JJ Reads

Memo Pad: February Wrap up

Somehow I’m keeping up the amazing reading record I started last month. I thought reading 7 books in one month was a one off but I’ve actually bested it this month, even though it was shorter! I could say this had something to do with the fact I went on holiday for a week and I normally read a lot on holiday but in actual fact I only read 2 books on holiday which is the least I’ve read on a holiday in over ten years.

So why? I’m not sure. Honestly, I think I’m just getting better and better at finding books I’ll love!

I also took most of the month off of hard writing stuff. I did write a fun short story at the start of the month but other than that I’ve not had anything to do which meant I had a lot more time to read. I’m diving back into the writing stuff now. It’s nerve-racking as hell because I’m starting revisions on #ExcitingSpaceWIP and trying to make something better when you’re not sure what’s ‘better’ is scary!

Other stuff that happened this month was that holiday I mentioned. It was lovely to see the sun again! We did some house hunting, looking at property (and by me I mostly mean my parents but I did see a couple of the best ones) which was SO EXCITING and we found an amazing place BUT we haven’t sold our house yet so now that’s nerve-racking too because we don’t know that place will still be there for us.

Basically everything in my life is nerve-racking now! Is it any wonder I’ve been burying myself in books? haha

So back to the less nerve-racking subject of this month’s books starting with my stats….

Read: 8 (!!) Acquired: 7

I didn’t mean to get so many new books but at least the number of unread books I own didn’t go up! Plus 6 of them were arcs and the other one was free with a bookclub so I couldn’t resist!

Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro *****

When a police presence at their school gets stronger things go badly quickly for Moss and his friends as they are treated like criminals. The book follows Moss facing police brutality, oppression and the real dangers of a community coming together to protest for their lives. 

This book is painfully real. There was definitely a moment there when I had to put it down because it HURT and I was so ANGRY. Moss is such an amazing character, constantly having to struggle with his grief and anger and panic attacks. He is never given a chance to stop, things keep happening and hitting him but he keeps getting up and fighting to continue. I loved that this book was diverse in pretty much every way (seriously just see the list of rep at the end). None of it felt shoved in, it was simply a reflection of the world. But do not go into this book thinking it tackles a tough topic with a side of fluffy queer romance. There is no part of this book that is fluffy. There’s nothing wrong with that, in fact it adds to the heartbreaking reality that this book shows.

I do feel like the writing itself let the story down in the first half and I had to stick with it for a while but once things got moving I couldn’t put it down. It’s such a hard hitting, powerful, painful and important book.

Rep: gay, lesbian, trans F, nonbinary, black, hispanic, epilepsy, wheelchair user, anxiety disorder and panic attacks

Trigger Warnings: racism, police brutality, death,

Vicious by VE Schwab *****

This is one of those books that I wanted to read for AGES but something always held me back. But I finally felt in the mood for it and I have to be honest I didn’t really get the hype at first.

The book follows Victor getting out of jail ten years after he and his best friend did a science experiment in college that gave them extraordinary talents. The story is split over different timelines which was really interesting and I thought it was a solid read, I was definitely enjoying it but everyone said it was amazing and I thought this was going to be one of those hyped books that didn’t quite live up to it… And then that last third happened! I did not see that endgame coming. It was brilliant.

I love Victor so much and his relationship to Sydney (a little girl) and Mitch (his prison roommate) was the best thing in a very good book. I loved how Victor and Eli reacted differently to what happened and how to deal with their changed feelings. It was a great twist on the superhero story. Good vs bad when the good is actually bad and the bad is actually good. I also really loved how Victor struggled with a lack of empathy but still got to be the hero. It was different than I expected and while it a while to get amazing I would definitely recommend it and I loved Victor all the way through.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon *****

This is a dark adult sci fi set aboard a generational ship looking for a new home. Some of the things that are a given in this world set the tone for the book between the slavery based on antebellum South to the constant threat of rape and beatings. Do not go into the book without warning.

It follows Aster an autistic healer living near the bottom of the ship trying to find answers about her dead mother while learning under the surgeon and dealing with oppression and racism.

The writing took me a while to get into but once I did and everything settled down I really loved the characters. They are so vivid and flawed, and while they sometimes do bad things and make bad decisions they band together. I liked Aster, she was brave and angry and I loved her developing relationship with Theo, the way they understood each other and could talk freely with each other about themselves and how they fit together and into society (their conversation about gender was really great). But my fav character was Giselle. She was broken and scared and brave and it was heartbreaking. Overall it took me a while to warm up to it but I would say definitely stick with it because once it all gets going is a great diverse scifi with characters I loved.

Rep (some is difficult to say for certain as no labels are ever used): autism, nonbinary and/or agender (nb/ag relationship?), minor side f/f relationship, mental illness (bipolar? Ptsd?)

Trigger warnings: rape, suicide, racism, death (more specifically death of a mentally ill character)

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke *****

This was such a fun but heartfelt adventure. I loved ALL the characters so much and while there was a romance it never overtook the characters or story.

Jewish American Ellie is transported back in time to East Germany when she picks up a red balloon on a school trip. There she finds a secret magical organisation trying to help people escape.

