Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/3/21) – The Fell of Dark

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’m in between library hauls and books I bought for a short trip, so I found this one on my Kindle library. It had been on my TBR for a while, and I immediately checked it out when I saw that it was available! And overall? The Fell of Dark wasn’t perfect, but man, it was so much fun.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Fell of Dark (9781250155849): Roehrig, Caleb: Books

The Fell of Dark – Caleb Roehrig

August is fed up with his small town of Fulton Heights for more reasons than one. There’s the usual trapped feeling of it all, the urge to head somewhere else as soon as he graduates high school…but it’s also a hotspot for vampires.

All August wants to do is pass algebra and get into art school in a few years. But when a charming vampire arrives at his school with a cryptic omen, he’s thrown into a centuries-long conflict between vampires, vampire-hunters, and other supernatural forces that may cost him his life. August may now mean the difference between a peaceful world and one ruled by vampires – but will he learn how to stop this cataclysm in time?

spidergirls: what we do in the shadows (2014) dir.... : now i just want  llamas
it’s an endless cycle: I find a vampire book, and I pepper the review with What We Do in the Shadows GIFs, and so on

TW/CW: graphic violence, gore, blood, near-death situations, murder

I kind of wish I’d read this closer to Halloween, but I feel like I always say that with any kind of paranormal book that I read in any month other than October. But here we are in August, and I still had so much fun with The Fell of Dark! Not without its flaws, but such a wild ride filled with vampires and the undead.

The Fell of Dark falls on more of the humorous/campy side of paranormal books, and that’s not a complaint from me in the slightest. There’s all sorts of things for fans of the genre to love – you’ve got vampires, witches, angels, dark magic, and so much more. Add in some classic teenage angst and awkward first love, and you’ve got this book. (And plus – anything where a resurrected/vampire Rasputin shows up already has my attention. There’s never a dull moment as soon as he shows up. I blame Hellboy for this principle.) And to make things even better, it’s unapologetically queer! August, our protagonist, is gay, and we have a pansexual love interest and several lesbian side characters! There’s some casual POC rep as well (the two aforementioned lesbian side characters are Latina and Asian, respectively), which I loved as well.

As far as the characters go, they tended to be on the over-exaggerated side, but I still loved a fair amount of them. August himself wasn’t terribly likable – he tended to be a little self-centered and constantly yelling “bUT wHAt aBouT mE?” at everybody else, but part of it’s…understandable, strangely. I should probably cut him some slack, given everything that happens to him throughout the book, but he still wasn’t the most understanding or reflective person. And Jude…Jude was the classic “brooding and seductive bad boy vampire who wears all black and smokes cigarettes constantly” character, BUT IT TOTALLY WORKED. He was probably my favorite – he was just such a fun character, and plus, for once said classic brooding vampire ISN’T STRAIGHT! DOES IT GET ANY BETTER THAN THAT? A lot of the characters in The Fell of Dark seemed to poke some light fun at some vampire book cliches and characters, which I wholeheartedly enjoyed.

Most of the time, I despise love triangles with every cell of my being, and…I have mixed feelings about the one in this book. I’m glad that August didn’t end up with Jude or Gunnar, but…it’s still weird both ways? It’s awesome that we have a mlm love triangle, but…both love interests are WAY older than him (what with them both being vampires), and August just…goes with it? I get it, they both seem like they would be reasonably cute, but that’s still veeeeeeeeery weird. Weirder still, Jude and Gunnar are each other’s ex-boyfriends, which makes it…all the more complicated, so there’s that. But August doesn’t end up with either of them, which…I can live with that. So that was one of the weirder love triangles I’ve read in a book.

