Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/28/22) – Lakelore

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a huge fan of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books for ages; their prose is always immersive and lush, and their stories never fail to pull at the heartstrings. So I was over-the-moon excited to find out that they had a new book out! I put Lakelore on hold as soon as I could, and I finally got to read it last week. While it wasn’t their best work, Lakelore is still a beautiful tale of the trans experience.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Lakelore – Anna-Marie McLemore

The town where Bastián and Lore live has a secret: under the lake is a strange, unknown world. But they are the only ones who have ventured down into this secret world, and they know something that the other townsfolk don’t know: the world under the lake is blending with the real world. The only way to put the two worlds back in their places is for Bastián and Lore to reunite, but the secrets between them may tear them apart before they reach their goal.

TW/CW: ableism, bullying, racism, transphobia, dysphoria

I loved Lakelore, but it lacked the very thing that makes McLemore’s other books so unique—the magical realism aspect. It was there, sure, but it felt so sidelined when the synopsis emphasized it so much. That being said, Lakelore was still excellent, and it’s sure to resonate with so many nonbinary readers!

The representation in Lakelore was truly fantastic! Both Bastián and Lore are Latinx and nonbinary; Bastián also has ADHD and Lore has dyslexia! This kind of intersectional representation is what I live for, and McLemore wrote it all so gracefully! Each aspect of their identities was so wonderfully written, from Bastián’s journey starting testosterone to Lore’s therapy sessions to cope with school having dyslexia. The whole book is a beautiful testament to being the other in some way, and the way that McLemore explores it with Bastián and Lore was fantastic.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Anna-Marie McLemore’s unforgettable prose! Their writing is as strong as ever in Lakelore, and the way their signature, magical writing style told Bastián and Lore’s stories made it all the more engaging, emotional, and tender. It’s the kind of writing that feels like looking at pure, unadulterated magic, instantly transporting the reader to the small town and the mysterious lake at its heart.

That being said, I was a little disappointed with the magical realism aspect of Lakelore. At best, it was underdeveloped; we got glimpses of the world beneath the lake, but it was never quite expanded upon. We saw that this underwater realm gave Bastián’s alebrijes (which I also loved—great metaphor for healthy coping mechanisms!) the ability to move, but other than that, it was very vague, save for the urban legend aspect of it. I guess it’s on me for thinking that Lakelore was gonna be some kind of nonbinary Abe Sapien kind of deal, but even so, I wanted so much more from that aspect after how strong McLemore’s magical realism/fantasy game usually is.

All in all, a fantastic addition to Anna-Marie McLemore’s pantheon that lacked slightly in the magical realism department, but made up for it with the beautiful depiction of a Latinx, nonbinary, and neurodivergent experience. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Lakelore is a standalone, but Anna-Marie McLemore is also the author of The Mirror Season, Wild Beauty, When the Moon Was Ours, Dark and Deepest Red, Blanca & Roja, The Weight of Feathers, and the forthcoming Great Gatsby remix Self-Made Boys.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/24/22) – A Magic Steeped in Poison

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I saw A Magic Steeped in Poison pop up on several blogs I follow whenever it first came out, and I figured I’d give it a go; I’ve become slightly jaded with a lot of YA fantasy by this point, but I was intrigued by the unique concept of tea magic that this novel promised. I bought it the other day, and I just recently finished it—lush and immersive, with a world that I loved getting lost in.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea, #1) – Judy I. Lin

In Ning’s world, tea is everything. The shennong-shi—masters of the art of tea-making—are revered in her society, known for conjuring magic and omens through their tea.

After an incident with poisoned tea kills Ning’s mother and incapacitates her sister, she turns to the only option to save her family. In the imperial city, there is a competition to find the most worthy shennong-shi in the kingdom; the winner earns the favor of the princess. Knowing that it may be the only way to save her sister, Ning ventures into the city, but what waits for her there may be more than she bargained for.

TW/CW: poisoning, loss of loved ones, violence, murder, animal cruelty

my brain can’t decide between “Tea” by Jim Noir or “Have a Cuppa Tea” by The Kinks as my internal soundtrack for this…a little help here?

As a reader, I’ve started to grow tired of some many of the beats that most YA fantasies follow—chosen ones, love triangles, and not much “fantasy” other than a basic magic system. I’m glad to say that A Magic Steeped in Poison was a breath of fresh air in that department, filled with lush prose and steeped (no pun intended) in Chinese culture and mythology!

First off, can we all take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this cover is? WOW. Seriously still in awe of how gorgeous it is. DANG. That is ART right there.

now, back to our scheduled program…

What immediately stands out about A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin’s prose. Like the brewing tea that shows up in so much of the book, it’s lush and immersive, filled with all sorts of sensory details that make the world feel all the more fleshed out. Lin’s writing makes it easy to picture the world that she’s created, from Ning’s rural home province to the luxury of the Imperial City. I could smell the tea, feel rain on my skin, and sense the tension that hung in the air during the shennong-shi competition.

I didn’t get overly attached to any of the characters, but Ning worked as the perfect kind of protagonist for A Magic Steeped in Poison; her determination, her hard-working spirit, and her devotion to her craft and family made her just the kind of protagonist to root for. For me, most of the other secondary characters weren’t as fleshed out, but I did like Lian as a secondary character, and the budding romance between Ning and Kang was totally sweet 🥺 (more of that!!! please!!!) I wanted more from these characters, but as a baseline, they were still good to work with.

