Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/24/22) – The Last Cuentista

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve had The Last Cuentista on my TBR for a fair amount of time, but I’d forgotten about it until I saw a copy at my college’s library, so I ended up picking it up. I remembered almost nothing about the synopsis or why I wanted to pick it up in the first place, but what I found was a beautiful tale of the power of storytelling.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Last Cuentista – Donna Barba Higuera

Petra Peña loves nothing more than listening to the stories of her abuelita, and dreams of someday being a storyteller like her. But when Earth is put in danger by a comet, she must abandon her abuelita and travel with her parents and younger brother to planet Sagan, where humanity can start over. But on the centuries-long journey, the ship is infiltrated by the Collective, a shady organization who aims to erase the crimes of humanity’s past by wiping the memories of all the passengers. When Petra wakes up, she realizes that she is the only one who remembers Earth—and the only one who can save what remains of the human species from forgetting itself altogether.

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, descriptions of injury, fear, descriptions of sleep paralysis

Good middle-grade sci-fi is hard to come by, but The Last Cuentista was nothing short of wonderful. With a story as beautiful as its cover, it’s a shining testament to the power of storytelling and a poignant reminder to never forget where you came from.

I know I opened with specifically saying that The Last Cuentista is middle-grade, but I’d say it toes the line right between middle grade and YA. Petra is 13 years old, and there’s certainly some more middle-grade aspects to how the themes are dealt with and some of the character interactions, but it borders on hardcore, nail-biting sci-fi in other places. Think of every piece of sci-fi media that deals with cryosleep for several centuries, and think of all of the potential, existential obstacles that come along with it: chances are, they do end up appearing in this book. It’s a weird place to navigate reading-wise when you’re that age (I certainly remember wishing that there was an in-between place for middle grade and YA), but The Last Cuentista retains a middle-grade sensibility without downplaying the integrity of its themes and world simply because it’s aimed at a younger audience.

One of the strongest aspects of The Last Cuentista was Donna Barba Higuera’s fantastic writing. She especially excels at sensory details; in a particularly nail-biting scene when Petra is still awake while her pod is preparing for cryosleep (AAAAAAAAAAAAAA), Higuera filled her prose with all kinds of sensory details that really sold the crushing fear of the moment. Her descriptions of the bizarre flora and fauna of Sagan are just as lush, painting a picture of an alien planet just as well as Petra’s abuelita paints stories. Higuera’s ability to create suspense and her ability to spin beautiful prose went hand in hand, making for a novel that had me invested the whole time.

The Last Cuentista also had some beautiful themes; Petra’s quest to keep the history of humanity alive through storytelling serves to remind us that we should never forget who we are, despite having a history wracked with war and darkness. The Collective was a perfect, sinister dystopia to set this theme against, and they also added to the suspense that Higuera consistently built throughout the novel. Petra’s journey to return humanity to its roots was poignantly written and so wonderfully timely, and I have no doubt that The Last Cuentista will be a book that stands the test of time. In the end, we are all united by the stories that bind us together. Never underestimate the power of a storyteller.

My only gripe with this novel were some of the characters. Other than Petra and her family, most of the side characters felt interchangeable. A few of them had a few base traits to go off of, but other than that, I often found myself getting them mixed up. The switch from the Greek letter/number designations to nicknames didn’t necessarily help, although it was clearly important thematically. I wish we’d gotten as much development out of at least some of them as we got with Petra and maybe Voxy—the story was powerful by itself, but it would have been more so if some of the other characters were more fleshed out.

All in all, a beautiful piece of sci-fi that reminds us that stories have the power to do anything—change us, teach us, and above all, unite us. 4 stars!

The Last Cuentista is a standalone, but Donna Barba Higuera is also the author of Lupe Wong Won’t Dance, as well as the picture books El Cucuy is Scared, Too! and the upcoming The Yellow Handkerchief.

Today’s song:

shuffle decided to hit me right in the 6th grade feels today, I see

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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Book Review Tuesday (1/3/23) – Across a Field of Starlight

Happy first Tuesday of the year, bibliophiles!

My first review of the year also happens to be the first book that I finished this year! I hadn’t heard anything about it before I came upon it while browsing the YA graphic novel section of Barnes & Noble. I’m always all in for queer sci-fi, and that, combined with the art style, was enough to convince me to buy it. I’m so glad to say that it was a wonderful graphic novel, full of heart, bright colors, and queerness aplenty.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Across a Field of Starlight – Blue Delliquanti

Lu and Fassen have been friends since childhood, after a chance meeting when Fassen’s spaceship crashed onto Lu’s peaceful planet. Though they came from entirely different backgrounds, they kept in contact even as Fassen was forced back into their duty as a soldier. But when the tyrannical Ever-Blossoming Empire begins a siege on Fassen’s resistance front and endangers Lu’s planet, the two are reunited. Together for the first time in years, they must set aside their differences to escape the Empire’s clutches—and discover truths about each other.

