Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/12/21) – A Darker Shade of Magic

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d heard of this novel now and then before reading it, but it managed to escape my periphery for years. It then got selected for November’s pick for my high school’s book club, so I decided to pick it up before the library ran out of copies. I had no expectations, but I was surprised at how dazzling of a book it was! Automatically on my favorite books of 2021.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1) – V.E. Schwab

my library copy on my windowsill ft. a cool filter

Kell has lived a life caught between many worlds—in a literal sense. As a fabled Antari magician with the ability to travel between worlds, he works as a royal ambassador for his homeland of Red London, traveling between his home, Grey London, and White London. Black London fell long ago.

A chance encounter with an artifact containing dangerous magic and a skilled thief named Delilah Bard throws Kell off course. Now, he must wrestle with magic that could potentially swallow his home–and an alliance that could result in his undoing.

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TW/CW: murder, blood, graphic violence, public executions

Going into this book, I had little to no expectations. I read This Savage Song about four years ago and remembered next to nothing about it, and so I had no sense about how I would feel about V.E. Schwab’s other books. To my surprise, A Darker Shade of Magic hooked me almost instantly with its unique characters and dangerous magic!

Schwab’s writing was the star of the show here, no questions asked. Her prose was so immersive that I could feel magic in the air, smell rain and ash, and see a river tinted red as though it were all surrounding me. Each London had its own intricate mythology, and each was fleshed out to the degree that none of them felt rushed over. (I have no sense for Black London, though, but I have a feeling I’ll learn more about it in the coming books. Hopefully.) Her imagery is nothing short of magical (no pun intended), and the worldbuilding to support each London made the environment that much more believable.

The central plot of A Darker Shade of Magic was a little bit weak, but it made up for it with tons of action and snappy dialogue. Having a good portion of the plot center around a ✨magical rock✨ is dangerous in and of itself, and even though this ✨magical rock✨ had some serious ✨magical consequences✨, it did feel a bit like a sorry excuse for a plot. Lucky for us, there’s far more than that; Schwab supplies the book with enough political intrigue, fantasy lore, banter, and intense conflict to make the plot full enough to sustain a gripping story. And gripping it was–yeah, I know I just griped about the ✨magical rock✨, but I seriously couldn’t put this one down.

For the most part, I adored the characters! Kell was a fantastic protagonist. From his distinct appearance (MAN I need to draw him) to his quiet loyalty to his magic prowess, it’s hard not to love him. Yeah, he’s more than a little edgy, but it was lovable in a Kaz Brekker kind of way. All of the supporting characters were similarly charming, bringing all sorts of unique elements to the plot.

All of them except for Lila.

Lila…

I loved almost all of the other characters, but I hated Lila. She fell straight into the “not like other girls” trope, and most of her mannerisms didn’t fail to make me cringe. What I didn’t care for in particular was her motivations. Nothing Lila did made any sense. I get that she’s a teenager, but wouldn’t leading a life of crime and starving on the streets give somebody some semblance of direction in life? Every decision that she made hinged on the fact that there would be no consequences, and most of it was fleeting, shallow, and far too spur of the moment.

The worst example: why she wants to travel through all of the alternate Londons with Kell? “Because I’m bored.”

SHUT Blank Template - Imgflip

…okay, maybe I’m giving her too little credit. Maybe that was a cover for her actual motivations. But do we know any of these motivations? NOPE. Thus why her character made no sense. The only upside is that I imagined her looking like Maeve from Sex Education with a cool fantasy outfit.

20th century women — ramimalec: EMMA MACKEY as MAEVE WILEY in...
this is Maeve, for reference

All in all, though, an immersive and luscious fantasy that hooked me in from page one. 4.5 stars!

vague gifs | WiffleGif
@ Lila

A Darker Shade of Magic is the first in the Shades of Magic trilogy, followed by A Gathering of Shadows (book 2) and A Conjuring of Light (book 3). Under this pseudonym, V.E. Schwab is also the author of The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and the Villains series (Vicious and Vengeful).

Today’s song:

the instrumental part at 2:31 was stuck in my head earlier this afternoon and it took me a good hour to remember what it was from

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 (10/5/21) – Iron Widow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This novel came on my radar a few months ago, and I just had to put it on my TBR–what could go wrong with giant robots, aliens, and patriarchy-smashing? What more could a reader want, really? I preordered it, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint–and it got me out of a week-and-a-half-long reading slump too!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) – Xiran Jay Zhao

my copy ft. a nice filter and some more red and orange books

Hordes of aliens are invading Huaxia. Their last hope lies in the Chrysalises, supersized robots piloted by the best young boys that the country has to offer–and powered by girls, who inevitably die from the exertion.