However, I will say that the plot felt disorganized at worst. Amidst the main plot of the shennong-shi competition, there were a lot of secondary threads that only lasted a few chapters. Their resolutions were often very rushed, and I found myself wondering whether or not they were really relevant to the plot in the end. It felt a bit like an unfinished tapestry; the main picture was all there, but all of the loose, fraying threads at the edges made it almost look sloppy.

All in all, a refreshing fantasy that engaged all of my senses with ease. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin’s debut, and the first book in the Book of Tea duology. Its sequel, A Venom Dark and Sweet, is slated for release this August.

Today’s song:

GOOD GOD this is SUCH A FANTASTIC ALBUM UGH

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/26/22) – One for All

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Disability representation—especially in YA—is few and far between, and even when I do find it, a lot of disability rep is still written by abled authors. (That isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but it’s easy to fall into harmful tropes and misrepresent disability that way.) So when I heard about One for All, I was so excited—a feminist, historical fiction novel about a girl with a chronic illness! And beyond that—a girl with a chronic illness WHO SWORDFIGHTS. Doesn’t get much better than that, am I right? My copy finally came from the library last week, and although it wasn’t the perfect book, I enjoyed a lot of it!

Enjoy this week’s review!

One for All – Lillie Lainoff

Tania de Batz is determined for the world to see her as more than just a “sick girl.” As the daughter of a former musketeer, her passion is swordfighting, and with the help of her father, she’s become a skilled fighter. But when her father is brutally murdered, she discovers his dying request to send her to a finishing school.

But what she finds at L’Academie des Marieés is no finishing school—it’s a secretive school that trains young women as musketeers. Tania is soon swept into a world of swords and secrecy, and soon, she and her fellow students have an assassination plot to uncover. The only clue to the plot—and maybe even her father’s murder—lies in a boy named Étienne, but his charms may be Tania’s undoing.

TW/CW: ableism, blood, murder, loss of a loved one, past mention of sexual assault

Good disability representation—especially in YA—seems to only happen once in a blue moon. So I was so happy to find this book—a feminist historical fiction book written by a disabled author, no less! And while I did have a few problems with the story overall, One for All was no doubt a fantastic debut!

First things first—disability rep! While I can’t speak to the accuracy, Lillie Lainoff (the author) has the same chronic illness as Tania—Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)! Disabled representation from disabled voices always makes my heart so happy! For me, it’s even better that One for All is a historical fiction piece; most books with disabled characters only exist in contemporary/realistic fiction books, and I adamantly believe that disability rep in genres like historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction is just as important, if not more important; it’s crucial for disabled readers to know that they don’t only exist in modern realistic fiction realities—they have always existed in history, and they can exist in fantasy and sci-fi worlds as well. One for All did a fantastic job at detailing all the aspects of Tania’s POTS and how it affected her daily life, from her routine to her social interactions and childhood. So many chronically ill readers will be able to see themselves in Tania, and that, to me, is immensely impactful.

Beyond that, One for All is fiercely feminist! It’s set in France in the 1600’s, and the themes of empowerment and sisterhood ran deeply through it. Throughout most of the book, Tania struggles with her place in the world as a disabled woman in a time where both are frowned upon, but her journey for self-empowerment is one that is sure to resonate with so many readers. Although some of the other students don’t treat Tania with the respect she deserves at first, there are themes of recognizing and correcting your previous ableism. The friendship that Tania eventually shares with the rest of the fellow L’Academie des Marieés students is wonderfully tender and strong, and it makes for an incredibly empowering novel overall.

As much as I loved the aforementioned aspects, however, there were a few aspects of One for All that I didn’t like as much. For the most part, I liked the writing style well enough; Lainoff’s prose flowed well and was appropriately descriptive when the time called for it. However, Lainoff’s style tended to fall towards the over-the-top side of the spectrum. I could let it slide in most instances—it fit with the mood and tone of the book in general—but in some cases, it felt overly purple and theatrical. It had a dramatic feel to it, and while it fit the classic retelling tone at times, it felt superfluous in other cases.

Additionally, I wasn’t quite as invested in the assassination part of the plot as I was in the rest of the book. Seeing as that (after Tania’s father’s murder) was the main driving force to the plot, it didn’t come through all the way; it was overshadowed by more mundane character interactions (which I did like), and as a result, felt rushed and oversimplified. For something that was supposed to be the primary inciting incident of the second half of the book or so, it felt more like a subplot than anything. As a result, I felt my mind wandering a bit during these parts, but it didn’t take me out of the book entirely.

All in all, a feminist retelling with a disabled heroine who all readers will want to cheer on. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

One for All is a standalone and Lillie Lainoff’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/19/22) – Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Carry On has been a favorite book of mine for years. Ever since book 3 came out back in July, I’ve been trying to find it in the bookstore and buy it. I went to Barnes & Noble recently and finally got my hands on it (the exclusive edition!! with the beautiful endpapers!! 😭), and although it wasn’t as strong as book 1 was, Rainbow Rowell’s endearing writing and characters continue to please.

