Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/13/21) – These Violent Delights

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

A bit of good news before I begin; for one, I got the SAT over with today! I actually feel fairly confident on the math portion, for once. And this afternoon, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! I’ll be getting dose 2 in a few weeks, and I’m so relieved.

Anyway, this book has been on my radar for a while, what with it generating mountains of hype before and after its November 2020 release. It finally came to the library recently, and I’m so glad I got to read it! Not 100% worth the hype, but a truly inventive retelling.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1) – Chloe Gong

My library copy ft. a cool filter and one of my bookshelves

Shanghai, 1926. A war between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers is brewing, and a gruesome illness and rumors of monsters run amok in the city. Caught in the middle are Juliette Cai, heiress of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, her ex-lover and sworn enemy. As members of both gangs fall ill to the gory malady, they must set aside their pasts and work together before they fall prey to it.

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TW/CW: graphic violence, body horror, abuse, gruesome descriptions of illness, substance abuse, blood

The hype made my expectations for this one pretty high, but I’m glad to say that These Violent Delights lived up to a good portion of it! Not a perfect novel, but one I enjoyed a whole lot.

First off, can we give a round of applause to Chloe Gong for putting such an inventive twist on Romeo & Juliet? I LOVED the setting, first off; it’s both a time period and a place that don’t usually turn up in YA, and the descriptions made me feel as through I was walking in Juliette’s footsteps. The discussions of racism and colonialism gave another layer of darkness to the setting as well, which made it feel a lot more authentic, especially when we saw it through Juliette’s eyes. The gang rivalry set the perfect scene for an R&J retelling, and a lot of the related scenes gave me some slight Fargo (Year 4) vibes, which is always a resounding YES in my book. And to top all that wondrousness off, supernatural vibes! The fantasy element of the plague and the monster in the river were woven in seamlessly with the historical setting, making for a world that felt lush and wonderfully fleshed-out.

As for the characters, Juliette was probably my favorite; she had a refreshing amount of agency, and she was full of drive and wit. I didn’t like Roma quite as much, but his backstory seamlessly fed into his character and made him feel more authentic. And I LOVE LOVE LOVED Benedikt and Marshall! They had such lovely chemistry, and Benedikt especially (my favorite behind Juliette) had such distinct qualities that truly set them apart in this story. It was also loads of fun to make connections back to Shakespeare’s original work, although…I had one problem: Tyler. I get it that he was supposed to be the Tybalt-surrogate, but…Tyler doesn’t seem like a 1920’s name at all. I get it that most of the Chinese characters in the novel had Westernized names, and I get that Tyler and Tybalt are very similar, but when I think of the name “Tyler,” I think more of 1990’s-2010’s, not 1920’s. I looked it up, and it seems like it was a fairly uncommon name at the time, but I could suspend my disbelief a little bit.

My other problem with the novel was with a certain aspect of the writing. For the most part, it was stellar; like I said, lush descriptions, gripping action, amazing prose. Thing is, there were a lot of metaphors that got stretched out far beyond their use. If some of the metaphors remained at one sentence, it would’ve been fine. However, some of them got dragged out to…entire paragraphs, which…mmm, nope, not my cup of tea. [gets out a pair of gardening shears to trim the purple prose down] Lots of drama in the writing department, but it fit with the story, for the most part. It was a lot to handle sometimes, but given…well, everything about the plot, I can see the point of most of it.

All in all, a high-stakes, high-drama retelling of Romeo and Juliet full of action and authenticity. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

rabbi milligan Tumblr posts - Tumbral.com

These Violent Delights is Chloe Gong’s debut novel, and is the first novel in the These Violent Delights duology. Its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is slated for release in November 2021.

Today’s song:

NEW DANNY ELFMAN ALBUM IN JUNE THIS IS NOT A DRILL

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 (4/6/21) – Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This first review of April 2021 is one of a movie adaptation. It had been on my TBR for for a good two years beforehand, but I finally got to watch the movie, Pan’s Labyrinth, last summer. And cried like a baby. But that’s not the point.

