Combined Poetry Review: The Secrets I Keep, a jarful of moonlight & Heaven or This

I’ve read a few incredibly gorgeous poetry collections over the past few weeks, and I really wanted to share my thoughts on them with you. I, however, didn’t have enough thoughts to fill an entire 4-paragraph review, so I decided to combine my reviews for the poetry collections. I hope you like them (:

TThe Secrets I Keephe Secrets I Keep by Alex Casso

Goodreads / Amazon

The Secrets I Keep is a poetry collection about mental illness, as well as child abuse and the lingering effects it has. Through it, Alex Casso bares their soul and proves that, despite everything, they are a force to be reckoned with.

Thank you to the author for sending a review copy of this poetry collection to me. 

The Secrets I Keep had me hooked from the very first page, and I couldn’t stop reading it until I finished, and then I started it again. And again. It is a poetry collection about abuse and survival, but also about strength and hopefulness. It is powerful, but also very delicate. Heart-wrenching, but, in some weird ways,  also joyful. It is incredible, and I will read every single thing Alex Casso writes in the future, because they’re incredibly talented.

a jarful of moonlight

a jarful of moonlight by Nazanin Mirsadeghi

Goodreads / Amazon

This is a series of short love poems.

Thank you to Bahar Books for sending a copy of this poetry collection my way!

I have a lot of conflicted feelings about this poetry collection. There were quite a few poems in here that touched me and made me feel joy, or power, or sadness, but there were also a few poems that, no matter how many times I read them, I just couldn’t understand. And there were a few stylistic choices that made some of the poems feel less fluid, flow-y and easy to read than they could’ve been. But these choices also left me incredibly curious. Curious as to why the author chose to do it this way, curious as to who the author is, and curious about Nazanin Mirsadeghi’s other work. So, above all, this poetry collection left me wanting more, and I adore that.

Heaven or ThisHeaven or This by Topaz Winters

Goodreads  / This one is free! Check the Goodreads description

Heaven or This: a collection of love letters in poem form. A story of a girl who loves girls, and the beauty in that, the terror, the yearning and the warning, the endless confusion and innate peace, at once shatteringly delicate and softly visceral.

Heaven or This: a fearless, electric manifesto. A pastel incarnation of grace. The story of a girl who loves girls so deeply that it feels like loving doves or knives.

Heaven or This is the first f/f poetry collection I’ve ever read, and it was the most wonderful experience. Topaz  Winters has this way with words which causes every single sentence to feel like magic and stardust, and every single poem took my breath away and filled me with so many emotions – mostly joy – that I had tears streaming down my face while reading it. But it gave me so much strength at the same time. This is definitely one of those poetry collections I will turn to when I feel a bit hopeless, because I know that the poems in Heaven or This will make me feel hopeful again.

Some Thoughts on the Bookish Community and LonelinessTwitter Instagram •  Goodreads

Review: Release by Patrick Ness

ReleaseTitle: Release
Author: Patrick Ness
Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads

Inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever, Release is one day in the life of Adam Thorn, 17. It’s a big day. Things go wrong. It’s intense, and all the while, weirdness approaches…

Adam Thorn is having what will turn out to be the most unsettling, difficult day of his life, with relationships fracturing, a harrowing incident at work, and a showdown between this gay teen and his preacher father that changes everything. It’s a day of confrontation, running, sex, love, heartbreak, and maybe, just maybe, hope. He won’t come out of it unchanged. And all the while, lurking at the edges of the story, something extraordinary and unsettling is on a collision course.

Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

I want to thank Walker UK for sending an ARC copy of this book my way! 

Patrick Ness has been one of my favorite authors for a long time and I was certain that I’d love everything he wrote, because so far, I had. A Monster Calls broke my heart, More Than This had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, and The Rest Of Us Just Live here meant a lot to me personally because of the OCD rep. However, this book made me realize that I was quite wrong.

Okay, that sounds a bit dramatic. I didn’t *hate* this book or anything, I just didn’t like it as much as his other books. Let me try to explain why.

