Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (11/1/22) – I Am the Ghost in Your House

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! I hope you all had a safe and spooky Halloween!! I went to class (and took a stats test) dressed up as Columbia from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (in the pajamas and the Mickey Mouse ears), so that was a lot of fun, even though I didn’t see a bunch of other people dressed up. I guess most of the Halloween festivities happened over the weekend. Oh well.

I picked this book up on a whim while scrolling through the books on my Libby wishlist to see what was available. The cover was already eye-catching (no pun intended), but I didn’t expect for I Am the Ghost in Your House to hit as hard as it did—stunning prose and a poignant, strange story to match.

Enjoy this week’s review!

I Am the Ghost in Your House – Mar Romasco Moore

Pie and her mother have been on the run for their entire lives. They are both invisible—Pie born and her mother turned as a teenager—and have been living in other people’s houses all across America. Their lives are constantly transient, and although Pie has lived in many places, she doesn’t have a place to call home.

When her mother disappears, possibly dead, Pie is left alone. Sheltering in Pittsburgh with a group of art students, she goes in search of her missing mother and a girl she once loved. But if the girl Pie loves can never see her, how can they be together?

TW/CW: kidnapping, off-page sexual assault (past), substance abuse, absent father

For a book I picked up almost purely on a whim, this was such an emotional hard-hitter. From this alone, I’m absolutely going to seek out Moore’s other books—I haven’t read such fantastic, immersive prose in ages, and through Pie, Moore has created a truly unique protagonist and a strange world paired with her.

Moore’s prose is what stood out the most to me about I Am the Ghost in Your House. Magical realism is a hard genre to get right, and writing prose that fits with it can be half the battle, and it’s a battle that Moore absolutely won; their weaving of delicate metaphors into Pie’s voice created such a distinct atmosphere around the whole book, as though we too were nestled in lonely train cars, unable to be seen by anyone but our own kin. I read this on my Kindle, and I highlighted so many passages—Moore’s prose rarely faltered, and it was the perfect vehicle to carry this story.

The worldbuilding behind invisibility in I Am the Ghost in Your House was incredibly thought out as well! With magical realism novels like these, it’s sometimes okay to have changes to a world with little to no explanation—it adds some ambiguity to the story, and if it’s done well, it can add a charm and mystery to the world. Moore, however, has done the opposite. Without infodumping or rambling excessively, they define so much about invisibility, its origins, and more importantly, its limits, in terms that make something so fantastical seem so authentic. It feels like the kind of story that stemmed from a conversation—what would you do if you were invisible? Where would you live? What would you get away with, knowing that nobody’s watching?

Pie herself, however, was what made this novel so emotional and poignant. There’s an intense loneliness to her; after her mother disappears, she has nobody, since her father left her before she was born. Moore’s prose shapes a character with seemingly ordinary struggles—unrequited love and general uncertainty, among other things—into someone so deeply isolated, someone fighting alone, since only a handful of people can even see her in the first place. But as she develops, meeting other people and coming to terms with truths about her family, she finds closure in solace in knowing that she’s never been alone, being able to communicate with visible people and knowing that there are others out there like her.

My only problem was the paranormal investigator subplot. In contrast to how smoothly and deliberately most of the book moved, this spot near the end felt rushed and unfinished, thrown in at the last minute to add conflict where there didn’t need to be. Since it was crammed in the last 20% of the book or so, it didn’t feel like it had any place, other than providing a little more worldbuilding details on invisibility. Given what happens to Pie, the suddenness almost feels genuine, but it seemed to come more from a place of rushed writing than actual feeling.

All in all, a bittersweet and atmospheric piece of magical realism that never falters in its deeply emotional core. 4.25 stars!

I Am the Ghost in Your House is a standalone, but Mar Romasco Moore is also the author of Some Kind of Animal and the anthology Ghostographs: An Album.

