Review: Coffee Boy by Austin Chant



Coffee Boy

by Austin Chant

read in March 2017

format: e-book

spoiler-free review!

All I knew about Coffee Boy before reading it, was that the main character is a trans man. And that was enough for me! Because of the title and cover, I had expected him to be a barista in a coffee shop, but that was definitely not the case! Still, this novella was very enjoyable.

I’m a cisgender woman, so my review really doesn’t matter. This book is #OwnVoices, because Austin Chant is a queer trans man. Still, I have to convince you to read this as well!

First of all, I love that we got to read about a trans man who doesn’t always pass (e.g. Kieran wears a pronouns pin). When trans people are represented in media – which is almost never – they often pass very easily. However, there are many more trans people who do not pass so easily or who cannot afford or do not want to undergo surgeries. And I love that Chant showed us that side as well.

This is an M/M New Adult romance and there is one explicit sex scene. Once again, as a cisgender person I don’t know much about it, but I really loved how the author handled it. None of the sexual acts had anything to do with the stereotypical, cisgender and heterosexual idea of what sex should be like. The cisgender bisexual man was actually the bottom and even though that’s only a detail, that seemed very important to me.

As I have mentioned a few times before, I love diverse stories that don’t revolve around that aspect of the character. This isn’t a story about a closeted Kieran who is dramatically outed to his entire workspace and has to deal with the aftermath of that. No. This is a cute M/M romance about Kieran who is a trans man. Having said that though, he does have to deal with micro-aggressions at his workplace, such as people using the wrong pronouns. But the conversations about those micro-aggressions seem so very real and (I hate to say it, but) important.

As a bisexual woman, I was kind of iffy about the way the bisexual character was represented as one point. The following quote didn’t sit well with me:

“God, you are the tragic gay man.”
Seth smiles. “I’m bisexual.”
“Oh.” Kieran swallows his food. “I guess that’s more original.”

First of all, Kieran knew that Seth had been married to a woman. So why did he assume he was gay? Secondly, the last sentence kind of implies that bisexual people identify as such to be considered “different” and “edgy”.
Having said that, that was the only instance I noticed such phrasing, so I might have interpreted it wrong.

Kieran is brutally honest and blunt. Most of the time, I dislike such characters, but that wasn’t the case with him!

I cannot wait to read Peter Darling, Chant’s other book. The ‘about the author’ section says he always writes about trans characters who get the love they deserve, so I’m looking forward to that!

conclusion: Coffee Boy was a fast-paced and diverse M/M romance! I would recommend this to everyone, though be aware that there is one explicit sex scene.


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ARC: The Paths We Choose

33299493The Paths We Choose

by M. Hollis

read in March 2017

format: e-ARC

publication date: April 6th 2017

spoiler-free review!

I received an e-ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review!

I’m back with another incoherent review! When I love a book, I suddenly have no idea how to write reviews anymore. I honestly don’t even know where to start.

If you enjoyed The Melody of You and Me, you’ll definitely love The Paths We Choose. I actually enjoyed Hollis’ second novella even more than her first. This was incredibly cute and even the most cliché scene had me on the edge of my seat.

As you know, I usually read Young Adult novels. But because I want to read more books written by diverse authors and/or books that include diverse characters, I’ve started reading other genres as well. Even though I never thought I’d read New Adult books again after reading quite a few sexist ones, I’m so glad I picked up Hollis’ novellas. If anyone feels the same way as me about the genre: please don’t give up on it! There are so many NA books out there that aren’t sexist, cliché and problematic. Anyway, I digress. I was going to warn you that this book includes some explicit sex scenes.

Just as The Melody of You and Me, The Paths We Choose is very sex-positive and filled with queer women and tons of women of colour! Lily had a conversation about what she does and doesn’t like in the bedroom and I love that Hollis decided to include this. Some people might look down on this genre while they absolutely shouldn’t. Talking about your preferences is very important, as people shouldn’t have to do things they don’t want to do.

The author is Brazilian and identifies as sapphic, so this is an #OwnVoices story. I’m very much looking forward to what the author brings us next!

conclusion: The Paths We Choose is even cuter than Hollis’ first novel! I’d recommend these novellas to anyone who is looking for diverse F/F new adult romances!


