I am *very* aware that this is a looooong video, so I will completely understand if you skip watching it! FYI, I’ve added timecodes in the video description so you can skip to particular books if you want! 😊
Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to the wrap up of books I read in both June and July. I’m going to just get right into it.
In the first week of June, we had the Queer Lit Readathon, and I read six books for that. I’ll link the wrap up for that, and the books I read are: Cyborg Detective, Bingo Love, This Is What It Feels Like, Wicked As You Wish, Running With Lions, and Winning Marriage. All of the books I read this month were black, queer, or both. It just so happened that several of my picks for the readathon were both!
After the readathon, I read only three books. In part because I wasn’t very motivated to, and in part because I was reading a *lot* of other things, such as articles, posts on Twitter and Instagram, and so on about all of the protests and such. This is still an important topic, and I will be leaving a few links of organizations you can support and resources.
The first book I read after the readathon was The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin. I was so happy when my library request came in for this, because the timing was really good! Okay. We have no choice but to love Jemisin, everything I’ve read of hers I have loved. In this book, cities have souls. Some are ancient and mythical, and some are young and boisterous like children. New York City, though, doesn’t have just one soul. She has six, and the five boroughs must work together to save the sixth, who is the representation of New York as a whole. They must save him from the Enemy, who is determined to snuff out any city that dares put its weight on the universe. Honestly, so much goes on in this story, I kind of don’t want to tell you any more than that. If you’ve ever read any of NK Jemisin’s work, you’ll most likely love this as well. It’s almost a blend of fantasy and science fiction. The boroughs are represented by people who are the most true representation of the borough they’re from. The Bronx is a queer Lenape director of an art center, Brooklyn is a former rap star become city councilwoman, Queens is an immigrant Tamil mathematician here on a visa, Manhattan is a multiracial grad student with a missing past, Staten Island is a sheltered Irish-American daughter of an abusive cop, and New York is a young, skinny, queer Black boy living on the streets. The way New York City is described in this book, both the real city and the boroughs when seen in the other dimension, is just gorgeous. This is definitely a love letter to NYC, and Jemisin says that it’s her homage to the city. I have never been to NYC, so I can’t speak to that, but I felt like I really got a feel for the city from it. This really is in your face about racism, sexism, homophobia, and fighting against that. I can’t recommend this more. I’ll leave a link to Adri’s more in-depth review of this if you want to know more about the story.
Next, I read Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. After a messy break up from her white boyfriend, 25-year-old Jamaican British Queenie is dealing with the aftermath. While working at a national newspaper, she’s also finding comfort in all the wrong places. Meeting up with men who are the worst people to affirm her self-worth, occupying her time when she really should be focusing on work. She keeps making questionable decision after decision, frustrating her friends and making it difficult for them to keep supporting her through a tough time. This book does a lot, and I’m a little mixed on it. On one hand, I enjoyed the British humor and most of her friends and their relationships. That was one of my favorite parts of the book, in how it was done and their banter. On the other, Queenie’s attitude and decisions kind of grated on me. I understand that she has a lot of mental health struggles and trauma, but I’m not sure that completely explains all of her choices. But again, the author never makes it seem like it’s a good thing. It’s very clear that she’s just dealing with her anxiety the only way she thinks she can. This book really goes to dark places, with the unprotected sex with multiple men, severe anxiety, racism from several fronts, cultural stigma of therapy, and a lot more. So I want to be clear that even though this book is often pitched as a comedy or similar to Bridget Jones which I haven’t seen, it is not. Yes, there’s moments of humor here and there, but as a whole, I would not call it a comedy. Immediately after reading, it was a 4 star because I read it very quickly in a couple of sittings. But after letting it process, I knocked off one star because unfortunately, there are quite a lot of Black woman stereotypes in this. I also felt there was a way to write this so that it touches on all of these hard topics, without relying on stereotypes, and all of the really, really poor decision making. There was a lot of kind of glancing at racism, but not really exploring it further. Anyway, I’ve said enough as a white person. I looked at Goodreads reviews, specifically those from Black women, and some are not here for it. But there are also some who loved it, and really related to it. So take that how you will. Would I recommend this? Maybe. Just go into this keeping what I said in mind.
