I’ve been a fan of Akemi Dawn Bowman ever since I read Starfish around three years ago. This is the latest of her books that I’ve read, and I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint – just as poignant and gut-wrenching as her other novels!
Harley Milano grew up surrounded by vibrant costumes and trapeze artists in her parents’ circus. Her dream has always been to join the circus, but her parents want her to go to college for computer science instead.
After a fight on her eighteenth birthday, Harley goes against everything that they’ve ever wished for–she runs away and joins the Maison du Mystère, the rival traveling circus. There, she is thrust into the world of the circus, quickly falling in love and rising to the top of the hierarchy as one of its lead trapeze artists. But Harley’s past is catching up to her, and she must grapple with the people she betrayed in order to see her dreams come to fruition.
I think all of us have read plenty of books about characters running away to pursue their dreams and leaving everything they knew behind. But very few discuss the consequences–the people they leave behind and the emotional wounds that they may open up. Harley in the Sky is one such book, and man, it was just as heart-wrenching as Akemi Dawn Bowman’s other novels. All at once tender, heavy, and messy, it grapples with all sorts of hefty emotions and handles them all with aplomb.
Harley was, by all means, a very unlikeable character. She has a plethora of issues that she leaves undealt with when she takes off in search of her circus dreams, but you can’t help but root for her. I will say that I related to her on one plane: that of her mixed-race identity. Both of Harley’s parents are biracial, and as a result, she feels as though she doesn’t fit in anywhere. As a mixed-race person myself, Bowman handled her identity in a way that really resonated with me. And despite how tangled of a character Harley is, she displays some significant growth over the course of the novel, and by the end, she begins to reconcile with everything that she’s done and everything she’s left behind.
The rest of the characters also shone! There was such a unique and diverse cast, and the circuses that Bowman created felt like ones that might travel cross-country in the real world. Each character was refreshingly distinct, all with unique backstories and personalities. I especially loved Vas–yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker for the brooding British guys who play instruments, but he was such a well-fleshed-out character, both standing on his own and as a love interest for Harley.
As with all of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s novels, Harley in the Sky deals with some heavy topics. I won’t lie–it was a hard book to read at times, but Bowman handles all of these topics, from undiagnosed mental illness to toxic relationships, with incredible skill. All of her books stir up such profound emotion in me, and this one was no exception.
All in all, a novel that was all at once tender and heartbreaking that will leave a permanent mark on your heart. 4 stars!
Harley in the Sky is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Summer Bird Blue, and the Infinity Courts series, which includes The Infinity Courts, and the forthcoming The Genesis Wars.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I have my dad to thank for finding the book I’m reviewing today, so thank you! It was in an NPR article that he sent me a month back that talked about the ways that sci-fi literature has changed in the past decade. I’d read or shelved a book or two from the list, but I added Tell the Machine Goodnight after reading it because of how fascinating it sounded. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed!
In a near-future world, the secret to happiness can be obtained with the click of a button. Apricity is a company that has created a machine that can, with startling accuracy, predict exactly what someone needs to be happy.
Pearl has worked for Apricity for many years, earning her notoriety from her coworkers and her manager. But as she looks out into her life–particularly her teenage son, who rejects happiness above all else–she questions the purpose of the machine. Is “happiness” truly what she sells?
Tell the Machine Goodnight feels like what would happen if Noah Hawley sat down and tried to write a Ray Bradbury novel from scratch. Which is to say, I loved this book.
Everything about this novel felt like a dazzling callback to all of my favorite sci-fi classics. It’s set around 14 years from now, and everything is more or less the same, but there are just some aspects that are fundamentally off. It’s mainly Apricity, among other things, but Katie Williams did a fantastic job of making a world that was simultaneously familiar and unsettling, like something that could feasibly emerge in the next few decades.
I’ve read a lot of reviews that said that they felt that Tell the Machine Goodnight had no plot, but for me, the lack of structure added to the appeal of the narrative. It’s presented as a series of interconnected vignettes of life in Williams’ near-future world, and what society looks like when personalized, surface-level happiness dominates all else. One in particular stood out to me; in one thread, Pearl’s ex-husband creates modern art out of the Apricity suggestions. (One of them was to eat honey, and so he made an art form out of eating honey in excess and then vomiting it out.) Little quirks and stories like these made the world feel all the more fleshed out for me, and I enjoyed every page of it.