As for the worldbuilding/paranormal aspects, I also have mixed feelings, but I also liked most of it. Everything about Fulton Heights’ culture and procedures surrounding vampires was very well developed, as well as the politics of all the different secret societies (both of vampires and vampire hunters). However, when it came to the final battle, it felt like Roehrig bit off a little more than he could chew. All of the paranormal elements that I mentioned before came to an explosive finale, but at that point, there were a few too many elements to keep up with, and all of them seemed to resolve themselves a little too quickly. I found myself skimming that final battle a bit, but it felt like there were way too many elements all shoved into the last few chapters. It’s like when you get a Build-a-Bear and the person working there fills it with a little too much stuffing, and it looks like it’s going to break a few seams when you get it back, but it’s still nice and soft. (Okay, that was a really drawn-out metaphor, but it made a little bit of sense, right? )

All in all, a vampire novel that delivered loads of supernatural fun, but may have gone a little too far about just how much to riff off and add in. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Pin by Erin Fischer on Vampires | Bat, Gif, Transformations

The Fell of Dark is a standalone, but Caleb Roehrig is also the author of several other novels, including Death Prefers Blondes, White Rabbit, and Last Seen Leaving.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/27/21) – It’s My Life

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I figured that I should scour my TBR for books for disability pride month (and to read beyond that, of course), and I found this one that I had shelved back in 2019. The cover immediately caught my eye (AAH THE COLOR SCHEME), but I still have mixed feelings about the book itself – not ragingly bad, or anything, but not amazing either.

Enjoy this week’s review!

IT'S MY LIFE | Kirkus Reviews

It’s My Life – Stacie Ramey

Jenna has lived her whole life believing that she was born with cerebral palsy, and she’s never let it stop her from doing what she wants to do. But after discovering that her parents hid the fact that her CP was caused by an injury at birth, she’s infuriated with them – and the fact that she hasn’t been able to make her own decisions regarding the surgeries she gets. With the help of her lawyer uncle, she decides to push for medical emancipation.

All the while, Jenna’s childhood crush, Julian, has moved back into town. She reconnects with him over text with an anonymous persona, but will she have the courage to reveal her true self to him?

Buzz lightyear meme hmmmm - Caption | Meme Generator
eh what the heck, I’m putting this here bc a) adequately describes said mixed feelings and b) I can’t think of any gifs to put in

TW/CW: internalized ableism, mild violence (punching), hospitalizations, ableist slurs (challenged), descriptions of injury

WARNING: this review may contain some minor spoilers, so tread lightly!

This is…complicated. I picked this book up for disability pride month, and while I can’t speak to the representation itself (as I don’t have cerebral palsy), there were good and bad parts of this book, in terms of how disability was represented and the plot itself.

Let’s start off with the good stuff. Jenna as a character was definitely a great protagonist – she’s not perfect, but she’s incredibly determined and a very independent thinker. She’s a little messy at worst, but I really didn’t mind. She had a great personality, for the most part, and her struggle with getting medical emancipation was incredibly eye-opening.

Again, I can’t speak to how accurate the CP rep was, but for the most part, it seemed well researched. The author mentions in a note at the back of the book that she worked with kids with CP, which seems to have informed part of Jenna’s story. A good portion of it seemed to work – there was clearly a lot of research put into the different kinds of mobility aids that Jenna uses and the kinds of surgeries she went through. It also deftly defied the dreaded “cure narrative” – Jenna’s attitude towards her disability was more one of reaching for freedom than seeking to “overcome” it in anyway. It’s not often that we get this kind of story from abled authors, so I appreciated that.

However, I’m still a little miffed by how they represented Jenna’s disabled identity. At a point in the book, she reaches out to someone who went through a surgery that her parents want her to have (part of why she seeks to be medically emancipated). This person responds to Jenna later in the book via email, and explains that she leads a “differently-abled” club at her school; she explains how she prefers that term, even though most of the disabled community doesn’t. (For those of you who don’t know: it’s generally accepted that the majority of the disabled community prefers not to use the term “differently abled,” as the terminology is seen as sugarcoating or patronizing them and their experiences. Some disabled people may use the term, but when referring to the community, it’s good to just stick with “disabled.”)

