Mini Review – In Deeper Waters (6-Month Blogiversary Post)

Hello, everyone! Today marks the six month anniversary of my blog! To celebrate, I am releasing this extra mini review of a book I’ve been waiting to read for quite a while. I cannot believe this blog is six months old. It seems like just yesterday that I made my first post, but I guess time flies when you are having tons of fun. I am incredibly grateful for everyone who takes the time to visit my blog, and I love getting to interact with all of you. I’m excited to see what the next six months and beyond has in store. Without further ado, here are my thoughts about In Deeper Waters by F.T. Lukens.

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ARC Review – If This Gets Out

Goodreads Synopsis

Eighteen-year-olds Ruben Montez and Zach Knight are two members of the boy-band Saturday, one of the biggest acts in America. Along with their bandmates, Angel Phan and Jon Braxton, the four are teen heartbreakers in front of the cameras and best friends backstage. But privately, cracks are starting to form: their once-easy rapport is straining under the pressures of fame, and Ruben confides in Zach that he’s feeling smothered by management’s pressure to stay in the closet.

On a whirlwind tour through Europe, with both an unrelenting schedule and minimal supervision, Ruben and Zach come to rely on each other more and more, and their already close friendship evolves into a romance. But when they decide they’re ready to tell their fans and live freely, Zach and Ruben start to truly realize that they will never have the support of their management. How can they hold tight to each other when the whole world seems to want to come between them?

My Review

***Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing a copy of the book. All thoughts and opinions are my honest assessment and reaction to the book.***

Do you like boy bands, MM romance, and stories about fighting the system? Then you will probably love If This Gets Out as much as I did. I flew through this read and did not want to put it down. The pacing was great, and I enjoyed that the story is split up between the POVs of the two band members who discover their attraction for one another. It was interesting to see how the two of them processed the events of the book in different ways. All four of the band members were actually very well developed characters with important journeys of their own in addition to the adorable romance story-line.

This book tackled a lot of difficult and important topics that I wasn’t really expecting. Going into reading this story, I anticipated getting something like a glorified fan fiction story, which I was completely down to read. While there were some elements similar to fan fiction, this book had a weight and gravity to it that made it stand out. It shined a light on the abuses of the music industry and the ridiculous extent to which much of what we see of celebrities is a fabricated, inauthentic version of their lives. The story also highlighted some of the negative side effects of fame, including substance abuse, mental health issues, body image struggles, and the hypersexualization of teenagers. I was particularly disturbed reading the boys’ reactions to constantly being touched and photographed because I had never really stopped to think about how objectifying much of fandom culture can truly be.

Unsurprisingly, the queer rep in this story was fantastic. I especially appreciated how the bisexual character was presented. Seeing his thoughts about the struggle of coming to terms with his sexual identity was almost surreal. It was as if they plucked some of them straight from my own head. It is still weird for me when I see this type of representation because for most of my life I never saw anyone like myself (in this regard at least) in the media I consumed. So, it is still a very cathartic experience when I come across it in my reading, and I had that type of experience with this book. I particularly loved that the author took a little time to make connections between the similarities in feelings of the character toward his current romantic partner (a man) and his previous partner (a woman). It was a subtle reminder of the character’s bisexuality while also illustrating deeper issues and patterns relevant to the character. This is often something I find is missing in MM romance with a bisexual character; once with the perfect man, the bisexual character is usually that in name only with no references to attractions or feelings about women. So, I really appreciated the way it was handled here.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The romance was adorable, and the authors tackled some heavy, compelling topics with a great cast of characters. I recommend it to anyone but especially those who enjoy MM romance and stories about exploring one’s sexual identity. I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – The Darkness Outside Us

Author: Eliot Schrefer

Publication Date: June 1, 2021

Length: 416 pages

Read Date(s): June 4, 2021 – June 8, 2021

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Goodreads Synopsis

Two boys, alone in space.