To top it off, I firmly believe that good sci-fi should make the reader think, and Tell the Machine Goodnight nails this right on the head! A lot of sci-fi media these days tends to tout that they “comment on the role of technology in our lives,” but I’ve found that very few books/movies/etc. that are advertised as such actually hit the mark. That’s not the case with this novel–it explores some very relevant themes, and does them in creative ways. Throughout the novel, there are themes of the meaning of true happiness, relationships, and our growing reliance on technology that does everything for us. Is computer-generated,temporary happiness truly happiness? It got me thinking, and I’m sure that I’ll be thinking back to it for years from now.
All in all, a modern sci-fi novel that has the feel of a classic and is sure to become a modern classic. 4 stars!
Tell the Machine Goodnight is a standalone, but Katie Williams is also the author of Absent and The Space Between Trees.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
This week’s review was a fairly recent addition to my TBR. I found out about this series through a great post by Simone and her Books (thanks for putting it on my radar!), and I had a good feeling about it when I bought it with my birthday money the other day. I’m glad to say that I was right – my favorite out of all the books I bought that day!
Branded and trapped in a “welcome house” against their wills, the lives of the Good Luck Girls are filled with anything but good luck. Sisters Clementine and Aster have lived their lives in one such welcome house, waiting for the impossible day when they can go free. But when Clementine accidentally kills a wealthy man, she knows she’s put her life on the life. Along with her sister Aster, their friends Tansy and Mallow, and Violet, the prickly favorite of the welcome house, she risks a daring escape, meeting friend and foe alike as she flees into the wild.
TW/CW: rape, branding, sex slavery, murder, descriptions of illness, misogyny, torture, loss of loved ones/death, substance abuse
Have you ever finished a book and immediately thought something along the lines of “man, why has nobody gotten the rights to make this a TV show?” My thoughts exactly for The Good Luck Girls – its cinematic writing makes it the perfect fit for the small screen, and its effortless blending of paranormal, Western, and dystopian genres made it stand out from all the rest!
I’ve never really read or watched many Westerns or Western-inspired books, movies or TV shows (I’m counting The Mandalorian in there though), but I found myself latching onto the immersive and unique world that Charlotte Nicole Davis presents us with in The Good Luck Girls. It’s equal parts Western, paranormal fantasy, and dystopia, and all of them fit to make a fascinating world! There’s something for everybody. You want girls rising up and fighting the power? FIVE OF THEM! You want ghosts, demons, and other weird monsters? Plenty of those to go around. Magic? Lots of that too. Whatever genre you usually gravitate you, there’s something for everybody in this novel.
The feminism and themes of sisterhood also shone in this novel! We follow a diverse cast of characters (some of them are POC and there’s a wlw relationship between two of them) as they escape a life of sex slavery, encountering no shortage of horrors along the way but sticking together through it all. Especially regarding most of the scenes in the “welcome house,” there are plenty of heavy and hard-to-read topics, but Charlotte Nicole Davis handled them in a way that balanced realism and giving the slightest bit of hope. I’m always up for books with a gang of well-written women taking down the patriarchy (and in the case of this book, fighting against misogyny and rape culture in particular), and The Good Luck Girls delivered 100% in that respect.
As for the characters, I liked most of them a reasonable amount, but I didn’t get completely attached to all of them. For Violet in particular, I liked that even though she was the token “bad-natured one who refuses to get along with anybody else” character, Davis gave her just as much depth and backstory as characters like Clem and Aster. However, I do wish that Tansy and Mallow got more page time; they just seemed like footnotes in contrast to Aster, Clem, and Violet, and we didn’t get much of their backstory. The Good Luck Girls would have been more enjoyable with a multiple POV structure, in my opinion; we got inside Aster and Clem’s heads, but since there’s an ensemble cast, I would have liked to get some of the motivations and quirks of characters like Violet, Tansy, and Mallow from their perspectives.
All in all, an effortless blend of wildly different genres that results in a fiercely feminist and cinematic journey. 4 stars!
The Good Luck Girls is the first book in the Good Luck Girls series, followed by The Sisters of Reckoning. Charlotte Nicole Davis also contributed the short story All the Time in the World to A Phoenix Must First Burn, an anthology of sci-fi/fantasy stories by Black women and gender nonconforming people.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
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.
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.
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!
‘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.
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!
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.
(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!
That’s it for these three mini-reviews! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Good morning (or whatever time it is where you are), bibliophiles!