The timeline is split between Ellie in 1988 East Berlin which is the main story and another character during the holocaust. I loved both, though there were obviously heartbreaking and horrifying moments. The characters Ellie meets in Berlin stole the show from her though! Kai and Mitzi (Romani and lesbian BFFs) who become like family to her and Kai’s little sister Sabina who is autistic. They were so awesome. I wanted to be friends with them! But then there’s the magic, time travelling red balloons? People turning invisible and flying over the Berlin Wall to safety. An underground workshop full of flying origami birds. Dead bodies showing up in the street. The book was fast paced, emotional and full of amazing characters. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series although I know it’s set around new characters.

Rep: jewish, Romani, lesbian, autism

Trigger warnings: nazis, holocaust, death,

Internment by Samira Ahmed *****

(free ebook in exchange for an honest review)

An intense, nerve-racking and all too possible YA contemporary. Set in the very near future when the US borders are closed, a Muslim ban is in effect, curfews are set and books with undesirable messages and by undesirable authors are burned. Muslims are sent to Internment camps that have been set up to imprison them.

The thing this book does best is show how scarily close this is to really happening. The weight of history repeating and the ever present memory of the Japanese Americans that were interned during ww2 is constantly in the background. But instead of trying to capture the unimaginably large scale on which it happened the story focuses on Layla who is caught up in the middle. Trapped between wanting back her old life with her boyfriend and truly understanding the danger she now lives in with her parents at the camp and fighting for her freedom. I loved the very real and complicated relationships that were shown  forming and struggling. I did feel like the edges of the story were a little shallow and undeveloped (for example. David, the boyfriend felt irrelevant in parts) but the story as a whole was a terrifying reality and I couldn’t put it down.

Rep: muslim, poc, Jewish, also minor characters were queer.

Empire of Light by Alex Harrow *****

(free ebook in exchange for an honest review)

Super queer, fast, action packed science fantasy. Sometimes the characters lack of forethought/communication annoyed me, the writing could have actually benefited from slowing down a bit to add some more depth but I liked the characters and needed to find out what happened next. It’s perfect for people looking for a more actiony and exciting adult sci fi.

Rep: demisexual gay MC, bi and gay love interests. Nonbinary and lesbian minor characters.

Trigger warnings are here

Summer Bird Blue by Akemi Dawn Bowman *****

(free ebook in exchange for honest review)

The setting in this YA contemporary is so summery and warm, It’s perfect for a holiday read but at the same time it handles tough topics as Rumi deals with grief and loneliness. Rumi is such a angry and impulsive character who is dealing with so much. I loved all of the characters she meets along the way, from the Aunt who is trying to be there for her, to her old grumpy next door neighbour who lets her hang around, to the group of friends she forms. They are all different and important, At the same time as the main story line she is also figuring out parts of her identify and I have to say, as much as I liked the main storyline, the aro/ace rep is amazing. She’s questioning her experiences and feelings and trying to find herself without trying to fill the boxes she’s supposed to fit in. I liked the story but I’d honestly rec this book to anyone who wants to read more aro/ace rep.

Rep: lots of the characters are poc and biracial. MC is aro/ace. There’s a very minor side f/f relationship too.

The Bird King by G Willow Wilson ****

This is not you’re average action packed adventure instead it’s a slower paced literary YA historical fantasy that reminded me in tone of The Sin Eaters Daughter by Marissa Salisbury.

Set in Granada in the 1400’s during the reign of the last Sultan before the Christian rule of Spain took over. It follows Fatima, the last Concubine to the Sultan. When a delegation for the new monarchy arrives she learns that her best friend Hassan is in danger for his gift of sorcery and with the help of a jinn they must escape the inquisition.

First off I thought the world was so rich and beautifully described but at the same time it never became pages of endless description like historical or slower paced fantasy some times can. It was woven in amongst the adventure and the light sprinkling of magic. And while I loved the world and the setting the best thing about this book for me was the friendship between Fatima and Hassan. It is so rare, TOO RARE, to find books the centre m/f friendships and these two were brilliant. Hassan loves drawing his maps that magically join real places together and quietly meeting up with men as the palaces worst kept secret. Fatima is hot-headead but soft from never having left the palace. She makes mistakes but cares so much. And they unabashedly state how much they love each other. No romo.

The first 3/4 of the book was easily five stars unfortunately the ending just lost me. The setting changed and I felt the story became a bit too wishywashy and dreamlike for what was a very solid story before. Things definitely fell apart for me but I’m still really glad I read it for the setting and the friendship.

Trigger warnings: Fatima is a Concubine slave so rape, and there’s the inquisition so torture.

Rep: Hassan is Muslim and gay, side characters are Muslim too.

I think my favourite book this month was The Girl with the Red Balloon but honestly I enjoyed everything I read this month. What about you? If you’ve read or want to read any of these I would love to know what you think. And what’s your favourite book of the month?

I’ll be doing much more editing on my story next month so the amount of books I read should go down (hopefully!) which means shorter wrap ups!

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2 thoughts on “Memo Pad: February Wrap up”

  1. Looks like you had a lovely reading month! I feel like I’m getting better and better at finding books I’ll love too and it’s doing wonders for my reading. Both in terms of how much I read and my star ratings, it’s the best. The Bird King sounds wonderful and right up my street! Adding it to my TBR! 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s so good being able to go from book you like to book you like! And I hope you like the bird king too!


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