Running with Lions by Julian Winters | Book Review #PrideLibrary20

I’m joining in on some of the #pridelibrary20 prompts, hosted by The Library Looter, Michelle Likes Things and Anniek’s Library throughout June. Here’s a link to a summary of my posts from last year.

Today’s prompt is black queer authors. Btw I missed yesterdays post with transgender or nonbinary characters, but I think I will make a post later in the summer instead, because there’s so many trans/nonbinary mc books on my TBR that I want to get to.

Synopsis

Bloomington High School Lions’ star goalie, Sebastian Hughes, should be excited about his senior year: His teammates are amazing and he’s got a coach who doesn’t ask anyone to hide their sexuality. But when his estranged childhood best friend Emir Shah shows up to summer training camp, Sebastian realizes the team’s success may end up in the hands of the one guy who hates him. Determined to reconnect with Emir for the sake of the Lions, he sets out to regain Emir’s trust. But to Sebastian’s surprise, sweaty days on the pitch, wandering the town’s streets, and bonding on the weekends sparks more than just friendship between them. 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: four stars

The bisexual guy main character, the team sport aspect (and often not very queer-friendly to put it lightly) that is soccer, but with several queer characters along with the dynamic writing and wholesome vibe – it all is brought together in this great book. Sometimes these books might get boring, but not when executed in this way. It reminds people of what could be and what should be, especially in very masculine sports.

It’s a diverse cast of characters in multiple ways, like the romantic interest Emir being a British-Pakistani muslim, but they have one thing in common besides sports and that’s being a cast of disasters. I mean, I related too much to the main character as being the disaster bisexual of the group. I think the best way to describe this book is very emotional, but with a undertone of fun? And the fun comes from the high and lows of the game, of the intensity of discovering yourself, but mostly about doing it all surrounded by friends and rivals. It’s also chasing victories and perfection and falling apart and having to pull each other back together again. And not to mention, being brave enough to tell people you love them, regardless of their gender.

Sebastian’s ready for whatever Emir’s got. He is so exhausted, trying to fix busted-up relation- ships while other friendships circle the drain. He’s tired of trying to be this amazing version of a guy that everyone else sees but Sebastian can’t find when he stares in the mirror. If Emir punches him, he’ll knock Sebastian off this damn pedestal he never asked to be on in the first place.

Julian Winter ends with these words in the acknowledgment and it backs up his intentions with this book clearly; “To every LGBTQIA+ person who has questioned their place in life: You’re strong. You’re important. You’re a lion. Let the world hear you roar.” I’m excited to read his other books “How to Be Remy Cameron” and “The Summer of Everything” (to be released this fall) as well!

Borderline by Mishell Baker | Review

The Arcardia Project #1 (out of three books)

Pages: 390

Genre: Urban fantasy, fae, mental health & disability, bisexual main character

Synopsis

A year ago Millie lost her legs and her filmmaking career in a failed suicide attempt. Just when she’s sure the credits have rolled on her life story, she gets a second chance with the Arcadia Project: a secret organization that polices the traffic to and from a parallel reality filled with creatures straight out of myth and fairy tales.

For her first assignment, Millie is tasked with tracking down a missing movie star, who also happens to be a nobleman of the Seelie Court. To find him, she’ll have to smooth talk Hollywood power players and uncover the surreal and sometimes terrifying truth behind the glamour of Tinseltown. But stronger forces than just her inner demons are sabotaging her progress, and if she fails to unravel the conspiracy behind the noble’s disappearance, not only will she be out on the streets, but the shattering of a centuries-old peace could spark an all-out war between worlds.

No pressure. 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

It’s difficult to review this book fairly, because I respect and admire the setup of it, thinking it had so much promise. Then something happened in the middle, I’m still unsure of exactly what, that made it go downhill. And the ending just highlighted those bad choices.

