I’ve been wanting to do a post like this for a little while, so here goes nothing…
We all know the feeling. We’ve picked up a book because of the seemingly endless 4 and 5 star reviews and the high praise from friends and fellow readers and book bloggers, and then it turns out to be a steaming disappointment. For me, popular YA books live up to the hype about 50% of the time for me, and the other 50% is either just…not feeling anything from it, or not liking it at all. And there’s plenty of hyped books that I’ve loved! But sometimes, a lot of these books just haven’t worked for me.
And before I start, I just wanted to say this – if you liked any of these books, this post isn’t meant to shame anybody’s reading preferences at all. If you liked them, good for you! These are just my opinions here, and as per the Latin proverb, to each, their own is beautiful. I just wasn’t a fan of these books.
It’s been about three years since I’ve read this one, but it was a pretty quick DNF for me. Red Queen felt like every bad YA trope melted into a single book – an unoriginal dystopian world with the “plain heroine that doesn’t realize how beautiful she is and is THE CHOSEN ONE” and gets into an insta-love romance…gah, I forget how long it took before I put it down, but this was just painful.
Holly Black is a hit-or-miss author for me, but The Cruel Prince definitely fell among the misses for me. The worldbuilding was great here (and I loved the little ink drawings at the beginnings of the chapters!), but all of the characters were astronomically unlikable. Everybody just seemed intent on bullying and backstabbing everybody else, and there wasn’t any balance with a character with a slightly better moral compass. And don’t get me started on Jude and Cardan being a thing…WHY? If I remember correctly, Cardan spends about 3/4 of the book relentlessly degrading Jude, and then gets down on his knees and tells her that he loves her…HUH?
HOW MUCH MORE TOXIC CAN YOU GET? And somehow, Cardan’s up there with Kaz Brekker and that dude from ACOTAR (I don’t remember his name, I haven’t read the books and don’t intend to) with the brooding YA dudes that everybody fawns over? Makes me lose a little faith in humanity sometimes…
Here’s one that everybody recommended to me…should of listened to that guy in my class in middle school who did a book report on this one and didn’t like it
Okay. Maybe this one’s a little skewed. I read most of Throne of Glass when I was home sick with a stomachache, but even then, I think I wouldn’t have been a fan. The ✨fantasy names✨ were a pain to pronounce, Calaena came off as a very static character with very little development, if any, and everything seemed to worked out a little *too* well for her in the end. The worldbuilding was interesting, though. I guess. Probably not gonna pick this one up, but I don’t think I’ll go for ACOTAR or Crescent City either. Meh.
My main problem was the same one I had with The Cruel Prince – the toxicity of the main relationship. Mirnatius spends about 3/4 of the book being borderline abusive towards Miryem, and then, ✨poof!✨ Happy relationship!
Yeah, no, that’s just weird. Also, wasn’t there a significant age gap between the two of them? Final nail in the coffin, really…
This one lured me in with a gorgeous cover and the promise of mermaids, and…well, we got a mermaid, but the rest of the book didn’t make up for it.
All the Stars and Teeth felt very formulaic for me, right down to the conveniently-placed puppet show to explain the worldbuilding. We’ve got a protagonist with dangerous magic, the mysterious love interest…it just felt like every other YA fantasy in the last few years. Not much to distinguish it from the others, if anything at all.
Out of all of the books here, Cinderella is Dead is probably the one that I had the highest expectations for. I mean, what could possibly go wrong with a book with a sapphic, POC lead taking down the patriarchy in a world sculpted from the myth of Cinderella?
…several things, as it turned out.
I found the worldbuilding to be full of holes, none of the characters were very distinct, the villain was an irredeemable caricature, and all of the attempts commentary on abuse and misogyny and such relied way too much on telling, as opposed to showing. For me Cinderella is Dead was just a case of a great idea, but poor execution. Shame…
This one was another DNF for me about two years ago. I still really appreciate that Kemmerer chose to have a disabled character at the forefront of a YA fantasy (Harper has cerebral palsy – not sure how accurate the rep is, though), but otherwise…meh. On top of the obvious attempt to make this Beauty and the Beast retelling as Dark And Gritty™️ as possible, the love triangle (and both love interests, if memory serves) put me off in the end.
This was my first exposure to Jennifer L. Armentrout, and I don’t think I’ll be reading anything of hers after this. Again, this falls into almost every YA trope that I hate – the Chosen One who is so very clearly Not Like Other Girls, the Sarcastic Bad Boy Love Interest (Zayne still makes me squirm)…I forget where I DNF’d this one, but I just could not take another page. Yikes.
Instant Karma was a sore disappointment…I’ve loved almost everything else of Marissa Meyer’s, but I just didn’t click with this one. I loved the premise of a magical-realism rom-com and all of the Beatles references were great, but Pru really got on my nerves, and the romance never made me feel anything.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What were your thoughts on these books? What’s a popular YA book that you didn’t like?