Now, if this had come from a disabled author, I might have passed it by; as I said, not everybody in the disabled community dislikes the term “differently abled,” but disabled is usually the more accepted term. But since this is coming from an abled author, I’m really not sure how to feel about it; it’s generally abled people that have used started using the term (which is where the discourse comes from), so putting that on disabled people in a book – especially someone who Jenna looks to for advice – doesn’t sit right with me. Additionally, Jenna never explicitly says that she’s disabled; maybe I’m reading into it too much, but it just seems a little strange, coming from an abled writer writing a disabled character. (And on the subject of the club…did everybody in said club actually agree to call it the “differently abled club?” I find that hard to believe…)

Hmm Emoji GIF - Hmm Emoji ThinkingEmoji - Discover & Share GIFs | Emoji gif,  Thinking emoji, Emoji
this gif comes to mind…

Other than that, there were a lot of hospitalization scenes that felt a little too much like plot devices, and the scene with the rival hockey team (this is where the ableist slurs TW comes in) didn’t need to happen; all it did was give a bit of “I love my girlfriend!” points for Julian (he punches the guy who yells ableist slurs at Jenna), which created some conflict that I felt was completely unnecessary. It’s My Life certainly had a rom-com feel to some of it, so why not just keep it that way? CAN I GET SOME MORE DISABLED BOOKS THAT DON’T CENTER AROUND THE PROTAGONIST GETTING SLURS YELLED AT THEM, PLEASE?

My only other complaints were that some of the high school scenes weren’t super authentic, and I didn’t care a whole lot about the romance, but that’s the most minor of my issues. But overall, mixed feelings on this one – the themes of medical emancipation and Jenna’s character were great, but the disability representation, while I can’t speak to the CP accuracy, had some good intentions and research, but uncomfortable messages surrounding the identity itself. 3 stars.

Top 30 Mixed Feelings GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

It’s My Life is a standalone, but Stacie Ramey is also the author of The Sister Pact, The Homecoming, The Secrets We Bury, and Switching Fates.

Today’s song:

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

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Book Review Tuesday (7/20/21) – Off Balance (Aunare Chronicles, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

For the most part, I really enjoyed reading Off Planet, the first book in Aileen Erin’s Aunare Chronicles; I read it on vacation, and I loved the fast-paced action. So on a whim (and because it was pretty cheap), I bought book 2 on my Kindle and read it between library hauls.

But…

[heavy sigh]

Oh god, I can’t believe that these books are from the same series…Off Balance took everything that I didn’t like about book 1 and made it the main focus of the plot, making for a mess of a sequel that I had neither the will nor the patience to finish.

(find my mini-review of book 1, Off Planet, here!)

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Off Balance (Aunare Chronicles Book 2) eBook: Erin, Aileen:  Kindle Store

Off Balance (Aunare Chronicles, #2) – Aileen Erin

On the run from Earth and SpaceTech, Amihanna di Aetes flees to the other half of her heritage, the powerful, spacefaring Aunare. Even surrounded by the riches of her father’s estate, her life is one of constant fear – fear of Spacetech, and fear of the aliens who look at her like vermin for her half-human heritage. But as tensions within the royal family begin to rise surrounding her, she must think on her feet to make it out alive.

Gyllenaals GIF | Gfycat

TW/CW: discrimination, trauma-related nightmares, frightening situations, violence, bombing, 10+ year age gap between protagonist and love interest*

*yeah, you heard me right…see the fourth paragraph for me freaking out about that

DNF at 68%

Oh god…where do I begin with this one? It pains me to write DNF reviews these days. Really. It’s so rare for my ratings for a series to drop this much…I gave Off Planet a solid 3.5 stars, and here we have Off Balance with a measly 1…I feel pretty bad about it, but YIKES.

I really wanted to like Off Balance. I really did. But it just kept getting more and more frustrating with every page, and with around 500 pages, there came a point where I couldn’t take any more of it. It’s like everything that I didn’t care about in book 1 was emphasized, and then made 10 times worse…

First off, let me talk about the Aunare for a second. I was excited to see what their culture and physiology and such was like, but…there were hardly any differences from humans. I tried to brush off the fact that Lorne looked like an ordinary human in book 1, but, alas, here we have the “aliens that look exactly like humans but with ✨pretty eye colors✨ and they’re all ✨ridiculously attractive✨” trope. And they glow this time. Oh, joy. Furthermore, other than some of the food and the whole glowing business, all of the culture that we got was just…wild parties in ballrooms and messy stuff with the royal family? If nobody had told me that this was a space opera, I could have passed this off as a fully human cast. All those parties got mind-numbing eventually, which…maybe that was the point? I don’t even know…

