Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/26/21) – A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

For no particular reason, I’ve ended up reading a lot more sequels than usual this month. I picked this one up because of how much I loved A Darker Shade of Magic; I couldn’t find it at my local library, so I ended up checking it out from my school library because I just NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED NEXT. However, though A Gathering of Shadows was still a decent novel, it fell into the tragic curse of the disappointing filler sequel.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Gathering of Shadows: A Novel (Shades of Magic, 2): Victoria Schwab:  9780765376473: Amazon.com: Books

A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic, #2) – V.E. Schwab

Kell Maresh and Delilah Bard have long parted ways. But unexpected circumstance will reunite them, and the results may mean the end of Red London as they know it.

After the fall of the Danes in White London and the disappearance of the stone, Kell is back in the palace with Rhy. It is the eve of the Element Games, where magicians from all over compete in an extravagant spectacle. But the competition brings old friends and new ashore—namely Alucard, a clever pirate captain who is not as he seems, and Lila, who has joined him as a part of his crew. But on the margins of all the festivity, a new threat is rising—one that could topple every London in existence.

ladyofvalyria | Dark fantasy novels, Katherine pierce, Royal aesthetic

TW/CW: graphic violence, fire, near-death situations

I’m glad that I read this soon after reading book 1, but still, this one was a disappointment…[Obi-Wan Kenobi voice] “YOU WERE THE CHOSEN ONE!”

It saddens me to admit it, but A Gathering of Shadows fell straight into the fatal trap of the Disappointing Sequel: if anything, it’s almost nothing but filler. My main complaint about book 1 (besides Lila) was that the plot was a little weak, but this book was even more so. Most of the book was just festivities surrounding a celebratory event that had almost no connection to the main plot. All that tied it back to the central plot was sprinklings of a villain that we thought was dead (resurrection trope! Whee!) and not much else. Coming off of the immersive, heartstopping gem that was A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows was a little bit pathetic in comparison.

However, that’s not to say that it wasn’t at least decent. I did like A Gathering of Shadows, at least to some degree. It was disappointing, sure, but I didn’t hate it. V.E. Schwab’s writing still kept me rapt, and the worldbuilding and expansions to it were interesting to see. Even if the Element Games plot bored me a little, I did like seeing all of the intricacies that went into it, as well as the other cultures and countries outside of Red London. There’s no denying that the world that V.E. Schwab has built is a fantastic one, and in the case of this novel, it was largely its saving grace.

And there’s always the matter of the characters! Kell and Rhy were just as lovable as always, and although they didn’t develop an awful lot during this novel (not like the plot gave them much room to do so, oof), reuniting with them was like reuniting with old friends. I loved Alucard as well; he was such a fun character, but…hold up, what is it with the second book in a YA fantasy trilogy ALWAYS introducing the sarcastic, seductive privateer? First Nikolai Lantsov, now Alucard…HAHA

A Gathering of Shadows almost made me like Lila, but all my hopes for her collapsed about halfway through the book. Not only was she as “not-like-other-girls” as ever, her motivations made even LESS sense than they did in book 1. Given that she’s spent her life on the streets fighting for her life, you would think that she wouldn’t do something so risky as…well, disguise herself as a dead magician that she looks nothing like and enter a competition in his name, right? Wrong, apparently. With all that Lila’s been through, I would personally think that she would be the kind of character to weigh risks and benefits, but I guess that all went out the window. I get it, she’s a teenager, but even for a teenager, that’s kind of ridiculous. Plus, after how A Darker Shade of Magic ended, I was excited to see that she might have some kind of ulterior motive or the beginnings of a corruption arc…but no, I guess that wasn’t the case either. Sigh.

All in all, a lackluster but entertaining addition to the Shades of Magic world that offered up a dry plot, but kept the series afloat with new characters and consistently dazzling worldbuilding. 3.5 stars.

Fearless Falling, Reckless Rising | Liz sherman, Super powers, Magic  aesthetic

A Gathering of Shadows is the second book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, preceded by A Darker Shade of Magic and followed by A Conjuring of Light. V.E. Schwab is also the author of the Villains series (Vicious and Vengeful) and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Today’s song:

most of the time, covers that people produce specifically to fit into movie trailers annoy me, but I’ll admit that this gives me CHILLS

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/19/21) – Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

wHEW okay so I just submitted my college applications I need a minute

Meme Generator - Gavin screaming - Newfa Stuff

So, what do my college applications and this week’s review have in common? My feelings after finishing both of them can be described accurately with the image above.

I’ve been a fan of Marie Lu’s for years now, and I loved Skyhunter, so I immediately jumped at the chance to preorder book two. I got to read it recently, and I can say with certainty that Marie Lu has made another riveting success!