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
For those of you who didn’t know, here in the US, July is Disability Pride Month! I myself didn’t know about it until this year, which is a little embarrassing, but better late than never, I suppose. I hardly see anyone in the bookish community talking about disability rep in books – especially where YA is concerned – so I wanted to make a post of my own with some YA reads with disability rep of all kinds. Unfortunately, not all of them are from disabled authors, but it seems like there’s such a dearth of disability rep in YA as a whole, so for now, I’ll share these ones, and I’ll always be on the hunt for more books by disabled authors in the future. But as with all of my posts like this, AMPLIFY DISABLED VOICES 24/7/365!
And if you’re looking for book bloggers who talk about disability, disability rep, and breaking down ableist tropes, I’d highly recommend checking out Luminosity Library and The Inside Cover. (They’re both amazing!! Show them some support!!)
Kaz Brekker (otherwise known as the “morally gray” teen idol of the YA book fandom) uses a cane for mobility (and it’s a really snazzy cane, too), and his experiences are based off of Leigh Bardugo’s own experience with osteonecrosis.
I just finished this one up a few days ago, and it was INCREDIBLE! I don’t usually jump for rom-com, but this was one of the most tender books I’ve read in a while. Gave me all the warm fuzzies…
The protagonist has rheumatoid arthritis, and the love interest has Gaucher’s disease. And lemme tell you, I GOT SO EXCITED THAT WE HAVE A DISABLED, BISEXUAL LOVE INTEREST. BI DISABLED CHARACTERS?? NO KIDDING, MY BRAIN DID THE “WOOOOOHOO” FROM SONG 2 WHEN I REALIZED IT…
Again, it’s been a while since I’ve read this one, but I LOVE how diverse this one is; we have the dual POVs of an epileptic Latino character with a missing leg and a mute bisexual girl who uses sign language to communicate. It’s an interesting blend of fantasy and sci-fi as well!
Adam, the love interest of this novel, has multiple sclerosis, and both of the protagonists are Muslim; there’s a lot of great conversations about Islamaphobia and other pertinent issues in this one, but it’s also a really sweet romance!
This one’s a romance between a girl with ADHD (the author has ADHD as well!) and an autistic boy, and like Love from A to Z, tackles a lot of discussions surrounding mental health and disability while still being a sweet romance!
GENRES: Science fiction, space opera, LGBTQ+, romance
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
(There is no escape from the Aurora Cycle-posting on this blog…)
Even though Finian’s disability is fictional (bc, y’know, he’s an alien), he uses mobility aids, and we get to see a lot of his inner thoughts surrounding his disability. Disability in realistic fiction is all cool and good, but it’s even better to see casual disability rep in fantasy and sci-fi too!
Queens of Geek features a protagonist with Asperger’s and an anxiety disorder, and there’s lots of queer and POC representation in this one as well! If you love stories set at Comic Cons with lots of pop culture references, then this one’s for you!
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite books with disability rep? Favorite disabled authors? Any recommendations for me?
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, take care of yourselves, and happy disability pride month!
I’ve been trying to think of more original posts to do, and I figured that this one would be something really fun to explore. I’ve seen a lot of posts talking about tropes, but genre-specific ones are always interesting to think about/discuss, and in much of the YA book fandom, I feel like sci-fi doesn’t get as much love. So I decided to look at six tropes that are specific to sci-fi (for the most part). Sci-fi is my favorite genre, so I got super excited thinking about all of these different tropes, and some (mostly) YA books that use them in different ways.
So let’s begin, shall we?
WARNING: This post may contain some book spoilers (Aurora Cycle & Dare Mighty Things series), so read at your own risk!
CRYOSLEEP, BUT FOR WAY TOO LONG
Ellen Ripley – and Aliens in particular – probably set the blueprint for this one, but as the trope gets more popular, authors have started to push the limits on this one, which I think is a really cool move.
It’s most often the protagonist that this happens to – our hero, on the eve of something great, is put into cryosleep for an interplanetary mission, only for something to go terribly awry and stay in cryosleep for longer than they were supposed to. Ripley got an accidental 50 years, Auri from Aurora Risinggot 200 years, and Andra from Goddess in the Machinegot a whopping 1,000 years.
This trope presents two main advantages for writing: a vehicle for exploring the novel’s world through fresh eyes, and internal conflict within the character. If your cryosleep character is completely unfamiliar with the world, seeing it through their eyes gives the reader a more in-depth look at the world than they’d get with a character that’s already familiar with it. They’ll inevitably notice more things and fixate on different things than another character might, which gives the reader more insight about what’s unique about the world that the author has crafted.
As for the internal conflict piece, this part’s always touched on, but in most of the novels I’ve read with it, it’s a lot more shallow than you’d think. There’s the existential crisis that inevitably occurs when the character realizes that everything they know and love is all but gone, but beyond the first few chapters from their POV, they get over it…relatively quickly? It seems like the kind of trauma that would leave lasting psychological scars, and probably physical health repercussions as well. I’ve yet to read any book that explores all that in depth, but it seems like the perfect setup for a sci-fi novel.
So this one’s a trope that can make for a lot of creative choices, but often has a lot of untapped potential.
GOTTEN INTO A SITUATION YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF? TIME TRAVEL!
