Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/23/21) – Game Changer

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a long time know how big of a fan of Neal Shusterman I am; I fell in love with the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, then discovered Everlost, Dry and Challenger Deep. So when I found out that he was coming out with a new book, of course I had to preorder it! I got around to reading it last week, and while the masterful writing and world-building is still present, Game Changer was a lower point in Shusterman’s body of work for me. (Still entertaining, though.)

Enjoy this week’s review!

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
this cover: “MR. STARK I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD”

Game Changer – Neal Shusterman

My copy ft. a cool filter and my new Nightcrawler Pop! figure, because why not

Ashley – Ash for short – lives and breathes football, scoring for his high school’s team. But an unexpected injury on the field leads to consequences that he never could have dreamed of: the hit sent him into another dimension. Each time he collides with another player, he’s launched into different dimensions, each one stranger than the last. His only clues to this bizarre occurrence are the Edwards, a group of multi-dimensional trickster entities who multiply every time he hops through dimensions. Will he be able to return home – and take the knowledge he gleaned from the other dimensions with him?

starfallingstims | Tv static, Overlays transparent, Aesthetic gif

TW/CW: descriptions of injury, racism, homophobia, hate crimes, sexism, abuse, attempted murder, substance abuse

Neal Shusterman is clearly a master storyteller (one of the greatest in YA today, I might go so far as to say). And I’m so glad that he tried to make Game Changer as a response to all of the hatred and prejudice that’s going on in the world today, to make something that inspires people to make change in their communities. But while there’s clearly good intentions behind this book, Game Changer definitely missed the mark in several respects. At its heart, it was still a decent sci-fi story, though.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Shusterman’s prose continues to be incredible, chock-full of clever metaphors and authentic descriptions. There were passages that made me laugh out loud and passages that sent a chill down my spine in equal parts, making for a well-written story. And the worldbuilding was similarly stellar! The inter-dimensional mythology that Shusterman created in Game Changer was fascinating and so well-thought-out. I loved the concept of the Edwards as well – they added an element of simultaneous comic relief and suspense, and they were such an original addition to the novel.

The plot was also very fast-paced and suspenseful, and I loved seeing all of the inter-dimensional elements build up along with the mystery and Ash’s struggle to get back home. So at its heart, Game Changer was a great sci-fi story. Thing is, everything started to get…not-so-good the further into the dimensions we hopped.

The main problem presents itself in three of the dimensions that Ash encountered; In one, segregation is still legal, he’s gay in another (he’s straight in his “normal” dimension), and in one of the final dimensions, he’s a girl in an abusive relationship. Now, the message Shusterman was trying to get across with these dimensions was certainly well-intentioned, and I thought it was a great one, the fact that you can’t solve everything that’s wrong with the world, but you should still make an effort to learn/change things. But seeing as Ash is a [Bo Burnham voice] straight white male, the message didn’t come across in the best way.

My main problem was with the dimension in which Ash is gay; the narrative mainly focuses on him coming out and the reception following it. I saw a quick video on this the other day and reading Game Changer made me think of it; in a lot of straight-made LGBTQ+ media, the narrative is highly centered around the coming-out experience. And while that’s certainly an important aspect of queerness for a lot of people, it doesn’t encompass the entirety of the queer experience. This part in Game Changer largely fell into the same trap, and even beyond that, it felt rather contrived. So that whole section of the story didn’t quite sit right with me.

And then there’s the deal where Ash enters a dimension where not only is he a woman, but he’s also in an extremely abusive relationship with one of his teammates. Again, as with the dimension where Ash is gay, Shusterman definitely employed some sensitivity readers and tried to tackle a very important issue, but still missed the mark. It’s nice that Shusterman’s trying to raise awareness for these kinds of issues, but…again, straight white male character experiencing it, male author writing it, so it didn’t translate super well. It felt a bit like Quentin Tarantino trying to have a message about motherhood in Kill Bill vol. 2 (and missing the mark by miles), but not quite as drastic. Again, did not sit right with me as a woman, but…at least he tried? I dunno…

I Just Dont Know How I Feel GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

All in all, a book that was well-written and well-intentioned, but missed the mark in trying to depict issues of racism, homophobia, sexism and abuse. 3.5 stars.

Not Quite GIFs | Tenor

Game Changer is a standalone, but Neal Shusterman is also the author of the Arc of a Scythe trilogy (Scythe, Thunderhead & The Toll), Challenger Deep, the Skinjacker trilogy (Everlost, Everwild & Everfound), and many other novels and series. He also coauthored the standalone Dry with his son, Jarrod Shusterman.

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 (2/16/21) – A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

And now, onto another book that I bought with my Christmas gift card and loved!

I’ll admit to being a bit jaded with most YA fantasy novels at present (even though I still read them in droves), but the cover and the mythology of this novel convinced me to buy myself a copy, and I’m so glad I did! A novel that simultaneously felt nostalgic and something wholly new and original.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Image result for a song of wraiths and ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #1)–Roseanne A. Brown

My copy ft. a cool filter and one of my bookshelves

In the wealthy city of Ziran, it is a time for celebration, many days of carnivals and competition at the Solstasia Festival. This year, however, the lives of two very different teens with cross in ways that could change their world forever.