I feel very conflicted about the writing style in this book. It felt very heavy, almost as if I was reading a classic. Every time I picked it up I felt different about it. The first time I loved it, the second and third time I really didn’t like it and got bored after only a few pages, the fourth time I didn’t care for it that much, and the fifth time I really enjoyed it and finished the rest of the book (which was about half of it) in one sitting. But even though I didn’t always love it, there were some lines in this book that were so beautiful that they took my breath away.

The book, at it’s core, was very very good. It talked about so many hard things (being gay in a very religious household, how you can hate yourself a little bit because you’re not straight, your first break-up, etc.) in such a delicate but hard-hitting way, and it was done so incredibly well.

I also really liked how this book handled it’s m/m sex scenes. It wasn’t very smutty, it wasn’t his first, it wasn’t full of YA cliches (“Kissing him was different. Rough. His LI smelled like sports and cars and he could feel the three-day-stubble on his cheek” etc etc), it just felt very (in lack of a better word) real, but also very vulnerable. And I loved it.

Despite all this, I couldn’t help feeling a bit bored from time to time. This is that kind of book that’s all about the characters. There’s not a lot happening, and because the book takes place in a day everything that does happen is kind of drawn out, and there are a lot of flashbacks. But despite that causing a bit of boredom, it also caused me to feel incredibly close to the main character, which in turn made the story really come to life.

Release kind of did the same thing as The Rest of Us Just Live Here, in the way that you were reading 2 stories at once. In The Rest of Us Just Live here, you followed the chosen one’s, and in Release, you followed a ghost and a faun. While I loved this in The Rest, I really disliked it in Release. The ghost-story was written in such a difficult and confusing way that I couldn’t understand what was happening, no matter how many times I reread those pages. So, halfway through, I decided to skip them altogether. And I started liking the book a lot more once I made that decision.

So overall, I did love Release, but there are also quite a few things that I didn’t enjoy that much. If you like character-driven stories, I’d definitely recommend this to you, but if you like more ‘adventurous’ reads, maybe pick up More Than This instead.

Some Thoughts on the Bookish Community and LonelinessTwitter Instagram •  Goodreads

A Few LGBT+ Mini Reviews

Recently, I’ve been reading a lot of stories featuring LGBT+ characters. Especially short stories. I didn’t have a lot of time to read in my ‘exam-weeks’, so it was a lot easier to just get sucked into a 50-page-story for an hour or so, than to have to get back into the world of a 500-page-story. And I fell in love with quite a few of the stories I read.

I’m not the most talented reviewer, and writing a whole 300-word review on a 50-page-story seemed a bit, well, impossible. I didn’t want to not write a review either, because I wanted to share my love for these stories with you, so I thought I’d do a combined review. So, here are my reviews for Fearless by Shira Glassman, Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison Evans, and The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake by Lynn E. O’Connacht.

FearlessFearless by Shira Glassman

A newly out-of-the-closet band mom falls for an orchestra teacher while snowed in at All-State. Lana Novak hasn’t played violin in over twenty years, her musical life these days confined to being a devoted band mom to her clarinet whiz daughter Robin. She didn’t think she could get back into it after this long, but Melanie Feinberg, the outgoing, enthusiastic, and very cute butch orchestra director from Robin’s school, has other ideas.

Fearless was so incredibly cute! It’s a very adorable story about a mom who’s just out of the closet who feels herself falling for her daughter’s orchestra director. It features a lot of great and cozy things, like snow storms, music, chocolate cake, and a great mother-daughter relationship, and it has a great dialogue. Shira Glassman’s writing is amazing, and it gently pulls you into the story. I wasn’t able to stop reading it once I picked it up, and I had a big smile on my face the entire time.

If you want an all-happy F/F story, I’d definitely recommend this one!