Apparently this one is a lot more common than I thought, but I’ve only started to see it in YA more recently. (Well, there’s Avengers: Endgame, but it took me a while to realize how common of a trope it is…)
This trope has the possibility of ENDLESS freaky hijinks whilst traversing through time. Sometimes it’s just pushing the events of the past so that everything lines up a little bit nicer, and sometimes it’s rocketing back to another time period entirely. It usually happens only with the last book in a trilogy or duology, just so everyone can fix the mess they got into in the first books.
I have mixed feelings on this one; one the one hand, there’s never a dull moment – time travel jokes, fitting VERY badly into a different time period, and very high stakes, most of all. If the first books have followed a similar formula, it might be good to try for something else to end the series with a bang.
On the other, though, something about it almost feels…lazy to me. Often, this trope arises from The Gang™️ getting a situation so bad that there may not be a feasible way out of it, but…maybe they could? If done wrong, it can feel like lazy writing – an easy way out, and one that provides instant comic relief. And often, the means of said time travel are vague, and often reduced to technobabble from The Smart Character™️, which, hey, I don’t know much about the science of it either, but maybe at least put a little time into it?
So this one’s a double-edged sword: instant plot, or lazy writing? The choice is yours!
*this one doesn’t come out until November [screams] but we know that time travel will play a big part in this one, so…
ALIENS THAT BASICALLY JUST LOOK LIKE HUMANS (BUT WITH A FEW MINOR DIFFERENCES)
Most of the other tropes I’m going to be discussing in this post are ones that I like on some level, but…this one gets on my nerves. For the most part.
Far too many times, I’ve fallen into the trap of picking up a sci-fi book that promises aliens, only to discover that the aliens just look like humans, but with either a) unusual eye colors, b) some sort of powers, or c) a combination of both. And of course, they have to be ✨ridiculously attractive✨ as well. 🙄
Now, I completely get making your aliens humanoid (hey, I’m doing it with some of my aliens for my sci-fi WIP), but there’s a certain point where it feels a bit lazy. Unless there’s some way you can back it up, it seems weird to me that in this entire universe, the only other intelligent beings, by some cosmic chance, are similar to us in almost every way.
But I’ve seen some authors use it to their advantage – in particular, One Giant Leap(the sequel to Dare Mighty Things) does this especially well. The main alien civilization there look exactly like humans, but it’s because of genetic modifications performed so that they could survive on Earth. See? That’s actually a really good way of turning the trope on its head, and doing so in a practical way!
For the most part, this trope never ceases to bug me, but there’s a few ways to turn it on its head.
For me, at least, this trope is the most fun – and it presents some of the scariest and most formidable antagonists in sci-fi.
Villainous AI are some of the most fascinating characters to explore – they have unmatched power, in some cases, and whether they’re a pre-installed ship AI or an android, it’s always interesting to hear their perspective on all of us puny mortals.
Given that humans trust AI a bit *too* much in most sci-fi novels, they often have a fearsome amount of power at their disposal. AI installed inside of a ship? Access to all the security footage, navigation, communications, and controls of the ship. They know their crew up and down, and have the possibility to play everybody’s weaknesses against each other. They have the power to sabotage anything and everything, and more often than not, they do. WITHOUT HESITATION. A corrupt AI often harbors a hatred or jealousy of human beings, and if it’s not that motivating them, it’s some sort of technologically-stemmed god complex, which is always terrifying to watch play out. (Lookin’ right at you, David…) It’s even more of an interesting development if their moral compass shifts over the course of the series – if there’s one thing I’ve learned from sci-fi, it’s that benevolent robot overlords never stay benevolent for very long.
Corrupt AI as antagonists are often more compelling than human or alien ones (for me, at least) partly because so much is left up to the imagination about the inner workings of their minds. We’ve never developed any kind of artificial intelligence that’s become intelligent enough to have devious tendencies like many sci-fi villains, so a lot of it is the author’s personal choice. There are endless possibilities – but more often than not, they’re all terrifying.
And even if they aren’t main antagonists, the addition of a slight unstable AI as a character is always amusing; for all of its flaws, I loved Gregorovich’s existential musings in To Sleep in a Sea of Stars, and his character added some much-needed flavor to the rest of the cast.
TL;DR: There’s nothing more terrifying than a villain that knows everything about everything, and uses that power for its own gain at whatever the cost.
HIGH-STAKES COMPETITIONS TO GO TO SPACE…WITH SOME SERIOUS ULTERIOR MOTIVES
Scared to send your experienced, highly intelligent scientists to space? Send some teenagers instead!
This one tends to crop up the most in YA, as it’s primed for a book that has a primarily teenage cast. The ones I’ve read do tend to follow a formula, but for the most part, it’s one that’s actually a lot of fun!
The worldbuilding/motives behind it are always a little bit messy (again: sending teenagers into space! What could possibly go wrong?), but often times, you just have to hang in there; it’s a given that whatever program is funding the competition is doing something astronomically shady. (No pun intended.) Part of the fun with this trope is the mystery of it; slowly but surely, the competition starts dropping like flies, and things go very wrong very quickly.
More on the mystery aspect – the mystery that often occurs in these types of novels is very slow-burn, building on itself before the heartstopping reveal at the end (often a cliffhanger). From program superiors lying to scheming androids to deaths under mysterious circumstances, there are endless possibilities for many, many things to go wrong. Add in the not-so-friendly rivalries between the competitors (also scheming, along with everybody else), and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a nail-biting sci-fi mystery.