TW/CW: sci-fi violence, depictions of injuries/blood, war themes, vehicle crash, loss of loved ones (off-page)

Across a Field of Starlight was the perfect book to start my year off with! With its beautiful art, tender story, and unapologetic queerness all the way through, this is a graphic novel that you won’t want to miss.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how wonderfully diverse Across a Field of Starlight is. I don’t think I’ve read anything—graphic novel or otherwise—quite this diverse in such a long time! Both of the protagonists are nonbinary and POC, Lu is plus-sized, and there is an array of POC and trans characters all throughout the story. I especially loved that Delliquanti didn’t shy away from giving their cast of characters a variety of different body types, and it made their world and story all the more rich.

Delliquanti’s art style made Across a Field of Starlight shine as well. Although the book gets into some dark themes—war, colonization, etc.—the colors are vibrant all the way through, giving it a very fantastical feel. It especially suited Lu’s more peaceful, utopian planet and its welcoming nature, as well as Lu’s caring personality. Delliquanti’s depiction of outer space has a beautiful vibrance to it, making for an incredibly inviting story.

art by Blue Delliquanti
art by Blue Delliquanti

The perspectives that Delliquanti chose gave the story a more compelling angle as well. Instead of most sci-fi/fantasy war stories, Across a Field of Starlight focuses on the Firebreak resistance front and a party completely outside the main conflict; most media (Star Wars comes to mind) focuses just on the tyrannical empire and the rebellion, but I liked that they largely left the Ever-Blossoming Empire as more of a looming threat. It also made the point that even though Firebreak was fighting to free the galaxy of colonization, they weren’t all pure and good either, and although the aim was good, the motives for some of the authority figures may have been less so. Never meet your heroes, kids.

That being said, I would’ve liked more context for the intergalactic conflict that this novel sets up. I did like that we were thrown right into the action, but I would’ve liked more historical context on how the Ever-Blossoming Empire and the Firebreak came to be, how long they’ve been at war, and the consequences for the rest of the galaxy. Across a Field of Starlight is great on its own, but with a world as expansive as the one Delliquanti has created, it’s begging for a few sequels or spin-offs, or at least some more background.

All in all, a highly enjoyable graphic novel filled with heart, diversity, and vibrant color. 4 stars!

Across a Field of Starlight is a standalone, but Blue Delliquanti is also the author of the comic series O Human Star, which currently has three volumes, and has contributed to several other comic collections.

Today’s song:

good mindset for this year, I think

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (12/27/22) – Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I only found out that Gleanings existed about a month ago, so naturally, it landed right on my Christmas list. More stories from one of the most creative and chilling YA dystopian worlds? SIGN ME UP. I got a copy for Christmas and immediately started reading, and while there were a few missteps, Gleanings was just the thing that I needed to get out of my reading slump.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Gleanings: Stories from the Arc of a Scythe – Neal Shusterman et. al. (anthology)

(summary from Goodreads):

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman—along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman—returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

TW/CW: death (central theme), descriptions of injury, suicide, past descriptions of mass death, attempted killing of an animal

What better book to get me out of my reading slump than a collection of short stories set in one of my favorite dystopian worlds? I’m so glad that Neal Shusterman made the decision to delve even further into the fantastic, multilayered world of the Arc of a Scythe, and even though the anthology had a few weak points, overall, it was a highly enjoyable glimpse into the unexplored corners of a trilogy I adore.

(For this review, I’ll be doing a mini-review for each short story.)

“The First Swing” – Joelle Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Having a poem as the first installment in the collection was an interesting decision, but I would’ve liked it more if the poem…had something more to it. It was…alright? There didn’t seem to be a whole lot to it, but it was at least an interesting direction to go with.

“Formidable” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was the first fantastic story in this collection—I loved seeing the early days of Scythe Curie before she became a fully-ordained Scythe, and I loved how Shusterman made her determined, fiery personality come off on every page. Reading stories like this make me wish that it wouldn’t take six coats of bleach to dye my darker hair silver.

“Never Work with Animals” – Neal Shusterman and Michael Payne – ⭐️⭐️

The weakest point in the whole anthology, without a doubt. It seriously baffled me that Shusterman had any part in this story—it was hokey, the writing was clunky as all get-out, and the story itself seemed to have no point. It was honestly just ridiculous, and I really don’t think it had any place in the anthology. Just…why? Why does it exist? However, I’d say this is just a fluke in a sea of mostly amazing stories, so the others successfully overshadow it. But still. Why.