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DNF: See You in the Cosmos

33282947See You in the Cosmos

by Jack Cheng

started in March 2017

format: e-ARC

spoiler-free review!

I received an e-ARC from Penguin Random House UK Children’s through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I feel absolutely horrible about deciding not to finish See You in the Cosmos only 15 percent in. But I have to be honest: the only reason why I would finish this, is because it’s an advanced reader copy.

I requested this book because of its beautiful cover and because the synopsis sounds very cute. But when I started See You in the Cosmos, I immediately realised this wasn’t going to be my cup of tea. Though it was a page-turner, I had actually no desire to actually read it.

Firstly, I couldn’t connect with the writing style. This is a middle grade novel, so it might be entirely my fault I wasn’t enjoying it. Personally, I don’t like it when authors try to sound like children. Take this excerpt, for example:

“He got in line so I got in line too, and when we got up to the ticket guy, the ticket guy looked at him and he looked at me and he asked the older kid, Is he with you? And the kid said, Yeah, he’s my stepbrother. He said, I leave to go to the bathroom for one minute and Alex tries to ditch me at the station, some brother, huh? The ticket guy looked at me and asked me, Is he your brother?”

I generally don’t care much about the writing style, but when it bothers me, it bothers me! When Alex, the eleven-year- old main character, had a conversation with a five-year-old, it was nearly impossible to tell them apart.

The main reason why I decided not to give this another chance, is the mental illness representation. It seemed to me that Alex’s mother has a mental illness. Alex goes around telling everyone how he has to cook for his mother and she doesn’t even care he’s going on a trip all by himself. I really don’t like this narrative that people who have a mental illness are a burden for their family:

But my mom, she doesn’t care as long as I make us dinner and don’t bother her when she’s watching her shows. She’s a pretty cool mom.

My mom knows how to cook and she’s a great cook, but I’ve been making food for us so much this year that I’d feel bad if I didn’t do something. Plus she was having another one of her quiet days where she stays in bed and stares at all the little bumps on the ceiling. I think she likes counting them.

I wish I wasn’t so hard on this book. The author was born in China and the main character’s grandparents on his mother’s side are from the Philippines. Combined with the mental health, this could’ve been a promising diverse story, but I have my doubts after what I read about Alex’s mother.

conclusion: If you are still interested in reading this, I’d suggest you do! I tend to struggle with the writing style in children’s books, so it might be my own fault I wasn’t enjoyed this. And I’m very curious to see whether the representation of mental health is harmful or not.


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The Upside of Unrequited: my favourite contemporary!

the_upside_of_unrequited.pngThe Upside of Unrequited

by Becky Albertalli

read in March 2017

format: e-ARC

spoiler-free review

Actually, I don’t even hate my body. I just worry everyone else might. Because chubby girls don’t get boyfriends, and they definitely don’t have sex. Not in movies—not really—unless it’s supposed to be a joke. And I don’t want to be a joke.

I received an e-ARC from Penguin Random House UK Children’s through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

I have no idea where to begin. I absolutely love The Upside of Unrequited! For a while now, I thought I had grown out of Young Adult contemporaries. But I was wrong. Despite the fact that that the formatting of my e-ARC was absolutely horrible, this book is quite possibly the best I have ever read.

First of all, I want to thank Becky Albertalli for including so much diversity in her novels. The author’s second novel is about a fat Jewish girl named Molly, but her story isn’t defined by that. That’s the kind of representation I want to see more often, especially in this genre! This isn’t a story about a girl who is bullied for being fat and Jewish. This is a story about a girl who happens to be fat and Jewish.

Cassie, Molly’s twin sister, is a lesbian. Her girlfriend is a Korean-American pansexual girl. The twins’ parents are two women, Nadine being a black lesbian and Patty being a bisexual woman. Molly once had a crush on a trans guy. Molly is on antidepressant and it is completely normalised. There is no dramatic reveal of why she is taking them either. Asexuality is mentioned as well. Even though some of these things are only talked about briefly, at least they are mentioned and normalised. Trans, asexual and pansexual people exist and Albertalli respects that! Unfortunately, that cannot be said of many other books, even when they take place in our world and day and age.

