Truth or Dare by Non Pratt – Interesting concept, not sure about the representation.

This was a really interesting book. It’s one of those books that’s kind of not really had a lot of buzz, so I didn’t know what I was going to get going into this.

Content warnings for: neurodisability, thrill seeking, sexual harassment, ace/aro-phobia, mental health problems, racism.

This is a book split in 2 halves, 1 side you read completely from Claire’s POV then it switches to Sef’s before alternating for the end.

The best friend of the main character is ace! She also then clarifies that she is also aro later on and I had no idea before going in and I was so pleasantly surprised. There is little to no representation of people who are ace/aro in books. I am pansexual/romantic so I am not the person to speak about the representation but I found this review on GR from someone who is own voices. I’m in 2 minds about the fact that it’s the side character rather than the main character, I wish there was more of a focus on representation in books but I also feel like sometimes it’s better for that to be more in the background so that it just slowly gets embedded into normal thinking. But, like I said, I can’t really speak on it. But for me I felt the representation was really good as it differentiated between ace and aro and it kind of subtly taught the reader about what that means. If you are ace or aro or both and feel like it wasn’t good representation please let me know and I will link to your review!

There was also representation as Sef is British Pakistani, but I really wasn’t sure about the representation. This review I found from Kamalia talks about their wish for the representation to be less westernised and I can 100% see why they were let down in that respect, but I’m also aware of many 2nd/3rd/4th generation Pakistani people living in the UK who have taken on board a lot of British traditions etc. But again I am white, I can’t speak on it.

I honestly just didn’t really like Sef, he reminded me a lot of the boys I went to school with who would be one person in private then a complete jerk with friends. I am very aware that he had a lot to deal with so I can’t fault him because we all deal with stuff in or own ways. From working with teenagers for my placement it’s become even more apparent to me. I think that’s one thing this book did deal with really well, was showing just the general life struggles that so many teens go through on a day to day basis. I felt that in that respect it was pretty realistic.

There is a lot of sexual harassment in this novel, and it’s shown in a negative light as well it should be, but it kind of reminded me of my experiences as a kid in high school of the things that felt like nothing at the time that now thinking back on I realise could be considered sexual harassment. Kids are absolutely awful to each other and I think this showed that better than a lot of novels have done, as many just show run of the mill slut shaming or boys being mean to girls. This book really went deep into how conniving teens can really be.

I read this book pretty quickly, it was paced well and felt super easy to get through and for the most part I enjoyed what I was ready. There were a few scenes that made me uncomfortable but that was on purpose.

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Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst – Yay F/F fantasy!!!! Boo Slow read

Denna has left her home land to get married to the man she has been betrothed to since childhood. However Denna has magic in a world that is so anti magic, and being away from home has put her in so much more danger. She needs to learn to ride a horse, leading her to spending time with the Princess Mare. But then a series of magic related killings take place.

I was in a bit of a slump when I read this. I wasn’t reading it fast enough to my liking and it just felt super sluggish. But I don’t know if that was me or if that was the book. I still enjoyed it but I feel like it took longer than it should’ve done. I will say that something about the pacing was a bit off. At times it felt like it was moving along ok and other times it was just super slow. I didn’t get that “I can’t put this down” feeling.

Whilst I did love reading a fantasy book with an f/f romance, there should definitely be more, I felt like there wasn’t enough of a burn. Obviously I knew who the romance was between so as I knew it was building, but it didn’t feel like anything was happening between the pair. It wasn’t believable for me. Maybe I personally just want more from romances in books.

The world building was great. There was heretics and illegal magic. There were different countries at war with each other and being political and everything I look for in good world building.

This is a stand-alone fantasy novel and I feel like if you’re going to do a stand-alone this is how you do it. And I’m glad it is as well because I’ve started too many series.

I felt like the characters could’ve done with a little bit more development. I think because it’s a stand-alone I couldn’t get the feel for them that I would normally get from fantasy. Denna felt a bit flimsy at times, like I wasn’t sure what she was wanting to do with herself.

In the end though, I am glad I read this because I always need more f/f in my life, especially in fantasy where it’s SO sparse.

