You Made It a Secret

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It’s Not Like It’s a Secret

by Misa Sugiura

Sixteen-year-old Sana Kiyohara has too many secrets. Some are small, like how it bothers her when her friends don’t invite her to parties. Some are big, like that fact that her father may be having an affair. And then there’s the one that she can barely even admit to herself—the one about how she might have a crush on her best friend.

This book is about Sana, her Japanese parents, and the big piles of lies that they have. Sana’s father takes a job in California, up rooting his family to move there. But Sana finds proof that the job wasn’t really the reason there. Her parents aren’t telling her something and she in turn starts her own collection of secrets – she’s gay. She is stealing things from her father as proof of said secret. But she starts keeping her being gay from everyone else, not counting the girl she’s dating.

Basically, this story starts out strong. It’s an adorable contemporary that I needed with gay girls. And it’s that. We follow Sana as she figures out her sexuality and falling for Jamie, a girl she fell for the moment she saw her. They flirt for half the book, finally kissing half way through. But it’s from there things that things get uncomfortable. Sana’s friends are supportive, but she still hides her relationship and flirts with Caleb, a ‘friend’. Up to this point, you see racism through Sana’s mother, who basically doesn’t trust anyone different from herself and says horrible things. Sana is luckily the voice of reason for the first part of the book, which is key when you have racist material in stories without the book being racist itself. Which is important, because this admits that minorities can be phobic too, which is very much true. This issue arises when Sana stops being the voice of reason and says some horrible things about Mexican Americans, in front of her Mexican American girlfriend, yet Jamie isn’t as upset about it as she truly deserved to be. Sana knows she saying horrible things, but she still does it. From there, things become messy. Jamie kisses her ex so Sana in turns kisses a guy and doesn’t tell him she’s gay. Basically, the second half of this book is a mess.

Like all books with romances, the idea is that they get together, break up, get back together in time for the end of the book. This was no different. But it was a mess and just felt like chaos. It was sweet what Sana did to get Jamie back, everything becomes clear, but it just fell flat for me.

As for the writing, I think it was done well for the most part. It felt like the mind of a teenager, which lets be honest is a mess just like the books ended up being. Teens say stupid things. They do stupid things. Which basically is the second half of this book. I enjoyed the first half more than anything and wish this book could have broken that familiar pattern, which is getting stiff and boring.

My recommendation on this one? Skip it until I can confirm if the racist material has been taken from the finished product, ad this was an ARC version.

Rating: 2 stars

Yes, I love Reading Bingo Games

I’m kinda really bad at planning my reading lists ahead of time, but everyone else is, so I’m gonna try to as well. It’ll probably change. For now, I’m putting up which ones I KNOW I will be reading. I’ll be adding to this post when I figure out the other books for this challenge, so keep an eye on this!

Before you question this idea as just using diversity as a check box, the idea is to bring more discussion to authors of Asian heritage and the lack of them in this industry. I admit, even I’m struggling to find books for this challenge, which is the point of it.

 

Romance with PoC/Indigenous Love Interest:

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It’s Not Like It’s A Secret by Misa Sugiura

Translated Work by an Asian Author:

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Fall Down 7 Times Get Up 8: A Young Man’s Voice from the Silence of Autism by Naoki Higashida

 

For more details check it out here!

10 Things I can See From Here

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10 Things I Can See from Here

by Carrie Mac

Think positive.
Don’t worry; be happy.
Keep calm and carry on.
Maeve has heard it all before. She’s been struggling with severe anxiety for a long time, and as much as she wishes it was something she could just talk herself out of, it’s not. She constantly imagines the worst, composes obituaries in her head, and is always ready for things to fall apart. To add to her troubles, her mom—the only one who really gets what Maeve goes through—is leaving for six months, so Maeve will be sent to live with her dad in Vancouver.

The idea of this book interested me for two reason: I’m always looking for more LGBT+ romances that don’t center on coming out, being demisexual lesbian myself. And because Maeve’s anxiety. I’ve suffered from chronic anxiety my whole life, and I must admit, this book did an amazing job showing anxiety as it. It can be completely crippling.

This book centers around Maeve, who suffers from an anxiety disorder, moving in with her dad for six months while her mom is off working in Haiti. It goes through the stress and complications of a dad with substance abuse problems, falling in love, the aftermath of a sexual assault, and a lot more. It talks about how Maeve came out, but it doesn’t center around it, which is refreshing after reading so many coming out stories.

The writing in this book conveys the idea of anxiety well. It’s scattered and a mess, your mind constantly going and going to things you don’t want to think about. However, this sometimes makes the story unclear at different moments. One point Maeve is emailing Ruthie and the book states that Ruthie messaged her back almost instantly ‘like last time’. But after that chapter you continue to read and realize that isn’t actually the case, Ruthie never messaged her back. I reread that part again and again and I’m still confused why it was worded that way, if it was possibly a mistake in the editing.

