Hello everyone! We are wrapping up our second week of this year’s Reading Challenge Month with our Diverse Books Week challenge.
You guys can play along with this event in two ways. First off, you can leave a comment on any of this week’s challenge week reviews and earn one entry point for each. And second, if you read along with your own challenge book, you can tell us all about it by leaving a mini review in the comments of this post and earn 10 contest entries. So if you comment on all the posts and do a mini-review, you can earn mega entries!
This week’s fabulous prize is sponsored by NineStar Press! They are giving away SIX $20 NineStar Press gift cards!
And remember, all entries throughout the month qualify you for the one of three amazing Grand Prizes! They huge bundles of books for three different winners. You can check out the full list here on our Prize Preview post!
Ok, before we get too far, some things you may need to know:
- All the contest details and rules are in this post or at least linked from here.
- This week’s deadline to leave comments on our reviews, or your mini review of your own book here on this post, is Saturday, September 14th at 11:59 pm ET. All entries will also carry over for the grand prize at the end of the month.
- In case you missed any, here are the books we reviewed this week for the Diverse Books Week Challenge. Comment on each for chances to win!
- Not Your Backup by CB Lee
- Birthday by Meredith Russo
- How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
- Golden Like Summer by Gene Gant
- In Safe Hands by Victoria Sue
- Hidden in Darkness by Alice Winters
- Would it Be Okay to Love You, Year 3 by Amy Tasukada
- Puzzle Me This by Eli Easton
- Power Play by J.M. Snyder
- Coffee by Matthew J. Metzger
- If you read along your own challenge book this week, leave your mini review here on this wrap up post.
Thank you so much to everyone who has been participating all week! Don’t forget to leave your comments and your mini reviews for a chance to win! And be sure to check in on Sunday for the kickoff of our next challenge, Judge a Book by Its Cover Week!
For this week I read Failure to Communicate by Kaia
Sønderby whose main character is Xandri Corelel. Xandri was born into a world that has been practicing gene
modification for centuries; however, her parents
followed a short lived fad of natural birth. Consequently, she may be the only person in the world who is autistic. The reader sees how she meets the stresses of everyday life on board her ship and on other worlds.
We meet her four years after she has joined the crew of
the Carpathia where she is now the head of Xeno-Liaisons. Throughout her difficult childhood, she became an expert at reading body language; that knowledge has enabled her to become a skilled liaison with the
inhabitants of other worlds. The book deals primarily
with one mission.
I’d describe this book as PG13; there is violence,
language, and mention of past abuse. Xandri appears to be attracted to both men and women. I found this a
pleasant and easy read and would happily read the next book in the series. There is also a prequel which covers
Xandri’s life prior to joining the Carpathia. The author
describes herself as a “Queer autistic writer of
I also read Still Waters by Alex Gabriel, a short paranormal romance that features a merman (…or does it?). This
story is set in what seems to be our world, but a rift has permitted the passage of several beings from elsewhere. This is a slightly dark fantasy with a dead body or two,
attacks, and more. I enjoyed it, and it’s currently free.
Thanks Kareni! The book sounds really interesting!
I read Tea by Matthew J Metzger.
It wasn’t quite so intense as some others by this author that I’ve read but That said, we do cover a range of issues here.
I generally like the author’s writing style, I find it refreshingly real, with strong sense of place and characters though sometimes in this one the slow road that the two guys have to travel meant the story did slow down – though to contradict myself, it didn’t feel like a 300+ page read either.
Whilst Chris had a whole host of personal – and family – issues, we see him just as a guy for the most part. Any reference to his gender, illness or blindness was put in as a setting for John to deal with.
John has been traumatised by events with the ex and did come across as conflicted between his ‘public’ persona (tough, straight, confident) versus how he was inside (highly anxious).
Families are a mare and both have to deal with mixed bag of reactions. Overall, enjoyed their story.
Thanks for the review! This sounds like a good series!