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review may contain spoilers for the first two books, Carry On and Wayward Son. If you haven’t read either and intend on doing so, read at your own risk!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow, #3) – Rainbow Rowell

After their trip to America, Simon, Baz, and Penny are called back to Watford. A new threat has arisen that threatens to upend the World of Mages, and despite his hesitance to be magickal, Simon is once again pulled into the fray. All the while, Simon still has personal questions left unanswered—if he leaves the World of Mages, what will happen to his relationship with Baz?

Simon’s friends are no better off; Penny has smuggled Shephard into England, and now must grapple with a demonic curse to save his life, and Baz’s family has drawn him back into the vampiric fray. Was America the last time that they were together, or will they remain the tight-knit group that they once were?

TW/CW: blood, animal death, cults/emotional manipulation, surgery, sexual content

I’m now reminded of why I had a crush on Baz when I was 14—how can you resist a sexy vampire who plays Kishi Bashi on his violin and sings Beatles songs to his two-year-old brother to help him go to sleep? Specifically THE WHITE ALBUM Beatles songs?? I’m getting all sappy at the thought of him singing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”… 😭

I’ve been a fan of Rainbow Rowell for years, and Carry On is easily my favorite of her books. Wayward Son was fun, but it felt sloppy, and I hoped Any Way the Wind Blows would pick up the mess it made. However, this book had the weakest plot of the three; that being said, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it—it’s Rainbow Rowell, so no matter the plot, it’s guaranteed that I’ll still adore the writing and characters.

Let me get my major complaint out of the way first—the plot. As much as I love Carry On, I stand by the argument that it should’ve been a standalone from the start. Wayward Son, even though I enjoyed it, was still unnecessary at worst, and it feels like Any Way the Wind Blows exists almost solely to tie up all the loose ends from the former. The concept of the whole Chosen One cult with Smith was an interesting premise, but it wasn’t nearly enough to carry over 600 pages. There are several plots going on in the book, but all of them felt like sideplots; maybe it’s the fact that all of the POV characters were separated to some degree, but all of them—even the main plot—came off like borderline afterthoughts.

As weak as the plot was, though, I will always love Rainbow Rowell’s writing! She has such a way with words that not many other authors have; every emotion feels genuine, her worlds are fleshed out, and her prose never fails to be endearing and poignant. It wasn’t enough to completely stitch up the plot problem, but I always enjoy reading her books.

Going off of that, part of what makes her writing so special is her characters. I already adored all of the gang™️ from this series, and they were just as delightful as they were in the previous books. Simon, Baz, and Penny are all so dear to me (Baz most of all), and everything that I loved about them from the previous books shone through just as much in Any Way the Wind Blows. These books have always explored how complicated relationships can be through the eyes of Simon and Baz, but I loved how Rowell didn’t hesitate to explore some of the messier sides of love; their relationship is far from perfect, but through it all, it felt messy in a refreshingly genuine way. The conflict felt realistic and wasn’t neatly wrapped in a bow, but through it all, Simon and Baz came through it. As abrupt as the ending was, I’m glad that their relationship got mended in the end. Gotta love my Snowbaz 🥹

All in all, the weakest addition to the Simon Snow trilogy, but still a sweet ending for the characters I love. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Any Way the Wind Blows is the third and final book in the Simon Snow trilogy, preceded by Carry On (book 1) and Wayward Son (book 2). Rainbow Rowell is also the author of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Pumpkinheads, and several other books for young adults and teens. She also wrote the 2017 run on Marvel’s Runaways.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/8/22) – Noor

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve realized that Nnedi Okorafor is an author that I end up coming back to frequently—I’ve piled a whole lot of her books on my TBR over the years, and I’m almost never disappointed by what I read, whether it’s Remote Control or Lagoon. She’s an incredible sci-fi and Afrofuturism author, so I jumped at the chance to read Noor. I picked it up last week, and although it had some flaws, it was an endearing and immersive novel!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Noor: 9780756416096: Okorafor, Nnedi: Books

Noor – Nnedi Okorafor

Originally, AO’s name stood for Anwuli Okwudili. But she prefers the name Artificial Organism; over the years, she has gained several prosthetics and synthetic organs due to a birth defect and a car crash in her teenage years. AO is proud of the person she is, but the rest of the world is not so kind—especially when she’s caught in the middle of a violent conflict. While on the run, she meets DNA, a herdsman and a fugitive who is willing to aid in her escape. But the desert is full of dangers—the biggest of all the infamous Red Eye, said to swallow all who enter it.

jupiter's red spot great red spot gif | WiffleGif

TW/CW: murder, violence, ableism (internalized & treatment of protagonist), catcalling

[looks at this cover] why did I ever question that I like girls

Since I started on the Akata Witch series way back in middle school, Nnedi Okorafor has always been an author that I come back to. Her worlds are consistently filled with rich detail and endearing characters, and Noor was no exception. Okorafor’s newest novel is filled with cutting commentary, immersive worldbuilding, and no shortage of unique characters!

Nnedi Okorafor has a writing style that I adore; her worldbuilding and characters are stellar as they are, but she has such a way with words that everything that I mentioned practically jumps off the page. Her metaphors are often humorous and highly specific, and in Noor‘s case, they served to flesh out the characters and world even more so. Her writing never fails to impress, and Noor is another testament to the fact.

