Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/9/21) – A Phoenix Must First Burn

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I don’t review short story collections/anthologies very often, but I definitely want to put in my two cents on this one, because I enjoyed it so much! A variety of historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy stories with Black protagonists from #OwnVoices Black authors! Such a lovely anthology.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic,  Resistance, and Hope (9781984835659): Caldwell, Patrice: Books

A Phoenix Must First Burn – edited by Patrice Caldwell

(summary from Goodreads)

Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

Wow, what a stellar anthology! I think there was only one single story collected within that was at/below 2 stars, and I loved getting tastes of all genres from authors familiar and unfamiliar to me alike.

I’ll break down my thoughts for each short story, because they all deserve some time in the spotlight here:

When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb – Amerie: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Wormhole GIF | Gfycat

My favorite short story out of the bunch, by a long shot. (No surprise, really, since I’m such a sucker for sci-fi…) A beautiful tale of setting aside differences and embracing the other, complete with aliens, wormholes, and tender friendships. [Magneto voice] “Perfection…”

Gilded – Elizabeth Acevedo: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ve read plenty of Acevedo’s poetry, but this was my first taste of my prose. And I must say, she is uniquely talented in both! I loved this blend of magical realism and historical fiction, and the themes of resistance against colonialism in the 16th century.

Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death, And, Subsequently, Her Best Life – Rebecca Roanhorse: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I’ve had several of Roanhorse’s novels on my TBR for years and haven’t gotten around to reading them, but this story of rebirth and revenge in the old American West has me 100% convinced to get into her work! Stellar writing and dialogue, with no shortage of charm.

The Rules of the Land – Alaya Dawn Johnson: ⭐️⭐️

This one was a low point in the collection for me. While there was clearly a lot of care put into the worldbuilding, there were just so many terms and politics thrown around without any explanation, which left me super confused throughout the whole story.

A Hagiography of Starlight – Somaiya Doud: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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Props for the fact that I’d never heard of the word “hagiography” before reading this story, and it’s so pretty…

I had about the same experience of this story as I did with Mirage; the plot wasn’t terribly compelling, but the prose was so immersive and lush. This story also had what The Rules of the Land lacked: lots of new fantasy terms, but an explanation for all of them, which was a welcome reprieve.

Melie – Justina Ireland: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Dragons! Mermaids! Sorcerers! Potions! A lovable and determined protagonist! Sweet romance! I might just have to check out Justina Ireland’s other novels, because Melie filled me with so much joy. Short story or not, this restored a bit of my faith for YA fantasy.

The Goddess Provides – L.L. McKinney: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Pin by Samm on '' The Isla of Pirates ... '' | Sea of thieves, Water  effect, The incredibles

This one was quite immersive; immediately, there’s lots of sensory description, which made me feel like I was in the story. And beyond that, who doesn’t love a good tale of pirates, royalty, revenge, and good triumphing over evil?

Hearts Turned to Ash – Dhonielle Clayton: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

An interesting and magically literal take on heartbreak, of a heart crumbling after a nasty breakup. I loved the magical realism aspect of this one, and the witchcraft woven throughout. Not my favorite of the stories, but still sweet.

Let the Right One In – Patrice Caldwell: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Lady Halloween Cosplay: Viago from What We Do in the Shadows – Schtick and  Substance

Some of the experiences of the protagonist really struck a chord with me, as someone who is/was quieter and lives through books. Plus, I’m down for a sapphic romance with vampires ANY day, trust me. SIGN ME UP.

Tender-Headed – Danny Lore: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

jean grey rp gifs | WiffleGif

I loved the concept of this one, and the writing was good throughout, but the conclusion left me wanting something more. It just felt…unresolved? Maybe a few more pages could have done this one some good.

Kiss the Sun – Ibi Zoboi: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was a weird one, but definitely in a good way. Genre-defying, full of flowery prose and a dark, strange kind of twist. The strangest story out of the bunch, and I mean that 100% as a compliment.

The Actress – Danielle Paige: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Not my favorite, but an interesting one for sure. A slow-burn, on-and-off-screen love story between two actors in a romantic teen TV drama about vampires, one of which may possess magic of her own.

