ARC review: Gemini Keeps Capricorn by Anyta Sunday

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the author via A Novel Take. All opinions are my own.

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Synopsis:

Sometimes, one stubborn Capricorn is all it takes… to drive Wesley Hidaka to crazy, flirtatious lengths.

Wesley loves annoying his RA, Lloyd Reynolds. He just can’t help it. Lloyd is focused, decisive, grounded. He has this amusing ability to follow rules.
Of course Wesley wants Lloyd to break one… or three hundred.

Sometimes, one smirking Gemini is all it takes… to have Lloyd laying down the law and marching Wesley straight back to his dorm room.

It doesn’t stop Wesley teasing again. And again. And again…
But damn. Lloyd doesn’t crack easily. He’s full of principles. He’s unshakable.
He’s the perfect friend to have when Wesley needs help. Like with his truant brother and his old high school principal.

Sometimes, one little lie is all it takes… to find Wesley fake-engaged to his off-limits RA.

What can he say? It seemed like a good idea at the time…

* ~* ~* ~*

“Gemini Keeps Capricorn” serves up a double shot of cluelessness, with a side of rock’n’roll and topped with a slow burn HEA.
It can be read as a standalone.

Tropes: friends-to-lovers, slow burn, will-they-or-won’t-they, fake fiancé
Genre: New Adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance

Publication date: December 18th

My rating:

★★★★✩

Anyta Sunday’s contemporary romances are among the few I enjoy, and so far I’ve always enjoyed every single one of them. I especially love this series despite my complete lack of belief in horoscopes or anything of the like.

The two main characters are gay men and they’re both aware of their sexuality from the beginning of the novel, which is something that not always happens in this type of books, so it was a welcome change. The entire story is narrated from Wesley’s point of view, and even though we don’t get Lloyd’s, the two sound so different and unique that we can almost hear Lloyd’s narrating voice in our head from a certain point of the novel on. That is something that speaks for the author’s excellent characterization, which can be somewhat hard to achieve sometimes in contemporary and “slice of life” contexts.

This romance had some of my favorite tropes, including a seriously and painfully clueless guy, friends to best friends to lovers and a good old fake engagement (which is something I hadn’t seen yet if not in fanfiction). This last element isn’t too strong, which is something I loved because overusing it would make the whole story seem less realistic.

I loved both Wesley and Lloyd and the secondary characters. I really appreciated the page time given to Wesley’s problems with his family and seeing how he helped his brother, but I did feel like his mother’s homophobia and straight up ignorance was a little bit weird and just over the top. I mean, English isn’t my first language but I’ve never heard anyone referring to being gay as “doing the gaying” nor would I find it natural to put it that way (I mean language-wise). It was something that distracted me from the reading experience because it’s something I could only see as used ironically on a shitpost on twitter or tumblr and idk, I’d much rather a portrayal of homophobia and microaggressions (if those need to be present in the novel) be accurate to what happens in reality to most lgbtq+ people. The way Wesley’s mom talked sounded a lot like an infantilization of homophobic and homomisic people and I KNOW that it’s not the way the author intended it to be, but that’s just how it felt to me.

Other than this, I pretty much liked everything else. I only found it a little hard to get into it at the beginning because I was reading it during a huge reading slump and I felt like some references were lost on me and I didn’t get some inside jokes, but once I got past the first quarter of the book it ran smoothly and I enjoyed it.

Those few problems are what prevented me to give it five stars, but it’s still very much worth reading if you want a really cute and at times hilarious romance (I was reading it pretty late one night and I had a few loud laughing fits – I think my neighbors hate me by now). Also you don’t need to have read the previous two books in the series because they’re all standalones (although characters from book one make a very welcome cameo).

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I’m joining SapphicAThon!

SapphicAThon is a readathon created by Tasha @catsandpaperbacks and co-hosted by AmelieEliseJamieson, and Miriam.

It’s all about reading books where the main character is involved in a F/F romance (it can’t be a side romance!) and it runs from December 14th to December 28th of your timezone.

This post is kind of late because I wasn’t sure that I would have time to participate, but since I’m flying home for the holidays it looks like I will (hopefully) get a lot of reading time.

