Posted in Art, Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/9/22) – That Dark Infinity (ft. my fanart!)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I wasn’t able to go to the library last week, so I went through the Kindle library for books to read. I was in a fantasy mood for no rhyme or reason for most of the week, and That Dark Infinity presented itself. My expectations were average, but this book turned out to be one of the most creative fantasies that I’ve read in a long time!

Enjoy this week’s review!

That Dark Infinity – Kate Pentecost

The Ankou is an infamous, immortal monster hunter, but few know his true secret: while he’s still immortal, a curse made it so that during the day, he’s nothing more than a pile of bones. All he wants is to break the curse—and be able to die.

Flora is the former handmaiden of the princess of Kaer-Ise, but after her kingdom is sacked and she’s left for dead, she goes on the run. Looking for work, she seeks the Ankou to become a monster hunter like him. His only condition is that she help break his curse that’s kept him immortal. But the price of breaking the curse may be greater than she ever could have imagined.

TW/CW: off-page rape, rape/sexual assault-related trauma, violence, murder, body horror, suicidal ideation, descriptions of illness

I remember liking Kate Pentecost’s previous novel, Elysium Girls, but I didn’t have any expectations for That Dark Infinity. But to my surprise, it blew me away—one of the most inventive YA fantasy standalones that I’ve read in ages!

Let’s start off with the worldbuilding, which was a good portion of what made That Dark Infinity so unique! Pentecost doesn’t shy away from pushing the boundaries of the genre, and it really shows. Not only do we have classic fantasy settings filled with strange monsters, but there are also more industrializing parts of the kingdom, with buildings made of copper and automatons! There are tons of interesting creatures, from the hydra-like monster in the water system to giant eagles large enough to ride like horses. It all felt so imaginative, and even amidst the darker themes of the book, pure fun.

The main characters were so incredibly endearing as well! I haven’t come across a character quite like the Ankou/Lazarus in a while; his curse is so unique, and the way that Pentecost handles how it affects both his physical and mental health was so well-thought-out and detailed. He’s both caustically sarcastic and incredibly thoughtful and tender, which is a refreshing combination after years of male YA fantasy characters who were all aloofness. (Plus, can’t deny that he’s got a 10/10 wardrobe) Flora was also a lovely protagonist, so authentically written and wonderfully determined! I love the bisexual rep, and I also love the fact that Pentecost didn’t take the easy way out and automatically throw her into a romance with the Ankou; giving them a platonic relationship was a much wiser (and sweeter) decision, and romance would’ve been weird with him. (Still scarred by many years of authors pairing up their teenage protagonists with love interests who are 100+ years old…)

That Dark Infinity‘s depiction of trauma was also incredibly respectful, which was, again, very refreshing. It’s implied off-page that Flora is raped, but instead of that being a plot point just to amp up the drama in the book and give her a Tragic Backstory™️, her trauma and healing journey is a consistent part of the book. Her healing journey is one that I rarely see in fantasy books, and I’m so glad Pentecost included it as more than an afterthought. And another addition to why I love the Ankou—he was also incredibly considerate when her triggers resurfaced, making their friendship all the more strong. Again—I’d be hard-pressed to find a male protagonist written quite like this, and I’m grateful for both Flora and the Ankou as characters.

My only major gripe with That Dark Infinity was the ending. It was a…weird way to resolve the book, to say the least? Without spoiling it, I’ll say that it felt rather rushed, but in the end, the very last twist made me like it a little more. Even though it took a roundabout way to get there, I liked that Flora and the Ankou got their hopeful endings.

Also—the Ankou/Lazarus was such a fun character design-wise that I decided to draw him! I haven’t shared any art of mine on my blog since middle school (we don’t talk about how this blog was in middle school 🫥), but I figured it would be an artistic challenge (since I’ve never really drawn skulls without a reference) and a fun addition to the review. So here we are—my interpretation of the Ankou!

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

and here’s my sketch/practice page, just for fun:

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

All in all, an inventive standalone fantasy that was tender, inventive, and truly one of a kind. 4.5 stars!

That Dark Infinity is a standalone, but Kate Pentecost is also the author of Elysium Girls.

