JJ Reads

Memo Pad: April Wrap-up

I know I keep saying that this ridiculous run I’m on with my reading challenge is going to end soon but this month has been another scarily awesome month for books. Not only did I read the eight books I’ve been averaging a month so far this year but I actually ended up reading….13? Granted not all of them were novels but wow.

One of the things that definitely bumped that number up was taking part in the awesome A-spec April readathon in the first two weeks of the month. It was all about reading books with asexual and aromantic characters and there are so many amazing books that even a mood reader like me had plenty to pick from. I did a wrap up post with all my reviews from it here. But I’ll also list them with my ratings below.

April has also been Autism Acceptance Month. Two of the books I read for the A-spec readathon had autistic characters but I also read Testing Pandora which is a prequel to one of my all time favourite books that has an autistic MC. I also read two non fiction books about autism. I don’t normally mention non fiction books on the blog but as it’s the month for it I’ll review them below.

Away from reading…. We’ve accepted an offer on the house! And everyone’s fingers are crossed that it goes through okay. Right now we’re waiting for everything to get sorted.

Writing wise, I finished editing my short story and I’ve managed to get two thirds the way through my YA Scifi novel. It’s been hard going the last couple of weeks. Lots of doubts and meltdowns about it but I’m still on plan to have this edit done before my birthday in June.

Onto the books for this month!

Read: 13 (6 novels, 1 novella, 4 short stories, & 2 non-fiction books)

A-spec April Books:

Novels:

(Links to my goodreads reviews)

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand (YA contemporary fantasy) *****

Seven Ways we Lie by Riley Redgate (YA contemporary) *****

The Spy with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (YA Historical Fantasy) *****

Beneath the Citadel by Destiny Soria (YA Fantasy) *****

Short Stories:

Help Wanted by J Emery (NA contemporary fantasy) *****

The Queen of Cups by Ren Basel (Fantasy) *****

Come Drink with Me by Michelle Kan (Historical Fantasy) *****

The Faerie Godmother’s Apprentice Wore Green by Nicky Kyle (Fantasy) *****

Reviews:

Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron***** (Review Copy)

An engrossing contemporary take on Peter Pan set in Edinburgh with a diverse cast and a teen struggling to find his place in a hard world.

Brody hates his life, how he’s always compared to his smart older brother. How they never have enough money. How the other kids on the estate tease him and call him fairy. But then Nico invites him to Everland and brody finds a place he prefers to the real world.

Brody is such a strong but vulnerable character. He’s angry at his situation but at the same time he knows it’s not his families fault and he struggles with it so much. Trying to be a good kid and do his best but feeling like he doesn’t belong and isn’t allowed to be his true self. I loved the fact that Everland became a place to go for so many people like him just like Wendy and the lost boys in the original. The cast of characters and friends that Brody meets is diverse – Everland has doors all over the world – but it was the people around him in the real world that really made this book for me.

I loved the disability rep of Brody’s dad and how Brody thinks about him. It’s obvious that the author has either done her homework or has first hand experience with the benefits system in the UK. The second Brody;s mum is mentioned as having a brown envelope (Also known as the brown envelope of doom to us fellow disabled) my heart sunk. I think so much of the strength of this story is in the little things. There’s so many moments that are subtly mentioned that make the story feel true. From the hints about Brody’s brother, or Brody’s best friend or that envelope I mentioned.

I loved how the idea of Everland was placed on such a modern contemporary setting. But more than that, in a run down, struggling part of Edinburgh that felt gritty and real and from the authors own experiences of the city.

For me this is a heartbreaking and yet hopeful book at the same time in exactly the same way as Peter Pan (which is one of my favourite books) and I love how the setting brought a new twist to the tale.

Rep: gay MC, m/m, disability rep (agoraphobia, panic attacks and a wheelchair user), lots of the side characters are poc and queer.

Trigger warnings: homophobia, ableism, eating disorder

Testing Pandora (Xandri Corelel #0) by Kaia Sonderby *****

This is a prequel to Faliure to Communicate which is one of my favourite books ever. The adult scifi series follows Xandri, one of the last autistics alive, as she leads a team of xenoliasons aboard a spaceship that initiates first contact with new species. I won’t give too much away but to say this is a novella about how she became a member of the team and joined the crew in the first place. I loved it just as much as the first novel and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. If you are a fan of more political space going scifi I would definitely recommend it. But I’d also recommend it to anyone who wants to read a realistic portrayal of an autistic woman going on an adventure!

Rep: Female Autistic MC

The Binding by Bridget Collins***** (Review Copy)

A slow build fantasy in a quasi- historical setting. The Binding is an atmospheric and creeping story. The tone of the book reminded me a lot of Witchmark by CL Polk. It has the same feeling to the m/m romance but instead of large magical plot it’s focused much more intimately on Emmett. A young man who has to leave his life at his families farm behind after becoming sick and getting apprenticed to a book binder.

