Review, Playlist and Giveaway: Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

Starfish

Title: Starfish
Author: Akemi Dawn Bowman
Genres: YA contemporary

Goodreads

Kiko Himura has always had a hard time saying exactly what she’s thinking. With a mother who makes her feel unremarkable and a half-Japanese heritage she doesn’t quite understand, Kiko prefers to keep her head down, certain that once she makes it into her dream art school, Prism, her real life will begin.

But then Kiko doesn’t get into Prism, at the same time her abusive uncle moves back in with her family. So when she receives an invitation from her childhood friend to leave her small town and tour art schools on the west coast, Kiko jumps at the opportunity in spite of the anxieties and fears that attempt to hold her back. And now that she is finally free to be her own person outside the constricting walls of her home life, Kiko learns life-changing truths about herself, her past, and how to be brave.

From debut author Akemi Dawn Bowman comes a luminous, heartbreaking story of identity, family, and the beauty that emerges when we embrace our true selves.

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Tw: Ableism, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, anxiety, suicide, panic attacks

Starfish was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I’ve featured it in a Waiting on Wednesday post here, a Top Ten Tuesday post here, and a lot (and I mean a LOT) of tweets. I’ve also done everything to get my hands on an ARC of this book; I’ve emailed the publisher twice (who never replied), requested it on Edelweiss and Netgalley (both of my requests were denied) and then I saw the announcement for this blog tour on Twitter, which I, of course, immediately signed up for.

When I got an email saying that I was accepted and I realized that I could finally read the book I was so incredibly excited about I might have done a little happy dance. Maybe. I’ll never actually admit it, though.

I didn’t start reading Starfish right away because reading a book with the trigger warnings that it has at that certain time wouldn’t be a good idea, but once I did start reading it I quickly fell in love with it. And I can definitely say that even though I knew I was going to love the book from the start, the amount of love that I ended up having for this book was even bigger than I expected.

Starfish is an incredibly heavy read. It deals with anxiety, racism, being biracial, sexual abuse, suicide, emotional abuse, and it does it in a very sensitive way. I’m not an #OwnVoices reviewer for most of these things which is why I won’t get into most of these things in detail (I definitely encourage you to look for reviews that are #OwnVoices) but something that I can talk about is the anxiety rep.

Kiko deals with anxiety, mostly social anxiety, and she has a lot of trouble going to parties, meeting new people, and overthinks things a lot. Seeing Kiko’s thoughts on the page hit me hard, because it were exactly the same thoughts that I have, and I had never seen that in a book before. Logically, I knew that I wasn’t the only one with these thoughts, but actually seeing that you’re not alone is very different, and that had a big emotional impact on me.

Besides loving the mental health rep, I also adored the characters, loved the writing, really enjoyed seeing the relationships between the characters, and the character development that Kiko goes through in the book is amazing. I also loved how, even though this is a book that’s about mental illness & trauma and it features a romantic relationship, this book didn’t suffer from ‘mental illness cured by love’-syndrome. Not at all.

I could honestly write a 50 page essay on how much I loved the book, but it all boils down to this: Starfish means the world to me, and I would love for you to pick it up. Please do. And please come chat with me about it once you’ve finished it!

Edit: I want to discuss something that I hadn’t noticed while reading the book, which is the fact that Kiko calls her mother ‘split-minded, psychopathic and narcissistic’. This is very harmful and ableist and I apologize for the fact that I hadn’t picked up on this before. 

Playlist

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I’ve also made a playlist for Starfish, and I never knew how hard making a playlist for a book is. I ended up with a combination of artists that Jamie introduces Kiko to in the book (Wilco and The Smiths), songs that have helped me with my anxiety (Emmylou and Go) and two kind-of-love-songs (I Only Wanna Talk to You and Waking Up Slow). It’s very easy to listen to and I like it a lot, and really hope you will too.

You can check it out on Spotify here!

Giveaway

You can enter a giveaway to win a singed and personalized copy of Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman here!

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Five 2018 Releases I’m Incredibly Excited About

Hi everyone! I’ve recently made a 2018 releases shelf on Goodreads, and I noticed that there are an incredibly large amount of books coming out that I’m super excited about, so I thought I’d share five of these with you all today!

Ivy Aberdeen's Letter to the World

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World by Ashley Herring Blake

In the wake of a destructive tornado, one girl develops feelings for another in this stunning, tender novel about emerging identity, perfect for fans of The Thing About Jellyfish.

When a tornado rips through town, twelve-year-old Ivy Aberdeen’s house is destroyed and her family of five is displaced. Ivy feels invisible and ignored in the aftermath of the storm–and what’s worse, her notebook filled with secret drawings of girls holding hands has gone missing.