“A Death of Many Colors” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Not the best out of the collection, but I liked the stance that it took. I loved the framing of the mythos of Scythes against the backdrop of a futuristic misunderstanding of a Halloween party, as though Scythes had faded into the same category as any other Halloween monster many years in the future. Given how prominent the Scythes were in the original trilogy, it didn’t even cross my mind that there were some people that would think that Scythes were fake, so that was also an interesting angle to work from—especially from the perspective of teenagers trying to scare each other at a Halloween party.

“Unsavory Row” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Again, not my favorite, but it was at least an interesting perspective to go with. Cheesy futuristic gang names aside (it’s the kind of cheese you kind of have to get used to with a Neal Shusterman dystopia—he sort of pulls it off), it gave us a glimpse into the criminal underworld of the Unsavories. Kila was the perfect example of an audience surrogate, and she worked excellently for the role.

“A Martian Minute” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

WOW. Without question, one of my absolute favorites of this collection! I’m already keen for a good villain origin story, but Shusterman executed the mind of a teenage Scythe Goddard so wonderfully. From the descriptions of Mars to young Goddard’s inner turmoils and how they translated to the very beginnings of megalomania, every part of this story shone. Also, I loved the foreshadowing with Xenocrates’ robes and The Pool Scene…yeeeeeeeeesh…

“The Mortal Canvas” – Neal Shusterman and David Yoon – ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

What’s great about this anthology is that a lot of its stories use this world to talk about art, which, given the other themes of the books thus far, was an unexpected surprise. Although the writing in this story wasn’t quite as strong, I love the statements that it made about the connection between emotions and art, especially the rise of AI art. AI art may be a crowd-pleaser, but true art comes from stirring up complex emotions in the viewer—emotions that a human artist imbued into the canvas.

“Cirri” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

An unexpectedly emotional story about the Thunderhead’s AI “children” shepherding pockets of the human race out into the universe in search of new worlds. It makes a beautiful statement about humankind as a whole, and through the eyes of a conflicted Cirrus, emphasizes that despite our faults, we are worth saving, and that all hope isn’t lost.

“Anastasia’s Shadow” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A fascinating look at the fate of Citra’s younger brother Ben, his failed training to be a Scythe, and the fraught romance he fosters during that time. It was interesting to see how Citra’s transition to Scythedom—and the trauma that it wrought—shaped Ben, and how it influenced his training and who he became now that he’s reached his sister’s age when she became a Scythe.

“The Persistence of Memory” – Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Shusterman, and Sofía Lapuente – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another favorite in this collection, and another wonderful statement about art and spectacle. There were so many elements that made this story as charming as it was, but I especially loved the concept of Penélope, our resident goth, being so obsessed with death that she hangs around a Scythe, who becomes her surrogate uncle. There’s so much tenderness and wit in this story, and it all culminated in a theme that, now that I think about it, is very similar to the theme of Jordan Peele’s “Nope”—the lengths that we will go to achieve a spectacle. Without spoiling anything, they also resolve themselves in…shall we say, very similar ways.

“Meet Cute and Die” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This story easily could’ve fallen into the same fate as “Never Work with Animals,” but the dry gallows humor of this story made it so much more memorable and funny. As shrouded in death as this whole universe is, this story takes a lighter approach to it and makes an unexpected romance out of the absurdity of life itself.

“Perchance to Glean” – Neal Shusterman and Michelle Knowlden – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another story that explores uncharted territory—the Antarctic settlement of Ross Shelf, and the system of collective dreaming that the citizens undergo. Not only was the worldbuilding fascinating, I loved the main twist of the dreams. Again, without spoiling anything, we see just how scarily powerful the Scythes are, if that wasn’t already obvious.

“A Dark Curtain Rises” – Neal Shusterman – ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This works well as the last story of the collection—eerie and more than a little twisted, but still hopeful in its culmination. Combined with “Cirri,” this just makes me want to know more about this world post-Arc of a Scythe. (Mr. Shusterman PLEASE tell me you have some more plans for this universe PLEASE)

Averaged out, my ratings came out to just around 4 stars! A must-read for fans of the Arc of a Scythe, and a wonderful addition of vignettes in Neal Shusterman’s cleverly crafted, dystopian world.