The last book in June I read was How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi. He talks about the concept of antiracism and how he defines it, asking us to think about what an antiracist society would look like, what our role would be in it. Kendi brings together history, ethics, law, and science along with his personal journey as a Black man awakening to antiracism. I…have really mixed feelings about this book. I appreciate what Kendi is trying to do, and I did learn quite a bit of history from this that I didn’t know about. Kendi argues that you are either racist or antiracist – there’s no real in-between, if you’re passively non-racist, you perpetuate racism by allowing it to continue. He applies this concept to several things throughout the book. However. This book is clearly written for white people. Which is kind of the point, but there it is. Some of the things he discusses are things that have already been talked about and already have terms for them, but he coins his own words. He says that Black people can be racist, which… No, there’s a different term for that. Kendi barely touches on queerness, but when he does, he uses Black queer women for his own learning, reflection on his own “racist,” homophobic, and sexist behavior. He uses stereotypes about Black women, reinforcing those negative stereotypes. I felt queasy reading those parts of the book, and couldn’t explain why until I saw a Twitter thread talking about the harms enabled by this book—which I used just now—and I strongly recommend you read the thread. I also couldn’t figure out what this book was trying to be – a memoir, self-help, textbook, storytelling? All of that? *shrugs* I think I’m going to just end here, and let you decide if you want to read this for yourself.
Now for the July books! First up is an ARC that’s now out, Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall. Luc O’Donnell is semi-famous—not by choice. Both of his parents are former rock stars, his father hasn’t been in his life at all since he was little. Luc has been appearing in tabloids and the such, which isn’t much of an issue… Until donors to the charity he works at start to pull out their money because of his “gay lifestyle,” and Luc has to fix his image or lose his job. Desperate, he turns to his friends and ends up making a decision he doesn’t particularly like. He goes on a date with Oliver Blackwood, who is the perfect person to buff Luc’s image. They don’t like each other, but agree to fake date for a while since they both need one for a big event. Of course, the line between fake and real starts to blur, and there’s FEELINGS! I LOVED THIS! I’ve seen quite a few people compare this to Red, White & Royal Blue, and I can see why, but I feel like they’re also completely different. To start, in BM only one of them is famous, and semi-famous at that, while in RWRB, they’re both world-famous. (Note: This is something I didn’t say in the video, but wanted to include here – To use Hank Green’s tiers of fame, Luc is tier 2, Notoriety, and Oliver isn’t even in the tiers. For both of the boys in RWRB, they’re tier 4, True Fame.) Also, I wonder if people are making this connection a lot because this is set in England? Moving on, I just said it’s set in England. With that, this book has a TON of British humor, and I laughed and smiled a lot while reading this! I actually read this in one sitting, and was up until around 4AM to finish it, I was enjoying it that much. Now, I don’t want to mislead you and make you think this is all sappy and happy, because it’s not. That’s another difference between this and RWRB. Both of the men in BM have a lot of emotional baggage, and Luc is pretty messed up for various reasons. He constantly puts his foot in his mouth, is a little self-destructive, and very snarky as a defense mechanism. Buuuuut! This book is SO good with all of the layers, having growth for both of them, showing them learning how to work through things rather than just giving up. Luc learns how to manage his destructive behaviors, and becomes a better person for it while still acknowledging he’ll probably still mess up. I really appreciated how fleshed out the supporting characters were. I could see their personalities, and they didn’t feel like they were filler just for Luc and Oliver to exist. There are several queer supporting characters, and one of them is a Muslim woman. Last thing, the pacing. Mostly, it’s good! But sometimes it felt like it was dragging on sliiiightly too long, a few paragraphs weren’t really necessary, and I wasn’t completely satisfied with the ending. It’s very open-ended, so if that bothers you, well. I don’t know what to tell you. Overall, I seriously *loved* this book and would definitely recommend it to anyone who loves a queer fake-to-love dating trope, especially because this one has its own little twist on it.