Mysteriously, Ivy’s drawings begin to reappear in her locker with notes from someone telling her to open up about her identity. Ivy thinks–and hopes–that this someone might be her classmate, another girl for whom Ivy has begun to develop a crush. Will Ivy find the strength and courage to follow her true feelings?

Ivy Aberdeen’s Letter to the World exquisitely enriches the rare category of female middle-grade characters who like girls–and children’s literature at large.

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The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani Dasgupta

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond, #1)

MEET KIRANMALA: INTERDIMENSIONAL DEMONSLAYER

(But she doesn’t know it yet.)

On the morning of her twelfth birthday, Kiranmala is just a regular sixth grader living in Parsippany, New Jersey… until her parents mysteriously vanish later that day and a rakkhosh demon slams through her kitchen, determined to eat her alive. Turns out there might be some truth to her parents’ fantastical stories—like how Kiranmala is a real Indian princess—and a wealth of secrets about her origin they’ve kept hidden.

To complicate matters, two crushworthy Indian princes ring her doorbell, insisting they’re here to rescue her. Suddenly, Kiran is swept into another dimension full of magic, winged horses, moving maps, and annoying, talking birds. There she must solve riddles and slay demons all while avoiding the Serpent King of the underworld (who may or may not want to kill her) and the rakkhosh queen (who definitely does) in order to find her parents and basically save New Jersey, her entire world, and everything beyond it…

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Chaotic GoodChaotic Good by Whitney Gardner

Cosplay, comic shops, and college applications collide in this illustrated novel, perfect for fans of Adam Silvera and Noelle Steveson!

Cameron’s cosplay–dressing like a fictional character–is finally starting to earn her attention–attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron’s family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town–her main destination for character reference–is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother’s suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she’s shocked at how easily she’s accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her “secret identity” gets more and more entrenched, Cameron’s portfolio falls by the wayside–and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

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Final Draft by Riley RedgateFinal Draft

The only sort of risk 18-year-old Laila Piedra enjoys is the peril she writes for the characters in her stories: epic sci-fi worlds full of quests, forbidden love, and robots. Her creative writing teacher has always told her she has a special talent. But three months before her graduation, he’s suddenly replaced—by Nadiya Nazarenko, a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist who is sadistically critical and perpetually unimpressed.

At first, Nazarenko’s eccentric assignments seem absurd. But before long, Laila grows obsessed with gaining the woman’s approval. Soon Laila is hiking through the Catskills during a thunderstorm in March and discovering the psychedelic highs and perilous lows of nightlife, temporary flings, and instability. Dr. Nazarenko has led Laila to believe that she must choose between perfection and sanity—but rejecting her all-powerful mentor may be the only way for Laila to thrive.

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Hurricane ChildHurricane Child by Kheryn Callender

Prepare to be swept up by this exquisite novel that reminds us that grief and love can open the world in mystical ways.

Twelve-year-old Caroline is a Hurricane Child, born on Water Island during a storm. Coming into this world during a hurricane is unlucky, and Caroline has had her share of bad luck already. She’s hated by everyone in her small school, she can see things that no one else can see, and — worst of all — her mother left home one day and never came back. With no friends and days filled with heartache, Caroline is determined to find her mother. When a new student, Kalinda, arrives, Caroline’s luck begins to turn around. Kalinda, a solemn girl from Barbados with a special smile for everyone, seems to see the things Caroline sees, too. Joined by their common gift, Kalinda agrees to help Caroline look for her mother, starting with a mysterious lady dressed in black. Soon, they discover the healing power of a close friendship between girls. Debut author Kheryn Callender presents a cadenced work of magical realism.

This is, of course, only a very small selection of 2018 releases that I’m looking forward to, so I’m sure I’ll make another blogpost sharing more books soon!

What 2018 release are you most excited about?

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Review: Girls Made of Snow and Glass by Melissa Bashardoust

Girls Made of Snow and GlassTitle: Girls Made of Snow and Glass
Author: Melissa Bashardoust
Genres: YA Fantasy, Retellings
Goodreads

Frozen meets The Bloody Chamber in this feminist fantasy reimagining of the Snow White fairytale

At sixteen, Mina’s mother is dead, her magician father is vicious, and her silent heart has never beat with love for anyone—has never beat at all, in fact, but she’d always thought that fact normal. She never guessed that her father cut out her heart and replaced it with one of glass. When she moves to Whitespring Castle and sees its king for the first time, Mina forms a plan: win the king’s heart with her beauty, become queen, and finally know love. The only catch is that she’ll have to become a stepmother.