For Diverse Books week, I chose Dahlia Donovan’s Grasmere Cottage Mystery series, which is really just one continuing story and should be read together. It’s an English cozy mystery, sort of like Midsummer Murders, with an autistic main character. The story starts with a dead body in Valor and Bishan’s garden. They are forced to investigate when the police think that Bishan did it. It’s a good mystery and she obviously knows something about being on the autism spectrum. The story doesn’t have any on-page sex, but so much love that I didn’t really miss it.
Thanks! I know we reviewed this one here as well. Sounds like an interesting story!
This week, I chose the audiobook version of Andrea Lawlor’s debut, PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL. I read it in print over the summer, when it became my favorite book of the year so far. The audiobook (performed by actor/playwright Dani Martineck, who, like Lawlor, identifies as nonbinary) throws some curves into what is already a very mindbending narrative. It’s a little hard to describe specifics of the story without spoilers (in spite of the fact that, like many other coming-of-age stories, it’s definitely about a character rather than a linear plot), so I’ll start with the blurb:
Blurb: “It’s 1993 and Paul Polydoris tends bar at the only gay club in a university town thrumming with politics and partying. He studies queer theory, has a dyke best friend, makes zines, and is a flaneur with a rich dating life. But Paul’s also got a secret: he’s a shapeshifter. Oscillating wildly from Riot Grrrl to leather cub, Paul transforms his body and his gender at will as he crosses the country––a journey and adventure through the deep queer archives of struggle and pleasure. Paul Takes the Form of a Mortal Girl is a riotous, razor-sharp bildungsroman whose hero/ine wends his/her way through a world gutted by loss, pulsing with music, and opening into an array of intimacy and connections.”
Review: Like WHEN LOVE COMES TO TOWN in last year’s challenge, this book brought forth a lot of warm, fuzzy nostalgia in me. In 1993 I was in my first year of college, and as I read PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL I kept picturing Paul as a showoffy-but-brilliant TA in one of my classes, or as someone I’d shyly approach with a homemade mixtape at the campus radio station meetings. (Indeed, the mixtape sequence of the story is a major highlight!) I absolutely adored Paul, even when the book read as a litany of his flaws. (Lawlor refers to Paul as he/him no matter what biological sex he inhabits in the story, even when he tells people to call him Polly, so I’m doing the same.) In the wrong hands, Paul would have read as a shallow Casanova, but that was not the case. True, the sex scenes (m/m, m/f, and f/f) are frequent and frank (though usually brief), and Paul’s encounters often make one-night stands seem lengthy by comparison. It becomes clear that there are several factors at play here, which keep Paul sympathetic (and admittedly pretty sexy). He doesn’t understand everything about the nature of his shifting, so I suspect it feels like shifter “first change” puberty (with its startling, powerful voraciousness) every time he makes it happen. Also, he’s obviously taking the bad “changing yourself to please a partner” idea to its literal extreme (as seen most touchingly during the longest monogamous relationship he has in the book). Couple those factors with his understandable desire to experience pleasure in every physical manifestation (and his secret longings for love and affection), and his behavior can be downright heartrending. Yet, this book is not romance or (exactly) erotica, and the sexcapades are a jumping-off point for the larger issues surrounding gender, sexuality, and identity in general. This would make an amazing selection for a daring book club (granted, the members would have to be very quirky and sex-positive to discuss it en masse), because it can be viewed through different lenses: the 1993 setting, and today. If PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL were set in the present day, would Paul have an easier or harder time? Would his various acquaintances and partners (of all orientations) still be so convinced that gender and sexuality are binary, or would he no longer feel like he has to blend in wherever he goes? Would he consider himself genderqueer, nonbinary, transgender, all, or none of these? (I noticed that Paul never lingers in an androgynous or intersex state, and makes his shifts as quick and complete as possible. I would have loved to see the in-between moments explored more, but Paul’s discomfort with them made me feel for him. It was also interesting that Paul expresses a lot of cliched cis male perspective, such as not understanding why a woman would want to play down her beauty in some situations, and confusing his vulva and vagina’s functions.)
