Posted in Books

YA Reads for Black History Month

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

Phew, I’m so glad to be on a long weekend…we have the day off school today and next Monday, so I think I’ll have some much needed time to wind down…

As some of you may know, here in the U.S., the month of February is Black History Month! So for the occasion, I decided that it would be a good idea to make a post full of my favorite YA reads from #OwnVoices Black authors. Now more than ever it is critical to share stories from marginalized voices, and in the current climate that much of the world is in, uplifting POC voices should be at the forefront of creative endeavors.

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I’ve made a list of YA reads of all genres for this post, all of them 4-5 star reads for me. So let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The Sound of Stars – Alechia Dow

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GENRES: Sci-fi, dystopia, LGBTQ+, romance

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

The Sound of Stars was one of my favorite reads of 2020! A diverse cast, a tender romance, and no shortage of music and book references. Other than the ending, it’s pretty much everything I could want in a book.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph – Brandy Colbert

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GENRES: Contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is one of those special novels that simultaneously touches on a myriad of important issues, but still retains a lighter, slice-of-life mood. Romantic, sweet, and so inclusive!

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis

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GENRES: Contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now has stuck with me ever since. A resonant story about family, mental health and grief.

A Song Below Water – Bethany C. Morrow

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GENRES: Magical realism, contemporary, fantasy

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

I’m always on the hunt for good mermaid books, and I’m glad to say that A Song Below Water was such a unique novel! It certainly isn’t without its flaws, but this was a solid piece of magical realism.

Punching the Air – Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

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GENRES: Poetry/Novels in verse, contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read an awful lot of poetry, but Punching the Air hit me so hard. This was a truly powerful novel about the corruption of the justice system and the transformative power of art.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

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GENRES: High fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one and my memory of it’s a bit hazy (oops), but from what I remember, Children of Blood and Bone was such a well-written and well-crafted fantasy! (Plus, that gorgeous cover…)

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them – Junauda Petrus

Image result for the stars and the blackness between them by junauda petrus

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was one of my first reads of the year, and wow, such a beautiful novel! I loved the relationship between Audre and Mabel, and the writing was so tender. Highly recommended.

Monday’s Not Coming – Tiffany D. Jackson

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GENRES: Mystery, thriller, contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mystery isn’t my go-to genre, but Monday’s Not Coming was truly astounding. Haunting, gripping and suspenseful–everything a mystery novel should be, really.

The Black Kids – Christina Hammonds Reed

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GENRES: Fiction, historical fiction (1990s)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Even though it’s set in the 1990’s, The Black Kids has no shortage of timely themes, and stands out as a powerful and immersive historical fiction novel. Highly recommended!

Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko

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GENRES: High fantasy, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have a distinct memory of looking through reviews for Raybearer before I picked it up; it was a struggle to find any sort of reviews with ratings below 4 stars (I usually try to read reviews in the 3-2 star range before reading most books), and everybody and their mother seemed to be gushing about it. But I’m glad to say that Raybearer absolutely lived up to that hype, and I now count myself among the legions of 4-star ratings!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin – Roseanne A. Brown

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GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I just finished this one last week (bought it with a gift card I got for Christmas!), and I must say, absolutely worth buying! Complex protagonists, and a writing style that all at once felt nostalgic and wonderfully fresh and unique. (I’ll try to review this one next week!)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA novels from #OwnVoices Black authors? Any recommendations?

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Today’s song:

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

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: The Brighter the Stars

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I haven’t done an eARC review in a little bit, and it was nice to see this one pop up after I’d forgotten about requesting it. It was a quick read for me, but although there was clearly a lot of care put into the worldbuilding, much of The Brighter the Stars fell flat for me.

Enjoy this eARC review!