It’s not a dream that most of the girls of Huaxia would entertain. But for 18-year-old Zetian, there’s more to the job than certain death. There’s a chance of revenge, specifically for her older sister, who was sacrificed by a Chrysalis pilot. Her murder successful murder plot garners her the rare title of Iron Widow, a role reversal where she pilots the Chrysalis and can only sacrifice boys. With her newfound title, Zetian has one more mission–tear the misogynist foundations of Huaxia’s army to shreds.

What Do You Want Jean Grey GIF - What Do You Want Jean Grey - Discover &  Share GIFs

TW/CW: misogyny, rape, graphic violence, death, past loss of loved one, alcoholism/substance abuse, withdrawal, torture

I’m ashamed that we didn’t think of this solution earlier…DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS

After a long slump, Iron Widow was just what I needed. Even if I’d been on a string of amazing books beforehand, though, this book would have been just as much of a wild ride as it was when I read it. Unapologetically feminist and action-packed, Iron Widow is sure to please sci-fi fans and those new to the genre.

The feminist aspect of Iron Widow is what stood out the most for me. Throughout, there’s unapologetic commentary on the harshest treatment of women in society, from the constraints of the gender binary to rape and institutionalized misogyny. Sure, we have hordes of aliens attacking the country in droves, but the rampant sexism and misogynist violence is the real antagonist here. Xiran Jay Zhao did an excellent job of showing all the facets of misogyny–and then having a character like Zetian tear them down little by little.

Zetian was the perfect protagonist for Iron Widow, and she’s a near textbook-perfect example of a flawed but sympathizable character. She’s ruthless, she’s fierce, she’s fiery, but what’s more important than her traits is why she became the way she did. It’s a perfect example of how oppression can shape a person’s character–Zetian might not have been so blindsided by revenge and filled with self-doubt were it not for the ingrained misogyny of Huaxia’s culture. Her character was such a well-crafted exploration of this theme.

On top of that, Zetian’s character made for the perfect catalyst to drive the plot forward! There was no shortage of drama or action that she either caused or that came in her wake, rocketing an already action-packed novel at a fast but consistently entertaining pace. The combination of Zetian and military drama, robots, and aliens made for a novel that never slowed down–in the best way possible.

Another aspect that Zhao handled well was the balance of plot elements. There’s more than a few heavy topics discussed in this book (see the TW/CW at the top), but they depicted their realness while also reveling in the more fantastical plot elements. I hesitate to call the latter “levity,” but there wasn’t an imbalance of either of those sections of the novel.

Now, I’m a little torn on the worldbuilding. For the most part, I loved it, especially the Chrysalises. Each one was based off of a creature from Chinese-inspired mythology, and I was so excited to see all of them come to life. Zhao also did a great job explaining the whole qi system without info dumping–there were just the right amount of evenly-spaced tidbits of information that I wasn’t deluged with anything, but by the time that these elements came in, I was able to go “oh, right, I understand how that works.” I just wish the same care was put into the Hundun aliens! Although I can’t wait to see how the twist with them is resolved in the next book, all of the details about them were so vague that I could hardly picture them.

Also, a big selling point about Iron Widow was that there was a love triangle solved by polyamory. I was so excited to see it come into play, but…it never seemed to happen? Maybe I missed something (is it just going to be slow-burn?), but I swear there was only some romantic undertones with both Li Shimin and Yizhi and the three of them haven’t been together for a very long time. Again, maybe I missed something, but I was a little disappointed by that. Maybe it’ll appear in book 2…

All in all, a raw and unapologetically feminist piece of YA sci-fi. 4 stars!

Iron Widow is Xiran Jay Zhao’s debut novel and the first in the Iron Widow series. The series will be continued by an as-of-yet untitled sequel set 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 (9/28/21) – Final Draft

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book has been on my radar for at least a year and a half. I was drawn to it because of the premise of a character who is an aspiring sci-fi writer (like me!) going through high school. I bought it on my Kindle recently, and though my expectations were high, I found Final Draft to be enjoyable, but a little lacking–both in development and length.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Final Draft – Riley Redgate

Laila Piedra dreams of becoming a sci-fi author, and she spends every moment she can crafting new worlds on her laptop. Her biggest supporter is her creative writing teacher, Mr. Madison, who is always there to lend a word of advice or support. But when Mr. Madison gets in a car accident and can no longer teacher, he’s replaced by Nadiya Nazarenko, a renowned author who doles out scathing critiques faster than the speed of light. Pressured to impress her new teacher, Laila stretches herself into places that she never would have dreamed of. But what will it cost her dream of writing–and her mental health?