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!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/19/22) – Not If I Can Help It

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I realized that literature has been something I could see myself in, I’ve been looking high and low for books with SPD representation. For years, all I managed to find were help books for parents SPD children (again—not diminishing their value, I was just looking for something else) and hardly any fiction in sight. By some miracle, I ended up coming across this book recently, and I was elated to find a book that finally reflected my disability! I set my expectations hesitantly high, but I ended up adoring Not If I Can Help It; I wish I had it when I was Willa’s age.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Not If I Can Help It – Carolyn Mackler

Willa has Sensory Processing Disorder—she hates the texture of certain foods, tags and seams on clothes irritate her to no end, and she gets overwhelmed easily. With her occupational therapist, she’s been able to manage it—and keep it a secret from her 5th-grade class. But when her dad breaks the news that he’s engaged to her best friend’s mom, she struggles to handle the change—she loves her best friend Ruby, but being her sister would be another situation entirely. As 5th grade draws to a close, can she and Ruby work things out—as best friends, and as sisters?

TW/CW: sensory overload, bullying

I’m going to go so far as to say that Not If I Can Help It is a fairly monumental book for me. It’s the first book I’ve ever read with a protagonist who has SPD, and as somebody with SPD, it fills my heart to see myself in a book like this. I’m so, so, so glad this book exists.

I’ve been trying to find any kind of SPD fiction for years, and Not If I Can Help It surprised me with how realistically and respectfully SPD was handled. I related so much to Willa—even though our specific brands of SPD differed (Willa’s seems to be more tactile, whereas mine are mainly auditory), I related so much to Willa’s experience, from her experience with handling change to the everyday things she does with her parents to cope with her SPD. (I JUST GOT MY OWN BODY SOCK TOO??? we love the body sock in this house) I’ve been going back to OT in preparation for college lately, and I also loved the scenes with Willa and her therapist in the sensory gym—again, so respectfully written and authentic! Mackler mentions in the acknowledgments that Not If I Can Help It was partially based off of her experience with one of her sons, who has SPD, and this is bound to be a book that so many of us with SPD will relate to—I certainly did.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any middle grade, but the gap was a lot easier to bridge than I thought it would be. Mackler’s writing, along with our shared experience, made me instantly feel for Willa. She’s such a unique, determined character, so full of life and spirit. I loved her individual quirks, and her growth over the novel made me wish that I had this kind of book when I was her age—I could’ve used a Willa when I was going into middle school. (Also, kudos to Willa for managing her SPD on top of living in MANHATTAN, wow…)

The story was additionally a super sweet one. I completely related to Willa’s reticence to having change, and all of the changes she experiences (her dad getting married to her best friend’s mom, going to middle school, and her longtime babysitter moving, to name a few) served to help her grow so much as a character. All of the supporting characters were wonderfully unique in their own ways, adding not only to the story, but helping to emphasize the point, to paraphrase Ruby’s mom, that we all have our “things” going on—not everybody is as normal as you may think they are, and that there will be all kinds of people to support you along your journey.

All in all, a book that I sorely wished that I’d been able to read when I was younger, but one that I’m so glad I got to read here and now. This is the first book with SPD rep that I’ve read, and given how authentically it was represented, it will always have a special place in my heart. Thanks so much to Carolyn Mackler and Willa. 💗 4.5 stars!

Not If I Can Help It is a standalone, but Carolyn Mackler is also the author of several middle grade and YA books, including Tangled, Infinite In Between, Love and Other Four-Letter Words, and The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things.

Today’s song:

adding this song to my internal list of songs with god tier intros

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 (6/14/22) – The Raven and the Reindeer

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve had The Raven and the Reindeer on my tbr since the dawn of time (read: 2016), and I’m not sure why I put it off for so long, but either way, I bought it for my vacation last week. I ended up reading it on the plane and in Yosemite, and I was surprised at how much I loved it—a beautifully immersive and queer retelling of “The Snow Queen”!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Raven and the Reindeer – T. Kingfisher

Gerta has grown up with tales told to her by her grandmother—tales of characters like the Snow Queen, a merciless, inhuman being who steals away children in the dead of winter. What Gerta never realized was that the Snow Queen is real all this time.

When her best friend Kay is stolen by the Snow Queen in the night, Gerta sets off on a quest across the frozen wilderness, determined to rescue him. But along the way, she realizes that the true meaning of her journey is far from what she thought it would be—and filled with unimaginable dangers.

TW/CW: animal death, violence, descriptions of corpses, freezing to death, descriptions of blood/animal skinning

the “not-like-other-girls” complex to queer awakening pipeline is real and this book is proof. I’ve lived it 💀

It’s been ages since I’ve read a fairytale retelling quite this wonderful! I came in with no expectations, and close to everything about it blew me away, from Kingfisher’s wry but tender writing style to Gerta’s endearing quest to save her friend.

