Posted in Books, Top 5 Saturday

Top 5 Saturday (9/19/20)–Award-Winning Books 🥇

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

First off, I just wanted to take a moment to reflect on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away yesterday at the age of 87. She was such an inspiration to me and so many others, and a true champion for feminism, positive change, and women’s rights. I know many of us–myself included–are frightened of the vacuum that she leaves in the U.S. Supreme Court, we must remember that she is not the only one of her kind–there are and will always be fighters like her who will be champions for the sort of change she pushed. This too shall pass. Rest in power, RBG. 💔

Time for another Top 5 Saturday! This was originally started by Devouring Books, and it sounded like such a fun post to take part in. Today’s topic is award-winning books.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE FOR SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: 

9/12/20—Science Fiction Books

9/19/20—Award-Winning Books

9/26/20—Guilty Pleasure Books

10/3/20—Intimidating Books

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic– these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post
  • Tag 5 people

Let’s begin, shall we?

The Sun is Also a Star, Nicola Yoon

The Sun Is Also a Star : Nicola Yoon (author) : 9780552574242 : Blackwell's

My copy of this one has the award stamps peeling off at the edges; It won the California Book Award for Young Adult, and it was nominated for several others, including the Michael L. Printz award.

Smile, Raina Telgemeier

smile « Cult of Pedagogy

Smile won an Eisner in 2011, which was 100% deserved!

Echo, Pam Muñoz Ryan

Amazon.com: Echo (9780439874021): Ryan, Pam Munoz, Ryan, Pam Muñoz: Books

Echo was nominated for the Newberry Medal, and it won the Kirkus Prize for Young Reader’s Literature, as well as the Audie Award, among others.

The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo

Amazon.com: The Poet X (9780062662804): Acevedo, Elizabeth: Books

This one made the news for winning the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature back in 2018, and it’s also won the Michael L. Printz Award and the Pura Belpré Award, among others–all of which I think are fully deserved.

I’ll Give You the Sun, Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You The Sun by Jandy Nelson – BookHippie.com

I’ll Give You the Sun won the Michael L. Printz award as well, and was nominated for the Stonewall Book Award as well. I read this one years ago and don’t remember much about it…maybe I should read it again.

I TAG ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE!

And The Award Goes To GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Top 5 Saturday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books, Mini Reviews

Triplet Mini Reviews: A Song Below Water, The Infinite Noise, & Raybearer

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles! Such a relief that the week is almost over…

I mentioned last week that I’m starting to do some mini review posts, so this is my first stab at it. I have a little sticky note function on my laptop where I organize all my blog-related post ideas and such, and I realized that I had WEEKS worth of books to review for my Book Review Tuesdays, and I wanted a way to review more of them without stretching everything out too long. (If I do, I tend to forget certain details of the books.) So, I have a solution: this won’t be on a schedule, but I’ll put three or more books into one review when the mood strikes me, or if I’ve just been reading lots of good content. Without further ado, here’s my first batch of mini reviews–books that have nothing to do with each other, but ones that I rated all 4 stars!

Let’s begin, shall we?

  1. A Song Below Water, Bethany C. Morrow
My copy, ft. some shells that I’ve collected from beaches over the years (kind of proud of this pic skdfhshf)

For their whole lives, Effie and Tavia have felt like it’s them against the world. Living as Black girls–and sirens, at that–in the middle of Portland is no easy task, and the world is set to subdue them by all means. In the midst of a siren trial and a celebrity’s revelation, the girls are forced to keep their identities under wraps–but the resurfacing of Effie’s past and a fatal accident from Tavia may put their lives in jeopardy.

This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and one of the books I bought for my birthday. There’s hardly any quality YA mermaid/siren literature out there, and I’m glad to say that we can add this to the pantheon of siren books that deliver! Of course, it isn’t without its flaws; I liked both Tavia and Effie as characters, but their voices writing-wise felt nearly indistinguishable. The writing was casual and conversational, which was both a blessing and a curse–it made the world feel genuine, but it had a tendency to drag some of the prose/plot down at times. Morrow does such a wonderful job of incorporating all these mythical creatures into our world, and she combines both Western European and Central African mythos in terms of them, which I loved.

And without spoiling anything, I LOVED the twist with Effie. No rhyme or reason, just loved it. All in all, a timely piece of magical realism!