If anyone is doing Diversity Bingo 2017, you can read this for ‘practising Jewish MC’ and ‘MC with an under-represented body’! Becky Albertalli is Jewish, so this is an #OwnVoices novel!

I also love that the author learnt from the mistake she made in Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda. I absolutely love that book, but a character said that bisexual women and lesbians have it easier than gay men because guys think it’s hot. That’s not true. Fetishisation doesn’t mean acceptance. Anyway, Becky Albertalli could have decided never to mention queer women ever again after being called out. Thankfully, she decided to do better by featuring tons of queer women in The Upside of Unrequited. Some allies would have said “Well, at least I tried. I didn’t mean any harm.”, but Albertalli actually listened to us and hired sensitivity readers to get the representation right in this one.

Clearly, I love how diverse this book was. It does not only feature great representation, but also wonderful feminist moments! I could provide an entire list of bad-ass quotes for you, but you should buy the book when it is released and see for yourselves! Furthermore, the book is also incredibly sex-positive and even mentions that sex and “losing your virginity” doesn’t have to involve a penis.

Even though it has been a couple of years since I was a teenager, I don’t think I have ever related to a character as much as I related to Molly. Even when she doesn’t have the right to be angry, you completely understand why she feels that way. She is so incredibly human and real. The praise on the back of my copy of Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda says the following:

“Are we absolutely certain that Becky Albertalli didn’t just steal the diary of a hilariously observant teenage boy?”

The Upside of Unrequited felt just as genuine and realistic. Becky Albertalli writes teenagers perfectly!

I would recommend this book to everyone. Even as an adult, this book is incredibly relatable. I have scars on my face and because of problems with my spine, pelvis and legs, I don’t walk like most people do. When people tell me “Oh, your scars look much better today.” or urge me to pay attention to the way I am walking, I feel exactly like Molly felt in this moment:

So, I should be used to it. Still, it always throws me a little bit when people say stuff about my body. I guess I want to believe no one notices I’m fat.

Even though this is a completely different situation, I have tears in my eyes because it means so much to me to read about someone who faces similar struggles. This book is incredibly funny and heart-warming as well. I never thought fluffy YA contemporaries were my cup of tea, but I was clearly wrong!

In my opinion, The Upside of Unrequited is even better than Albertalli’s first novel! Oh, and to all my fellow Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda fans out there: there may or may not be a cameo in here… 😉

Normally, I am a very critical reader, but The Upside of Unrequited was a perfect novel. The only criticism I could have, is the under-age drinking. I don’t really mind, since drinking is legal in my country when you turn sixteen years old, but it’s literally in every YA contemporary these days. As a teacher, I’m always hesitant whether I should recommend books to my pupils that promote that.

conclusion: The Upside of Unrequited is probably my all-time favourite contemporary! Even though it was cheerful and funny, I have tears in my eyes because this novel meant so much to me. I will definitely buy a hardcover when this book is released on April 11th and would recommend everyone else to do the same!


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ARC review: Noteworthy


by Riley Redgate

read in February 2017

format: e-ARC

spoiler-free review!

I received an e-ARC from ABRAMS Kids through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review!

Noteworthy was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, so I am very happy this book didn’t disappoint! This is a very enjoyable Young Adult contemporary and much more original, fun and entertaining than a lot of other books I’ve read in the genre. Though the general course of the story is quite predictable, this book still had me gasping out loud multiple times!

Jordan, the main character, is Chinese-American, just like the author. She’s also bisexual, though I couldn’t find out whether that part was #OwnVoices. Jordan grew up poor: her father is in a wheelchair and her family can’t afford the hospital bills. The main character’s best friend is a lesbian and has “curves you could see from three blocks away”, though the reader never meets that character. A lot of the Sharpshooters’ members are diverse as well. Nihal is Sikh and gay and he was probably my favourite side-character: too pure for this world! Though I have to admit I completely missed that Isaac is Japanese-American and Trav is black.