Gleanings is technically #3.5 in the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, as it contains spoilers for the original trilogy. It is preceded by Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll. Shusterman is also the author of the UnWind dystology (UnWind, UnWholly, UnSoulled, and UnDivided), the Skinjacker trilogy (Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound), and many other books for middle grade and YA readers.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/17/22) – Gallant

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve only started reading V.E. Schwab’s books since last year, when I read the Shades of Magic trilogy and loved it (for the most part). Since then, I’ve had most of her other books on my TBR, including this one. It unexpectedly came on hold at the library recently (originally I was probably at…#43 on the waitlist or something💀), and so I jumped at the chance to read it. What I got was a lush and atmospheric fairytale and an ultimately satisfying read!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Gallant – V.E. Schwab

Olivia Prior knows little about her past. All the clues she has are in her dead mother’s journal, which seems to chronicle her descent into indescribable madness. After graduating from the Merilance School for Girls, Olivia has nowhere to go, until she is invited by letter to Gallant, the Prior family home. She is met with hostility by her estranged, distant relatives, but soon discovers a dark secret: every place in the world has its shadow, but the shadow at Gallant may be larger and more unpredictable than any of the Prior family could have expected.

TW/CW: animal death, ableist language (outdated), blood, murder, loss of loved ones, violence

Strange, dark, and atmospheric, Gallant is a lovely gem of a modern, Gothic fairytale. It’s only my third or fourth (though I remember next to nothing about This Savage Song) foray into Schwab’s writing, but it’s enough to almost put her at auto-buy/checkout status for me!

Where Gallant excels is the atmosphere surrounding it. Even though the supernatural aspect of the book isn’t explicitly shown until the last third or so, there was a consistent air of darkness that hung around it. Every description, from Olivia’s experience at the Merilance School to the mystery of the Gallant house, was filled with dark and creeping prose. It called to mind so many pieces of media that I love—I know Coraline (and Neil Gaiman in general) and Guillermo del Toro have been common comparisons, but they absolutely fit the bill. Reminded me a lot of Courtney Crumrin too.

But what created this atmosphere was all V.E. Schwab’s writing. She has such a unique way with words, and her specialty with crafting immersive settings is much of what made Gallant a success for me. Everything from Olivia’s mother’s descent into madness to the supernatural occurrences converging into Olivia and her cousins was described in such an artful, deliberate way that I could almost feel the dark atmosphere like misty fog on my skin. It’s hard to think of a writing style as unique and layered as V.E. Schwab’s.

However, I still had some complaints. From reading the Shades of Magic trilogy, I felt like the plot itself was what dragged some of the books down. The same was true for Gallant; although the setting, characters, and general premise were set up and well-executed, the plot itself felt nebulous at best, clinging to the singular plot thread of Olivia moving from the girl’s school into her mysterious family home. Everything sped up in the last third of the book or so, and the elements of that section were some of the most interesting—I wanted more!

Additionally, I would’ve liked to know when the book takes place in the first place—there wasn’t a concrete establishment of that. From bits of the worldbuilding and some of the language (particularly the outdated language that surrounded Olivia’s mutism), it was implied that it could’ve been anywhere from the 1800s to the early 1900s. Not necessarily essential, but it made some aspects confusing. (Same problem I had with Encanto—no way I would’ve known that it was set in the 50’s if I hadn’t googled it.)

All in all, a dark and immersive fairytale from an author that I’d love to read more from. 4 stars!

Gallant is a standalone, but V.E. Schwab is also the author of several other book series, including the Shades of Magic trilogy, the Villains trilogy, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/12/22) – All Systems Red

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been reading more adult sci-fi in the past few years, and this novel has been one that’s popped up on many a review from bloggers I follow, as well as recommendations from friends. It sounded clever, so I ended up buying it recently—and it was wonderfully clever!

Enjoy this week’s review!

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) – Martha Wells

In the far future, no spacefaring mission goes without a SecUnit—an android who oversees the crew and their safety. One such SecUnit is different—it’s hacked into its own governor module, and now seeks to find out more about itself. Its chosen name is Murderbot.

Murderbot cares for little other than watching entertainment vids and avoiding humanity at all costs. But soon enough, its original duty is called into play when another mission severs contact without an explanation. Will Murderbot be able to discover itself—and keep its status hidden from the rest of the crew?

TW/CW: attempted suicide, blood, sci-fi violence, death, animal attack

everybody always asks where the comic relief android is…but nobody asks how the comic relief android is 😔

For such a small package, All Systems Red delivers a sci-fi character study unlike anything I’ve read! A perfect blend of sarcastic and introspective that struck a chord with my sci-fi loving heart.