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review contains spoilers for book 1, Skyhunter! If you haven’t read book 1 and intend to, I suggest you skip through this review.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Steelstriker (Skyhunter Duology): 9781250221728: Lu, Marie:  Books

Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2) – Marie Lu

my copies of Skyhunter and Steelstriker feat. a cool filter

Mara has fallen. The Federation’s colonization sweeps through what was once the last stronghold of freedom, and at its forefront, the young Premier wreaks havoc, fighting to uncover an ancient artifact that could give his empire unimaginable power.

Talin has been captured for the Skyhunter initiative, melded with wings and great power against her will. But her connection to the Premier presents her with a unique perspective that could help her allies win the war. Meanwhile, Red and the rest of the Strikers are intent on breaking her out, but a plot against the Federation could mean the difference between victory and utter chaos.

are you with me? | Rogue one star wars, Star wars ships, Star wars fandom

TW/CW: torture, human experimentation, graphic violence, public executions, murder (attempted and executed), colonization

Let it be known that I was reading the last part of Steelstriker while getting my hair dyed, and that right as I hit THAT CLIMAX, the lady dyeing my hair came in and I had to hold it together long enough for her to rinse my hair out. This is the havoc that Marie Lu has wrought upon my heart.

But it was 100% worth it.

Skyhunter is a very special book to me. Not only was it written by one of my favorite authors, it helped me through what was easily one of the toughest times in my life. When I was weighed down with grief and stress, Skyhunter taught me to maintain hope, even in the darkest of times. Now, here I am one year later, and Steelstriker means just the same to me—a bleak, dystopian world, but with underlying currents of hope and resistance.

Just as with book 1, I can picture the imagery of Steelstriker like it was footage from a TV show. Marie Lu’s writing kept me hooked from page one, and I only found myself putting it down for…well, basic necessities. (And getting my hair rinsed off.) I felt just as invested in Talin and Red’s story as I did last year.

Standing next to Skyhunter, one aspect that set Steelstriker apart was the rich political intrigue. Within the action there are threads of unrest, manifesting in secret plots and uprisings aplenty. Every single plot point had a satisfying domino effect through the rest of the novel, and the constant twists that resulted kept me guessing until the epilogue. Marie Lu’s balance of sci-fi action and realistic dissent and secret plots made for a book that sucked me in for its entire length.

And the characters! Coming back to Red, Talin, and the rest of the striker gang felt like reuniting with old friends. I had a soft spot for Red in book 1, and he was just as well-developed, complex, and outright lovable as ever. Talin’s internal struggle with being a Skyhunter never ceased to tug my heartstrings, and her perspective balanced outside intensity with introspective development. And the two of them together!! I mentioned in my review of Skyhunter that I thought they would work in either a platonic or romantic relationship, and having them be in love was so, so, SO sweet. They’re just perfect for each other. GAAH.

All of it culminated to a climax that threw my heart down the Grand Canyon and an epilogue that pulled it back up. Marie Lu certainly knows how to toy with my feelings [coughcough THE MIDNIGHT STAR cough cough].

It’s bittersweet for me to think that the Skyhunter duology is coming to a close. But Steelstriker was a sequel that was just as heartbreaking, intense, and wholly special as its predecessor. Thank you, Marie Lu, from the bottom of my heart. 4.5 stars!

Steelstriker is the final book in the Skyhunter duology, preceded by Skyhunter. Marie Lu is also the author of the Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star), The Kingdom of Back, the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion, and Rebel), and the Warcross series (Warcross and Wildcard.)

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/12/21) – A Darker Shade of Magic

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d heard of this novel now and then before reading it, but it managed to escape my periphery for years. It then got selected for November’s pick for my high school’s book club, so I decided to pick it up before the library ran out of copies. I had no expectations, but I was surprised at how dazzling of a book it was! Automatically on my favorite books of 2021.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) – V.E. Schwab

my library copy on my windowsill ft. a cool filter

Kell has lived a life caught between many worlds—in a literal sense. As a fabled Antari magician with the ability to travel between worlds, he works as a royal ambassador for his homeland of Red London, traveling between his home, Grey London, and White London. Black London fell long ago.

A chance encounter with an artifact containing dangerous magic and a skilled thief named Delilah Bard throws Kell off course. Now, he must wrestle with magic that could potentially swallow his home–and an alliance that could result in his undoing.

GIF - Strange Strange City City - Discover & Share GIFs

TW/CW: murder, blood, graphic violence, public executions

Going into this book, I had little to no expectations. I read This Savage Song about four years ago and remembered next to nothing about it, and so I had no sense about how I would feel about V.E. Schwab’s other books. To my surprise, A Darker Shade of Magic hooked me almost instantly with its unique characters and dangerous magic!