I absolutely love that the cast of characters was so diverse. Jordan’s story isn’t about being Chinese-American. Her story isn’t about being bisexual. That’s not a bad thing! My life doesn’t revolve around my bisexuality either. But if you pick up this book thinking it’s going to focus on the representation, you might be disappointed.

If anyone is doing Diversity Bingo 2017 like me, you can read this book for ‘book by author of colour’ or ‘LGBTQIA+ MC of colour’. Like I’ve said, I’m unsure whether this book is #OwnVoices when it comes to bisexuality, so I don’t know whether it qualifies for ‘Bisexual MC (own voices)’. EDIT: Some people told me that this is indeed #OwnVoices for bisexuality as well!

Talking about the bisexuality: I love that Jordan is in a relationship with a boy. If books feature bisexual representation, they always feature F/F relationship. It’s great that the author shows that Jordan’s sexuality is just as valid, even though she is dating a boy.

Noteworthy features a lot of amazing quotes, which really reflect how educated Riley Redgate is. No, I don’t always think that what a character says, reflects the opinion of the author, but there are so many quotes about equality and feminism in this book, there’s no way Redgate doesn’t feel the same way. Anyway, here are two quotes I really loved:

There was something deeply screwed up about that attitude. There is no world where “you’re wrong” is an acceptable answer to “this hurts.”

With so many queer kids at Kensington, people sometimes got weirdly comfortable, like they had a free pass to say anything they wanted about sexuality. I guess it was tempting to stick a rainbow-colored “Ally” pin on your backpack and call it a day, as if that were the endpoint, not the starting line.

Jordan cross-dresses in order to join the Sharpshooters and it is made very clear in the novel that she feels uncomfortable doing so, because she is using resources for trans people. Which once again shows that the author did a lot of research and handled every topic with a lot of respect.

Finally, there is some under-age drinking in this novel and some of the side-characters smoke weed, though readers don’t witness that. Still, I am disappointed that every YA contemporary I have read lately features drug and alcohol use, but zero mentions of sex. I find it more realistic that teenagers have sex than do drugs.

conclusion: Noteworthy is the reason why I continue to pick up Young Adult contemporaries, even though I tend to dislike those books most of the time. The setting is very unique: the boarding school stands out among other high school contemporaries. I will definitely read other books by Riley Redgate, as she proved to be very educated and well-researched. Make sure to get a copy on March 2nd! I sure will!


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Under Rose-Tainted Skies: an enjoyable #OwnVoices story

under_rose-tainted_skies.pngUnder Rose-Tainted Skies

by Louise Gornall

read in February 2017

format: hardcover

spoiler-free review!

I’ve heard You don’t look mentally ill at least a half a dozen times in the past four years, a couple of those times from my former friends. I blame the media, stereotyping “mental illness” and calling every murderer since Manson crazy. People always seem to be expecting wide eyes and a kitchen knife dripping with blood.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies is about Norah who struggles with agoraphobia and OCD. The premise of this is similar to Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, but without the ableist representation (you can find more information about that here). This book is an #ownvoices story because Louise Gornall, the author, is also agoraphobic. Two reviewers who struggle with mental illnesses similar to Norah’s agree that the representation is accurate (as you can read here and here).

This book also deals with self-harm, eating disorders and depression, so be aware of that in case that triggers you. I did find the descriptions of self-harm and fainting relatable.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough for me to love this. Contemporary romances are not my favourites and Under Rose-Tainted Skies is no exception. Thankfully, however, there was no instalove and mental illness isn’t “cured” once the characters fall in love.

Furthermore, I didn’t love the writing style. Because of Norah’s mental illness, she gets distracted easily during conversations. Which interrupted the conversations quite often. While I completely understand why the author did that, it wasn’t enjoyable to read. Once I finished a chapter, I put the book down for several minutes. This book just couldn’t keep me intrigued. I also spotted some spelling mistakes and things didn’t add up. Luke’s phone was being fixed, yet he was using his phone to talk to someone. This didn’t cause any major problems while reading, but I did find it annoying because it occurred more than once.