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actual footage of me once I finished the book

TW/CW: underage drinking, fatphobia, depression, death, descriptions of injury

Final Draft had the makings of a great story, but it only felt like half a book. It left me wanting more in the end–everything felt so crammed and rushed, and as a result, all that could have been good ended up suffering. However, that wasn’t to say that it wasn’t at least enjoyable–it was a decent story, but it felt unnecessarily truncated.

I’ll start out with what I liked–the representation! Final Draft was a very diverse book–Laila is mixed-raced and half-Latina, and her rep made me feel so seen! She’s also plus-size and pansexual, and that combination of representation is always fantastic to see. Additionally, her love interest is Korean-American and a lesbian, and there are several Latinx side characters. So I owe a big thank you to Riley Redgate for all of that great rep!

Now, Final Draft started out with a lot of promise. The setup in the first third or so had the makings of a great story–a clear setup and a difficult conflict for Laila to overcome. But at about the 40% mark, everything felt crammed into a scant amount of pages. Everything happened at almost breakneck speed, shoving key conflicts into far fewer pages than was necessary to develop the events of the novel. (For reference, the Kindle edition of Final Draft was only 272 pages, so there could have been so much more content to bulk everything up and make it coherent!) It all felt so rushed, and as a result, the message came across muddy and underdeveloped. There are so many themes that are so important to discuss–the cautionary tale of the “suffering artist,” mental health and depression, and grief, to name a few–but they were all glossed over in such a short amount of time that they were all unfinished and badly handled.

That being said, although the story was unnecessarily rushed, at least the topics discussed were there. For creative people, mental health is so often neglected in the face of criticism and perfectionism, and having a story like Laila’s is an important one not just for writers, but any young person with creative passions. Laila’s story needs to be told–I just wish it was fully fleshed out.

All in all, a book that had the potential to be potent and powerful, but suffered from excessive rushing. 3 stars.

i love you ! [ 𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗿𝗶 ]. | Anime scenery, Anime gifts, Aesthetic gif

Final Draft is a standalone, but Riley Redgate is also the author of Noteworthy, Seven Ways We Lie, and the forthcoming Alone Out Here, which is slated for release in April 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 (9/21/21) – Harley in the Sky

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Akemi Dawn Bowman ever since I read Starfish around three years ago. This is the latest of her books that I’ve read, and I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint – just as poignant and gut-wrenching as her other novels!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Harley in the Sky: 9781534437128: Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books

Harley in the Sky – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Harley Milano grew up surrounded by vibrant costumes and trapeze artists in her parents’ circus. Her dream has always been to join the circus, but her parents want her to go to college for computer science instead.

After a fight on her eighteenth birthday, Harley goes against everything that they’ve ever wished for–she runs away and joins the Maison du Mystère, the rival traveling circus. There, she is thrust into the world of the circus, quickly falling in love and rising to the top of the hierarchy as one of its lead trapeze artists. But Harley’s past is catching up to her, and she must grapple with the people she betrayed in order to see her dreams come to fruition.

WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR dot COM

TW/CW: depression, racism, emotional manipulation, suicidal ideation

I think all of us have read plenty of books about characters running away to pursue their dreams and leaving everything they knew behind. But very few discuss the consequences–the people they leave behind and the emotional wounds that they may open up. Harley in the Sky is one such book, and man, it was just as heart-wrenching as Akemi Dawn Bowman’s other novels. All at once tender, heavy, and messy, it grapples with all sorts of hefty emotions and handles them all with aplomb.

Harley was, by all means, a very unlikeable character. She has a plethora of issues that she leaves undealt with when she takes off in search of her circus dreams, but you can’t help but root for her. I will say that I related to her on one plane: that of her mixed-race identity. Both of Harley’s parents are biracial, and as a result, she feels as though she doesn’t fit in anywhere. As a mixed-race person myself, Bowman handled her identity in a way that really resonated with me. And despite how tangled of a character Harley is, she displays some significant growth over the course of the novel, and by the end, she begins to reconcile with everything that she’s done and everything she’s left behind.

The rest of the characters also shone! There was such a unique and diverse cast, and the circuses that Bowman created felt like ones that might travel cross-country in the real world. Each character was refreshingly distinct, all with unique backstories and personalities. I especially loved Vas–yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker for the brooding British guys who play instruments, but he was such a well-fleshed-out character, both standing on his own and as a love interest for Harley.

As with all of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s novels, Harley in the Sky deals with some heavy topics. I won’t lie–it was a hard book to read at times, but Bowman handles all of these topics, from undiagnosed mental illness to toxic relationships, with incredible skill. All of her books stir up such profound emotion in me, and this one was no exception.

All in all, a novel that was all at once tender and heartbreaking that will leave a permanent mark on your heart. 4 stars!

circus gifs Page 12 | WiffleGif

Harley in the Sky is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Summer Bird Blue, and the Infinity Courts series, which includes The Infinity Courts, and the forthcoming The Genesis Wars.