And then there’s the issue of Lorne. I don’t judge love interests by whether or not I’m attracted to them, which, I’ll admit, doesn’t happen a whole lot to me in books. He already put me off a bit because of my association of his name from Lorne Malvo from Fargo (oops), but he was just all kinds of frustrating in this book. He was just such a startlingly bland character – there was nothing that distinguished him from any other YA love interest. And the whole thing with him and Amihanna…I just felt…nothing? I wasn’t invested in their relationship in any way, and all of the lines that were supposed to be tender or heartwarming just made me roll my eyes. And…IS NOBODY GONNA TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THERE’S AN 11-YEAR AGE GAP BETWEEN HIM AND AMIHANNA?

WHY IS NOBODY ADDRESSING THIS??

WHY?

Threw Up In Mouth GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

ALL KINDS OF CREEPY. AND NOBODY SEEMS TO BE BATTING AN EYE. WHY?

[waves hands around] okay, okay. Lemme cool off a minute.

The Muppets Screaming Gif - IceGif
Hellboy Stop It GIF - Hellboy StopIt RightNow - Discover & Share GIFs

Okay. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest…

Other than that, the plot just seemed to be completely absent. It was an endless cycle of Amihanna doing some training, drama with the royal family, drama with Dylan, drama with Lorne…just drama. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that this was a book from an entirely different series than the first book. I’m still so puzzled as to how we got from such an action-packed first book to…whatever this was.

In the end, I just couldn’t stand to read another page. The plot started to pick up a little, but by that point, I’d lost all will to read Off Balance. So it was a DNF for me.

All in all, a bitter, messy disappointment of a sequel that lacked in everything that made Off Planet a reasonably compelling read. Off Planet is still worth a read, but…maybe just stop at book 1. 1, sad little star.

Smh Disappointed GIF - Smh Disappointed HeadShake - Discover & Share GIFs |  Steve harrington and robin, Robin, Stranger things wallpaper

Off Balance is the second book in the Aunare Chronicles, preceded by Off Planet and succeeded by In Command (#2.5, a novella) and On Mission (#3).

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/13/21) – Gearbreakers

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

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

Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, #1) – Zoe Hana Mikuta

my copy ft. a cool filter and my guitar amp

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pin on star wars

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/6/21) – Spellhacker

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

Spellhacker by M.K. England

Spellhacker – M.K. England

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

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

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

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

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

Ok. Hear me out.

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

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

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

[ahem] anyways

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/29/21) – The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

So first off, I owe a huge thank you to Phoenix @ Books With Wings for introducing me to this book (and sharing that great interview with Maggie Tokuda Hall!), because otherwise, I’m not sure if I would’ve heard of it! And man, I am SO glad that I picked this book up last week – such a beautiful queer story full of characters with heart and tender romance.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (9781536204315):  Tokuda-Hall, Maggie: Books
G A H THIS COVER

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea – Maggie Tokuda Hall

After being plucked off the streets by a ruthless pirate captain, Flora disguises herself as a boy, Florian, to pass amongst the crew of the pirate ship Dove. Life aboard the Dove has hardened her, but when the captain strikes a deal to transport a group of Imperials to the floating islands, she meets Evelyn, who is set to be married to a man she doesn’t even know. The two bond in secret, and they soon fall in love, but when the crew captures a mermaid, the Dove invokes the wrath of the Pirate Supreme and the Sea itself. Flora and Evelyn must escape the ship – or face the curse of the unforgiving Sea.

GIF starz 03x02 tele - animated GIF on GIFER - by Bluestone

TW/CW: torture, graphic violence, racism, imperialism, alcoholism, blood, rape/sexual assault (off-page), death

Pirate fantasy is one of my favorite types of fantasy, but in the YA department, most of the ones I’ve found have been bitter disappointments. But The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was exactly the opposite – a fantasy tale that was all at once brutal and beautiful that filled my heart up with tender joy.