Anyway, when I went to Barnes & Noble, I knew I had to pick it up! I’m glad to say that I liked it almost as much as I did the movie – a bit lacking in the writing department, but still managed to capture much of the dark, fairytale allure that Pan’s Labyrinth had in droves.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Pan's Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun (9780062414465): del  Toro, Guillermo, Funke, Cornelia, Williams, Allen: Books

Pan’s Labyrinth: The Labyrinth of the Faun – Guillermo del Toro & Cornelia Funke, illustrated by Allen Williams

My copy ft. my Elisa Esposito Pop! Figure (from The Shape of Water)

Thirteen-year-old Ofelia has always lived through fairytales, especially those in the books she carries around. But when she and her mother move to live with her new husband, the cold and murderous Capitán Vidal, it seems all of the magic has faded away. But when fairies appear to her in the night, Ofelia realizes that the tales in her storybooks may be real after all – and more sinister than she could have ever imagined.

Now, led through a dangerous set of tasks by an enigmatic faun, Ofelia grows closer to the fairytale world that she may be the key to. But the deeper she ventures, the more dangerous they become. The Faun may not be trustworthy – but is the alternative any better?

Laberinto del Fauno | Laberintos, Guillermo, Toros

TW/CW: graphic violence, torture, fantasy violence/body horror, blood, childbirth complications, past death of parent, death of children

I’ve been skimming through some of the reviews from people who haven’t seen the movie who thought that this was middle grade just because the protagonist was 13…and no judgement, none at all, I don’t blame you all, but man, I’m SO, SO SORRY.

I’m a huge fan of all things Guillermo del Toro (after all, he’s responsible for my comfort movie, Hellboy II: The Golden Army), so naturally, after watching this movie for the first time over the summer, I knew I had to pick this up soon. Now, I’m so glad I have a copy of my own – though it wasn’t without its flaws, this was a beautiful adaptation of a truly remarkable film.

Let’s start out with my only criticism: the writing. Of course, I’ve read some of Guillermo del Toro’s short stories and adored his style, but I think my main problem was with Cornelia Funke’s part of it; I read Inkheart some time ago and it wasn’t my thing, and I think some of those feelings resurfaced while reading this. For source material as brimming with faeries and dark magic as this, her prose didn’t fit at all. There’s a lot of telling as opposed to showing, a lot of “[they] felt” and “[they] knew” and similar phrases. While it wasn’t egregiously bad, some of the telling parts took me out of it.

Other than that? I don’t have any critiques at all! For the most part, this novel absolutely did justice to the book, and both del Toro and Funke clearly had a careful eye to make sure that this adaptation was as close to the film as possible. I loved revisiting the simultaneously dark and beautiful world of the fairies, and the human element was just as poignant and tear-jerking. Though the sting of…well, y’know, everything was dulled a bit by knowing the outcome (having seen the movie), everything was still so potent and gripping. Allen Williams’ beautiful illustrations also added a new layer to the novel, with renderings of Ofelia, the Pale Man, the Faun, and others in simple but striking pencil artwork.

I also loved the short stories woven within the chapters, and I loved seeing how interconnected they all were. Each one added a new thread of lore to an already intricate and detailed story, and it was fascinating to see how each and every short tale came together to flesh out an already well-fleshed-out world.

All in all, a beautiful adaptation of an even more beautiful dark fantasy film. 4 stars!

Monster Pans Labyrinth | Movies, Films & Flix

Guillermo del Toro is most famous for his many films, which include the Oscar-winning The Shape of Water, Hellboy & Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and Crimson Peak. Cornelia Funke is also the author of the Inkworld trilogy, the Dragon Rider series, and the Mirrorworld series.

Today’s song:

I feel like I re-discover this song every few months, and every time the point from 4:23 on always fills me with so much emotion

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (3/30/21) – The Light at the Bottom of the World

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d had this novel on my TBR for a good two years or so, but I forgot about it until I saw it on display at my local library. I picked it up as soon as I could, and man, I’m so glad I did! I’ve started to lose faith in a lot of YA dystopian novels, but London Shah shows us all the way to do it almost exactly right.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, 1)  (9781368036887): Shah, London: Books

The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, #1) – London Shah

London, 2099. The entire city has been swallowed by the rising oceans, and humankind ekes out a living, in fear of the evolved creatures of the sea and the genetically-modified Anthropoids who lurk alongside them.

Leyla McQueen makes a living as a submersible racer, and when she enters a prestigious competition, she doesn’t enter for the fame or the fortune – all she wants to do is save her father, who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But after the Prime Minister refuses her pleas after she wins the competition, she sets out on her own to find him, leading her through a dark, watery world of secrets and lies.

