Mini ARC reviews: That Can Be Arranged + How We Fight white Supremacy

Today I offer you two mini reviews that I feel are too short to share on their own. Two different genres and formats but I think they have something in common — being written by POC and talking about experiences that aren’t usually talked about in media.

mini reviews

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Summary: Chaperones, suitors, and arranged marriages aren’t only reserved for the heroines of a Jane Austen novel. They’re just another walk in the park for this leading lady, who is on a mission to find her leading lad. From the brilliant comics Yes, I’m Hot in This, Huda Fahmy tells the hilarious story of how she met and married her husband. Navigating mismatched suitors, gossiping aunties, and societal expectations for Muslim women, That Can Be Arranged deftly and hilariously reveals to readers what it can be like to find a husband as an observant Muslim woman in the twenty-first century.

So relevant in today’s evolving cultural climate, Fahmy’s story offers a perceptive and personal glimpse into the sometimes sticky but ultimately rewarding balance of independent choice and tradition.

Release date: March, 10th

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★★★★✩

I had such a fun time reading this! It’s a very quick read but it made me laugh out loud a few times (I was drinking tea at the moment and I narrowly avoided one or two cartoon-style spit-your-tea-laughing moments) and it was also a fun way to open my eyes to a world I didn’t know much about, the world of Muslim dating courtship and general pre-marriage shenanigans.

I didn’t know Huda before but I think she did a wonderful job at opening up about her life in a humorous and honest way, and regardless of whether you come from a similar background or from a completely different one, it’s very easy to relate to her. I was so happy for her when she understood her worth and didn’t settle for something that would’ve made her unhappy, and when she found her husband.

I really recommend this if you’re interested in the topic and I encourage you to go read reviews by Muslim reviewers rather than mine.

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I was sent this book as an advance listening copy via libro.fm for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Summary: This celebration of Black resistance, from protests to art to sermons to joy, offers a blueprint for the fight for freedom and justice-and ideas for how each of us can contribute

Many of us are facing unprecedented attacks on our democracy, our privacy, and our hard-won civil rights. If you’re Black in the US, this is not new. As Colorlines editors Akiba Solomon and Kenrya Rankin show, Black Americans subvert and resist life-threatening forces as a matter of course. In these pages, leading organizers, artists, journalists, comedians, athletes, and filmmakers offer wisdom on how they fight White supremacy. It’s a must-read for anyone new to resistance work, and for the next generation of leaders building a better future.

Featuring contributions from:

Ta-Nehisi Coates
Tarana Burke
Harry Belafonte
adrienne maree brown
Alicia Garza
Patrisse Khan-Cullors
Reverend Dr. Valerie Bridgeman
Kiese Laymon
Jamilah Lemieux
Robin DG Kelley
Damon Young
Michael Arceneaux

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★★★★✩

I want to start this with the premise that I am white and I am an European who’s always lived in Europe. What I know about racial dynamics in the US comes from books like The Hate U Give, the news and social media. But I had never read a non-fiction book specifically about this specific topic so I was very interested when this book was in the January ALCs by libro.fm.

I found this book very well done. It’s a collection of not only essays but also interviews, poems, songs and reflections by Black people of different backgrounds, and they are collected into different sections. As a reviewer it would be impossible to rate each individual contribution, especially only owning an audiobook copy where I couldn’t take notes or bookmark things. And to be honest I feel like, with a book like this, to talk about each essay would be to miss the point entirely.

This is an important book because it makes it clear from the start that, while certainly being perfectly readable and enjoyable to someone who, like me, is white and doesn’t live in the US, is primarily targeted at Black people. There were some essays where I lacked some or all context to fully be able to understand, but that’s okay. If you’re white, no matter if you live in the US or not, do yourself a favor and don’t expect this to be written for you. Sit back, listen or read and learn, because there’s so, so much to learn from this book. And then give this book to your Black friends, to your white friends who are willing to listen to Black voices without “…but!” and without wanting to throw in their two cents. This is not about you.

ARC Mini-Review: The Avant-Guards by Carly Usdin & Noah Hayes // F/F basketball comic? F/F basketball comic!

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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When Charlie transfers to the Georgia O’Keeffe College of Arts and Subtle Dramatics, she struggles to find her feet, but winds up exactly where she belongs…in the school’s (terrible) basketball team.