The Curse of Love – Ashley Woodfolk: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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Simultaneously filled with despair and hope, The Curse of Love presents resonant themes of family and the risks we’re willing to take for love–and a family curse that dooms all of the women in the Dunn family to a fate worse than death should they fall head-over-heels in love. There are a lot of magical realism stories in this collection, and this one absolutely shines!

All the Time in the World – Charlotte Nicole Davis: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Evan Peters is racing to play Quicksilver again in X-Men: Dark Phoenix

I haven’t read anything by Charlotte Nicole Davis before, but I’m all for giving her a round of applause, because SECOND PERSON POV IS REALLY HARD TO DO. Really hard. And she did it with such aplomb, all while weaving in elements of sci-fi and discussions of racism, all in one. Such a wonderful story!

The Witch’s Skin – Karen Strong: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

All at once tender and creepy, this was a story that evoked imagery of graveyards at night and creatures lurking in dark corners. All at once a tale of fantasy and a heartstring-pulling story of heartbreak, and the lengths we go to get our vengeance.

Sequence – J. Marcelle Corrie: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Not quite as compelling as some of the other stories, but I like the discussion of the role that technology plays/may play in our lives. An interesting vision of the life of a group of teens in a time when major decisions are made via highly intelligent electronics, more so even than today.

I averaged out all of my ratings for each of the short stories, and it came out to about a 3.5, but before I did that, I put my rating as 4 stars. Normally, I don’t round up from 3.5 to 4 (I usually only do it when it’s 3.75), but the better stories in this collection make me want to keep my rating at a solid 4! Such a beautiful collection, running the gamut of genre, experience, science and magic. There’s something for everybody here, no matter what genre you tend to gravitate towards. Highly recommended!

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Patrice Caldwell is also the editor of the upcoming YA paranormal romance anthology Eternally Yours, and the upcoming novel Where Shadows Reign, scheduled for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: FORESHADOW: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading & Writing YA (Anthology)

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles! I hope you’ve all had a lovely week so far.

I changed my icon up a bit–I’m switching from glasses to contacts very soon, and I just had my eye exam yesterday. Even though I’ve only tried them on once so far, I like them a lot! (Even though the experience of getting them on was…[ahem] interesting…)

Smiletotheshadow GIF | Gfycat

Anyway, I recently received this eARC, and for the most part, I enjoyed it immensely! Not only is it a wonderful collection of YA short stories from all sorts of new, #OwnVoices authors, it also serves as a helpful writing guide.

Enjoy this eARC review!

Foreshadow: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing ...

FORESHADOW: Stories to Celebrate the Magic of Reading and Writing YA–Edited by Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma

Stories by: Tanya Aydelott, Tanvi Berwah, Gina Chen, Linda Cheng, Mayra Cuevas, Nora Elghazzawi, Desiree S. Evans, Rachel Hylton, Adriana Malachian, Sophie Meridien, Maya Prasad, Flor Salcedo, and Joanna Truman

Introduced by: Melissa Albert, Becky Albertalli, Laurie Halse Anderson, Roshani Chokshi, Gayle Forman, Heidi Heilig, Jandy Nelson, Jason Reynolds, Adam Silvera, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Sabaa Tahir, and Nicola Yoon

BLURB FROM GOODREADS:

Thirteen Short Stories from Bold New YA Voices & Writing Advice from YA Icons

Created by New York Times bestselling authors Emily X. R. Pan and Nova Ren Suma, Foreshadow is so much more than a short story collection. A trove of unforgettable fiction makes up the beating heart of this book, and the accompanying essays offer an ode to young adult literature, as well as practical advice to writers.

Featured in print for the first time, the thirteen stories anthologized here were originally released via the buzzed-about online platform Foreshadow. Ranging from contemporary romance to mind-bending fantasy, the Foreshadow stories showcase underrepresented voices and highlight the beauty and power of YA fiction. Each piece is selected and introduced by a YA luminary, among them Gayle Forman, Laurie Halse Anderson, Jason Reynolds, and Sabaa Tahir.