♡.∙∘❀○‿✿⁀♡Pinterest: adisyaamadea♡‿✿⁀○❀∘∙. | Finding nemo, Finding nemo  2003, Bee and puppycat

TW/CW: graphic violence, frightening situations, animal injury, incarcerated parent

This book wasn’t perfect, but man, I’d do anything to have a debut as good as this! London Shah restored my faith in dystopian literature, and The Light at the Bottom of the World is practically a guidebook on how to do dystopian YA right.

Shah’s worldbuilding is what stood out most to me. There’s rich history in every chapter, presenting a post-apocalyptic world swallowed by rising oceans, where the last pockets of humanity war with the deep and corrupt governments tighten an iron fist around the needy. I loved seeing how the inhabitants of this drowned London eked out a living, from the submersible races to the ruined architecture.

Leyla McQueen was also the perfect protagonist for this book! Besides having great #OwnVoices British-Muslim rep, she was just the kind of main character that we could root for – quick-witted, clever, sassy, determined, and fueled by a love for her father and a flaming desire to make things right. Her chemistry with Ari was great, and she was so spirited and authentic in a way that most dystopian protagonists aren’t. Plus, I may not be a dog person, but Jojo was so adorable and must be protected at all costs 🥺

The only pitfall about The Light at the Bottom of the World for me was the writing. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it just felt a bit lacking. Everything was quick and to the point, without much metaphor or dressing. Now, I’m not saying that it needed to be bright purple prose, but I feel like it could have used a bit more vivid imagery and language. The plot made up for it though; I truly felt the adrenaline of the characters for the whole book, whether it was in the breakneck submersible races or a daring prison break.

Either way, a fantastic YA dystopia with a lovable cast of characters and a fascinating world swallowed by the waves. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

There's always a bigger fish - Album on Imgur

The Light at the Bottom of the World is London Shah’s debut novel, and it is the first in the Light the Abyss duology, followed by Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, which is slated for release on October 26, 2021.

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 (3/9/21) – 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: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

fargoedit | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

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

Time Lapse Desert GIF by Pearl Lion - Find & Share on GIPHY

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: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Potion Bottle GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Red Lips Lipstick GIF by Sky Ferreira - Find & Share on GIPHY

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!

He Loved It GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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 Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (3/2/21) – The Punch

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

The novel I’ve decided to review this week came in my last library haul. This is only my second foray into Noah Hawley’s novels after I fell in love with Before the Fall last month, but I can tell from just these two novels that he’s become an auto-buy/borrow/read author for me.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Punch by Noah Hawley | Grand Central Publishing

The Punch – Noah Hawley

Joe Henry is dead, but what he leaves behind is a dysfunctional family in tatters. His wife Doris, has all but given up on life, his eldest son David struggles to keep two separate relationships (and his constantly teetering emotional state) afloat, and his youngest son Scott grapples with paranoid cynicism and a luckless love life. The three surviving members of the Henry family are brought together to scatter Joe’s ashes, bringing to light everything that Joe kept in check while he was alive and leaving all but chaos in their wake.

Shared by SexyTrash04. Find images and videos about gif, scene and series  on We Heart It - the app to get lost in w… | Umbrella, Under my umbrella,  Future boyfriend
I know I just put this gif in a book tag but the opportunity was too good not to miss

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, description of illness, substance abuse (mainly smoking), mild physical violence (hence the title), cheating

As I mentioned earlier, this is only my second Noah Hawley novel, but judging from this one and Before the Fall, he’s easily earned a spot as one of my favorite authors. The Punch had a very different feel to it than the latter, though; all at once tragic and laugh-out-loud funny, a superbly written story of the trials and tribulations of a dysfunctional family.

Let me just start off by saying…I think The Punch boasts one of the best opening scenes/images that I’ve ever seen in a book; the story of the Henry family begins/ends in a hospital on Valentine’s Day, with sickly and injured patients being wheeled about amidst cheery heart decorations and a pianist playing “Wonderwall” in the background. It’s hysterical, it’s so well-crafted, and in one scene alone, the mood of the entire book is encompassed–equal parts tragedy and comedy.