Okorafor’s characters are always endearing, but the protagonists of Noor especially shone! AO was such a unique and complex character; her backstory was more in-depth than a lot of protagonists that I can think of, and the intricacies of her history and personality were delved into without steering towards info-dumps. She and DNA had great chemistry along their journey; they bounced well off of each other both in terms of banter and personality. Even the side characters were given so much care, from the Oz-like Baba Sola to DNA’s cows.

As much as I loved all of these elements, there were a few facets that brought Noor down in some places. I have mixed feelings about how AO’s disability was portrayed; while it was clearly depicted that AO is proud of being disabled (and it’s so cool to see a Black disabled character!), there’s a lot of internalized ableism that goes unaddressed. In particular, the way that AO describes herself as “broken” and “crippled” rubbed me the wrong way. I may not have a physical disability, but the latter of the two has been known as outdated language for quite some time, and beyond that, it seems a little contrary to the part of the blurb about AO embracing herself. It’s…a good start, but it’s got some holes.

In addition, Noor had a lot to say, but it suffered from trying to cram commentary on so many different topics in a relatively short span—only 224 pages for my hardcover copy. All of the commentary was fantastic—corporate greed, environmentalism, the Western world’s misguided belief that all of Africa is “poor” and “diseased,” and how society treats disabled people are just a few of them. Problem is, while all of these are mentioned, there is so little room in the plot for them that they ended up being underdeveloped snippets. 224 pages was enough to sustain the plot, but the commentary, which was clearly meant to be the forefront, was forgotten in the dust, for the most part.

But all in all, a highly creative work from a sci-fi author who never misses. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Desert GIF - Night Canyon Timelapse - Discover & Share GIFs

Noor is a standalone, but Nnedi Okorafor is also the author of Remote Control, Lagoon, the Nsibidi Scripts (Akata Witch, Akata Warrior, and Akata Woman), the Binti trilogy (Binti, Home, and The Night Masquerade), and several other books for teens and adults.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/25/22) – Railhead

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As of last week, it had been ages since I’ve read anything by Philip Reeve. I’d gotten through the whole Larklight trilogy in middle school and loved it, and I read Fever Crumb as well and wasn’t as much of a fan. I forgot about him for a while, until I got a recommendation from Sabrina (thank you!) about another series of his—the Railhead series. I decided to pick it up, and I ended up liking it—after reading this, I definitely want to see how the rest of the story goes!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Railhead: 9781630790486: Reeve, Philip: Books

Railhead (Railhead, #1) – Philip Reeve

In the distant future, it isn’t spaceships that transport humanity across the stars—it’s a massive network of trains. The Great Network spans across the entire galaxy, and one line can take you anywhere that you so choose. It’s the perfect place for Zen Starling, a young thief who makes a living from the goods he steals from passenger cars. But when he attracts the attention of the mysterious Raven, Zen finds himself entrenched in a royal conspiracy. Soon, his own identity as a nobody from the streets is called into question, and his success on Raven’s mission may determine the rest of his career.

Star Wars Prequel - Planet Coruscant | Star wars, Film inspiration, Gif

TW/CW: violence (fairly mild), descriptions of killing animals/dead animals, fire, fear

It’s been about 5 years since I’ve read anything by Philip Reeve; I loved the Larklight trilogy but didn’t have the same luck with Fever Crumb, so he was generally hit-or-miss for me. But ultimately, I’m glad I picked Railhead up! It was the perfect antidote after reading something as heavy as Anthem; fun, light-hearted, and fast-paced. (Thanks again for the rec, Sabrina!)

The worldbuilding of Railhead made the whole book. It’s the kind of intricate worldbuilding that I aspire to have in my own writing; no stone is left unturned in terms of the little details that make the Great Network so genuine-feeling and fleshed out. Best of all, none of it is delivered in info-dumps; pieces of information are spaced out and don’t distract from the overall story. There was so much love put into every little nook and cranny of Reeve’s world, from the trains to the android history to the graffiti on the walls. I especially loved the Hive Monks—the concept behind them was so inventive! I wished we’d seen more of Uncle Bugs and the others.

As far as characters go, I didn’t get attached to many of them, but they were at least decently flushed out. Zen himself didn’t have many traits that would distinguish him from the average middle grade/YA protagonist, and having him get saddled with this trilogy’s equivalent of the chosen one trope didn’t exactly help his case. He was simply…alright for me. I felt the same way towards most of the other characters; they were distinct enough to not be trope-y, but not distinct enough to be rememberable. I did like Nova, though. She was my favorite out of the main cast—I liked her backstory a lot, and her being an android (or a “moto,” as is the lingo in Zen Starling’s world) added a unique layer to her story.

The plot itself was a little lacking for me, but its fast pace saved it. At its worst, the plot seemed to [Robert Plant voice] ramble on without any clear direction, but at its best, it was loads of fun. You do get the sense that you’re clinging to the top of a speeding train, the way the events move—it’s very fast-paced, and given both the setting and the premise, it’s perfect!

I wasn’t as invested in the main plot, but I tended to gravitate more towards the side plots, the short anecdotes that fleshed out Railhead’s world even more. The fact that I got more excited about seeing giant manta ray creatures and looking at the insides of futuristic trains than the actual should probably say something about the book itself, but those parts gave me joy, and that’s that. Again—it’s the tiny details that made Railhead as entertaining as it was.