For me, the characters were the part that shone the most in this novel. Flora and Evelyn were both incredible protagonists – multi-layered, and with distinct personalities that riffed adorably well off each other. I loved their romance, and their bonding over books and the captured mermaid was so sweet. Besides them, Rake had to be my favorite character – I adored his POVs! It’s clear that he’d been through so much before and during the novel, but all he wanted was to make sure that Flora and Evelyn broke free of the cruel life aboard the Dove. He got his moment in the spotlight too, and I loved seeing him come into his own near the end of the novel. (He reminded me a bit of Rabbi Milligan from Fargo, too… [aggressively goes through a box of tissues])

fargo season two | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir
MY B O Y

Beyond the protagonists, I loved how complex the relationships between all of the characters; Maggie Tokuda-Hall didn’t shy away from making them more than black and white, and I felt like it was a very realistic situation for Flora, in particular, having to eke out a living on the Dove. Much of the crew (minus Rake and Alfie) were deplorable people, but for Alfie in particular, he’s their brother; even though Alfie’s a deeply flawed person, Flora still had a sense of responsibility for him.

The queer rep in The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea also made me so happy! Over the course of the book, Flora realizes that they’re genderfluid, and while I can’t speak to how accurate or inaccurate the rep is (as a cis person), it was certainly a beautiful journey of identity and a supremely well written piece of character development. It’s also implied that Evelyn is bi/pan/queer (though her label is never specified), and she loves Flora no matter how they presented. The infamous and all-powerful Pirate Supreme, though we didn’t get to see as much of them, also used they/them pronouns, which was pretty cool! I love a good casually queer fantasy story, and this novel 100% delivered.

And speaking of queerness in fantasy, I loved all of the different fairytales woven into the Witch’s part of the story; they were all fascinating in their own right, but it was amazing to see casual queer rep in all of the tales that the Witch told to Flora. The Witch as a character (Xenobia) was more of a vehicle for Flora’s development than anything, but that part of the story was still critical for Flora.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea also served as a good commentary on imperialism; although this all occurs in a fantasy world, it’s focused primarily on Japanese imperialism, which is a perspective I don’t often see in literature, period. The plotline of the Pirate Supreme and the Sea was the most well-developed of the commentaries; there’s a clear and important message of not encroaching on places that were never yours in the first place, both in the respects of neighboring countries and on nature itself. However, I do wish the world were a little more developed; the worldbuilding was good on the surface, but I wish we’d gotten a little more of the history behind the imperialism and some of the other countries.

However, I’ve seen this in a few reviews and thought it was worth noting – it didn’t quite sit right with me that Flora, who was a Black-coded character, works on a slave ship; given…well, much of world history, really, that doesn’t seem terribly thoughtful. The reviews I’ve seen mention this were from non-Black readers, and I haven’t been able to find any Black reviewer’s thoughts (on Goodreads, at least). They don’t really elaborate the concept that the Dove is a slaver ship beyond the prologue (which I just chalked up to iffy worldbuilding), to a degree where I pretty much forgot that it was a slaver ship in the first place, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

I swallowed this novel almost all at once – it was a little bit slow to start, but once it got going, man, it really got going! After about the 25% mark (I read this on my Kindle), the plot kept me hooked until the very last page. I especially loved the final showdown of the Dove, the Pirate Supreme, and the Sea – the action scenes were incredible, and though parts were hard to read (RAKE 😭😭😭), it was lovely to see the characters get their justice.

But GAAAH, for the most part, THIS BOOK MADE ME SO HAPPY. Finally, I’ve gotten my hands on a pirate fantasy that actually delivers – in anti-imperialism commentary, in queer rep and romance, and in lovable characters and action. 4.5 stars!

wholesome cat memes hearts - Google Search | Cute cat memes, Cute love  memes, Heart meme

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is the first in a series; however, no information has been released other than the fact that there will eventually be a sequel. (GIMMEEEEE) Maggie Tokuda-Hall is also the author of the forthcoming YA novel Squad (2021), as well as several picture books.