Malik came to Ziran to escape, but at a price; as an entrance fee, an evil spirit captured his sister, and the only way that he can get her back is to kill Karina, the crown princess of Ziran.

Karina yearns for a life outside the palace, but after her mother, the Queen, is assassinated, she begins dabbling in dark magic to bring her back. Her magic, too, has a price–it requires a king’s beating heart, and the only way she can get that is to sneak her way into the Solstasia competition–where Malik has entered in order to get closer to her.

Their destiny is to kill each other–but their feelings for each other cannot be ignored, and they may have to twist fate itself to find their way out of this conundrum.

Image result for dark magic aesthetic gif

TW/CW (from Roseanne A. Brown, at the front of the book): self harm (magic ritual), violence, abuse (emotional and physical), anxiety/panic attacks, loss of loved ones, animal death

Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve read a fantasy that I’ve loved as much as I did this one! A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is truly a treasure.

What stood out most for me was the writing style. There’s something about Brown’s writing that’s evocative of so many things that bring joy to me; there’s an almost Marvel sensibility about it, maybe a little bit of Disney (normally, I’m not the biggest fan of Disney, but this made it work)…it’s hard to quite put my finger on it, but the style was delightfully cinematic, calling to mind a classic, feel-good adventure movie. This would translate to well to the big screen, I’d love to see a movie adaptation of this one…

The characters were wonderful as well! Karina was such a lovable protagonist, and I adored her free spirit and determination. (Plus, the image of her standing on top of a table and aggressively serenading an entire restaurant…immaculate) Malik was the perfect character to balance her out, more of a calming and grounded presence. Both of their traumas felt very authentic, and it’s always good to see male protagonists that not only have mental illnesses (Malik seems to have some form of anxiety), but are openly sensitive and express their feelings. Together, they created such a captivating, enemies-to-lovers romance! Yeah, yeah, I know the whole “they’re both trying to kill each other, BUT HEY, THEY’RE MADLY IN LOVE NOW” trope has been done before, but Karina and Malik are both such well-written characters that I can make an exception. What can I say, I’m a total sucker for enemies to lovers.

And the worldbuilding! Brown’s world was so lived-in and full of resonant magic. My favorite aspect was the mythology surrounding all of the different deities and spirits, and I had such a fun time discovering the world piece by piece as the plot progressed. Like I said, I haven’t read a fantasy novel that’s filled me with *this much joy* in quite a while. GAH!

Image result for oh it's beautiful gif
I think I used this gif when I did a Goodreads Monday on this one…I’m coming full circle

All in all, an adventurous and well-written fantasy that filled me to the brim with joy. Maybe I’m not so jaded with YA fantasy after all. 4 stars!

Image result for wholesome cat meme gif

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is the first novel in Roseanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology, followed by A Psalm of Storms and Silence, which is scheduled to be released on August 31, 2021. Wraiths is Brown’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

rewatching of Season 2 is well underway…the strings at the end of this give me Sparklehorse vibes and I love it

That’s it for this book review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/9/21) – Before the Fall

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Me? Reviewing non-YA books two weeks in a row? I’m in rare form…

I just have to review this one, though. I’ve been a massive fan of Noah Hawley’s work on television for years; Fargo is my favorite show, and Legion follows very close behind. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that he’s written several books!

I spent some of my Christmas gift card money for a local bookstore on this one, and man, I’m so glad that I did. I’m not usually one for mystery, but Before the Fall is a slow-burning but visibly intricate novel that I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Image result for before the fall book noah hawley cover

Before the Fall – Noah Hawley

One night in August, an unknown disaster causes a private plane to crash into the ocean with 11 people onboard, including the crew. Most are powerful media giants or their companions, some soon to be convicted of crimes, others on the road to even more fame and fortune. The only exception is that of Scott Burroughs, a struggling painter on his way to New York.

Scott, along with the four-year-old son of a powerful newscaster, are the only survivors.

Now in the midst of a national conspiracy, Scott finds his privacy tumbling down around him as the media attempts to decipher the cause of the plane crash–malfunction, terrorism, or something else entirely?

Image result for stormy ocean gif

TW/CW: Plane crash/resulting trauma, loss of loved ones, death(s) (adults and children), substance abuse

[chanting to myself in front of the mirror] “stop talking about Fargo…stop talking about Fargo…STOP TALKING ABOUT FARGO…”

My first 5-star read of 2021, ladies, gentlemen & others! I’ll admit that my expectations were absolutely through-the-roof high, but I’m delighted to say that Before the Fall 110% met them.

This was my first exposure to Noah Hawley’s novels, but I’ve adored his work ever since falling in love with Fargo and Legion. But even though there’s a significant gap between experiencing a TV show and a book, this still felt just as cinematic. It really felt like I was watching an episode of Fargo; the writing did meander a bit and linger on things for too long, but it felt like drifting through plot points as we get more information on the characters. Something that I always value in any good novel is a clear care for even the smallest of details, and Before the Fall was exemplary in that department.

Now, I read fast. It’s a problem, at this point. But it’s not every book that makes me actively think “man, I can’t wait until I have a break so I can pick this up again!” And Before the Fall built up such a suspenseful and gripping story that I found myself looking forward to the times in my day when I could kick back and read it. Hawley’s writing instantly pulled me in and didn’t let me go until the final page. Everything in this novel felt deliberate, placed just so to make for a plot that kept me guessing all the way through.