I loved the magic system which is all about binding real memories into books and I loved the moral questions about how certain characters used it and how it affects the world and communities they lived in. Also, I mean, it’s a book about the magic of books so if course I love it.

I really liked Emmett as a main character, the way he fights with himself, struggles with his own mind and wants, and the situation he’s placed in. His relationship with his family is complicated and heartbreaking for him. Without giving anything away I also loved the second pov that showed up later in the book. The book itself is split over different timelines too which was a really interesting way to switch up the slow build romance! As for the other characters, De Havilland is one of the most aggravating antagonists I’ve ever read. The kind of rich white guy who thinks the world is owed to him and ahhhhh he made me mad! And he certainly wasn’t the only rich guy who got up to horrible things.

The only problem I really had with the book was that I wished the first half got going a bit quicker. I loved the start and I loved the second half but I did feel it dragged a little.

Also, not really about this book but I’d love to see more fantasys where the world isn’t default homophobic. I know this one is a historical fantasy but….sigh.

But back on track, overall I loved the book, it was atmospheric and unique. With a lovable main character to root for, a hopeful ending and magic books!

Rep: gay, m/m

Trigger warnings: homophobia, rape, alcoholism, abuse, suicide

Non-Fiction Autism Books:

Uncomfortable Labels by Laura Kate Dale *****

A brilliant memoir about Laura’s life and the ways being autistic and trans intersect.. Autistic people are much more likely to be on the LGBTQ spectrum than allistic people and it was really interesting to have it highlighted here as it’s something that is often ignored but adds to the struggles we face. There were so many moments I identified with (I think I highlighted about half the book) and helped me understand parts of my life as an autistic person. It’s always amazing to read anecdotes from someone elses life that could read as if they were talking about you. It’s one of the best things about the autistic community speaking about their experiences.

This book does deal with a lot of hard subjects that Laura has gone through in her life, including transphobia and suicide, which are all too common in trans and autistic communities. It’s heartfelt but also the issues and the affect they have on Laura and the trans community are very well explained.

I did feel uncomfortable in one particular section that talked about medication that could temporarily treat autism. Laura does make clear that she would never want a cure and does highlight things she loves about being autistic. But any talk about treatment makes me think of how it would truly be used (which realistically would be forced upon autistic people by family and work and education to be ‘more normal’) which isn’t touched upon or warned about.

Apart from that section I absolutely loved this book. It’s my favourite book about autism that I’ve read since being diagnosed and recommend it to any autistic people whether they are LGBTQ or not, as well as to anyone who wants to learn more about trans or autistic experiences.

Autism in Heels by Jennifer O’Toole *****

I wanted to read this book for a very long time but the release date kept being pushed back. I finally got my hands on it and it has taken me a very long time to get through it. It is very verbose. Some sections were, I felt, unnecessarily long winded and took a long time to get to interesting parts BUT there were lots of sections that were helpful. I love finding anecdotes that I related to and the thing is, every autistic person is different so everyone reading this book will find different bits helpful. So while, for me, parts felt long winded. For others these exact sections might be amazing. I do recommend it as it does a brilliant job at showing such a different experience of autism than is so often portrayed by media. It shows an outgoing social chameleon that most people wouldn’t recognise as autistic and the trouble and lifelong difficulties that fitting in in this way causes.

Trigger warnings for sexual abuse, suicide and eating disorders but each section comes with a warning and a page number to avoid it.

Favourite Quote of the Month:

“Screw that book,” said Val.”It was written by men.” She held out her free had to Marion. “We’re rewriting it.” – Sawkill Girls by Clare Legrand.

He has an illness, a disability. It’s not a choice. Now, what makes me mad are the people who think he’s faking – the people who can’t hear ‘disability’ without ‘benefits’ and ‘benefits’ without ‘fraud’. Especially if it’s a disability you can’t see, like Dad’s. – Last Bus to Everland by Sophie Cameron

Favourite book of the month:

Either Seven Ways we Lie which was an amazing book and I completely fell in love with the autistic character or The Spy with the Red Balloon which is such a fun fast paced adventure. Both very different books!

Have you read any of these books? Let me know what you think or if you are planning on reading them! What have you been up to in April and what’s the best book you’ve read lately?

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10 thoughts on “Memo Pad: April Wrap-up”

  1. Wow that’s amazing that you were able to read so many wonderful books in April!! Definitely going to have to add some of those a-spec books to my tbr 😊 And I’m super interested in reading The Binding – it sounds so cool!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ahhh this is amazing that you got to read so many books! I’m so happy you enjoyed Seven Ways We Lie as well, this is such a good, underrated book, I feel like no one has read it haha 🙂
    I hope you’ll have a beautiful month! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. April seems to be a great reading month for you! And I’ve been seeing some great response to The Binding so it’s on my TBR already but the Last Bus to Everland sounds just as amazing. Loved reading all these reviews and I hope May will be just as good for you 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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