As a transfer student to the Georgia O’Keeffe College for Arts and Subtle Dramatics, former sports star Charlie is struggling to find her classes, her dorm, and her place amongst a student body full of artists who seem to know exactly where they’re going. When the school’s barely-a-basketball-team unexpectedly attempts to recruit her, Charlie’s adamant that she’s left that life behind…until she’s won over by the charming team captain, Liv, and the ragtag crew she’s managed to assemble. And while Charlie may have left cut-throat competition in in the dust, sinking these hoops may be exactly what she needs to see the person she truly wants to be.

From Carly Usdin (Heavy Vinyl) and artist Noah Hayes (Wet Hot American Summer, Goldie Vance) comes an ensemble comedy series that understands that it’s the person you are off the court that matters most.

Release date: September 3rd

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★★★★✩

This was a nice comic about a newly formed and diverse basketball team with a cute developing f/f romance. I really like the art and it made the story easy and relaxing to follow. There’s also not a lot of basketball talk and the focus is more on the characters and friendships, at least so far, which I personally really liked (confession: I kind of…don’t like basketball lmao).

If I have the chance I’m going to read the next volume whenever it comes out and if you like light-hearted queer comics that display a variety of genders, races and sexualities (and if you like sport comics) this is definitely something you need to check out!

ARC Mini-Review: How to be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Everyone on campus knows Remy Cameron. He’s the out-and-gay, super-likable guy that people admire for his confidence. The only person who may not know Remy that well is Remy himself. So when he is assigned to write an essay describing himself, he goes on a journey to reconcile the labels that people have attached to him, and get to know the real Remy Cameron.

Release date: September 10th

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★★★.75✩✩

This book follows Remy, an out and proud gay teen, in his quest to find out who he is. I feel like the question “who am I really?” is something that everybody has asked themselves before, and this can be especially hard to answer when you are a marginalized person and you need to understand how your marginalizations intersect.

Personally I felt like the writing improved from the author’s debut and the book’s themes were also stronger. It was still a little awkward at times but I could overlook that in favor of the characters and the themes.

Overall I feel like this is an important book for all teens and I would highly recommend it if “who am I?” has ever crossed your mind.

TWs (taken from the end of the book): discussions of racism, homophobia, past minor characters’ death, and alcoholism, as well as depictions of homophobic bullying, and a scene involving brief sexual harassment/racial fetishism

ARC Review: The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Rinn has grown up with the Tea Dragons that inhabit their village, but stumbling across a real dragon turns out to be a different matter entirely! Aedhan is a young dragon who was appointed to protect the village but fell asleep in the forest eighty years ago. With the aid of Rinn’s adventuring uncle Erik and his partner Hesekiel, they investigate the mystery of his enchanted sleep, but Rinn’s real challenge is to help Aedhan come to terms with feeling that he cannot get back the time he has lost.

Release date: September 17th

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★★★★

What an utterly delightful story, and what a gift to the world is Katie O’Neill!

The Tea Dragon Festival is a companion-prequel to The Tea Dragon Society and it follows Rinn (they/them), who is an aspiring cook, and a Dragon (not a small tea dragon!) who’s been asleep for too long. We also see a young Erik and Hesekiel in their bounty hunters days and they’re just as cute as you might imagine if you’ve read TTDS. There’s also a side character who uses Sign Language and the whole village has learned SL because of her and it’s like, no big deal to them and it was so endearing to see.

As always the author has created a rich and inclusive world that radiates the positivity we so desperately need sometimes with escapism nowadays. This is both great for a younger audience and for everyone else who’s just looking to read a wonderful diverse story and look at seriously cute art. I can’t recommend it enough!

ARC Review: Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

Release date: July 30th

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★★★✩

An interesting worldbuilding and a perfect story for fans of The Dragon Prince, which was ultimately just a little too forgettable for me.

This book starts with a really great premise, a QPOC girl who decides to go save her girlfriend and undertakes a journey in a very interesting fantasy world with dragons that can bond to humans.

I thought the execution was okay for a debut, but if you’ve read a lot of fantasy books this will read a little too generic. The protagonist, Maren, is on a deadline to save her girlfriend, and yet we conveniently forget about the time issue for the time that it takes Maren to learn useful skills and important bits of worldbuilding and forge new friendships and relationships. Then time is suddenly relevant again and everything has to move forward rather fast. So, overall the pacing doesn’t usually bother me and it didn’t here, but it was definitely something I noticed. Some things were also very predictable, and all the foreshadowing was very obviously foreshadowing from the moment you read it and not 100 pages later when it actually became relevant. This is all just nitpicking and it’s just something you notice if you’ve read a lot of books, like I said.