GENRE: Fantasy, urban fantasy, magical realism, contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

2. The Infinite Noise (The Bright Sessions, #1), Lauren Shippen

My library copy ft. a few issues of Giant Sized X-Men (1975 & 2020)

Caleb Michaels has it all–good grades, a stable home life, and he’s the star of the football team. But something is shifting inside of him; not only has he become incredibly attuned to the emotions of others, he can see them as they appear. He thinks he’s crazy, but Dr. Bright, his new therapist, has the correct wording–Caleb is an Atypical, someone born with abilities far beyond the normal human being.

As he grapples with his newfound powers, he meets Adam, a loner with magnetic emotions. They grow closer together and begin to fall for each other, but can Caleb keep his Atypical secret?

Dr. Bright has INTENSE Professor X vibes, and I am 100% HERE FOR IT.

my gif 1k movies ian mckellen X-men Charles Xavier I'M NOT SORRY patrick  stewart cherik Erik Lensherr lizewskii •

Even if you aren’t familiar with The Bright Sessions podcast (like myself), this a superpowered romance that is not to be missed! The writing instantly hooked me, and I blew through the first 100 pages in no time, enjoying every bit of it. Much of the dialogue felt authentic and genuine, and Shippen does a wonderful job of developing Caleb and Adam as characters, as well as their romance. It’s just such a feel-good, heartfelt gem of a contemporary sci-fi novel. I can’t wait to read A Neon Darkness now!

All in all, The Infinite Noise is a must read for fans of both LGBTQ+ romance and superhero sci-fi!

GENRE: LGBTQ+, contemporary, romance, science fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

3. Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko

My library copy, ft. my backyard and a cool filter

Up until the age of 11, Tarisai has led a sheltered life, shielded from the outside world in an enclosed mansion with only servants and tutors–and her mother, if she’s lucky–for company. But when her mother sends her off to compete for a place on the council of Aritsar’s Crown Prince, she realizes that she bears a powerful curse–if she is chosen, she will have no choice but to kill the Prince in cold blood.

Tarisai finds the family she never had in the council, but the curse continues to haunt her. Will she give into the curse, or be able to forge a path for herself?

I absolutely didn’t expect to like this novel as much as I did! Raybearer really has it all–rich, African-inspired mythology, detailed worldbuilding, political intrigue, actions, demons, you name it. The best aspect for me was the cast of characters–though some were not developed as much, Ifueko has created a cast with impeccable chemistry that you can’t help but root for. Sanjeet was my personal favorite character–he reminded me so much of Kal from Aurora Rising 🥺

The Lady is also a very compelling antagonist, and I loved the morally gray turn that the book takes in the last third or so. There’s some important themes about assimilation and family, making it for a timely fantasy.

All in all, a multilayered and compelling fantasy with a lovable found family!

GENRE: Fantasy, high fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Today’s song:

NEW EELS

BOTTOM TEXT

That’s it for these mini reviews! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

YA Reads for National Latinx Heritage Month

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

As some of you may have known, National Latinx Heritage Month started yesterday (September 15th), and ends on October 15th. So for the occasion, I figured that I would compile a list of some YA books of all genres! (All of the books listed are #OwnVoices in that respect.) As someone who’s half Latinx, this month is definitely close to my heart, and I always love seeing latinx characters on the YA scene.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR NATIONAL LATINX HERITAGE MONTH

The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

GENRE: Poetry/novels in verse, contemporary fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one was recommended to me by a friend, and it’s easily one of the best–if not the best, period–novels in verse that I’ve ever read. I know it’s gotten quite a lot of hype in the past few years, but I can say with certainty that it deserves it all.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Hardcover) |  Politics and Prose Bookstore

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, coming-of-age

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been years since I’ve read this one, but it’s such an important novel–not just in the Latinx representation, but in the LGBTQ+ representation as well!

Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic, #1), Maya Motayne

Amazon.com: Nocturna (9780062842732): Motayne, Maya: Books

GENRE: High fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Although I wasn’t as big a fan of this one as some of the others on this list, I loved the Latinx inspired world/magic system! One part that stood out to me was the fact that all the spells were Spanish verbs, which…okay, not gonna lie, took some of the surprise away from what the characters were about to do when I understood the words, but it’s an interesting aspect. And you can’t deny how gorgeous that cover is…

When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore

Amazon.com: When the Moon Was Ours: A Novel (9781250058669): McLemore,  Anna-Marie: Books

GENRE: Fantasy, fiction, magical realism, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I swear, Anna-Maria McLemore can do no wrong. Her prose is so beautiful, and it’s wonderfully diverse as well. There isn’t a book by her that I wouldn’t recommend, though I haven’t read Dark and Deepest Red or The Weight of Feathers yet…

Fire With Fire, Destiny Soria

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria

GENRE: Urban fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+, paranormal, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I recently received this one as an eARC, and I don’t regret it! Both of the main characters are mixed race (half Latinx/half white), and Dani is bisexual! It’s the first time in a bit that representation in a book got me THAT excited. Plus, there’s the general fantasy fun of butt-kicking girls teaming up with butt-kicking dragons.

With the Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo

Amazon.com: With the Fire on High: From the winner of the CILIP Carnegie  Medal 2019 (9781471409004): Acevedo, Elizabeth: Books

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another powerful tale from Elizabeth Acevedo, another gorgeous cover! This book is not only guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings, but guaranteed to make you REALLY hungry.

They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

Amazon.com: They Both Die at the End (9780062688514): Silvera, Adam: Books

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Absolutely worth a read, but it’s one of those books that you have to be in a good, stable mood to read. I mean, they tell you exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s no less rough…[sniffles]

Wild Beauty, Anna-Marie McLemore

Amazon.com: Wild Beauty: A Novel (9781250124555): McLemore, Anna-Marie:  Books

GENRE: Fantasy, magical realism, LGBTQ+, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was my first exposure to McLemore, and it’s left a lasting impression on me to this day. It’s the kind of prose that makes you smell flowers and grass and want to dance through fields of colorful wildflowers.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels? What did you think? Are there any other great books by Latinx authors that you recommend? (Everybody’s putting Cemetery Boys on their lists…I still haven’t gotten around to reading it, but I have it on hold at the library…)

Another announcement before I go–guess what else started yesterday? Bisexual visibility week! Bi visibility day is September 23rd, so I’ll be compiling another list, this time for books with bisexual protagonists and authors. Stay tuned!

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/15/20)–The Burning Kingdoms (The Smoke Thieves, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! I blatantly refuse to believe that we’re actually halfway through September…nope…

Sorry that this review’s coming a little later than you all are probably used to; I had a ton of homework to do this afternoon, but I’ve got it all done for today, so here I am now! Better late than never, I suppose.

I’ve been following and loving Sally Green’s Smoke Thieves trilogy for about a year, gobbling up books 1 and 2 in weeks flat. It’s one of the most immersive, detailed, and gripping fantasies that I’ve ever read, and now that I’ve read book 3, I can say it’s true for all three books. The Burning Kingdoms came out just under a month ago (August 25), and I was able to snag it a few days after its release when I promptly blew the contents of my bookstore gift card. In short? The Burning Kingdoms was a perfect end to a near perfect series.

WARNING: This review likely contains spoilers for books 1 and 2, The Smoke Thieves and The Demon World, so I suggest you tread lightly if you intend to read them and haven’t yet!

Click here for my review of book 1!

Click here for my review of book 2!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Burning Kingdoms by Sally Green: 9780425290279 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

The Burning Kingdoms (The Smoke Thieves, #3)–Sally Green

My copy ft. part of my backyard

Catherine, Tash, Ambrose, Edyon, and March dedicated their lives to halt the impending war in its tracks. But despite their efforts, war has come, and it could cost them their lives–and the lives of their nations.

King Aloysius has unleashed his invincible boy army, powered by demon smoke, across all who dare cross his path. There, March finds an opportunity to reunite with Edyon, his beloved, after a betrayal saw them torn apart and him banished. Edyon grapples with his newfound power as the heir to the throne of Calidonia, and Tash must find her way out of the demon world.

Meanwhile, Catherine must grapple with the fate of her country and her secret addiction, while Ambrose is determined to win back her heart at all costs. Their paths will collide in order to avert this great war–but will they make it out alive?

I Did A Bad Thing GIFs | Tenor
– Every single one of the main characters at some point in this book

Admit it: everybody–yes, everybody–who has ever dyed their hair has done the exact same thing as Geratan–dye it, put on a hat, and then dramatically rip it off in front of everybody. The only proper way to reveal your new hair color, if you ask me.