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 (9/14/21) – Tell the Machine Goodnight

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I have my dad to thank for finding the book I’m reviewing today, so thank you! It was in an NPR article that he sent me a month back that talked about the ways that sci-fi literature has changed in the past decade. I’d read or shelved a book or two from the list, but I added Tell the Machine Goodnight after reading it because of how fascinating it sounded. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Tell the Machine Goodnight: A Novel: Williams, Katie: 9780525533122:  Amazon.com: Books

Tell the Machine Goodnight – Katie Williams

In a near-future world, the secret to happiness can be obtained with the click of a button. Apricity is a company that has created a machine that can, with startling accuracy, predict exactly what someone needs to be happy.

Pearl has worked for Apricity for many years, earning her notoriety from her coworkers and her manager. But as she looks out into her life–particularly her teenage son, who rejects happiness above all else–she questions the purpose of the machine. Is “happiness” truly what she sells?

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TW/CW: substance abuse, eating disorders, stalking, violence, emetophobia

Tell the Machine Goodnight feels like what would happen if Noah Hawley sat down and tried to write a Ray Bradbury novel from scratch. Which is to say, I loved this book.

Everything about this novel felt like a dazzling callback to all of my favorite sci-fi classics. It’s set around 14 years from now, and everything is more or less the same, but there are just some aspects that are fundamentally off. It’s mainly Apricity, among other things, but Katie Williams did a fantastic job of making a world that was simultaneously familiar and unsettling, like something that could feasibly emerge in the next few decades.

I’ve read a lot of reviews that said that they felt that Tell the Machine Goodnight had no plot, but for me, the lack of structure added to the appeal of the narrative. It’s presented as a series of interconnected vignettes of life in Williams’ near-future world, and what society looks like when personalized, surface-level happiness dominates all else. One in particular stood out to me; in one thread, Pearl’s ex-husband creates modern art out of the Apricity suggestions. (One of them was to eat honey, and so he made an art form out of eating honey in excess and then vomiting it out.) Little quirks and stories like these made the world feel all the more fleshed out for me, and I enjoyed every page of it.

To top it off, I firmly believe that good sci-fi should make the reader think, and Tell the Machine Goodnight nails this right on the head! A lot of sci-fi media these days tends to tout that they “comment on the role of technology in our lives,” but I’ve found that very few books/movies/etc. that are advertised as such actually hit the mark. That’s not the case with this novel–it explores some very relevant themes, and does them in creative ways. Throughout the novel, there are themes of the meaning of true happiness, relationships, and our growing reliance on technology that does everything for us. Is computer-generated, temporary happiness truly happiness? It got me thinking, and I’m sure that I’ll be thinking back to it for years from now.

All in all, a modern sci-fi novel that has the feel of a classic and is sure to become a modern classic. 4 stars!

Bbc scales vie GIF on GIFER - by Thorgahuginn

Tell the Machine Goodnight is a standalone, but Katie Williams is also the author of Absent and The Space Between Trees.

Today’s song:

I’M SEEING HER ON THURSDAY NIGHT I’M SO EXCITED

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 (9/7/21) – Curses

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Lish McBride’s for a few years now, ever since I fell in love with Firebug back in middle school. So when I found out that she’d come out with a new book, I was OVERJOYED. I immediately put it on hold at the library, and I’m pleased to say that it didn’t disappoint in the slightest!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Curses by Lish McBride

Curses – Lish McBride

Merit Cravan is cursed. After refusing to marry the prince her mother wanted her to marry, a fairy godling cursed her to be a carnivorous beast. The curse can only be broken if she marries a man her mother chooses by her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin comes from a family of conmen, and after his mother blunders and gets on the wrong side of Lady Cravan, he’s traded to them in exchange for her mother’s freedom. He befriends Merit, and learns of her curse, but as her eighteenth birthday creeps ever closer, they discover that the way to break it is closer than either of them could have imagined.

Disney Live Action — Emma Watson as Belle BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (2017),...

TW/CW: gore, grotesque transformations, body horror, animal death, violence, drugging

I know, I know. Beauty and the Beast retellings have long seen their day in YA. We’ve all suffered through countless awful ones. But I am BEGGING you to read this one. You’ll love it, trust me.

I really missed reading Lish McBride books. Her wry sense of humor and genre subversion have never failed to capture my heart, and Curses was no exception. Not only does Curses flip the traditional aspects of Beauty and the Beast on their heads, it does so in the most over-the-top, tongue in cheek way possible. It’s a fairytale retelling that regularly laughs at itself. And I loved every minute of it.