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Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell – Hot romance with a side of good representation

Thank you to netgalley and Berkley Publishing Group for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Gavin has been suspended from the NFL and put on house arrest for attacking someone on camera. He needs a PA to do stuff for him whilst he’s stuck in his house. He chooses Noah despite Noah’s obvious disdain for Gavin and his career. Eventually the tension turns into sexual tension.

I’ve really fallen down the Santino Hassell hole. I can’t stop reading what he’s written. Eventually I’ll read the Five Bouroughs series, I just don’t have the money for it.

I adore the hate to love trope so this was exactly what the doctor ordered when I was in the mood for some erotic romance.

I loved that it had bisexual sports star rep. Kind of reminded me of the story I wrote a few years ago where a rugby star came out, but lets not talk about that. It also tackles a lot of the issues in the sports world with prejudice.

I flew through this and I think that speaks for the quality of it. the characters, though sometimes weren’t very likeable, were all very well developed and I can’t wait to read some more of them in the rest of the series.

Overall this was a fun, fast, raunchy read that I think everyone should read when they’re in the mood. It also helps that this is a m/m book written by a guy, which is super important as a lot of the biggest m/m books are written by women and that’s sad.

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The Tiger’s Watch by Julia Ember – Gender Fluidity Rep Let Down by Poor Plot

I have a lot to say about this book. Thank you to netgalley and Xpresso Book Tours for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Please be aware that there is misgendering in this book and there is violence.

Tashi has to escape the capital as their life is in danger. They’re an inhabitor, which means they have a really close connection with an animal, to the point where they can inhabit the animals body. However when they go to a monastery it is quickly taken over by enemy forces and they decide to spy.

The world building was really good in the sense it had a really good religious system, which a lot of books skip over. The inhabitor part of this book was an interesting idea but the way it was written just didn’t read very well. I found it hard to distinguish between what was going on with Tashi and what was going on with the tiger.

Xian read really weirdly, he was complex but was just too complex. He didn’t know whether he was coming or going and it was just really annoying. Sometimes he came off really nice and then other times he was an absolute jerk, and I just can’t get behind him. It made it hard for me to read the scenes between him and Tashi.

Tashi is supposed to be in love with Pharo, who they ran away to the monastery with but it literally did not read like that at all. They never saw him or checked on him. And I get that it’s hard for them because they’re trying to be covert, but it barely felt like they liked him to be honest. It just felt completely underdeveloped.

Look, I think this book is super important because it has a gender fluid main character, but the plot could use a lot of work. I think this could be really good for people who are gender fluid, though I can’t speak for the representation, and I couldn’t find reviews from anyone who is gender fluid, but if you have read it and are gender fluid hmu and I’ll link to your review. C.W. also posted a review of this book and raised some issues about the Chinese coding of some of the characters so I would recommend checking that out.

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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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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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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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Cyberlove Series by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Ok so you need to read this series. If you like gay romance this is for you. If you’re new to my blog you should be made aware that I love when books involve technology and the internet so this series is perfect for me. Strong Signal features a twitch streamer, Fast Connection has grindr, Hard Wired involved conventions and Mature Content is about youtubers.

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Strong Signal

This is the first book of the series and isn’t the best but I think that’s because Megtino hadn’t quite got into their stride yet, however that doesn’t mean it’s not good. It’s still damn good.

This book has anxiety rep, Kai who is the twitch streamer and one of the main characters has really bad anxiety. He has anxiety to the point where he doesn’t really go outside of his apartment and for me I found this so important as whilst I do go outside and go to uni, there are days where I really feel like it would just be so much easier to just stay in bed. And it was also just really good to see someone in a book with anxiety doing something like streaming whilst not being able to go out because so often people don’t understand the idea of having anxiety but being able to do stuff online. It shows you the idea of safe spaces and I just loved reading it. I loved reading something like anxiety in an erotic romance novel.

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Fast Connection

Fast connection features grindr and I’m all about the de-stigmatising of dating apps. As someone who uses Tinder and OK Cupid I’m so glad that it’s so much more common now because it means there’s more people on the apps and it means people don’t think you’re “sad” for going on them. So I love reading books that feature dating apps because it means more and more people find it normal.

