Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/30/23) – The Memory Police

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I forget how exactly I came across this novel, but it was one of the first books that I put on my Libby wish list way back in March 2020, when I lived off of Kindle books. At the time it was always on hold for weeks when I tried to check it out, and so gradually, it faded to the bottom of the list. But after years of forgetting about it, I rediscovered this novel—and it was finally available! Usually, literary science fiction doesn’t always do it for me, but The Memory Police was a strangely quiet dystopia with a powerful undercurrent.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Memory Police – Yōko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder)

A young writer leads a quiet life on a distant, unnamed island, grieving a multitude of losses. Her parents passed away many years ago, but it isn’t just people that are disappearing—it’s objects, animals, and ideas as well: hats, birds, ribbons, and all manner of things. Once they disappear, nobody on the island has any recollection of their existence—they simply fade from public memory. And to enforce this, the island is under the iron fist of the Memory Police, who are there to make sure that these forgotten things stay that way. But she seems to be one of the only people who still clings to the memory of what’s been lost.

When the writer’s editor falls under suspicion from the Memory Police, she hatches a plan to hide him under her floorboards, silently completing her novel as they evade capture. And as more and more objects begin to fade into obscurity, her writing may be the only thing left to cling to.

TW/CW: loss of loved ones (past), kidnapping, police brutality

The Memory Police has been compared time and time again to 1984, and the comparison is clear, but it seemed to take a more literary approach. And while the “literary” part initially made me suspicious, this was one of the most creative and wholly human dystopian novels that I’ve read in a long time!

What sets The Memory Police apart from most other dystopias that you can think of is its perspective. We aren’t given an extensive history as to how the unnamed island came to be under such totalitarian rule, and how everything began disappearing and why. Nor do any of the characters—save for the main character’s editor, referred to only as ‘R’ in this translation—have names, save for their roles or jobs (the protagonist’s parents) or their physical appearance (the old man). All this book seeks to do is give you an ordinary person’s view into something haunting—the protagonist is just as confused as you are, and she is moving through this world in the only way that she can. Naturally, I was curious about the main plot points (how and why everything was disappearing, and how the Memory Police came to be), but I got that the point wasn’t to explain such things, but to see it happening firsthand through somebody else’s eyes, when they may know about as much as we do. I assumed the Memory Police were in control of what disappeared and they had some degree of immunity, which I was curious about, but the decision to omit these details at least made sense as a stylistic choice.

Make no mistake—The Memory Police is certainly haunting, but there’s a quietness to it that makes it stand out from the rest. In this state-surveilled, isolated island environment, this novel is the closest thing that you can get to a slice-of-life story. Other than some chilling instances involving break-ins by the Memory Police, it’s the story of one woman flying under the radar and trying to write her novel as the world is crumbling around her. There’s a constant fear surrounding everything, but in between, she finds time to craft a novel, share secret memories about her parents’ world and what they loved, and hold parties from an elderly man who helps keep her editor hidden. Sometimes, frightening change doesn’t come in the form of something obvious—it’s often slow and goes unnoticed, and it is the small things that keep us going through it.

Literary science fiction like this often comes off like it’s trying to be better than “regular” science fiction, like it boasts some lofty message that your common novel can’t possible get across. I’m glad to say that The Memory Police does none of that—some of the writing does fit that style, but nothing about it comes across as belittling or haughty. In fact, it has an incredibly powerful message. With all of the plot centering around the loss of memory and holding on to the last remnants of a past world, the ending made an incredibly powerful statement: as long as there is somebody around to keep a memory of something alive, memories never really die—they always stay with us. It’s a beautiful message on loss, and about resistance in general—maybe the most powerful thing we can do in the face of tyranny is to know that there is a way to change things, and hold memories of what our forebears did in the face of similar situations. This book is proof that dystopias don’t have to be flashy and overtly gritty to get their themes across—quietness can be just as powerful.

All in all, a nontraditional dystopia that made an incredible impact from reveling in its quiet moments. 4 stars!

The Memory Police is a standalone, but Yōko Ogawa is the author of many other novels that have been translated into several different languages, including Revenge, The Housekeeper and the Professor, Hotel Iris, and more.

Today’s song:

Peter Gabriel Summer 2 is upon us

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/23/23) – Only a Monster

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book has been on my radar for quite some time—I’m always up for a good urban fantasy every once in a while, and the V.E. Schwab comparison had me hesitantly optimistic. I figured it would be a good read for AAPI Heritage Month, but…alas, it was such a mess, and ultimately not worth my time.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Only a Monster (Monsters, #1) – Vanessa Len

Joan is set to have the perfect summer. She’s staying in London with her late mother’s side of the family, amidst historical buildings, a steady job (with a handsome co-worker, Nick), and the smell of magic in the air. But when a disaster leaves most of her family dead, Joan is confronted with an ugly truth—she comes from a long line of time-stealing monsters. Worse still, the handsome Nick comes from a long line of monster hunters. Can Joan hone her powers before the monster hunters track her down?

TW/CW (from Vanessa Len): murder, violence, blood, loss of loved ones (on & off-page), substance abuse, xenophobia (fantasy), racism, interrogation, brainwashing, weapon use

DNF at 27%.

Before I get into my rant: I’ll always appreciate how much time and love it takes to write a book and put it out there. Any kind of creative output like this is highly admirable, and I can give this novel a certain degree of slack knowing that it’s Vanessa Len’s debut novel. That being said, Only a Monster really wasn’t it for me, and sometimes 1-star rants can be good for the soul as long as they aren’t actively hurting anybody. Gotta air it all out sometimes.

I went into Only a Monster expecting for it to be a nice break from some of the denser books I’d just read—something fun, something charmingly over-the-top. And…well, the over-the-top element was very much present, but not in a good way at all. From what I read of this novel, it was really just a mess that lacked any sort of nuance whatsoever.