Today’s song:

this song just emanates sheer power—there’s truly nothing quite like it

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

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Feminist YA Books for Women’s History Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

Women’s History Month is here again in the U.S., and I figured I’d gather some more books to celebrate! Literature has always been an act of resistance, and it’s so important for readers—especially young girls—to see characters and narratives like their own to inspire change in our world. And as always, these books aren’t just for March—they’re for all year round; feminism doesn’t start and stop in March. My goal here is to uplift marginalized voices, and now is the perfect time to uplift those of women.

If you’d like to see my list from last year, click here!

Let’s begin, shall we?

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Samira Ahmed

GENRES: contemporary, historical fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Told in intersecting timelines between the present day and 19th-century. Paris, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a love letter to all the women whose stories have been overshadowed and lost to history. Samira Ahmed is such a wonderful author!

Iron Widow, Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: sci-fi, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+, retellings

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Iron Widow is a fierce, fast-paced sci-fi tale that deftly explores themes of rape culture, institutionalized misogyny, and society’s treatment of women through the eyes of a spitfire pilot determined to tear down an empire. (DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS! I said what I said.)

Squad, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

GENRES: graphic novels, contemporary, paranormal, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Squad presents a timely theme—when holding rapists accountable, where is the line between accountability and pure vengeance?—and puts a paranormal spin on it. If the premise of werewolf girls hunting down rapists doesn’t entice you, I don’t know what will.

Slay, Brittney Morris

GENRES: contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Though this isn’t my favorite of Brittney Morris’ books that I’ve read (that title would go to The Cost of Knowing as of now), Slay was a wonderfully proud and feminist novel about gaming and Black pride.

The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: magical realism, fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+, retellings, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Anna-Marie McLemore never misses a beat with their books, and The Mirror Season was no exception! All at once raw and beautiful, it presents a searing tale of love after trauma and the fight to hold rapists accountable.

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

GENRES: alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, dystopia, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Through a blend of several different genres, Charlotte Nicole Davis presents the stories of five girls, bonded through sisterhood and trauma, who take control of their own fates and fight their fair share of patriarchy—and demons.

Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera

GENRES: fiction, contemporary, LGBTQ+, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Juliet Takes a Breath is a fantastic, queer coming-of-age novel about sexuality, self-discovery, identity, and being a feminist. There’s an especially important discussion of the harm of “white feminism,” which, for a YA novel, is crucial to discuss.

A Phoenix Must First Burn, Patrice Caldwell et. al. (anthology)

GENRES: short stories/anthologies, fantasy, contemporary, paranormal, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There’s not a single bad short story in A Phoenix Must First Burn! Through several different genres, all of these stories center around the experience of growing up as a Black woman, and include everything from aliens to sorcery to the American west.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite feminist YA books? Have you read any of these books, and if you have, what did you think of them? What have you been reading for Women’s History Month? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

NEW SOCCER MOMMY IN JUNE?? I’m convinced that 2022 is the year of being blessed by the music gods

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

Posted in Books

In Which I Re-Read the Smoke Thieves trilogy (Chaotic Thoughts)

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles, and happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀 We got dumped with snow over here last night, and we got a snow day today! So I’m sitting here in my pajamas, watching the snow slowly die down.

In last week’s Weekly Update, I mentioned that I’d be re-reading the Smoke Thieves trilogy, and I’ve kept my promise. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series, and I’ve been meaning to go back through it ever since I finally got a copy of The Demon World. (Perks of being involved with the library—getting books that go out of circulation!) So since I’ve already done full reviews of all three books, I thought I’d just compile some thoughts I had while reading each book.

Fair warning: this post will be crawling with spoilers. Sorry.