All of my fellow book bloggers and readers know the feeling that comes along with finishing the final book in a series. It’s like reuniting with an old friend, only to have them leave you. No matter what, though, their memory will live on in you forever.

That’s the feeling that finishing a great series gives you, and certainly the one that The Burning Kingdoms gave me. This entire series is criminally underrated, a true force to be reckoned with in the world of YA fantasy, and I’m delighted to say that book 3 is no exception!

The Burning Kingdoms is definitely one of those books where you’re just being dragged along with the character’s bad decisions–five POVs, five times the grave mistakes! (Quite a lot of “March, no–” “MARCH YES” going on). However, it isn’t to the point where you’re internally groaning in frustration, because it propels quite a lot of action, and provides for character development in all five.

As always, I loved seeing how the relationships between the characters developed. March is still my favorite of the bunch, but I had such a blast getting back into all five of their heads and exploring their internal conflicts. Green does such a masterful job of writing both authentic characters, but genuine development for them as well.

The immersive and detailed worldbuilding and politics were as sharp as ever, making for a novel that I could imagine nearly every detail of. There’s plenty of action and drama to spare, and I enjoyed every page. The Burning Kingdoms is a finale that truly has something for everyone–and delivers on every possible aspect.

All in all, a beautiful end to an underrated and immersive fantasy. 4.5 stars!

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Me @ this series

The Burning Kingdoms is the final book in Sally Green’s Smoke Thieves trilogy, preceded by The Smoke Thieves (book 1) and The Demon World (book 2).

Today (September 15) is also the start of National Latinx Heritage Month, so sometime this week, I’ll also be posting a list of Latinx YA reads to celebrate. Stay tuned! 🙂

Today’s song:

Brain: oh, so math is boring you?

Me: yep, you got that right

Brain: so why don’t I get this REALLY DEPRESSING song stuck in your head–

Me: WAIT NO

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

Posted in Books, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (9/14/20)–A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

First off, thank you all so much for 250+ followers! I really appreciate all the love. 🙂 And I just realized that it’s been a little over a year since I started doing Goodreads Monday…WHOA…

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I put this one on my TBR at the very beginning of the year, and it sounds like a fantasy novel that is not to be missed! We’ll see…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (9/14/20)–A SONG OF WRAITHS AND RUIN by Roseanne A. Brown

Amazon.com: A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (9780062891495): Brown, Roseanne A.:  Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

So why do I want to read this?

catalyst | War stories, Tv spot, Star wars fans
Me looking at THAT COVER

…[ahem] Not gonna lie here, most of what drew me into A Song of Wraiths and Ruin was that GORGEOUS cover. I saw an EpicReads video where they went behind the scenes of the cover shoot, and there was so much attention to detail in every possible aspect.

Now, onto the actual content of the book, right?

Even though we’ve fallen into the trap of another YA x of y and z title, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin sounds like a fascinating fantasy! I love the kind of plots where we have two or more characters in different positions, and the book follows how their individual journeys merge together into a collective story. And it sounds like there’s some enemies-to-lovers romance as well–it’s an easy trope to screw up, but when it’s done well, it’s my favorite romantic trope. Plus, with such a prevalence of fantasies that draw from Western/European mythos, it’s great to see more African (West African, in this case)-inspired fantasies on the market!

Overall–I’m hoping that the book itself is just as compelling as the cover is.

Joe Biden Lets See What Happens GIF by GIPHY News - Find & Share on GIPHY

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books, Top 5 Saturday

Top 5 Saturday (9/12/20)–Science Fiction Books 🛸

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

Time for another Top 5 Saturday! This was originally started by Devouring Books, and it sounded like such a fun post to take part in. Today’s topic is sci-fi…

You know what that means…

AHAHAAAAAAAA MY FAVORITE GENRE WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

But anyway, I have lots of sci-fi on my TBR, so I’ll take some picks from there for this week’s Top 5.

UPCOMING SCHEDULE FOR SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER: 

9/12/20Science Fiction Books

9/19/20—Award-Winning Books

9/26/20—Guilty Pleasure Books

10/3/20—Intimidating Books

Rules!