Dani Martineck’s audiobook performance is very engaging (even if I found their Paul a bit too deadpan in the beginning). Martineck generally performs Paul in what I assume is their natural register (a Demi Moore/Laura Kightlinger tone). When Paul starts to chafe at the prospect of staying in a bio female body, that’s when Martineck makes him sound more stereotypically male.
This book is not perfect by any means. The worldbuilding is compelling but not airtight; Paul’s innocence covers up most of the gaps, but it does get harder to suspend disbelief closer to the end. Most other characters feel rather one-dimensional (to be fair, it’s mostly because Paul is so beautifully complex). My biggest issue by far is the anticlimactic finale; the story just sort of stops. I’m sure I won’t be the only reader who anticipates a particular resolution (without spoiling things, one scenario will seem especially neat and perfect to romance fans) and is let down. While the book did seem to fizzle out less and less on subsequent readings, I still would have been happier with something more clear-cut. PAUL TAKES THE FORM OF A MORTAL GIRL seems to evoke strong pro and con reactions in readers. All I can say is that if this sounds at all interesting to you (I haven’t even gotten into the recurring, conflicting fairy tale sequences regarding Paul’s potential origins), definitely give it a try! (This second edition is more widely available at libraries, and I found the audio on OverDrive.) As for me, I’m eager to see what Lawlor writes in the future. In the meantime, while I imagine this book would be too hard to adapt to screen (and probably would be ruined by CGI anyway), I’d enjoy reading fanfic, college term papers, ANYTHING based on it!
What a wonderfully comprehensive review, Trix. Thank you.
Glad to hear it! I haven’t thought about a book so much since college, which was a nice feeling in itself…
I read Coffee by Matthew J Metzger. I loved Tea and couldn’t wait for Coffee to be released and just, devoured the book. I loved the book so much! And it was a treat to get into Chris’s mind, obviously very different to John’s. I just…this was perfect. It portrayed the next step of their relationship so damn well. Tea and Coffee are going to be those books that I’m always going to revisit for sure.
So glad you have enjoyed both books! And thanks for the review!
I read How to be a Normal Person by TJ Klune
neuro-atypical(?) guy falls in love with an asexual hipster
sometimes TJ Klune books are a little much for me. But its hard to withstand all the squeezing from his fans. So I’m learning to read between the lines to find the books that I’ll like. And I did like this one. I wish I was confident enough to just request hugs from people (4/5 stars)
Despite being in the middle of 3 other books, I started Not your Sidekick last night. This weekend needs some dedicated reading time to finish up some of these books
Oh glad you liked your challenge read! And lol about Sidekick! Too many good books floating around!
I decided to give Arrie and The Wolf Part 1-4. It had a bit of a play on Little Red Ridiing Hood and Hansel and Gretel (except without the fattening up and eating). Arrie likes cross dressing and is usually in drag. He/She answers what should have been an innocent job ad on Craigslist and finds himself/herself drugged and imprisoned. The only saving grace is that the person who is keeping him captive thinks he’s female and he’s not alone. Rex is another captive and the two decide to band together to escape. But their plans for freedom are dashed and the the hag who has imprisoned them turns out to not just be an old lady and she has quite the plans for them.
The story and characters were interesting and not always likable. Part One was a bit confusing going in because it felt as if you just get thrown into the story and Arrie our main character has no idea what’s happening cause he/she has been drugged and not where he/she was when he/she was last conscious. But as the story progresses everything becomes clearer. It gets a bit messy as we start to understand the roles Rex and Arrie are meant to play if they want to survive. I can’t go into too much detail since it’ll spoil the story. I will say Part Four ends in a cliffhanger and it doesn’t look as if Part five will be coming anytime soon. This dark read won’t be for everyone, Rex and Arrie are both mentally and physical tortured and there doesn’t seem like there is an end in sight.