I haven’t read any of Ursula Vernon’s T. Kingfisher books (the last book of hers I read was Castle Hangnail and that was…oh, seven years ago? remains iconic to this day), so this was my first introduction to her more YA/adult writing. And I’ve gotta say, I was blown away by her writing! Kingfisher hits the perfect balance between wry sarcasm and beautiful, immersive prose, which is a hard set to juggle. The humor didn’t feel overpowering, and likewise, the more descriptive prose wasn’t overly purple. It’s the kind of writing style that meshes perfectly with a fairytale, the kind of writing that really makes you feel like you’re experiencing real storytelling.

The Raven and the Reindeer’s characters were just as alluring and endearing! Gerta was a delightful and poignant subversion of a typical fairytale heroine, and she underwent some spectacular development over the course of the novel. (read the first line of the review again—in all seriousness, that’s the development in question, and it’s beautiful to watch.) A character like Mousebones could’ve easily been an infuriating gimmick, but he added just the right amount of levity to a frigid story. Along with them, all of the characters, both human and otherwise, added countless, immersive layers into an expertly-woven fairytale. Plus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Gerta and Janna’s sapphic romance—who doesn’t love queer bandit ladies?

Beyond that, Kingfisher simultaneously subverts this fairytale and brings it back to its roots. There are beautiful metaphors aplenty about reconnecting with nature—and by proxy, your true self. This combination of themes creates a poignant message that I’m sure will resonate with so many readers. Certainly resonated with me. The fact that these themes are present in a queer novel makes them all the more important: denying your true nature is a dangerous thing, so if possible, be the truest self that you can be. (And on a lighter note, don’t go into the frozen wilderness chasing after men, kids. It doesn’t always end well.)

All in all, one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read in recent years—wry and witty, but equally powerful thematically. 4.5 stars!

The Raven and the Reindeer is a standalone novel, but under this pseudonym, T. Kingfisher is also the author of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, The Seventh Bride, Bryony and Roses, and several other novels. Writing as Ursula Vernon, she is also the author of the Dragonbreath comic series, Castle Hangnail, and more.

Today’s song:

got around to listening to this album now that I’m back from vacation—fantastic all the way through!

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

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 (11/2/21) – A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After finishing A Gathering of Shadows, I was scared that the final Shades of Magic book would be similarly disappointing. Luckily, A Conjuring Light packed the punch that the series needed, coming through to be my favorite book in the trilogy.

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, A Darker Shade of Magic, and book 2, A Gathering of Shadows. If you haven’t read the first two books in the series and intend on doing so, be careful!

Here are my reviews for the first two Shades of Magic books:

Enjoy this week’s review!

Buy A Conjuring of Light: A Novel: 3 (Shades of Magic, 3) Book Online at  Low Prices in India | A Conjuring of Light: A Novel: 3 (Shades of Magic, 3)  Reviews & Ratings - Amazon.in

A Conjuring of Light (Shades of Magic, #3) – V.E. Schwab

Red London is falling. Sentient black magic, escaped from Black London, is loose, and it hungers for vessels. It leaves complete and utter destruction in its wake, and no one is safe.

Rhy, the newly crowned King of Red London, and Kell, are sequested in the palace, attempting to discern the origins of the magical plague. Meanwhile, Lila and Alucard are stranded on the high seas. Their only hope is to join forces to save Red London, but will their combined powers be enough to defeat magic itself?

𝐆𝐎𝐃𝐃𝐄𝐒𝐒 || 𝐆𝐢𝐟 𝐇𝐮𝐧𝐭 - 𝐌𝐚𝐠𝐢𝐜! - Wattpad

TW/CW: stabbing, graphic violence, death, loss of loved ones, near-death experiences, fantasy violence

After the disappointment that was A Gathering of Shadows, I didn’t expect to enjoy book 3 as much as I did. But, lo and behold, I ended up finishing this one late at night. I curled up like a sad, emotional little worm in my bed and stared at the ceiling after I finished. I still don’t know what to do with myself now that I’ve finished the whole trilogy.

V.E. Schwab succeeded in bringing in everything that was missing from A Gathering of Shadows back and better than ever in A Conjuring of Light, and then cranked it all up to 100. The writing was sharper than ever, the worldbuilding was just as immersive, and the raw emotion and suspense was present in no small amount. As lengthy of a book this is (about 624 pages in the edition that I read), I couldn’t stop reading, feeling a constant urge to turn the page and find out what happened next. All of it made for a finale that truly packed a punch.