We had the setup right from the start—a monsters versus monster-hunters conflict, “Joan is not the hero of this story,” et cetera, et cetera. Before reading this, I figured a lot of that language was just going to be for the sake of putting a nice hook on the front cover and other marketing purposes; I assumed that the book was going to get into some of the morally gray (as much of a buzzword that’s become with books these days) aspects of that conflict, but…no. From the get-go, we’re hit over the head with a comically large sledgehammer that JOAN IS NOT THE HERO OF THE STORY!!! and that BEING A MONSTER IS BAD BAD BAD!! and that MONSTERS AND HEROES!!!! DO NOT MIX!!! EVER!!! It’s not so much a theme so much as it is a metal pipe that gets painfully shoved down your throat. It got to the point where I felt like it was insulting my intelligence—I didn’t need to be told all this over and over. I really didn’t. Jeez. It could’ve been developed somewhat compellingly, but….no.

Beyond that, I didn’t know going in to Only a Monster that there was going to be a dreaded love triangle, which…[EXTREMELY LOUD INCORRECT BUZZER]

If there’s anything that can instantly ruin a book, it’s that. THERE’S NO NEED. And the setup wasn’t even anything that hasn’t been done before—each love interest is on one side of the conflict (monster and monster-hunter), and while I didn’t care to stick around to find out how it was resolved, I had a feeling that it would end up as a trash fire. What I did manage to get, however, was the description of Nick as “stupidly good-looking.” Can we please, as a society, get rid of this? Please? It’s starting to become just like “she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding” at this point. Again: zero nuance.

All in all, a bitter disappointment of a book that lacked the creativity and nuance that the blurb and reviews promised. 1 star.

Only a Monster is the first in Vanessa Len’s Monsters trilogy, which will continue with Never a Hero (slated for release this August) and an untitled third book.

Today’s song:


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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/16/23) – The Isles of the Gods

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

If my constant blabbing about Aurora Rising from the past four years should bring you to any conclusion, it’s probably that I’m a massive Amie Kaufman fan. So when I heard that she was making her solo YA debut this year, I was BEYOND excited!! I immediately preordered, and it came right when I’d just finished up my first year of college—the perfect present! And even though I’ll always pick sci-fi over fantasy, if anybody can make a fantasy that I’ll give 5 stars, it’s Amie Kaufman.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Isles of the Gods (The Isles of the Gods, #1) – Amie Kaufman

Selly has the ocean in her blood.

She’s been tagging along with her father on the high seas since she was a baby, but now, he’s left Selly to her own devices in the port town of Kirkpool. Intent on tracking him down, she tries to set sail, only for her plans to go awry at the hands of Prince Leander, who wants to hitch a ride for his own gain—to seek out the storied Isles of the Gods, where the ruling deities of her world are fabled to be laying in a restless, dormant sleep. But when a disastrous assassination attempt leaves Selly and her crew stranded, she has no choice to trust Leander—and make it to the Isles no matter the cost.

isles ft. some rainy trees

TW/CW: murder, graphic violence, abandonment, assassination, fatal vehicle explosion

From what I can tell, The Isles of the Gods is a book around a decade in the making, a passion project that Amie Kaufman had been crafting relentlessly in between releasing some of her other collaborative novels. So there’s automatically 10 years of love in this novel—and boy, it really did show.

I’ve preferred sci-fi to fantasy for years, but leave it to Amie Kaufman to craft a fresh setting that kept me turning the page for hours! I’m already a sucker for pirates in fantasy, and that aspect was executed with just the right balance of campy fun and nail-biting stakes. And after parsing through all of the rich facets of the world that Kaufman created, it’s left me with one question: what’s keeping authors from creating more industrial/advanced fantasy settings? Consider me done with fantasies with automatically medieval settings, can we do more 1920’s-inspired fantasies that don’t just focus on the jazz age stuff? I didn’t know I could possibly yearn for the melding of magicians and old-timey cars quite this much, but I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: if anybody can do it, IT’S AMIE KAUFMAN.

Kaufman’s writing, as it always is, was the real star of the show in The Isles of the Gods. There’s something instantly transporting about her prose—from the first sentence, I felt dunked headfirst into this lush, rich world, from the gripping prologue to the delightfully suspenseful final sequence. Maybe this is just a consequence of me being so attached to her writing style, but she has such a way of drawing you into the story in record time. Every book is a little world in and of itself, but hers never cease to feel tangible. Reading fantasies with sea settings are always fun for me, being about as landlocked as you can get here in the U.S., but reading this reminded me of a passage from Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, about the protagonist imagining that the rain pattering against his window at night was waves on the hull of a ship. Good thing it was pouring rain when I was reading this book.

And speaking of Kaufman’s writing—now that I’ve seen her solo and collaborative works, I can say with certainty how clever of a writer she is. She sets up common conflicts that threaten to drag down the book, but whips them into cunningly-subverted left turns that kept me guessing all through the novel. A whole bunch of characters that you *can’t* quite tell apart, but are still personally relevant to the protagonist? Oh look, a botched assassination attempt that gets rid of them! Have a lovable but borderline one-note character who hasn’t had the chance to prove themself? Put that sorry little man in a Situation!™️ It may be diabolical, but it made my enjoyment of the book increase that much more—nothing like trope subversion and avoidance left and right to keep you on your toes.

As for the characters, I’m not quite as attached to them as I was with the squad of the Aurora Cycle, for example, but that’s way too high a bar, even if it’s still Amie Kaufman, but I did adore a lot of them! There was clearly so much love and care put into Selly, and it showed—she had a beautiful arc, and she was such a determined and lovable character to root for. Leander’s type of character—the charming, spoiled prince that the protagonist can’t help but fall for—has been done since time immemorial, but Kaufman’s take on the trope resulted in some lovely laughs and a slow-burn romance done right!

And…yes, I felt a little too called out by Keegan. The “bookworm who hasn’t seen the light of day in way too long” was already there, but…dude. I just shaved my head in January. DUDE. AMIE KAUFMAN, STOP PEEKING INTO MY BRAIN LIKE THAT. YOU COME INTO MY HOUSE, AND YOU MAKE A GENDER-SWAPPED CHARACTER OF ME?

Jude and Laskia (especially the former) didn’t get quite as much page time, but they were incredibly intriguing as not-quite-antagonists, but puppeteering each other and subsequently being puppets to political forces beyond their control. I kept getting hints that Laskia was going to turn to Selly/Leander/Keegan’s side, but now that we’ve seen ✨the cliffhanger,✨ the future is uncertain…hmm. I didn’t quite get the promised “squad” vibe that the blurb promised, but I have a feeling that the two camps are going to merge sooner than later…

Also, we love an absolutely Indiana Jones final sequence. NAILED the fantasy brand of campy.