Wow this sounds intense! Thanks for the review!
Puzzle Me This was my choice this week. One of my best friends is in a wheelchair, and I think that’s what attracted me to this story
Sometimes, love is the biggest puzzle of all. You know that the pieces fit, but you have to find out how…
Luke Schumaker has an admirer. And he is really intrigued. The clever way his admirer has lured him, leaving secret messages in the newspaper’s crossword clues, has him wondering what kind of person would do something like that. When he meets Alex Shaw, his neighbour and crossword designer extraordinaire, he feels immediately attracted to him. But will that be enough to make it work?
Such a sweet love story! Character based, it deals with how they meet and fall in love. It is really fast, and their relationship seems too good to be true. That’s why Luke, who’s got issues because of his dysfunctional family, starts having doubts about them. The fact that Alex is disabled does not help either. Alex had a bad experience in the past, so Luke doubts really hurt him, and he decides to cut him loose before it hurts too much. Fortunately, their passion for games and a nosy sister will bring them back together, this time for good.
I loved the characters, the sense of humour and the banter they exchange is really entertaining. There is a bit of anguish, but not overwhelming. All in all, it is a really cute short story.
Oh, glad you read this one this week as well! I enjoyed reading your review!
I chose In Safe Hands by Victoria Sue as my book in the Diverse Books reading challenge. We have Mav who is a disabled veteran trying to come to terms with his disability and not doing a great job until his sister needs help with a case. As Mav takes on role of protector/bodyguard, he finds healing in his new role. I love the fact that his disabilities become less prominent as he starts the recovery process and new role.
I enjoyed it but didn’t love it. There are a lot of great reviews out there but I felt like it was missing something. I was having trouble really feeling the emotions and the connection between Mav & Deacon. A lot of telling, not much showing. However, the mystery/suspense kept me involved in the story so there’s that.
All in all an enjoyable read. You’ll probably enjoy this book and I blame it on my current mood. I’m going to check out the audio version in a few months when I’m in a better frame of mind.
Thanks for the review Victoria! Great to get your perspective on this one!
This week I read the book “Big Man” by Matthew J. Metzger. He came immediately to my mind for the challenge “diverse books”. There isn’t one book from him without a really diverse cast and he does this in a very natural way. This one is a YA fiction about a big boy and a transgender boy. It is a really nice book especially for young people. I like his writing style a lot. 4*
“Hiroku” by Laura Lascarso is YA fiction about a very troublesome relationship between two boys, one of them an american japanese. This was such an impressive book about abuse, addiction and emotional manupilation. It was written from one POV but with so much empathy for both characters. Really heartbreaking for both of them. It is beautifully and very realistic written. 5* It stands on its own, but after that I had to read the main book “The Bravest Thing” again! Also a 5* book for me! I highly recommend both.
Thanks Cyntia! These all sound great!
Fem by Seth King
I had to dnf for now.
I always loved Seth King’s raw and unfiltered writing style. Unfortunately this also means the book is unedited. No typos, but line edits are needed and the whole thing is a little jumbled. That’s not why I didn’t finish it. I’m not even sure to be honest. I think it’s the dialogue. It’s awkward and a little cheesy, which makes it authentic, so I shouldn’t have a problem with it. But just something feels off. The book gives off this dreamy vibe, and I’m not sure I like it.
HOWEVER, I absolutely love the topic. And it’s clear that the author was speaking from experience. It’s about a man, who is apparently too feminine: his speech, his walk, the way he carries himself, even though he tries to hide all that by dressing completely like any normal dude. And when it comes to dating, he is out of luck. But it’s more than that. His dates are all saying he’s too much, too fem, and he needs to tone it down.
Until one guy, who seems to be his perfect match. Andre, who is from Puerto Rico. Andre will take Peter under his wing, and shows him how to be himself, how to be comfortable in his own skin, and not give a damn about other people’s opinion. All in all, not bad, and I might continue at a later date.