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S THOUGHTS WHILE RE-READING THE SMOKE THIEVES TRILOGY

BOOK 1: THE SMOKE THIEVES

  • Right off the bat…I remember these books being dark, but WHOA. One of the first scenes is somebody being forced to watch a brutal execution, and…yeah, it only gets worse from there. Yeesh.
  • Also I forgot how angry March was??? It’s understandable, honestly, but this man is just THROBBING with rage
March, constantly
  • Tash!!! My demon-hunter child!!
  • And Catherine!! I liked her already, but going back and reading this books again makes me love her even more. She’s so wonderfully independent.
  • Headcanon: Catherine is bi. She’s gotta be. I know the whole joke about Tash was just that, but I just know she’s gotta be bi. Call it gaydar.
  • Also, I want to wear Catherine’s wedding dress. HHHHHGH
  • Ambrose was my least favorite character of the main five when I first read these books, and…I still stand by that. His only personality trait is that he’s got the hots for Catherine and knows he can’t have her, and it just gets tiring after a while. Meh. But nonetheless, he deserves better. Green does explore some of his grief after Tarquin gets killed (in the worst possible way…agh, brutal…), but I wish we got a more in-depth exploration of it.
  • @ SALLY GREEN CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE MARCH A BREAK P L E A S E

Overall, I had so much fun getting back into Sally Green’s detailed world! 100% holds up after about two and a half years. Same rating: 4.25 stars.

BOOK 2: THE DEMON WORLD

  • Can we appreciate how creative the concept of the Pitorian army is in terms of the hair dye allegiance concept? Gotta love it
  • “Hey there demons, it’s me, ya boy” – Tash
  • What if 😳😳😳 we slept together next to a demon’s corpse to keep warm 😳😳😳 (and we were both boys) 😳😳😳
  • The whole time I was reading the scene where Edyon, March, and Geratan are trying to jump into the demon world, all I could think of was this:
  • The whole demon world itself was super inventive!! I especially love the concept of how everybody had to communicate through touch-based telepathy—that was very creative.
  • Gonna need more of the Tash and Geratan friendship, please and thank you
  • HAHAAAAA THE FIST BUMP AFTER THEY BOTH GOT OUT OF THE DEMON WORLD
  • I completely blocked out the trial scene from my memory, but honestly, it…did drag a little. I liked seeing Catherine as the judge, but it still went on for too long, in my opinion.
  • Also, I didn’t remember Edyon being so forceful about his and March’s relationship? He gets better about it, but in the beginning, it was almost hard to read. Hey…Edyon…uh…why don’t you try…letting people make up their own minds about relationships and not…forcing them into anything…
  • Catherine wearing a suit of armor is everything
  • AGH I FORGOT ABOUT THAT CLIFFHANGER! I remembered there being a cliffhanger, but the March/Edyon situation and Tash getting trapped in the demon world ONE AFTER THE OTHER WHEW

The Demon World was originally a 5 star read for me, but I don’t feel quite the same way now. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it immensely—I did, but parts of it just didn’t do it for me the second time around (The beginning stages of Edyon and March’s relationship, the trial scene, etc.). Bumping my rating from 5 stars down to 4.5 stars, because it was still great stuff, but not quite a 5-star book anymore.

BOOK 3: THE BURNING KINGDOMS

  • Alright. Let’s talk about the cover. The fact that 3/5 of the figures are knocked over stressed me out when I first saw it, but at the same time…WHY DOES IT LOOK SO FUNNY IT JUST LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE DID THIS
  • OKAY THE PAIN WHENEVER EDYON AND MARCH THINK ABOUT EACH OTHER WHEN THEY’RE SEPARATED 😭 P A I N
  • Geratan ripping off his hat to reveal his new hair color is absolutely iconic. The right way to do it. Wish I’d thought of that freshman year when a) my hair was also dyed red (very different red though), b) my hair was short enough to cover with a hat, and c) I HAD a hat that I could’ve done it with
  • Sally Green understands the power of hundreds of brainwashed, adolescent boys. Everything with Harold and the Bull Brigade is appropriately disturbing.
  • Can we talk about Catherine’s almost-corruption arc? Sally Green executed it so well; she’s tasting power (and demon smoke) and realizing the extent of both, and it nearly makes her the same as her father—the one she vowed to not be like in the first place. For me, Catherine’s the most well-developed character in the series.
  • Forgot to mention him in the Demon World section, but Twist!! What a guy
  • Took Ambrose three whole books to realize that he and Catherine weren’t meant to be…yowch
  • I forgot how brutal and…just horrifying the battle with Harold and the boy army at Calidor was…I feel like I was tensed up for the whole scene. I have to hand it to Sally Green for making some of the most tense battle scenes I’ve ever read in any series. Right up there with the last 100 pages of Aurora’s End. At least Harold got his comeuppance.
  • THE FIRST PART OF THE EPILOGUE?? WHERE MARCH AND EDYON ARE FINALLY BACK TOGETHER AGAIN AND THEIR SYMBOLS ARE JOINED ON THE TITLE PAGE???? GAAAAAAAH
  • AND I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT THE LAST SCENE WHERE TASH AND GERATAN GO FISHING BAHAHA!! In all seriousness, it’s so sweet how he became a father figure over the course of the last few books—as much as Gravell protected Tash, Geratan was far more of a positive role model for her. Again, love their friendship.
  • Also, can we just imagine Tash wearing this?