I know I sound like a broken record at this point, but the characters are what truly make the Shades of Magic series what it is, and A Conjuring of Light is a shining testament to the fact. More than ever, I was truly rooting for Kell, Alucard, and the rest of the characters, feeling everything that they felt more deeply than ever. And can we talk about the development that Rhy had? DANG. It’s rare for the last book in a trilogy to devote that much time to a main character’s growth, but A Conjuring of Light did just that for Rhy! I liked him for the first two books, but the emotional growth he had in this book made me love him so much. It was great to see his development now that he holds a position of true power; the realization that he has an entire empire to save sharpened him into the ruler that he needed to be. It was simultaneously a sea change and a display of growth that still stayed true to who he was at heart.

I suppose I’ve come around a little bit to Lila. I’m still not the biggest fan of her, but she was at least tolerable in this book.

A Conjuring of Light also had the strongest plot out of the three—what’s more suspenseful than a devouring, magical plague with a god complex? It presented a very real threat for the characters, and it was just the kind of movement that the series needed. Add in political intrigue, romance, and nonstop action, and you’ve got a book that doesn’t just successfully keep itself afloat, but hooks you for every page. I went through the emotional gamut reading this one—heart-thumping suspense, giddy happiness, and some tears of shock. No spoilers for what caused the latter, but at least it was a false alarm.

And now, I’ve inevitably arrived at the bittersweet stage where I’ve finished the whole trilogy. Though book 2 was a letdown, A Darker Shade of Magic and A Conjuring of Light brought me no shortage of joy. I had so much fun traveling through the Londons and watching magical battles play out. I forget who put it on the list for my high school book club, but whoever you are, THANK YOU. You have improved my life so much by introducing me to these fine books. And thank you, V.E. Schwab, for creating such gems. What a trilogy.

Now, I still really don’t know what to do with myself. But hey, I’ve heard there are some prequel comics…😳😳😳

4.5 stars!

baroque fool: WitchCraft nails: Dark magic

A Conjuring of Light is the final book in the Shades of Magic trilogy, preceded by A Darker Shade of Magic (book 1) and A Gathering of Shadows (book 2). V.E. Schwab is also the author of the Villains series (Vicious and Vengeful) and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Today’s song:

BABE WAKE UP NEW SPIRITUALIZED JUST DROPPED AFTER J. SPACEMAN SAID THAT HE PROBABLY WOULDN’T RELEASE ANY MORE MUSIC

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 (10/19/21) – Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

wHEW okay so I just submitted my college applications I need a minute

Meme Generator - Gavin screaming - Newfa Stuff

So, what do my college applications and this week’s review have in common? My feelings after finishing both of them can be described accurately with the image above.

I’ve been a fan of Marie Lu’s for years now, and I loved Skyhunter, so I immediately jumped at the chance to preorder book two. I got to read it recently, and I can say with certainty that Marie Lu has made another riveting success!

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review contains spoilers for book 1, Skyhunter! If you haven’t read book 1 and intend to, I suggest you skip through this review.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Steelstriker (Skyhunter Duology): 9781250221728: Lu, Marie:  Books

Steelstriker (Skyhunter, #2) – Marie Lu

my copies of Skyhunter and Steelstriker feat. a cool filter

Mara has fallen. The Federation’s colonization sweeps through what was once the last stronghold of freedom, and at its forefront, the young Premier wreaks havoc, fighting to uncover an ancient artifact that could give his empire unimaginable power.

Talin has been captured for the Skyhunter initiative, melded with wings and great power against her will. But her connection to the Premier presents her with a unique perspective that could help her allies win the war. Meanwhile, Red and the rest of the Strikers are intent on breaking her out, but a plot against the Federation could mean the difference between victory and utter chaos.

are you with me? | Rogue one star wars, Star wars ships, Star wars fandom

TW/CW: torture, human experimentation, graphic violence, public executions, murder (attempted and executed), colonization

Let it be known that I was reading the last part of Steelstriker while getting my hair dyed, and that right as I hit THAT CLIMAX, the lady dyeing my hair came in and I had to hold it together long enough for her to rinse my hair out. This is the havoc that Marie Lu has wrought upon my heart.

But it was 100% worth it.

Skyhunter is a very special book to me. Not only was it written by one of my favorite authors, it helped me through what was easily one of the toughest times in my life. When I was weighed down with grief and stress, Skyhunter taught me to maintain hope, even in the darkest of times. Now, here I am one year later, and Steelstriker means just the same to me—a bleak, dystopian world, but with underlying currents of hope and resistance.

Just as with book 1, I can picture the imagery of Steelstriker like it was footage from a TV show. Marie Lu’s writing kept me hooked from page one, and I only found myself putting it down for…well, basic necessities. (And getting my hair rinsed off.) I felt just as invested in Talin and Red’s story as I did last year.