  • Share your top 5 books of the current topic– these can be books that you want to read, have read and loved, have read and hated, you can do it any way you want.
  • Tag the original post
  • Tag 5 people

Let’s begin, shall we?

Dune, Frank Herbert

Check Out the Artwork for a New Edition of Frank Herbert's Dune | Tor.com

I’ve been meaning to read this one for a year or so; my brother read it for an English project (the same one that lead me to Frankenstein) and liked it. And the new trailer got me SO excited, so of course I’ll have to read it before December! (Did that Pink Floyd cover give anybody else chills, or was that just me?)

Seven Devils, Laura Lam and Elizabeth May

Amazon.com: Seven Devils (9780756415808): Lam, Laura, May, Elizabeth: Books

I’ve been eager to read this for a good year and a half, ever since the first tiny synopsis compared it to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. (Star Wars? Of COURSE you have my attention, shut up and take my library card…)

Unearthed, Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Unearthed – Amie Kaufman

Two words: Amie Kaufman. I put this one on hold at the library recently, so I might get to read it next week!

Struck, Jennifer Bosworth

Struck (Struck, #1) by Jennifer Bosworth

This one’s been on my TBR for years, and I really need to get around to reading it…

Landscape with Invisible Hand, M.T. Anderson

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson

I almost picked this one up about a year ago, but I set it aside because of how short it was. Nonetheless, this still sounds like a unique and fascinating sci-fi!

I TAG ANYONE WHO WANTS TO PARTICIPATE!

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Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Top 5 Saturday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

Nobody’s perfect, but that doesn’t excuse privilege: Carve the Mark, Mosquitoland, and being a more conscious and careful reader

Happy Friday, bibliophiles! I’ve been writing out this post in my head since Tuesday night, so here goes nothing…

The other day, I was reading Aditi’s post about 20 of the most popular YA books on Goodreads. Veronica Roth’s Carve the Mark was among the ranks, and she mentioned that there had been several reviews saying that it had some racist elements, and had a problematic depiction of chronic illness. I had to do a bit of a double take; I read that book at least two years ago, but I didn’t remember anything like that. My whole memory of the book was hazy, really, and even though I’d given it a four star rating back then, it was probably one of those books I just sped through because I was just thinking something along the lines of “haha sci-fi go brrrrrrrrrrr”

Carve the Mark eBook by Veronica Roth - 9780062348654 | Rakuten Kobo United  States

And so I read some reviews–some from bloggers that I follow, some from strangers, and there were indeed a lot that pointed out several problematic elements and stereotypes. I found myself being incredibly ashamed of my past self for not noticing them. I’ve been going back and forth between removing my rating, and I never got to the sequel and thought Divergent was overrated, so I doubt I’ll be picking up a Veronica Roth book in the future. But I ended up putting myself between two spaces:

First off, nobody’s perfect. As much of an intersectional feminist that I strive to be, I still make mistakes. We all do. I’m sure everybody’s had an instance like this one.

But secondly, I still must acknowledge that I have privilege, and that this privilege is part of why I didn’t spot the highly questionable elements there. And since I am privileged, I have to do my best to better myself, and read more carefully, and become better at spotting and making note of problematic elements.

Amazon.com: Mosquitoland (9780147513656): Arnold, David: Books

I’d like to think that I’ve gotten better at reading carefully since I read Carve the Mark, but this example also jumped out at me as something that’s controversial. I read Mosquitoland a few months back; I thought it was a well-written novel, but there is some highly questionable–and I mean HIGHLY questionable and offensive representation of Down syndrome, and some problematic elements regarding the depiction of Native American characters, as well as some poor handling of sexual assault. I still hold the writing highly, but I know that I have to also recognize that Mosquitoland, though powerful, is still a deeply flawed novel. No matter its impact, there is NO excusing some of the content of this novel. (if you’re interested in someone else’s thoughts on the matter, I’d highly suggest checking out The Inside Cover’s Mosquitoland, Three Years Later: A Coda.)