I’ve looked at other reviews enough to realize almost no one have the same issues with this book as me. The writing flows really good, and it made it seem to much shorter than nearly four hundred pages. I can’t say anything about the accuracy of the portrayal of the borderline main character, but I’ve seen others saying it was well done, and the author draws from own experiences. It’s obvious that the main character does certain things because of her mental illness, and the narration makes that very clear in a way I like, referring to borderline people as it happens. But then there’s enough undiscussed things that makes the character unlikable; like Millie casually thinking and saying racist things out of the blue and having a meltdown and yelling at all the people she’s come to known. It’s even mentioned by another character in the story:

“I don’t mind people being crazy,” he said. “I understand rage and depres- sion and saying stuff you regret. But when I do it, I’m just a dumb dog snap- ping his teeth. What I don’t like about you is that even when you’re being nice, even when things are good, you’re checking out people’s weaknesses, storing things up to hurt them with later. You can’t be trusted. Not ever.”

I really liked how “simple” of a urban fantasy plot this book had, because it was done so well and given new dimensions to explore with each character’s background and small elements it brought, like if they were up to do magic or not depending on how in control of their mental state they were. And I didn’t need to like Millie. But when the side characters starts to feel very one-dimensional and stereotypical – through her eyes – you kind of have lost the ability to cheer for anyone in this book, and then lost interest in how it ends. I don’t know if this is purposefully unreliable narration or not, but it doesn’t really matter because it creates the same issue. Maybe if it had happened earlier in this book, I could’ve reconnected with the characters, but I realize it’s not easy to write a book like this.

There were a lot of awesome small things as well; the bonding happening when someone found their soulmate, the setting of the magical bar. I especially love the quirky dialogue, like when a fae asks if Millie would like to come in for “sex and oranges”. How mental health and disability was such a part of the story, but at the same time not defining. Millie’s part of the story made sense, she was someone who was well-equipped and drew the story forward. Caryl, the young leader, was definitely someone who grew on you as you learned the reasons behind her behaviour, and I really felt connected to her. It just bothers me how it all falls together towards the end – I think it would’ve been better if it was just Millie being allowed to create chaos, but instead the story needs her to wrap it up and win, meaning her mental illness gets the best of her and before having any time to regroup she’s back to clean up and take on the bad guys. Which sounds awesome, but really didn’t work for this story that started out so realistic (despite the magical elements).

I will definitely read the next book. And I recommend this one; it’s worth a shot and a lot of people loved it.

Bi Protagonists #PrideLibrary19 🌈

The Pride Library 2019 Challenge is hosted by Library Looter, Anniek’s Library and Michelle Likes Things. Join in on it anytime or link your post in the comments so I see it! Also all reviews I’ve written will be linked.

Bisexuality seems to still be difficult to portray correctly in novels, it has such a stigma attached to it. In fiction as in real life, a bi person in a hetero relationship might seem straight and a bi person in a gay relationship might seem gay/lesbian. And then there’s the struggle of an author with a bi protagonist correctly portraying how the character is attracted to different genders, but that doesn’t mean they’re attracted to *everyone*. Jeez, let people have types.

As a bi person, I feel that we have privileges that gay and lesbians don’t in that we’re able to pass as straight for longer and possibility of finding love without coming out. At the same time I think it’s more confusing to discover your sexuality because it’s of that stigma attached to it. Hopefully books can help portray bisexuality more honestly and true!

Evelyn Hugo in The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (full review)

Theodore Decker in The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Monty in The gentleman’s guide to vice and virtue by Mackenzi Lee (full review)

Magnus Bane in The bane chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson

Fire in Fire (Graceling #2) by Kristin Cashore

April in An absolutely remarkable thing by Hank Green (full review)

TBR

(I really hope I’ve gotten this right, please tell me straight away if I haven’t)

Queens of geek by Jen Wilde

The trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan

Far from you by Tess Sharpe

Of fire and stars by Audrey Coulthurst

Labyrinth lost by Zoraida Cordova

Let’s talk about love by Claire Kann

Let me know if you’ve read any of these books and if you liked them! Please link your post if you’re participating so I see it and recommend any LGBTQ books you’ve loved.