Normally, writing that tends to ramble bothers me sometimes; it feels like the author’s going off on random tangents that have no pertinence to the central plot. And maybe I’m biased, but Hawley made it work in such a way that I looked forward to all of the little digressions throughout the novel. Throughout Before the Fall, backstory and suspense are built through a series of thorough snapshots–obituaries, days in the lives of the dead passengers, and more. Even Scott’s paintings–the subject matter of which is far more important than I would’ve thought at first–help to make the mystery unravel. (As well as help Scott’s reputation unravel…oops…) Every single character, even the side characters that seldom make an appearance, felt astoundingly authentic, someone you could pass by on the street, so fleshed-out they were.

All in all, a stunning and intricate mystery from one of my favorite creative minds. I’m 100% going to read Hawley’s other novels now. 5 stars!

Image result for fargo fx gif

Before the Fall is a standalone, but Noah Hawley is also the author of The Good Father, A Conspiracy of Tall Men, The Punch, and Other People’s Weddings. He is also the executive producer/writer/director of the TV adaptations of Fargo (FX) and Legion. (FX/Marvel television)

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, Books

Book Review Tuesday (2/2/21) – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since it released on Netflix, my brother was trying to convince the whole family to watch I’m Thinking of Ending Things. My parents watched it beforehand, and I myself ended up watching it over Thanksgiving break. It’s certainly a bleak and depressing film, but I somehow was able to disconnect myself from that aspect; in that way, I could see it for the grimly poetic piece of art that it is. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that it was originally a book!

So of course, I put it on hold on my kindle. I finally got to read it last week, and I must say, what a complex gem of a novel!

Enjoy this week’s review!

I'm Thinking of Ending Things eBook by Iain Reid - 9781501126963 | Rakuten  Kobo United States
Normally, I’m not one for book covers being changed to the movie posters, but I liked the simplicity of this poster, and it actually translated well to a book cover.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things–Iain Reid

After a short time dating, Jake is finally taking his girlfriend to visit his parents and childhood home. Unbeknownst to him, his girlfriend continues to have misgivings about the situation. As the road unfolds before them, the situation grows continually stranger, and she wonders if Jake–and the life he’s constructed–is real at all. One thing is for certain–she has to find a way back home.

The Corners of the World Our Mere Prologue — People like to think of  themselves as points...

TW/CW: suicide/suicidal thoughts, violence, blood, descriptions of animal death

I’m Thinking of Ending Things was one of those films that made me want to write a 17-page essay in my head minutes after watching it, and I’m glad to say that the source material was no exception! This novel is one that continually defies categorization, a beautifully absurd bundle of philosophical musings and gripping psychological horror.

I watched the movie a few months before reading the book (oops), and so I ended up imagining the characters, for the most part, as they were in the film. For the most part, the film stayed very true to the book; I recognized quite a few familiar elements as I went along, and the mood was very similar to that of the film. (However, I was a bit disappointed to see that Jessie Buckley’s iconic car poetry wasn’t originally in the book…) This is my first experience with Reid’s writing, and what stood out most for me is that he’s mastered how to deliver a consistent creeping sense of dread. Even though I knew the truth behind everything after seeing the movie, it was still chilling to watch everything slowly unravel.

Reid absolutely has a talent for building a story for our young couple, and then slowly but surely unraveling it before your eyes; a backstory is established, but with each detail that he throws in, you begin to suspect more and more that something is gravely amiss. That, pieced together from the posthumous police reports, makes for a piece that’s wonderfully intricate. Even going off the ending of the film, I still had an absolute blast trying to piece everything together and pick it apart again. In short: most everything you see in this novel is important, and then it isn’t. You’ll see what I mean.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is by all means a character-driven novel; the first third is almost entirely composed of past memories and Jake and his girlfriend discussing life, the universe & everything on the way to Jake’s parents’ house. In another novel, I might just think that these two were just vessels for the author’s thoughts, but no–there’s actually a fount of subjects that were quite profound. Many of them have stuck with me for a while afterwards. And both the message and the resolution of the book is quite bleak (as the title and the first line suggest), but for me, it was more the experience of piecing everything together that made reading this novel so memorable.

As for the ending…this is clearly the part that Charlie Kaufman took the most creative liberties with when making the film. It’s certainly a lot more horror-like than I expected, but it packs just as powerful of a punch. There’s no sugarcoating here–it’s raw, it’s bare, and it’s dark, but it wraps the book up in a twistedly perfect way. It left me feeling stunned in the best possible way.

All in all, a grim, psychological novel that’s like nothing I’ve ever read. 4.25 stars!

Split Infinitives

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a standalone, but Iain Reid is also the author of Foe and the nonfiction novels One Bird’s Choice and The Truth About Luck.

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 (1/26/21) – Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After adoring Zero Repeat Forever last week, I knew I had to get my hands on the sequel. As luck would have it, book 2 was available at my library, and I was able to get it along with the rest of my library haul. But even though it was still entertaining, Cold Falling White lost the tender spark that made Zero Repeat Forever so memorable.

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Zero Repeat Forever!