I’m back from vacation! I took a trip with my family to Glacier National Park last week, and it was STUNNING. We did some hiking, went on a few boat tours, and went canoeing, and it was such a beautiful experience. Walking through the forest fed my soul…I’m recovering from online learning crushing my soul last year, and the trees certainly helped
Anyway, I bought a few books on my Kindle for the trip, and I thought I’d share my reviews for them. It was definitely a hit-or-miss batch, but at least 2/3 of them were good.
In an all-too-plausible future where corporate conglomerates have left the world’s governments in shambles, anyone with means has left the polluted Earth for the promise of a better life on a SpaceTech owned colony among the stars.
Maité Martinez is the daughter of an Earther Latina and a powerful Aunare man, an alien race that SpaceTech sees as a threat to their dominion. When tensions turn violent, Maité finds herself trapped on Earth and forced into hiding.
For over ten years, Maité has stayed hidden, but every minute Maité stays on Earth is one closer to getting caught.
She’s lived on the streets. Gone hungry. And found a way to fight through it all. But one night, while waitressing in a greasy diner, a customer gets handsy with her. She reacts without thinking.
Covered in blood, Maité runs, but it’s not long before SpaceTech finds her…
Arrested and forced into dangerous work detail on a volcano planet, Maité waits for SpaceTech to make their move against the Aunare. She knows that if she can’t somehow find a way to stop them, there will be an interstellar war big enough to end all life in the universe.
There’s only one question: Can Maité prevent the total annihilation of humanity without getting herself killed in the process?
Off Planet wasn’t perfect, but it was a solid sci-fi! It blended elements of hard sci-fi and space opera, and for the most part, they came together somewhat seamlessly.
The plot and tension shone in this novel – Aileen Erin did a great job at making a fast-paced, high-stakes story that kept me on the edge of my seat. The worldbuilding was well fleshed-out as well. I loved all of the different planets that we saw, as well as the near-future, dystopian vision of Earth.
I didn’t get attached to any of the characters, but I’d say they were decently developed. Most of them were likable, but I did like Tyler a lot. I wish we’d seen more of him. However, even though I liked Lorne, his name threw me off a little, because a) hey, it’s more of a human name, and he’s an alien, and b) my inevitable association of that name with Lorne Malvo from Fargo, which…[shudders]
My only major problem was the dialogue – it felt a little stilted and not quite authentic, which took away some of the believability of the characters. Other than mannerisms, there wasn’t a whole lot that distinguished each character’s voice.
But overall, a solid start to an intense and well-thought-out sci-fi trilogy. 3.5 stars!
In the bloody revolution, gods were all but wiped out. Ever since, the children they left behind have been imprisoned in an orphanage, watched day and night by the ruthless Guard. Any who show signs of divine power vanish from their beds in the night, all knowledge of their existence denied.
No one has ever escaped the orphanage.
Seventeen-year-old Hero is finally free – but at a terrible price. Her sister has been captured by the Guard and is being held in a prison in the northern sea. Hero desperately wants to get her back, and to escape the murderous Guardsmen hunting her down. But not all the gods are dead, and the ones waiting for Hero in the north have their own plans for her – ones that will change the world forever . . .
As she advances further and further into the unknown, Hero will need to decide: how far is she willing to go to do what needs to be done?
TW/CW: graphic violence, discrimination, death, blood, gore
I really wanted to give this one a chance – the low average rating on Goodreads put me off a little (2.88 at present), but there didn’t seem to anything blatantly offensive in the reviews I read, so I gave it a shot.
…which was a mistake on my part. Oops.
The Orphanage of Gods had an interesting premise on the surface, but it was weighed down by a whole bunch of aspects. The worldbuilding was flimsy at best, the plot seemed to ramble without meaning, the characters didn’t have many defining traits (and there were too many of them to keep track of, making them interchangeable), and the POV switches at each of the three parts didn’t seem to have any point. If Coggan had kept the POV at Hero for the whole book, it might have made more sense, as she was unfamiliar with the world introduced. But alas…
I tried. I really tried. I wanted to give this one three stars, but it just got worse and worse as the book went on…I think the only redeeming factor was that there was a sapphic romance at the forefront, but even that was just thrown in there at the last minute. The writing had moments of being good, and I think that’s the only reason I didn’t DNF this one entirely.
All in all, a novel weighed down by poor handling of almost every aspect save for the writing. 2 stars.
The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.
The entire population inside has been quarantined and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.