Schwab’s writing was the star of the show here, no questions asked. Her prose was so immersive that I could feel magic in the air, smell rain and ash, and see a river tinted red as though it were all surrounding me. Each London had its own intricate mythology, and each was fleshed out to the degree that none of them felt rushed over. (I have no sense for Black London, though, but I have a feeling I’ll learn more about it in the coming books. Hopefully.) Her imagery is nothing short of magical (no pun intended), and the worldbuilding to support each London made the environment that much more believable.

The central plot of A Darker Shade of Magic was a little bit weak, but it made up for it with tons of action and snappy dialogue. Having a good portion of the plot center around a ✨magical rock✨ is dangerous in and of itself, and even though this ✨magical rock✨ had some serious ✨magical consequences✨, it did feel a bit like a sorry excuse for a plot. Lucky for us, there’s far more than that; Schwab supplies the book with enough political intrigue, fantasy lore, banter, and intense conflict to make the plot full enough to sustain a gripping story. And gripping it was–yeah, I know I just griped about the ✨magical rock✨, but I seriously couldn’t put this one down.

For the most part, I adored the characters! Kell was a fantastic protagonist. From his distinct appearance (MAN I need to draw him) to his quiet loyalty to his magic prowess, it’s hard not to love him. Yeah, he’s more than a little edgy, but it was lovable in a Kaz Brekker kind of way. All of the supporting characters were similarly charming, bringing all sorts of unique elements to the plot.

All of them except for Lila.

Lila…

I loved almost all of the other characters, but I hated Lila. She fell straight into the “not like other girls” trope, and most of her mannerisms didn’t fail to make me cringe. What I didn’t care for in particular was her motivations. Nothing Lila did made any sense. I get that she’s a teenager, but wouldn’t leading a life of crime and starving on the streets give somebody some semblance of direction in life? Every decision that she made hinged on the fact that there would be no consequences, and most of it was fleeting, shallow, and far too spur of the moment.

The worst example: why she wants to travel through all of the alternate Londons with Kell? “Because I’m bored.”

SHUT Blank Template - Imgflip

…okay, maybe I’m giving her too little credit. Maybe that was a cover for her actual motivations. But do we know any of these motivations? NOPE. Thus why her character made no sense. The only upside is that I imagined her looking like Maeve from Sex Education with a cool fantasy outfit.

20th century women — ramimalec: EMMA MACKEY as MAEVE WILEY in...
this is Maeve, for reference

All in all, though, an immersive and luscious fantasy that hooked me in from page one. 4.5 stars!

vague gifs | WiffleGif
@ Lila

A Darker Shade of Magic is the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy, followed by A Gathering of Shadows (book 2) and A Conjuring of Light (book 3). Under this pseudonym, V.E. Schwab is also the author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and the Villains series (Vicious and Vengeful).

Today’s song:

the instrumental part at 2:31 was stuck in my head earlier this afternoon and it took me a good hour to remember what it was from

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/5/21) – Iron Widow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This novel came on my radar a few months ago, and I just had to put it on my TBR–what could go wrong with giant robots, aliens, and patriarchy-smashing? What more could a reader want, really? I preordered it, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint–and it got me out of a week-and-a-half-long reading slump too!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) – Xiran Jay Zhao

my copy ft. a nice filter and some more red and orange books

Hordes of aliens are invading Huaxia. Their last hope lies in the Chrysalises, supersized robots piloted by the best young boys that the country has to offer–and powered by girls, who inevitably die from the exertion.

It’s not a dream that most of the girls of Huaxia would entertain. But for 18-year-old Zetian, there’s more to the job than certain death. There’s a chance of revenge, specifically for her older sister, who was sacrificed by a Chrysalis pilot. Her murder successful murder plot garners her the rare title of Iron Widow, a role reversal where she pilots the Chrysalis and can only sacrifice boys. With her newfound title, Zetian has one more mission–tear the misogynist foundations of Huaxia’s army to shreds.

What Do You Want Jean Grey GIF - What Do You Want Jean Grey - Discover &  Share GIFs

TW/CW: misogyny, rape, graphic violence, death, past loss of loved one, alcoholism/substance abuse, withdrawal, torture

I’m ashamed that we didn’t think of this solution earlier…DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS

After a long slump, Iron Widow was just what I needed. Even if I’d been on a string of amazing books beforehand, though, this book would have been just as much of a wild ride as it was when I read it. Unapologetically feminist and action-packed, Iron Widow is sure to please sci-fi fans and those new to the genre.