Image result for the brighter the stars bryan prosek

The Brighter the Stars–Bryan K. Prosek

At only twelve, Jake Saunders witnessed the murder of his uncle by Romalor, the tyrant of a distant world. His death shaped him for years, eventually leading him to the Legion, the intergalactic military. For years, he has sought revenge, but only now does he have the chance to avenge his uncle. But when Diane, an ambassador to Earth and a close friend to Jake, is captured, he must find a way to rescue her–and right the wrongs of the murderous Romalor.

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TW/CW: violence, loss of a loved one

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and CamCat Publishing for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Wait, so we’ve got a protagonist who witnessed the murder of his Uncle Ben in his formative years? Wait a minute…[PETER PARKER INTENSIFIES]

(Kidding, kidding…)

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I always feel pretty bad giving more indie books low ratings. It’s hard to put yourself out there, and especially since this one has hardly any reviews or ratings on Goodreads as of now, it did pain me a little bit to give The Brighter the Stars a lower rating. But hey, I’m supposed to give an honest review here, and to be honest, this novel really wasn’t my cup of tea, even though I’m a huge fan of sci-fi.

Let’s start off with the positives. What stood out most to me about The Brighter the Stars was the worldbuilding; the author clearly put a lot of work into making a fleshed-out, intricate world, and for the most part, he succeeded. Although there were several instances where I felt like the information was being info-dumped, the futuristic world that Prosek crafted was one that felt very lived-in.

I also liked the dynamic between Jake, Cal and Diane. They had great chemistry together as a trio, and even though Jake’s and Cal’s personalities/voices were almost indistinguishable, I liked Diane’s character.

What bothered me most about The Brighter the Stars was the writing. It was often very choppy, with long clumps of sentences that were almost the exact same length. Within at least half of the paragraphs, most of the sentences seemed to start with the same word(s); this, combined with the lack of variation for the sentence length, made for a novel that didn’t really flow. I can usually just scan the pages if the sentences have differing lengths, but even the action sequences failed to flow. Additionally, the descriptions leaned quite a lot on telling instead of showing–there’s a whole lot of “was,” “[they] felt,” “[they] knew,” etc., which also contributed to the lack of fluidity throughout the story.

There’s an interesting combination as far as genres go; The Brighter the Stars is pretty hardcore sci-fi, but there’s some clear Western influences on it. (I really don’t know much about Westerns, so take this all with a grain of salt. I guess The Mandalorian was pretty Western-inspired, soooo…) There were quite a few nods to the latter throughout, and I did kind of like the desert/saloon planet, but plot-wise, it still felt quite flat. It was fast-paced, but everything felt far too easy for Jake (ex. beating the supposedly “unbeatable” fighter in the arena, another plot point that I won’t spoil). Now, I’m all for good triumphing over evil in the end, but there seemed to be little to no struggle for Jake to get over the obstacles in his path. He was definitely more of a Gary Stu-type protagonist, which…mmm, nope.

Overall, a sci-fi that clearly took time to create a fleshed-out world, but suffered from dry, choppy writing and unrealistically skilled protagonist. 2 stars.

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Release date: November 10, 2020

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

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

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

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

I’m Thinking of Ending Things–Iain Reid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Split Infinitives

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

A YA Reader’s Guide to Space Opera 👽

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

Would you look at that…for once, I actually have a post that isn’t a meme, an update, or a book tag…

I’ve been planning for this one a little bit, and I’m excited to get into it! If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know how much I love sci-fi. So for this post, I decided to go semi-in-depth on my favorite subgenre of science fiction and dole out some recommendations of mine.

Let’s begin, shall we?

So first off, what is space opera anyway?

Steam Community :: :: Obi-wan has taught you well.

In all forms of media, space opera is a subgenre of science fiction. It tends to focus less on the heavy science/physics of the universe it’s in, and more on aspects such as plot and characters. There’s often adventures at a breakneck pace, intergalactic war or conflict, strange planets/other locations, and drama between a set of characters. A lot of space opera media that I’ve consumed tends to throw in a ragtag bunch of characters with nothing in common together, and then throws them into an adventure of epic proportions. (Commonly referred to in many of my posts and reviews as “[chaotic] space misfits.”) More often than not, there’s some light elements of fantasy, sometimes as placeholders to explain the workings of the universe. And, as you probably can figure out, it’s usually set in space or on a distant planet.