For my review of book 1, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions Book 2) eBook:  Prendergast, G. S.: Kindle Store

Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions, #2)–G.S. Prendergast

Left for dead, Raven wakes up in an unfamiliar place in clothes that aren’t hers. And she’s not alone. Many of her friends from camp that had been killed by the Nahx are there, but they’re still alive. Aboard a Nahx ship, she must escape with her life, but she may discover secrets about these invaders of Earth. And above all, she must find August.

Xander believes that Raven, along with all of the former campers, is dead. On his own, he flees a refugee camp, only to find August, the Nahx who saved Raven’s life not long ago. Forming an uneasy alliance, the two connect with a rebellious faction of Nahx who may hold the keys to halting the ongoing invasion.

With the odds against them, these three must reunite or fall under Nahx rule.

Will-o'wisp | Will o the wisp, Creature concept art, Rise of the guardians

TW/CW: human experimentation, violence, loss of loved ones, mentions of freezing to death

What in the resurrection trope was this?

I’m glad that I read Zero Repeat Forever right before reading this, because otherwise, I would’ve been so lost. Come to think of it, I was still a bit lost through some of the book, but regardless, Cold Falling White was a rambling mess compared to its predecessor.

One of my main problems with this novel was the new POV. Xander was a character that I sort of liked in book 1; he didn’t bug me, but I didn’t get super attached to him. Having his POV in the book made almost no sense. Not only was his voice rather bland, his subplot dominated the other two POVs for no good reason. The only thing that connected his plot to the rest of the book was the eventual Nahx rebellion, and that part didn’t even come into play until the last half of the book. (For reference, this book is nearly 600 pages.) However, I will say that it’s cool that we have a queer Asian lead as one of the POVs. (Xander’s sexuality is never specified, from what I remember, but we see him in an mlm romance. The romantic subplot definitely felt shoehorned in, but hey, at least it’s decent rep.)

I really wish that Raven’s POV had a more prominent role; her chapters were often shorter than Xander’s, and we didn’t learn much from them. One of my complaints about Zero Repeat Forever that I forgot to mention in my review was that we really didn’t get any context/backstory for the Nahx and why they invaded. We got some interesting stuff on their culture/anatomy/physiology in Cold Falling White, but there’s still no reason given for why they invaded Earth in the first place, or why they started resurrecting and modifying humans at will. The tidbits that we got were interesting, I will say, but as a whole, it felt very rushed and full of holes. (I sort of liked Blue’s species…I forget what they’re called, the little alien will-o-the-wisp things?)

And even though we got some of his chapters in the latter half, I really missed August’s POV. However, somewhere down the line, all of the poetic tenderness and philosophical musings got lost, and I don’t know where they went. I’m not sure if Aurora (from Xander’s POVs, mostly) was an attempt at a female stand-in for him, and I liked her a little, but she just didn’t hit that tender spot like August did in book 1. All of the other rebel Nahx were kind of interchangeable, too. Sigh.

Best Fargo GIFs | Gfycat

That being said, Cold Falling White was still somewhat entertaining. It all went progressively downhill, but the writing was still good, and I liked the harsh setting of the Canadian wilderness. Plus, you’ll always get brownie points from me for peppering in lots of Frankenstein references. Like the Edgar Allan Poe in book 1, I liked how all that tied into the theme of the novel.

And all that for…such a weird cliffhanger? I was under the impression that this was a duology, so what was that all about? [confused screaming]

All in all, a sequel that retained good writing and imagery, but lacked in plot and worldbuilding. 3, sad little stars.

My Disappointment Is Immeasurable, And My Day Is Ruined HD 1080P GIF |  Gfycat

Cold Falling White is the second book in the Nahx Invasions duology, preceded by Zero Repeat Forever. G.S. Prendergast is also the author of the Ella series (Audacious and Capricious), as well as the middle grade novel Pandas on the Eastside.

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, Books

Book Review Tuesday (1/19/21) – Zero Repeat Forever

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! (And hey, Trump is out of the White House tomorrow, so that’s certainly cause for celebration! Won’t to worry about my basic human rights being taken away for a while…[relieved sigh])

Anyway, I read this one in close to one sitting yesterday on my day off. I expected it to take me a few days to read (close to 500 pages long), but I gobbled it up at alarming speed. Zero Repeat Forever had been on my TBR for almost exactly two years, and I had no idea what was in store for me. A diverse dystopia that was all at once tense and tender!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Read Online Zero Repeat Forever (The Nahx Invasions #1) by Gabrielle  Prendergast Book or Download in PDF - madison-elijah56746

Zero Repeat Forever (The Nahx Invasions, #1)–G.S. Prendergast

Raven and her friends were away at summer camp when a legion of heavily armored aliens invaded Earth, laying waste to cities and leaving almost no survivors. After one of the aliens–dubbed the Nahx–kills her boyfriend Tucker, her friends flee, eking out an existence in the Canadian wilderness.

Eighth, a member of the Nahx, has no name–only a rank. After his companion is killed by a human, he sets off on his own. An encounter with a young human leaves him questioning his mission to kill all humans in sight, and he makes it his quest to find her and bring her to safety.

Chance brings Eighth and Raven together, both separated from their friends and fending for themselves. They soon realize that their situation may not be so black and white–and that there may be a chance to turn the tides.