What makes these memorable stories tick? What sparked them? How do authors build a world or refine a voice or weave in that deliciously creepy atmosphere to bring their writing to the next level? Addressing these questions and many more are essays and discussions on craft and process by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X. R. Pan.

This unique compilation reveals and celebrates the magic of reading and writing for young adults.

⭐︎

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Workman for giving me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Overall, FORESHADOW is a lovely collection of short stories! It’s an incredible vessel to spread the word about several up-and-coming YA voices, and I look forward to see what else these authors put out. Not only that, but each story comes with an example of a technique in the writing craft that the short story exemplifies, be it imagery, mood, or plot twists. For those who seek to write YA, this is a must-read.

Since this is a short story collection, I’ll break down each of the stories and give a mini-review for each.

FLIGHT–Tanya Aydelott (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

A poignant and heartbreaking tale of growing up, and the truly special bond that exists between mothers and daughters. This story brimmed with emotion, and though the 3rd-person/present tense POV took me out of it slightly, it was still a beautiful short story.

RISK–Rachel Hylton (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Wonderfully absurd. A tale of both the powerful friendship bonds between a group of girls, and of transformation, be it emotionally, or, y’know, mysteriously turning into a lobster. As one does.

happy lobster day - Furvilla

SWEETMEATS–Linda Cheng (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25)

Without a doubt, one of my favorites of the short stories in this collection. A truly chilling twist on the tale of Hansel and Gretel, with a heady dose of the paranormal. The comparison to Guillermo del Toro was well earned, I must say!

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GLOW–Joanna Truman (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Though the writing and the POV left something to be desired, this was a solid, genre bending tale–both a sapphic romance in a small town and a trek in the middle of nowhere to end the world as we knew it.

ESCAPE–Tanvi Berwah (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Another chilling addition to this anthology! Simultaneously a story of family ties (and how easily they might be broken) and a spooky venture into the paranormal. Nothing like a family heirloom that scratches and bites anyone who tries to pry it open to snag your attention.

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PAN DULCE–Flor Salcedo (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Though it was difficult for me to connect with most of the characters, this was a powerful piece of #OwnVoices historical fiction, tying in themes of growing older and the veneer of childhood slipping away.

SOLACE–Nora Elghazzawi (⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

A beautiful, poignant, and at times poetic coming-of-age tale about finding new love and finding your place in the world. Just as lush as the plants that grow in Laila’s garden, without a doubt.

PRINCESS–Maya Prasad (⭐️⭐️⭐️)

Though it was entertaining and posed some interesting questions about the role of AI in our lives, I think this may have been my least favorite story in the collection. The pacing jumped around far too much for my liking, but the world-building made for a pretty setting.

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FOOLS–Gina Chen (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25)

A lush fairytale of a short story. There were touches of everything from ancient mythology, modern fantasy, and even an X-Men sort of vibe that made it a truly unique tale, filled with themes of family and beautiful imagery.

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MONSTERS–Adriana Marachlian (⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️)

With this short story, Marachlian weaves a beautiful metaphor for the feeling of being an outsider. All at once an #OwnVoices story of the struggles of immigration and the desire to fit in and a poignant, paranormal tale.

BREAK–Sophie Meridien (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Absolutely adorable! A mix of a diverse, classic rom-com and a bit of magical realism–and a dash of baking on the side.

RESILIENT–Mayra Cuevas (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

Bleak and desolate, but, as the title implies, a heartbreaking tale of resilience and sisterhood. Cuevas’ writing did a wonderful job of making the situation seem exactly as gloomy and hopeless as it was meant to be. A downer, to be sure, but well-written all the same.

BELLY–Desiree S. Evans (⭐️⭐️⭐️.5)

A striking, #OwnVoices tale that tackles a myriad of tough subject, from sexual harassment to the loss of family, and the resulting traumas that come along with it. I loved the slight magical realism aspect, especially with Jaima’s connection to the river.

All in all, there wasn’t a bad story in this collection! With that and the writing/editing advice added in, I’d give it a solid 4 stars.

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Release date: October 20, 2020

Today’s song:

I listened to At the Party with my Brown Friends the other day, and for the most part, it was a great album!

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