My main complaint has to be the lack of female friendships. Girls are called “chicks” multiple times and Amy, the only female character we learn about besides Norah’s mother, is basically described as a rich, blonde, popular bimbo. Naturally I understand that Norah doesn’t allow a lot of people in her life, but I would think that the internet could be a solution for that. If she were to make friends with people online, perhaps that wouldn’t trigger her agoraphobia.

Even though I didn’t love this book, I’m thankful it exists. The quote I used at the beginning proves there are stigmas of mental illness, so it is important that books represent it in an accurate way. Still, I wish more books focussed on recovery instead of primarily the struggles that are caused by a mental illness. Books like Under Rose-Tainted Skies end on a positive note, but the rest of the book is filled with anxiety, depression, etc. Which is okay, because those stories have to be told, but I wish there were as many books out there that focus on recovery. I’d for instance rather read a book about someone who is recovering from anorexia than someone who struggles with it throughout a book and only seeks help at the end.

conclusion: Under Rose-Tainted Skies is an enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend it to anyone with mental illnesses or people who want to read an accurate portrayal of one.

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A Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)

a_feast_for_crows.pngA Feast for Crows (A Song of Ice and Fire, #4)

by George R.R. Martin

read from August 2016 to February 2017

format: mass paperback

spoiler-free review

Words are like arrows, Arianne. Once loosed, you cannot call them back.

I started A Feast For Crows back in August, but hadn’t picked it up in months! Which is entirely my fault, since I always think I can read these books while reading others as well. Unfortunately, that doesn’t work for me. Ten days ago, I decided I had to finish this book and I absolutely devoured those final 600 pages I didn’t get to last summer.

A Feast For Crows is quite different from its predecessors. This one focusses on the Lannisters in King’s Landing, the Martells, Sansa and Arya Stark, Brienne, the Greyjoys and Samwell. I absolutely loved that Martin decided to focus on particular story-lines instead of giving us bits and pieces every arc in the series.

But because I got so used to these characters, I’m afraid I am going to miss them! Hopefully, the next book does not only focus on Tyrion, Jon and Dany, but on other characters as well. Knowing myself, I’ll probably start A Dance With Dragons right away, because once I am invested in these books, I can’t stop thinking about them. Though I really shouldn’t, because I don’t want to fall behind on my reading challenge!

I was so happy that we finally got chapters from Cersei’s point-of-view. In the books, she is much more brutal than in the TV show adaptation, but I love her nonetheless. I’m already dreading reading about Tyrion in the following books, because I absolutely loathe him. I hope Cersei will remain a protagonist as well. And I also enjoyed the Jaime we got to see in A Feast For Crows. I love the theory that he is the valonqar and I can definitely see it happen in the books.

We are also introduced to Dorne and the Martells. I absolutely loved Arianne and I -once again- hope this wasn’t the end of her story-line. Their story is so much better in the books than in the adaptation; trust me!

Multiple point-of-views don’t work for everybody. I admit that I struggled with the chapters about the Greyjoys, because they are such vile and sexist men. Except for Asha Greyjoy of course! I adore and admire her and wish more chapters focussed on her instead of her uncles. Still, I think Martin writes multiple point-of-views perfectly. Each protagonist has a very distinguished voice. I love that you could tell when a chapter was from Arya’s POV, because you really get the feeling as if you are listening to a child, which she is, though you might forget because of all the horror she has witnessed.

We are so blessed that George R. R. Martin is able to write all these bad-ass female characters! In my opinion, they are so much better than the men and I absolutely love that!

Unfortunately, I don’t remember much about the first three hundred pages of A Feast For Crows because I read those so many months ago. At least I’ve learned that I should binge-read this series instead of reading other books on the side. Yes, it’s intimidating to devote all your time to these big books, but in my opinion, you’ll enjoy them much more that way!

conclusion: I absolutely loved reading A Feast For Crows and I cannot wait to pick up the next book in this series. Hopefully, it won’t take a long time before The Winds of Winter is released! Even if you have seen the TV show adaptation, I would absolutely recommend reading the books. They’re much more in-depth and still surprising, because the TV show doesn’t always stay true to the source.

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We Are the Ants: loved it!

we_are_the_ants.pngWe Are the Ants

by Shaun David Hutchinson

read in February 2017

format: hardcover

spoiler-free review!