Regan, silent, scaly stealth expert, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. Evelyn is a fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now they have a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.
Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…
TW/CW: violence, PTSD, loss of loved ones, fire, anxiety, torture, trauma
This is just the kind of sweet, diverse and hopeful dystopia that the world needs more of. Chameleon Moon wasn’t without its flaws, sure, but it was such a lovely novel.
First off, this is easily one of the most diverse novels I’ve read in a long time – we’ve got a polyamorous family at front and center, an asexual MC, a trans woman MC, several nonbinary characters, several Black characters, and several characters with anxiety and PTSD. So a big thank you to RoAnna Sylver for making an effort to make a novel with all that representation!
The characters were the best aspect of the novel for me – they all had such distinct personalities and quirks, and I loved all of the different superpowers they sported. Danae was easily my favorite – I loved all of her little metal creations, and she had such a spirited personality. (Kind of imagined her like Jessie Buckley, for no particular reason.) Hans was also great – he reminded me a lot of Klaus from The Umbrella Academy, if he were a bit more unhinged.
What was really special about Chameleon Moon for me, though, was that even though it was clearly a dystopia, there was a consistent message of hope. Even in the midst of unimaginable horrors, there was still love, still families caring for each other, still listening to everybody’s traumas, and still persisting no matter the odds. It’s an uncommon sight in dystopia, and in times like these, it’s just the kind of novel we need.
All in all, a queer and hopeful dystopia that sets itself apart with no shortage of representation and a powerful message. 4 stars!
That’s it for these mini-reviews! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and more importantly, happy happy pride month! 🏳️🌈 My review for today sadly isn’t queer, but you can be certain of lots of queer reviews soon. (I mean, I usually read/review queer books, but…)
Regardless, this was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021. I got a free copy from a library program, and I’m so glad that I’m able to add it to my bookshelf! And it was 100% worth it – a truly inventive dystopia that takes the typical YA formula and inverts it in every possible way.
On her way to a graduation party, Nami Miyamoto is unexpectedly murdered, sending her into the afterlife. But the afterlife she enters isn’t the kind that she expected. Here, four princedoms rule over a court of humans, now turned into mindless puppets, and ruling over them is Queen Ophelia, an Alexa-like AI who forces them into submission as revenge for her treatment in the world of the living. Nami escapes to a community of humans who have escaped the pull of Ophelia, hoping to destroy it from the inside. With Nami as their new spy, they may have a chance at freeing the deceased – but the glittering princedom may hold secrets that could tear humanity down…
TW/CW: murder, frightening situations, torture
WOW. WOW! The Infinity Courts marks Akemi Dawn Bowman’s first foray into science fiction/dystopia, and I must say, it’s a complete success!
There’s been a lot of comparisons drawn for this one, but for me, it felt like equal parts Tenet, Ex Machina, and Inception, but YA and minus all the convoluted timelines of the first. (Have I seen Tenet twice? Yes. Do I understand any of it? Nope. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely.) It’s a fascinating blend of all sorts of sci-fi tropes and subgenres – dystopian tyranny, AI, spies, and a grim afterlife in which the only choices are to become a mindless drone or to run.
On the surface level, once we reach Bowman’s afterlife in The Infinity Courts, it’s set up like a typical YA dystopia – you’ve got your reluctant Chosen One, a love triangle, rebellion, and struggling to maintain faith to the cause after one member of said love triangle pulls them to the dark side. But with every single one, it’s subverted in truly inventive ways – I won’t spoil anything, but the fate of the love triangle had me REELING. This novel boasts some of the most inventive plot twists I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s hard to see them coming.
I also loved the concept of Ophelia; the frequent trips into her mind were chilling, and I imagined her as almost a Raised by Wolves-like AI. It’s all a fascinating exploration of not only the role of AI in our lives, but what might happen if it gets smart enough to perceive itself as being mistreated. Again, Ex Machina, but having Ophelia rule over her own afterlife was such an inventive concept, and executed so well!
The lower point for me was the characters; I thought they were all okay, but I didn’t get attached to any of them. Bowman did do a great job with handling an ensemble cast, though – there were several different characters all living and playing their parts in the rebellion, but I didn’t lose track of any of them, and they all at least had somewhat distinct personalities. I liked Shura though.
All in all, a twisty and original YA dystopia with no shortage of intrigue and action. 4 stars!