And once/if they get to space? Everything gets way worse. There’s bound to be aliens, but whether they’re intelligent or just parasitic, things are bound to go way, way south. But there’s never a dull moment – there’s no shortage of suspense, and our protagonist is often at a loss as to how to escape their situation.
Plus, for reasons I’ve yet to figure out, these ones always tend to have the most clever pop culture references. (See: all of the Radiohead songs in the Final Six duology)
EXPLORING OTHER PLANETS GOES VERY, VERY WRONG (Or, “Don’t do intergalactic colonialism, kids”)
Here’s another common – but by no means overdone – trope that’s always open to endless possibilities!
Because our planet was never enough, apparently (or if we destroyed it…probably), there’s a whole host of sci-fi stories that are set on entirely new planets, with the sole goal of making them a new home for humankind. But just like with our planet, it’s always unpredictable, whether you’re dealing with a foreign contagion, carnivorous wildlife, or superiors who aren’t what they seem.
I’m always a nerd for creature design in sci-fi, and life on other worlds presents all sort of possibilities for creatures lurking in the bushes. Whether it’s flora or fauna, exploring these sci-fi worlds along with the characters is an adventure, especially if the author is particularly creative. Of course, most of the wildlife ends up being carnivorous, or malicious on some level, so there’s all sorts of danger lurking.
But beyond that, this trope is often a great commentary on colonialism. Human history is rife with frightening periods of raping and pillaging land that wasn’t ours to begin with at the cost of those who originally lived there; telling the same story on alien planets serves as a particularly potent comment on the malicious tendency of our species to overstep and overstay our welcome. Books like A Conspiracy of Starsand The Pioneer explore what happens when humanity comes in contact with intelligent life and unlawfully sets foot on their land; both of them do an amazing job of exploring the intricacies of the political implications, as well as the tense conflict that results. I think sci-fi as a genre is one of the best mediums for raising commentary on this kind of thing. Exploring new frontiers in space is bound to happen once we get the technology, but we must always ask ourselves if it’s the right thing to do. Just because we can doesn’t necessarily mean that we should. (Let’s be real: I would be SO excited if we found evidence of life elsewhere in the universe, but…let’s not have a repeat of all of human history, okay?)
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite/least favorite tropes in sci-fi? Have you read any of the books I listed, and what were your thoughts? This’ll probably be one of several posts on the subject, so I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Good morning (or whatever time it is where you are), bibliophiles!
I’m back from vacation! I took a trip with my family to Glacier National Park last week, and it was STUNNING. We did some hiking, went on a few boat tours, and went canoeing, and it was such a beautiful experience. Walking through the forest fed my soul…I’m recovering from online learning crushing my soul last year, and the trees certainly helped
Anyway, I bought a few books on my Kindle for the trip, and I thought I’d share my reviews for them. It was definitely a hit-or-miss batch, but at least 2/3 of them were good.
In an all-too-plausible future where corporate conglomerates have left the world’s governments in shambles, anyone with means has left the polluted Earth for the promise of a better life on a SpaceTech owned colony among the stars.
Maité Martinez is the daughter of an Earther Latina and a powerful Aunare man, an alien race that SpaceTech sees as a threat to their dominion. When tensions turn violent, Maité finds herself trapped on Earth and forced into hiding.
For over ten years, Maité has stayed hidden, but every minute Maité stays on Earth is one closer to getting caught.
She’s lived on the streets. Gone hungry. And found a way to fight through it all. But one night, while waitressing in a greasy diner, a customer gets handsy with her. She reacts without thinking.
Covered in blood, Maité runs, but it’s not long before SpaceTech finds her…
Arrested and forced into dangerous work detail on a volcano planet, Maité waits for SpaceTech to make their move against the Aunare. She knows that if she can’t somehow find a way to stop them, there will be an interstellar war big enough to end all life in the universe.
There’s only one question: Can Maité prevent the total annihilation of humanity without getting herself killed in the process?
Off Planet wasn’t perfect, but it was a solid sci-fi! It blended elements of hard sci-fi and space opera, and for the most part, they came together somewhat seamlessly.
The plot and tension shone in this novel – Aileen Erin did a great job at making a fast-paced, high-stakes story that kept me on the edge of my seat. The worldbuilding was well fleshed-out as well. I loved all of the different planets that we saw, as well as the near-future, dystopian vision of Earth.
I didn’t get attached to any of the characters, but I’d say they were decently developed. Most of them were likable, but I did like Tyler a lot. I wish we’d seen more of him. However, even though I liked Lorne, his name threw me off a little, because a) hey, it’s more of a human name, and he’s an alien, and b) my inevitable association of that name with Lorne Malvo from Fargo, which…[shudders]
My only major problem was the dialogue – it felt a little stilted and not quite authentic, which took away some of the believability of the characters. Other than mannerisms, there wasn’t a whole lot that distinguished each character’s voice.
But overall, a solid start to an intense and well-thought-out sci-fi trilogy. 3.5 stars!
In the bloody revolution, gods were all but wiped out. Ever since, the children they left behind have been imprisoned in an orphanage, watched day and night by the ruthless Guard. Any who show signs of divine power vanish from their beds in the night, all knowledge of their existence denied.