Even if you aren’t sure you can participate, I still encourage you to look at Tasha’s post because it comes with a ton of F/F recs.

Kind of side note, but people, it’s not enough to complain that there aren’t many F/F romances out there and do nothing about it. The books are there and they’re getting published and they’re often by marginalized authors and it’s everyone’s job to find them and boost them the same way M/M romances are. I myself know that I need to do better in this regard and participating in this readathon is hopefully a step forward in this sense.

If you do decide to participate and need some extra sense of accomplishment, you can look at the bingo board below. It has challenges that can help you decide which books you want to read, and you don’t have to get a bingo but it’s an added bonus if you want to challenge yourself more.

I myself don’t know exactly how many books I’m going to be able to read. I am a slow reader after all and I have a few things I need to do before Christmas, other than spending time with my family obviously, but I decided that no matter how many books I’ll manage to read, it will still be better than not participating.

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I will probably make a quick TBR post next week to help me stick to it and I’ll also try to link a few other rec threads/posts that I found over the months to help you find even more F/F books.

Let me know if you will participate and make sure that if you’re on twitter you follow along with #SapphicAThon and follow the official account @wlwreadathon. I will probably make a thread in order to track my progress during the challenge so if you want you can follow me there too and laugh at me when I fail (just kidding, there is no failing 💪🏻).

Discussion: Goodreads and Netgalley are hurting diversity in the book community

The life of any international (see: non-US based) blogger isn’t always easy. We struggle to get physical ARCs (most of us don’t even try), we never get to meet our favorite authors, we rely on our more fortunate friends to get one signed copy that will become our most treasured possession. Some of us struggle to make our posts understandable in a language that isn’t our own just so we can reach more people and get in touch with other readers and bloggers from other countries.

We don’t complain too much because it’s pointless, and it’s not like the doctor forced us to start our blogs.

Now it seems that things are starting to change in this sense, and these past few days there has been a lot of talk about international bloggers, as I’m sure everyone has heard.

Basically what it all comes down to is:

Goodreads is changing its giveaway program, which only US readers will be able to enter, at least for a time. How long this time will be is not as of yet known. Most importantly, the price for authors to host a giveaway will be very high, $119 for a base package and $599 for the premium one.

Netgalley is making it virtually impossible for international readers to request eARCs. We might still be able to “Wish” for them, but anyone who has ever used Netgalley before knows how difficult it is for a wish to be granted (it has personally only happened to me once). As far as I understand, this is Netgalley’s choice, not the publisher’s like it’s always been, thus making it even more difficult for international bloggers to be sent (digital) early editions of books (as if that wasn’t difficult enough before).

Now, I want to talk about both things my own way, but first you should read Laura’s open letter to Netgalley and Goodreads because she’s basically said it all perfectly.

If you’re still reading my post, here’s my two cents (and I won’t be able to cover every nuance of this topic but hey I’m gonna try).

I think what Netgalley and Goodreads are doing is two sides of the same coin, and it all comes down to ultimately hurt minorities and marginalized people and give more privilege to the privileged. Whether they’re doing it on purpose or not is not for me to say, but that’s what we should be all concerned about.

Regarding Goodreads: I think people are focusing a lot on the readers side and not enough on the authors side, but the truth is that readers aren’t going to be too affected by it. After all, Goodreads giveaways are something you have to win against a huge number of people, and that’s not very likely no matter where you live. Chances are you’re never going to win one anyway, and it still sucks that now int’l readers won’t be able to even enter, but that’s ultimately not very influential in the book community itself (let’s be real, those giveaways are random, and chances are someone is going to win a book they’re never going to read anyway, or if they do they’ll never review it: it’s not like everyone who wins a giveaway has their own blog or even reviews on GR itself after all).