The Infinity Courts is the first in a trilogy, with the untitled sequels slated for release in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Bowman is also the author of Summer Bird Blue, Starfish, and Harley in the Sky.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
Happy Sunday, bibliophiles! I hope this week has treated you all well.
The last week and a half has been [ahem] something…I had three AP exams and a final all this week, so there was quite a lot of studying, sitting for hours on end, and pen stains on the sides of my hands this week. I feel pretty good about two out of the three exams, at least (@ ap bio why must you hurt me in this way), and I got a good score on that final, so I’m just hoping that the others pay off.
I haven’t been able to read as much as I wanted to, but I had loads of fun re-reading the Six of Crows duology! The show made me want to go back and read them, and I love them even more than I did when I first read them.
And somehow I just surpassed 100 books! I’m almost halfway to my goal of 250 by the end of the year…
Other than the endless studying, I haven’t done a whole lot, but I had a bit of time to draw, and I’ve been listening to a whole lot of R.E.M., and as of Friday, the new St. Vincent album. (To both: GAAAAAAAAH AMAZING)
I’m (almost) back! Today marked my last AP exam of the year (had four exams this week…hhhgh…), so now that I have most of the big tests out of the way, I can start getting back on a more frequent blogging schedule. Of course, I’m not *quite* done with the school year just yet, but the only finals I have left are for my easy classes, so I don’t think there’s anything terribly strenuous on the immediate horizon. 🙂
But I wanted to make this post because here in the U.S., the month of May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month! So for the occasion, I decided to compile some of my favorite #OwnVoices AAPI YA novels of all genres. As always, it’s essential to diversify your reading pool 365 days a year, but especially with the tragic hate crimes and harmful stigmas surrounding AAPI people in the U.S. and elsewhere, it’s especially important to uplift AAPI voices.
It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but I’ll never forget the impact it had on me. Raw, unapologetic, and resonant, Ngan builds such a rich world, unforgettable characters, and a plot that kept me at the edge of my seat. The sequel was a disappointment, unfortunately, but I think I’ll stick it out for book 3.
After reading two of her books and a short story, I can now say that Samira Ahmed might just be a new favorite author of mine! She never misses, and her debut is no exception; a raw and beautiful tale of love, family, and fighting back against bigotry.
GENRES: Historical fiction, fantasy, retellings (Romeo and Juliet), romance
MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
I tried (and failed) to set my expectations at a reasonable level after all the hype this one got, but I must say, this one is worth a good portion of it! A fresh and original spin on Romeo and Juliet set against the background of 1920’s Shanghai, complete with warring gangs and strange monsters.
Marie Lu’s one of my favorite authors, and it was hard to pick just one of her books for this post, but I ended up on this one because a) it was my first exposure to her AMAZING writing and b) I don’t talk about it an awful lot, so why not give it some more love?
Besides that gorgeous cover, there’s something for everybody here: futuristic Tokyo, a clever and lovable heroine, mysteries within competitive video games, and secret plots.
GAAAH, this one’s beautiful! This one’s an autobiography in the form of a graphic novel, centering around the author’s experience as a Korean immigrant to the U.S. and the transformative power of art and comics.
Amid the bountiful Cinderella retellings out there, this one truly stands out, with lush writing reminiscent of the narration of Pan’s Labyrinth and classic fairytales, and a warm and resonant sapphic romance. Highly recommended if you’re looking for a retelling worth reading!
If you’re a fan of Six of Crows, I AM ONCE AGAIN ASKING YOU TO DROP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING AND READ THIS BOOK. Lovable and authentic characters, a complex world and system of magic, heists for famed artifacts, and political intrigue – this one has it all.
I know I never stop blabbing about this one, but this is a prime example of genre-bending done right: a stunning blend of fantasy and murder mystery! I’m so surprised that more people haven’t read this one, I highly recommend it if you haven’t. (And I can’t wait for The Ones We’re Meant to Find! It looks amazing, but I can’t find it at my library…[impatient screeching])
This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2020, and I’m so glad to say that it delivered! A diverse, sapphic enemies-to-lovers romance with important discussions about cultural appropriation, the immigrant experience, and sexuality.
TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by AAPI authors?
That’s it for this post! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
I’ve always preferred sci-fi to fantasy, but all of the series in the Grishaverse (Shadow and Bone trilogy, Six of Crows duology, Nikolai duology) have consistently been some of my favorite YA fantasy novels. Packed with lush prose and complex worldbuilding that can’t be matched by much else, it truly stood out amongst the vast field of YA fantasy.