Fifteen-year-old Lynet looks just like her late mother, and one day she discovers why: a magician created her out of snow in the dead queen’s image, at her father’s order. But despite being the dead queen made flesh, Lynet would rather be like her fierce and regal stepmother, Mina. She gets her wish when her father makes Lynet queen of the southern territories, displacing Mina. Now Mina is starting to look at Lynet with something like hatred, and Lynet must decide what to do—and who to be—to win back the only mother she’s ever known…or else defeat her once and for all.

Entwining the stories of both Lynet and Mina in the past and present, Girls Made of Snow and Glass traces the relationship of two young women doomed to be rivals from the start. Only one can win all, while the other must lose everything—unless both can find a way to reshape themselves and their story.

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When I finished Girls Made of Snow and Glass last night, I was sitting in my reading chair covered in blankets, hugging the book while there were tears streaming down my face. And honestly, I think that’s all you have to read to know my feelings about this book. But I’ll gladly continue writing (or rather, raving) about this book.

Girls Made of Snow and Glass arrived unexpectedly on my doorstep one day, and that’s where the magic began (I know this sounds super cheesy, but it really feels that way). I almost didn’t pick it up because my ARC schedule was so incredibly busy this month, and I thought there was no way I could read it in time, but after my friend Lili from Utopia State of Mind told me she loved it, I decided to give it a try. And I’m so happy I did.

I fell in love with this book early on. The writing basically swept me off of my feet, and I was really struggling to decide whether I should try to take my time with it and savor it as much as possible, or to just read it in one sitting. I decided to do the former, and I really think that that made me enjoy the book more. I loved looking forward to sitting down each day and spending a little more time with the characters, who were absolutely wonderful, by the way.

The two main characters of the book are Mina and Lynet, and both of them are such complex and well-rounded characters, and I love them both so much. And their relationship is just the best?? I could sit here and write an entire essay on how much I love them, but I’m afraid I’d spoil the book so just trust me on this: you will adore them.

I’m always a bit weary about retellings. They can be amazing, but they can also feel a bit, well, cliché. This retelling, however, was incredibly well done. The nods to the original works were amazing, sometimes very subtle, but always absolutely brilliant. Some of the things Melissa Bashardoust came up with completely blew my mind, and just, I’m still not over this. I just want to reread the book and see what little details I missed.

The only thing I didn’t 100% love about this book was the world-building. I’m unable to put my finger on what it was exactly, but I felt like I wasn’t able to fully immerse myself in the world, and really picture everything clearly. There were descriptions, and I did feel like the author described everything quite clearly and beautifully, but something just felt a bit off.

Overall, you can see that I clearly loved this book very much. I loved the characters, the plot, the relationships, the writing, the dialogue, and basically everything. I want to read everything Melissa Bashardoust writes, and I cannot wait to see what brilliant story she’ll come up with next.

Also, in case I haven’t convinced you to pick this book up yet: there’s an f/f relationship in the book. It’s wonderful. Okay, I’ll shut up about the book now. Just, please go pick it up.

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Contemporaries pt. 2 | I Show You My TBR pt. 5

header.jpgCan y’all believe that I’m actually sticking to my schedule and posting this series on time for two weeks in a row now? Because I certainly can’t!

Anyway, today I only have 2 stacks of books to talk about, so I’m expecting this to be a not incredibly long blogpost.

And that’s when I realized I hadn’t taken pictures for the post yet, and it would be impossible for me to take them the next day, so it would be impossible to get this post finished in time. Kind of ironic that I started off the post the way I started it, right? I thought I’d keep it in there because I found it pretty funny, and I hope you do too, haha.

Anyway, now, exactly a week later, I’m continuing writing this post. It will still include 2 stacks of books, but the blogpost did turn out to be a bit longer than I expected it to be last week because of my failure. Anyway, let’s dive straight into it!DSC08784.JPGHere’s my incredibly pretty stack of hardcovers! I usually never go for hardcovers because they’re too expensive and I just don’t like reading them, but all of these books (besides THUG) were only released in hardback so I didn’t really have a choice. I just really wanted to read the books.

Anyway, you might be a bit surprised that I still haven’t read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas yet, and to be honest, I am too. I’m expecting it to be absolutely amazing and impactful and I’m so glad that it’s getting all the hype that it’s getting because I’m 100% sure it’s well deserved, but I’ve been actually a bit scared to pick it up. The book deals with the death of the main characters best friend, and that’s just a really triggering thing for me. I’m not sure how graphic/heavy/etc it is (it would be helpful to know btw, so please leave a comment/dm me if you want to talk about it), but I just want to be in the right mindset when I pick it up so it won’t affect me in an unhealthy way.