Standing next to Skyhunter, one aspect that set Steelstriker apart was the rich political intrigue. Within the action there are threads of unrest, manifesting in secret plots and uprisings aplenty. Every single plot point had a satisfying domino effect through the rest of the novel, and the constant twists that resulted kept me guessing until the epilogue. Marie Lu’s balance of sci-fi action and realistic dissent and secret plots made for a book that sucked me in for its entire length.

And the characters! Coming back to Red, Talin, and the rest of the striker gang felt like reuniting with old friends. I had a soft spot for Red in book 1, and he was just as well-developed, complex, and outright lovable as ever. Talin’s internal struggle with being a Skyhunter never ceased to tug my heartstrings, and her perspective balanced outside intensity with introspective development. And the two of them together!! I mentioned in my review of Skyhunter that I thought they would work in either a platonic or romantic relationship, and having them be in love was so, so, SO sweet. They’re just perfect for each other. GAAH.

All of it culminated to a climax that threw my heart down the Grand Canyon and an epilogue that pulled it back up. Marie Lu certainly knows how to toy with my feelings [coughcough THE MIDNIGHT STAR cough cough].

It’s bittersweet for me to think that the Skyhunter duology is coming to a close. But Steelstriker was a sequel that was just as heartbreaking, intense, and wholly special as its predecessor. Thank you, Marie Lu, from the bottom of my heart. 4.5 stars!

Steelstriker is the final book in the Skyhunter duology, preceded by Skyhunter. Marie Lu is also the author of the Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star), The Kingdom of Back, the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion, and Rebel), and the Warcross series (Warcross and Wildcard.)

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 (10/12/21) – A Darker Shade of Magic

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d heard of this novel now and then before reading it, but it managed to escape my periphery for years. It then got selected for November’s pick for my high school’s book club, so I decided to pick it up before the library ran out of copies. I had no expectations, but I was surprised at how dazzling of a book it was! Automatically on my favorite books of 2021.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) – V.E. Schwab

my library copy on my windowsill ft. a cool filter

Kell has lived a life caught between many worlds—in a literal sense. As a fabled Antari magician with the ability to travel between worlds, he works as a royal ambassador for his homeland of Red London, traveling between his home, Grey London, and White London. Black London fell long ago.

A chance encounter with an artifact containing dangerous magic and a skilled thief named Delilah Bard throws Kell off course. Now, he must wrestle with magic that could potentially swallow his home–and an alliance that could result in his undoing.

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TW/CW: murder, blood, graphic violence, public executions

Going into this book, I had little to no expectations. I read This Savage Song about four years ago and remembered next to nothing about it, and so I had no sense about how I would feel about V.E. Schwab’s other books. To my surprise, A Darker Shade of Magic hooked me almost instantly with its unique characters and dangerous magic!

Schwab’s writing was the star of the show here, no questions asked. Her prose was so immersive that I could feel magic in the air, smell rain and ash, and see a river tinted red as though it were all surrounding me. Each London had its own intricate mythology, and each was fleshed out to the degree that none of them felt rushed over. (I have no sense for Black London, though, but I have a feeling I’ll learn more about it in the coming books. Hopefully.) Her imagery is nothing short of magical (no pun intended), and the worldbuilding to support each London made the environment that much more believable.

The central plot of A Darker Shade of Magic was a little bit weak, but it made up for it with tons of action and snappy dialogue. Having a good portion of the plot center around a ✨magical rock✨ is dangerous in and of itself, and even though this ✨magical rock✨ had some serious ✨magical consequences✨, it did feel a bit like a sorry excuse for a plot. Lucky for us, there’s far more than that; Schwab supplies the book with enough political intrigue, fantasy lore, banter, and intense conflict to make the plot full enough to sustain a gripping story. And gripping it was–yeah, I know I just griped about the ✨magical rock✨, but I seriously couldn’t put this one down.

For the most part, I adored the characters! Kell was a fantastic protagonist. From his distinct appearance (MAN I need to draw him) to his quiet loyalty to his magic prowess, it’s hard not to love him. Yeah, he’s more than a little edgy, but it was lovable in a Kaz Brekker kind of way. All of the supporting characters were similarly charming, bringing all sorts of unique elements to the plot.

All of them except for Lila.