The majority of the characters were compulsively lovable, and if they weren’t, they were so over-the-top that it was impossible not to have a laugh at their expense. Tevin was my favorite by far; he struck me as a very Loki-like character, but behind the magical charm and and conniving, he was a strikingly complex character. Merit was also a great protagonist! I loved her independent spirit, and the way that her curse was explored was fascinating. (Also, I loved all of the other weird curses that the side characters got – very Courtney Crumrin…no, no, wait, I think that was frogs, not snakes…anyways)

660 My prince twice over ideas | tom hiddleston loki, tom hiddleston,  thomas william hiddleston

But what I loved best about Curses is that it’s the lovably campy, comedic antithesis of every YA Beauty and the Beast retelling of the last decade or so. It’s the cure to a subgenera that has tried to take itself far too seriously, trying too hard to make itself “edgy” in order to appeal to The Teens™️. (For reference, see: Beastly, Of Beast and Beauty, A Curse So Dark and Lonely, etc.) Everything had to be all dark and gritty, or else it wouldn’t be marketable. It got old quickly. And I’m not sure if Lish McBride had this in mind while writing Curses, but this book is the perfect cure to all of that. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s plenty of laughs at its own expense, and it’s simultaneously a unique, well-written piece of art and the perfect counter to edgy retellings past. I’m 100% for pushing back against the notion that art has to be dark or edgy to be considered “deep” or worthy of praise, and if you agree, this is the book for you.

My only complaint is the worlldbuilding. It seemed complex at first glance (what with all the different types of faeries), but the more I read, the more surface-level it seemed. There’s a timestamp given, but what does that mean? Is this an alternate history? Is it just a year according to the world of Curses? Does it pertain to actual human history? I could’ve used some answers. But it’s my only complaint, really. I loved almost everything else.

All in all…well, it’s a gender-swapped Beauty and the Beast retelling, what more could you possibly want? 4.25 stars!

Loki Gif - GIFcen

Curses is a standalone, but Lish McBride is also the author of the Firebug series (Firebug and Pyromantic), the Necromancer series (Hold Me Closer, Necromancer and Necromancing the Stone), and several other novellas.

Today’s song:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA

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 (8/31/21) – The Good Luck Girls

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This week’s review was a fairly recent addition to my TBR. I found out about this series through a great post by Simone and her Books (thanks for putting it on my radar!), and I had a good feeling about it when I bought it with my birthday money the other day. I’m glad to say that I was right – my favorite out of all the books I bought that day!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Good Luck Girls – Charlotte Nicole Davis

my copy ft. a few more purplish books (I don’t have a whole lot of purple books ksjdhfksjdhf)

Branded and trapped in a “welcome house” against their wills, the lives of the Good Luck Girls are filled with anything but good luck. Sisters Clementine and Aster have lived their lives in one such welcome house, waiting for the impossible day when they can go free. But when Clementine accidentally kills a wealthy man, she knows she’s put her life on the life. Along with her sister Aster, their friends Tansy and Mallow, and Violet, the prickly favorite of the welcome house, she risks a daring escape, meeting friend and foe alike as she flees into the wild.

HONEYMOON CLUB | Aesthetic gif, Desert aesthetic, Just like heaven

TW/CW: rape, branding, sex slavery, murder, descriptions of illness, misogyny, torture, loss of loved ones/death, substance abuse

Have you ever finished a book and immediately thought something along the lines of “man, why has nobody gotten the rights to make this a TV show?” My thoughts exactly for The Good Luck Girls – its cinematic writing makes it the perfect fit for the small screen, and its effortless blending of paranormal, Western, and dystopian genres made it stand out from all the rest!

I’ve never really read or watched many Westerns or Western-inspired books, movies or TV shows (I’m counting The Mandalorian in there though), but I found myself latching onto the immersive and unique world that Charlotte Nicole Davis presents us with in The Good Luck Girls. It’s equal parts Western, paranormal fantasy, and dystopia, and all of them fit to make a fascinating world! There’s something for everybody. You want girls rising up and fighting the power? FIVE OF THEM! You want ghosts, demons, and other weird monsters? Plenty of those to go around. Magic? Lots of that too. Whatever genre you usually gravitate you, there’s something for everybody in this novel.

The feminism and themes of sisterhood also shone in this novel! We follow a diverse cast of characters (some of them are POC and there’s a wlw relationship between two of them) as they escape a life of sex slavery, encountering no shortage of horrors along the way but sticking together through it all. Especially regarding most of the scenes in the “welcome house,” there are plenty of heavy and hard-to-read topics, but Charlotte Nicole Davis handled them in a way that balanced realism and giving the slightest bit of hope. I’m always up for books with a gang of well-written women taking down the patriarchy (and in the case of this book, fighting against misogyny and rape culture in particular), and The Good Luck Girls delivered 100% in that respect.