Flower white wind GIF - Find on GIFER

TW/CW: Graphic violence, descriptions of injury/sickness (fever, broken bones, etc.), racism, loss of loved ones, loss of parents (off page), substance abuse (smoking, drinking)

WOW. I didn’t even have any expectations for this one–I just picked it up because I needed some more sci-fi in my life. But Zero Repeat Forever was such a powerful novel–a tale of setting aside differences in the midst of division that threatens to split the world in two, and the relationships that define our lives.

First off, there’s some amazing diversity in this novel. Raven, our protagonist, is mixed race (half white/half Black–Black mother, white father, and she also had an Indigenous stepfather), and there’s several other POC characters present. As a mixed-race person, it always makes my heart so happy to see mixed-race characters starring prominently in their own stories. 💗

There’s also a gay couple that features in the first part of the novel, but the thing about them is a bit complicated–they’re the only explicitly LGBTQ+ characters in the novel, but they both end up getting killed, which would fall into the bury-your-gays trope. However, these characters weren’t harmfully stereotyped, and it really doesn’t seem like killing off the gay characters was intentional in a homophobic way. (Plus, by the end of the novel, most of the main characters are dead–we’re talking Fargo levels of main character deaths.) Even so, it didn’t sit completely right with me. Again, it didn’t seem intentional and it’s a small part of the novel, but I think it’s important to take that into account. (Most of the reason why I didn’t rate this one the full five stars–see my rating below.)

Zero Repeat Forever is a special kind of dystopia–sure, there’s plenty of dark and bleak material, but it manages to balance that with tenderness and hope, making a beautifully poetic kind of novel. One way that this novel really shone was in the portrayal of human emotion, and how different people deal with different things. Each character is distinct in dealing with the horrific subject matter, and the interactions between all the different personalities were executed in a refreshingly authentic way.

I especially loved the relationship between Eighth/August and Raven. Their dynamic did have an unusual tendency to be a bit mercurial (Raven’s feelings about him seemed to change at a startling frequency, but it makes sense to some degree), but at its heart, it was so poetic. Messy, but poignant and tender. It called to mind everything from The Iron Giant to The Shape of Water, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t get a little bit choked up. I love those two.

And the cherry on top? EDGAR ALLAN POE REFERENCES, OF COURSE! Can it possibly get better than that? I think not.

All in all, a truly unique dystopia that yields the perfect balance of darkness and tender love. 4.75 stars, rounded up to 5!

Dark Creations | Fairy Tail Amino

Zero Repeat Forever is the first book in G.S. Prendergast’s Nahx Invasions duology, which ends with Cold Falling White. She is also the author of the Ella series (Audacious and Capricious) and the middle grade novel Pandas on the Eastside.

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, Books

Book Review Tuesday (1/5/21)–Among the Beasts & Briars

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! This is my last day before I have to go back to school… :/ so heads up, I’ll probably be posting less frequently in the next few months because of school.

Anyway, this book was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. Ashley Poston is one of my favorite authors, and I’ll always hold her Heart of Iron duology close to my heart. And although Among the Beasts & Briars didn’t quite hit the level of wondrousness of that duology, it was still a fantasy like no other that I’ll always cherish.

Enjoy the first book review Tuesday of the year!

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Among the Beasts & Briars–Ashley Poston

Cerys leads a quiet life in the kingdom of Aloriya, working with her father to tend the royal gardens. But behind her life of peace is a haunted past–as a child, the woods surrounding her kingdom stole her friends and her mother. She has never seen them again since. But by some miracle, the woods left Cerys alone, marked only by traces of magic in her blood.

When the woods invade the coronation of Aloriya’s new queen, Cerys is forced to flee. Joined by a familiar fox who followed close behind her in the gardens and a bear hiding momentous secrets, she must journey to the heart of the woods, where it is said that an isolated town has escaped the curse that took her mother and friends. But the woods hold secrets darker than the three could ever know…

Fantastic Mr Fox Animated GIF | Fantastic mr fox, Fox gif, Mr fox
Soul of Stars spoilers without context

TW/CW (from Ashley Poston): Frightening Situations, Secondary Character Death, Trypophobia, Bleeding/Self-Harm (not suicidal), Animal Attack, Blood, Grotesque Transformations

I saw a fox outside my window this morning when I woke up…maybe it was a sign that today was the perfect day to write this review…

I think Among the Beasts & Briars was the last book I read this year, and I honestly can’t think of a better book that I could’ve ended the year on. Ashley Poston’s pulled off another masterpiece, chock-full of lovable characters and lush imagery.

With all of Poston’s novels, what shines the most is usually the characters; I’m delighted to say that Among the Beasts & Briars was no exception! Cerys was such a lovable heroine. I’m always drawn to and relate to characters who don’t possess the typical qualities of traditional heroes/heroines–they’d rather stay on the sidelines, aren’t quite so brave, and are unwillingly forced into strange situations. Like Aurora Rising, I really resonated with the message that you don’t have to be brave or be from a noble background to be the hero of your own story, and Cerys exemplifies that theme in its fullest.

And I can’t talk about characters without talking about Fox! He was such a delightful character, and I loved his development as he grappled with his transformation. There’s no shortage of interesting details in his POV of the shifts between his fox form and the unintentional human form, and he and Cerys had the best chemistry. Vala was also wonderful, and they made for a perfect trio of fantasy misfits. I won’t spoil anything, but Seren was one of my favorites too–REDEMPTION ARCS DONE RIGHT, PEOPLE!