All this got me thinking about reviews. Part of what’s key to reading/picking your reads more carefully is reading reviews before you dive in. Of course, you have to be careful to avoid reviews that have been paid to get a 4-5 star rating (for bias); the 3-2 star range is usually the most reliable source for me, as they usually cover the good and the bad in equal amounts. (1 stars tend to dive into rants, which I fully admit to doing, but it’s better to see both the pros and cons, personally.) It’s just like checking your news sources: seeing both sides of the argument, and getting perspectives from reviewers who have lived some of these experiences. It’s what made me take The State of Us off my TBR, and a few others.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: A Novel (The Carls): Green, Hank:  9781524743444: Amazon.com: Books

And sometimes, there’s no way out of it. I went into An Absolutely Remarkable Thing expecting a read as great as everybody seemed to say it was, but I ended up being infuriated by how poorly the bisexual representation was handled. (Personal opinion, here) Hardly anyone (except for one reviewer, so shoutout to them) noted the bury-your-gays trope, as well as the killing off of most of the POC characters (all but one or two) in Four Dead Queens. There will always be times when we’re roped into something problematic, even if we’ve read a variety of reviews.

Four Dead Queens - Astrid Scholte - 9781760524418 - Allen & Unwin -  Australia

The bottom line? Don’t beat yourself up about reading a problematic book, but don’t brush the problematic parts aside like they don’t exist. If you see something uncomfortable depicted in a novel, talk about it, whether it’s in the comments of a review or in a review of your own. Let your voice be heard, but recognize that all of us have at least a little bit of privilege.

Alright, let me step off the soapbox for a minute. I also have a short announcement: I have A BUNCH of books that I’d like to review soon, so as well as my Book Review Tuesdays, I’ll be packing several books into mini-reviews, starting next week. So stay tuned…

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/8/20)–Cinderella is Dead

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

It’s been a bit of a chaotic day for me–I couldn’t get into one of my zoom meetings for one of my classes, and it’s snowing. The latter is deeeeefinitely kind of worrying–here in Colorado, it usually doesn’t start to snow until mid to late October, and persists until late May.

IT’S THE SECOND WEEK OF SEPTEMBER. Yep, friendly reminder that climate change isn’t just global warming, but unpredictable weather patterns like this. Climate change is still very real, folks.

Anyway, I’ll step off that soapbox for a minute…only to get right back onto another one.

Ever since I found out about it in May, Cinderella is Dead was one of my most anticipated releases of this summer. A Black, sapphic protagonist, a multiracial wlw relationship, and a dystopian society based on the tale of Cinderella? I was FASCINATED. And while this novel did deliver in the aforementioned aspects, it was dragged down by the poor execution of nearly everything else.

Prepare for a rant review, folks…

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cinderella Is Dead (9781547603879): Bayron, Kalynn: Books

Cinderella is Dead–Kalynn Bayron

Everybody knows the tale of Cinderella, the dismissed orphan who was visited by a fairy godmother and lived happily ever after with the dashing Prince Charming. But do you know what happened 200 years later?

In Sophia Grimmins’ world, the tale of Cinderella is now the backbone of every tradition in town. Every year, all of the eligible girls must attend the Annual Ball, to be picked and chosen by the men. But for as long as she can remember, Sophia has never wanted a man–she’s wanted a woman. She flees the ball with her life, only to find herself in the tomb of Cinderella herself. There, she finds Constance, the last surviving descendant of Cinderella, who seeks to help bring down the patriarchal kingdom. Sophia and Constance join forces, and sparks soon fly between them–but the truths they thought about Cinderella are far from true…

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My range of emotions through the course of this book

Let me be perfectly honest: it truly pains me to give this book such a low rating. It’s such a joy to see #OwnVoices books outside contemporary and historical fiction with POC/LGBTQ+ leads, and we certainly need more of those out in the world. But even though Cinderella is Dead boasted great representation all around, it failed to meet my expectations in almost every other aspect.

I’ll start off with the good before the bad: representation! This dystopian fantasy is absolutely an #OwnVoices book, with a Black, lesbian protagonist, a lesbian love interest, and a gay side character who has a semi-prominent role. Throughout the book, there’s themes of contradicting patriarchal tradition, abuse, and misogyny, and it’s always wonderful to see a sapphic couple kicking sexist butt, so that’s always a win. But even then…Sophia wasn’t a very distinct character. I struggle to find any traits that would make her much of an individual, other than the desire to smash the patriarchy. (Don’t we all, though? Can’t go wrong with that.) I liked Constance a little bit better, but their relationship felt very rushed and glossed over. And the themes I just talked about it? They felt very forced, relying more on telling than showing. There wasn’t very much subtlety or creativity in the ways that they were tackled, making the commentary…almost not worth it. I appreciate Bayron’s attempt to discuss these issues, but there are so many ways that they could have been handled better.