Long Macchiatos and Monsters by Alison EvansLong Macchiatos and Monsters

Jalen, lover of B-grade sci-fi movies, meets the far-too-handsome P in a cafe while deciding whether or not to skip uni again. When P invites them along to a double feature of Robot Monster and Cat Women of the Moon, Jalen can hardly believe that hot boys like bad sci-fi, too. But as their relationship progresses, Jalen realizes P leaves them wondering if they’re on the same page about what dating means, and if that’s what they’re doing.

This novella was simply amazing and filled with diversity! Both of the main characters are non-binary (Jalen is genderqueer and P is trans), they’re both amputees, and they’re both described as having dark skin. (I can’t say much about the rep personally, but I’ve seen a lot of #OwnVoices reviews on Goodreads that say a lot of positive things about it).

The romance between the 2 characters is very cute. I personally love a good meet-in-coffee-shop-then-go-to-movies type of meeting, and the relationship development throughout the story is great. Plus, the mention of B-grade sci-fi movies and coffee shops throughout the story added a lot to it’s atmosphere, and made this story feel very home-y.

The Princess Who Didn't Eat Cake

The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake by Lynn E. O’Connacht

Once upon a time there lived a princess…

When the kingdom discovers that their crown princess doesn’t like cake, chaos ensues. How will the royal line ever continue? Cake is essential to a good marriage! (Not to mention, the rejection of his cake was deeply insulting to the baker-prince who proposed with it.)

…and the stableboy who loved her…

The princess befriends a stableboy. She’s oblivious to the fact that he’s in love with her. The stableboy does his best to explain to the princess what is so wonderful about cake, but it takes an arduous journey to convince her to try a slice.

…in a kingdom that didn’t want to understand…

The Princess who Didn’t Eat Cake is a demisexual fairy tale. It aims to introduce people to the concept of demisexuality and to offer a rough idea of how the world may be experienced by people identifying on the asexual spectrum. It offers both the titular fairy tale, a brief essay explaining what demisexuality is in more detail and a short list of books featuring demisexual characters for anyone who would like to see more representation in fiction.

This cute fairytale is an incredibly good resource if you want to find out more about demisexuality. It was a very easy, cute, and informative read. Plus, it featured cake. Who doesn’t love cake?

I firmly believe that no analogy is perfect, and this one isn’t either. It sometimes felt a little bit over-simplified, but that was definitely made up for by the enormous amount of resources we got at the end of the book. There are quite a few pages devoted to ‘What is Demisexuality’, and we got a lot a list of ‘Books with Demisexual Characters’, which I loved very very much.

While I didn’t adore this one, I’m definitely planning on reading more of Lynn’s work. I’ve already gotten myself a copy of Sea Foam & Silence, and I can’t wait to dive into it!

Some Thoughts on the Bookish Community and LonelinessTwitter Instagram •  Goodreads

Review: I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo

Title:I Believe in a Thing Called Love I Believe in a Thing Called Love
Author: Maurene Goo
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Goodreads

“Desi Lee knows how carburetors work. She learned CPR at the age of five. As a high school senior, she has never missed a day of school and has never had a B in her entire life. She’s for sure going to Stanford. But—she’s never had a boyfriend. In fact, she’s a disaster in romance, a clumsy, stammering humiliation-magnet whose botched attempts at flirting have become legendary with her friends. So when the hottest human specimen to have ever lived walks into her life one day, Desi decides to tackle her flirting failures with the same zest she’s applied to everything else in her life. She finds her answer in the Korean dramas her father has been obsessively watching for years—where the hapless heroine always seems to end up in the arms of her true love by episode ten. It’s a simple formula, and Desi is a quick study. Armed with her “K Drama Rules for True Love,” Desi goes after the moody, elusive artist Luca Drakos—and boat rescues, love triangles, and fake car crashes ensue. But when the fun and games turn to true feels, Desi finds out that real love is about way more than just drama.”

Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

I feel so incredibly conflicted about this book. I’m not even sure if I liked this book or not. Oh well, I’ll just write this review and I’m sure I’ll figure it out somewhere along the way. Let’s start with the things I liked about this book!