Now that I’ve read the whole series in one sitting, I can say with certainty that The Burning Kingdoms was a fantastic end to the trilogy—and maybe even my favorite book in the series! Although the ending felt a bit rushed, it was still a satisfying way to wrap up the series. Bonus points for showing that everything doesn’t wrap up neatly after a costly war. I’m remembering now what makes The Smoke Thieves so special to me—there’s so much love put into every ounce of it, from the worldbuilding to the characters to their relationships. Reading it all at once is like looking at a giant tapestry, thousands of interconnected threads coming together to make a beautiful and cohesive image. Needless to say, I had such a fun time re-reading this series. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t picked up these books—highly recommended! Keeping my rating at 4.5 stars for this one.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read The Smoke Thieves trilogy, and what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

I haven’t been able to stop listening to this album all week…wondrous

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/8/22) – A Psalm of Storms and Silence (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy International Women’s Day!

My, two sequel reviews in a row…hmm

I got hooked on the Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology last year after buying book 1 with some of my Christmas money—the cinematic writing style and fast pace made me want so much more in this universe! I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy from the library until recently, but I’m so glad I did—a breakneck-paced ending to a spectacular fantasy series!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, so if you intend on reading it and haven’t yet, proceed with caution.

For my review of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Psalm of Storms and Silence (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #2) – Roseanne A. Brown

After Karina’s resurrection of her sister plunges Sonande into chaos, she and Malik must work to pick up the pieces—all while mending the cracks in their relationships.

Disowned by the royal family, Karina sets out to mend the barrier between the mortal and godly after her resurrection ritual. What she finds may mean the difference between complete harmony and absolute anarchy—and an end to Sonande as she knows it. Malik lives in the chaos that Karina’s actions have sown, and his mission is to restore the kingdom to what it once was. But his path is all too similar to Karina’s, and when he discovers that Karina may be the catalyst to prevent total destruction, he must reckon with his feelings for the person he once tried to kill—and now loves.

TW/CW (from Roseanne A. Brown): issues of self-harm, fantasy violence, emotional and physical abuse, anxiety and panic attacks, grooming, and suicidal ideation

I don’t think I’ve been this invested in a fantasy series since Smoke Thieves! It’s a shame that A Psalm of Storms and Silence is the last we’ll see of this universe (for now?), but it was a beautiful end to the series.

It’s not easy to make a fantasy world, but it’s even harder to make a world where you can convincingly narrate it from the perspective of a storyteller narrating the events that unfold before you. Just like Wraiths, Brown’s writing has a uniquely cinematic writing style that makes the world she’s created all the more engaging and compelling. It’s twisty, it’s intricate, it’s multifaceted, and best of all, it’s just plain fun. This was a book that I looked forward to reading every time I had to put it down, and for giving me that much joy, I owe so much to Roseanne A. Brown.

For me, Storms was even better than book 1, although they’re close! What set book 2 apart was how it expanded on the world that was already set forth without info-dumping. We’re introduced to new parts of the story and mythos through the eyes of Karina and Malik, and it made Brown’s already wondrous world feel all the more believable and fascinating to explore.