One sidenote—Amie Kaufman said several times that Isles was going to have LGBTQ+ rep, and all we really got was the lesbian couple that appeared for a total of…maybe three pages? Which, yeah, that’s all well and good, but the question that many readers had about said rep was if any of the protagonists were going to be queer, and…so far, nothing? As much as I loved this book, I can’t help but be a little disappointed on that front.

All in all, a gripping, cinematic, and utterly lovable solo venture from one of my favorite authors. 4.75 stars, rounded up to 5!

bonus Hobbes content

The Isles of the Gods is the first in a planned duology, concluding with an unnamed final book slated for release in 2024. Amie Kaufman is also the co-author of the Illuminae Files, the Aurora Cycle (with Jay Kristoff), the Starbound trilogy, and the Other Side of the Sky duology (with Meagan Spooner). On her own, she is the author of the middle grade Elementals trilogy.

Today’s song:

loving this album hnnnnngh

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/9/23) – Not Here to Be Liked

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I put this one on my TBR years ago, and I only fished it out of the void a few days ago, after looking for some books to read for AAPI heritage month. I’d read mixed reviews, so I went in with low expectations, but I came out with a fantastic and nuanced story of feminism in a high school setting!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Not Here to Be Liked – Michelle Quach

Eliza Quan knows that she’s qualified for the position of editor-in-chief at her high school newspaper. She’s been with them since the beginning of her high school career, and sure, she may not be the warmest person 24/7, but she has what it takes to bring the newspaper to new heights. The problem? Her classmates don’t seem to think so.

When she loses the editor-in-chief election to Len DiMartile, who only joined the newspaper after an injury prevented him from playing baseball and decided to run against her on a whim, she feels as though all of her hard work has come to nothing. And she knows she’s qualified—so why does this sexist activity keep running amok in her school? After pouring out her thoughts in a manifesto, Eliza thinks it’s all over. But after the manifesto is posted to the paper’s website without her permission, it causes a ripple effect of protest and accusations. Among the sides being taken, can Eliza transform this drama into genuine change at her school?

TW/CW: sexism/misogyny (external & internalized), racism, bullying, slut-shaming, substance abuse (alcohol)

Don’t you just love it when you’ve forgotten about a book existing, so you go in with low expectations, and you end up dazzled? Top 10 feelings, for sure.

I’ve read my fair share of feminist, realistic-fiction YA in my day, and sadly, it’s easy for them to miss the mark, whether it’s introducing diverse characters for the sake of intersectionality and doing nothing with them (Six Angry Girls) or having a protagonist who only focuses on very surface-level aspects of feminism without getting any more nuanced (half of Watch Us Rise). But Not Here to Be Liked delivered the nuance, heart, and punch that it was supposed to, making for a powerful story of systemic misogyny and leadership.

I think some of the reviews seemed to miss the point when talking about Eliza—she’s a great character, but she’s not intended to be entirely likable. It’s in the title, after all! Sure—she’s determined to make the school paper as good as possible, and sometimes, that comes off as abrasive or strict. But that’s the point—were she a man, these traits would be praised: she’s “too harsh,” but he’s “willing to take charge” or “a fearless leader.” See the double standard? That’s what this book was trying to say all along. And Quach did an excellent job of having a flawed but incredibly root-able protagonist: every position that she takes is a laudable one that’s backed up more often than not. Eliza was robbed of her position, simply because a man’s charisma meant more than a woman’s experience and talent.

Not Here to Be Liked also portrayed how we think of feminism so well! As soon as Eliza’s manifesto is leaked and both support and vitriol begin to flow towards her, many of her classmates stand behind her, but their support is often half-baked; it’s a great commentary on that shallow, hollow white feminism that’s so prevalent among people who aren’t willing to do anything politically uncomfortable: slapping an “I am a feminist” pin on your shirt, saying “smash the patriarchy!” a few times because it’s briefly profitable, and being done with it. This novel does an incredible job of dissecting the true nuance of feminism and teaching others that making genuine change isn’t simple or easy—there are always more layers than you think there are. It’s never just about gender—it’s about race, sexuality, class, and so many other facets of our national (and international) identity. And even though this book doesn’t necessarily cover every bit of it—it’s a big ask for a single book to cover every single component that falls under feminism—it didn’t need to: misogyny and racism were the main focuses, and they were dealt with in a nuanced way. Apart from a misunderstanding of the Bechdel test (the book seemed to interpret a lot of it as how much real women think about men, when Bechdel’s focus was more about how female characters are written, especially in male-dominated Hollywood), it’s a great view of feminism in a YA setting.

Plus, with all of my gripes, Not Here to Be Liked did something of an enemies-to-lovers romance pretty well! Going into this novel, that part was what I was most suspicious about, but Quach, unlike many romances with “enemies-to-lovers” slapped onto them as a buzzword, actually handled in a way that felt authentic. The stages of Eliza and Len’s relationship didn’t feel like it was cut into neat, digestible slices—they had their ups and downs, and the result wasn’t entirely black and white, either. That’s what love is. It’s not quantifiable by any of the labels we put on it, and that’s how it’s supposed to be. Personally, I didn’t think that they had a whole lot of chemistry together, but their relationship was well-written enough that I could push some of that to the side.

All in all, an incredible story of one young woman’s fight for justice in her high school that scores high on its protagonist and depictions of feminism. 4 stars!

Not Here to Be Liked is a standalone, but Michelle Quach is also the author of The Boy You Always Wanted, which is slated for release on August 1, 2023.

Today’s song:

almost finished with Kindred on FX, and I have mixed feelings about it, but for now, at least I got this eery Beatles cover out of it

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/2/23) – Star Splitter

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Honestly, it’s a wonder that I managed to get my hands on this book when I did. I heard about it from a few “out this week” blog posts from other book bloggers (thank you!!), and as of today, the book’s only a week old. I put it on hold on the Kindle library, and it came in surprisingly quick, to my relief! I was super excited by the sci-fi premise, and in most of the relevant aspects, it absolutely delivered!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Star Splitter – Matthew J. Kirby

The method of space travel that 17-year-old Jessica Mathers is familiar with isn’t the kind you’d expect. In for the process to work, teleportation is a crucial step—the body that you’re in on Earth isn’t the same one that goes to space. But either way, after six years of waiting to reunite with her scientist parents on a faraway exoplanet, Jessica is going to space.