All of the Cinderella mythos had SO MUCH potential, from the punchy title to the concept itself. It was still reasonably spine-chilling in execution, but other than the fact that the tale has been weaved into the world’s operating system, the worldbuilding was…wait a minute…[picks up a telescope] wait a minute, where’d it go? A little help here?

…okay, that was probably harsh, but it was RIDDLED with holes.

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Me @ the worldbuilding

[spreads out a sheet of paper] Okay, let’s see. We’ve got a country ruled by a monarchy, with some forests around it, presumably. It’s hinted that it’s a bit more antiquated technology-wise, but we don’t get any sense of where society has gone as far as technology, transportation, all of that. There’s a little bit of evidence to suggest that magic exists, but the only wielder we know of is the Fairy Godmother. (So is there some sort of ban on magic? Has nobody else been able to find it? Who knows…) The character’s names range from ones that were popular in the 19th century to those in the 21st century, but most of them fall into the latter. (ex. Liv, Isla, Sophia) So…wait, what? It’s been a good two and a half weeks since I’ve read Cinderella is Dead, and I STILL have no idea what’s going on there. I NEED ANSWERS. PLEASE. THIS IS A MESS.

Confused Screaming | Filthy Frank | Know Your Meme

The worldbuilding is my main criticism, but other than that, my issues are a little more nit-picky. Things like Sophia having very few defining traits (if any) and the telling method of tackling the issues, the villains had very lackluster, overdone motives and no redeemable qualities to speak of. The dialogue also had a tendency to be overly stiff, and nobody had a distinct voice.

Again, I feel so bad for giving this book such a low rating. #OwnVoices books are so pertinent and important in this day and age, but…there are so many better ones that you could be reading than this one. I could chalk this rating up to my high expectations, but other than the representation and concept, Cinderella is Dead was such a mess. Amazing concept, terrible execution. 2.5 stars, but the half star is likely just for seeing a multiracial wlw couple smashing the patriarchy. [sad harmonica noises]

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Cinderella is Dead is Kalynn Bayron’s YA debut, but she has several other adult and nonfiction works. Cinderella is Dead is likely a standalone, but I’ve heard a rumor about spin-offs set in the same universe, but I haven’t been able to confirm their validity.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! I promise that the next reviews I write will be more positive. Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (9/7/20)–The Athena Protocol

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

My pick for today’s Goodreads Monday is a semi-earlier pick; I put it on the list almost a year ago, but it’s only about a third of the way through my (massive) TBR. I don’t read many mysteries or thrillers, but this one sounds like a lot of fun–with a feminist twist!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (9/7/20)–THE ATHENA PROTOCOL by Shamim Sarif

Amazon.com: The Athena Protocol (9780062849601): Sarif, Shamim: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

Jessie Archer is a member of the Athena Protocol, an elite organization of female spies who enact vigilante justice around the world.

Athena operatives are never supposed to shoot to kill—so when Jessie can’t stop herself from pulling the trigger, she gets kicked out of the organization, right before a huge mission to take down a human trafficker in Belgrade.

Jessie needs to right her wrong and prove herself, so she starts her own investigation into the trafficking. But going rogue means she has no one to watch her back as she delves into the horrors she uncovers. Meanwhile, her former teammates have been ordered to bring her down. Jessie must face danger from all sides if she’s to complete her mission—and survive.

So why do I want to read this?

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BLACK WIDOW VIBES, I REPEAT, BLACK WIDOW VIBES–

[ahem] besides that, the first comparison that I thought of after re-reading the blurb was The Black Coatsanother feminist mystery that deals with morally gray themes and vigilante justice. The Athena Protocol seems more spy-oriented while The Black Coats is more contemporary, but I have a feeling that the former might be just as good.

As a (very) infrequent consumer of mysteries and thrillers in general, I’m always looking for books that put twists on it. I’m excited to see how Sarif deals with some of the morally gray themes that seem to be lurking about the plot. Plus, I’m all for a super-team of female spies putting misogynists and creeps in their places, so of course I’m on board. And having just come out of seeing Tenet (which was amazing, by the way), I could definitely use this twist on the traditional thriller.