No, the real problem here is that indie and marginalized authors won’t be able to afford the giveaway program, and the only authors who will be able to will be the ones with a big name. In fact, this is what I wrote Goodreads in their survey (which I encourage you to also fill out):

Nothing of this new program works unless you live in the United States (as a reader) or you’re already wealthy as an author and can afford to pay a ridiculous amount of money to have your book MAYBE added to a couple of people’s shelves with no guarantee they’ll actually buy it. This will damage marginalized authors who are already struggling as it is in a publishing world where still the majority of big author names are white, male, heterosexual Americans. This program is made to fail from the beginning and it will ultimately be your own loss, but it’s a slap in the face to anyone who tries to make it in this industry, it screams “you’re not welcome here” to everyone who is already made to feel that way every day of their life. This is a huge step in the wrong direction and I’m sorry to see one of my favorite platforms fail so miserably at embracing a community that has time and again proven how good and important diversity is in any given context.

You’re fooling yourself if you don’t think this is that deep. Everything is that deep and where Goodreads might have done some good by finding ways to help promote marginalized authors, they’ve done the complete opposite instead. It only speaks of their privilege that they don’t even realize it.

I understand there have been some problems with people hosting giveaways and not delivering and basically stealing readers’ contact information, but while what GR is doing is certainly a way to fight this phenomenon, it certainly can’t be the only one.

Coming to the second half of this post, what Netgalley is doing is what touches bloggers and readers the most, and the issues are similar to my first point. Granted that it was already difficult to gain access to eARCs depending on where you live and on the publisher, it was still possible as an international reader to request books that weren’t listed as “US-only” (some even used to have Europe-only, UK-only or Australia-only versions).

Basically what Netgalley is telling you to do is to log into your own version (for me it would be the Italian version of it) and read the books listed there. I haven’t ventured in it and I do think that there might be some benefit in reading things that are published in my own language and written in my own country (I am so not updated on Italian literature it’s honestly a shame), but the fact is that this blog is in English and my following isn’t going to be pleased if I start reviewing books in Italian, or if I review books that aren’t translated into English.

(After writing this paragraph I noticed that there isn’t even an Italian version of Netgalley, and the closest thing would be the German one since I live in Germany and happen to be able to read books in that language, but my point stands.)

Face it, you keep up your blog by reviewing ARCs, and by not having access to the most anticipated titles as an international blogger you’re already at a disadvantage, so you rely on small publishing houses to grant your reviewing requests. You might try to create your own niche and review books with a similar theme (for me that would be LGBTQIAP books), but if Netgalley doesn’t even let you request such titles anymore then there’s really no win for you. Physical ARCs are a pipe dream, BooksForTrade is pretty much US-only, and you’re gonna have to buy all the books yourself after their early copies have already been reviewed by US reviewers.

Basically, US reviewers will get all the traffic that int’l bloggers’ ARCs reviews used to get, and reviewing as an international reader will be even more difficult and you’ll always be behind and it’s going to be hard to gain new followers (if you think these are petty reasons you’ve probably never tried to start your own blog).

I am rambling but I want to make two more points clear:

○ As always, marginalized reviewers (and ultimately all marginalized readers) will be hurt by Netgalley’s decision. Whether you think that literature is universal or not, the blogging community as a whole will lose massively by missing out on international readers’ point of views. 

○ Much can be said about what the American book industry can do better, but the truth is that there are some themes that many international readers won’t get to read in books published in their own countries, especially readers living in non-English speaking countries. Taking my own country as example, there is absolutely no talk about mental illness, much less books with a proper and sensitive portrayal and representation of mentally ill characters (unless you’re looking for harmful tropes and stereotypes). The same can be said for LGBTQ+ representation. If I want to see LGBTQ+ characters, I mostly have to read books published in America. I literally have friends in this community who are only able to see themselves represented because they’re able to read in English but who would be in trouble for writing or reading a book with LGBTQ+ characters in their own country. And not to say that a LGBTQ+ American reviewer isn’t also marginalized because they OBVIOUSLY are, but to get “diversity within diversity“, so to speak, you probably want to read the opinion of BOTH a white cis gay male living in San Francisco AND the opinion of a marginalized POC teen from a country where gay people are literally and legally killed by the government (and you tell me which of these two voices should be prioritized, AKA who deserves that Netgalley ARC more because it’s much less likely that they’ll be able to afford the published version of the book). These are two extreme examples and please don’t hate me if you’re a white cis gay guy living in San Francisco reading this, I hope you’ll understand my point without me having to write a bigass disclaimer.