But when she wakes up, she’s alone in the wreckage of the ship that was supposed to carry her and the crew, stranded on an alien planet. The walls of the wreck are covered in the evidence of something sinister, and her parents are nowhere in sight. And a teleported clone of herself may be the only person she can trust—and the only person for miles around on this planet.

TW/CW: sci-fi violence, blood, murder, body horror, loss of loved ones

tread lightly – this review contains some spoilers!

Sci-fi that references old(er) poetry is an incredibly niche demographic, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t squarely in the middle of it. You got me there.

This book kind of came out of the blue for me—I forgot that Matthew J. Kirby existed after reading a few of his books in middle school (sorry), so Star Splitter was more of a left-field pick for me. But despite its flaws, it was a fascinating and gripping read—certainly a better addition to the world of YA sci-fi!

Hard sci-fi is hard to nail down for a young adult book; astrophysics and quantum mechanics are hard for anybody to understand, but I can speak for myself as an (older) teenager and a longtime YA when I say that it might be even harder to understand for a younger-skewing audience. Not to insult anybody’s intelligence—I’m fully including myself in there, in all my new English major glory. But Kirby hit the near-perfect balance with explaining the mechanics of teleportation, and how it factored into space travel. It wasn’t explained like it was being explained to a child, but it didn’t dump all of the information in an unceremonious chunk of jargon, either. And it’s a super fascinating concept to boot—it adds a layer of suspense to an already suspenseful book, there’s significant ramifications for most everything about the world that Kirby sets up, and there’s an existential aspect too. It’s all great there.

The story itself held a lot of water for me as well! There was so much to pick apart in it‚ from Jessica’s existential conflict about interacting with her own clone (HUH) and her own body to the mystery of what happened to the DS Theseus and its inhabitants. (Also, loved that we had a spaceship called Theseus. I’m assuming it’s a nod to the Ship of Theseus, but it also works on another level when you consider what happened with the crew. I won’t spoil anything about that in particular.) Kirby’s writing consistently kept all of that afloat, juggling two different timelines with suspense unfolding in both of them. His descriptions of the landscape of Hades (Mr. Kirby really likes his Greek mythology, huh?) were also nothing short of lovely—I’m a sucker for any kind of alien planet exploration, and Star Splitter, for the most part, adequately scratched that itch.

I say “for the most part” because, as much as I loved it, there were so many parts that seemed too important that were just left out of the final conflict. The sideplot about the ruins of an alien city with a giant pile of ground sloth-looking skeletons???? Bioluminescence everywhere?? BEING PURSUED BY AN UNSEEN ALIEN IN THE SHADOWS??? That was my favorite part of the whole novel, but we really didn’t get any resolution to it. It felt like such a crime that we never got to see where that thread led, given how much it was foreshadowed and otherwise built up. I get that it wasn’t necessarily the main conflict, but Kirby gave it a similar amount of weight to the main conflict, so it felt like it was in need of a more satisfying conclusion than “Jessica got out of the city ruins somewhat unscathed.” I NEED MORE. GIVE THE PEOPLE (ME) WHAT THEY WANT.

I feel like this happened a lot with Star Splitter for me—aside from the main conflict, there were so many fascinating and inventive things going on with the world that felt so creative, but were just tossed aside as afterthoughts once they were explained. The fauna on Hades? Mt. Ida? QUANTUM GHOSTS? I was just taken aback by so many parts of the plot, only to have them scrapped in favor of the main conflict, which I…halfway understand. All this is to say that said main conflict was excellent, but I just wanted more. It wasn’t like Star Splitter was an exceedingly long novel either—320 pages leaves some room to explore at least a few other aspects of the world, I think. That’s why I’m *officially* putting my rating at 3.75 instead of the full 4 stars—there was so much creative stuff to chew on, but not enough of it was expanded upon. I’ll be needing a sequel, please and thank you. 🫶🏻

All in all, an inventive and fascinating sci-fi novel that presented a plethora of creative aspects to fill up the plot, but still left me wanting in some places. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

As of now, it looks like Star Splitter is a standalone, but Matthew J. Kirby is the author of several other books for children and young adults, including the Dark Gravity Sequence (The Arctic Code, Island of the Sun, and The Rogue World), The Clockwork Three, A Taste for Monsters, and many others.

Today’s song:

getting caught up on Palehound before Eye on the Bat comes out…another great album!! this song reminds me so much of Wilco

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/25/23) – Social Queue

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Earlier this month, I was looking for some books with autism rep for Autism Acceptance Month. I stumbled upon this one on a Goodreads list, and it seemed like a fun read. And while I did have some problems with the writing style, it was a solid romance through the lens of a young Autistic woman!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Social Queue – Kay Kerr

18-year-old Zoe is determined to turn over a new leaf. After a string of bad experiences in high school, she lands an internship at an online media company, where she writes pieces about her dating experiences—or lack thereof. But when these pieces get noticed by some of her old high school classmates, Zoe must reassess her idea of romance—and if taking second chances is worth it at all.

TW/CW: ableism, police brutality, bullying, sensory overload, misogyny

I found this one mostly on a whim (the quest for good disability rep never ends) and figured that it would be a good read for Autism Acceptance Month this year. And…I’ve come out of it with mixed feelings. I did like it, and I’d say it was a solid read. But I just had such a hard time getting into the writing, and while I loved all of the discussions around autism and disabled identity in general, they often came out very forced.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Zoe was a great protagonist, and she was the perfect fit for this kind of story. Although I wished we could have seen some more personality from her, I loved the journey of self-love and acceptance that she goes on over the course of this book. She had great character development, and her interactions with the other characters felt authentic and genuine. I can’t speak to how accurately her autism was depicted, but as a neurodivergent person, a lot of it felt very authentic, what with the sensory overload and whatnot. Either way, it’s always incredibly refreshing to see disabled characters/stories actually being written by disabled authors, so Kay Kerr deserves a thank you just for that.