Having a novel with a cast of unlikable characters is usually hit-or-miss for me; I had a hard time getting through Watchmen for the first half or so because of how despicable most of the characters were. (and on that note, PLEASE 👏 STOP 👏 ROMANTICIZING 👏 RORSCHACH 👏 HE’S 👏 AWFUL 👏 [ahem] I digress), for example. The difference between my being able to enjoy a novel with an entire cast of characters like this is usually a mix of whether or not you’re supposed to like the characters and how well-written they are. (And no, that’s not a dig at Watchmen – it ended up being a four-star read for me in the end.) Clearly, the cast of The Punch are all deeply, deeply flawed people, but they’re not framed as the “good guys,” but simply protagonists. That, coupled with Hawley’s stellar writing, made me stick around even when the characters were at their all-time lows (which were…pretty low, not gonna lie.)

What also made a difference with the characters was the familial chemistry that they had with each other. They all bounced off each other so authentically, behaving exactly how you’d believe a dysfunctional family would, producing no shortage of weird occurrences and plenty of quotes that made me laugh out loud. (I can’t seem to find the quote, but there was this one that made me just WHEEZE…it was something along the lines of “It’s like it says in the Bible. All is full of love.” “No, I think that’s a Björk song…”) (I wish I’d written it down, I borrowed a copy from the library…)

But in its (tragically) short entirety, The Punch was a perfect blend of tragedy and comedy, a story of family, dysfunction, and a whole lot of miscommunication and shaky relationships. Clever writing, memorable imagery, and hysterical quotes – this one really has it all. 5 stars!

martin freeman Fargo caro's edit wgifs billy bob thornton lester nygaard  THE FIFTH GIF..HIS FACE OH LORD wonderlandinmymind •

The Punch is a standalone, but Noah Hawley is also the author of Before the Fall, Other People’s Weddings, The Good Father, and A Conspiracy of Tall Men. He is also the creator of FX’s TV adaptations of Fargo and Legion, the latter of which in association with Marvel Television.

Today’s song:

okay I was yesterday years old when I realized that this was a cover this whole 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 (2/23/21) – Game Changer

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Those of you who’ve followed this blog for a long time know how big of a fan of Neal Shusterman I am; I fell in love with the Arc of a Scythe trilogy, then discovered Everlost, Dry and Challenger Deep. So when I found out that he was coming out with a new book, of course I had to preorder it! I got around to reading it last week, and while the masterful writing and world-building is still present, Game Changer was a lower point in Shusterman’s body of work for me. (Still entertaining, though.)

Enjoy this week’s review!

Game Changer by Neal Shusterman
this cover: “MR. STARK I DON’T FEEL SO GOOD”

Game Changer – Neal Shusterman

My copy ft. a cool filter and my new Nightcrawler Pop! figure, because why not

Ashley – Ash for short – lives and breathes football, scoring for his high school’s team. But an unexpected injury on the field leads to consequences that he never could have dreamed of: the hit sent him into another dimension. Each time he collides with another player, he’s launched into different dimensions, each one stranger than the last. His only clues to this bizarre occurrence are the Edwards, a group of multi-dimensional trickster entities who multiply every time he hops through dimensions. Will he be able to return home – and take the knowledge he gleaned from the other dimensions with him?

starfallingstims | Tv static, Overlays transparent, Aesthetic gif

TW/CW: descriptions of injury, racism, homophobia, hate crimes, sexism, abuse, attempted murder, substance abuse

Neal Shusterman is clearly a master storyteller (one of the greatest in YA today, I might go so far as to say). And I’m so glad that he tried to make Game Changer as a response to all of the hatred and prejudice that’s going on in the world today, to make something that inspires people to make change in their communities. But while there’s clearly good intentions behind this book, Game Changer definitely missed the mark in several respects. At its heart, it was still a decent sci-fi story, though.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Shusterman’s prose continues to be incredible, chock-full of clever metaphors and authentic descriptions. There were passages that made me laugh out loud and passages that sent a chill down my spine in equal parts, making for a well-written story. And the worldbuilding was similarly stellar! The inter-dimensional mythology that Shusterman created in Game Changer was fascinating and so well-thought-out. I loved the concept of the Edwards as well – they added an element of simultaneous comic relief and suspense, and they were such an original addition to the novel.

The plot was also very fast-paced and suspenseful, and I loved seeing all of the inter-dimensional elements build up along with the mystery and Ash’s struggle to get back home. So at its heart, Game Changer was a great sci-fi story. Thing is, everything started to get…not-so-good the further into the dimensions we hopped.