The new side characters also shone in Storms! There were all sorts of amazing characters introduced throughout the story, and I loved them just as much as Karina, Malik, and the others. All of the god/goddess characters were so creepy and imaginative (think…uh, centipede…centaur?), and I loved having Caracal and Ife tag along on Karina’s journey (both of them are absolute icons). Even though none of the characters I mentioned took the center stage, they felt just as fleshed out as some of the more prominent characters. Also, bonus points for the casual mlm/nonbinary rep!

As a whole, Storms also succeeded in making a sequel that raised the stakes high enough to sustain the rest of the plot but also bring it down so that (most) everything was wrapped up by the time the book ended. It’s a long book, sure, but it hit the perfect balance of creating tension without having to rush everything all in the last few pages. That being said, I did feel the ending was abrupt and a bit rushed, but by the end, everything had concluded in a satisfying way. It was more the timing of the ending than the content of the ending that was the problem.

All in all, a beautiful conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy series in the past few years. 4.25 stars!

A Psalm of Storms and Silence is the final book in the A Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology, preceded by A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. Roseanne A. Brown is also the author of the forthcoming Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting, slated for release in September of this year.

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 (12/28/21) – Squad

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After finishing and loving The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, Squad immediately came on my radar—with the details of the Mermaid sequel being hazy at best, I needed more of Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s writing in my life. I found it in Squad, a punchy and timely graphic novel with bright colors and inner darkness.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Squad: 9780062943149: Tokuda-Hall, Maggie, Sterle, Lisa: Books

Squad – Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

In her junior year, Becca moves to a new high school, thinking that she’ll have to settle with not fitting in. To her surprise, she’s taken under the wings of the three most popular girls in school, and soon, she is swept up into a world of new clothes and rowdy parties. But these three girls have a secret—they’re werewolves, and their prey are the predatory boys they find at their parties. But as the police investigate their most recent killing, Becca must decide if she still wants to be a part of their werewolf Squad.

Squad : Tokuda-Hall, Maggie, Sterle, Lisa: Amazon.ca: Books
art by Lisa Sterle

TW/CW: attempted rape, misogyny, racism, graphic violence, gore/blood

With its juxtaposition of a bright color palette and the darkness of werewolves out for blood, Squad is the perfect graphic novel for this day and age, and presents a timely theme—when does justice become purely revenge?

I’ve been a fan of Tokuda-Hall’s since The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea, but I hadn’t seen anything of Lisa Sterle’s before this. Now, I can definitively say that they make a fantastic graphic novel team! The combination of Tokuda-Hall’s dark and witty writing and Sterle’s bright colors and distinctive faces (both human and wolf) meshed so well together, making the storytelling all the more cohesive. Sterle’s art style is one that I really liked, and it’s the perfect style for this story. I’d like to see something else from this team—their respective writing and art styles were perfect for the aesthetic of Squad!

Right off the bat, I loved the concept of this novel and the implications it had. The idea of a clique of werewolves preying on rapists at parties already had my attention, and this part was executed so well! But beyond this, Squad asks us the question that’s become so prevalent with #MeToo and the growing movement to hold rapists accountable: when does getting back at the perpetrator become pure revenge and not accountability? Seeing all of this through the eyes of Becca—the newest in what we find out is a long line of werewolves—is a perfect way to show these themes from the perspective of a newcomer.

Becca’s perspective also serves as a wonderful way to show how dangerous trying to fit in can be. Over the course of Squad, a rift begins to form between these four girls, especially with Arianna, who has begun to break all the rules set by their previous “alpha,” and Amanda, who seems to be the only one willing to stick to their original plans. All of this threatens to tear Becca apart, even when her own mother pushes her to continue climbing the social ladder. It presents a great dilemma for Becca—is it worth it to go against what she feels is right for a chance at power?

However, there were a few things that I didn’t quite like about Squad. First off, the ending felt very abrupt and unresolved. It went from point A to point B with no real correlation, and it simply…ended. From reading two of her works now, I’d say that endings aren’t Tokuda-Hall’s strong suit; I didn’t mind the ending of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea as much as I did this one (although my friends in book club would probably say otherwise lol), but it still felt rushed. Squad’s ending was still sweet, but it lacked a cohesive resolution.