“I could write my name across the sky, and it would be in invisible ink.”

I knew I was going to love We Are the Ants before I had even picked it up and I am so glad it didn’t disappoint! I’ll probably order Hutchinson’s other books right away!

Before you read this novel though, I have to warn you: it’s heavy. This book deals with suicide, depression, bullying, sexual assault, etc. It was very intense. Sometimes, I had to put it down for minutes or longer because it became too much.

As usual, I find it hard to express what I loved about this. Honestly, I find it much easier to write reviews for books I didn’t enjoy! Anyway, I thought We Are the Ants was -except for the aliens- very relatable: the family dynamics (as messed up as they may seem), the mental illness…

Every single character is flawed and as realistic as that is, I tend to dislike characters who aren’t likeable. That’s not the case in We Are the Ants though! I cared about most of the characters, especially Henry, Diego, Audrey and Zooey.

I absolutely hated Marcus though. I know about internalized homophobia, but that doesn’t excuse the things Marcus did, in my opinion. At times, it even seemed Henry was more forgiving of him than of Diego and Audrey!

As much as I loved this, this book wasn’t flawless (is anything though?). Like I’ve said, We Are the Ants can be very triggering and in my opinion, it erases bisexuality. When a character mentions he has an ex-girlfriend, Henry thinks he can’t possibly be into him, because he assumes he is straight. Later on in the book, the character says the following:

“I like people, not the parts they have. Well, I mean, I definitely like the parts, they’re just not why I like the person.”

First of all, I don’t like the idea of sexual orientations being linked to genitalia. That is transphobic. Second of all, that explanation wasn’t necessary at all if he had just had the character say something along the lines of “I’m bi/pansexual”.

I’ve read a lot of contemporaries lately that feature rape attempts/sexual assaults. While I do think it’s important to discuss that topic, I think it is often used for shock value instead. Of course I am happy that Henry told the police someone attempted to rape him, but the author didn’t discuss this very heavy topic any further.

Towards the end, the on-again/off-again relationships started to drag on for me. Though I understood the characters’ reasons, I wanted them to make up their minds already!

conclusion: Damn, I’m sorry this review is so shitty. Apparently, I’m not used to writing positive reviews! I absolutely devoured We Are the Ants and I will surely read this again someday. Though this book deals with some heavy topics, it also made me laugh and cry happy tears.

☆ You can also find me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Pinterest and Goodreads! ☆

The Melody of You and Me

the_melody_of_you_and_me.pngThe Melody of You and Me

by M. Hollis

read in February 2017

format: e-book

spoiler-free review!

It has probably been over a year since I’ve read a New Adult novel. I wasn’t aware that The Melody of You and Me is New Adult before I picked it up, but it has convinced me that I should pick up the genre more often, because this was a lot of fun!

Like I’ve said, The Melody of You and Me is definitely New Adult. There are some explicit sex scenes, but I thought that was a good thing. We need to read more about sex-positive women. Furthermore, female masturbation is normalised.

Even though this is only a novella, it discussed some important topics, such as the concept of ‘coming out’, pansexuality, racism, etc. I very much appreciated this, even though it was only briefly.

Personally, however, I wish the main character Chris explained why she identifies as pan instead of bi. Because I can’t decide how to label myself, and I had hoped this book could’ve helped me with that. Unfortunately, it didn’t, but that doesn’t mean the representation is any less meaningful.

Anyway, so besides our main character who is pan, the vast majority of the female side characters are also queer. On top of that, Chris’ roommate is Cuban-American and Josie is of Filipino descent. And as far as I can remember, there were no male characters in this book, which didn’t bother me at all!

It always bothers me when someone comes out and the other person reacts with “Oh, of course I knew”, but I couldn’t put into words why it irked me so much. And this book finally did!

“You knew?” Josie sounds incredulous.
“Oh my God. Yeah, of course I knew. You are twenty years old, and you have never had a boyfriend,” Jessie exclaims.
Cringing inside, Chris feels the need to interrupt and correct her, but Josie is faster than her. “That has nothing to do with my sexuality,” she starts. “Some people never date boys or people from other genders but are still attracted to them. There are lesbians who date boys before understanding the roles that heteronormativity tries to force them into.”