Another ARC that released at the end of June, Party of Two by Jasmine Guillory. Olivia Monroe just moved to LA to start her own law firm with a good friend of hers, and anything but work is far from her mind, especially dating. While in transition at a hotel, she strikes up a conversation with a gorgeous man at the hotel’s bar, and they flirt the whole night. Only after separating for the night does she discover that the man is none other than junior senator of California, Max Powell. A while later, she gets a cake delivered to her law office, and while she doesn’t really want to date a politician, she can’t just outright say no to that. They go on a few dates, keeping everything secret due to Max’s high-profile job. Olivia is happy to learn that Max is not at all like the privileged white politician she imagined him to be. They find their rhythm and after a while, they agree to go public. They try to prepare for the spotlight that comes with it, but Olivia gets a lot of not quite desirable attention. She has to decide if it’s worth it for Max, or if she can’t handle the heat. This is the second Guillory book I’ve read, the first being The Wedding Date. They’re all interconnected, but can stand alone, which I appreciate. The characters are well-developed, and I really appreciate that Guillory seems to have a habit of writing them like real adults that communicate their feelings and work at relationships. The romances don’t feel like they’re some fantasy ideal, where everything is perfect and nothing is hard. Especially in this one, they have to have these conversations due to Max’s job. I liked that Olivia is very much her own person with ideas and goals, and doesn’t give that up just to go after Max. I would’ve loved to see more of her side though, looking at when the book talks about their jobs. It was a little more detailed on Max’s side, and I would have liked to see more of the clients and jobs that Olivia takes on. These characters are so easy to like, and you’ll speed through this, no problem. If it wasn’t clear, Olivia is Black and I did mention that Max is white. They have some conversations about race and how that can play into their interactions, but I felt like it came up only for causing problems. The climax or the breaking point was a little sudden, there wasn’t any–or maybe enough–foreshadowing or little things being built in to have that point make sense. It would’ve been good to see a bit more of that woven in the story. Sometimes, the domestic side of things got a little repetitive, and I didn’t feel that was necessary to have. Since they’re seeing each other so little, I would’ve liked to see more variety in what they did while together. But that was pretty minor, and I very much enjoyed this. Good warning: there is so. much. food. Beautiful and plentiful descriptions of food is a thing in the Guillory books that I’ve read, so be aware of that! All in all, I enjoyed this and would recommend it if you’ve read any of her other books and liked them. Even if you haven’t, if you like romance that isn’t completely unrealistic, this is a good one.
Then I finally finished a book I intended to finish for a video, but that got dropped so I took my time. The book is Love Wins: The Lovers and Lawyers Who Fought the Landmark Case for Marriage Equality by Debbie Cenziper and Jim Obergefell. That is a very long subtitle! If you recall, I read another book about the fight for equal marriage in June, Winning Marriage by Marc Solomon. These two books are about the same thing, but while Winning Marriage focuses on the political aspect and nation-wide, Love Wins focuses more on the people who were involved in the court cases, starting with Jim Obergefell and John Arthur who were the plaintiffs in one of the most important equal rights cases in US history. I think that sums up the book fairly well, because there’s so many details I could cover but then I’d be going on forever! I did really enjoy this much more personal look at the fight, and it’s very emotional at times. Again, if you like history, you’ll enjoy this. Just know that this is a narrative nonfiction, which I wasn’t expecting when I opened this, but it did the job.
Next was a library hold I’d had for a while, The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune. This has strong introvert vibes! Forty-year-old Linus Baker works at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth as a Case Worker, making sure the children in the government orphanages are doing well and are taken care of properly. One day, he’s summoned by Extremely Upper Management and sent to Marsyas Island, where six children considered to be very dangerous live. He’s also tasked with checking on their caretaker, Arthur Parnassus, who is very enigmatic and charming. His job is to decide if this orphanage is a safe place or if these children will burn down the world. I’m not giving a lot of detail, because that’s part of the magic of this book. I LOVED this. This also crushed me. It’s a very fluffy and intense book about found family in unexpected places. It starts out seemingly dull and slow, but that’s exactly the point. Keep reading, and it will become very vivid, full of magic and love. The kind of love families have, queer love, love for all who are different. This was a library ebook, but I might just have to buy a hard copy for myself. I mean, that cover is gorgeous! And this just gave me all the feels.