Star Wars is often used as the quintessential example of a space opera–dogfights in space, romance, strange worlds, and (amazing) lightsaber duels. (What more could you possibly want?) Although it’s probably not *the original* space opera, it’s influenced a huge chunk of space opera/sci-fi media for the last 40-ish years. Guardians of the Galaxy is another widely-known example of space opera, and from= the world of literature, Dune and Foundation are some of the most well-loved space opera classics.

I'm Mary Poppins, y'all! (gif) | Guardians of the galaxy, Marvel cinematic,  Marvel cinematic universe

Sci-fi has only become my favorite book genre in the past…six or seven years; for a while, I was mostly drawn to fantasy, but after reading Tony DiTerlizzi’s Search for WondLa trilogy, there was no going back. And I was raised on a steady diet of Star Wars, so it was bound to happen eventually. There’s a multitude of reasons why I’m drawn to it. Even though fantasy has virtually no limits as far as making up universes goes, there’s just something about about flying through the vast reaches of space and traveling to strange worlds that has always appealed to me. And as someone who’s been something of an outcast for the better part of my life, I’m drawn like a magnet to any kind of found-family tropes. Now, I know full well that it’s not exclusive to space opera, but everything from Star Wars to Aurora Rising has a cast of strange and distinct characters that come to see themselves as a family, and I’ve always loved the theme of finding your tribe of weirdos.

So now, if you say “space opera,” there’s a good chance that I’ll immediately want to read it. (Doesn’t mean I’ll love it–there’s good and bad books in every genre, of course–but I’ll certainly read it.)

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Now, I’ve compiled a list of some YA space opera recommendations! Each one is tailored to different types of readers/tastes, because I firmly believe there’s something for everybody, even if sci-fi isn’t normally your thing. So let’s get to it, shall we?

🪐YA SPACE OPERA RECS🪐

For readers who like character-driven books…

Amazon.com: Heart of Iron (9780062652850): Poston, Ashley: Books

Heart of Iron duology–Ashley Poston

A retelling of the story of Anastasia, this unique duology boasts a diverse and lovable cast of characters, royal intrigue, creepy androids, and some really cool spaceships.

For readers who like fairytale retellings…

Amazon.com: Once & Future (9780316449274): McCarthy, Cori, Capetta, Amy  Rose: Books

Once & Future–A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy

A retelling of Arthurian legend where the reincarnation of King Arthur is a pansexual woman of color and a spell gone wrong made Merlin age backwards…into an awkward, voice-cracky teenager. Super diverse, super feminist, and super fun!

For readers who love a good found-family story…

Aurora Rising - (Aurora Cycle) By Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff (Paperback) :  Target

Aurora Cycle–Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

In short, this is what happens when you put Captain America in a spaceship with his sister, his ex, a whole bunch of random students from the bottom of his class, and a girl with a glowing eye that may or may not start an intergalactic war. Hands down, my favorite series of all time.

For readers who love a little romance…

Amazon.com: Defy the Stars (Defy the Stars (1)) (9780316394031): Gray,  Claudia: Books

The Constellation trilogy–Claudia Gray

The worldbuilding and the imagery are beautiful in all three books, but it’s really the unlikely relationship between Noemi and Abel that shines in this one. [🥺 intensifies]

For readers who like plots with high-stakes competitions…

Amazon.com: Crownchasers (9780062845160): Coffindaffer, Rebecca: Books

Crownchasers–Rebecca Coffindaffer

(Would you look at that…another pansexual protagonist!)

I had my expectations a *bit* too high for this one, but it was still a whole lot of fun! A lot of reviewers have pitched it as Aurora Rising meets The Hunger Games, and I’d say that’s pretty spot-on. I’m excited to see what Coffindaffer has up their sleeve for book 2.

