Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/28/22) – Lakelore

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a huge fan of Anna-Marie McLemore’s books for ages; their prose is always immersive and lush, and their stories never fail to pull at the heartstrings. So I was over-the-moon excited to find out that they had a new book out! I put Lakelore on hold as soon as I could, and I finally got to read it last week. While it wasn’t their best work, Lakelore is still a beautiful tale of the trans experience.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Lakelore – Anna-Marie McLemore

The town where Bastián and Lore live has a secret: under the lake is a strange, unknown world. But they are the only ones who have ventured down into this secret world, and they know something that the other townsfolk don’t know: the world under the lake is blending with the real world. The only way to put the two worlds back in their places is for Bastián and Lore to reunite, but the secrets between them may tear them apart before they reach their goal.

TW/CW: ableism, bullying, racism, transphobia, dysphoria

I loved Lakelore, but it lacked the very thing that makes McLemore’s other books so unique—the magical realism aspect. It was there, sure, but it felt so sidelined when the synopsis emphasized it so much. That being said, Lakelore was still excellent, and it’s sure to resonate with so many nonbinary readers!

The representation in Lakelore was truly fantastic! Both Bastián and Lore are Latinx and nonbinary; Bastián also has ADHD and Lore has dyslexia! This kind of intersectional representation is what I live for, and McLemore wrote it all so gracefully! Each aspect of their identities was so wonderfully written, from Bastián’s journey starting testosterone to Lore’s therapy sessions to cope with school having dyslexia. The whole book is a beautiful testament to being the other in some way, and the way that McLemore explores it with Bastián and Lore was fantastic.

And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Anna-Marie McLemore’s unforgettable prose! Their writing is as strong as ever in Lakelore, and the way their signature, magical writing style told Bastián and Lore’s stories made it all the more engaging, emotional, and tender. It’s the kind of writing that feels like looking at pure, unadulterated magic, instantly transporting the reader to the small town and the mysterious lake at its heart.

That being said, I was a little disappointed with the magical realism aspect of Lakelore. At best, it was underdeveloped; we got glimpses of the world beneath the lake, but it was never quite expanded upon. We saw that this underwater realm gave Bastián’s alebrijes (which I also loved—great metaphor for healthy coping mechanisms!) the ability to move, but other than that, it was very vague, save for the urban legend aspect of it. I guess it’s on me for thinking that Lakelore was gonna be some kind of nonbinary Abe Sapien kind of deal, but even so, I wanted so much more from that aspect after how strong McLemore’s magical realism/fantasy game usually is.

All in all, a fantastic addition to Anna-Marie McLemore’s pantheon that lacked slightly in the magical realism department, but made up for it with the beautiful depiction of a Latinx, nonbinary, and neurodivergent experience. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Lakelore is a standalone, but Anna-Marie McLemore is also the author of The Mirror Season, Wild Beauty, When the Moon Was Ours, Dark and Deepest Red, Blanca & Roja, The Weight of Feathers, and the forthcoming Great Gatsby remix Self-Made Boys.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/21/22) – A Lesson in Vengeance

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I really didn’t have much attachment to this book; I think I just put it on my TBR because I’d like Victoria Lee’s previous book, The Fever King, a decent amount, and I’d heard there was queer rep in it. I ended up fishing it out of my TBR to find specifically queer books for pride month, and it was available at my local library, so why not? To my dismay, A Lesson in Vengeance was one of the most frustrating books I’d read in a long time—it’s been a while since I’ve been this angry at a book.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee

Felicity Morrow carries a great burden: she may have been responsible for the untimely death of her girlfriend, Alex. After that fateful day, she took a semester off from the Dalloway School, a legendary—and perhaps haunted—boarding school deep in the mountains. But when she returns, a fascinating girl named Ellis has arrived, a teen author prodigy who came to the school to research for her next novel. Felicity and Ellis become entrenched in the history of occult and witchcraft tied to the Dalloway School, but the path they go down is one that could lead to death—or worse.