So you see, if you think this is only about international readers being butthurt and jealous of US readers, you’re quite wrong and you don’t really understand how deep these issues go. I will also not tolerate any talk of legal issues* regarding giving eARCs to int’l bloggers, because publishers have been doing it without problems and it’s only Netgalley (which is only the platform where this puslisher/reviewer exchange happens) that is changing its policy, not the publishers, and don’t come tell me publishers have been doing something illegal all these years.                           *except if you’re like a lawyer or something

To conclude, I ask you that you raise our voices, ESPECIALLY if you’re an US blogger and especially if you have a big following. Share our posts, talk about what’s going on, use your privilege not to speak above us but to make sure Netgalley and Goodreads (or at least other reviewers) hear us.

November Wrap-Up

READ

Well, what a weird month reading-wise this has been for me! I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been a little more relaxed with reading lately (in the past few months), but that was always because I was too busy. This month however, I totally feel like I was in a legit slump because even though I had many books that I was excited for, I rarely felt like reading them. But I did feel like reading something, and maybe it was the anticipation for Fence, but I was so in the mood for comics that I started reading some and ended up reading a lot of them (well, at least a lot more than I usually do). I’ve had these comics-streaks in the past but it was mostly for manga, whereas this time it’s been more for webcomics (they’re awesome and they”re free!), specifically for lgbtq+ ones.

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As you can see, I’ve only finished two novels this month (Evenfall: Volume I by Santino Hassell and Ais, and Gemini Keeps Capricorn by Anyta Sunday), and everything else is webcomics (yes that’s right, except for Fence everything else is available to read online for free!).

You can check out my individual reviews on my goodreads, but because they’re so many and there are really a few gems among them that not many people might know about, I’m going to make a separate LGBT+ webcomic recommendation post soon, so I hope you’ll look forward to that.

CURRENTLY READING

Given what I said before, it’s no surprise that I’m in the middle of reading another LGBT+ webcomic, plus I’m also reading two novels that I’d been looking forward to for a while.

 

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff (sequel to Nevernight) came out in September I believe but I still hadn’t finished rereading book one, and because these books aren’t exactly easy to read I kept postponing it. I’m still only around 20% but I love it and I only wish I had time to binge read it within a couple of days but I sadly don’t.

And… can you believe that The Sword of Summer is my first Rick Riordan book?? I’ve been meaning to start reading his books for ages but I still hadn’t gotten around to it. I’m not very far into it because of my slump but what I did read was awesome! It’s definitely written for the younger side of YA but it’s super enjoyable by adults as well! I’m really looking forward to finishing it and continuing the series, but the way it is at the moment I’m keeping it for when I need a light read before bed or something. Maybe I’ll binge it in the holidays but we’ll see!

 

TV SHOWS

I started watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine (I guess that’s also why I had less time for reading…ahem) and I love it! Jake Peralta is a gem of a main character and I love all the other characters too (Rosa Diaz owns my heart).

I also don’t think I’ve ever seen a more diverse TV show and that’s part of the reason why I started watching it (besides all my friends telling me to…and now I know why they did!). I’m pretty sure everyone else is watching it already but if you aren’t I definitely recommend it!

I also started Stranger Things and it’s possible that by the time this post gets published (I had to schedule it because I’m away for the weekend) I might have finished it, but as of now I’m in the middle of the second season and I love it. I’m also too scared to watch it alone so that’s why I haven’t managed to finish it yet.

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I also totally forgot to mention it in my October Wrap Up but I binged Voltron: Legendary Defender and it’s now easily one of my favorite shows. I’m just carefully avoiding the fandom though because it’s a mess and I don’t want anything to do with it.

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GAMES

I installed Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp and it’s just a silly little game but it keeps me entertained for a few minutes a day and I love that you can add your IRL and online friends.

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Add me if you’re also playing!

I wish I were still playing Persona 5 but I haven’t touched it in months and I don’t know when I’ll be able to continue it so I’m a little sad about that, but there’s enough on my plate already.

 

Well this post was long but I really like including other things in my Wrap Ups whenever I can, I hope you all don’t mind!

Let me know how this month was for you and what your plans for December and for the holidays are, I’d love to hear that!

Until next time!