As for the characters, I liked most of them a reasonable amount, but I didn’t get completely attached to all of them. For Violet in particular, I liked that even though she was the token “bad-natured one who refuses to get along with anybody else” character, Davis gave her just as much depth and backstory as characters like Clem and Aster. However, I do wish that Tansy and Mallow got more page time; they just seemed like footnotes in contrast to Aster, Clem, and Violet, and we didn’t get much of their backstory. The Good Luck Girls would have been more enjoyable with a multiple POV structure, in my opinion; we got inside Aster and Clem’s heads, but since there’s an ensemble cast, I would have liked to get some of the motivations and quirks of characters like Violet, Tansy, and Mallow from their perspectives.

All in all, an effortless blend of wildly different genres that results in a fiercely feminist and cinematic journey. 4 stars!

✔️|2| 𝐒𝐏𝐎𝐍𝐓𝐀𝐍𝐄𝐎𝐔𝐒 [CA:CW] - 𝐄𝐩𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡 | Magic aesthetic, Aesthetic  gif, Powers

The Good Luck Girls is the first book in the Good Luck Girls series, followed by The Sisters of Reckoning. Charlotte Nicole Davis also contributed the short story All the Time in the World to A Phoenix Must First Burn, an anthology of sci-fi/fantasy stories by Black women and gender nonconforming people.

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 (8/24/21) – Ahsoka

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Over the weekend, I got to visit my favorite bookstore for my birthday, and I got lots of books! I have my dad to thank for finding the Star Wars section (thank you!!), and I decided to buy Ahsoka because she seems like a super cool character. All in all, though, Ahsoka was a fascinating look into the Star Wars universe immediately post-Order 66 and a good exploration of a character that I wasn’t as familiar with!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Star Wars Ahsoka: 9781484705667: E.K. Johnston, Wojtowicz,  Jason P: Books

Ahsoka (Star Wars) – E.K. Johnston

my copy ft. a cool filter, some quartz and bismuth, and my Yoda Funko Pop! Figure

After Order 66 caused the assassination of almost all of the Jedi order, Ahsoka Tano is on the run. Alienated by her former mentor, the new Sith Lord Anakin Skywalker, she flees to Raada, a backwater farming moon, with the hopes of laying low and blending in. But when the Empire sets its sights on occupying Raada, Ahsoka faces the choice of risking Imperial rule or escaping and revealing her Jedi identity.

Obsessed With The Mandalorian — More than Partners- The Mandalorian x reader

TW/CW: assassination, colonization/occupation, sci-fi violence, descriptions of injury

Okay. Look. I’m a massive fan of Star Wars, and I have been for most of my life. Thing is, I’ve never seen the new Clone Wars series (I adored the 2D one from the early 2000’s, though…that was the stuff) or Rebels, and that’s where Ahsoka primarily shows up. I knew enough about both of them to piece together Ahsoka’s backstory, but she’s still a character that I wasn’t super familiar with. I’ve always liked the idea of her, though, and I thought she was FANTASTIC in The Mandalorian. So I figured I’d give the book a try, both to explore Ahsoka’s character and this part of the Star Wars universe.

For the most part, Ahsoka was a success! There were interludes interspersed throughout that gave a good deal of backstory of Ahsoka’s life as a Padawan, which helped me to piece out everything I’d missed from The Clone Wars and Rebels. I’d say that you can read this without watching either, but this is coming from someone who lives and breathes most things Star Wars, so take that as you will. Even then, Ahsoka’s character was fascinating! For the most part, I liked the way that her character was written, and her arc throughout the novel was well-executed, showing her transition from a Jedi to a full-blown rebel.

There are also a lot of details interspersed throughout that made me giddy as a Star Wars fan – we get details about how Ahsoka gets her lightsabers, several cameos (inside and outside of the flashback interludes) from prequel characters, and…I think the main villain from Rebels? I think? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure it was him? Either way, I had a lot of fun finding all of those Easter eggs.

The writing was decent, but I didn’t find it to be anything special. I found it rather bland, and with such an immersive and extensive universe as this one, the writing style did a bit of a disservice to several aspects of the novel. Some of the dialogue felt too stilted and forced (no pun intended), and I wasn’t a huge fan of Ahsoka’s inner dialogue as well. But it wasn’t anything egregiously bad. It just didn’t stand out for me. Not necessarily well-written, but not badly-written either. Just in the middle for me.

Additionally, the plot moved along a little too quickly. Ahsoka is about the average size for a book (around 370 pages in the paperback edition), but for each plot point, there was usually only a short time spent, and the transitory periods between them were virtually nonexistent. Ahsoka herself also had a bit too easy of a time overcoming many of the obstacles she encountered, but…okay, she’s a Jedi. I wouldn’t say she was written as a Mary Sue, but it was closish. But seeing as, y’know, she’s a lightsaber-wielding being with pseudo-magical powers and friends in high places, it makes a little bit of sense.