The main problem presents itself in three of the dimensions that Ash encountered; In one, segregation is still legal, he’s gay in another (he’s straight in his “normal” dimension), and in one of the final dimensions, he’s a girl in an abusive relationship. Now, the message Shusterman was trying to get across with these dimensions was certainly well-intentioned, and I thought it was a great one, the fact that you can’t solve everything that’s wrong with the world, but you should still make an effort to learn/change things. But seeing as Ash is a [Bo Burnham voice] straight white male, the message didn’t come across in the best way.

My main problem was with the dimension in which Ash is gay; the narrative mainly focuses on him coming out and the reception following it. I saw a quick video on this the other day and reading Game Changer made me think of it; in a lot of straight-made LGBTQ+ media, the narrative is highly centered around the coming-out experience. And while that’s certainly an important aspect of queerness for a lot of people, it doesn’t encompass the entirety of the queer experience. This part in Game Changer largely fell into the same trap, and even beyond that, it felt rather contrived. So that whole section of the story didn’t quite sit right with me.

And then there’s the deal where Ash enters a dimension where not only is he a woman, but he’s also in an extremely abusive relationship with one of his teammates. Again, as with the dimension where Ash is gay, Shusterman definitely employed some sensitivity readers and tried to tackle a very important issue, but still missed the mark. It’s nice that Shusterman’s trying to raise awareness for these kinds of issues, but…again, straight white male character experiencing it, male author writing it, so it didn’t translate super well. It felt a bit like Quentin Tarantino trying to have a message about motherhood in Kill Bill vol. 2 (and missing the mark by miles), but not quite as drastic. Again, did not sit right with me as a woman, but…at least he tried? I dunno…

I Just Dont Know How I Feel GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

All in all, a book that was well-written and well-intentioned, but missed the mark in trying to depict issues of racism, homophobia, sexism and abuse. 3.5 stars.

Not Quite GIFs | Tenor

Game Changer is a standalone, but Neal Shusterman is also the author of the Arc of a Scythe trilogy (Scythe, Thunderhead & The Toll), Challenger Deep, the Skinjacker trilogy (Everlost, Everwild & Everfound), and many other novels and series. He also coauthored the standalone Dry with his son, Jarrod Shusterman.

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 (2/16/21) – A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

And now, onto another book that I bought with my Christmas gift card and loved!

I’ll admit to being a bit jaded with most YA fantasy novels at present (even though I still read them in droves), but the cover and the mythology of this novel convinced me to buy myself a copy, and I’m so glad I did! A novel that simultaneously felt nostalgic and something wholly new and original.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Image result for a song of wraiths and ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #1)–Roseanne A. Brown

My copy ft. a cool filter and one of my bookshelves

In the wealthy city of Ziran, it is a time for celebration, many days of carnivals and competition at the Solstasia Festival. This year, however, the lives of two very different teens with cross in ways that could change their world forever.

Malik came to Ziran to escape, but at a price; as an entrance fee, an evil spirit captured his sister, and the only way that he can get her back is to kill Karina, the crown princess of Ziran.

Karina yearns for a life outside the palace, but after her mother, the Queen, is assassinated, she begins dabbling in dark magic to bring her back. Her magic, too, has a price–it requires a king’s beating heart, and the only way she can get that is to sneak her way into the Solstasia competition–where Malik has entered in order to get closer to her.

Their destiny is to kill each other–but their feelings for each other cannot be ignored, and they may have to twist fate itself to find their way out of this conundrum.

Image result for dark magic aesthetic gif

TW/CW (from Roseanne A. Brown, at the front of the book): self harm (magic ritual), violence, abuse (emotional and physical), anxiety/panic attacks, loss of loved ones, animal death

Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve read a fantasy that I’ve loved as much as I did this one! A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is truly a treasure.