No one has ever escaped the orphanage.
Seventeen-year-old Hero is finally free – but at a terrible price. Her sister has been captured by the Guard and is being held in a prison in the northern sea. Hero desperately wants to get her back, and to escape the murderous Guardsmen hunting her down. But not all the gods are dead, and the ones waiting for Hero in the north have their own plans for her – ones that will change the world forever . . .
As she advances further and further into the unknown, Hero will need to decide: how far is she willing to go to do what needs to be done?
TW/CW: graphic violence, discrimination, death, blood, gore
I really wanted to give this one a chance – the low average rating on Goodreads put me off a little (2.88 at present), but there didn’t seem to anything blatantly offensive in the reviews I read, so I gave it a shot.
…which was a mistake on my part. Oops.
The Orphanage of Gods had an interesting premise on the surface, but it was weighed down by a whole bunch of aspects. The worldbuilding was flimsy at best, the plot seemed to ramble without meaning, the characters didn’t have many defining traits (and there were too many of them to keep track of, making them interchangeable), and the POV switches at each of the three parts didn’t seem to have any point. If Coggan had kept the POV at Hero for the whole book, it might have made more sense, as she was unfamiliar with the world introduced. But alas…
I tried. I really tried. I wanted to give this one three stars, but it just got worse and worse as the book went on…I think the only redeeming factor was that there was a sapphic romance at the forefront, but even that was just thrown in there at the last minute. The writing had moments of being good, and I think that’s the only reason I didn’t DNF this one entirely.
All in all, a novel weighed down by poor handling of almost every aspect save for the writing. 2 stars.
The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.
The entire population inside has been quarantined and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.
Regan, silent, scaly stealth expert, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. Evelyn is a fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now they have a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.
Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…
TW/CW: violence, PTSD, loss of loved ones, fire, anxiety, torture, trauma
This is just the kind of sweet, diverse and hopeful dystopia that the world needs more of. Chameleon Moon wasn’t without its flaws, sure, but it was such a lovely novel.
First off, this is easily one of the most diverse novels I’ve read in a long time – we’ve got a polyamorous family at front and center, an asexual MC, a trans woman MC, several nonbinary characters, several Black characters, and several characters with anxiety and PTSD. So a big thank you to RoAnna Sylver for making an effort to make a novel with all that representation!
The characters were the best aspect of the novel for me – they all had such distinct personalities and quirks, and I loved all of the different superpowers they sported. Danae was easily my favorite – I loved all of her little metal creations, and she had such a spirited personality. (Kind of imagined her like Jessie Buckley, for no particular reason.) Hans was also great – he reminded me a lot of Klaus from The Umbrella Academy, if he were a bit more unhinged.
What was really special about Chameleon Moon for me, though, was that even though it was clearly a dystopia, there was a consistent message of hope. Even in the midst of unimaginable horrors, there was still love, still families caring for each other, still listening to everybody’s traumas, and still persisting no matter the odds. It’s an uncommon sight in dystopia, and in times like these, it’s just the kind of novel we need.
All in all, a queer and hopeful dystopia that sets itself apart with no shortage of representation and a powerful message. 4 stars!
That’s it for these mini-reviews! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Now that we’re in the month of June, I’m so excited to share more queer YA books. I did a whole series last year of LGBTQ+ books in various genres, so I was struggling to think of something new for this year. So I’ve decided to compile my favorite queer books that I read between last pride month and now. (There’s a whole lot of good ones!)
But as with all kinds of posts like these, it’s important to remember that we must uplift marginalized voices in literature 365 days a year.
If you want to check them out, here are my pride month recs from last year:
LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: Two of the MCs are sapphic, wlw relationship, third MC is aromantic/asexual
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5
This one wasn’t without its flaws, but I loved this blend of sci-fi and fantasy! There’s also an especially beautiful scene where Nathaniel (aroace character) discovers his sexuality, and although I’m not aspec myself, I’m sure this will touch the hearts of so many ace readers.
Here’s another feel-good queer fantasy – this one’s a graphic novel! Besides the fact that there’s nothing better than witches and werewolves having soft relationships, it’s so cool to see a disabled queer character like Nova! (She’s hard of hearing, and there’s several discussions about her hearing aids.)
I don’t usually jump for contemporary, but this was SUCH A DELIGHT. Not only is it an enemies-to-lovers, multiracial sapphic romance, there’s some really important discussions about homophobia and cultural appropriation.
LGBTQ+ REPRESENTATION: Gay MC, lesbian and trans side characters
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
A beautiful, coming-of-age novel in verse about a mixed-race teen realizing his sexuality and discovering himself through drag. I don’t read a whole lot of novels in verse, but this is one you absolutely have to read!
Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! Hope you’re all doing okay. I’m finally having a little peace after this awful school year…I still have one more day left, BUT I’M FINALLY DONE WITH PRECALC! MY SOUL IS NO LONGER BEING ACTIVELY CRUSHED!
This book was been on my TBR since the dawn of time, added soon after I finished Bowman’s debut, Starfish. I finally got around to picking it up at the library recently, and I’m so glad I did! An immensely powerful portrait of sisterhood, grief, and music.