A character study is all that All Systems Red really is, and for me, that’s not a complaint. I love delving into characters and seeing what makes them tick, so I ate up most of this novel. Murderbot is an instantly likable character; their sarcastic and caustic nature made for no shortage of laugh-out-loud passages. But beyond that, it was simultaneously complex—it truly doesn’t know the depths of who it is, and its quiet quest of self-discovery and its place in the universe was a consistently poignant one. I’m in it for the rest of the series (I think?) solely because of Murderbot. And yes, the first line of this review is a joke, but it’s exactly what All Systems Red did—it took a common sci-fi trope (the comic relief robot) and switched it to their perspective.

Murderbot’s development also shone in All Systems Red! Over the course of less than 200 pages, it goes from a misanthrope that does next to nothing all day to an android who realizes that it’s the only one that can control its destiny. Murderbot’s liberation story is an unexpectedly beautiful one, and I can’t wait to see how it continues.

Like I said—I adore books that focus more on character building and character studies. That being said, I did feel like there were a few aspects that got left behind in the process of making Murderbot so fleshed out. For the most part, I liked the worldbuilding well enough; the theme of corporate neglect and the struggles of the lower-level workers was well-executed, and I got a decent amount of context for the current situation. That being said, I felt as though there were…something missing. Just a tad bit more detail to give the world a little more oomph.

In addition, I felt like the rest of the characters were afterthoughts in comparison to the expertly-developed Murderbot. They all felt interchangeable, and they all blended together; they all sort of shared Murderbot’s sense of humor, and although it fit well on Murderbot, once it stuck onto the other characters, it just grew tired. Add in the fact that there are at least 8-10 other human characters in the mix that all blend together, and it all becomes a bit of a mess. I get that they’re side characters, but don’t give them all the same personality and sense of humor and call it a day.

All in all, the start to a compelling sci-fi series, and a masterful character study of an unlikely hero. 4 stars!

All Systems Red is the first novella in the Murderbot Diaries series, which consists of Artificial Condition (book 2), Rogue Protocol (book 3), Exit Strategy (book 4), Network Effect (book 5), Fugitive Telemetry (book 6), and three more untitled novellas. Martha Wells is also the author of The Books of Raksura, the Ile-Rien series, and many other series and standalone novels.

Today’s song:

Jack White is infuriating but man he can make some g o o d 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 Books

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

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

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

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Samira Ahmed

GENRES: contemporary, historical fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

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

Iron Widow, Xiran Jay Zhao

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Squad, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

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

Slay, Brittney Morris

GENRES: contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

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

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera

GENRES: fiction, contemporary, LGBTQ+, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

Today’s song:

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

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/15/22) – Love in the Time of Global Warming

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As a bi person, I’ve been on the hunt for more bisexual representation in literature for years. Love in the Time of Global Warming popped up on a whole bunch of lists of YA books with bisexual characters, and the premise intrigued me, so I gave it a go. This one has a lot of bad reviews, but to me, it was a beautifully-written and inventive retelling of The Odyssey!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Love in the Time of Global Warming – Francesca Lia Block

Human civilization has been reduced to its barest remnants after a cataclysmic event known only as the Earth Shaker set the apocalypse in motion. After her house is raided by mysterious men, Pen sets out into the wasteland of what was once Los Angeles in search of her missing mother and brother. Along the way, she meets a cast of strange, lost characters who join her on her quest. But their path is plagued by giants and mad scientists, and they must search the ends of the Earth for what they seek.

TW/CW: sexual content, descriptions of death/murder, past descriptions of abuse/homophobia, use of a trans character’s deadname

Bonus points have been preemptively awarded for the TV on the Radio reference. To Francesca Lia Block—if you see this review, I’m just here to tell you that you have great taste.

I initially picked up this book because I’d seen it show up on loads of lists of YA books with bisexual protagonists, and now that I’ve read it, I’m so glad I did! Most of the reviews I’ve read aren’t too positive, but for the most part, I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

A lot of the complaints about Love in the Time of Global Warming were centered around Block’s writing style. I can usually get on board with more flowery, dreamlike prose, and that’s certainly how Block seems to write. I loved her lush descriptions; the hazy, mystic atmosphere of it made it feel all the more like a retelling, especially one of The Odyssey. Even though Love in the Time of Global Warming was strictly dystopia/sci-fi at its core, Block’s writing gave it a magical feel, which, for the story she was trying to tell, meshed perfectly.