What stood out most for me was the writing style. There’s something about Brown’s writing that’s evocative of so many things that bring joy to me; there’s an almost Marvel sensibility about it, maybe a little bit of Disney (normally, I’m not the biggest fan of Disney, but this made it work)…it’s hard to quite put my finger on it, but the style was delightfully cinematic, calling to mind a classic, feel-good adventure movie. This would translate to well to the big screen, I’d love to see a movie adaptation of this one…

The characters were wonderful as well! Karina was such a lovable protagonist, and I adored her free spirit and determination. (Plus, the image of her standing on top of a table and aggressively serenading an entire restaurant…immaculate) Malik was the perfect character to balance her out, more of a calming and grounded presence. Both of their traumas felt very authentic, and it’s always good to see male protagonists that not only have mental illnesses (Malik seems to have some form of anxiety), but are openly sensitive and express their feelings. Together, they created such a captivating, enemies-to-lovers romance! Yeah, yeah, I know the whole “they’re both trying to kill each other, BUT HEY, THEY’RE MADLY IN LOVE NOW” trope has been done before, but Karina and Malik are both such well-written characters that I can make an exception. What can I say, I’m a total sucker for enemies to lovers.

And the worldbuilding! Brown’s world was so lived-in and full of resonant magic. My favorite aspect was the mythology surrounding all of the different deities and spirits, and I had such a fun time discovering the world piece by piece as the plot progressed. Like I said, I haven’t read a fantasy novel that’s filled me with *this much joy* in quite a while. GAH!

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I think I used this gif when I did a Goodreads Monday on this one…I’m coming full circle

All in all, an adventurous and well-written fantasy that filled me to the brim with joy. Maybe I’m not so jaded with YA fantasy after all. 4 stars!

Image result for wholesome cat meme gif

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is the first novel in Roseanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology, followed by A Psalm of Storms and Silence, which is scheduled to be released on August 31, 2021. Wraiths is Brown’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

rewatching of Season 2 is well underway…the strings at the end of this give me Sparklehorse vibes and I love it

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/9/21) – Before the Fall

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Me? Reviewing non-YA books two weeks in a row? I’m in rare form…

I just have to review this one, though. I’ve been a massive fan of Noah Hawley’s work on television for years; Fargo is my favorite show, and Legion follows very close behind. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that he’s written several books!

I spent some of my Christmas gift card money for a local bookstore on this one, and man, I’m so glad that I did. I’m not usually one for mystery, but Before the Fall is a slow-burning but visibly intricate novel that I’m sure I’ll never forget.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Image result for before the fall book noah hawley cover

Before the Fall – Noah Hawley

One night in August, an unknown disaster causes a private plane to crash into the ocean with 11 people onboard, including the crew. Most are powerful media giants or their companions, some soon to be convicted of crimes, others on the road to even more fame and fortune. The only exception is that of Scott Burroughs, a struggling painter on his way to New York.

Scott, along with the four-year-old son of a powerful newscaster, are the only survivors.

Now in the midst of a national conspiracy, Scott finds his privacy tumbling down around him as the media attempts to decipher the cause of the plane crash–malfunction, terrorism, or something else entirely?

Image result for stormy ocean gif

TW/CW: Plane crash/resulting trauma, loss of loved ones, death(s) (adults and children), substance abuse

[chanting to myself in front of the mirror] “stop talking about Fargo…stop talking about Fargo…STOP TALKING ABOUT FARGO…”

My first 5-star read of 2021, ladies, gentlemen & others! I’ll admit that my expectations were absolutely through-the-roof high, but I’m delighted to say that Before the Fall 110% met them.

This was my first exposure to Noah Hawley’s novels, but I’ve adored his work ever since falling in love with Fargo and Legion. But even though there’s a significant gap between experiencing a TV show and a book, this still felt just as cinematic. It really felt like I was watching an episode of Fargo; the writing did meander a bit and linger on things for too long, but it felt like drifting through plot points as we get more information on the characters. Something that I always value in any good novel is a clear care for even the smallest of details, and Before the Fall was exemplary in that department.

Now, I read fast. It’s a problem, at this point. But it’s not every book that makes me actively think “man, I can’t wait until I have a break so I can pick this up again!” And Before the Fall built up such a suspenseful and gripping story that I found myself looking forward to the times in my day when I could kick back and read it. Hawley’s writing instantly pulled me in and didn’t let me go until the final page. Everything in this novel felt deliberate, placed just so to make for a plot that kept me guessing all the way through.

Normally, writing that tends to ramble bothers me sometimes; it feels like the author’s going off on random tangents that have no pertinence to the central plot. And maybe I’m biased, but Hawley made it work in such a way that I looked forward to all of the little digressions throughout the novel. Throughout Before the Fall, backstory and suspense are built through a series of thorough snapshots–obituaries, days in the lives of the dead passengers, and more. Even Scott’s paintings–the subject matter of which is far more important than I would’ve thought at first–help to make the mystery unravel. (As well as help Scott’s reputation unravel…oops…) Every single character, even the side characters that seldom make an appearance, felt astoundingly authentic, someone you could pass by on the street, so fleshed-out they were.