One of the things I liked most about I Believe in a Thing Called love was the diversity and representation. Desi’s parents emigrated to the US before she was born, and her Korean heritage is still a very big part of her life. One of Desi’s best friends, Fiona, identifies as a lesbian, and is in a f/f relationship, and her best guy friend is described as having brown skin.

Yes, you heard that right, best guy friend. When we first met her best friend Wes, I was extremely scared that this was going to be a love-triangle-situation, but I’m so glad that it wasn’t! I loved reading about their friendship, and we really don’t get enough m/f friendships (that are only friendships) in books, especially in YA.

I also really loved Desi’s relationship with her father. They’re extremely close, and the fact that they love each other very much is incredibly clear. Also, her dad is amazing?? He is incredibly cute and makes a lot of dad jokes and it’s incredible! Also (and this is a mild spoiler), Desi buys a puppy for her dad at the end of the book so he won’t be lonely when she goes away for college. I’m crying.

I really started enjoying this book, until I read the sentence “Are you still thinking about Luca? Damn, you are crazy.” on page 74. I tried to brush this off, because even though these kind of words really hurt me, it happens in almost every single book and I usually just try to pretend it didn’t happen so I don’t feel sad the rest of the day. Does that make sense? I’m not sure.

Anyway, I tried to brush it off, but it happened again. And again. It included a lot of different variations of the word crazy, too. From “I’m sure you think my mom is a total nut.” to “Full range Crazy Des”, “The Living Proof of my insanity”, “my shelf o’Crazy” and “Wacko”. And every single time, it felt like a punch in the face. (Also, if you don’t know why it’s hurtful and ableist, I’d like to direct you to this article about it.)

I also didn’t like how far Desi took it in regards to her “K Drama Rules for True Love” list. It started off as such a cute thing, with Desi and her dad marathoning multiple K-dramas together, but it ended up being very, well, scary. She really took it too far. I totally get needing a list to be able to talk to potential ‘love interests’ because I know I need that too, but making sure your car crashes so you can experience a life threatening situation together and he’ll fall in love with you? Eh, no. That’s just dangerous, and I hope people who read this won’t think it’s okay to do that.

Even though there are certainly things I would have liked to see differently in this book, I did overall think this was a cute story and I did enjoy reading it. But please be careful with this book if the previously stated ableism hurts you.

Some Thoughts on the Bookish Community and LonelinessTwitter Instagram •  Goodreads

 

 

Review: Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman

Girl Out of WaterTitle: Girl Out of Water
Author: Laura Silverman
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Goodreads

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves.

Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

I can’t believe this is Laura Silverman’s first novel. Her FIRST. It’s incredible. Girl out of Water is unique, funny, heart-warming, touching, and definitely one of the best contemporaries I’ve read for some time. Maybe ever.

Girl out of Water is about a girl called Anise who is planning on having one last perfect summer with her friends before most of them move away for college. That is, until her aunt gets in a bad car accident and she has to go to Nebraska for the summer to take care of her cousins. Anise has a hard time being away from home, her friends and the ocean, until her cousins take her to a skate park where she meets Lincoln, a very cute one-armed guy who challenges her to a skating competition.

Girl out of Water might seem like your typical summer romance novel at first (which would be fine tbh, summer romance novels are AMAZING), but it also touches on various different subjects like family relationships, change, loss, acceptance, and so much more. And it does it so well!

I didn’t dislike any of the characters in this one. NOT A SINGLE ONE. They are all very three-dimensional, loveable, and wonderful. I fell in love with every single one of them, and I’m certain they will stay with me for a long time.

A thing that I love about this book is that while Lincoln is an amputee, the book doesn’t focus on it. Often, when a character in a book has something about them that’s ‘different’ (aka, not allo cishet able-bodied) they become that thing. (Like, when some people look at me, all they see is ‘ANXIETY’, while there’s so much more to me.) With Lincoln, that’s not the case at all. He is everything every other character is, but he just happens to have one arm. And he happens to be the most adorable and cute character EVER.