Music is everything to sisters Rumi and Lea, who write songs together based on spur-of-the-moment wordplay. But when Lea is killed in a car crash, Rumi’s life is upended completely. In a fit of grief, her mother sends her to Hawaii to live with her aunt, hoping that there, she’ll be able to process her emotions.
Instead, Rumi finds herself even more depressed than before, grappling with the absence of Lea and the waning of her creativity. But with the help of a few unexpected neighbors, Rumi begins to realize that her love of music – and the people around her – are the key to overcoming her great loss.
TW/CW: car crash, death, loss of loved one (sibling), panic attacks, near-death experiences (drowning)
It’s been years since I read Starfish, but what I remembered most was the powerful gut feeling it stirred up in me. But reading Summer Bird Blue made me realize what a profound talent that Akemi Dawn Bowman has, and it’s proof that sometimes, books don’t just make you feel ordinary emotion. Sometimes they make you feel raw emotion right down to your core.
Fair warning: Summer Bird Blue is one of those books that you should probably be in a good and stable place mentally before reading. I probably couldn’t have read it myself at certain (recent) points in my life, so I’m glad I read it when I did. It’s heavy: it’ll make you hurt, it’ll make you feel low, but that’s exactly what grieving feels like. The best part of this novel may be how Bowman handles grief; it’s something that holds you in its jaws and won’t let go until it’s had its fill of you. Rumi’s struggles with coping with her younger sister’s death felt all too real, from the physical symptoms to the creeping self doubt about relationships with the deceased. It’s unflinching and it doesn’t hold back, but that completes the picture of not just Rumi’s grief, but the grief of so many others.
What also stood out to me was how well-executed Rumi was as a flawed character. Even though she’s lost her sister, you don’t feel 100% sympathetic for her – she’s selfish at time, has a tendency to lash out at those she loves, and is more than a bit lacking in the apologizing department. But having Rumi be a less-than-perfect person is part of what made her and her journey all the more authentic. She feels real, fleshed-out. And her representation is also great – not only is she biracial, but she’s aromantic-asexual as well! I don’t see a whole lot of asexuality represented in YA literature (though I’m steadily seeing it increasing), so it’s great to have characters like Rumi out there.
Rumi’s personal journey was nothing short of beautiful – character development at its finest. She experiments, she makes bad decisions, she tries new things, but ultimately discovers the healing power of creativity. For her, music was intrinsically tied to her sister, but creativity was, along with her newfound relationships, was what brought her out of the darkness. And I think that’s just lovely. We love our passions dearly, but we always underestimate their power to truly save us, and that’s what makes our passions our passions.
All in all, a raw and beautiful exploration of grief and healing 4 stars!
Summer Bird Blue is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Harley in the Sky, and The Infinity Courts; the first two are standalone novels, but The Infinity Courts is a trilogy, with the last two books slated for release in 2022 and 2023, respectively.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Whoops…I’ve been meaning to review this for…oh, about a month? But studying for AP tests and finals just said “no you won’t :)” so here we are now
And this is also the first review I’ve written in a month, so…
[ahem] now back to our scheduled program
I found out about this book via Edelweiss, and the more I heard about it, the more excited I got; Star Wars-inspired sci-fi with tons of queer characters, found family, and a gorgeous cover? SIGN ME UP. So I preordered it at the beginning of this year, and it came in the mail last month. And although it wasn’t exactly everything that I wanted it to be, it was still a lot of fun!
On the surface, Tina Mains is an ordinary teenage girl, but she hides an earth-shattering secret: she’s the secret clone of a great alien general. When she comes of age, her destiny is to reunite with her old crewmates in order to defeat intergalactic evil.
So when her beacon finally activates, Tina and her best friend are launched into space, joined by a myriad of aliens and an enlisted squad of self-proclaimed nerds from Earth. As Tina struggles to grapple with her transformation, she realizes that it’ll take more than just inherited wisdom to save the galaxy from annihilation.
TW/CW: violence, transphobia, racism, mentions of abuse (past), eugenics
The more I found out about this one, the more excited I got, because…yeah, I’ll pick up anything that’s billed as a “queer space opera.” (Hey. I’m a woman of simple tastes.) But although it wasn’t without its flaws, Victories Greater Than Death was SO much fun!
My major criticism was the pacing. Most space opera is generally pretty fast-paced, but this was…far too much so. I like for things to move along quickly, but for the first half of Victories, everything seemed to happen in mere seconds. We’re on Earth? Nope. WHAM. Weird stuff’s immediately happening. Next page? Different weird thing. WITHOUT MERCY. The pacing made my head spin a bit, but luckily, this was my only major criticism.
Otherwise? GAAAH THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! The world needs more sci-fi like this; diverse, and with a balanced tone juggling light-hearted fun and grave action. Tina’s struggle as she was thrust into a completely unfamiliar world of aliens and intergalactic politics (and not to mention her newfound legacy) was wonderfully relatable, and I had so much fun tagging along with her adventures across the galaxy. The representation was also incredible: Tina herself is bi/pan, her love interest is a Black trans woman who is also bi/pan, there’s Black, Chinese, and Indian side characters, and many of the alien crewmates have a variety of pronouns. And I’m always up for normalizing asking for people’s pronouns in introductions, and there’s lots of that.