All in all, an addition to the extensive Star Wars universe that did some of the universe itself a slight disservice with indistinct writing, but fleshed out a beloved character in an inventive way. 3.5 stars!

Ahsoka Tano in The Mandalorian | Chapter 13: The Jedi - The Mandalorian Fan  Art (43663792) - Fanpop

Ahsoka is a standalone novel in the universe of Star Wars novels, but E.K. Johnston has also contributed two more Star Wars novels, Queen’s Shadow and Queen’s Peril, both centering around Padmé Amidala. Johnston is also the author of Aetherbound, Exit, Pursued by a Bear, That Inevitable Victorian Thing, and several other novels for young adults.

Today’s song:

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

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Book Review Tuesday (8/17/21) – A Psalm for the Wild-Built

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! Wow, already the last day of summer for me…I go back to school tomorrow, bright and early…oh, joy. At least I’ll be able to see my friends again.

Anyways, here’s one of my library holds from this week that I enjoyed immensely! I found out about it after reading (and loving) the Wayfarers series. I put it on hold and forgot that I had, and it unexpectedly came in the library last week! And I’m so glad that it did – A Psalm for the Wild-Built was just the kind of book I needed: heartwarming, gentle and philosophical.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) by Becky Chambers
WHAT GAVE THE COVER ART THE RIGHT TO BE SO CUTE

A Psalm for the Wild-Built (Monk & Robot, #1) – Becky Chambers

My library copy ft. a nice filter and my backyard

Sibling Dex is tired of their quiet life as a monk in the city. Insistent on bringing spice into their life, they leave for the rural parts of town to become a tea monk, giving out tea and consolation to those who need it most. But something is still missing, so they take their tea cart into the uncharted woods.

There, they come upon Mosscap, a robot living in the woods who is eager to know about humans and their ways. Robots are the stuff of legends in Sibling Dex’s world; centuries before, they migrated to the woods, never to be seen again, leaving humans to their own devices. Knowing nothing about each other, Dex and Mosscap embark on a journey through uncharted territory, seeking answers – and finding more than they expected.

The Iron Giant" movie review | Movies & TV Amino

TW/CW: honestly? I’ve got nothing here, there’s nothing terribly violent, tragic, or graphic in any way here. It’s a gentle book, and honestly? We need more books like this

Okay, this book had no right to be JUST WHAT I NEEDED. I’d already fallen in love with Becky Chambers’ penchant for making sci-fi tender and human in the Wayfarers series, but A Psalm for the Wild-Built was truly the book equivalent of a warm hug.

Everything about this book made me all soft and warm inside. Chambers’ writing made for a beautiful, atmospheric world, filled with lush plant life, factories grown over with vines, and quirky robots wandering the woods. My mind tended to wander back to the Redwoods and Sequoias while picturing the setting – lots of tall trees, bright greenery, and all sorts of little creatures in every nook and cranny. The worldbuilding was spectacular – I was instantly immersed in the world of Dex and Mosscap, and the fact that it was all squeezed into less than 200 pages was even more impressive. It truly felt like a lived-in world, one that I wouldn’t hesitate to grab a tea cart and take a ride through the woods in.

And the characters? I now have an aggressive need to give both Mosscap and Dex hugs. Sibling Dex’s struggles with dissatisfaction and restlessness were all too relatable, and I loved their journey over the course of the novel. And Mosscap? Mosscap was just all kinds of delightful. From the cover, I pictured a shrunk-down sort of Iron Giant with the voice of C3-PO for it. It was such a cheery, eager, and curious character, and it was the perfect match for Dex’s more introspective tendencies. They made the sweetest pair, and I loved exploring Becky Chambers’ world with them.

Through it all, there’s consistent themes of dealing with dissatisfaction and the meaning of life itself. Like I said – A Psalm for the Wild-Built me told me exactly what I needed to hear, and that is that any time you feel dissatisfied, think of how miraculous life itself is – the existence of the universe and consciousness is such a marvel, why not treat it that way? Which, in a world where we’re all fed up and cagey from staying home and living out day after day in constant repetition, is a crucial message for us. I’ll be doing my best to take it to heart.

All in all, easily the sweetest sci-fi/fantasy novel I’ve ever read, equal parts journeying into the unknown and musing on the nature of life itself. 4.5 stars!

shinrinyoku

A Psalm for the Wild-Built is the first novel in Becky Chambers’ Monk & Robot series, continuing with the forthcoming A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, slated for release in 2022. Chambers is also the author of the Wayfarers series (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, A Closed and Common Orbit, Record of a Spaceborn Few, and The Galaxy, and the Ground Within) and the novella To Be Taught, If Fortunate.