The feminist aspect of Iron Widow is what stood out the most for me. Throughout, there’s unapologetic commentary on the harshest treatment of women in society, from the constraints of the gender binary to rape and institutionalized misogyny. Sure, we have hordes of aliens attacking the country in droves, but the rampant sexism and misogynist violence is the real antagonist here. Xiran Jay Zhao did an excellent job of showing all the facets of misogyny–and then having a character like Zetian tear them down little by little.

Zetian was the perfect protagonist for Iron Widow, and she’s a near textbook-perfect example of a flawed but sympathizable character. She’s ruthless, she’s fierce, she’s fiery, but what’s more important than her traits is why she became the way she did. It’s a perfect example of how oppression can shape a person’s character–Zetian might not have been so blindsided by revenge and filled with self-doubt were it not for the ingrained misogyny of Huaxia’s culture. Her character was such a well-crafted exploration of this theme.

On top of that, Zetian’s character made for the perfect catalyst to drive the plot forward! There was no shortage of drama or action that she either caused or that came in her wake, rocketing an already action-packed novel at a fast but consistently entertaining pace. The combination of Zetian and military drama, robots, and aliens made for a novel that never slowed down–in the best way possible.

Another aspect that Zhao handled well was the balance of plot elements. There’s more than a few heavy topics discussed in this book (see the TW/CW at the top), but they depicted their realness while also reveling in the more fantastical plot elements. I hesitate to call the latter “levity,” but there wasn’t an imbalance of either of those sections of the novel.

Now, I’m a little torn on the worldbuilding. For the most part, I loved it, especially the Chrysalises. Each one was based off of a creature from Chinese-inspired mythology, and I was so excited to see all of them come to life. Zhao also did a great job explaining the whole qi system without info dumping–there were just the right amount of evenly-spaced tidbits of information that I wasn’t deluged with anything, but by the time that these elements came in, I was able to go “oh, right, I understand how that works.” I just wish the same care was put into the Hundun aliens! Although I can’t wait to see how the twist with them is resolved in the next book, all of the details about them were so vague that I could hardly picture them.

Also, a big selling point about Iron Widow was that there was a love triangle solved by polyamory. I was so excited to see it come into play, but…it never seemed to happen? Maybe I missed something (is it just going to be slow-burn?), but I swear there was only some romantic undertones with both Li Shimin and Yizhi and the three of them haven’t been together for a very long time. Again, maybe I missed something, but I was a little disappointed by that. Maybe it’ll appear in book 2…

All in all, a raw and unapologetically feminist piece of YA sci-fi. 4 stars!

Iron Widow is Xiran Jay Zhao’s debut novel and the first in the Iron Widow series. The series will be continued by an as-of-yet untitled sequel set for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/28/21) – Final Draft

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book has been on my radar for at least a year and a half. I was drawn to it because of the premise of a character who is an aspiring sci-fi writer (like me!) going through high school. I bought it on my Kindle recently, and though my expectations were high, I found Final Draft to be enjoyable, but a little lacking–both in development and length.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Final Draft – Riley Redgate

Laila Piedra dreams of becoming a sci-fi author, and she spends every moment she can crafting new worlds on her laptop. Her biggest supporter is her creative writing teacher, Mr. Madison, who is always there to lend a word of advice or support. But when Mr. Madison gets in a car accident and can no longer teacher, he’s replaced by Nadiya Nazarenko, a renowned author who doles out scathing critiques faster than the speed of light. Pressured to impress her new teacher, Laila stretches herself into places that she never would have dreamed of. But what will it cost her dream of writing–and her mental health?

Wheres The Rest GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY
actual footage of me once I finished the book

TW/CW: underage drinking, fatphobia, depression, death, descriptions of injury

Final Draft had the makings of a great story, but it only felt like half a book. It left me wanting more in the end–everything felt so crammed and rushed, and as a result, all that could have been good ended up suffering. However, that wasn’t to say that it wasn’t at least enjoyable–it was a decent story, but it felt unnecessarily truncated.

I’ll start out with what I liked–the representation! Final Draft was a very diverse book–Laila is mixed-raced and half-Latina, and her rep made me feel so seen! She’s also plus-size and pansexual, and that combination of representation is always fantastic to see. Additionally, her love interest is Korean-American and a lesbian, and there are several Latinx side characters. So I owe a big thank you to Riley Redgate for all of that great rep!

