Review of True Colors, by Anyta Sunday

I received a copy of True Colors, by Anyta Sunday from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Oskar used to be Marco’s best friend. His everything. His sunshine yellow.

But that was before. Before Marco stopped being a hot jock. Before he learned to live with scars and pain. And before Oskar tore their friendship apart.

Now the boy next door has returned home, determined to rekindle his friendship with Marco, and Marco’s more afraid than ever. Afraid of getting hurt. Afraid of being humiliated.

Afraid of falling in love. 

Can Oskar find a way through Marco’s fear, back into his heart?

Review:  Mildly spoilery
This was a very sweet second chances romance. I liked that it was a slow burn and both characters were just lovely and sweet. I could relate to Marco’s self-consciousness and Oskar’s guilt. The sex is hot, without being porny and I liked the family involvement.

But I had a few problems too. The biggest one being that, though I totally get that what Oskar said was traumatizing to Marco, as well as the self-sabotaging aspect of the event, but they had been best friends for nine years. I don’t think it would have been enough to suddenly (and I mean cold turkey) throw the friendship out the window.

Additionally, I couldn’t fathom the logistics of it. The book reads like the event happened and they never saw each-other again. For example, Oskar’s nose was broken the next day and years later, when they meet again, Oskar wondered how it happened. But they lived next door to one another. Their bedroom windows faced one another. Their families hung out. Marco was a second brother to Oskar’s sister and basically mentored her. So, how exactly did they simply never speak again? How did they manage to never find themselves alone together with Oskar apologizing, Marco accepting and both moving on in one way or another? It stretched my suspension of belief too far.

Similarly, there’s a bully from the past that shows up. Turns out he’s matured out of being a dick and sought out one of the characters to apologize. The one that moved away, I might add. So, why only the one and not the other, the one that stayed in town and was both more easily accessed and more grievously harmed?

I had a little trouble following Marco’s sudden turn around too. I mean, he had to stop hating Oskar at some point in order for the book to progress, but it felt very sudden. And this after I’d spent most of the book wondering how both families seemed to not know what happened between the boys. Or, if they did, how they could be so heartless and cruel as to so blithely force Marco together with someone who hurt him so badly. So, either they were all blind or hard-hearted or the author just hoped the reader wouldn’t look too closely at this point.

Lastly, while it’s interesting that the book was set in Berlin, Germany, honestly, it could have been New Brunswick or Nashville for all the difference the setting made to the story. While I’d have hated for the author to throw in a whole lot of German stereotypes, the book and its characters felt very American. If not for the city names I would have NEVER known it wasn’t set in some nameless American city.

I mostly loved this. I thought the writing was lovely and the pairing sweet. I also had no problem following it, despite it being a sequel. (In fact, I didn’t know it was a sequel until I finished it and looked on GR to review it.) I’ll definitely be reading more of Sunday’s writing, but I thought this one had some holes in it, leaving me with a few too many questions.

Review of The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco

I received a copy of The Bone Witch, by Rin Chupeco, from Netgalley.

Description from Goodreads:
Let me be clear: I never intended to raise my brother from his grave, though he may claim otherwise. If there’s anything I’ve learned from him in the years since, it’s that the dead hide truths as well as the living.

When Tea accidentally resurrects her brother from the dead, she learns she is different from the other witches in her family. Her gift for necromancy means that she’s a bone witch, a title that makes her feared and ostracized by her community. But Tea finds solace and guidance with an older, wiser bone witch, who takes Tea and her brother to another land for training.

In her new home, Tea puts all her energy into becoming an asha-one who can wield elemental magic. But dark forces are approaching quickly, and in the face of danger, Tea will have to overcome her obstacles…and make a powerful choice.

Review:
How can you be disappointed in a book that is beautifully written? I don’t really know, but I’ve managed it with The Bone Witch. Honestly, the writing and world-building is superb, but there my praise pretty much ends.