For fans of steampunk…

Tarnished Are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

Tarnished Are the Stars–Rosiee Thor

This one has elements of both sci-fi and fantasy woven in–royal intrigue on other worlds, and lots of clockwork hearts! Plus, it’s a beautiful queer story; we have a wlw romance, as well as a beautiful aro-ace coming out scene for one of the main characters.

For readers who prefer standalones to series…

Amazon.com: Last of Her Name (9781338243369): Khoury, Jessica: Books

Last of Her Name–Jessica Khoury

Another space opera retelling of Anastasia, comin’ right up…

Last of Her Name is a truly beautiful novel, with intricate and detailed worldbuilding, tender romance, and no shortage of twists that I couldn’t see coming. I do wish we’d gotten a larger glimpse into this world, but it was still satisfying as one book.

For thriller fans…

Amazon.com: Illuminae (The Illuminae Files) (9780553499117): Amie Kaufman,  Jay Kristoff: Books

The Illuminae Files–Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Normally, I’d try to avoid putting two series from the same author(s) in a post like this, but Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff are masters of sci-fi, so I kind of *had to.* Composed of interviews, emails, security footage, and more, this is truly a trilogy like no other.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK? What are your favorite space opera books? Do you have any space opera recs for us? Tell me in the comments!

Baby Yoda Soup Baby Yoda Tea GIF - BabyYodaSoup BabyYodaTea BabyYoda -  Discover & Share GIFs | Star wars nerd, Star wars yoda, Star wars

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 (1/19/21) – Zero Repeat Forever

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

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dark Creations | Fairy Tail Amino

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

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

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

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

Enjoy the first book review Tuesday of the year!

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Among the Beasts & Briars–Ashley Poston

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

VFX Movies Gallery

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

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

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

Princess Mononoke gif - GIF on Imgur

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

Today’s song:

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

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy this double review!

First things first…

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

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

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

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

Nadine Wilmschen's review of Kissing the Boss

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

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

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

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

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

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And now, for book 2…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s song:

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

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

Posted in Books, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (12/21/20)–Elysium Girls

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

WHEW, I’m out of school for the semester! I SURVIVED AN ENTIRE SEMESTER ONLINE! And to everyone else who has done the same, pat yourself on the back! You did it!

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Anyway, 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’ve had this book on my TBR for almost exactly a year, and it sounds like an exciting mashup of YA fantasy and…Western vibes? I think? We’ll see, but it definitely looks like something new…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (12/21/20)–ELYSIUM GIRLS by Kate Pentecost

Amazon.com: Elysium Girls (9781368041867): Pentecost, Kate: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.

When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she’s a liar, she knows she’s a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn’t shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa’s exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.

Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.

So why do I want to read this?

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Okay, waaaaaaaaait, wait wait–

We’ve got:

  • Demons?
  • Girl gangs of witches?
  • False prophecies?
  • Alternate history of the Dust Bowl?
  • Robot horses?
  • AND DID I MENTION DEMONS?

Elysium Girls definitely has something of a bold premise, and there’s quite a lot of elements crammed into it; alternate histories are hard to get right, and harder still when there’s a whole host of fantasy elements in it, like this one has. But that’s exactly what hooks me in–from the synopsis, it’s unafraid, it’s daring, it’s bold, and man, it sounds like a whole lot of fun. Also, I REALLY like the premise of the whole plot being the result of a decade-long game between Life and Death. That seems promising.

This one’s available at the library, so I might have to put it on hold soon…

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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 ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: Mortal Remains

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

Due to all the academic craziness that went on in October and November, I laid off on requesting any eARCs. But now that everything’s calmed down a little bit (right before it picks back up…please have mercy on my soul, future finals…), I requested a few more. This one came in recently, so I read it on my Kindle. And while it certainly had its flaws, Mortal Remains was a darkly funny paranormal tale!