All in all, a stunning and intricate mystery from one of my favorite creative minds. I’m 100% going to read Hawley’s other novels now. 5 stars!

Image result for fargo fx gif

Before the Fall is a standalone, but Noah Hawley is also the author of The Good Father, A Conspiracy of Tall Men, The Punch, and Other People’s Weddings. He is also the executive producer/writer/director of the TV adaptations of Fargo (FX) and Legion. (FX/Marvel television)

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 (2/2/21) – I’m Thinking of Ending Things

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since it released on Netflix, my brother was trying to convince the whole family to watch I’m Thinking of Ending Things. My parents watched it beforehand, and I myself ended up watching it over Thanksgiving break. It’s certainly a bleak and depressing film, but I somehow was able to disconnect myself from that aspect; in that way, I could see it for the grimly poetic piece of art that it is. So you can imagine my excitement when I found out that it was originally a book!

So of course, I put it on hold on my kindle. I finally got to read it last week, and I must say, what a complex gem of a novel!

Enjoy this week’s review!

I'm Thinking of Ending Things eBook by Iain Reid - 9781501126963 | Rakuten  Kobo United States
Normally, I’m not one for book covers being changed to the movie posters, but I liked the simplicity of this poster, and it actually translated well to a book cover.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things–Iain Reid

After a short time dating, Jake is finally taking his girlfriend to visit his parents and childhood home. Unbeknownst to him, his girlfriend continues to have misgivings about the situation. As the road unfolds before them, the situation grows continually stranger, and she wonders if Jake–and the life he’s constructed–is real at all. One thing is for certain–she has to find a way back home.

The Corners of the World Our Mere Prologue — People like to think of  themselves as points...

TW/CW: suicide/suicidal thoughts, violence, blood, descriptions of animal death

I’m Thinking of Ending Things was one of those films that made me want to write a 17-page essay in my head minutes after watching it, and I’m glad to say that the source material was no exception! This novel is one that continually defies categorization, a beautifully absurd bundle of philosophical musings and gripping psychological horror.

I watched the movie a few months before reading the book (oops), and so I ended up imagining the characters, for the most part, as they were in the film. For the most part, the film stayed very true to the book; I recognized quite a few familiar elements as I went along, and the mood was very similar to that of the film. (However, I was a bit disappointed to see that Jessie Buckley’s iconic car poetry wasn’t originally in the book…) This is my first experience with Reid’s writing, and what stood out most for me is that he’s mastered how to deliver a consistent creeping sense of dread. Even though I knew the truth behind everything after seeing the movie, it was still chilling to watch everything slowly unravel.

Reid absolutely has a talent for building a story for our young couple, and then slowly but surely unraveling it before your eyes; a backstory is established, but with each detail that he throws in, you begin to suspect more and more that something is gravely amiss. That, pieced together from the posthumous police reports, makes for a piece that’s wonderfully intricate. Even going off the ending of the film, I still had an absolute blast trying to piece everything together and pick it apart again. In short: most everything you see in this novel is important, and then it isn’t. You’ll see what I mean.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is by all means a character-driven novel; the first third is almost entirely composed of past memories and Jake and his girlfriend discussing life, the universe & everything on the way to Jake’s parents’ house. In another novel, I might just think that these two were just vessels for the author’s thoughts, but no–there’s actually a fount of subjects that were quite profound. Many of them have stuck with me for a while afterwards. And both the message and the resolution of the book is quite bleak (as the title and the first line suggest), but for me, it was more the experience of piecing everything together that made reading this novel so memorable.

As for the ending…this is clearly the part that Charlie Kaufman took the most creative liberties with when making the film. It’s certainly a lot more horror-like than I expected, but it packs just as powerful of a punch. There’s no sugarcoating here–it’s raw, it’s bare, and it’s dark, but it wraps the book up in a twistedly perfect way. It left me feeling stunned in the best possible way.

All in all, a grim, psychological novel that’s like nothing I’ve ever read. 4.25 stars!