Because this was a novella, everything developed a bit fast and was predictable, but that’s only normal when you have to tell an entire story within 100 pages.

Even though this isn’t written by a pansexual author, I am still going to consider this ‘pansexual own voices’ for Diversity Bingo 2017. The author explains here why this book is still worth reading, even though it isn’t own voices!

conclusion: The Melody of You and Me is a very enjoyable and diverse read: almost all the characters are queer and some of the side-characters are people of colour. I definitely want to read more novellas like this one in the future!

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Three Dark Crowns: such a disappointment!

three_dark_crowns_001Three Dark Crowns

by Kendare Blake

read in February 2017

format: hardcover

review contains minor spoilers!

Three Dark Crowns is already my biggest disappointment of 2017! Well, at least I hope that’s going to stay that way, since I can’t handle another let-down like this.

Let’s start with what I did enjoy about this novel. I was absolutely loving this at first, so it’s not all bad:

The first chapter is one of the best first chapters I have ever read. It was so dark and I was immediately interested to find out more.

Three Dark Crowns features so many female friendships! I love it when girls support other girls. Having said that, those friendships became less important once the male love-interests were introduced. Furthermore, I’m so disappointed we didn’t get a single F/F romance! Yes, female friendships are very important, but we need more female relationships in books as well.

On paper, this was supposed to be one of my favourite books: it has multiple point-of-views, is character-driven and is written from the third person perspective. And at first, it seemed like Three Dark Crowns was going to be amazing! Until the male love-interests were introduced. Then it all went downhill. So let’s talk about what I didn’t like:

First and foremost, the romance absolutely ruined this book for me. I’m critical of cishet romances as it is, but Three Dark Crowns took insta-love and love-triangles to the next level.
About one hundred pages in, Pietyr vows to help Katharine seduce her male suitors. First of all, why does her plot have to revolve around men? Second of all, they instantly fall in love. We never saw their relationship develop. On top of that, it seemed as thoughhe was her pimp, because he is going to teach her “skills for the bedroom”. They even got turned on when they found out the other cheated:

“It is our lot. To drive each other made with jealousy. You will kiss a suitor, and I will kiss a priestess, and it will make your fire for me burn even higher.”

Pietyr was an unlikeable love-interest. I really didn’t care about him and once he and Katharine got closer, I didn’t like her anymore either. He was so possessive. I didn’t even realise a man had touched Katharine until Pietyr lost his shit:

“Best to stay inside, my queen,” he says, and places his huge mits on her shoulders to move her back through the flap. “Take your hands of her.” Pietyr steps between them and shoves Bertrand away.

I really wonder whether the author wants us to swoon over these male love-interests. Because Pietyr was bad, but Joseph was ten times worse!

First of all, I don’t understand where the relationship between Joseph and Jules came from. They were eleven years old when they had last seen each other! Five years later, they finally see each other again, and they instantly become a couple. This world is incredibly heteronormative. I just can’t get behind a relationship that supposedly started when the characters were merely eleven years old.

That wasn’t the worst thing though. He cheats on his girlfriend multiple times, though there are zero consequences. Both women are still in love with him! Both are more angry at the other woman than at the actual cheater! People praise this book for feminism (because the island is lead by a queen), but I don’t consider this feminism at all.

That must have been one of the worst love-triangles I’ve ever read. Are we supposed to care who he ends up with? Are we supposed to love Joseph as a character? Hell no. I’m not here for that.

On top of that, the romance was so cringe-worthy. Joseph has sex with a woman (don’t worry, I won’t spoil who it is) after saying one sentence to her. Afterwards though, they’ve completely fallen in love. How is that even possible? You don’t even know each other! You didn’t even know each other’s names by then!

Obviously, reading about cheating pisses me off. But to make things worse, Joseph doesn’t even feel bad about being such an asshole. This is what he thinks:

They walk hand in hand. No matter how slow they walk, they must soon part. Neither can put it off any longer. Joseph will return to Wolf Spring. To his girl, and to where he belongs, and this strange interlude will be over. But not forgotten.