As far as retellings go, Love in the Time of Global Warming was loose, but there were still enough callbacks to The Odyssey to make it feel like a retelling. Pen’s quest did have an odyssey-like feel to it, and some of the parallels (Circe, the cyclops, etc.) were clear, although the addition of Hex reading The Odyssey as they went along felt borderline ham-handed, as though to say “guys! GUYS! Guess what!!! This!!! Is a retelling!!!!1!!” However, Love in the Time of Global Warming was inventive in its brand of apocalypse, which made the setting—and the feel of the retelling itself—a lot more enjoyable. Having giants created by a mad scientist gave the book a fantastical feel without being a fantasy book, which I found to be a very creative move. With Block’s descriptive prose added to that, it made for a very creative retelling.

Another highlight for me was the fact that all of the main characters were casually LGBTQ+! It’s always great to see lots of queer representation in a story, and there is no shortage of queer and trans characters in Love in the Time of Global Warming. Plus, I loved having a brave, unique heroine like Pen be bisexual—always warms your heart to see yourself represented, isn’t it? Certainly warmed mine. Plus, I loved the little jab that they have about being told all their life that they’d be going to hell for being queer, and yet it’s them—not the homophobes—who survive the apocalypse. Call it comeuppance.

However, though most of the LGBTQ+ representation was positive and well-written, I do have a few issues with how parts of Hex, a trans man, was written. Take this as you will, since I’m cis, but there were definitely some parts that rubbed me the wrong way. After Hex comes out as trans, his deadname and old pronouns are used…frequently? Most of it’s in flashbacks, but even still, it’s generally accepted that using a trans person’s deadname and old pronouns after they’ve come out as trans is not the most considerate thing to do. I doubt there was any harm meant by it, but it was a little uncomfortable that Block wrote him this way.

All in all, though, a strange, dreamlike, and unapologetically queer retelling of The Odyssey. 4 stars!

Love in the Time of Global Warming is the first book in Francesca Lia Block’s Love in the Time of Global Warming duology, followed by The Island of Excess Love. Block is also the author of Weetzie Bat, The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold, Echo, Witch Baby, and several other books for teens and young adults.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/1/22) – Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy Women’s History Month! Can’t believe it’s March already…

I got hooked on the Goddess in the Machine duology back in 2020, and I stuck around for how creative and suspenseful Goddess in the Machine was. Devil in the Device came out last August, but I hadn’t been able to get around to finding it/reading it until last week. It was a little rocky at first, given that I didn’t remember parts of book 1, but once it got going, it was a wild and twist-filled ride!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Goddess in the Machine, so if you haven’t read book 1 and intend to do so, proceed with caution.

thought I reviewed book 1 but apparently not oops 😵‍💫

Enjoy this week’s review!

Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2) – Lora Beth Johnson

Eerensed has been plunged into chaos.

In hiding underground, Andra grapples with her new identity and the secrets that she has uncovered. The rest of her fellow colonists, still in cryosleep, are relying on her to get off of their dying planet. But the further she gets on her mission, the more Andra realizes that the situation is far more complicated than she could have ever comprehended.

Aboveground in Eerensed, Zhade grapples with ruling the people while in disguise as Maret. His power holds tempting amounts of influence, but his people are in chaos, overrun by rogue Angels and unruly magic. Can he take control of the situation—and find out what became of Andra?

TW/CW: murder, loss of loved ones, blood/gore, substance abuse (alcohol), violence, grief, mind control, mild sexual content/innuendos

wordpress please stop autocorrecting “Zhade” to “Shade” challenge

Even without remembering…oh, at least half of Goddess in the Machine, I enjoyed reading Devil in the Device quite a lot—not quite as strong as book 1, but still endlessly twisty!

Getting into a sequel without a proper re-read or recap is always rocky; that was the case with Devil in the Device, especially the fact that I completely forgot about the weird, future Eerensed dialect of English that Zhade’s POVs were written in. I have mixed feelings on that part in general, but although it read in a very cringy way, it makes sense. I could have done without “certz” and “for true” and all that, but just like those corny Star Wars alien idioms that make no sense without context, they’re a necessary evil.

But once I got my memory jogged of book 1, Devil in the Device was a great sequel! Having the characters split up usually isn’t something I go for in sequels, but since there were only Andra and Zhade to deal with, it worked a lot more smoothly. Their split POVs gave a broader insight onto different parts of the worldbuilding, and beyond that, they created a lot of tension; most of the major revelation on Andra’s end of the line, and having Zhade be completely ignorant of almost all of it created a lot of suspense and buildup.