There were some great conversations about autism and about disability in general as well in Social Queue! Zoe’s experiences—especially with her well-intentioned but ultimately harmful coworker trying to write about disabled issues—were so important to have in a book, and Kerr handled all of them very well. I loved the emphasis on restructuring the language we use around disabled people, especially removing the context of disability automatically being synonymous with suffering and doing away with the narrative of “overcoming” one’s disability. Social Queue raises so many questions that are so often left out of conversations about disability (and in feminism in general), and even as a piece of fiction, it works as a good primer for somebody looking into disabled issues.

That being said, some of the situations which Kerr tried to implement said conversations about disability came off as forced to me. For instance, early on in the novel, Zoe witnesses an instance of police brutality directed at an Autistic man. While this is a great starting point for conversations about disability and police brutality, it felt…blatantly like a plot device, like this horrifying instance of police brutality was set up just so that these conversations could be had in the book. Even though said conversations stemming from it were worth having, the placement and writing of it just made such a horrifying thing into nothing more than a conversation starter. Didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth.

I think part of why that instance didn’t work was because of Kerr’s writing style. Just like the cover, which looks like it was made in 15 minutes on Canva, nothing about it felt very distinct; none of the characters had unique voices, and most of the descriptions of the plot were mostly concerned with going from point A to point B without much embellishment. I’m not saying that Kerr should’ve gone headfirst with the purple prose, but the writing felt so dry that it needed some kind of embellishment, anything to make it more interesting. Even though Zoe was a solid character, this writing made for a significant amount of disconnect between her and some of the other characters that we were supposed to sympathize with.

Additionally, the romance aspect was iffy for me. I loved the premise of Zoe reconnecting with people from her high school and exploring her sexuality, but since the writing was so bland, most of said love interests were interchangeable to me. The only distinguishing factor was a) one of them was a girl (we love to see characters questioning their sexualities, though!! good stuff), and b) that one of them was a creep. That was pretty much it. Also, the fact that Zoe ended up with Gabe after all that infuriated me. I get forgiving and forgetting, but if a guy makes a WHOLE CLASS PRESENTATION about how you’re “so inspiring” just because you’re disabled, I WOULDN’T EVEN CONSIDER GIVING HIM A SECOND CHANCE. WHY. Apologies aren’t even enough at that point. That’s just disgusting. And I’m glad that they did cover that, but…Zoe. Bestie. You can do so much better than him. There was a lot of “he was mean to you because he had a crush on you, so it’s fine” action in Social Queue as a whole too, which rubbed me the wrong way, but Gabe was the most offensive for me.

All in all, a romance novel that did a good job of representing disabled and Autistic issues, but was let down on several occasions by its bland writing. 3 stars.

Social Queue is a standalone, but Kay Kerr is also the author of Please Don’t Hug Me and Love & Autism.

Today’s song:


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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/18/23) – The Spear Cuts Through Water

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I was in a fantasy mood recently, so I decided to pick up The Spear Cuts Through Water after hearing some rave reviews from other bloggers. The gorgeous cover only added to the sell. But in the end, this novel ended up being a major disappointment—a murky, 500+ page slog that was only enjoyable for fleeting moments. I really need to stop setting myself up for disappointment with all these overly long high fantasy books…

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Spear Cuts Through Water – Simon Jimenez

The Emperor of the Moon Throne has terrorized the land of the Strangled Throat for centuries, aided by his three reckless sons, aptly dubbed The Terrors. But like everything else that he has seized, the Emperor’s power comes from an age-old moon god who has been locked under the palace against her will. But a god is not meant to be kept in captivity.

So she escapes. Aided by Jun, a disgraced palace guard, and Keema, a warrior from a distant, mysterious land, she sets off on a journey to find her freedom. But the Moon Throne will not let go of her so easily…

TW/CW: ableism, cannibalism, child abuse, murder, body horror, substance abuse, mentions of sexual assault (off-page), torture, loss of loved ones

This is one of those instances where I feel like I’ve read a completely different book than all of the 5-star reviewers. I really wanted to like it—and there were a few things that I did like—but ultimately, it felt like a 20-minute prog-rock song in book form: well-written, but so unneccesarily convoluted and full of itself that it became insufferable.

Before I go on my tirade, I will acknowledge that there were some wonderful, very bold and skilled parts of this novel. Jimenez’s writing had moments of being both beautiful and insightful—there were a few anchors to pull me through the slog, and his prose had moments of being incredible. 2nd person is always a bold choice, but unlike other aspects of this novel, it was executed very well, succeeding at being both immersive and fresh without feeling like it was bold just for the sake of being so.

“Bold” is generally I word that I could ascribe to most of this book. A lot of it was written in a fresh, nontraditional way, and I appreciated its execution in some sections. But a lot of it just felt like showing off—having unconventional chapter breaks and an infuriating structure just for Jimenez to show that he was capable of doing so. Most of these ended up being to the novel’s detriment. The random “chapter” breaks (there really weren’t any chapters in this book?), which mostly just ended up being sized-up font that was, essentially, what should have just the first sentence of the paragraph. And since they were all just first sentences of the paragraph, there were 2-3 of these breaks per page. POVs got switched without warning and without explanation, making the reading experience overcomplicated where it could’ve been an easy fix. It just felt like it was biting itself in the foot in the name of art—it could have been a beautiful story, if it wasn’t so intent on showing off how “different” it was.

As a result, so much of this novel got lost. Even though I was fairly lost trying to discern whose POV is it this time, I did notice one thing while reading The Spear Cuts Through Water—where’d the worldbuilding go? Other than the vague notion of a fantasy world (gods and goddesses, some talking animals/spirits, etc.), I had no idea of the layout of the world, the regions of the world, any kind of cultural cues or conventions, any kind of magic system…it just wasn’t there. At all. The same goes for the characters—they were all but cardboard, moved around like pawns for seemingly no reason. (I get that they were under oath by the Moon God, but the point still stands. They didn’t need to be that stiff.) Other than the reveal about Keema, nothing compelled me about either of them, or any of the other passing side characters. This novel was just so intent on chasing itself in circles that it forgot the essential elements that a novel needs.

All in all, a fantasy with great potential, but that ended up losing itself under layers of attempts to be daring and new. 2 stars.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is a standalone, but Simon Jimenez is also the author of The Vanished Birds.