All in all, a romp through a futuristic world at breakneck speed that shone in its detailed worldbuilding. I’m on board with continuing the rest of the series! 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Padawanlost — ✩ star wars gif meme ✩ [¾] planets: Coruscant...

Railhead is the first book in the Railhead trilogy, and it is followed by Black Light Express (#2) and Station Zero (#3). Philip Reeve is also the author of the Larklight trilogy (Larklight, Starcross, and Mothstorm), the Mortal Engines quartet (Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain), the Fever Crumb series (Fever Crumb, A Web of Air, and Scrivener’s Moon), and several other series for young adults and children.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/18/22) – Anthem

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I went on a kick of Noah Hawley’s books in the first half of 2021, and I managed to read all of them. I’d already been exposed to his writing through Fargo and Legion (my two favorite shows), and my experience of his books ranged from just good to masterful. So naturally, I was excited to hear that he had a new book coming our way in 2022! I preordered it and read it last week, and…well, it was hard to read. Great writing, as always, but god, it was heavy.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Anthem: Hawley, Noah: 9781538711514: Amazon.com: Books

Anthem – Noah Hawley

my copy ft. my bookshelf (including the other two Noah Hawley books I own) & a cool filter

Our world is in shambles. The political chasm between the American people is widening more with each day, the oceans are rising, and now, teenagers are committing suicide by the thousands each day.

One such teenager was Claire Oliver, the daughter of a reviled pharmaceutical mogul. After her death by an overdose, her parents send Simon, her younger brother, to a rehab center in Chicago to make sense of her passing. There, he meets a strange figure who only goes by The Prophet. The Prophet’s enigmatic visions lead Simon and his fellow patients out of the rehab center and on the road to a shadowy man known only as the Wizard, whose downfall may be their only means of salvation.

satchel cannon | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

TW/CW: suicide (overdosing, hanging, jumping from bridges, etc.), racism, descriptions of rape/sexual assault, graphic violence, anti-semitism, climate change, brief descriptions of genitalia, blood

Anthem, in its essence, is Noah Hawley’s megaphone for existential dread. But given the times, it’s understandable.

Let me be crystal-clear about this: it’s a bad idea to read this book if you’re not in a good headspace. A lot of what Anthem deals with is a worst-case scenario of the future: near anarchy, the political divisions of the U.S. with the volume turned up even more so, mass suicide, climate change, and every other bit of dystopia you can possibly imagine. This is Hawley’s vision of the worst that could possibly be, and he does it well. What’s really scary about it, though, is that some parts were almost plausible. I’m not cynical enough to call it realistic, but I’m scared enough to call it partially feasible. It’s scary. enough that Noah Hawley flat out apologizes for the world he created—like the horrific worst case parenting scenario of The Good Father, it’s the most pessimistic outcome on the spectrum, but it’s well-written.

As always, Noah Hawley has a unique way with words that paints the near-future in a number of ways. There’s the main plot, in which a band of disillusioned, teenage rehab patients go on a cross-country road trip based solely on a 14-year-old who claims to have visions from God and encounter everything from gangs of gun-toting clowns to lions. But interspersed within are anecdotes from a wide cast of characters—most of which are unlikeable, as per Noah Hawley standards—that add to the genuinely disturbing feel of the world he’s created.

However, Hawley’s vivid descriptions often gave way to portions of flat-out rambling—about the state of the world, the nature of the darkest parts of the human species, the possibilities of a world like the one of Anthem. This part was what bogged me down the most; as a young person who would theoretically be maturing into this dystopia, it…well, it freaked me out, to put it plainly. I’d been on a stint of finishing books in a day, but this one took me almost four just because I couldn’t swallow all of the statistics and existential doom at once. Even so, at least it was well-written; Hawley’s talent for spinning words and stories, combined with all manner of allusions, made it slightly easier to palate.

Through it all, Hawley presents a strange, pseudo-fantasy quest throughout a changed America, and every bit of it hooked me. Every little detail made for a landscape that felt tangible enough to touch. I’ll have to go back and read some of his other books to see if this is really a hallmark of his, but in Anthem, at least, all of the sensory details were what made the world seem so frighteningly real: the paintings on the side of the van, the music on the car radio, the interior decor of the Wizard’s sadistic mansion. Without them, a book like Anthem might not have succeeded for me—if you’re going to make commentary on what the future might turn out to be, tell us what this future looks like.

Most of my other problems were more nitpicky; some of the dialogue, especially with the teenaged characters, felt at times very unrealistic. (sir, I’m aware that you have gen z kids but I, also a gen z kid, can assure you that nobody, nobody, says “LOL” out loud.) That part was inexcusable. There were some minor threads that weren’t resolved all the way (ex. the whole “these memes are driving our children to suicide” subplot—the meme is explained, but given that it was the first line of the synopsis, I expected it to play a bigger role), and the ending, although it also was explained, felt rushed. There’s hope in the resolution, but the resolution was so glossed over that it couldn’t be felt all the way.

But through it all, one thing was clear to me—this felt like a pandemic book. I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. Anthem just seems like one of the first in a new wave of dystopian novels, books that speak to the fear, chaos, and violence of the past six years. Anthem feels like the kind of book that will be remembered as distinctly “21st century”: post-Trump, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and appropriately frightened for what the future might hold not just for America, but for us as a species.