The fast pace was also a highlight of Devil in the Device, and with the amount of curveballs that Johnson throws throughout the course of the book, it makes for a very tense and exciting read! Secrets, deception, and betrayal all ran rampant through this book, and every page invited a new revelation. There are twists aplenty, but in the case of Devil in the Device, it turned out to be a double-edged sword; most of the twists were mind-boggling and earthshattering (@ Dr. Griffin WHOA CHILL JEEZ), but almost all of them were crammed into the last quarter of the book. All of those twists one after the other bordered on overstuffing, but overall, it had the effect of appropriately amping up the tension.

One other aspect that I’ll always appreciate about the Goddess in the Machine duology is its casual diversity—Andra is mixed-race and plus-sized, and there are consistently lots of queer secondary characters. Kiv, one of the secondary characters, is also Deaf, which I loved to see as well! The fact that he’s shown in a happy relationship makes me even happier—more disabled characters in loving relationships, please! (Plus, Kiv and Lilibet are so cute I CAN’T)

All in all, a sequel that wasn’t quite as strong as its predecessor but excelled in the plot twist department. 4 stars!

Devil in the Device is the second and final book in the Goddess in the Machine duology, preceded by Goddess in the Machine.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/1/22) – Beyond the End of the World (The Other Side of the Sky, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, Happy beginning of Black History Month, and happy Lunar New Year! 🐅 My, today’s a momentous occasion…

I’ve been a fan of Amie Kaufman’s for years, and at this point, I’ll read almost anything that she writes. I discovered The Other Side of the Sky during a really tough time in my life, and reading it and immersing myself in her and Spooner’s world made the pain just that much more bearable. I preordered book 2 last year, and it came in the mail recently! Although it was a bit of a slow start, Beyond the End of the World was a jaw-dropping conclusion to a creative duology!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, The Other Side of the Sky! If you haven’t read book 1 and intend on doing so, I’d suggest that you skip this review just in case.

For my review of The Other Side of the Sky, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Beyond the End of the World: 9780062893369: Kaufman, Amie,  Spooner, Meagan: Books

Beyond the End of the World (The Other Side of the Sky, #2) – Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

my copy ft. Anakin the cat being very tired of me

Nimh and North have switched places, and only a miracle can get them back where they each belong—and solve the conflict brewing Below.

Nimh and Inshara, the cultist bent on usurping her, are stranded in Alciel, Prince North’s domain in the clouds. But when Nimh wakes up, she realizes that Inshara has contacted the Queen and convinced her that she is Nimh. Below, Prince North is on the brink of discovering a secret that may upend all that Nimh and her people stand for. With the odds stacked against them both, their only chance is to reunite, but the hidden secrets Below may mean chaos for both North and Nimh.

Sky GIF - Sky - Discover & Share GIFs

TW/CW: train crash, frightening situations, descriptions of blood, murder

Every sequel that has a recap of what happened in the previous book is already great by my standards. But in all seriousness, Beyond the End of the World was a sequel that delivered a satisfying end to a uniquely inventive duology!

My only problem with Beyond is the first 100 or so pages; it moves a little slowly for the first quarter, and even though I love Amie Kaufman’s (and I guess Meagan Spooner’s, by proxy, even though I haven’t read any of her solo books) writing, I found myself losing interested. But once the inciting incident—Nimh’s in particular—is set into motion, Beyond’s pace accelerates to the perfect speed.

I loved the prospect of North and Nimh being trapped in worlds completely alien to them, but what made it so tense and well-executed was the introduction of conflict. Once the aftermath of book 1 fades off, Kaufman and Spooner did a fantastic job of setting up obstacles for each of them to overcome. Not only that, but these obstacles had fascinating ramifications that had such a jaw-dropping impact on the last quarter of the book.

I’m not usually one for twists thrown into the last book in the series not long before it ends, but the revelation at the end of Beyond was enough to put a giddy, baffled grin on my face. DANG. Without spoiling anything, I’m still reeling from it just thinking about it. Part of what made it so great was its implications on the worldbuilding—once this domino is set in motion, it tears down everything about Nimh’s world that you thought you knew. So well done, and so well-built-up over the course of two books!

I have one slight problem with said twist. One of the aspects of this duology that I loved so much was the fact that it’s the only “magic vs. technology” book that I’ve read that actually works. The twist, however well-executed that it was, did kind of throw a wrench in the whole concept. Again, no spoilers, but the fact that this is the direction that the twist meant that the “magic vs. technology” part was almost rendered moot. I still hold that this twist was incredibly well-written, but it’s a bit of a disappointment on the themes front.

Of course, it was wonderful to be back in Kaufman and Spooner’s shiny world of goddesses and floating cities. Although I’m more partial to Nimh than North, it was great to see them both again, and it was even sweeter to see them reunite. I didn’t feel a whole lot for the side characters, but given how wonderfully written most everything else, I could let that slide. Plus, cats. I would do anything to pet the Bindle cat.