Today’s song:

LOVE this album, this feels like a perfect match for “There’s No Other Way”

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

Posted in Uncategorized

Book Review Tuesday (4/11/23) – Stars & Smoke

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Here’s the thing—I’m not sure if I would read this book if it weren’t for Marie Lu. It’s not the kind of story that I would normally pick up, but if I’ve learned one thing as a longtime fan, it’s that she’s deft at writing for a variety of different genres. After finishing Stars and Smoke, it proved my point—I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise, but it was still a fun read.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Stars and Smoke (Stars and Smoke, #1) – Marie Lu

Winter Young is on top of the world. The former backup dancer has had a meteoric rise to fame with his solo career, with sold-out tours and chart-topping albums every year. But his talents are wanted elsewhere—as a spy.

For Sydney Cosette, Winter is the key to taking down Eli Morrison, a prominent crime boss. After Morrison’s daughter, Penelope, requests a private concert for her birthday, Sydney and her colleagues recruit him for the Panacea Group, a spy organization willing to do the dirty work that most won’t do. Winter is the perfect opportunity to infiltrate Eli Morrison’s rank—and take him down for good. But sparks are flying between Winter and Sydney—sparks that could compromise the mission itself…

TW/CW: poisoning, murder, loss of loved ones

I’ve been a fan of Marie Lu since middle school, and she’s become an autobuy author for me, no matter the story—in my experience, she’s shown herself to be incredibly versatile when it comes to hopping genres. When I saw the description for this book, I knew one thing: I probably wouldn’t have read this book had her name been on it. It didn’t seem like my type of story. And although that’s still true, Marie Lu gave it her best shot at that magic touch that she applies to every novel she writes.

Lu said that in the acknowledgements that after the pandemic and all of the chaos and awful things that have happened as of late, this book was meant to be a piece of light escapism to distract from it all. Given how dark some of her works have gotten, I really respect creating a book just for that purpose—some days you can’t swallow a whole, literary masterpiece full of emotional turmoil. And as with every other novel she’s written, Lu achieves that goal perfectly. Stars and Smoke is pure fun—it’s the YA version of an action-packed blockbuster, filled with fun and romance. Lu keeps the plot and pace going steadily, and I never found myself getting bored.

However, even though most of the book hinged on the premise of said romance, it barely felt fleshed out. In the last 2-3 years, I’ve seen the “enemies to lovers” trope being slapped on advertisements and blurbs for books as a selling point from its popularity from both fan fiction and BookTok. Listen—I adore the dynamic when it’s done well, but the trope has become such a buzzword that a lot of authors seem to have forgotten what it’s really about. All too often, the stretch between “enemies” and “lovers” is virtually nonexistent, making for a half-baked romance that ends up feeling like it has no chemistry—going to complete disgust to head-over-heels in love in no time at all.

Stars and Smoke, unfortunately, fell into this trap as well, which is frankly surprising, since Marie Lu has done enemies-to-lovers (and romance in general) well before. Winter and Sydney seemed to have hardly any chemistry at all—they seemed to go from “eh, I really don’t want to work with [x]” (and vice versa) to “excuse me while I write a chart-topping love confession for [x]” in a very short span of time. The “enemies” part was very understated too—not that I’m complaining, but if anything, it was more “mild annoyance to sorta lovers, I guess” than anything. Again: enemies to lovers has become a complete buzzword. Trope terms are helpful, but love is often more complicated than that, and the key to getting them right is to recognize the nuance beyond the basic premise of the trope.

All in all, a light, fun novel that lacked in the romance department, but delivered in the pure escapism that it promised. 3.5 stars!

Stars and Smoke is the first in a planned duology, concluding with an as-of-yet unnamed sequel set to be released sometime in 2024. Marie Lu is also the author of the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion, and Rebel), the Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star), the Warcross duology (Warcross and Wildcard), the standalone Kingdom of Back, the Skyhunter duology (Skyhunter and Steelstriker), and many other books for children and young adults.

Today’s song:

criminally short

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/4/23) – Strike the Zither

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Descendant of the Crane and The Ones We’re Meant to Find made me an instant fan of Joan He, and so I was immediately hooked when I found out that she was cooking up another piece of folkloric-feeling historical fiction! And now that I’ve finished this novel, I can safely say that Joan He has never once let me down. Fingers crossed that it’s consistent.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Strike the Zither (Kingdom of Three, #1) – Joan He

Zephyr has spent her whole life mapping survival out strategically. It was necessary after she was orphaned while she was still young, but as the strategist of the warlordess Xin Ren, she now holds the fate of a warring country in her hands. Three factions are fighting for dominance under a figurehead of an empress, and any sudden moves could mean that one faction takes over the entire Xin Dynasty.

When Zephyr is sent on a mission to infiltrate the ranks of the enemy to ensure the safekeeping of Xin Ren’s loyal followers, she collides with Crow, an enemy strategist with an agenda of his own. But the boiling point of all three factions is fast approaching, and Zephyr must do anything in order to make it out alive—even if it means exposing herself to the enemy.

TW/CW: death, blood, war themes, violence, torture, animal death, vomiting, abuse, body-shaming, xenophobia (fictional)

I’m not sure why I’m so hesitant to say that Joan He can do no wrong at this point. She’s never missed. Not with Descendant of the Crane, not with The Ones We’re Meant to Find, and certainly not with this novel. Her first two books were already works of art, and I’m glad to say that He is consistent in the quality of her writing, and consistent in her ability to put out so much unique media into the world of literature.

Each Joan He book is memorable in its own way, but what stood out to me about Strike the Zither was how wonderfully cinematic it was. It wasn’t frustratingly quippy or overtly self-serious; He knew just when to hit the balance, juxtaposing war with well-placed zither solos and political intrigue. He seems to do political intrigue especially well—there’s a way to make it genuinely interesting without having the entire focus be on court drama, which happens so often in YA, and with both this novel and Descendant of the Crane, she teases each development just enough to continually keep my attention. With the stylized art on the cover, I could honestly imagine this novel being adapted into a darker Laika Studios stop-motion film, but no matter the medium, Strike the Zither feels like it was born for the screen.