Lila…

I loved almost all of the other characters, but I hated Lila. She fell straight into the “not like other girls” trope, and most of her mannerisms didn’t fail to make me cringe. What I didn’t care for in particular was her motivations. Nothing Lila did made any sense. I get that she’s a teenager, but wouldn’t leading a life of crime and starving on the streets give somebody some semblance of direction in life? Every decision that she made hinged on the fact that there would be no consequences, and most of it was fleeting, shallow, and far too spur of the moment.

The worst example: why she wants to travel through all of the alternate Londons with Kell? “Because I’m bored.”

SHUT Blank Template - Imgflip

…okay, maybe I’m giving her too little credit. Maybe that was a cover for her actual motivations. But do we know any of these motivations? NOPE. Thus why her character made no sense. The only upside is that I imagined her looking like Maeve from Sex Education with a cool fantasy outfit.

20th century women — ramimalec: EMMA MACKEY as MAEVE WILEY in...
this is Maeve, for reference

All in all, though, an immersive and luscious fantasy that hooked me in from page one. 4.5 stars!

vague gifs | WiffleGif
@ Lila

A Darker Shade of Magic is the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy, followed by A Gathering of Shadows (book 2) and A Conjuring of Light (book 3). Under this pseudonym, V.E. Schwab is also the author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and the Villains series (Vicious and Vengeful).

Today’s song:

the instrumental part at 2:31 was stuck in my head earlier this afternoon and it took me a good hour to remember what it was from

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 (8/17/21) – A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! Wow, already the last day of summer for me…I go back to school tomorrow, bright and early…oh, joy. At least I’ll be able to see my friends again.

Anyways, here’s one of my library holds from this week that I enjoyed immensely! I found out about it after reading (and loving) the Wayfarers series. I put it on hold and forgot that I had, and it unexpectedly came in the library last week! And I’m so glad that it did – A Psalm for the Wild-Built was just the kind of book I needed: heartwarming, gentle and philosophical.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) by Becky Chambers
WHAT GAVE THE COVER ART THE RIGHT TO BE SO CUTE

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) – Becky Chambers

My library copy ft. a nice filter and my backyard

Sibling Dex is tired of their quiet life as a monk in the city. Insistent on bringing spice into their life, they leave for the rural parts of town to become a tea monk, giving out tea and consolation to those who need it most. But something is still missing, so they take their tea cart into the uncharted woods.

There, they come upon Mosscap, a robot living in the woods who is eager to know about humans and their ways. Robots are the stuff of legends in Sibling Dex’s world; centuries before, they migrated to the woods, never to be seen again, leaving humans to their own devices. Knowing nothing about each other, Dex and Mosscap embark on a journey through uncharted territory, seeking answers – and finding more than they expected.

The Iron Giant" movie review | Movies & TV Amino

TW/CW: honestly? I’ve got nothing here, there’s nothing terribly violent, tragic, or graphic in any way here. It’s a gentle book, and honestly? We need more books like this

Okay, this book had no right to be JUST WHAT I NEEDED. I’d already fallen in love with Becky Chambers’ penchant for making sci-fi tender and human in the Wayfarers series, but A Psalm for the Wild-Built was truly the book equivalent of a warm hug.

Everything about this book made me all soft and warm inside. Chambers’ writing made for a beautiful, atmospheric world, filled with lush plant life, factories grown over with vines, and quirky robots wandering the woods. My mind tended to wander back to the Redwoods and Sequoias while picturing the setting – lots of tall trees, bright greenery, and all sorts of little creatures in every nook and cranny. The worldbuilding was spectacular – I was instantly immersed in the world of Dex and Mosscap, and the fact that it was all squeezed into less than 200 pages was even more impressive. It truly felt like a lived-in world, one that I wouldn’t hesitate to grab a tea cart and take a ride through the woods in.

And the characters? I now have an aggressive need to give both Mosscap and Dex hugs. Sibling Dex’s struggles with dissatisfaction and restlessness were all too relatable, and I loved their journey over the course of the novel. And Mosscap? Mosscap was just all kinds of delightful. From the cover, I pictured a shrunk-down sort of Iron Giant with the voice of C3-PO for it. It was such a cheery, eager, and curious character, and it was the perfect match for Dex’s more introspective tendencies. They made the sweetest pair, and I loved exploring Becky Chambers’ world with them.

Through it all, there’s consistent themes of dealing with dissatisfaction and the meaning of life itself. Like I said – A Psalm for the Wild-Built me told me exactly what I needed to hear, and that is that any time you feel dissatisfied, think of how miraculous life itself is – the existence of the universe and consciousness is such a marvel, why not treat it that way? Which, in a world where we’re all fed up and cagey from staying home and living out day after day in constant repetition, is a crucial message for us. I’ll be doing my best to take it to heart.