Today’s song:

AHAHAHAAAAAAAA THIS IS SO GOOD

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/22/21) – The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since reading Descendant of the Crane about two years ago and loving it, I’ve been itching to read more of Joan He’s novels. My wishing was rewarded with this book, which came out in early May of this year. (Star Wars day, I think….YES) I bought it recently at my favorite bookstore, and I’m glad to say that The Ones We’re Meant to Find is even better than her debut – complex, tense and tender!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Ones We're Meant to Find — Joan He

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

my copy ft. a cool filter and yesterday’s overcast skies

As far as everyone else knows, Celia Mizuhara – Cee for short – went missing three years ago, presumed dead. But Cee is very much alive, stranded on a distant island. She’s been eking out an existence there for three years, with only a strange android for company. But when a boy washes ashore and nearly kills her, she must question what she knows of her life before – and herself.

Meanwhile, Cee’s sister Kasey lives in a floating city, protected from the natural disasters that wrack their climate change-ravaged world. Intelligent and reclusive, she lives an isolated lifestyle, working with experts on the latest technology that could further protect their floating utopia. But Cee’s fate remains at the back of her mind, and Kasey knows that her sister is still out there.

amie kaufman – The Bookish Mutant

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, cancer, grief, violence, near-death situations (drowning, attempted murder), natural disasters

It’s been almost a week since I finished this one, and lemme tell you, I am still REELING. I think I need to go back and re-read it soon…

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is very nearly a masterpiece. It’s haunting in every sense of the word, from the natural disasters surrounding it to the conspiracy within it, and it hooked me to the last page.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is told in the dual POVs of sisters Cee and Kasey, but I enjoyed Cee’s the most; her story was the more compelling of the two, in my opinion, and I loved seeing her unravel the mystery of her marooning and of her life before. I honestly would’ve been fine if it was just her story – as much as I loved the rest of the novel, her story would’ve been a great standalone as well. I loved all of her little mannerisms and quirks, and she was such a fascinating, multi-layered character. Her tense dynamic with Hero was also so well-written – their relationship was never certain, and I loved the mercurial aspect of it. And she bounced so well off of U-me, the android, too! The friendship that they’d built over the course of three years was so weirdly touching.

Who is the best sidekick droid? (others in comments) | Fandom

And the worldbuilding? PHENOMENAL. Both Cee’s island and Kasey’s floating utopia were so complex and well-developed. There was clearly so much love and care put into every inch of this novel, and it shone through in the best way possible. I could practically feel the hum of machinery, the pouring rain, the battering ocean waves…IMMACULATE.

The mystery at the heart of The Ones We’re Meant to Find was equally compelling. I had to look back through the last few pages just so it could sink in – just when I thought it was over, He delivered another heartstopping twist that had my eyes bugging out of my skull. There are plot twists upon plot twists UPON PLOT TWISTS, and I loved it.

My only complaint is Kasey’s side of the story. I appreciated that she was more of a cold, unlikable character, but her whole side of the plot seemed rather convoluted. Remember how I said that the care put into the worldbuilding showed? There’s a bit of a catch to that, sadly; there were so many aspects that factored into the conspiracy around Cee, Kasey, and Actinium, but the sheer amount of them made me forget their significance, and when the final reveal was made, I had to flip back through just so I could remember “wait, what did that mean again? Why do we care about that?” Like I said – I need to give this one another re-read. Maybe that’ll help me absorb it all. But in the midst of all this wondrousness, this is basically my only major complaint.

Visible Confusion GIF - Visible Confusion StarWars - Discover & Share GIFs
here I go piling on all the Star Wars gifs again

All in all, a haunting and complex cli-fi with androids, sisterhood, and no shortage of thrilling twists. 4.5 stars!

𝖣𝗂𝗌𝗍𝗋𝗂𝖼𝗍 9 - 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘂𝗲 - Wattpad

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a standalone, but Joan He is also the author of Descendant of the Crane, and an untitled mystery/thriller novel slated for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

hmm, I listened to this whole album yesterday and loved it? what could have possibly tipped you off?

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/1/21) – The Infinity Courts

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.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1) – Akemi Dawn Bowman

My copy feat. a cool filter and a bit of my bookshelf

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…

it's not inception weird it's just mindless weird gifs | WiffleGif

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!

gif mine chris movie hands mine:gif scifi ai alex garland alicia vikander  movieedit mine:movie ex machina exmachinaedit ex_machina this movie is  amazing!! I want to gif the whole movie aside from

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.