He also has an awareness of her characters that not many YA authors do—she knows that Zephyr and all of the other supporting characters are over the top, and she absolutely rolls with it. Again, Strike the Zither was a master class in balance; Zephyr neither fell into the all-too-common self-seriousness of YA, nor did she constantly break out into the dreaded Marvel Funny personality. She’s theatrical, but in a fun way that doesn’t mire itself in angst unnecessarily. Given this novel’s roots in Chinese classics and folklore, it’s the perfect way to write it; He mentions that the original epic of the Three Kingdoms had a tendency to put historical figures on a godlike pedestal, and this felt like a tongue-in-cheek response to that style.

The pacing of this novel also sealed the deal for me; although it was a little difficult to get into right out of the gate with how the world and its characters were so rapidly introduced, once it got going, the pace never faltered. Every action felt calculated, like the strategist that Zephyr is, and each choice elevated the plot to heights that I didn’t expect Strike the Zither to reach. The main twist was so deftly executed, and it had me grinning from ear to ear when I came across it, and my excitement never waned over the course of this novel. This one’s a must-read, trust me.

All in all, an impressive display of Joan He’s talent on all fronts. 4 stars! I can’t wait for the rest of the duology!

Strike the Zither is the first book in the Kingdom of Three duology; the sequel, Sound the Gong, is set for release in October of 2023 (!!!). Joan He is also the author of Descendant of the Crane and The Ones We’re Meant to Find, both of which are standalones.

Today’s song:

I’ve had this on repeat for the past few days :,) so lovely

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, Mini Reviews

Book Review Tuesday (3/28/23) – #TransRightsReadathon mini reviews

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As some of you may know, last week (March 20-27) was when the #TransRightsReadathon was hosted in response to a dangerous increase in anti-trans legislation across the U.S. Created by Simi Kern, the goal of the readathon was to give the spotlight to as many trans books and authors as possible to bring them awareness and support in light of the rampant transphobia across the country and beyond. It’s been frightening and heartbreaking to see what’s happening in other states, and I want to support my trans siblings in any way possible. So I’ve decided to include shorter reviews of all of the trans books I read this week—all of which were good!


Enjoy this week’s mini reviews!

A Million Quiet Revolutions – Robin Gow

summary from Goodreads:

For as long as they can remember, Aaron and Oliver have only ever had each other. In a small town with few queer teenagers, let alone young trans men, they’ve shared milestones like coming out as trans, buying the right binders–and falling for each other.

But just as their relationship has started to blossom, Aaron moves away. Feeling adrift, separated from the one person who understands them, they seek solace in digging deep into the annals of America’s past. When they discover the story of two Revolutionary War soldiers who they believe to have been trans man in love, they’re inspired to pay tribute to these soldiers by adopting their names–Aaron and Oliver. As they learn, they delve further into unwritten queer stories, and they discover the transformative power of reclaiming one’s place in history.

TW/CW: transphobia, dysphoria, misgendering/deadnaming, homophobia, off-page sexual assault, religious bigotry

Novels in verse always get me when they’re done well, and A Million Quiet Revolutions was no exception. The story of Aaron and Oliver is one that was essential to be told, and it resulted in a beautifully poignant piece of verse!

The growing relationship between Oliver and Aaron felt so genuine, and the combination of pseudo-epistolary format (oh god, that sounded pretentious…) with verse emphasized the way that their relationship transcended barriers of both place and time. The interweaving of the past with the present gave me an insight into a queer part of history that I’m almost embarrassed that I didn’t consider until reading this—better late than never, I suppose. Their voices both leapt off the page, and the easy flow of Gow’s verse made the reading experience feel effortless, drifting like wind—good poetry, to me, doesn’t quite feel like poetry; the rhythm remains, but it doesn’t feel like going line by line in such a rote way.

Above all, the message of this novel in verse is one that’s so important, especially in a time where the narrative of LGBTQ+ people being trendy and new is being pushed so often—queer people have always been here, and we will always be here. Aaron and Oliver’s journey of researching their trans namesakes—cross-dressing soldiers in the Revolutionary War—was one that’s so necessary for understanding our own roots. The key to belonging is realizing that you have always been a part of history, no matter how many pains historians have taken to ignore or deliberately erase the queerness and transness that has always been there. For me, that’s why A Million Quiet Revolutions is such an important read.

Brimming with history and rich verse, A Million Quiet Revolutions is an ode to discovering your own roots, and finding solace in hidden histories. 4 stars!


The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester – Maya MacGregor

summary from Goodreads:

In this queer contemporary YA mystery, a nonbinary teen with autism realizes they must not only solve a 30-year-old mystery but also face the demons lurking in their past in order to live a satisfying life.

Sam Sylvester’s not overly optimistic about their recent move to the small town of Astoria, Oregon after a traumatic experience in their last home in the rural Midwest.

Yet Sam’s life seems to be on the upswing after meeting several new friends and a potential love interest in Shep, the pretty neighbor. However, Sam can’t seem to let go of what might have been, and is drawn to investigate the death of a teenage boy in 1980s Astoria. Sam’s convinced he was murdered–especially since Sam’s investigation seems to resurrect some ghosts in the town.

Threatening notes and figures hidden in shadows begin to disrupt Sam’s life. Yet Sam continues to search for the truth. When Sam discovers that they may be closer to a killer than previously known, Sam has a difficult decision to make. Would they risk their new life for a half-lived one?

TW/CW: transphobia, ableism, self-harm, homophobia, biphobia, misgendering, anaphylactic shock, hate crimes (past), murder

…why does Goodreads still list the title wrong 😭

My ultimate hope was that this book would be as well-crafted as its cover, and for the most part, it lived up to my expectations! The Many Half-Lived Lives of Sam Sylvester deftly toes the line between a coming-of-age story and a decades-old mystery, buoyed by a diverse and lovable cast.

Sam Sylvester has a batch some of the most diverse representation I’ve seen in a realistic fiction/mystery novel in a while—aside from having a nonbinary, asexual, and Autistic protagonist (more neurodivergent protagonists, please!!), there were so many different characters that were incredibly intersectional—queer, POC, and disabled characters all across the board, and not just the teen characters too! All of these identities were woven so well into the story, and I loved the journey of self-acceptance and reckoning that Sam experiences throughout the novel as they unravel the mystery of the boy who died in their room 30 years ago.