All in all, a frightening vision of the future from one of my favorite literary masterminds, but not quite coherent enough to his best work. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

fargo fx | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

Anthem is a standalone novel, but Noah Hawley is also the author of Before the Fall, The Punch, The Good Father, Other People’s Weddings, and A Conspiracy of Tall Men. Hawley has also adapted the Coen Brothers’ Fargo and Marvel Comics’ Legion for TV on FX and Marvel Television.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Mini Reviews

Mini Reviews of Books I Read in Florida

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I was in Florida about a week ago for a quick trip, but as I always do, I brought some books along on my Kindle to get me through the plane rides and the heat. I like doing little mini-reviews of these books when I go somewhere else, so I figured I’d do it again here, since I certainly read a couple of very interesting books while I was in Florida. So here we have three mini-reviews of books I read in Florida.

Let’s begin, shall we?

🦎BOOKS I READ IN FLORIDA🦎

Forgotten Star – Colin Weldon

Amazon.com: Forgotten Star eBook : Weldon, Colin: Kindle Store

Blurb from Goodreads:

Following a devastating encounter with an unknown alien ship resulting in the disappearance of her parents as a child, Tamara Cartwright now spends her life scouring the galaxy in the hope of finding the dark force that attacked her father’s ship.
Now the Captain of a rescue vessel, The Massey Shaw, she makes a choice, resulting in the destruction of a star in order to save a stricken vessel, a prohibited act while using alien technology. Now, an outlaw, she is entrusted with the fate of a very unusual young girl endowed with special abilities. She must also find the survivors of an ill-fated ship at the hands of a malevolent race know only to the humans as the Ghosts. Driven by the hope of finding the truth of her parent’s disappearance and one last chance to make a difference to those in need of rescue, she must go on one final mission into deep space and deal with the monsters from her past.

Hansolo Badfeeling GIF - Hansolo Badfeeling Starwars GIFs | Star wars gif, Star  wars, Gif

TW/CW: human experimentation, loss of loved ones, death, graphic violence

Forgotten Star wasn’t without its flaws by a long shot, but it was such a fun and fascinating piece of space opera! With lots of political intrigue, strange aliens, and mysterious powers, there’s something for every sci-fi fan in here.

I need to start off with my main problem, though: the grammar. It was…inconsistent, at best. This novel definitely needed an extra round of editing (or two) in that respect; there were lots of errors in punctuation (mostly placement of commas), and there were a few misspellings and omissions that could have been fixed. (As well as a misspelling of “berth,” as in “a wide berth,” as “birth” …YIKES) On occasion, the faulty grammar was enough to take me out of the story entirely, but for the most part, I could let it slide. Sometimes.

But other than that, Forgotten Star was a great piece of sci-fi! One thing this novel did incredibly well was the handling of multiple POVs – for a lot of multiple POV books, it takes a while for all of the characters/elements to coalesce, but it didn’t take long for all of the elements here to come together, making for a cohesive and intricate story. I also loved all of the alien races, and the intricacies of their relationships with humans. It’s always a breath of fresh air to see aliens that clearly have some creative design put into them.

Some of the dialogue and characters were a little stiff and inauthentic at times, but for the most part, a lot of the characters were interesting to delve into. I liked Ona and Urhan, in particular – they had very interesting arcs and backstories, and I loved seeing them develop.

My only other major problem was that the ending wrapped up a *little* too nicely? From everything that built up over the course of the story, it seemed like there was a setup for a sequel, but the ending tried to wrap everything up too quickly. I’d like to see more from this universe.

All in all, though, a well-thought-out and intricate piece of space opera. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.75

Queen of Coin and Whispers – Helen Corcoran

Amazon.com: Queen of Coin and Whispers: A kingdom of secrets and a game of  lies: 9781788491181: Corcoran, Helen: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade’

When Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster–who took the job to avenge her murdered father–they realise all isn’t fair in love and treason.

Lia won’t mourn her uncle: he’s left her a bankrupt kingdom considered easy pickings by its neighbours. She’s sworn to be a better ruler, but if she wants to push through her reforms, she needs to beat the Court at its own games. For years, Xania’s been determined to uncover her father’s murderer. She finally gets a chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner’s axe. It’s an easy decision.

When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia’s responsibilities and Xania’s plans for vengeance. As they’re drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia’s reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.

Animated gif about pretty in Fantasy and medieval by Marveline.

TW/CW (from Helen Corcoran): off-page suicide, murder, emotional torture

I’m not sure if I would necessarily call Queen of Coin and Whispers a fantasy novel – there wasn’t a whole lot that would distinguish it from a historical setting (no different magic properties/creatures/worldbuilding/etc.). But that’s not to say that it was a bad book – in fact, it was stunning!

There’s plenty of YA fantasy books on the market with protagonists who suddenly ascend to royalty. But Queen of Coin and Whispers addresses what most of those novels don’t – the mental tax of ruling a country at such a young age. Lia goes through endless trials and tribulations and even faces becoming the ruler that her uncle was, all while grappling with love and other relationships. Corcoran wrote her development so well, and it’s so refreshing to see a genuine-feeling story like Lia’s.