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, Books

Book Review Tuesday (5/25/21) – Summer Bird Blue

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! Hope you’re all doing okay. I’m finally having a little peace after this awful school year…I still have one more day left, BUT I’M FINALLY DONE WITH PRECALC! MY SOUL IS NO LONGER BEING ACTIVELY CRUSHED!

[ahem] anyway

This book was been on my TBR since the dawn of time, added soon after I finished Bowman’s debut, Starfish. I finally got around to picking it up at the library recently, and I’m so glad I did! An immensely powerful portrait of sisterhood, grief, and music.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Summer Bird Blue (9781481487757): Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Music is everything to sisters Rumi and Lea, who write songs together based on spur-of-the-moment wordplay. But when Lea is killed in a car crash, Rumi’s life is upended completely. In a fit of grief, her mother sends her to Hawaii to live with her aunt, hoping that there, she’ll be able to process her emotions.

Instead, Rumi finds herself even more depressed than before, grappling with the absence of Lea and the waning of her creativity. But with the help of a few unexpected neighbors, Rumi begins to realize that her love of music – and the people around her – are the key to overcoming her great loss.

Tweet Roundup | The Most Wholesome Reasons I'm Not Crying, You're Crying |  Flight of the conchords, The wedding singer, Bones funny
me internally while reading this book

TW/CW: car crash, death, loss of loved one (sibling), panic attacks, near-death experiences (drowning)

GAH.

It’s been years since I read Starfish, but what I remembered most was the powerful gut feeling it stirred up in me. But reading Summer Bird Blue made me realize what a profound talent that Akemi Dawn Bowman has, and it’s proof that sometimes, books don’t just make you feel ordinary emotion. Sometimes they make you feel raw emotion right down to your core.

Fair warning: Summer Bird Blue is one of those books that you should probably be in a good and stable place mentally before reading. I probably couldn’t have read it myself at certain (recent) points in my life, so I’m glad I read it when I did. It’s heavy: it’ll make you hurt, it’ll make you feel low, but that’s exactly what grieving feels like. The best part of this novel may be how Bowman handles grief; it’s something that holds you in its jaws and won’t let go until it’s had its fill of you. Rumi’s struggles with coping with her younger sister’s death felt all too real, from the physical symptoms to the creeping self doubt about relationships with the deceased. It’s unflinching and it doesn’t hold back, but that completes the picture of not just Rumi’s grief, but the grief of so many others.

What also stood out to me was how well-executed Rumi was as a flawed character. Even though she’s lost her sister, you don’t feel 100% sympathetic for her – she’s selfish at time, has a tendency to lash out at those she loves, and is more than a bit lacking in the apologizing department. But having Rumi be a less-than-perfect person is part of what made her and her journey all the more authentic. She feels real, fleshed-out. And her representation is also great – not only is she biracial, but she’s aromantic-asexual as well! I don’t see a whole lot of asexuality represented in YA literature (though I’m steadily seeing it increasing), so it’s great to have characters like Rumi out there.

Rumi’s personal journey was nothing short of beautiful – character development at its finest. She experiments, she makes bad decisions, she tries new things, but ultimately discovers the healing power of creativity. For her, music was intrinsically tied to her sister, but creativity was, along with her newfound relationships, was what brought her out of the darkness. And I think that’s just lovely. We love our passions dearly, but we always underestimate their power to truly save us, and that’s what makes our passions our passions.

All in all, a raw and beautiful exploration of grief and healing 4 stars!

