penguin Random House Children’s for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Flora Banks has no short term memory and her parents have had to leave the country to look after Flora’s dying brother. However Flora has one recent memory, and that’s of kissing Drake. So she leaves England and goes to Norway to find Drake at his uni on a tiny island in hopes that it will help return her memory.

Ugh this book. Every problematic trope you can think of to do with mental health is in it. And most trigger warnings to do with mental health you can think of are also needed. This was one of those books I somehow ended up hate reading about halfway through and I had to know the ending so kept reading it despite not liking it.

Most of the characters were just terrible people. The main love interest refused to own up to the mess he made. The best friend got so mad that she just left her best friend to fend for herself even though said best friend had a literal memory problem. And do not get me started on her parents. Her parents literally left her alone when they left the country to care for their other child, despite the fact Flora has short term memory loss and mental health problems. Which in my mind is just terrible behaviour from parents.

Even the end was such a disappointment that I wish I hadn’t read that far. Yes the writing definitely hooked me in but in the bad way. I knew what was going to happen but I just wanted to keep reading in hopes that I was wrong, but I wasn’t. The writing style is really different, it’s really repetitive but that’s because it’s told from Flora’s POV so whenever her memory reset itself she had to read notes to herself to remind her of what she was doing. I wouldn’t have had an issue with this because I understand it’s plot purpose but it was so focussed on Drake that I just rolled my eyes every time.

Another thing I really didn’t like was that this book kind of gave off the idea that pills are bad. That they turn you into a different person if you take pills for mental health reasons. I’m not sure if that’s what Barr intended but that’s what it read like to me. And I’m on anti depressants so I really hate reading that kind of thing.

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The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee

This is one of the most fun books I’ve read all year. Thank you to netgalley and Abrams Kids for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Genie is focussing on getting into college until the new kid in school, Quentin, starts telling her all these wild tales about how she’s actually a powerful mythological entity. Of course Genie is very hesitant to believe him, but soon demons start popping up and she’s pretty much forced to realise Quentin isn’t lying.

The thing that really stood out about this book was how unapologetic it was about its Chinese influence. It’s entirely based on Chinese mythology so I think it’s the kind of book Chinese readers have been waiting for for a long time. But it never feels inaccessible, not that there’s anything wrong with books that are because some books are written specifically for people of a certain grouping to read and not for everyone and that’s ok, as a white reader who doesn’t really know much about Chinese mythology this was so easy to read. It was understandable and funny and explained background really well without feeling like as a reader I was being taught.

Genie is such a bomb character. She kicks butts of these hugely powerful demons between going to class and preparing for college.

Yes this book is a bit sill but that’s the whole point. It never takes itself too seriously, I mean how serious can you get with kids fighting demons in their school uniforms. In that respect it reminded me a whole lot of Sailor Moon.

I loved that this was set in the Bay Area because it made some of the more ridiculous moments of the novel even funnier. You have the image of these school kids beating up huge demons all with this metropolitan American city by the sea as the backdrop.

If you haven’t added this book to your TBR please do so because it’s one of the better books I’ve read this year.

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The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

I’ve heard a lot of buzz about Kasie West and was really excited to read a book by her.

Caymen works in her mothers doll shop and they are struggling pretty hard with money. In walks Xander who Caymen instantly knows is rich and she wants nothing to do with him. But Xander just wants to get to know Caymen.

I’ll be honest and say I wasn’t hugely into this book. It felt very white. Like the characters had such white troubles. Which sounds like a weird complaint but all the problems just felt so over complicated and pointless. It was pretty predictable as well.

I did however like Xander, the love interest. He was a sweetie and it often felt like Caymen was being horrible to him just because he’s rich and like he can’t help that. I also enjoyed that a lot of the novel was set in the doll shop that Caymen’s mum owned. Though it did make the book slightly creepier than it needed to be.

The pacing was really good, I sped through the book. Apart from the problems I had with it I did enjoy reading it. I just wanted more from it.

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Cyclone series by Courtney Milan

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Trade Me

So this has fake relationship in it and talks about what it is to be privileged. It also discusses addiction, eating disorders and stress.

Our MC is a Chinese American girl with a background of human rights issues in China as her parents fleed China to get way from incarceration which is true for many Chinese people who immigrated to America and the like. She deals with a lot of poverty and I really loved reading that because hey it’s good to read that in novels its good not to have the perfect life for the MC, obviously it’s not good that the character is in that position but it’s life. She made most of her decisions based on her background and the poverty she was in.

A character in this novel deals with a restrictive eating disorder and as I was super close to developing one a few years ago this was really important to me to read as it’s one of the lesser known EDs. But of course I’m going to say that if you have an ED trigger be careful with this book.

 

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Hold Me

First things first, this book has a trans girl MC, which is few and far between in any genre, especially in romance. As well as that it has the hate to love trope which I always adore.

Now I can’t say whether it was accurate trans rep and I tried to see if I could find some reviews by the trans reviewing community but couldn’t find any, if you have written one or aware of any please let me know!

He’s Chinese Thai with a buddhist parent and Muslim parent and he’s bi and that isn’t glossed over he talks about past affairs with both men and women. She’s latinx and into science which you know I love my STEM girls as one myself.