VFX Movies Gallery

I also loved the fantasy world of Aloriya and the woods. Poston’s prose makes for so much lush imagery, making for a world that’s as lived-in as it is fantastical. My favorite aspect was absolutely the Woodcurse–there was clearly so much time spent creating the mythology around it, and it was simultaneously fascinating and creepy. And Hellboy made me a sucker for all sorts of spooky monsters, and everything that got swallowed by the Woodcurse just made the paranormal part of my heart so happy.

As with most of Poston’s novels, Among the Beasts & Briars was reasonably dark, but at its heart, it had such a resonant warmth to it, a glimmer of hope and joy no matter what. With every novel she writes, it clearly shines through how much she loves crafting stories, and it shines through on every page.

All in all, a fresh and unique addition to Poston’s pantheon of masterful literature. 5 stars!

Princess Mononoke gif - GIF on Imgur

Among the Beasts & Briars is likely a standalone, but Poston is also the author of the Heart of Iron duology (Heart of Iron and Soul of Stars) and the Once Upon a Con series (Geekerella, The Princess and the Fangirl, and Bookish and the Beast).

Today’s song:

I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the version with the whole cast on the Legion score, but Noah Hawley has such a gorgeous voice…this makes me cry every single time

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 (12/29/20)–Cemetery Boys

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and welcome to the last Book Review Tuesday of the year!

I figured this book would be a good note to end a year of reviews on, judging from how much hype it’s gotten this year. I put it on hold a few months back (sometime in the summer, I think?) and it just came into the library a few weeks ago. It’s got a super high average rating on Goodreads (4.41 at present) and no shortage of glowing reviews, but although it didn’t live up to all the hype for me, it was still a cute story of ghosts and #OwnVoices queer joy.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys–Aiden Thomas

Yadriel’s conservative family doesn’t accept him as a trans boy, but he remains determined to prove himself to them–by any means possible. His means? Summoning the spirit of Miguel, his murdered cousin. Problem is, Miguel isn’t the spirit he summons–by accident, he summons Julian Diaz, his high school’s troublemaker. Julian joins forces with Yadriel and his best friend Maritza to find out how he died–but they might uncover something more sinister in the process.

Beetlejuice Beetlejuice Beetlejuice GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

This one was easily one of the most hyped YA books of this year, and I was definitely excited for it, even if I tried not to get my expectations too high. I wouldn’t say it was a disappointment for me, but it didn’t live up to the mountain of hype for me. However, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like it, not by any stretch of the imagination.

Let’s start off with the good stuff. First off, the representation! I loved seeing the variety of Latinx representation and culture (and I was especially excited to see that Julian was Colombian-American!), as well as the diversity of gender and sexuality, especially with Yadriel. For some reason, I see hardly any trans boys in YA literature, but I love that we have this fantastic #OwnVoices rep in Cemetery Boys!

And beyond that, this novel managed to be appropriately spooky and lighthearted at the same time. There was definitely a kind of 80’s paranormal vibe to it, which I really enjoyed. I loved the intricacies of the brujx culture, as well as all of the individual laws of what a ghost can/cannot do. It’s always interesting to see each author’s different takes on the limits of ghosts and spirits. Never a dull moment.

However, Cemetery Boys wasn’t without its flaws. My main problem was the writing itself–it seemed to lean too much on telling as opposed to showing, and it felt a bit too bare-bones for my taste. Maybe it’s just me. And even though I love the representation, Yadriel wasn’t the most likable of protagonists, either–he came across as rather entitled and whiny, for me. A bit self-centered.

Also, I feel like there was an opportunity to discuss some of the sexism in Yadriel’s conservative family; I get that the point of the whole “stay behind with the women” scene was to highlight how much of a transphobic jerk Yadriel’s dad was, but especially seeing that Maritza has a significant role in the book, I feel like that could have been addressed instead of ignored completely. Thomas did a great job of highlighting aspects of trans life and tackling transphobia, but there was definitely a missed opportunity to challenge some of the present sexism.

Most of my other issues were more nit-picky though; Yadriel’s dad changed his mind about Yadriel a *bit* too quickly for realism, but honestly? It’s what we need. And you know why? Because queer people need happy endings too. (@ Netflix please tell me you hear me) And Cemetery Boys was the perfect kind of feel-good story of trans joy.

All in all, a feel-good, #OwnVoices tale that struggled in the writing and protagonist department, but made up for some of it with LGBTQ+/Latinx representation and a lighthearted paranormal vibe. 3.5 stars!

Magic Forest Night GIF by Alexandra Dvornikova - Find & Share on GIPHY

Cemetery Boys is a standalone (and Thomas’ debut), but they are also the author of the forthcoming retelling Lost the Never Woods, slated to arrive in March 2021.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (12/22/20)–DOUBLE REVIEW–The Thorne Chronicles (How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse / How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge)

Hey there, bibliophiles! Happy Tuesday! I’m so glad I’m off school for a few weeks…

Jeez, try saying the title of this post three times fast…

Now [cracks knuckles]…today’s gonna be a special review day, because today, you’re getting not one, but two reviews in the same post! And that, if you’re wondering, is solely because I read both books in K. Eason’s Thorne Chronicles, and I’ve been itching to get my thoughts out.