If you like age gaps this book is definitely for you because our 2 MCs have a ~15 year age gap or something like that. Luke has kids and one of them is the same age as Dominic’s sister and it brings some interesting and funny situations.

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Hard Wired

Hard Wired features some characters we meet in the first 2 books who are the moderators on Kai’s twitch channel. They go to a convention and hook up but then some secrets get in the way. I’m a bit funny about books that feature miscommunication but I enjoyed this one, though at times I did find the characters just really irritating. However the characters deal with a lot of their own personal struggles, which again I loved reading in a romance novel.

Jesse, our main character who is a surfer living in California realises he’s not straight in this novel and I felt like it was dealt with really well. The little bits of discussion of sexuality being fluid and how it’s ok to realise you’re not straight later on in life were something I just enjoyed reading because so often it’s just expected that once you’re past adolescence you should know exactly who you are and what you’re into, which is more often than not not the case.

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Mature Content

Mature Content is my favourite of the series and I’m really excited to read the next book whatever it is because I feel like Megtino are really hitting their stride. I really loved the hate to love trope in this. I loved the drama of fighting youtubers. It kind of felt like a bit of a call out to certain youtubers at times which made me laugh a lot.

At times this book felt less heavy than the previous books but then you get hit with the characters being super self diminishing and it was so relatable. The pair definitely have more ups and downs than the others which I think was really good because otherwise I think Beau could’ve been a bit boring but bringing Zane into his life made him fun to read.

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They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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

After reading History is All You Left Me this was one of my most anticipated reads. Knowing that Adam had been working on this for such a long time as well had me super hyped up.

Obviously the title itself is a huge spoiler so you can’t hate me for talking about the characters dying, and if you have triggers to do with death, violence and suicide do not read this. Now I’m one of those heathens who sometimes reads the final page of a book so this didn’t really bother me, though I felt like I actually read a bit too fast at times because I was so desperate to know how they died. So I might reread this book soon and change my feelings about it because I was definitely aware of reading things a bit faster than I normally would out of sheer impatience.

I actually feel like my enjoyment of this book was a little bit diminished because it was just so unfair that the characters had to die because you got to learn about their lives and how bad a hand they’d been dealt and knowing they were going to die just left me feeling kind of hollow because of how unfair it was. As someone who has grown up dealing with the loss of young relations things like this really effect me.

I don’t know the technical term for it, but Mateo has anxiety that manifests itself in a kind of agoraphobia and Adam wrote it so well, even though I don’t experience these feelings, sometimes I do have times where I feel close to it and I related to it a lot.

Like in The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon you get snippets of other people’s lives  as they are involved in the lives of Mateo and Rufus and I loved getting to see that and see how the Death Cast would effect people and how they tried to set the world to rights.

The idea of the book and living in a world where you get phoned the day of our death is really interesting to me and I think is actually a really good discussion piece for teenagers and adults alike. Would you want to know if you were going to die that day? Would you rather just live your life without the presence of that knowledge in the back of your head?

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Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

Aw this book is honestly so sweet. It was one of the books I was super excited for this year and it did not let me down.

It surrounds a convention for all the youtubers and geeky types like us lot where a group of friends travel from Australia to LA for the weekend of their dreams.

The book is pretty short and whilst I really liked my time with the book I felt like there isn’t much for me to say.

This could’ve easily been a 5 star read for me as the style was so easy to read and the representation was on point. There was Asian Rep, aspie rep, anxiety Rep, chubby Rep, bisexual Rep, lesbian Rep. However I felt like there was just something a little lacking and it’s not something I could ever pin point but it just wasn’t quite in the favourites position for me

The book follows 2 blossoming relationships and it was honestly just really sweet to read. There was little miscommunications and classic tropes from YA romance that just makes you squeal with delight.

Even though my review is a bit thin on the ground I do hope you read this book because it just made me really happy when I read it and I can’t wait to read the next Jen Wilde book because I feel like it’s going to be a 5 star.

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