This is also the case for some other characters. Anise’s best friend Tess is Samoan, and 2 of her best friends are in a f/f relationship. Silverman doesn’t use this as a plot device, but as a way to reflect how the world actually is. And the world is diverse. Which is an incredibly great thing.

Another thing I loved about this book were the family relationships, and especially Anise’s relationship with her cousins. I loved seeing Anise take care of the twins and have an amazing time with them, and I loved seeing how she grew closer with her teenage cousin, Emery. Reading about these relationships made me wish I had cousins, haha.

Besides all of my gushing about the characters, I guess I should also say something about the writing. Laura Silverman’s writing was absolutely brilliant. It pulls you in from the start, and won’t let you go. It’s hard to describe exactly why I loved it so much, but let’s just say that reading Girl out of Water felt like a hug. A hug from a giant cuddly teddy bear on a sunny afternoon on the beach while you can hear the waves crashing down on the sand and the sun in shining gently on your face. Does that make any sense? Oh well, you probably get what I’m trying to say. At least, I hope so.

I highly encourage all of you to pre-order this book now, because I can guarantee you that this will be one of your favorite summer reads.

Some Thoughts on the Bookish Community and Loneliness
Twitter Instagram •  Goodreads

Review: Promdi Heart (Hometown Love Stories)

Promdi Heart (Hometown Love Stories)Title: Promdi Heart (Hometown Love Stories)
Authors: Georgette S. Gonzales, Agay Llanera, Chris Mariano, C. P. Santi, Jay E. Tria and Ines Bautista-Yao
Genres: Romance
Goodreads

Take a quick tour of the Philippines with six hometown love stories.

Visit Jimenez, Misamis Occidental where a priest might just set you up with a man whose dimples are to die for.

Visit Silay, Negros Occidental and get on a horse alongside hunky, hazel-eyed Negrense royalty.

Visit Kalibo, Aklan and find yourself in the arms of a cute drummer boy who just happens to be your kuya’s BFF.

Visit Hagonoy, Bulacan and spend All Saint’s Day next to a distracting boy who promises to write you a song.

Visit Vigan, Ilocos Sur and meet the hot man you used to bully when he was a shy, chubby boy.

Visit Pundaquit, Zambales and find love in a bronzed fisherman whose eyes hold depths you’ll want to explore.

Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

I want to thank the authors of this anthology for sending me an e-ARC of Promdi Heart. I really appreciate it.

I usually don’t really like anthologies, especially romance one’s. I need time to get to know the characters before I feel invested in their story, and before I can really root for their romance. However, I actually ended up liking Promdi Heart!

Every story had something I liked. The first story had a very cute love interest with dimples, the second story was written in letter form and took place over the course of a few years, so you could really see the character growth. The third story had one of my favorite tropes (brother’s best friend), and the fourth one took place during All Saint’s Day, which I loved learning about. The fifth story had a very kind hearted and cute love interest, and the sixth story had my favorite setting of all of these stories.

However, there were also a few things I didn’t enjoy that much. Words like ‘crazy’ and ‘lunatic’ are used in ableist ways, and one story includes a bully falling in love with the person she bullied. This story felt very icky, because the love interest tells her ‘we were just kids, you were just teasing’ which feels very dismissive of people who were bullied as a kid and who have really been scarred by it.

The thing I loved most about this stories is the overall exploration of culture, and the differences between all of the different hometowns. I loved reading about the food (which did make me incredibly hungry, so that was a bit of a downside, haha), the things that are celebrated and, often times, the family relationships. It’s something that’s very unique to this anthology, and definitely makes it stand out.

Overall, Promdi Heart is a very enjoyable and fun read, which is perfect for a hot summer’s day. But there are a few things, like the ableist language, that you might want to watch out for.