Even if he had shown remorse, he is still a piece of shit. Because he cheats on his girlfriend multiple times. Even after she has found out and she forgave him, he didit again. I seriously wonder whether the author wrote him intentionally as an asshole, or whether she thinks we are rooting for them. When his girlfriend finds out once more that he is still attracted to the other woman, he blames her for losing control, which caused people to die. He doesn’t even apologize. Oh man, I have to move on from this topic because this has turned into a rant.

The romance is so badly written. We have no idea why these characters are attracted to each other. Take Pietyr for example. He is introduced as power-hungry and ambitious, but instantly falls in love with Katharine. That is ridiculous. And lazy writing, because we don’t get to witness any relationship development.

By the end of the book, I was only rooting for one queen. Honestly, I was rooting for Mirabella the most since the very start and my opinion never changed. Like I’ve said, Katharine completely changed when she got involved with Pietyr. She looked forward to killing her sisters and even kills a child! Arsinoe is, in my opinion, the least interesting queen, though she had the most chapters. And Jules, who is her best friend, has as many chapters as the queens. Which I don’t really understand. Anyway, for a long time, I did like Arsinoe, but she does a lot of stupid things, which never had any consequences.

Though at first this seems original, the romance is so trope-y and Kendare Blake clearly found inspiration in other works, such as A Song of Ice and Fire and Tristan and Isolde. The whole beach scenes is a complete copy from the latter, and it’s also similar to Matthias and Nina’s storyline in Six of Crows. The character Pietyr is essentially Petyr Baelish. I was laughing so hard! The author didn’t even bother to give him an entirely different name! But please, read the next scene and tell me that isn’t exactly what Petyr did to Lysa Arryn:

Pietyr steps back. He holds her gently by the shoulders. “Pietyr?” she asks. “I am sorry,” he says, and then he throws her. Down, down, down into the bottomless pit of the Breccia Domain.

I probably should’ve put this at the top of my review, but the book contains triggers for multiple animal deaths, self-harm (because low magic includes cutting oneself) and possibly racism. I am a white person, so I am absolutely no expert on racism. But if even I see some red flags, there might be something there. This novel is written by a South Korean-American woman, so I realise I am totally going out of my lane here. However, I posted about this on Twitter and Anjulie Te Pohe, who pointed out the racism in Nevernight, and who is Māori, told me that it does sound like a rip off of Indigenous cultures.

I am terrible with character descriptions, but as far as I know, the Naturalists aren’t people of colour (nor are the other two groups). Yet they hold fire dances, decorate their bare chests with paint before hunting, have feathers braided in their hair and have familiars, which are companion animals. The latter seems very similar to the spirit animals of Native Americans. In my opinion, this is appropriation of Indigenous cultures. And on top of that, the Naturalists are described as ‘wild’ multiple times. The other groups certainly look down on them. The word ‘savage’ is used as well in the book, though I don’t think it was used to describe any characters. Still, the word carries a negative connotation.

I searched for other reviewers who mentioned this, but couldn’t find any. Please leave a link to reviews which discuss the cultural appropriation in Three Dark Crowns if you know any.

Okay, back to what I am able to judge: the pacing. A lot of readers called this book boring, which is actually the main complaint I’ve seen. I can handle that, because I prefer character-driven stories, though I am so angry we still do not know who the queen is! Having finished this book, I doubt whether anything that did happen, has any effect on what is going to happen next.

I also found this book predictable. This is supposed to be about political intrigue, yet there were no twists and turns. Expect for the very last sentence, but it was an obvious plot twist. Though I didn’t think the author did the best job foreshadowing it. It wasn’t a surprise, but it wasn’t subtly hinted at either.

Clearly, I did not enjoy this book. However, there is a big chance I will read the sequel (if this is a duology), because I am interested in finding out who becomes queen. And I don’t want there to be any compromise and have them all rule in the end. Maybe I’ll just read some spoilers so I don’t have to read the entire thing instead.

conclusion: Even though Three Dark Crowns started out strong, I ended up disliking it very much. The romance was badly written, as was the pacing and political intrigue. On top of that, there is cultural appropriation of Indigenous cultures.

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