The rest of the books are all books that I’m a bit less scared of. I’ve heard a lot of mixed reviews for Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy, but I’m still quite excited to pick it up because of the bi rep. And the other two books, Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee and Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, are books that I’ve only heard positive things about. Those two are really those kinds of books where, if someone walked up to me and said ‘you have to read this right now and you’ve got one day to finish it’ I’d be overjoyed instead of completely stressed out. I really can’t wait to pick them up!DSC08780.JPGAnd this is my little stack of books that all deal with very heavy topics, which is why I’m too scared to pick them up, but I still really really want to. We have Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed, Under Rose-Tainted Skies by Louise Gornell, Far From You by Tess Sharpe and Wing Jones by Katherine Webber. And they’re all books that I’ve heard fantastic things about.

If I’m being totally honest with you, looking at these books makes me a bit sad. I really want to read them, and I know I could love them, if it wasn’t for my mental health. My anxiety just holds me back in so many things, and the fact that it affects my reading, the thing that I love doing most, too, just makes me very sad.

I don’t want to leave you on a negative note, so let me just tell you something that’s very exciting to me: I have the whole evening to myself, which means that once I finish editing the header for this post, I can go read! I haven’t had the time to read all week, so I’m incredibly excited about it! Anyway, I hope you’re all having an amazing weekend!

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August Wrap-Up

IMG_20170814_180707.jpgAugust has been a bit of a weird month for me, especially reading wise since I’ve only read 7 books whereas I usually read about 10-15 a month. The main reason for this was my anxiety, which demanded a lot of attention in August.

I haven’t said a lot about this online, but I went on holiday this month. It was only for one week, and only an hour away, but it was incredibly difficult for me because of my anxiety and agoraphobia. I usually can’t even go on a highway for 2 minutes without having a full blown panic attack, and now I had to do it for an hour? And then stay in a strange environment for a week? Yeah, I wasn’t too excited about that.

So yeah, because of all the anxiety I had to deal with before, while, and after we were away, I didn’t get a lot of reading done at all. But I’m still quite happy with what I did manage to read, because I expected to read a lot less.

And the holiday? Well, even though my brain had convinced me that it’d be horrible and that I’d be panicking the whole time, I had quite a lovely time. And I think that’s worth a lot.

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The Rose and The Dagger by Renée Ahdieh (★★★★/5 stars) – I went in with low expectations because I didn’t really like the first book, but I actually really enjoyed this one!
Warcross by Marie Lu (★★★★★/5 stars) – SO GOOD. READ IT. YES. Here’s my review.
The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan (★★★★/5 stars) – It was a fun read but overall just a bit… meh? Very excited about the next book in the series, though!
De Aanslag by Harry Mulisch (★★★/5 stars) – Had to read this for school.

The Demigod Diaries by Rick Riordan (★★★/5 stars) – Quite fun, and a great distraction from my anxieties.
Lumberjanes Unicorn Power! by Mariko Tamaki (★★★★/5 stars) – It took me some time to get used to, because reading about my favorite girl squad in novel form is quite different than seeing them in a comic, but I still enjoyed it very much.
Superior by Jessica Lack (★★★★/5 stars) – I loved this, but I really wish it was longer.

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I’m currently reading The Queen’s Game by Carla de Guzman, which I put down once I realized that I wasn’t in a romance mood at all. I’m definitely planning on picking it up later once I’m in the mood for it, though, because I’ve heard amazing things about it from friends.
I’m also listening to the audiobook for Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza, which I’m liking a lot more than I thought I would, and I’m reading the ARC of Girls Made of Snow and Glass. I adore this book and I only have about 90 pages to go, so I really hope I can finish it this weekend.

So, as you can see, August was probably my worst reading month of the year. I’m expecting September to be very different though, especially since I have so many ARCs I have to get to this month. But I also downloaded The Sims 4 yesterday and I’ve been having a lot of fun with that, so we’ll see what happens. I hope you’ve all had a great month!

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Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)Title: Down Among the Sticks and Bones
Author: Seanan McGuire
Series: Wayward Children #2
Genres: Fantasy
Goodreads

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline.

Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.

They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.

They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

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It’s not too long ago that I read the first book in this series, Every Heart a Doorway, and completely fell in love with it. I loved the writing, which completely sucked me in from the start, I loved the world and all of the potential it had, but most of all, I loved the characters and couldn’t wait to see more of them and see more of their stories in the next books.