Some Thoughts on the Bookish Community and Loneliness
Twitter Instagram •  Goodreads

 

Review: Noteworthy by Riley Redgate

NoteworthyTitle: Noteworthy
Author: Riley Redgate
Genres: YA, Contemporary
Goodreads

It’s the start of Jordan Sun’s junior year at the Kensington-Blaine Boarding School for the Performing Arts. Unfortunately, she’s an Alto 2, which—in the musical theatre world—is sort of like being a vulture in the wild: She has a spot in the ecosystem, but nobody’s falling over themselves to express their appreciation. So it’s no surprise when she gets shut out of the fall musical for the third year straight.

Then the school gets a mass email: A spot has opened up in the Sharpshooters, Kensington’s elite a cappella octet. Worshiped … revered … all male. Desperate to prove herself, Jordan auditions in her most convincing drag, and it turns out that Jordan Sun, Tenor 1, is exactly what the Sharps are looking for.

Review: Timekeeper by Tara Sim

I normally wait a few days after reading a book before reviewing it, because I know I’ll be a rambly mess if I don’t wait. This time it’s a bit different, because I only finished Noteworthy last night. Am I finally on top of my schedule? Sadly, no. I just love this book so much and I need to talk to someone about it, so I thought, why not do it in my review? So here are all of my rambly and very happy thoughts on Noteworthy.

Let’s start with Jordan, our main character. I loved her so much. I’m not even sure what exactly it was about her that made me love her so much; maybe her honesty, her thoughtfulness, or the fact that I could very easily identify myself with her.

Something that I really appreciated about our MC is that Jordan didn’t know for sure that she’s bisexual, because she was in a relationship with a guy that kind of consumed everything. I related to that so much. I identify as bisexual because that feels right at the moment, but I’m still not completely sure. The past few years have been so dominated by my anxiety that I wasn’t able to think about anything else, including if I was attracted to someone. I don’t want to tell you the whole story about my sexuality, but let’s just say that I related to Jordan so much on this front, and I’ve never had that before so it meant a lot to me.

Also, I’ve heard some reviewers say that the bi rep in this book isn’t good because the MC only has boyfriends but that’s shit. The fact that she’s only dated guys doesn’t make her (maybe) bisexuality any less valid!

Riley Redgate has a very easy, fun and clever writing style. It pulls you in from the second you start reading and you’ll want to keep reading until, well, forever. Her writing style is very, eh, happy. I know that’s not a real way of describing a writing style, but every single sentence in this book made me so incredibly happy. Redgate has a way of adding these clever little lines that just make you laugh out loud, even when you don’t want to. And believe me, it’s not that ideal when you’re reading something in a crowded and silent space.

A thing about this book that took me by surprise was how much I ended up caring about all of the guys in the acappela group. I normally don’t get that attached to male characters for some reason, and if I do it’s because they remind me of my little brother, but I really cared about all of these guys. Every single one of them. What also surprised me is my ability to keep them apart, since I always get confused when there’s a whole group of characters. All of these guys had something so distinct about them, something that made them stand out, and I loved that.

Another thing I want to discuss is the the fact that Jordan comes from a poor family, and I think the author has really shed a light on what it’s like to come from a family struggling with money and how that can affect your entire family-life. In this way, the author also comments on the American health-care system and the education/scholarship system, which was very eye-opening.

Beside the sea of positivity, there is one thing I didn’t appreciate in this book, and I left it to the end because it does include a spoiler so beware before you continue.

There is a scene in the book where Isaac thinks Julian is gay and outs him to the rest of the group. Jordan is super relieved because she thinks they’ve figured out Julian is secretly a girl, so the fact that Isaac told everyone Julian was gay, without consent, doesn’t bother her at all. The rest of the guys have no problem with Julian being gay and don’t really treat him any differently, which, of course, is great, but this could’ve ended very differently. Outing someone is never okay, and can have awful consequences, and I would’ve liked that to be discussed on page because this outing is kind of brushed off. At least, that’s the way it feels to me.

So overall, Noteworthy is a book that I love very very much, and is probably going to be one of those books I turn to whenever I want to feel happy. I’d probably skip the outing scene though, because that still feels very icky to me.

Some Thoughts on the Bookish Community and Loneliness

Twitter Instagram •  Goodreads