Overall, a stunning and tense conclusion to one of the most creative series that I’ve come across in the past few years. 4 stars!

Medieval | Gif Hunt | Aesthetic gif, Gif, The witcher

Beyond the End of the World is the conclusion to the Other Side of the Sky duology, preceded by The Other Side of the Sky. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have also written the Starbound trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, and This Fractured Light) and the Unearthed duology (Unearthed and Undying) together.

Today’s song:

besides being on of my favorite TV on the Radio songs, this music video just cracks me up every time

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/11/22) – The Kindred

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since I read The Sound of Stars back in 2020, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Alechia Dow’s next book. I preordered The Kindred last year knowing that I’d love it, and although I didn’t enjoy it as much as The Sound of Stars, it was a wonderfully sweet and rollicking novel.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

The Kindred – Alechia Dow

my copy ft. some more purplish sci-fi books & a cool filter

After a violent, class-based revolution ravaged the Monchuri system, the Kindred program is introduced to quell the chaos; in order to ensure equal representation within the kingdom, mind pairings between citizens from all over the system.

Felix and Joy are paired by the Kindred, but their backgrounds couldn’t be more different; Felix is the Duke of the Monchuri system, while Joy is a commoner in the poorest planet in the system. But when the rest of the royal family is assassinated and Felix is put under suspicion, they escape together—only to crash-land on Earth. With the galaxy hunting for them and targets on their backs on Earth, the two must find a way to return home and prove Felix’s innocence.

Download this awesome wallpaper - Wallpaper Cave

TW/CW: violence, racism, fatphobia/bodyshaming, murder, kidnapping

The Kindred wasn’t quite as potent as The Sound of Stars was for me, but in no way does that mean that I didn’t enjoy it. In fact, it’s solid proof that if I see Alechia Dow’s name on a book, I’ll probably read it.

Despite the trigger warnings I listed, The Kindred is fairly light-hearted; even with all of these topics discussed (all with aplomb), it still manages to be a feel-good, tender read throughout. The themes of racism and fatphobia (mostly with regards to Joy) are handled in a sensitive way that doesn’t dull their importance, but the book is consistently light-hearted and warm. It hits the perfect balance of not diminishing these themes and keeping levity within the book, and it’s the perfect book if you want sci-fi that will cheer you up!

Everything I loved about The Sound of Stars was in The Kindred in spades! Felix and Joy were such endearing characters, and their chemistry together was perfect. They had conflicting personalities on the surface level (with Felix being the more reckless one and Joy being more sensible and reserved), but as they bonded, their relationship became the textbook example of “opposites attract” done well! Plus, it’s always wonderful to have queer couples like them front and center. Joy is demisexual/asexual, and I believe Felix is pansexual or queer? (Felix’s sexuality wasn’t specified, but it’s mentioned that he’s been in romantic relationships regardless of gender so I’ll say queer for now.) Alechia Dow never fails to give us the diverse stories we need.

As far as the plot goes, I wasn’t invested in it as much as I was the characters. Most of it was a bit predictable—not much subtext, surface-level political intrigue, a neat and tidy end to the conflict, and all that. But I didn’t mind this time; the focus was supposed to be on Felix and Joy’s romance, after all. The Earth part of the story was funny most of the time; I didn’t get as many of the music references this time, unlike with The Sound of Stars (definitely not a Swiftie here haha), but the fact that there’s a black cat named Chadwick sold me. BEYOND CUTE.

My other main problem with The Kindred was the aliens themselves. It’s one of my main pet peeves in sci-fi in general: aliens that look like humans, but with a few very minor differences. Although there were some side aliens that were described as non-human, Joy and Felix and their species were just…humans with better technology? Eh…I will say though, at least they’re not white this time. In particular, Joy is plus-size and Black-coded, which was a vast improvement from the white-coded aliens that usually end up in the aforementioned trope. I’m willing to let it slide this time (sort of) because a) Alechia Dow is a great writer and b) diversity.

All in all, a romantic, diverse, and all-around feel-good sci-fi from an author that I’ll be sure to watch in the future. 4 stars!

Thor 3 Ragnarok : Le film de tous les changements pour Thor ? | melty
The Kindred summed up in a single gif

The Kindred is a standalone, but it is set in the same universe as The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow’s debut novel. You don’t have to read one to understand the other, but there are nods to The Sound of Stars throughout The Kindred. Alechia Dow is also the author of the forthcoming Sweet Stakes (expected to be released in 2023), and contributed to the anthology Out There: Into the Queer New Yonder.

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!