After the first settler on Titan trips her distress signal, neither remaining country on Earth can afford to scramble a rescue of its own, and so two sworn enemies are installed in the same spaceship.

Ambrose wakes up on the Coordinated Endeavor, with no memory of a launch. There’s more that doesn’t add up: Evidence indicates strangers have been on board, the ship’s operating system is voiced by his mother, and his handsome, brooding shipmate has barricaded himself away. But nothing will stop Ambrose from making his mission succeed—not when he’s rescuing his own sister.

In order to survive the ship’s secrets, Ambrose and Kodiak will need to work together and learn to trust one another… especially once they discover what they are truly up against. Love might be the only way to survive.

My Review

I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much I loved this book, but I’m going to give it my best shot. Reviewing this book is even more complicated by not being able to talk about anything that happens in it without ruining the reading experience. It is truly a book best read without any spoilers because experiencing the plot for the first time was a total mindf*ck. I thought I knew what this book was about going into it, but I was completely unprepared for what actually happened.

The book started out exactly as described in the synopsis. However, right away I could tell something was not quite right because of the strange formatting and early hints. The book does not have chapters, but it has multiple parts that vary in length. The first part is the longest, and it is a slow burn mystery coupled with an exploration of the relationship between the two boys. The pace of the rest of the book increases significantly after the first part, and I was so thrown by the end of the first section that I had to put the book down for a bit before continuing. The ending of the book felt a bit rushed, but I also loved how the story ended. I just wished there was more of it.

One of the main themes of this book is the importance of intimacy to feel human. This story does an excellent job of exploring this idea because it strips everything down to only two people surrounded by infinite nothingness. Seeing the progression of the relationship between Kodiak and Ambrose was a beautiful reminder of how important connection to other people is for our sanity. It was also an excellent example of how people who are very different can come together and find understanding even if they are raised to be enemies. One of my favorite quotes from the book highlights this theme of intimacy very well:

Intimacy is the only shield against insanity. Intimacy, not knowledge. Intimacy, not power.

The Darkness Outside Us, page 142

Existential crisis and the necessity of meaning in one’s life is also a major component of this novel. The story explores the effect on an individual’s psyche whenever they lose their main purpose in life. It also examines how people raised in two different cultures can respond to this loss in distinct ways. Overall, the narrative is filled with existential dread. If you don’t have at least one existential crisis while reading this book, then you aren’t human. 😉 It just does such a great job of reducing the complex human experience down to its barest essentials and making you question whether there truly is a reason for all of it.

That was how life on Earth worked, too. People did a lot of tasks and tried to keep death as far away as possible.

The Darkness Outside Us, page 236

This book has become my top read so far of 2021. The story was so unexpectedly profound in its relationship-building, philosophy, and plot twists that I’m left thinking about it days after finishing it. I could say so much more, but that would ruin the book. So, go read it instead! I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars and cannot recommend it enough, especially for lovers of science fiction.

Have you read The Darkness Outside Us? What did you think? Let me know in the comments, but do your best to avoid spoilers.

Book Review – The Extraordinaries

Author: TJ Klune

Publication Date: July 14, 2020

Length: 405 pages

Read Date(s): April 26, 2021 – April 28, 2021

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Goodreads Synopsis

Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.

Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?

After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).

Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl meets Marissa Meyer’s Renegades in TJ Klune’s YA debut.

My Review

I love almost everything about this book. I picked it up because I enjoyed one of TJ Klune’s other books, The House in the Cerulean Sea. It is nothing like that book (other than having great queer rep), but it turned out to be everything I never knew I needed. A wide range of fantastic queer characters? Check. Cool superheroes? Check. A beautiful coming of age story? Check. Hilarious teen angst with a side of romance? Check and check. The story just has so much going for it.

My favorite thing about this book is its humor. I laughed throughout the entire story because of the author’s wit and the book’s hilarious dialogue. I was hooked on the tone and writing style from the very first chapter. I loved all the pop culture and comic book references sprinkled throughout the text. The entire book felt like I was inside the head of a queer, teenage boy with severe ADHD. So, kudos to the author for making the book not only funny but also real.