Some people didn’t like how childish the main characters were with each other in the beginning but I loved it and found it hilarious. And if you’re really up for some diverse romance I recommend both novels in this series. You don’t need to read Trade Me first if you’re more interested in this one but it sets the scene.

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Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I took a break from this book halfway through as it was a library book and I wasn’t going to take it to Asia with me.

Hanna is the spoilt daughter of a ship’s captain and Nik is her drug dealer but when the ship gets attacked by an elite strike team Hanna and Nik are some of the only passengers left on the ship. Somehow they will need to use their teenage strength and resources to take the ship back before a wormhole opens in the middle.

I didn’t like this as much as Illuminae, partially because I found the main characters unlikeable. Not like in an unlikeable character way in that you like them even though they’re unlikeable, these two just annoyed me. I did like the space mob aspect and the kidnapped ship idea. And as the bad guys were dying we get a crossed off data file with their faces each time which was actually really good and helped build anticipation as they were gradually picked off.

What I thought was really good was that throughout my read of this this felt like more of a thriller than Illuminae. Due to certain aspects of the plot there was this constant feeling of doom because you knew there was something still lurking that could completely throw everything up in the air. However there were some twists that weren’t really twists as they felt like rip offs from Illuminae.

I absolutely adored when the cast of Illuminae were brought in especially Kady and AIDAN but man alive when they were brought in the book got so damn confusing.

Whilst the story was fairly easy to read because the format was so snapshot-y, told in all data files again so it was good to pick up and put down, it did get confusing sometimes and I felt like some of the action scenes could’ve used a little more work.

The one note I made to myself when reading was “laughing hysterically”, so at some point I found something in this absolutely hilarious but I have no recollection what, so there you go.

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The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by MacKenzi Lee

Right off the bat I’m going to warn you that there is homophobia, biphobia, abuse, suicidal thoughts, racism and ableism. But it’s set in the 1700s so it’s expected and there is on the page tackling of issues.

Monty and Percy are set to go on a wild tour of Europe before Percy goes to school in Amsterdam and Monty starts to learn about the estate he is to inherit. Monty is a huge playboy who spends the majority of his time drunk and gambling so their trip doesn’t go exactly as planned after a slew of different accidental occurrences. But then the pair along with Monty’s sister Felicity stumble upon a much darker plot that could change the world.

You have to listen to this on audiobook because it’s read by Tom Riddle (Christian Coulson) and he reads it so perfectly, he IS Monty.

We have some really good representation in this book as the main character is bi in a time when that was definitely not accepted and his best friend is his love inferest who was brought up by a white rich family even though he is mixed race so it was good to read their points of view in the historical terms. It also brought about some interesting situations in the novel as well as there being some really horrible behaviour from adults that bears talking about as LGBTQ+ issues are often glossed over or forgotten about if we’re talking anything before the 1800s but after the Romans.

Percy has epilepsy and this is going to sound bad but it was so good to read about because for 1: it’s not really mentioned in books; and secondly as it’s set before modern medicine it’s seen as like something supernatural and he needs to go to an asylum which I found really interesting to read because I’d never thought about epilepsy being understood as something that isn’t medical.

The whole adventure of this novel was wild from start to finish I had no idea what was going to happen next. It’s not often I say that because hey I read a lot I get pretty good at guessing. Because of how wild Monty is you never know what he’s going to get himself into next and how that’s going to change every thing. Things get a little farfetched at times but the author is so completely unapologetic about it that you get so swept up in the story that you forget that it’s unrealistic.

I think part of the reason I could not stop listening to this was because Lee really made me care for the characters. Monty is horrible, in a truly teenage boy way. But you really find yourself caring for him because he does silly things because he’s coming from a misguided place. When things head south for him you really worry about how things are going to work out.

Percy is my soft bean I love him so much and I just want him to be happy forever. And Felicity is so magical, she’s sarcastic, hilarious and smart and I’m really excited to read her spin off novel.

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Cheer by Mia Archer

Cheer follows a girl, Alex, as she realises that she might not be straight. She decides to join her best friend in becoming a cheerleader and falls for her but all the while another girl in her grade has it out for her as she seems to think that Alex is after her boyfriend. TW: slut shaming, casual homophobia, casual ableism.

I got this on a whim from a bookbub email so I honestly hadnt planned to read it any time soon. But then I got into a romance kick and I wanted to read a wlw relationship so this one was the one I spotted in my kindle library so went with it not expecting much.

I was pleasantly surprised though. Yes the writing could use some work and it’s your classic WLW romance in that a person comes out in the process of the story but it was honestly just super cute at times.

I loved reading the parts where the MC was struggling over her feelings towards a woman because I’ve been there I know what it’s like trying to convince yourself that you’re not feeling that way for someone of the same gender because sadly some people still find it taboo and thought things aren’t as bad as they used to be it’s still a possible struggle.

There were random moments where feminist ideas were brought in about both sexuality and gender and it was so good to read in a YA novel. I say this every time I read a YA novel with feminist parts but it just makes me happy to think of teenagers growing up in a world where feminism is more “mainstream” as it wasn’t when I was a teen and I was so misinformed and it was awful.

I might get around to reading more of Archer’s books as she’s now on my radar and honestly I love wlw stories and I can’t get enough of soft girls.

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