A NetGalley ARC is next, How to They/Them: A Visual Guide to Nonbinary Pronouns and the World of Gender Fluidity by Stuart Getty. It gives an easy to follow guide for using they/them pronouns, like it says in the title. This book does that, but it also talks about gender expression, the freedom to identify how you want, all along with funny visuals. I want to be clear on that part, this is not a graphic novel. Images are accompanied with blocks of text. (Similar to Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker and Julia Scheele.) Getty is genderqueer and uses they/them personally. My initial rating was a three out of five stars for a few reasons, but I later changed it to a four. One was just personal, I didn’t really learn anything but then after thinking about it, I realized that’s not a fair rating because this is a subject I know well. Obviously, since I use they pronouns, so I already have this knowledge. Another was that when I finished, I was a little frustrated and disappointed because the formatting is HORRIBLE. I understand that this is an ARC, so things aren’t final yet. It’s also an ebook, and that can sometimes contribute to formatting problems, especially when there are a lot of images throughout the text. I could also tell some of the unusual formatting was intentional, which is fine! I just struggled to separate what was intentional and what wasn’t, and it was very frustrating to follow the text sometimes. I’m sure the final version will look better than the copy I read, and I would definitely recommend this to anyone who is wanting to understand they/them pronouns more. I think I might be ordering a copy of the final edition so I can see for myself, and so I can share with people. While we’re still on this book, I’m going to also recommend A Quick & Easy Guide to They/Them Pronouns by Archie Bongiovanni and Tristan Jimerson. That one is fully graphic, no blocks of text. Okay, moving on now!
The next book I read was Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. Felix Love just wants to be loved and love, and doesn’t understand why it seems so easy for everyone else. He worries that he’s one marginalization too many—Black, queer, and trans—to ever truly be happy. Felix is going to a summer program for artists, focusing in acrylics. One day, when he walks into school, he’s confronted with a gallery of pictures of him before transition along with his deadname. (Note: The deadname is never once said in this book.) Shortly after, he starts getting transphobic messages from an anonymous Instagram account. Felix quickly suspects it’s a specific person, and comes up with a plan for revenge. It doesn’t go quite the way he expected, but he also starts a journey of self-discovery that redefines how he sees himself. This is a very layered story touching on identity, love, confronting transphobia and bullying. I have to admit, I was very nervous going into this. I know there’s a lot of rave reviews and a lot of hype around this book. I am SO relieved that it’s all true. I absolutely loved all the Black queer magic that Kacen got into this book! I was nervous, because I’ve read another book of theirs that was very hyped and I ended up being VERY disappointed by it for multiple reasons. That book is This Is Kind of an Epic Love Story, which I plan to make a more in-depth review about. Hopefully soon, but we’ll see. I’m just really happy that Felix turned out to be an amazing book, and I know that Jesse from Bowties and Books LOVED this. I can’t recall which video they talked about it in, but if I figure it out, I’ll link it. You should check them out regardless, they’re pretty great! And they caption!
The final book I read in July is Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon. Jordan Collins has a passion for romance novels, and founded the Meet Cute Club, which exclusively reads romance. He worries about the club having to end, with its members slowly leaving. He also doesn’t want to deal with the new local bookstore employee, who made fun of him for reading things meant for grandmas, showing up and asking to join the club. But Jordan realizes that even if Rex Bailey is very handsome and obnoxious, he can’t say no to new members if he wants the club to survive. Jordan discovers that Rex might not actually be all that bad as they work together to save the club. I really, really enjoyed this! Sure, it’s very cheesy at times, but it also will make you feel things. It’s just a wonderful fluffy romance centered around books, what more could you want? I do wish that it was a little longer, it felt like it wrapped up too quickly. And it had a really interesting way of changing up point of view in the middle of chapters, I’m not sure how I feel about that. I was thrown the first time it happened, but after that it wasn’t too bad, because I was more aware and paying attention for the changes. I would have loved to see more interactions between Jordan and Rex outside of the club, just more of them talking. But honestly? I would absolutely recommend this for anyone who wants to read a queer romance between two book loving nerds.
At last. I am finished! If you watched all the way to the end, thank you! I hope you enjoyed this wrap up, and hopefully the next one won’t be as long. Bye!
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