The book wasn’t all fun and games, though. It tackled a few very serious topics, including grief, living with a mental illness, and learning to accept yourself the way you are, among others. Overall, I think it handled each of these topics with care while using humor to make them feel less heavy. I particularly enjoyed following the main character’s struggle with wanting to change himself, and the antics he engages in while attempting to make the changes are quite ludicrous and fun to read.

The characters in this book really shined. Nick was an absolute disaster of a human in all the best ways. He was loud, tangential, and self-absorbed while also being loving, hilarious, and much more than meets the eye. His friends were great too and added a lot of fun diversity to the book. Gibby and Jazz provided excellent snark to counter Nick’s ridiculousness. Additionally, I was particularly excited to meet Seth, who rounds out this crew with excellent bi male representation. I enjoyed the complexity of Nick’s father and his relationship with Nick, and their sex talks were one of the most hilarious parts of the book.

Despite loving this book, there was one thing I did not like. The book devoted a great deal of time to police because Nick’s father was a police officer. Overall, I think the book did a fantastic job of portraying what it is like to love someone who is an officer. Nick clearly idolizes his father, but I think the book could have done a little more to take a balanced approach to the police, especially since the book attempts to tackle the topic of police brutality. I don’t think the author did a terrible job with it, but there was one joke, in particular, about police brutality that really shouldn’t have been there. The author did a good job of humanizing the police, but I would have liked to see more of a critique of the system, as well.

Overall, I loved this book and recommend it to fans of superheroes, teen angst, and queer romance. I hope the author does more to critique the police with the next book while keeping all of the elements I loved about this story. I can’t wait to read the next book. Therefore, I rate this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Review – The House in the Cerulean Sea

Summary

Linus Baker is an overworked case worker at the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He is also kind of a square who always does everything by the book and lives for his routines. His quiet life gets upturned when he is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management and given a classified assignment. He must spend a month at an orphanage that holds some of the most dangerous magical children in the world to determine if the man running the place is fit to do so. During his time there, Linus struggles to maintain his objectivity while determining what is best for the children and attempting to uncover this orphanage’s secrets.

What I Liked

Everything. Seriously though, I loved everything about this book: the characters, the plot, the pacing, the LGBT+ representation, and, most of all, the message. This book took me through a wide range of emotions as the story unfolded. I was amused, angry, heartbroken, and ecstatically happy all within a span of several hundred pages. I teared up from both sadness and happiness multiple times while reading this book. Although, I won’t admit to crying…much.

The characters in this book were adorable and well-written. There was a great deal of depth to all of them, including the children, and getting to see their distinct personalities and backstories was a treat. Following Linus’s journey was particularly enjoyable. He started out as a stick in the mud who kept himself closed off from everyone, and the plot of the story helped him to expand his world and slowly let the children into his heart. It was a joy to read from start to finish.

This book conveyed several heartwarming messages through the plot of its story. It illustrated the healing that can come from acceptance while highlighting the damage caused by experiences of discrimination. The story of Linus also showed how stepping outside of your box and taking a risk can pay off and help you find exactly what you didn’t know you needed. His growth reminded me that the main thing usually standing in the way of my happiness and success is myself because of the limits I place due to what I think others expect of me. Finally, this story beautifully illustrated how powerful and important a ‘found family’ can be.

The romance in this book was well done. It developed subtly over the course of the book and does not take over the story. It was a believable build-up, which I appreciated.

What I Didn’t Like

Nothing. I enjoyed everything about the book. My only complaint was that there isn’t more of it. I will say, however, that the plot was predictable, but in a way that was cozy and enjoyable.

Final Thoughts

This a great book with a heartwarming story. The characters are fantastic and provide the vehicles for excellent story telling and important life lessons. I cannot recommend this book enough. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.