Additionally, the romance! Lia and Xania’s relationship was so sweet – sharing books, secret conversations, and all things warm and fuzzy. They go through all the ups and downs of first love, and I love seeing wlw rep like theirs in non-contemporary stories. I love those two. 💗

Other than that, the political intrigue and the depiction of the transition of power was so well-done! Everything was so multi-layered and detailed, making it feel like Lia and Xania’s world was a real and fleshed-out one. Just when you think you know the answers, something new pokes out its head, and you’re left guessing until the very last page.

All in all, a fascinating royal mystery with genuine characters and a sweet sapphic romance. 4 stars!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) – RoAnna Sylver

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) by RoAnna Sylver

Blurb from Goodreads:

Parole is still burning. And now the day everyone has been waiting for is finally here: it’s collapsed. A lucky few managed to escape with their lives. But while their city burned, the world outside suffered its own devastating disaster. The Tartarus Zone is a deadly wasteland a thousand miles wide, filled with toxic storms, ghostly horrors, and just as many Eyes in the Sky as ever. Somehow, this new nightmare is connected to Parole. And it’s spreading. 

Now Parole’s only hope lies in the hands of three teenagers reunited by their long-lost friend Gabriel – in their dreams. Now they’re on a desperate cross-country race, carrying vital plans that may be Parole’s salvation. First they’ll board the FireRunner, a ship full of familiar faces that now sails through Tartarus’ poison storms. Then, together, they’ll survive Tartarus’ hazards, send a lifeline to lost Parole – and uncover the mystery connecting everyone, inside Parole and out.

The world outside Parole isn’t the one they remember, and it didn’t want them back. But they’ll save it just the same. It’s what heroes do.

TV Shows | Queer Culture Chats

(for my mini-review of book 1, Chameleon Moon, click here!)

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, violence, near-death situations

I didn’t like this one *quite* as much as I did Chameleon Moon, but it was still such a fun read!

One of the things I love most about this series is how diverse it is – easily the most diverse series I know! We have an almost entirely different cast of characters in The Lifeline Signal, but among the three main characters, we have a nonbinary (xie/xir pronouns) Native American (Tsalagi) character with Arnold-Chiari malformation, a bisexual Indian-American character, and an aro-ace autistic Vietnamese-American character! Among the side characters, there’s no shortage of queer, POC, and disabled characters, including a Black hijabi woman, a nonbinary character, polyamorous relationships, and more! Books as diverse as this series don’t come along very often, so three cheers for RoAnna Sylver for all this representation!

The worldbuilding outside of Parole was also fascinating – there’s all sorts of weird sci-fi and fantasy aspects, including, but not limited to: superpowers, ghosts, dragons, giant ships, and robotic animals of immense size. As you can imagine, it’s a lot of fun! Between the relationships between all of the characters and the expansion of the worldbuilding, there’s no shortage of interesting elements to chew on. Plus, it was so sweet to see all of the characters from Chameleon Moon come back.

My only major problem was that the plot got a little bit convoluted at times – I found myself thinking “wait, why is all this happening?” several times throughout the novel, but it didn’t take me out of the story itself. Don’t get me wrong – The Lifeline Signal has a great story, but it seemed to get lost in itself at times.

All in all, a sequel that does justice to book one as well as expanding its world, while still providing an original storyline. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.75

Today’s song:

I saw Sleater-Kinney and Wilco (we came for Wilco, they were AMAZING) on Tuesday night, and even though most of Sleater-Kinney’s stuff didn’t make me feel anything, there were a couple songs that I thought were interesting! This is one of them

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/3/21) – The Fell of Dark

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’m in between library hauls and books I bought for a short trip, so I found this one on my Kindle library. It had been on my TBR for a while, and I immediately checked it out when I saw that it was available! And overall? The Fell of Dark wasn’t perfect, but man, it was so much fun.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Fell of Dark (9781250155849): Roehrig, Caleb: Books

The Fell of Dark – Caleb Roehrig

August is fed up with his small town of Fulton Heights for more reasons than one. There’s the usual trapped feeling of it all, the urge to head somewhere else as soon as he graduates high school…but it’s also a hotspot for vampires.

All August wants to do is pass algebra and get into art school in a few years. But when a charming vampire arrives at his school with a cryptic omen, he’s thrown into a centuries-long conflict between vampires, vampire-hunters, and other supernatural forces that may cost him his life. August may now mean the difference between a peaceful world and one ruled by vampires – but will he learn how to stop this cataclysm in time?

spidergirls: what we do in the shadows (2014) dir.... : now i just want  llamas
it’s an endless cycle: I find a vampire book, and I pepper the review with What We Do in the Shadows GIFs, and so on

TW/CW: graphic violence, gore, blood, near-death situations, murder

I kind of wish I’d read this closer to Halloween, but I feel like I always say that with any kind of paranormal book that I read in any month other than October. But here we are in August, and I still had so much fun with The Fell of Dark! Not without its flaws, but such a wild ride filled with vampires and the undead.