And according to Goodreads, there’s some LGBTQ+ representation too! Sarif said that Jessie is “a young woman who is LGBT,” and some of the reviews have said that she’s definitely sapphic, so I’m so excited!

All in all, maybe I need to read more thrillers. But mostly the feminist ones.

gal gadot gifs | WiffleGif

Today’s song:

That’s it for today’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books, Book Tags

Would You Rather? Book Tag

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

As you might have noticed, I haven’t done Top 5 Saturday today. As of now, the creator hasn’t released the prompts for September, and I didn’t know how I felt about creating my own, so I decided to do a book tag today instead.

Anyway, I was tagged by One Book More (thank you!). I’m not sure who the creator of the tag is, so please let me know if you know. 🙂

RULES:

  • Thank the nominator.
  • Answer the questions given to you by the nominator.
  • Make your own questions.
  • Tag others to join in on the fun!

ONE BOOK MORE’S QUESTIONS:

  1. Would you rather meet your favorite author or your favorite character?

Oooh…this is a tough one…

Either way, it’s almost guaranteed that I might get choked up and embarrass myself, but either would honestly be amazing for me.

Wilfred Mott All Choked Up GIF by happmacdonald | Gfycat

2. Would you rather only read series or only read standalone?

Only series, absolutely. Unless they’re ridiculously long, I always like to see storytelling spanning over the course of several books, especially trilogies and duologies.

3. Would you rather read one book at a time or multiple books?

One book, without question! I used to be able to read several at a time when I was younger, but these days I find it hard to focus my attention on more than one book at a time. I’m also a very task-oriented person, so that’s likely part of it.

4. Would you rather only read physical books or only read ebooks?

Even though ebooks are convenient, I doubt there’s anything that can really beat the feel of a physical book in your hands. Plus, ebooks don’t have that amazing book smell. So physical books, absolutely.

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5. Would you rather live in one of the factions from Divergent or one of the districts in the Hunger Games?

Um? I really didn’t get much into the Divergent mythos, but both of them sound like…not the best options? But I suppose one of the Hunger Games districts, I guess.

Hunger Games Salute GIFs | Tenor

6. Would you rather have your favorite hero’s powers or your favorite villain’s powers?

Hmmm…it’s hard to pick a favorite hero/villain out of…well, every piece of media I’ve consumed, but I do think that teleportation would be a lot of fun, so I guess I’d go with the powers of my favorite hero.

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7. Would you rather never read a new release or never be able to re-read a book?

I suppose it if was a new release, I’d just have to wait a year or two until it’s not considered “new” anymore, so I’d go with never reading new releases. Loopholes, loopholes!

8. Would you rather live in your favorite character’s world or have your favorite character live in your world?

Option two! Most of my favorite characters that come from situations that…[ahem] definitely suck, and even though this world still sucks, at least it doesn’t suck as much as say…being on the run from an intergalactic government or waking up from cryosleep after two centuries and realizing that everybody you previously knew is dead.

9. Would you rather have every story start with “once upon a time” or have every story end with “and they lived happily ever after?”

I feel like having the second option in series would get redundant very quickly, so I’d go with “once upon a time.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY BEAUTIFUL! HAPPY BIRTHDAY JULIE HUTCHINGS! @HutchingsJulie –  Jolene Haley

10. Would you rather never be able to buy a book again or never be able to borrow a book again?

YIKES, this one’s tricky…

I mean…even though borrowing them is free, it’s nice to have books to add to your shelf…so I guess I’ll go with never borrowing a book again…

MY QUESTIONS (for everybody I tag):

  1. Would you rather change the cover of a book or change its synopsis?
  2. Would you rather only read books by your favorite author, or be able to read books by any author, but only one per author?
  3. Would you rather live in a sci-fi novel or a fantasy novel?
  4. Would you rather have dragons in our world, or know of the existence of a Fae realm?
  5. Would you rather be in a love triangle or be the Chosen One?
  6. Would you rather have all book titles be three words, or only one word?
  7. Would you rather have your favorite book be adapted into a film or adapted into a graphic novel?
  8. Would you rather add a book to your favorite series, or subtract a book from it?
  9. Would you rather lose a copy of a book altogether or have it ruined/stained in some way?
  10. Would you rather change the plot or the characters of your favorite book?

I TAG:

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Today’s song:

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