Now, Final Draft started out with a lot of promise. The setup in the first third or so had the makings of a great story–a clear setup and a difficult conflict for Laila to overcome. But at about the 40% mark, everything felt crammed into a scant amount of pages. Everything happened at almost breakneck speed, shoving key conflicts into far fewer pages than was necessary to develop the events of the novel. (For reference, the Kindle edition of Final Draft was only 272 pages, so there could have been so much more content to bulk everything up and make it coherent!) It all felt so rushed, and as a result, the message came across muddy and underdeveloped. There are so many themes that are so important to discuss–the cautionary tale of the “suffering artist,” mental health and depression, and grief, to name a few–but they were all glossed over in such a short amount of time that they were all unfinished and badly handled.

That being said, although the story was unnecessarily rushed, at least the topics discussed were there. For creative people, mental health is so often neglected in the face of criticism and perfectionism, and having a story like Laila’s is an important one not just for writers, but any young person with creative passions. Laila’s story needs to be told–I just wish it was fully fleshed out.

All in all, a book that had the potential to be potent and powerful, but suffered from excessive rushing. 3 stars.

i love you ! [ 𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗿𝗶 ]. | Anime scenery, Anime gifts, Aesthetic gif

Final Draft is a standalone, but Riley Redgate is also the author of Noteworthy, Seven Ways We Lie, and the forthcoming Alone Out Here, which is slated for release in April 2022.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/21/21) – Harley in the Sky

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Akemi Dawn Bowman ever since I read Starfish around three years ago. This is the latest of her books that I’ve read, and I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint – just as poignant and gut-wrenching as her other novels!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Harley in the Sky: 9781534437128: Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books

Harley in the Sky – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Harley Milano grew up surrounded by vibrant costumes and trapeze artists in her parents’ circus. Her dream has always been to join the circus, but her parents want her to go to college for computer science instead.

After a fight on her eighteenth birthday, Harley goes against everything that they’ve ever wished for–she runs away and joins the Maison du Mystère, the rival traveling circus. There, she is thrust into the world of the circus, quickly falling in love and rising to the top of the hierarchy as one of its lead trapeze artists. But Harley’s past is catching up to her, and she must grapple with the people she betrayed in order to see her dreams come to fruition.

WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR dot COM

TW/CW: depression, racism, emotional manipulation, suicidal ideation

I think all of us have read plenty of books about characters running away to pursue their dreams and leaving everything they knew behind. But very few discuss the consequences–the people they leave behind and the emotional wounds that they may open up. Harley in the Sky is one such book, and man, it was just as heart-wrenching as Akemi Dawn Bowman’s other novels. All at once tender, heavy, and messy, it grapples with all sorts of hefty emotions and handles them all with aplomb.

Harley was, by all means, a very unlikeable character. She has a plethora of issues that she leaves undealt with when she takes off in search of her circus dreams, but you can’t help but root for her. I will say that I related to her on one plane: that of her mixed-race identity. Both of Harley’s parents are biracial, and as a result, she feels as though she doesn’t fit in anywhere. As a mixed-race person myself, Bowman handled her identity in a way that really resonated with me. And despite how tangled of a character Harley is, she displays some significant growth over the course of the novel, and by the end, she begins to reconcile with everything that she’s done and everything she’s left behind.

The rest of the characters also shone! There was such a unique and diverse cast, and the circuses that Bowman created felt like ones that might travel cross-country in the real world. Each character was refreshingly distinct, all with unique backstories and personalities. I especially loved Vas–yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker for the brooding British guys who play instruments, but he was such a well-fleshed-out character, both standing on his own and as a love interest for Harley.

As with all of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s novels, Harley in the Sky deals with some heavy topics. I won’t lie–it was a hard book to read at times, but Bowman handles all of these topics, from undiagnosed mental illness to toxic relationships, with incredible skill. All of her books stir up such profound emotion in me, and this one was no exception.

All in all, a novel that was all at once tender and heartbreaking that will leave a permanent mark on your heart. 4 stars!

circus gifs Page 12 | WiffleGif

Harley in the Sky is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Summer Bird Blue, and the Infinity Courts series, which includes The Infinity Courts, and the forthcoming The Genesis Wars.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/14/21) – Tell the Machine Goodnight

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I have my dad to thank for finding the book I’m reviewing today, so thank you! It was in an NPR article that he sent me a month back that talked about the ways that sci-fi literature has changed in the past decade. I’d read or shelved a book or two from the list, but I added Tell the Machine Goodnight after reading it because of how fascinating it sounded. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Tell the Machine Goodnight: A Novel: Williams, Katie: 9780525533122:  Amazon.com: Books

Tell the Machine Goodnight – Katie Williams

In a near-future world, the secret to happiness can be obtained with the click of a button. Apricity is a company that has created a machine that can, with startling accuracy, predict exactly what someone needs to be happy.