Probably my favorite part of the whole book was the dragon egg that reminded me so much of The Dragon Prince, one of my favorite shows. It was really cute.

Maren is a bi girl in an already established relationship with a girl, that will be the reason for her whole quest. And here comes the part of this review that I dread to write, because it’s impossible for me not to mention it but as a bi girl I am aware of all the nuance in this. Of course, there’s a boy and Maren is like, immediately attracted to him. While still in a relationship with Kaia, her girlfriend. Think of it as you like, I personally was annoyed at this aspect of the story. There are other ways to show bisexual attraction without involving actual emotional cheating (and I use this term because it was more than just, “oh he’s so hot.”). Does it happen IRL? Of course. But maybe it’s not great in general and especially when the bisexual character is the one doing it. In any case I was mostly able to overlook it and pin it to the writer’s inexperience, I just want to warn other bisexual readers that this is something that happens.

So, would I recommend this book? I think the worldbuilding was interesting and it has a lot of potential for the rest of the series, if you can overlook some of the more debut-y aspects. I’m going to keep an eye out for the next installment if I remember, but even just a few weeks after reading it I don’t remember enough about this to really crave the sequel.

ARC Review: The Queen of Rhodia (Tales of Inthya #3) by Effie Calvin

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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It has been sixteen months since Princess Esofi arrived in Ieflaria, and eight since her marriage to Crown Princess Adale. The princesses have a peaceful life together, preparing to become co-regents and raising their baby dragon, Carinth.

Their peace is shattered when Esofi’s mother, Queen Gaelle of Rhodia, arrives in Birsgen. She has heard about Carinth and believes that she deserves custody of him due to her greater devotion to Talcia, Goddess of Magic.

Adale and Esofi have no intention of giving up their son, but Gaelle is impossible to reason with—and there’s no telling what lengths she’ll go to in order to get what she wants.

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★★★★.5✩

I was so proud to see that the few minor issues I had with the first installment of this series were completely absent here. Not to brag but I KNEW IT and I love seeing that I was right about the writer’s potential.

So, our main characters Esofi and Adale got married and are now in an established relationship and dealing with their dragon son and with the political repercussions of The Things That Happened in book one. Of course Esofi’s mother, who is a fucking abusive bitch, enters the picture and stirs trouble. Plot happens, they’re still gay, the MCs from book two have cameos and they’re also gay, everything’s good, the end.

In all seriousness, I loved how this book dealt with pretty much everything. I knew it was going to be tough to read because of the abuse that Esofi went through her whole life and because she was forced to deal with her mother again. I wouldn’t say that any of that particular plot line was, strictly speaking, pleasant to read, and it didn’t offer me personallyany sort of closure because of the particular abuse dynamics here, but I know it will help another victim of abuse out there, and I’m so glad.

I don’t usually care for established relationship conflict in most cases, but here I thought it was done so well and so delicately. I’m really grateful to Effie Calvin for giving this couple their well-deserved sequel and exploring things we usually don’t get to see in get-together romances.

I don’t know what else to say except that I loved this and that I’m going to pick up book two as soon as I can (yes, I know, I suck, but in my defense this was perfectly understandable without having read book 2 since it followed the couple from book one, okay).

ARC Mini-review: Pomegranate Seeds by Melissa Jennings

I was sent this book by the author as an advanced copy for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: A collection of 6 poems about finding out how much the heart can take and where it truly belongs. The poetry collection also explores the author’s personal journey towards realising that they are polyamorous.

This micro-chapbook discusses polyamphobia, internalised polyamphobia, sexual imagery, and emotional self-harm.

Release date: June 21st

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★★★★.5✩

This short poetry book features poems about the author’s experience being polyamorous.

Like with all personal poems, it’s not easy to talk about them if you don’t share the same life experiences or identity, but even without being able to relate to them on a personal level, and even as someone who doesn’t read much poetry lately (and generally doesn’t have much experience reading poetry in English), I loved the imagery used and I could really feel the author’s feelings coming to life on page.

Short review for a short book, but I think polyam people will be able to find a piece of themselves here more than I could, and everyone else will be able to enjoy (and discover, if this is your first work by Melissa Jennings) the author’s vivid style.