There are a few things I DON’T agree with. One being that the idea is Maeve isn’t allowed to be on anti-anxiety medication due to her parents wanting her to wait until her brain is done developing. But the book almost hints that people with anxiety just need a girlfriend to make things okay. Though it’s not directly saying that, Maeve’s anxiety goes down when she and Salix are dating. My fear is that this will become another ‘magic cure’ for people to tell us with anxiety that we just need a relationship to get better, that we don’t need our medication, which is dangerous. I also don’t agree with the fact the only person of color that we know of for sure in this book dies and dies pretty quickly. I think the death was a growing point for the main character, but it gets tiring having PoC die in stories just to further a main character who we don’t actually know the race of.

I do warn people who read it though – this book deals with tough subjects. Suicide, substance abuse, abuse, sexual assault, gory details, homophobia, and death. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few. I think that this book wouldn’t have been the same without it, but I think that there should be a fair warning to anyone thinking of reading this book that there are triggers.

What’s ACTUALLY happening in Book Communities Right Now

So some of you might have heard, there’s been a lot of negative things happening in book communities from Goodreads, to Twitter, to Tumblr. As someone who’s actually been effected by it and seen people seriously hurt, I’m going to explain whats actually happening instead of people like Bookriot and Owlcrate who think they know whats happening and spreading false information.

This has been happening for a while, people attacking other bloggers who don’t agree with their opinions on certain books. I’ve seen PoC attacked and gone after for simply saying a book is racist for the fact they have ‘the dark skin savage’ trope. But it all got worse with one book, that book being The Black Witch.

Myself and a few other bloggers got this book to read and review. I mean, I was pumped. It was about witches, that’s my jam. But as soon as you open this book, you realize two things: One, it’s horribly written, and two, it’s full of issues and doesn’t actually call out these issues as bad, but simply says ‘oh, well, that’s how it is’. In a time where neo-Nazis are gaining strength again, this book comes out and it attacks anyone different. It was racist, it was homophobic, it was ableist, it attacked people with mental health issues, it sexist.

I put the book down because it made me sick. I posted a short review saying that I wasn’t comfortable with the book and what it was saying and also how I really found it badly written and unrealistic. Then a fellow blogger picked it up and she fought through the book to post all the issues. And it got so much worse than what I had read. The character supposedly gets a redemption arc, but at what cost? Anyone different reading that book would feel attacked. And someone did take their life because they called out this book and others like it and felt like they were alone, that there were no allies out there.

I updated my review to add the other issues and me and other people started calling out the book and warning people who might be a minority not to read it. All I wanted was an apology from the author and publishing company. But suddenly people were saying we wanted the book banned, that we were attacking an author and a book ‘without reading it’ (which some people did do, but they do have a right when it’s hurting so many people). They started posting reviews that called us out and had nothing to do with the book. People who stood up were attacked. They were harassed, sent death threats, called horrible things, were stalked, and worse. I got some hate for, people saying ‘well it’s a book’ as a reason why it’s okay, which it isn’t. Some people posted five star reviews just to counter act everything we’d done without reading it. They defined all these issues without reading it and said that it was right to have those things in that book, one directed at teens who are mostly like in those minorities.

But that hasn’t stopped authors from calling us horrible things, saying we don’t have a right. It hasn’t stopped book centered websites from saying that we’re not being fair or nice. People are still being attacked on twitter and I’ve watched people I’ve befriended crumbling over it.

I had to stop blogging for a while because it left me exhausted emotionally, it messed with my mental illness and left me hollow feeling. I still have times where I can’t hold my head up. We’re trying to simply make books for everyone, so that no one feels alone like that one blogger did again. People still go through the reviews until they find a bad one and attack the person for posting it without ever touching the book itself. It’s bad when the world has come to this, that it’s reflecting a horrible world that’s inside of a horrible book.

Hit or Miss a Moth

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The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown

by Catherine Burns

From storytelling phenomenon The Moth, 45 unforgettable true stories about risk, courage, and facing the unknown, drawn from the best ever told on their stages.

If you can’t guess by the title I have some mixed feelings about this read. I was really pumped about this read, too. I hadn’t heard of the podcast, but I really needed a collection of short stories and I felt like this was a great choice. I mean, Neil Gaiman wrote the forward. And some of the stories are worth his name. Some are wonderful and even left me crying. Which, honestly, doesn’t happen often expect things that are done well. And those stories were done well. I have a bunch of dog ears in my copy of those stories whenever I need to draw inspiration (I was out of sticky notes). But there were stories that bombed really hard. I was so tempted to skip them too.

It’s important to remember that these stories were performed on stage or in the podcast and my guess is, they did better in that. Without a face, without seeing those emotions, I honestly watched a lot fall dead to me that I wanted nothing to do with. There were even stories that I gritted my teeth at and wanted to skim simply because the person who told it didn’t realize how ignorant they sounded in certain situations. I couldn’t find sympathy when they couldn’t bother to learn names or a language or how lucky they really were in comparison of others. It was so frustrating. Enough so that I had to put the book down for a while.