The Fell of Dark falls on more of the humorous/campy side of paranormal books, and that’s not a complaint from me in the slightest. There’s all sorts of things for fans of the genre to love – you’ve got vampires, witches, angels, dark magic, and so much more. Add in some classic teenage angst and awkward first love, and you’ve got this book. (And plus – anything where a resurrected/vampire Rasputin shows up already has my attention. There’s never a dull moment as soon as he shows up. I blame Hellboy for this principle.) And to make things even better, it’s unapologetically queer! August, our protagonist, is gay, and we have a pansexual love interest and several lesbian side characters! There’s some casual POC rep as well (the two aforementioned lesbian side characters are Latina and Asian, respectively), which I loved as well.

As far as the characters go, they tended to be on the over-exaggerated side, but I still loved a fair amount of them. August himself wasn’t terribly likable – he tended to be a little self-centered and constantly yelling “bUT wHAt aBouT mE?” at everybody else, but part of it’s…understandable, strangely. I should probably cut him some slack, given everything that happens to him throughout the book, but he still wasn’t the most understanding or reflective person. And Jude…Jude was the classic “brooding and seductive bad boy vampire who wears all black and smokes cigarettes constantly” character, BUT IT TOTALLY WORKED. He was probably my favorite – he was just such a fun character, and plus, for once said classic brooding vampire ISN’T STRAIGHT! DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT? A lot of the characters in The Fell of Dark seemed to poke some light fun at some vampire book cliches and characters, which I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

Most of the time, I despise love triangles with every cell of my being, and…I have mixed feelings about the one in this book. I’m glad that August didn’t end up with Jude or Gunnar, but…it’s still weird both ways? It’s awesome that we have a mlm love triangle, but…both love interests are WAY older than him (what with them both being vampires), and August just…goes with it? I get it, they both seem like they would be reasonably cute, but that’s still veeeeeeeeery weird. Weirder still, Jude and Gunnar are each other’s ex-boyfriends, which makes it…all the more complicated, so there’s that. But August doesn’t end up with either of them, which…I can live with that. So that was one of the weirder love triangles I’ve read in a book.

As for the worldbuilding/paranormal aspects, I also have mixed feelings, but I also liked most of it. Everything about Fulton Heights’ culture and procedures surrounding vampires was very well developed, as well as the politics of all the different secret societies (both of vampires and vampire hunters). However, when it came to the final battle, it felt like Roehrig bit off a little more than he could chew. All of the paranormal elements that I mentioned before came to an explosive finale, but at that point, there were a few too many elements to keep up with, and all of them seemed to resolve themselves a little too quickly. I found myself skimming that final battle a bit, but it felt like there were way too many elements all shoved into the last few chapters. It’s like when you get a Build-a-Bear and the person working there fills it with a little too much stuffing, and it looks like it’s going to break a few seams when you get it back, but it’s still nice and soft. (Okay, that was a really drawn-out metaphor, but it made a little bit of sense, right? )

All in all, a vampire novel that delivered loads of supernatural fun, but may have gone a little too far about just how much to riff off and add in. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Pin by Erin Fischer on Vampires | Bat, Gif, Transformations

The Fell of Dark is a standalone, but Caleb Roehrig is also the author of several other novels, including Death Prefers Blondes, White Rabbit, and Last Seen Leaving.

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

YA Books for AAPI Heritage Month

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

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.

So let’s begin, shall we?

Aapi Aapi Month GIF - Aapi AapiMonth AapiHeritageMonth - Discover & Share  GIFs

YA BOOKS FOR AAPI HERITAGE MONTH

Girls of Paper and Fire – Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire Series #1) by Natasha  Ngan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

GENRES: High fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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.

This Time Will Be Different – Misa Sugiura

Amazon.com: This Time Will Be Different eBook: Sugiura, Misa: Kindle Store

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

For anyone who seeks to make change in their community, this one’s a must-read! A beautiful story of family, history, and everyday resistance.

Love, Hate & Other Filters – Samira Ahmed

Love Hate & Other Filters - Social Justice Books

GENRES: Fiction, contemporary, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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.

These Violent Delights – Chloe Gong

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

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.

Warcross – Marie Lu

Amazon.com: Warcross (9780399547966): Lu, Marie: Books

GENRES: Science fiction, romance, dystopia

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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.

Almost American Girl – Robin Ha

Amazon.com: Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir (9780062685094): Ha,  Robin, Ha, Robin: Books

GENRES: Graphic novels, autobiography

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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.

Ash – Malinda Lo

Ash by Malinda Lo

GENRES: Retellings (Cinderella), fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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!

The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi

Amazon.com: The Gilded Wolves: A Novel (The Gilded Wolves, 1)  (9781250144546): Chokshi, Roshani: Books

GENRES: Fantasy, historical fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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.

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns – Julie C. Dao

Amazon.com: Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Rise of the Empress Book 1)  eBook: Dao, Julie C.: Kindle Store

GENRES: Retellings, high fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

If you love antiheroes, corruption arcs, or stories from the perspective of the villain, than this book is for you! Rich, dark and compelling, this is a must-read duology for any YA fantasy fan!

Descendant of the Crane – Joan He

Descendant of the Crane (9780807515518): He, Joan: Books - Amazon.com

GENRES: High fantasy, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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])

The Henna Wars – Adiba Jaigirdar

The Henna Wars — Adiba Jaigirdar

GENRES: Fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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?

Aapi Heritage Month GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Today’s song:

Ok I think I can officially forgive her for MASSEDUCTION because THERE IS NOT A BAD SONG ON THIS ALBUM! Expect a review soonish…

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