In addition, while I loved the idea of a sapphic werewolf romance, the relationship between Becca and Marley was very rushed. Like the ending, I loved what little I saw of it (especially that last scene!), but it felt crammed into the last third of the story and bordered on insta-love. Plus, I have mixed feelings about Becca being paired with Marley; it made sense in concept, since they were both caught up in the conflict of the rest of the squad, but given some of the offhand comments that Marley makes about Becca in the beginning, it didn’t make sense that Becca would immediately tolerate all that and fall in love. Maybe if we’d seen if Marley had a change of heart or at least apologized about some of those comments, it might have made sense. But the romance ended up being sweet, but sloppily done. Almost an afterthought.

All in all, a biting (no pun intended) and important tale of the line between accountability and revenge. 4.25 stars!

Squad : Tokuda-Hall, Maggie, Sterle, Lisa: Amazon.ca: Books

Squad is a standalone, but Maggie Tokuda-Hall is also the author of The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea. Lisa Sterle is also the illustrator of Witchblood and the creator of the Modern Witch Tarot Deck.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday, and the last Book Review Tuesday of 2021! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/7/21) – Curses

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Lish McBride’s for a few years now, ever since I fell in love with Firebug back in middle school. So when I found out that she’d come out with a new book, I was OVERJOYED. I immediately put it on hold at the library, and I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint in the slightest!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Curses by Lish McBride

Curses – Lish McBride

Merit Cravan is cursed. After refusing to marry the prince her mother wanted her to marry, a fairy godling cursed her to be a carnivorous beast. The curse can only be broken if she marries a man her mother chooses by her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin comes from a family of conmen, and after his mother blunders and gets on the wrong side of Lady Cravan, he’s traded to them in exchange for her mother’s freedom. He befriends Merit, and learns of her curse, but as her eighteenth birthday creeps ever closer, they discover that the way to break it is closer than either of them could have imagined.

Disney Live Action — Emma Watson as Belle BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017),...

TW/CW: gore, grotesque transformations, body horror, animal death, violence, drugging

I know, I know. Beauty and the Beast retellings have long seen their day in YA. We’ve all suffered through countless awful ones. But I am BEGGING you to read this one. You’ll love it, trust me.

I really missed reading Lish McBride books. Her wry sense of humor and genre subversion have never failed to capture my heart, and Curses was no exception. Not only does Curses flip the traditional aspects of Beauty and the Beast on their heads, it does so in the most over-the-top, tongue in cheek way possible. It’s a fairytale retelling that regularly laughs at itself. And I loved every minute of it.

The majority of the characters were compulsively lovable, and if they weren’t, they were so over-the-top that it was impossible not to have a laugh at their expense. Tevin was my favorite by far; he struck me as a very Loki-like character, but behind the magical charm and and conniving, he was a strikingly complex character. Merit was also a great protagonist! I loved her independent spirit, and the way that her curse was explored was fascinating. (Also, I loved all of the other weird curses that the side characters got – very Courtney Crumrin…no, no, wait, I think that was frogs, not snakes…anyways)

660 My prince twice over ideas | tom hiddleston loki, tom hiddleston,  thomas william hiddleston

But what I loved best about Curses is that it’s the lovably campy, comedic antithesis of every YA Beauty and the Beast retelling of the last decade or so. It’s the cure to a subgenera that has tried to take itself far too seriously, trying too hard to make itself “edgy” in order to appeal to The Teens™️. (For reference, see: Beastly, Of Beast and Beauty, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, etc.) Everything had to be all dark and gritty, or else it wouldn’t be marketable. It got old quickly. And I’m not sure if Lish McBride had this in mind while writing Curses, but this book is the perfect cure to all of that. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s plenty of laughs at its own expense, and it’s simultaneously a unique, well-written piece of art and the perfect counter to edgy retellings past. I’m 100% for pushing back against the notion that art has to be dark or edgy to be considered “deep” or worthy of praise, and if you agree, this is the book for you.