One of the unique aspects of Victories Greater Than Death is that Anders took some pitfalls that most books handle poorly and used them to her advantage. There’s quite a lot of infodumping, but there’s a good reason for it – as Tina is making the transition from her human self to her original alien form, her brain is filling in the gaps as the information from her old life is returning to her. Normally, I absolutely despite infodumps (don’t we all, though?), but this was a genius way to make it work! There was also a huge cast – Tina, Rachel, the rest of the humans, plus all of her alien crewmates; it was tough to remember all of them for most of the book, but weirdly enough, the high body count…helped? Most of the alien characters were fairly underdeveloped, but the ones that we knew almost nothing about were killed off by the end of the book, which…morbidly enough, made things a bit less confusing. Morbid, I know, but I think there had to be at least 20 characters in all. (Same deal with season 4 of Fargo, if you think about it – super wide cast of characters, but at least 80% of them die by the end, so…)
Through it all, though, Victories Greater Than Death made me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside; even though these characters face unbeatable odds, they’re consistently there for each other. No matter their backgrounds or beliefs, they stuck together no matter what. It’s such a sweet found family story.
All in all, a YA sci-fi that was messy and a bit *toooooooo* fast at worst, but diverse, light-hearted, and colorful at best. 3.5 stars!
Victories Greater Than Death is the first in the Unstoppable trilogy, followed by two untitled (as of now) books set to come out in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Charlie Jane Anders is also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, and several other novels.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I’m (almost) back! Today marked my last AP exam of the year (had four exams this week…hhhgh…), so now that I have most of the big tests out of the way, I can start getting back on a more frequent blogging schedule. Of course, I’m not *quite* done with the school year just yet, but the only finals I have left are for my easy classes, so I don’t think there’s anything terribly strenuous on the immediate horizon. 🙂
But I wanted to make this post because here in the U.S., the month of May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month! So for the occasion, I decided to compile some of my favorite #OwnVoices AAPI YA novels of all genres. As always, it’s essential to diversify your reading pool 365 days a year, but especially with the tragic hate crimes and harmful stigmas surrounding AAPI people in the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s especially important to uplift AAPI voices.
It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but I’ll never forget the impact it had on me. Raw, unapologetic, and resonant, Ngan builds such a rich world, unforgettable characters, and a plot that kept me at the edge of my seat. The sequel was a disappointment, unfortunately, but I think I’ll stick it out for book 3.
After reading two of her books and a short story, I can now say that Samira Ahmed might just be a new favorite author of mine! She never misses, and her debut is no exception; a raw and beautiful tale of love, family, and fighting back against bigotry.
GENRES: Historical fiction, fantasy, retellings (Romeo and Juliet), romance
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I tried (and failed) to set my expectations at a reasonable level after all the hype this one got, but I must say, this one is worth a good portion of it! A fresh and original spin on Romeo and Juliet set against the background of 1920’s Shanghai, complete with warring gangs and strange monsters.
Marie Lu’s one of my favorite authors, and it was hard to pick just one of her books for this post, but I ended up on this one because a) it was my first exposure to her AMAZING writing and b) I don’t talk about it an awful lot, so why not give it some more love?
Besides that gorgeous cover, there’s something for everybody here: futuristic Tokyo, a clever and lovable heroine, mysteries within competitive video games, and secret plots.
GAAAH, this one’s beautiful! This one’s an autobiography in the form of a graphic novel, centering around the author’s experience as a Korean immigrant to the U.S. and the transformative power of art and comics.
Amid the bountiful Cinderella retellings out there, this one truly stands out, with lush writing reminiscent of the narration of Pan’s Labyrinth and classic fairytales, and a warm and resonant sapphic romance. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a retelling worth reading!
If you’re a fan of Six of Crows, I AM ONCE AGAIN ASKING YOU TO DROP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING AND READ THIS BOOK. Lovable and authentic characters, a complex world and system of magic, heists for famed artifacts, and political intrigue – this one has it all.
I know I never stop blabbing about this one, but this is a prime example of genre-bending done right: a stunning blend of fantasy and murder mystery! I’m so surprised that more people haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it if you haven’t. (And I can’t wait for The Ones We’re Meant to Find! It looks amazing, but I can’t find it at my library…[impatient screeching])
This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, and I’m so glad to say that it delivered! A diverse, sapphic enemies-to-lovers romance with important discussions about cultural appropriation, the immigrant experience, and sexuality.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by AAPI authors?
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
This first review of April 2021 is one of a movie adaptation. It had been on my TBR for for a good two years beforehand, but I finally got to watch the movie, Pan’s Labyrinth, last summer. And cried like a baby. But that’s not the point.
Anyway, when I went to Barnes & Noble, I knew I had to pick it up! I’m glad to say that I liked it almost as much as I did the movie – a bit lacking in the writing department, but still managed to capture much of the dark, fairytale allure that Pan’s Labyrinth had in droves.