Pearl has worked for Apricity for many years, earning her notoriety from her coworkers and her manager. But as she looks out into her life–particularly her teenage son, who rejects happiness above all else–she questions the purpose of the machine. Is “happiness” truly what she sells?

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TW/CW: substance abuse, eating disorders, stalking, violence, emetophobia

Tell the Machine Goodnight feels like what would happen if Noah Hawley sat down and tried to write a Ray Bradbury novel from scratch. Which is to say, I loved this book.

Everything about this novel felt like a dazzling callback to all of my favorite sci-fi classics. It’s set around 14 years from now, and everything is more or less the same, but there are just some aspects that are fundamentally off. It’s mainly Apricity, among other things, but Katie Williams did a fantastic job of making a world that was simultaneously familiar and unsettling, like something that could feasibly emerge in the next few decades.

I’ve read a lot of reviews that said that they felt that Tell the Machine Goodnight had no plot, but for me, the lack of structure added to the appeal of the narrative. It’s presented as a series of interconnected vignettes of life in Williams’ near-future world, and what society looks like when personalized, surface-level happiness dominates all else. One in particular stood out to me; in one thread, Pearl’s ex-husband creates modern art out of the Apricity suggestions. (One of them was to eat honey, and so he made an art form out of eating honey in excess and then vomiting it out.) Little quirks and stories like these made the world feel all the more fleshed out for me, and I enjoyed every page of it.

To top it off, I firmly believe that good sci-fi should make the reader think, and Tell the Machine Goodnight nails this right on the head! A lot of sci-fi media these days tends to tout that they “comment on the role of technology in our lives,” but I’ve found that very few books/movies/etc. that are advertised as such actually hit the mark. That’s not the case with this novel–it explores some very relevant themes, and does them in creative ways. Throughout the novel, there are themes of the meaning of true happiness, relationships, and our growing reliance on technology that does everything for us. Is computer-generated, temporary happiness truly happiness? It got me thinking, and I’m sure that I’ll be thinking back to it for years from now.

All in all, a modern sci-fi novel that has the feel of a classic and is sure to become a modern classic. 4 stars!

Bbc scales vie GIF on GIFER - by Thorgahuginn

Tell the Machine Goodnight is a standalone, but Katie Williams is also the author of Absent and The Space Between Trees.

Today’s song:

I’M SEEING HER ON THURSDAY NIGHT I’M SO EXCITED

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/7/21) – Curses

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Lish McBride’s for a few years now, ever since I fell in love with Firebug back in middle school. So when I found out that she’d come out with a new book, I was OVERJOYED. I immediately put it on hold at the library, and I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint in the slightest!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Curses by Lish McBride

Curses – Lish McBride

Merit Cravan is cursed. After refusing to marry the prince her mother wanted her to marry, a fairy godling cursed her to be a carnivorous beast. The curse can only be broken if she marries a man her mother chooses by her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin comes from a family of conmen, and after his mother blunders and gets on the wrong side of Lady Cravan, he’s traded to them in exchange for her mother’s freedom. He befriends Merit, and learns of her curse, but as her eighteenth birthday creeps ever closer, they discover that the way to break it is closer than either of them could have imagined.

Disney Live Action — Emma Watson as Belle BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017),...

TW/CW: gore, grotesque transformations, body horror, animal death, violence, drugging

I know, I know. Beauty and the Beast retellings have long seen their day in YA. We’ve all suffered through countless awful ones. But I am BEGGING you to read this one. You’ll love it, trust me.

I really missed reading Lish McBride books. Her wry sense of humor and genre subversion have never failed to capture my heart, and Curses was no exception. Not only does Curses flip the traditional aspects of Beauty and the Beast on their heads, it does so in the most over-the-top, tongue in cheek way possible. It’s a fairytale retelling that regularly laughs at itself. And I loved every minute of it.

The majority of the characters were compulsively lovable, and if they weren’t, they were so over-the-top that it was impossible not to have a laugh at their expense. Tevin was my favorite by far; he struck me as a very Loki-like character, but behind the magical charm and and conniving, he was a strikingly complex character. Merit was also a great protagonist! I loved her independent spirit, and the way that her curse was explored was fascinating. (Also, I loved all of the other weird curses that the side characters got – very Courtney Crumrin…no, no, wait, I think that was frogs, not snakes…anyways)

660 My prince twice over ideas | tom hiddleston loki, tom hiddleston,  thomas william hiddleston

But what I loved best about Curses is that it’s the lovably campy, comedic antithesis of every YA Beauty and the Beast retelling of the last decade or so. It’s the cure to a subgenera that has tried to take itself far too seriously, trying too hard to make itself “edgy” in order to appeal to The Teens™️. (For reference, see: Beastly, Of Beast and Beauty, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, etc.) Everything had to be all dark and gritty, or else it wouldn’t be marketable. It got old quickly. And I’m not sure if Lish McBride had this in mind while writing Curses, but this book is the perfect cure to all of that. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s plenty of laughs at its own expense, and it’s simultaneously a unique, well-written piece of art and the perfect counter to edgy retellings past. I’m 100% for pushing back against the notion that art has to be dark or edgy to be considered “deep” or worthy of praise, and if you agree, this is the book for you.