But the stories that were good, that were able to capture emotion in the book, I can imagine doing the same on stage. They truly blew me away and I just sat there in tears having to give myself a few moments to recover before heading on. And maybe, that’s why the other stories didn’t do it for me, because they just simply couldn’t compare with these stories.

It’s hard to say writing style or quality when it’s simply a transcription, so I can’t get into that exactly. Do I recommend it? Yes and no. I think that maybe checking out the podcast would be a good start. If you enjoy that and want to have a collection in words, then give it a go. I wish I could just give you guys the small collection of those good stories instead, but again, it depends on the person and how they feel about such things.

Rating: 3 stars

Journey into the Gauntlet

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The Gauntlet

by Karuna Riazi

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

I grew up in the generation of Jumanji. Admittedly, I never really got into it. But I loved the idea. So this book, described as a steampunk Middle Eastern twist, it caught my interest. It wasn’t near the top of my list of ARCs I still needed to get through, but when it got closer to the release date, I saw people talking about it everywhere. So I knew I had to change the order for my ARCs and moved it up to my top. And I’m so happy that I did.

This book does what Harry Potter did with friendship without anything silly like romance getting in the way (after all, they’re only 12. I’d probably have put it down if it had). And like Harry Potter, it was utter magic. Though Farah is the focus, you see each characters strength that defies normal stereotypes and see them using it. Honestly, I loved their friendship and loved the dynamic and loved them all equally. It also made family the most important thing, which isn’t something you see as often in books anymore. And it did it well.

All of this was isn’t new concepts for books, but it did it in a way that kept it fresh and new in its own way.

The writing was great, the plot was magic. I spent a lot of nights falling asleep with this book (yes, again). I was so determined to read one more page, to find out one more thing that I often fell asleep in the middle of a blink for a few moments before waking up and trying again. I admit, I spent mornings having to go back a bit and rereading because of this. But I didn’t mind because you can so easily miss a small detail that’s so important if you don’t read carefully.

My only issue was there were a few spots that either weren’t completely clear or seemed rushed closer to the end of the book. There was a spot that Farah meets a woman that traded her brother’s voice saying her name for food. But it wasn’t overly clear or even needed. It only lasted a paragraph and she somehow got back to her friends, which wasn’t fully clear how. A lot of details weren’t fully clear by the end, but it happened to be smaller things, so it didn’t make me less in love with this book. It just left me a little confused – admittedly, I’m a sucker for details so it was a bit of a disappointment after how great this book was up to that point. I’m hoping it was fixed in the final copies of this book. But at the same, I think for a middle grade book, I think it is something that can get a pass.

I do recommend this book despite that. I think the story itself is original and is really wonderful. It’s a beautifully written book that leaves you able to see the things written in the book clear as day. And the diversity in this book is beautiful. It gives you a wonderful taste of culture mixed with the magic.

Rating – 4 stars

I Heart Tash

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Tash Hearts Tolstoy

by Kathryn Ormsbee and K.E. Ormsbee

After a shout-out from one of the Internet’s superstar vloggers, Natasha “Tash” Zelenka finds herself and her obscure, amateur web series, Unhappy Families, thrust into the limelight: She’s gone viral.

This book was the perfect read for my spring break from school. I needed it. It was a fun read. The characters were vibrant, the plot and idea of how someone can become internet famous overnight is something that’s real and insane in this day and age. We’ve all watched some sort of web series on youtube from Camilla to Frankenstein MD. We all know how they can become a thing and take flight overnight due to social media and fan followings.

But the best part of this read was this: Tash is Asexual. And her portrayal of Asexual was actually dead on. I would know, I fall on the Ace Spectrum myself. Admittedly, I was both terrified and horribly excited when I was approved to read this ARC. And admittedly, I’m so happy it happened. Because I can come out and tell other people who are Ace that this book did good. Her thoughts and worries are the same as many of us face and fear facing. Her relationships with different characters are complicated and she isn’t even overly sure how to share the truth with them, which we learn was understandable due to a rather horrible experience with someone when she does tell them.

All and all, this book was well written and simply fun. It follows an amazing and beautiful friendship, a summer of fun, but also deals with hard truths that comes with growing up. The flow of this book is beautiful and there never seems to be a dull moment in it. I honestly ate this book up and couldn’t bring myself to put it down, even falling asleep while reading it more than once because I simply needed to know more but my mind simply couldn’t stay on any longer and had to flip back to where I could clearly remember reading before the dozing started.

I highly recommend it if you need a light read or a summer read. Yes, there are some tough things that pop up, but I think it was handled well, surprisingly. That and the fact fame sadly comes with a price when the internet has so many trolls and haters out there. The friendship in this book was pure magic and it does make you look back at your own time in high school and wonder why you haven’t accomplished half as much as these kids. But hey, some of us spent our summers being lazy.

Rating: 5 stars