That being said, although I liked most every aspect of this novel, this really feels like a novel that’s going to date itself. I enjoyed a handful of the references (always extra points for David Bowie), but a lot of the more recent ones—the references to Tumblr, Gen Z slang, internet culture, and a Steven Universe gag every other page, read as very hackneyed and stilted. As authentic as the rest of Sam Sylvester was, those parts dragged down what would have otherwise been powerful and realistic dialogue. Most of the writing did its job and did it well, but the attempt to ground it in the present day only ended up making a novel that’s going to date itself far quicker than it was probably intended to.

Despite that, I’d say that Sam Sylvester is still a must-read—for the excellent representation, for the mystery, and for the coming-of-age story. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!


The Thirty Names of Night, Zeyn Joukhadar

summary from Goodreads:

The author of the “vivid and urgent…important and timely” (The New York Times BookReview) debut The Map of Salt and Stars returns with this remarkably moving and lyrical novel following three generations of Syrian Americans who are linked by a mysterious species of bird and the truths they carry close to their hearts.

Five years after a suspicious fire killed his ornithologist mother, a closeted Syrian American trans boy sheds his birth name and searches for a new one. He has been unable to paint since his mother’s ghost has begun to visit him each evening. As his grandmother’s sole caretaker, he spends his days cooped up in their apartment, avoiding his neighborhood masjid, his estranged sister, and even his best friend (who also happens to be his longtime crush). The only time he feels truly free is when he slips out at night to paint murals on buildings in the once-thriving Manhattan neighborhood known as Little Syria.

One night, he enters the abandoned community house and finds the tattered journal of a Syrian American artist named Laila Z, who dedicated her career to painting the birds of North America. She famously and mysteriously disappeared more than sixty years before, but her journal contains proof that both his mother and Laila Z encountered the same rare bird before their deaths. In fact, Laila Z’s past is intimately tied to his mother’s—and his grandmother’s—in ways he never could have expected. Even more surprising, Laila Z’s story reveals the histories of queer and transgender people within his own community that he never knew. Realizing that he isn’t and has never been alone, he has the courage to officially claim a new name: Nadir, an Arabic name meaning rare.

As unprecedented numbers of birds are mysteriously drawn to the New York City skies, Nadir enlists the help of his family and friends to unravel what happened to Laila Z and the rare bird his mother died trying to save. Following his mother’s ghost, he uncovers the silences kept in the name of survival by his own community, his own family, and within himself, and discovers the family that was there all along.

TW/CW: transphobia, xenophobia, racism, Islamophobia, miscarriage, grief, sexual assault, animal death, loss of a parent

I didn’t go into The Thirty Names of Night with any expectations, but I was stunned by the writing! This novel is one of the best magical realism novels I’ve read in recent years, with writing as rich as a tapestry and a story that’s just as well-woven.

Joukhadar’s writing style was the star of Thirty Names; this is the first of his novels that I’ve read, but he has such a unique talent for finding unlikely comparisons and weaving them into the richest, most obvious but out-of-sight metaphors imaginable. I would never have compared the gray sky on a foggy day to the color of a kitchen knife, and somehow, it was right in front of me. His talent for metaphor suited the emotional depth of this story, as well as the almost fantastical element of the birds in New York—I will never claim to be the expert on him, but if there was any story that was suited for Joukhadar to tell, it’s this one.

That writing also made the emotional core of this story possible. There’s so much to Thirty Names: gender identity, grief, heritage, family, and the body itself, but all of it was handled with such grace and aplomb that made the story feel really, truly real. I might’ve even passed the aspect of the birds by as something that could feasibly happen with how this story was written. Every part of this novel is deeply moving, raw and beautiful, and the prose flows as smoothly as air over a bird’s wings.

All in all, a beautiful, literary tale of connections—to family, to gender, and to the world around us at large. 4.25 stars!


The City in the Middle of the Night, Charlie Jane Anders

summary from Goodreads:

“If you control our sleep, then you can own our dreams…And from there, it’s easy to control our entire lives.”

From the brilliant mind of Charlie Jane Anders (“A master absurdist”—New York Times; “Virtuoso”—NPR) comes a new novel of Kafkaesque futurism. Set on a planet that has fully definitive, never-changing zones of day and night, with ensuing extreme climates of endless, frigid darkness and blinding, relentless light, humankind has somehow continued apace—though the perils outside the built cities are rife with danger as much as the streets below.

But in a world where time means only what the ruling government proclaims, and the levels of light available are artificially imposed to great consequence, lost souls and disappeared bodies are shadow-bound and savage, and as common as grains of sand. And one such pariah, sacrificed to the night, but borne up by time and a mysterious bond with an enigmatic beast, will rise to take on the entire planet–before it can crumble beneath the weight of human existence.

TW/CW: animal attack/animal death, police brutality, body horror

Alright, so the only explicitly stated Latinx characters, specifically of Mexican ancestry, are named…Carlos and Maria? So most everybody else gets semi-unique names, but not them? It’s like Cho Chang all over again…[LOUD INCORRECT BUZZER}

If I hadn’t read Victories Greater Than Death beforehand, I would’ve been more suspicious, but it seems like Anders has gotten a lot better with diversity on that front, but…still iffy. Just saying.

That aside, The City in the Middle of the Night was one of the more inventive dystopias that I’ve read recently, but it fell victim to very convoluted writing. It’s obvious from every page that Anders put so, so much work into creating a fleshed-out world with an equally fleshed-out history—that was a riotous success on her part. The premise of society being divided by a tidally-locked planet felt eerily feasible, and I absolutely ADORED all of the alien life forms on the night side of January—the Gelet were obviously my favorites, but I would’ve liked to have seen more creatures. ALWAYS MORE CREATURES.

However, Anders’ writing choices ended up making parts of The City in the Middle of the Night something of a struggle. The story itself ended up being rather convoluted and tangled, and I found myself getting lost and confused about wait, which side of the planet are we on again? Why are we here in the first place? The additions of a boatload of characters that ended up having very little consequence to the plot at large didn’t help either. This story had the potential to be incredible, but it ended up getting so lost in itself that it became an ordeal to figure out where I was.

All in all, an inventively-conceived dystopia that excelled in worldbuilding but floundered in its writing. 3.25 stars.

Tell me what you think! Did you participate in the #TransRightsReadathon, and if so, what books did you read? What do you think of these books? Let me know in the comments!

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!