All in all, easily the sweetest sci-fi/fantasy novel I’ve ever read, equal parts journeying into the unknown and musing on the nature of life itself. 4.5 stars!

shinrinyoku

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is the first novel in Becky Chambers’ Monk & Robot series, continuing with the forthcoming A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, slated for release in 2022. Chambers is also the author of the Wayfarers series (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and The Galaxy, and the Ground Within) and the novella To Be Taught, If Fortunate.

Today’s song:

UGH THE GUITAR IN THIS SONG…this album is magic

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 (7/13/21) – Gearbreakers

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d been wanting to read Gearbreakers for a while, and coincidentally, the last time I went to my favorite bookstore was the day that it came out, so I grabbed a copy. I got a little scared from some of the reviews, but in the end, it was all worth it – a stunning debut that balanced a bleak atmosphere with tender romance!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, 1) (9781250269508): Mikuta, Zoe Hana:  Books

Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, #1) – Zoe Hana Mikuta

my copy ft. a cool filter and my guitar amp

Eris Shinandai’s world is one of brutality – under the oppressive thumb of Godolia, poor towns like hers are constantly being snuffed out by the Windups, giant robots with immense firepower and cunning pilots. But Eris has a special occupation – she’s a Gearbreaker, specially trained to destroy the Windups from the inside.

But when a botched operation ends in her arrest, she meets Sona Steelcrest, a disillusioned Windup pilot with a few secrets of her own. Sona knows the oppression of Godolia firsthand, and she’s willing to help Eris take them down. Their uneasy alliance takes them back to the Gearbreakers, and into a dangerous new world of conspiracies.

Ask Box: Open — 2D finding out his S/O has been hiding their...

TW/CW: loss of parents/family (past), graphic sci-fi violence, death, gore, torture, blood

[chanting] sci-fi sapphics, sci-fi sapphics, SCI-FI SAPPHICS!

Oh man, I aspire to have a debut novel as good as this one! Gearbreakers does what most YA dystopian novels fail to do – balance light and darkness in a smart way, and fill the bleak spaces with warm hope and tenderness.

My favorite aspect by far was the found family aspect. The dynamic with Eris and the rest of her Gearbreakers crew was so sweet – Eris was a bit more of a hotheaded, stubborn character, but she was like a mom to all of the other Gearbreakers, and the love they all had for each other was so sweet. The relationship between Eris and Jenny, her older sister, was also so lovely – plenty of banter, but still a deep care for each other. Adding Sona to the mix created an interesting dynamic as well – there was a lot of mistrust for her from the other Gearbreakers, but Sona’s character development really shone in those moments as she tried to advocate for herself.

And coming off of that – CAN WE TALK ABOUT ERIS AND SONA? Their (budding) romance was more of a slow-burn one, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Their personalities were so glaringly different, but as they grew closer to each other, they meshed so well together. Without spoiling anything, I’m interested to see where it goes next – I’m hoping it’ll end smoothly…

The action in this book was also phenomenal! Again, Zoe Hana Mikuta does a stellar job of balancing levity with intense action, and it didn’t feel too comic-relief-y or too cynically dark. There’s nothing like destroying giant robots to get the action more fun, and there’s loads of that, and a whole lot of well-written fight scenes and explosions. The found-family dynamic of the Gearbreakers worked so well with these scenes – everybody all crammed in their jeep (do they specify what kind of car it was? I forget, I just imagined it as a beat-up jeep…) on their way to do some Robot Destruction™️ made for some great banter and amazing chemistry between the characters.

(And I recently heard that somebody’s already gotten the rights to Gearbreakers for a movie?? Which – WHOA, that was quick, and I’m a little worried, but that would make a GREAT movie. The more I read, the more I thought of how well a bunch of Gorillaz songs would be in the soundtrack…IMAGINE “19-2000” PLAYING THE FIRST TIME ERIS AND HER CREW GO DESTROY THE WINDUPS…)

Overall, the worldbuilding was good, but it was definitely the area where the novel had a few pitfalls. There was a lot of care put into the different kinds of Windups, how they worked, and the culture and training surrounding Sona and the other Windup pilots at the academy, which I loved! I just wish the same care was put into some of the history around the rise of Godolia, and where it was situated – there’s a little background, but not quite enough to make a fully-fleshed world. Most of the history we get is from the Tragic Backstories™️ of some of the characters, which I don’t really mind, but I wish the worldbuilding was as well-written as, say, the romance or the fight scenes.

In short, a fantastic sci-fi debut that balanced light and dark like very few other authors can. 4.5 stars!