My only complaint is the worlldbuilding. It seemed complex at first glance (what with all the different types of faeries), but the more I read, the more surface-level it seemed. There’s a timestamp given, but what does that mean? Is this an alternate history? Is it just a year according to the world of Curses? Does it pertain to actual human history? I could’ve used some answers. But it’s my only complaint, really. I loved almost everything else.

All in all…well, it’s a gender-swapped Beauty and the Beast retelling, what more could you possibly want? 4.25 stars!

Loki Gif - GIFcen

Curses is a standalone, but Lish McBride is also the author of the Firebug series (Firebug and Pyromantic), the Necromancer series (Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone), and several other novellas.

Today’s song:

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That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/31/21) – The Good Luck Girls

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This week’s review was a fairly recent addition to my TBR. I found out about this series through a great post by Simone and her Books (thanks for putting it on my radar!), and I had a good feeling about it when I bought it with my birthday money the other day. I’m glad to say that I was right – my favorite out of all the books I bought that day!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Good Luck Girls – Charlotte Nicole Davis

my copy ft. a few more purplish books (I don’t have a whole lot of purple books ksjdhfksjdhf)

Branded and trapped in a “welcome house” against their wills, the lives of the Good Luck Girls are filled with anything but good luck. Sisters Clementine and Aster have lived their lives in one such welcome house, waiting for the impossible day when they can go free. But when Clementine accidentally kills a wealthy man, she knows she’s put her life on the life. Along with her sister Aster, their friends Tansy and Mallow, and Violet, the prickly favorite of the welcome house, she risks a daring escape, meeting friend and foe alike as she flees into the wild.

HONEYMOON CLUB | Aesthetic gif, Desert aesthetic, Just like heaven

TW/CW: rape, branding, sex slavery, murder, descriptions of illness, misogyny, torture, loss of loved ones/death, substance abuse

Have you ever finished a book and immediately thought something along the lines of “man, why has nobody gotten the rights to make this a TV show?” My thoughts exactly for The Good Luck Girls – its cinematic writing makes it the perfect fit for the small screen, and its effortless blending of paranormal, Western, and dystopian genres made it stand out from all the rest!

I’ve never really read or watched many Westerns or Western-inspired books, movies or TV shows (I’m counting The Mandalorian in there though), but I found myself latching onto the immersive and unique world that Charlotte Nicole Davis presents us with in The Good Luck Girls. It’s equal parts Western, paranormal fantasy, and dystopia, and all of them fit to make a fascinating world! There’s something for everybody. You want girls rising up and fighting the power? FIVE OF THEM! You want ghosts, demons, and other weird monsters? Plenty of those to go around. Magic? Lots of that too. Whatever genre you usually gravitate you, there’s something for everybody in this novel.

The feminism and themes of sisterhood also shone in this novel! We follow a diverse cast of characters (some of them are POC and there’s a wlw relationship between two of them) as they escape a life of sex slavery, encountering no shortage of horrors along the way but sticking together through it all. Especially regarding most of the scenes in the “welcome house,” there are plenty of heavy and hard-to-read topics, but Charlotte Nicole Davis handled them in a way that balanced realism and giving the slightest bit of hope. I’m always up for books with a gang of well-written women taking down the patriarchy (and in the case of this book, fighting against misogyny and rape culture in particular), and The Good Luck Girls delivered 100% in that respect.

As for the characters, I liked most of them a reasonable amount, but I didn’t get completely attached to all of them. For Violet in particular, I liked that even though she was the token “bad-natured one who refuses to get along with anybody else” character, Davis gave her just as much depth and backstory as characters like Clem and Aster. However, I do wish that Tansy and Mallow got more page time; they just seemed like footnotes in contrast to Aster, Clem, and Violet, and we didn’t get much of their backstory. The Good Luck Girls would have been more enjoyable with a multiple POV structure, in my opinion; we got inside Aster and Clem’s heads, but since there’s an ensemble cast, I would have liked to get some of the motivations and quirks of characters like Violet, Tansy, and Mallow from their perspectives.

All in all, an effortless blend of wildly different genres that results in a fiercely feminist and cinematic journey. 4 stars!