I’d all but forgotten that I’d put book 1 on my TBR until the random number generator picked it for a recent Goodreads Monday. Luckily, it was available at the library, so I checked it out and proceeded to gobble it up in between studying for my finals. And man, I’m glad that I checked out both books in the duology–a sarcastic, wittily written space opera that pokes fun of every trope imaginable.

Enjoy this double review!

First things first…

Amazon.com: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: Book One of the Thorne  Chronicles eBook: Eason, K.: Kindle Store

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse (The Thorne Chronicles, #1)–K. Eason

Rory Thorne was born into royalty, the first baby girl in the family line in two centuries. When she was a baby, she was blessed by the gifts of thirteen fairies, gifts that would help her grow into a woman well-loved by the court. But the most important of all was given to her by the thirteenth fairy–the gift of seeing behind people’s words and discovering their truth intentions.

After her father is assassinated, she’s swept off-world, only accompanied by her royal tutors, and is immediately arranged to marry a prince she’s never met. Rory isn’t happy about it in the least–but the situation grows dire when she discovers that this prince is at the heart of an attempt to usurp her family’s throne.

Nadine Wilmschen's review of Kissing the Boss

The Goodreads synopsis pegs this one as The Princess Bride meets Princess Leia, and I’m happy to say that it mostly lives up to both comparisons! How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse is basically the phrase “this princess saves herself” in book form, and it’s so much fun from start to finish!

What really stood out for me about Rory Thorne is the writing style. There’s an anecdotal, tongue-in-cheek quality about it, peppered with witty little tidbits about the universe. Not only does it poke fun at the tropes of fairytales, fantasy, and space opera, it presents a feminist rebuttal of all of them, particularly in the form of Rory herself. I loved following her across the galaxy, with all of her wit, sass and tenacity. She’s a wonderful heroine, and the perfect fit for this story.

And of course we have to talk about all of the supporting characters! I loved Grytt and Messer Rupert, and as Rory’s royal tutors and caretakers, they had the funniest chemistry, not only bouncing off of each other well, but presenting a hilarious contrast to the disobedient, willful Rory. Each character was distinct, making for the perfect gang of misfits to traverse the universe with.

The worldbuilding was definitely interesting, too; at worst, some of the politics got a little bit convoluted, but I liked all of the little anecdotes about the different philosophies of the universe. For all of the alien species that were mentioned, though, I wish we’d actually…y’know, seen some of them, but alas, mostly humans.

Overall, though, a sarcastic and feminist tale of resistance and disobedience. 4 stars!

Frustrated Episode 4 GIF by Star Wars - Find & Share on GIPHY

And now, for book 2…

How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge by K. Eason: 9780756415310 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge (The Thorne Chronicles, #2)–K. Eason

After upending her royal life and sparking a revolution in the galaxy, Rory Thorne has taken up life as a space pirate, along with her former bodyguards and royal allies. When the crew finds a wrecked spacecraft, they discover something sinister within–an innocuous plant that not only might possess intelligence, but could have been manufactured as a biological weapon. Thrown into the beginnings of an intergalactic war, Rory and her crew must find their way out of harm’s way–and wrangle a killer rose, while they’re at it.

love GIFs - Primo GIF - Latest Animated GIFs

How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge came out in early October of this year, and so far, it’s been getting fairly average reviews (the Goodreads rating for this one is currently 3.66, as opposed to book 1’s rating of 3.91). And…I just don’t understand why, because somehow, Multiverse was even better than book 1!

Okay, first off, SPACE PIRATES. I couldn’t think of a more fitting profession for Rory after abandoning her royal ways. I loved the chemistry and banter between her and her crew, and the whole plot line with the sinister rose managed to be both hilarious and tense. And even though they were separated from the rest of the gang, I loved seeing Grytt and Messer Rupert again, especially the latter. (I just…MESSER RUPERT MUST BE PROTECTED AT ALL COSTS, OKAY? 🥺)

Oh, and my whole complaint about not seeing many aliens in book 1? RESOLVED! We’ve got a whole host of interesting species in Multiverse, and I loved seeing some of them. Admittedly, Eason fell into the trap of the “aliens, but basically humans with slightly differing appearances” trope with one species, but they actually acknowledge that it’s unusual in the grand scheme of the galaxy, so at least there’s that. Plus, the other two alien species that were focused on made up for it.

The plot for this one was super fast-paced, and with the cast of characters, it meshed perfectly. Multiverse honestly just sucked me in to the point that I put off studying for my (godforsaken) AP Bio final just so I could see what happened. Again, the politics of the world(s) are still a tad convoluted, but it was still well-thought-out, and a whole lot of fun at that.

My only major complaint is the ending. It was just…unsatisfying? I wish we would have had a bit more certainty, and maybe…y’know, having some of the characters reunite? My space children deserved it, c’mon.

All in all, a heartstring-tugging and thrilling sequel that was more than worthy of its predecessor. 4.5 stars!

prometheus 2012 | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

The Thorne Chronicles is a duology, consisting of How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse and How the Multiverse Got Its Revenge. K. Eason is also the author of the On the Bones of Gods trilogy, consisting of Enemy (book 1), Outlaw (book 2), and Ally (book 3).