My only complaint is the worlldbuilding. It seemed complex at first glance (what with all the different types of faeries), but the more I read, the more surface-level it seemed. There’s a timestamp given, but what does that mean? Is this an alternate history? Is it just a year according to the world of Curses? Does it pertain to actual human history? I could’ve used some answers. But it’s my only complaint, really. I loved almost everything else.

All in all…well, it’s a gender-swapped Beauty and the Beast retelling, what more could you possibly want? 4.25 stars!

Loki Gif - GIFcen

Curses is a standalone, but Lish McBride is also the author of the Firebug series (Firebug and Pyromantic), the Necromancer series (Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone), and several other novellas.

Today’s song:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: A Dark and Starless Forest

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles! I can’t believe it’s almost March…

Last week, I got approved for not one, but three eARCs (!!!) which are all loaded up on my Kindle at present. I recently got around to reading the first of the three, and I’m SO EXCITED to see it go out into the world! A Dark and Starless Forest is just the kind of diverse dark fantasy that we all need.

Enjoy this eARC review!

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

A Dark and Starless Forest – Sarah Hollowell

Derry is one of eight magical lost children living in the woods. Though they are not related by blood, they all possess different types of magic, and they all live under the roof of their caretaker, Frank, who helps them hone their Alchemist abilities. But when Jane, the oldest of the siblings, goes missing in the dark woods beyond their home, Derry is determined that she’s still alive. As she tries to get to the bottom of Jane’s disappearance, she and her siblings confront dark secrets about their upbringing, and that their caretaker may not be the kindly man he makes himself out to be.

Spectacular Time-Lapse GIFs of Flowers Blooming

TW/CW: Death/disappearance of loved ones (siblings), fantasy violence, body horror, frightening situations

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and HMH Books for Young Readers for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I was intrigued by the premise of this one, but wow, I didn’t expect to be blown away as much as I was! A Dark and Starless Forest was such a rich and dark fantasy, and a page-turner in every sense of the word.

First off, I was so glad to see all of the representation in A Dark and Starless Forest! Derry, our protagonist, is plus-sized, and among her siblings, there’s several Black and Latinx characters, a nonbinary (they/them pronouns) character, a trans girl, and several Deaf characters; and beyond that, it’s implied that most of them (if not all of them) are queer, and two of them were confirmed to be on the asexual spectrum. It was such a joy to see such a diverse and unique cast of characters as the stars of the show in this novel, and I’m sure that I’ll be recommending this one to lots of people!

What also stood out to me was the unique relationship shared by all of the siblings. Most of them aren’t related by blood (save for two sets of twins), but they’re such a tight-knit community, in tune with each other’s comings and goings no matter what. Each of the characters had such distinct personalities, and there was clearly so much care put into each and every one of them. They were all so caring towards each other, and they stuck together until the end.

Beyond the characters, I loved the dark fantasy aspect of A Dark and Starless Forest! It’s more of an urban fantasy (real-world, but with fantasy aspects woven in), but there’s no shortage of gripping suspense and creepy plot twists. Without spoiling anything, there was definitely a sensibility about it that reminded me of some of the darker X-Men storylines, and I loved seeing how the story unravelled. (I guess the X-Men parallels go beyond that – the relationship that the siblings have is certainly akin to the denizens of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Mutant and proud.) Hollowell hits a perfect balance between showing the tender side of the siblings’ magic and showing the darker, more body-horror side to it.

At its heart, A Dark and Starless Forest is a story of sibling-hood, a story of resistance and uncovering hidden truths, and a story of sticking together against all odds. It’s a beautiful found-family story, and even though the ending was more bittersweet, it made me feel so warm inside at some points.

All in all, a dark but tender story of family and magic that’s sure to enchant so many readers. 4.25 stars!

yay allison! | Tumblr
* and one nonbinary sibling

Expected release date: September 14, 2021

A Dark and Starless Forest is Sarah Hollowell’s debut novel, but her work has also been included in The (Other) F-Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce anthology.

Today’s song:

OKAY LITTLE OBLIVIONS IS SO GOOD AND I PROMISE I’LL REVIEW IT SOON

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