Split Infinitives

I’m Thinking of Ending Things is a standalone, but Iain Reid is also the author of Foe and the nonfiction novels One Bird’s Choice and The Truth About Luck.

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 (1/26/21) – Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After adoring Zero Repeat Forever last week, I knew I had to get my hands on the sequel. As luck would have it, book 2 was available at my library, and I was able to get it along with the rest of my library haul. But even though it was still entertaining, Cold Falling White lost the tender spark that made Zero Repeat Forever so memorable.

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Zero Repeat Forever!

For my review of book 1, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions Book 2) eBook:  Prendergast, G. S.: Kindle Store

Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions, #2)–G.S. Prendergast

Left for dead, Raven wakes up in an unfamiliar place in clothes that aren’t hers. And she’s not alone. Many of her friends from camp that had been killed by the Nahx are there, but they’re still alive. Aboard a Nahx ship, she must escape with her life, but she may discover secrets about these invaders of Earth. And above all, she must find August.

Xander believes that Raven, along with all of the former campers, is dead. On his own, he flees a refugee camp, only to find August, the Nahx who saved Raven’s life not long ago. Forming an uneasy alliance, the two connect with a rebellious faction of Nahx who may hold the keys to halting the ongoing invasion.

With the odds against them, these three must reunite or fall under Nahx rule.

Will-o'wisp | Will o the wisp, Creature concept art, Rise of the guardians

TW/CW: human experimentation, violence, loss of loved ones, mentions of freezing to death

What in the resurrection trope was this?

I’m glad that I read Zero Repeat Forever right before reading this, because otherwise, I would’ve been so lost. Come to think of it, I was still a bit lost through some of the book, but regardless, Cold Falling White was a rambling mess compared to its predecessor.

One of my main problems with this novel was the new POV. Xander was a character that I sort of liked in book 1; he didn’t bug me, but I didn’t get super attached to him. Having his POV in the book made almost no sense. Not only was his voice rather bland, his subplot dominated the other two POVs for no good reason. The only thing that connected his plot to the rest of the book was the eventual Nahx rebellion, and that part didn’t even come into play until the last half of the book. (For reference, this book is nearly 600 pages.) However, I will say that it’s cool that we have a queer Asian lead as one of the POVs. (Xander’s sexuality is never specified, from what I remember, but we see him in an mlm romance. The romantic subplot definitely felt shoehorned in, but hey, at least it’s decent rep.)

I really wish that Raven’s POV had a more prominent role; her chapters were often shorter than Xander’s, and we didn’t learn much from them. One of my complaints about Zero Repeat Forever that I forgot to mention in my review was that we really didn’t get any context/backstory for the Nahx and why they invaded. We got some interesting stuff on their culture/anatomy/physiology in Cold Falling White, but there’s still no reason given for why they invaded Earth in the first place, or why they started resurrecting and modifying humans at will. The tidbits that we got were interesting, I will say, but as a whole, it felt very rushed and full of holes. (I sort of liked Blue’s species…I forget what they’re called, the little alien will-o-the-wisp things?)

And even though we got some of his chapters in the latter half, I really missed August’s POV. However, somewhere down the line, all of the poetic tenderness and philosophical musings got lost, and I don’t know where they went. I’m not sure if Aurora (from Xander’s POVs, mostly) was an attempt at a female stand-in for him, and I liked her a little, but she just didn’t hit that tender spot like August did in book 1. All of the other rebel Nahx were kind of interchangeable, too. Sigh.

Best Fargo GIFs | Gfycat

That being said, Cold Falling White was still somewhat entertaining. It all went progressively downhill, but the writing was still good, and I liked the harsh setting of the Canadian wilderness. Plus, you’ll always get brownie points from me for peppering in lots of Frankenstein references. Like the Edgar Allan Poe in book 1, I liked how all that tied into the theme of the novel.

And all that for…such a weird cliffhanger? I was under the impression that this was a duology, so what was that all about? [confused screaming]

All in all, a sequel that retained good writing and imagery, but lacked in plot and worldbuilding. 3, sad little stars.

My Disappointment Is Immeasurable, And My Day Is Ruined HD 1080P GIF |  Gfycat

Cold Falling White is the second book in the Nahx Invasions duology, preceded by Zero Repeat Forever. G.S. Prendergast is also the author of the Ella series (Audacious and Capricious), as well as the middle grade novel Pandas on the Eastside.

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!