Thirteen-year-old Ofelia has always lived through fairytales, especially those in the books she carries around. But when she and her mother move to live with her new husband, the cold and murderous Capitán Vidal, it seems all of the magic has faded away. But when fairies appear to her in the night, Ofelia realizes that the tales in her storybooks may be real after all – and more sinister than she could have ever imagined.
Now, led through a dangerous set of tasks by an enigmatic faun, Ofelia grows closer to the fairytale world that she may be the key to. But the deeper she ventures, the more dangerous they become. The Faun may not be trustworthy – but is the alternative any better?
TW/CW: graphic violence, torture, fantasy violence/body horror, blood, childbirth complications, past death of parent, death of children
I’ve been skimming through some of the reviews from people who haven’t seen the movie who thought that this was middle grade just because the protagonist was 13…and no judgement, none at all, I don’t blame you all, but man, I’m SO, SO SORRY.
I’m a huge fan of all things Guillermo del Toro (after all, he’s responsible for my comfort movie, Hellboy II: The Golden Army), so naturally, after watching this movie for the first time over the summer, I knew I had to pick this up soon. Now, I’m so glad I have a copy of my own – though it wasn’t without its flaws, this was a beautiful adaptation of a truly remarkable film.
Let’s start out with my only criticism: the writing. Of course, I’ve read some of Guillermo del Toro’s short stories and adored his style, but I think my main problem was with Cornelia Funke’s part of it; I read Inkheartsome time ago and it wasn’t my thing, and I think some of those feelings resurfaced while reading this. For source material as brimming with faeries and dark magic as this, her prose didn’t fit at all. There’s a lot of telling as opposed to showing, a lot of “[they] felt” and “[they] knew” and similar phrases. While it wasn’t egregiously bad, some of the telling parts took me out of it.
Other than that? I don’t have any critiques at all! For the most part, this novel absolutely did justice to the book, and both del Toro and Funke clearly had a careful eye to make sure that this adaptation was as close to the film as possible. I loved revisiting the simultaneously dark and beautiful world of the fairies, and the human element was just as poignant and tear-jerking. Though the sting of…well, y’know, everything was dulled a bit by knowing the outcome (having seen the movie), everything was still so potent and gripping. Allen Williams’ beautiful illustrations also added a new layer to the novel, with renderings of Ofelia, the Pale Man, the Faun, and others in simple but striking pencil artwork.
I also loved the short stories woven within the chapters, and I loved seeing how interconnected they all were. Each one added a new thread of lore to an already intricate and detailed story, and it was fascinating to see how each and every short tale came together to flesh out an already well-fleshed-out world.
All in all, a beautiful adaptation of an even more beautiful dark fantasy film. 4 stars!
Guillermo del Toro is most famous for his many films, which include the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water,Hellboy & Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Crimson Peak. Cornelia Funke is also the author of the Inkworld trilogy, the Dragon Rider series, and the Mirrorworld series.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourself!
I’d had this novel on my TBR for a good two years or so, but I forgot about it until I saw it on display at my local library. I picked it up as soon as I could, and man, I’m so glad I did! I’ve started to lose faith in a lot of YA dystopian novels, but London Shah shows us all the way to do it almost exactly right.
London, 2099. The entire city has been swallowed by the rising oceans, and humankind ekes out a living, in fear of the evolved creatures of the sea and the genetically-modified Anthropoids who lurk alongside them.
Leyla McQueen makes a living as a submersible racer, and when she enters a prestigious competition, she doesn’t enter for the fame or the fortune – all she wants to do is save her father, who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But after the Prime Minister refuses her pleas after she wins the competition, she sets out on her own to find him, leading her through a dark, watery world of secrets and lies.
This bookwasn’t perfect, but man, I’d do anything to have a debut as good as this! London Shah restored my faith in dystopian literature, and The Light at the Bottom of the World is practically a guidebook on how to do dystopian YA right.
Shah’s worldbuilding is what stood out most to me. There’s rich history in every chapter, presenting a post-apocalyptic world swallowed by rising oceans, where the last pockets of humanity war with the deep and corrupt governments tighten an iron fist around the needy. I loved seeing how the inhabitants of this drowned London eked out a living, from the submersible races to the ruined architecture.
Leyla McQueen was also the perfect protagonist for this book! Besides having great #OwnVoices British-Muslim rep, she was just the kind of main character that we could root for – quick-witted, clever, sassy, determined, and fueled by a love for her father and a flaming desire to make things right. Her chemistry with Ari was great, and she was so spirited and authentic in a way that most dystopian protagonists aren’t. Plus, I may not be a dog person, but Jojo was so adorable and must be protected at all costs 🥺
The only pitfall about The Light at the Bottom of the World for me was the writing. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it just felt a bit lacking. Everything was quick and to the point, without much metaphor or dressing. Now, I’m not saying that it needed to be bright purple prose, but I feel like it could have used a bit more vivid imagery and language. The plot made up for it though; I truly felt the adrenaline of the characters for the whole book, whether it was in the breakneck submersible races or a daring prison break.
Either way, a fantastic YA dystopia with a lovable cast of characters and a fascinating world swallowed by the waves. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
The Light at the Bottom of the World is London Shah’s debut novel, and it is the first in the Light the Abyss duology, followed by Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, which is slated for release on October 26, 2021.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!