Pin on star wars

Gearbreakers is the first in a series, and is also Zoe Hana Mikuta’s debut novel. The sequel, Godslayers, is set to release in June 2022.

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 (7/6/21) – Spellhacker

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I got to take a trip to my favorite bookstore last week, and this was one of the books that I picked up. I’d been meaning to read it for years after loving M.K. England’s debut, The Disasters, and I finally got to buy it and reading! And despite the average ratings, England’s second novel is a genre-bending success!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Spellhacker by M.K. England

Spellhacker – M.K. England

my copy ft. a cool filter and some crystals, stones, and my bismuth

Kyrkata is a place where futuristic technology and magic – known as maz – live in harmony, but after a magical plague wracks the population, the maz supply is depleted. Corporations now hold maz with a tight fist, racking up the prices while the people who need it most turn to crime in order to get it.

Enter Diz, Remi, Jaesin, and Ania. For two years, they’ve run an illegal maz-siphoning operation. But with college on the horizon, their next heist has to be their last. When their “last job ever” results in a deadly new strain of maz, the four teens must stop a dangerous secret from coming to the surface – and get to the bottom of a corporate conspiracy that may mean the end of their world.

cute, pixels and aesthetic - image #6916550 on Favim.com

TW/CW: descriptions of illness, loss of loved ones (off-page), violence, near-death situations

Ok. Hear me out.

So if all of the strains of maz have the suffix -az at the end of them (ex. firaz, magnaz), would that mean that Gorillaz would be a valid name for a strain of maz? Guess they’d have to call it maz-19-2000 instead of maz-15…

…okay, I’ll shut up now. I’m just making myself giggle at this point

Gorillaz: Song By Song: 19/2000
the Gang™️ after the maz-15 incident

[ahem] anyways

It’s really such a shame that this book isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. This is what a genre-bending novel should be – it’s a seamless blend of sci-fi and fantasy, with enough worldbuilding to make both of them work! And Spellhacker has everything – heists, found family vibes, weird creatures, exploding magic, and casual queerness!

What stood out most for me was the tender found-family dynamic in this novel. All four of the main characters – especially Diz, our protagonist – are delightfully real and as messy as they come, but they just felt so genuine. They all had their lovely little quirks, and they all bounced so sweetly off of each other. The love between them (both platonic and romantic, I might say) brimmed off the page, and it made my heart so happy. Through thick and thin, they were all there for each other. Spellhacker reminded me of why the found family trope is easily my favorite trope!

And if there’s one thing better than found family, it’s a casually queer and diverse found family! Diz is queer, Remi (her love interest) is nonbinary, and there’s several wlw and mlm couples! (Or, to quote M.K. England themself, “elderly science husbands.”) There’s also a lot of POC-coded characters present, and the diversity truly shines in this novel.

And beyond that, Spellhacker is SO. MUCH. FUN. If any of you here are fans of Six of Crows or The Gilded Wolves, YOU’RE GONNA EAT THIS BOOK UP. It’s fast-paced, high-stakes, and full of disguises, hacking, chase-scenes, and breakneck action. From the moment the crew botched their last heist, the novel takes off, not letting go until the final page. But even with all that, England still allowed the crew moments to be tender, allowing for a lot of sweet scenes and character interactions. It’s the perfect balance of action and softness.

I have…mixed feelings about the worldbuilding, though. For the most part, I thought it was great; there was clearly a lot of care put into the types of maz and how society controlled them, and the various underground operations to siphon it. Kyrkata’s implied to be a world completely different from ours, but there were references to things that were very Earth-specific (I can’t remember them off the top of my head), and several of the characters had very Earth-sounding last names, which threw me off a little. But overall, the things I found were fairly nit-picky, so the worldbuilding was solid overall.

There was also something unexpected hidden in Spellhacker that I loved – England wove the usage of the maz into a metaphor for climate change, and the relationship that corporations have with the environment. Without spoiling anything, there’s themes of greed and destroying the environment in the name of making money, and I love how Diz and the others combatted that. We all love seeing corporations getting their comeuppance, don’t we?

All in all, a fast-paced novel that seamlessly blends sci-fi and fantasy to make an action-packed bundle of exploding fun. 4.5 stars!

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okay I KNOW I need to stop with the Rabbi Milligan gifs, but Diz says something almost exactly like this line and it made me so giddy ksdjhfskjdfh

Spellhacker is a standalone, and M.K. England’s second novel. They are also the author of The Disasters and a forthcoming middle grade novel called Ultimate Gaming Showdown, scheduled for release in 2022.

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!