Enjoy this eARC review!

Mortal Remains by Mary Ann Fraser

Mortal Remains–Mary Ann Fraser

High schooler Lily McCrae’s worked for the family business since she’s been old enough to work–she’s part of her family’s funeral home. She loves her job, but the funeral home may be going under. What’s more, her social life (if you could call it that) is disappearing quickly–her brother Evan is too busy polishing up his college applications, and Mallory, her only friend, has elected to spend time with a different crowd. Her only solace is in her clients–but they’re all corpses.

Lily’s life is further upended when a neighbor’s house is destroyed in an explosion, seemingly killing all inhabitants inside. But in the rubble, she discovers a bunker, and inside of that bunker is a boy. His name is Adam Lassiter, and he seems to have little memory of his past life.

Thing is, the Adam that used to live in the destroyed house went missing years ago. As Lily spends more time with him, she realizes that she may have opened herself into a complicated supernatural conspiracy with Adam at the center. And she might just be falling for Adam…

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🥺
Edward scissorhands GIF - Find on GIFER
Because it would be criminal of me to not put these two GIFs together…

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Sterling Children’s Books for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Again, here we have an eARC that would have been the perfect read for October…

Mortal Remains was darkly funny at best and a bit sloppy at worst, but overall, it was a decent paranormal read.

Let’s start off with the good. The strongest aspect of Mortal Remains, for me at least, was the characters. Lily was a charmingly quirky protagonist, and the perfect character to drive the story. She had a very distinct voice and personality, and I loved all of her little mannerisms and attitudes towards working at the funeral home. Bits of her backstory (namely, the bullying she suffered in her early years of high school and the names she got called) weren’t terribly authentic, but I was able to brush that part aside. (I mean, what kind of high school bully calls somebody “Ghoul girl?”) However, I will say that Lily escaped the dreaded “Not Like Other Girls” trope; she was definitely a bit degrading of Mallory and the more “basic” crowd, but she reconciled it near the end of the book, which I appreciated. So we definitely dodged a bullet in that respect.

The synopsis on Edelweiss+ compared Mortal Remains to Edward Scissorhands (one of my favorite movies), and the comparison definitely showed through in Adam. Maybe a little…too much. Adam was charming to a point, but other than his backstory, I found him a tad bit bland. I liked his little outbursts in Latin, though. For me, at least, the twist about his origins and his backstory were a tad bit too similar to Edward Scissorhands, but it was different enough that it wasn’t plagiarism. The romantic subplot between him and Lily felt veeeeeeeeeeery forced, though. That really wasn’t necessary. Not that I don’t mind a romantic subplot every once in a while, but this one didn’t work for me. (Plus, there’s no way you can ever come close to Edward and Kim.)

The writing and plot were decent; it definitely feels like a YA debut, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing–it’s a good first try. There were sizable chunks between the 40-60% mark (I read this one on my Kindle) that felt like filler, and really didn’t contribute much to the story. The plot moved quickly, which was both a blessing and a curse; it lended itself to a story that kept me fairly hooked, but Fraser had the tendency to gloss over and understate some of the more climactic moments. There were definitely portions that could have been cut out (368 pages, so not too bad), but for the most part, it was somewhat compelling.

Even though Lily is supposed to be 18, Mortal Remains still reads like a novel on the younger teen spectrum of YA. And that’s not a bad thing at all–other than some dark elements, some mild swearing, and some violence, I really think this would be a great book for an 11-12 year old to get introduced to YA. The plot’s not too complicated, but it’s a bit more mature than your average children’s or MG book. So this would be suitable for a fairly wide age range, which I can’t necessarily say for a lot of YA books that I’ve read.

Overall, a darkly humorous paranormal YA that lacked in certain plot aspects and a believable romance, but boasted a unique heroine and a simultaneously lighthearted and spooky atmosphere. 3 stars!

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Expected publication date: February 2, 2021

Today’s song:

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