Today’s song:

UGH THE GUITAR IN THIS SONG…this album is magic

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 (8/10/21) – The Darkness Outside Us

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Last week, before my trip, I trawled the Kindle library for books to read to tide me over until I could get to the books I bought. I’d had it on hold at the library for a bit, but I realized that it was available on the ebook library, so I checked it out immediately. I was initially excited for it, but I had no idea what I was truly in for; The Darkness Outside Us is more than just a thriller or a sci-fi romance – it’s a heartrending and harrowing exploration of love and grief on a cosmic scale.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer

The Darkness Outside Us – Eliot Schrefer

After waking up from a strange, deep sleep, Ambrose finds himself on a spaceship with a critical mission – rescuing his older sister, Minerva, who is trapped on a base on Titan. His ship, the Coordinated Endeavor, holds infinite mysteries – it has the voice of his mother, robots with minds of their own, and secrets hidden in every corner. But the most enigmatic of all is Kodiak, his isolated shipmate from a rival country on Earth. Kodiak is bent on keeping distance between them, but when the mission’s true nature becomes clearer, their only choice is to work together.

Quiz: Ripley, Our Lady of Survival | Bookmans Entertainment Exchange

TW/CW: grief, loss of loved ones, violence, descriptions of illness, death

What can I say other than the fact that I’m truly in awe of this book?

The Darkness Outside Us started out like any other sci-fi thriller. We find Ambrose waking up and slowly realizing his surroundings, and figuring out that things about the Coordinated Endeavor are not what they seem. We witness his developing romance with Kodiak, and all the puzzle pieces seem to come together.

But trust me. Once you hit the halfway mark of the book, you may think you’ve predicted all the plots twists (I thought I did…), BUT YOU WON’T. Just as quickly as everything seems to go disastrously wrong, the real plot starts to come together. I don’t want to spoil anything for this novel, but it’s hard to say anything about what happens next without revealing the last half of the plot, but I’ll try my best. It’s better if you go in blind about this one.

For the first half of the book, I thought that I’d give it a 3-3.5 star rating; the characters were decent, the queer enemies-to-lovers romance was well-done, and the mounting tension was well-written. But the further I got on, the surer I became of my 5-star rating. The Darkness Outside Us is far more than what it was marketed as; yes, there’s romance, and yes, there’s a mystery to be solved in ✨space✨, but there is truly so much more than meets the eye. It’s not every day that I truly feel like a novel is a work of art, but this one was. It’s a testament to life itself, appreciating every minute of it while you still can, and the power of love that binds us and shapes us.

We don’t get enough sci-fi/fantasy novels that delve into these core human emotions quite like The Darkness Outside Us did. And if I’m being honest, I think sci-fi can sometimes be an even better vehicle to explore these kinds of themes. With the dizzyingly cosmic scale that this novel takes place over, there’s a unique opportunity to show the transcendental power that love can span over many years. There’s a bleakness to everything, and most of the last half was heartbreaking to read, what with all the grains of hope that were spread throughout being overturned and crushed in seconds, but Schrefer leaves us with a hopeful ending that nearly brought me to tears.

I’ve said several times that part of what makes a good sci-fi is that it makes you think. The Darkness Outside Us fits the bill in every sense of the word. I had…well [ahem] several existential crises over the course of the last half, but in all seriousness, this novel is deeply introspective and philosophical. It’s all about reckoning with our past choices and the choices of others, of breaking free of cycles that have controlled you for millennia (literally), and the enduring power of love and the complicated nature of relationships. I ended up staying up a *little bit later* than I intended to because I just HAD to see what happened, but all that time, I had the space to ruminate about life. Needless to say, this one had me staring at the ceiling and pondering the meaning of life until I fell asleep, despite my attempts to distract myself.

In short, I don’t use the word “masterpiece” lightly, but The Darkness Outside Us truly is one. It’s an ode to love to light the way in the darkness and a musing on the nature of love, relationships, grief, and choices. It’s haunting, heartbreaking, and nothing short of immense in its scale, and will surely leave you thinking about all manner of things after reading it. It’s the book equivalent of Spiritualized’s “Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space” – “I will love you ’till I die/And I will love you all the time/So please put your sweet hand in mine/We’ll float in space and drift in time.” Books like this don’t come around often, so pick this one up. You won’t regret it. 5 stars!

cyber-black | Cyberpunk, Cyberpunk anime, Cyberpunk art

The Darkness Outside Us is a standalone, but Eliot Schrefer is also the author of the Ape Quarter (Endangered, Threatened, Rescued, and Orphaned), The School for Dangerous Girls, The Deadly Sister, Glamorous Disasters, and many more novels for young adults and children.

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!