So naturally I was excited, but more than a little nervous that Netflix was developing a show based off of Shadow and Bone and Six of Crows. I haven’t enjoyed much of Netflix’s original shows other than Stranger Things and The Umbrella Academy, and I hadn’t heard of any of the actors. But the more they revealed, the more excited I got. And now that I’ve watched it, I think it restored some of my faith in Netflix. Shadow and Bone is, for the most part, every bookworm’s dream: an adaptation where the love for the source material shines through in every line and episode.
So let’s get into it, shall we? Bc I’ve got some THOUGHTS
But be warned! This review contains some spoilers for both the show and the books, so tread lightly!
The casting: As I said earlier, I hadn’t heard of any of the actors in the show prior to watching this. (Not even Ben Barnes…apparently he was in one of the Narnia movies? I wouldn’t know, I think the only one of the movies that I watched was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…) (EDIT: no wait apparently Baghra was also Madam Hooch??? I knew I recognized her from somewhere) But the vast majority of them were INCREDIBLE. Not only did quite a few of them stay true to the characters, but they felt like the perfect actors for these characters. Some of my favorites in particular were Freddy Carter as Kaz Brekker, Jessie Mei Li as Alina Starkov, Amita Suman as Inej Ghafa, Daisy Head as Genya Safin, and Kit Young as Jesper Fahey. (Also, David was precious. I forgot how wonderful he was. And HELNIK. HELNIIIIIK.)
And on that subject…
Mal is actually likable now? I just found him…so bland in the books, and Archie Renaux’s portrayal seemed to flesh him out a little more. Still not my favorite, but I get more classic hopelessly-romantic-idiot vibes from him now. What a guy.
Faithfulness to the source material: I didn’t take the time to re-read everything before binging all this, but even then, there were so many iconic lines that made their way into the show that I noticed. The show’s character’s were so wonderfully true to the novel’s, and all the details about the world made the show radiate such love and respect for the original Grishaverse novels. I mean, part of that’s definitely because Leigh Bardugo had a fairly prominent role in the show, but still.
Sets and costumes: EVERYTHING LOOKED SO. SO. BEAUTIFUL. The decor and keftas (can we talk about THE DETAILS IN THE KEFTAS???) in the Little Palace were especially gorgeous, and I loved all the landscapes that we got to see, especially in Ravka. Ketterdam was definitely a favorite of mine as well.
CGI: For the most part, the special effects were great! The Fold must have been such a pain to animate, but it was 100% worth it: just as terrifying as I imagined it! (And, by extension, the volcra. Guuuuuuh.) All of the Grisha magic looked amazing too.
Diversity: One thing I will say in Netflix’s favor: a lot of their original shows do a good job of having a variety of characters of different races, sexualities, and gender identities, and this one was no exception! Most of the characters who were POC/LGBTQ+ in the books were rightfully so here, and the decision to make Alina mixed-race and Mal POC was great! Say what you want about Chosen Ones, but isn’t it pretty cool that we have a mixed-race Asian character as our chosen one here? I think so.
Milo the goat: self-explanatory.
The Leigh Bardugo cameo: tears. TEARS.
But, of course, the show wasn’t *entirely* without its flaws, which I’ve been itching to discuss…
The Darkling: okay, unpopular opinion time. Ben Barnes’ acting was fine, yeah, but he just…was not a good fit for the Darkling. His voice is great and he’s clearly a talented actor, but he was barely menacing. He just looked like a pretentious hipster in a big furry cape. I guess that made him easier to hate (because, y’know, the Darkling is a nasty manipulator), but…nah. I loved him as the villain in the original novels, so that was a major letdown.
And on that subject:
WHY, WHY WHY DID THEY BRING IN THE ALEKSANDR REVEAL IN SO EARLY? I’M STILL SO MAD ABOUT THIS. UGH. We got the information that he’s Baghra’s son/the Black Heretic/all that jazz in book 1, but we didn’t get his name until the end of Ruin and Rising, and it was an appropriate bombshell of a reveal. I suppose they wanted to “humanize” him and all (please S T O P ), but if you already have the Black Heretic/Baghra reveals at the ready, then what’s the point? To whoever’s idea this was, I just wanna talk…
Nina not being plus-sized: for the most part, like I said, the show stayed pretty close to the characters, but not Nina? COME ON. Danielle Galligan was fine, but there’s plenty of plus-sized actors they could’ve chosen for the part. It just doesn’t sit right with me that they erased that part of her character. Ugh.