✔️|2| 𝐒𝐏𝐎𝐍𝐓𝐀𝐍𝐄𝐎𝐔𝐒 [CA:CW] - 𝐄𝐩𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡 | Magic aesthetic, Aesthetic  gif, Powers

The Good Luck Girls is the first book in the Good Luck Girls series, followed by The Sisters of Reckoning. Charlotte Nicole Davis also contributed the short story All the Time in the World to A Phoenix Must First Burn, an anthology of sci-fi/fantasy stories by Black women and gender nonconforming people.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/24/21) – Ahsoka

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Over the weekend, I got to visit my favorite bookstore for my birthday, and I got lots of books! I have my dad to thank for finding the Star Wars section (thank you!!), and I decided to buy Ahsoka because she seems like a super cool character. All in all, though, Ahsoka was a fascinating look into the Star Wars universe immediately post-Order 66 and a good exploration of a character that I wasn’t as familiar with!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Star Wars Ahsoka: 9781484705667: E.K. Johnston, Wojtowicz,  Jason P: Books

Ahsoka (Star Wars) – E.K. Johnston

my copy ft. a cool filter, some quartz and bismuth, and my Yoda Funko Pop! Figure

After Order 66 caused the assassination of almost all of the Jedi order, Ahsoka Tano is on the run. Alienated by her former mentor, the new Sith Lord Anakin Skywalker, she flees to Raada, a backwater farming moon, with the hopes of laying low and blending in. But when the Empire sets its sights on occupying Raada, Ahsoka faces the choice of risking Imperial rule or escaping and revealing her Jedi identity.

Obsessed With The Mandalorian — More than Partners- The Mandalorian x reader

TW/CW: assassination, colonization/occupation, sci-fi violence, descriptions of injury

Okay. Look. I’m a massive fan of Star Wars, and I have been for most of my life. Thing is, I’ve never seen the new Clone Wars series (I adored the 2D one from the early 2000’s, though…that was the stuff) or Rebels, and that’s where Ahsoka primarily shows up. I knew enough about both of them to piece together Ahsoka’s backstory, but she’s still a character that I wasn’t super familiar with. I’ve always liked the idea of her, though, and I thought she was FANTASTIC in The Mandalorian. So I figured I’d give the book a try, both to explore Ahsoka’s character and this part of the Star Wars universe.

For the most part, Ahsoka was a success! There were interludes interspersed throughout that gave a good deal of backstory of Ahsoka’s life as a Padawan, which helped me to piece out everything I’d missed from The Clone Wars and Rebels. I’d say that you can read this without watching either, but this is coming from someone who lives and breathes most things Star Wars, so take that as you will. Even then, Ahsoka’s character was fascinating! For the most part, I liked the way that her character was written, and her arc throughout the novel was well-executed, showing her transition from a Jedi to a full-blown rebel.

There are also a lot of details interspersed throughout that made me giddy as a Star Wars fan – we get details about how Ahsoka gets her lightsabers, several cameos (inside and outside of the flashback interludes) from prequel characters, and…I think the main villain from Rebels? I think? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was him? Either way, I had a lot of fun finding all of those Easter eggs.

The writing was decent, but I didn’t find it to be anything special. I found it rather bland, and with such an immersive and extensive universe as this one, the writing style did a bit of a disservice to several aspects of the novel. Some of the dialogue felt too stilted and forced (no pun intended), and I wasn’t a huge fan of Ahsoka’s inner dialogue as well. But it wasn’t anything egregiously bad. It just didn’t stand out for me. Not necessarily well-written, but not badly-written either. Just in the middle for me.

Additionally, the plot moved along a little too quickly. Ahsoka is about the average size for a book (around 370 pages in the paperback edition), but for each plot point, there was usually only a short time spent, and the transitory periods between them were virtually nonexistent. Ahsoka herself also had a bit too easy of a time overcoming many of the obstacles she encountered, but…okay, she’s a Jedi. I wouldn’t say she was written as a Mary Sue, but it was closish. But seeing as, y’know, she’s a lightsaber-wielding being with pseudo-magical powers and friends in high places, it makes a little bit of sense.

All in all, an addition to the extensive Star Wars universe that did some of the universe itself a slight disservice with indistinct writing, but fleshed out a beloved character in an inventive way. 3.5 stars!

Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian | Chapter 13: The Jedi - The Mandalorian Fan  Art (43663792) - Fanpop

Ahsoka is a standalone novel in the universe of Star Wars novels, but E.K. Johnston has also contributed two more Star Wars novels, Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril, both centering around Padmé Amidala. Johnston is also the author of Aetherbound, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, That Inevitable Victorian Thing, and several other novels for young adults.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!