Today’s song:

I always get the beginning of this song confused with “Levitation” by Beach House…

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (12/1/20)–Six Angry Girls

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy December! I’m so glad that 2020’s almost over…and it definitely feels like December where I am! There’s been snow falling for a good hour or so, and it looks fittingly wintry outside my window.

Arrested development coffin GIF on GIFER - by Painsinger

And I won this year’s NaNoWriMo yesterday! 35,051 of my goal of 35,000! [pats self on the back]

Well, now then, I guess I should get to the review now, right?

This one is another 2020 release (August 18), and I forget exactly how it came on my radar, but I decided to put it on hold because I wanted a nice feminist book in my life. And…well, the good intentions were all there and the representation’s great, but much of the book ended up being a mess, unfortunately.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Six Angry Girls by Adrienne Kisner

Six Angry Girls–Adrienne Kisner

Raina and Millie have rarely spoken to each other, but they both have one thing in common–a promising senior year that got derailed. For Raina, it’s her boyfriend not only dumping her, but cheating on her, and being ousted as co-president of the Drama Club. For Millie, it’s her being voted out of the all-boys Mock Trial team, and her controlling father growing worse by the day.

After she writes to a romance advice columnist, Raina finds new solace in a knitting circle who specializes in political activism, and soon, she, Millie, and four other girls united to dismantle the patriarchy of their school, piece by piece.

Smh Disappointed GIF - Smh Disappointed HeadShake - Discover & Share GIFs |  Robin, Stranger things wallpaper, Stranger things

My expectations were average for Six Angry Girls, what with being in the midst of a reading slump that I’ve just now managed to emerge from, but I’m sad to say that this novel only stretched the slump out longer.

Let’s start with what I liked, because I should be at least a little positive here. And there were a few things I did like about this book. The cast of Six Angry Girls is a lot more diverse than most contemporary feminist YA I’ve come across–in the main cast of six, we have several sapphic characters (including Millie), a sapphic asexual character, two POC characters, and a trans character who uses both she/her and they/them pronouns. So props to Kisner for including lots of authentic and casual representation! (Plus, I don’t think I’ve seen any characters–if any at all–who use multiple pronouns, like Izzy does, so that’s always a win!) Kisner also handled the subject of Millie’s abusive father well; those parts were certainly hard to read, but they were handled with aplomb and felt (disturbingly) authentic.

Unfortunately, it all went downhill from here…

First off, let’s talk about the writing. My main issue is that none of the teenagers read like authentic teenagers, and it mainly came down to the dialogue. Other than “I’m” and “I’ve,” there were almost no contractions to be found. Anywhere. As a result, the dialogue felt clunky and inauthentic. Additionally, many of the plot points that were built up for most of the books were rushed, and events that had been alluded to for a good chunk of the book were resolved in two pages or left, so I often found myself lost and thinking “wait, that already happened? That quickly?”

There’s also the issue of a main cast of six. Normally, I’m all for casts of this size–IF every single character is used equally. Millie and Raina were the only characters who narrated, but other than Grace, most of the characters were just…there. Izzy, Veronica, and Nikita didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose, other than diversity and positions in the mock trials. We had zero character development for any of them, and we have only the faintest idea of their personalities. Grace has slightly more of a purpose, at least, but I think that’s in part because she was in a relationship with Millie by the 75% mark.

But my main criticism of Six Angry Girls comes down to the depiction of feminism. I LOVE how Kisner tried to portray all of the feminism, patriarchy-smashing, and nonviolent protesting, but it all seemed…somewhat shallow. There were a variety of issues covered (sexism, homophobia, transphobia, etc.), but neither of them were discussed beyond the surface level, giving it an almost shallow appearance. The mock trial and knitting plots felt loosely tied together, and almost entirely unrelated, and I found myself wondering why the two plots existed. Raina’s and Millie’s stories could have frankly worked as two separate books, and that would have made for a lot less confusion.

And the motives behind most everything seemed to be revenge, which I really didn’t like as it related to feminism. For me, feminism is about seeing injustices and inequality within a community, and fighting back against it. Sure, some of it is about getting back at the oppressor, but ultimately, it’s about creating an equal playing field. In Six Angry Girls, most of the motivations behind all of the plot points were centered around revenge–against Brandon (Raina’s cheating ex), against the Drama Club, and against the Mock Trial team. I’m sure Kisner’s intentions were good, but having the feminist aspects of the book being portrayed as more of a revenge plot than anything else didn’t sit well with me.

All in all, a light and diverse feminist YA that suffered from stilted dialogue, characters without purposes, and a depiction of feminism that was full of holes. 2.5 stars.

Season 2 Shame GIF by Gilmore Girls - Find & Share on GIPHY

Six Angry Girls is a standalone, but Adrienne Kisner is also the author of two other novels, Dear Rachel Maddow and The Confusion of Laurel Graham.

Today’s song:

GAAAH…I’ve been listening to this one since I finished the season finale of Fargo last night…when I tell you that this scene made me SOB…(YOU CAN GUARANTEE A REVIEW ON MY END OF THIS SEASON OF FARGO THIS WEEK!)

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