The new Six of Crows subplot felt a little rushed: okay, I’ll admit that it was probably hard to incorporate SoC into the Shadow and Bone timeline when the original books happened after all this. But even though I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Kaz, Inej, Jesper, and the rest of Ketterdam, their new subplot just felt…flimsy. Shoehorned in. I did like the bit with the Conductor, but it just didn’t have the care and weight put into it that the other parts of the show did.
All in all though, this made my stupid little Grisha bookworm heart so happy. This is the kind of love that should be put into every novel to TV/film adaptation: respect for the source material, but adding in some fresh twists, but not enough to make it unrecognizable. I was a little scared for this one, admittedly, but I’m so glad that none of my fears came to pass.
Except for the Darkling, of course.
MY RATING: ★★★★☆
TW/CW: racism, sexism, graphic violence, blood, body horror, animal death
That’s it for this TV review! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!
A bit of good news before I begin; for one, I got the SAT over with today! I actually feel fairly confident on the math portion, for once. And this afternoon, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! I’ll be getting dose 2 in a few weeks, and I’m so relieved.
Anyway, this book has been on my radar for a while, what with it generating mountains of hype before and after its November 2020 release. It finally came to the library recently, and I’m so glad I got to read it! Not 100% worth the hype, but a truly inventive retelling.
Shanghai, 1926. A war between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers is brewing, and a gruesome illness and rumors of monsters run amok in the city. Caught in the middle are Juliette Cai, heiress of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, her ex-lover and sworn enemy. As members of both gangs fall ill to the gory malady, they must set aside their pasts and work together before they fall prey to it.
TW/CW: graphic violence, body horror, abuse, gruesome descriptions of illness, substance abuse, blood
The hype made my expectations for this one pretty high, but I’m glad to say that These Violent Delights lived up to a good portion of it! Not a perfect novel, but one I enjoyed a whole lot.
First off, can we give a round of applause to Chloe Gong for putting such an inventive twist on Romeo & Juliet? I LOVED the setting, first off; it’s both a time period and a place that don’t usually turn up in YA, and the descriptions made me feel as through I was walking in Juliette’s footsteps. The discussions of racism and colonialism gave another layer of darkness to the setting as well, which made it feel a lot more authentic, especially when we saw it through Juliette’s eyes. The gang rivalry set the perfect scene for an R&J retelling, and a lot of the related scenes gave me some slight Fargo (Year 4) vibes, which is always a resounding YES in my book. And to top all that wondrousness off, supernatural vibes! The fantasy element of the plague and the monster in the river were woven in seamlessly with the historical setting, making for a world that felt lush and wonderfully fleshed-out.
As for the characters, Juliette was probably my favorite; she had a refreshing amount of agency, and she was full of drive and wit. I didn’t like Roma quite as much, but his backstory seamlessly fed into his character and made him feel more authentic. And I LOVE LOVE LOVED Benedikt and Marshall! They had such lovely chemistry, and Benedikt especially (my favorite behind Juliette) had such distinct qualities that truly set them apart in this story. It was also loads of fun to make connections back to Shakespeare’s original work, although…I had one problem: Tyler. I get it that he was supposed to be the Tybalt-surrogate, but…Tyler doesn’t seem like a 1920’s name at all. I get it that most of the Chinese characters in the novel had Westernized names, and I get that Tyler and Tybalt are very similar, but when I think of the name “Tyler,” I think more of 1990’s-2010’s, not 1920’s. I looked it up, and it seems like it was a fairly uncommon name at the time, but I could suspend my disbelief a little bit.
My other problem with the novel was with a certain aspect of the writing. For the most part, it was stellar; like I said, lush descriptions, gripping action, amazing prose. Thing is, there were a lot of metaphors that got stretched out far beyond their use. If some of the metaphors remained at one sentence, it would’ve been fine. However, some of them got dragged out to…entire paragraphs, which…mmm, nope, not my cup of tea. [gets out a pair of gardening shears to trim the purple prose down] Lots of drama in the writing department, but it fit with the story, for the most part. It was a lot to handle sometimes, but given…well, everything about the plot, I can see the point of most of it.
All in all, a high-stakes, high-drama retelling of Romeo and Juliet full of action and authenticity. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!
These Violent Delights is Chloe Gong’s debut novel, and is the first novel in the These Violent Delights duology. Its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is slated for release in November 2021.
That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!