As you can see, my expectations for Down Among the Sticks and Bones were HIGH. Incredibly high. That’s why I was very hesitant about starting it at first, because I didn’t want to end up feeling disappointed once I finished this, but I can safely say that that didn’t happen. Moreover, I can say that I loved Down Among the Sticks and Bones even more than I loved Every Heart a Doorway, and that obviously says a lot.

This book focuses on the story of Jack and Jill, twin sisters who we’ve already met in the first book. From reading Every Heart a Doorway we already got to know a little bit about their story, but I had no idea how dark and incredibly interesting it actually was.

A lot of the book focuses on parental expectations (and emotional abuse), and how they can mess with your heads. Jack and Jill’s parents have this picture in their mind of what their perfect family should look like, and when their mother gets pregnant with two girls they’re disappointed because they wanted a girl and a boy. They decide they’ll each ‘get one’ of the children, and Jack is raised to be her mother’s perfect daughter (quiet and pretty) and Jill is raised to be her father’s perfect ‘tom-boy’.

Jack and Jill both don’t get a say in this, and they start to resent each other because of it. So when they get to the Moors, it doesn’t take long until they separate.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones is a short book. An incredibly well-written one which sucks you in from the first page, and will make you finish the book in just one sitting. It’s also incredibly atmospheric, dark and intruiging. And although the book is so short, it does include a lot of things that will keep your mind occupied for days on end.

I loved seeing the relationship between the two sisters, and the effect the parents had on that relationship (well, loved might not be the best word for it, but it was incredibly interesting and I loved reading about it). I loved Jack as a character, and I really feel like she’s going to be my favorite character of this series. And I loved how Jack had a fat, female love interest, because I’m a complete sucker for f/f romances.

Overall, Down Among the Sticks and Bones certainly exceeded my expectations, and I can’t wait for what else this series is going to bring.

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Contemporaries pt. 1 | I Show You My TBR pt. 4

heder.jpgAfter 2 weeks of hiatus from this series because of being on holiday, I’m finally going to continue it with part 4: the contemporaries. Again, the stack of contemporaries on my TBR is too big for one blogpost (believe me, I had to bring them all downstairs because it was too hot to work in my room and my arms are hurting) so I’m splitting it up into two blogposts. This week I have 9 books to discuss with you!DSC08753I’m starting with these three books that I’ve received for review. Truth or Dare by Non Pratt and Love and Gelato by Jenna Evans Weich are books that I received from Walker Publishing that I don’t know a lot about, but both have something that intrigues me. Truth or Dare is one of those books where you have to read half of the book and then flip it over to read the other half, and I’ve never read something like that before. I’ve also heard quite a few great things about the author, so I’ll probably get to this one soon! Love & Gelato is one that I’ve seen around quite a few times, but don’t really know a lot about. However, the synopsis says that it takes place in Italy and I think that setting should be great.

Moxie by Jennifer Mathieu is a book I’ll definitely be getting to soon because the release date is coming up, and I’m also pretty excited about it. I requested this because it was described as being a very feminist book but since then I’ve heard that the feminism in this book is very white, and that’s for sure going to bother me so I’m not as excited about it as I used to be.DSC08759The next little stack of book is the books that have been on my TBR the longest, and that I’m now the least excited about. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson was one that I was super excited about when I got it, because I had read every MM book at the time and loved them all. I’ve tried reading it and got a few chapters in, but I just couldn’t get into it. And then to see how incredibly long this book is is just not motivating. (And I have to admit that I’m not that into m/f romances at the moment. I’ve just read so many of those already and it’s a little boring to me right now.)

Then there’s Kids of Appetite by David Arnold, which I was also super excited about when I got it, but I don’t even really remember why. I’m sure I’ll probably like it once I read it, but I just need something to make me want to pick it up because I have no motivation at all. Seven Ways We Lie by Riley Redgate however is a very different story. It’s not that I have no motivation to pick it up, I’m just scared to pick it up because I heard that there’s a LGBT+ narrative in here that’s not treated amazingly and I’m scared I’ll end up being hurt by it. I’m still hesitant to unhaul it though, because I really liked Riley Redgate’s Noteworthy.DSC08765.JPGThen there’s three books that I’m not going into much detail about because I have the same feelings towards all of them: they’re very new releases but I haven’t had the time to pick them up yet. These books are The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli, When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon and Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde. I’m so excited to pick up each of these books because I’ve heard nothing but great things about them from people that I trust, and they all seem like quite happy books! I haven’t been in a big contemporary mood lately though, so it might take a while for me to actually pick them up, but that doesn’t mean I’m any less excited about them. I really hope I can finish these by the end of the year!

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