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Summer Bird Blue is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Harley in the Sky, and The Infinity Courts; the first two are standalone novels, but The Infinity Courts is a trilogy, with the last two books slated for release in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Today’s song:

woke up with this song in my head

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, Books

Book Review Tuesday (5/18/21) – Victories Greater Than Death

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Whoops…I’ve been meaning to review this for…oh, about a month? But studying for AP tests and finals just said “no you won’t :)” so here we are now

And this is also the first review I’ve written in a month, so…

Awkward Look Monkey Puppet | Know Your Meme

[ahem] now back to our scheduled program

I found out about this book via Edelweiss, and the more I heard about it, the more excited I got; Star Wars-inspired sci-fi with tons of queer characters, found family, and a gorgeous cover? SIGN ME UP. So I preordered it at the beginning of this year, and it came in the mail last month. And although it wasn’t exactly everything that I wanted it to be, it was still a lot of fun!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable, #1) – Charlie Jane Anders

My copy feat. some pretty flowers

On the surface, Tina Mains is an ordinary teenage girl, but she hides an earth-shattering secret: she’s the secret clone of a great alien general. When she comes of age, her destiny is to reunite with her old crewmates in order to defeat intergalactic evil.

No pressure.

So when her beacon finally activates, Tina and her best friend are launched into space, joined by a myriad of aliens and an enlisted squad of self-proclaimed nerds from Earth. As Tina struggles to grapple with her transformation, she realizes that it’ll take more than just inherited wisdom to save the galaxy from annihilation.

I'm new to this sub. Would this Kahoot quote be a possible usable template?  : MemeEconomy
me @ the first half of this book

TW/CW: violence, transphobia, racism, mentions of abuse (past), eugenics

The more I found out about this one, the more excited I got, because…yeah, I’ll pick up anything that’s billed as a “queer space opera.” (Hey. I’m a woman of simple tastes.) But although it wasn’t without its flaws, Victories Greater Than Death was SO much fun!

My major criticism was the pacing. Most space opera is generally pretty fast-paced, but this was…far too much so. I like for things to move along quickly, but for the first half of Victories, everything seemed to happen in mere seconds. We’re on Earth? Nope. WHAM. Weird stuff’s immediately happening. Next page? Different weird thing. WITHOUT MERCY. The pacing made my head spin a bit, but luckily, this was my only major criticism.

Otherwise? GAAAH THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! The world needs more sci-fi like this; diverse, and with a balanced tone juggling light-hearted fun and grave action. Tina’s struggle as she was thrust into a completely unfamiliar world of aliens and intergalactic politics (and not to mention her newfound legacy) was wonderfully relatable, and I had so much fun tagging along with her adventures across the galaxy. The representation was also incredible: Tina herself is bi/pan, her love interest is a Black trans woman who is also bi/pan, there’s Black, Chinese, and Indian side characters, and many of the alien crewmates have a variety of pronouns. And I’m always up for normalizing asking for people’s pronouns in introductions, and there’s lots of that.

One of the unique aspects of Victories Greater Than Death is that Anders took some pitfalls that most books handle poorly and used them to her advantage. There’s quite a lot of infodumping, but there’s a good reason for it – as Tina is making the transition from her human self to her original alien form, her brain is filling in the gaps as the information from her old life is returning to her. Normally, I absolutely despite infodumps (don’t we all, though?), but this was a genius way to make it work! There was also a huge cast – Tina, Rachel, the rest of the humans, plus all of her alien crewmates; it was tough to remember all of them for most of the book, but weirdly enough, the high body count…helped? Most of the alien characters were fairly underdeveloped, but the ones that we knew almost nothing about were killed off by the end of the book, which…morbidly enough, made things a bit less confusing. Morbid, I know, but I think there had to be at least 20 characters in all. (Same deal with season 4 of Fargo, if you think about it – super wide cast of characters, but at least 80% of them die by the end, so…)

Through it all, though, Victories Greater Than Death made me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside; even though these characters face unbeatable odds, they’re consistently there for each other. No matter their backgrounds or beliefs, they stuck together no matter what. It’s such a sweet found family story.

All in all, a YA sci-fi that was messy and a bit *toooooooo* fast at worst, but diverse, light-hearted, and colorful at best. 3.5 stars!

the next world | Guardians of the galaxy, Marvel cinematic universe, Marvel  cinematic

Victories Greater Than Death is the first in the Unstoppable trilogy, followed by two untitled (as of now) books set to come out in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Charlie Jane Anders is also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, and several other novels.

Today’s song:

no I’m not gonna shut up about this album

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