The Queen and the Homo Jock King by TJ Klune
Wow! So much humor. And UST. lol If you guys liked the Tales of Verania series, this would also be a hit, because it’s really similar in tone.
We have Sandy who’s a drag queen, and Darren, the homo jock king, who is Vince’s brother. Sandy and Darren seemingly hate each other.
Sandy needs to save the bar where he’s working as a drag queen, but he needs to seduce Darren to do that. So, naturally that’s not what happens. lol Or maybe it is, in a roundabout way. XD
I had so much fun with this book. The strength of it is clearly the humor. I would have liked more romance at the end, but was satisfied with what I got. I can’t wait for Corey/Kori’s book, but first, let’s have a wedding! 😀
Oh yes, I loved Homo Jock King (and loved the audio even more! Michael is amazing in it). Glad you enjoyed this one!
I read the second in The Janet Watson Chronicles series, The Hound of Justice by Claire O’Dell (and highly recommend the first, A Study in Honor). The basic premise is a near future US that’s been divided by a second Civil War. Dr. Janet Watson is dealing with the aftereffects of being a doctor in the war as well as trying to gain full use of her advanced prosthetic to be fully functional as a doctor again. Sara Holmes, her new friend, is somehow involved in espionage and shows up and leaves at strange intervals. Without giving away a lot of what goes on in the first book, because it directly affects what’s happening in the second book, there’s a lot of upheaval in the world and Holmes and Watson are on the case, trying to right some huge wrongs.
These books are marvelous as character studies, and there’s such great action and social commentary in them. Janet moves through the world as a doctor who’s trying to learn how to fully use both hands again, who’s also Black in a world not to far from ours with all its accompanying prejudices and hatred, who’s also a veteran of the war going through counseling for trauma, who’s also a lesbian with one big past relationship and this new companionship with the very unusual Sara Holmes. I adore Janet.
This book has less of an action start than the first book, but it builds up to the action and that set up is so important. There’s less Sara Holmes in this than the first, but it makes the moments shine brighter, and, as in the first book, the cast of characters is so well-developed. I could absolutely see this as a show. (Speaking of, the author never watched Sherlock while writing these, so if this intrigues you, don’t imagine you’ll get anything like that.)
There’s also a fun sci-fi aspect to the books because of the technology advancements which is a lot of fun to read about. Janet’s new arm even gets a very appropriate name in this one. There is a romantic storyline to this one, but it’s more like a background note that lends poignancy to Janet’s actions and feelings, but I found it very realistic and satisfying. I hope others will give this series a try if they’re in the mood for a distinctly feminist take on the Holmes and Watson brand.
Wow this sounds wonderful! I’ve never heard of this series but I’ll have to check it out!
I usually have a hard time choosing a book for diverse week. I chose my book after reading Sue’s
review. It just sounded like something I would love.
HIDDEN IN DARKNESS
The book revolves around an undercover officer that was blinded on the job, and a young guy
who was hired to help him with his daily living.
I actually had a hard time getting into the book…the witty banter didn’t seem funny to me, it just
seemed mean. The sex didn’t seem right. I was starting to think this book just wasn’t for me. But, probably about a third of the way into it I fell into the groove and actually started enjoying myself.
The story has Felix (the babysitter) helping Lane as they attempt to bring down the “bad guy” that was responsible for blinding Lane. There was a ton of action which didn’t really seem realistic if I think to much about it, but at least it was fun. And of course the good guys win. 🙂
By the end of the book I was enjoying Felix and Lane as a couple and was happy to see how far they had both come…how much each one had helped the other with the baggage each had brought to the relationship.
After challenge month is over I plan to look up other books by this author.
I love this series to pieces, but I will admit I had trouble with the start of the first book. I needed to feel the love between them before I could deal with so much banter/bickering. But once I settled into this, I adored the book and the entire series. Glad you ended up enjoying it!