This book is 400+ pages long and the only action in the whole darned book occurs at the very beginning when the brother is raised from the dead and at 90%. That’s it. The whole rest of the book is Tea (pronounced as Tey-uh, as we annoyingly discover 67%) learning to be a geisha. Yes, she’s an all powerful bone witch. The only new one in decades, the one desperately needed, as the deava (undead beasts that rampage and kill people) keep popping up and, well killing people and she’s the only one who can do anything about them. But does she? No. In fact, when she asks to, she’s told to not waste time “with any more of these foolish wildgoose chases.” Instead, she learns to sing and dance and make pleasant conversation with her (apparently all) male cliental. That’s right, she’s basically just there for the entertainment of men, as are all asha.

There are things I appreciate about the book. There is some diversity in skin tone and culture. Some gender norms are purposefully challenged, though FAR MORE are passively reinforced. Again, the writing is beautiful. The reveal at the end piqued my curiosity, but I kind of saw it coming. It’s enough to interested me in the next book. But I spent a lot of this one being frustrated with the lack of pace and betrayal of a promise of a strong female lead. She’s stubborn and she is powerful, but I thought that every surrounding detail of the book—from the fashion to the families, to the political structure—undermined female autonomy and strength and reaffirmed women’s (or girls’) secondary position, even when possession an overwhelming ability. Which is not uncommon is fantasy, but I felt I’d been promised something different here. What’s more, I kind of sense the author thought she did write something different.

Case and point, an official graphic:

#ReadDiverse2017 update, 10 points

Wow, I feel like I just did the update saying I’d earned my 5 point badge, meaning I’d reviewed 5 books for this particular challenge, and now I’m back with the 10 point badge.

10 point badge for what, you ask? Well, the #ReadDiverse2017, which is hosted by the Read Diverse Book blog, of course. It’s fairly self explanatory, as far as challenges go. The idea is to read and review diverse books.

Eligibility being (and I’m quoting the RDB blog, here):

  1. Books written by people of color or Native/Indigenous Peoples
  2. Books about people with disabilities (physical, neurodiversity, etc.)
  3. Books with LGBTQIA protagonists or about LGBTQIA issues 
  4. Books with practicing Muslim, Jewish, Hindu (i.e. non-Christian) MCs
    • Please prioritize #ownvoices for this category

Marginalized authors take priority for #ReadDiverse2017. At all times, please consider reading books written by POC, Indigenous, LGBTQIA, and Disabled authors, #ownvoices whenever possible.These will always qualify, whether they are #ownvioces or not. If a straight, white, able-bodied author writes a book with a straight, able-bodied POC protagonist, the book will not qualify. UNLESS that book is intersectional. For example, if the protagonist is a POC and Queer or disabled, then the book will qualify. I make this distinction because books with Queer/disability representation are more rare than books with POC/Indigenous rep and there are some great books out there with Queer/disability rep by non-mariginalized authors. I also encourage you to seek out books with plus-sized/fat protagonists, especially if they have other marginalizations, such as plus-sized+POC/Queer/Disabiled.

Now that badges have started arriving I want to take a moment to thank Nazahet Hernandez for keeping this all organized. I’ve really enjoyed the challenge, but I’ve really enjoyed being able to browse everyone’s reviews for inspiration. I don’t know how much more weight my TBR can take though.

Anyhow, earning a ten point badge, means I’ve reviewed ten books qualifying for the challenge. I listed the first five here, when I got the 5 point badge. As a reminder, they were:

  1. Blood Stained Tea
  2. When I’m Bad, I’m Better
  3. Restless Spirits
  4. Kamikaze: Run Rabbit Run
  5. Ansible x 3

The last five books I submitted were:

I rather enjoy the badge collecting. Yes, it probably trivializes a rather serious lack of diversity in the publishing industry. I can’t help but be aware of that. But hopefully by bringing attention to the deficit the challenge makes up for making a game out of it. That’s how I’m choosing to look at it, anyhow. Anyhow, I’m off until next time.