TW/CW: murder, gore, animal death, loss of loved ones, mental health issues (depression), grief, toxic relationships, descriptions of murder (hanging, burying alive, etc.)

I don’t think a book has made me this angry in ages. I should’ve DNF’d it, but I almost just finished it out of spite. I recognize that there’s so much work that goes into writing a book and putting it out into the world, so take this review as you will, but god. I have an absolute laundry list of gripes with this book, I’m sad to say.

A Lesson in Vengeance pretty clearly took inspiration from The Secret History, a book that I didn’t expect to enjoy as much as I did. But there’s a key aspect of The Secret History that A Lesson in Vengeance astronomically missed the mark on that could’ve made or broke it: it’s established early on that it’s a cautionary tale, and that these characters are either already horribly toxic people or that the book is their corruption arc. A Lesson in Vengeance misses that by miles, and these deeply flawed characters are romanticized. I’m not saying that I need “UNRELIABLE TOXIC NARRATOR” in skywriting, but the way that Lee romanticized Felicity deliberately going off her meds and dismissing her well-meaning therapists disgusted me. I’m all for “messy” queer characters, but this goes FAR beyond just “messy”—these are just straight-up horrible people, and it seemed like Lee didn’t recognize this or handle it properly.

Let’s talk more about the characters. Lee’s writing style is what earned the half-star from me, but their prose had a fatal flaw when it came to the characters; most of them are meant to be dangerous and alluring, but what was written as “mysterious writer girl with unorthodox methods” was more than anything just another toxic rich person added to the mix. All of the characters were clearly backstabbing, flawed people who solved their problems with drugs and alcohol, but again—it was all romanticized as part of the “dark academia aesthetic.” I’M SORRY, WHAT? How is rich people smoking indoors an “aesthetic?” More importantly, how is DELIBERATELY GOING OFF YOUR MEDS AN “AESTHETIC?” I’ve never been the biggest fan of dark academia, but I can’t deny that when it’s done well, it’s chilling; this, however, was just a mess of a book built off of an aesthetic that failed to realize its fatal shortcomings. I’m sorry, I don’t want to read about rich people smoking indoors for 370-odd pages.

Additionally, there wasn’t much keeping the plot together. I went in thinking that there would be a murder mystery hidden somewhere, along with witches, the occult, and a budding sapphic relationship. However, the book ended up being 60% rich people smoking and drinking themselves silly (uninteresting from the start) with a weak witchcraft sideplot that was sidelined for most of the book and was never really resolved. All of the diversity that this book promised, though well-intentioned, felt more like a checklist: Black character? Check. South-Asian character? Check. And the sapphic relationship that I was hinging on just ended up being a toxic mess of manipulation without any self-awareness of its nature: again, it was framed as an “alluring, mysterious” kind of thing, when in reality, it was just…borderline abusive and devoid of any emotional intelligence whatsoever.

All in all, a premise that had the potential to be mildly interesting, but did nothing more than romanticize its toxic characters and lend itself to a story centered more around a flimsy aesthetic than a plot. 1.5 angry little stars.

A Lesson in Vengeance is a standalone, but Victoria Lee is also the author of the Feverwake series (The Fever King and The Electric Heir, as well as the novellas The Traitor’s Crown and The Stars and Everything in Between) and the forthcoming The Girl That Time Forgot.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/14/22) – The Raven and the Reindeer

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve had The Raven and the Reindeer on my tbr since the dawn of time (read: 2016), and I’m not sure why I put it off for so long, but either way, I bought it for my vacation last week. I ended up reading it on the plane and in Yosemite, and I was surprised at how much I loved it—a beautifully immersive and queer retelling of “The Snow Queen”!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Raven and the Reindeer – T. Kingfisher

Gerta has grown up with tales told to her by her grandmother—tales of characters like the Snow Queen, a merciless, inhuman being who steals away children in the dead of winter. What Gerta never realized was that the Snow Queen is real all this time.

When her best friend Kay is stolen by the Snow Queen in the night, Gerta sets off on a quest across the frozen wilderness, determined to rescue him. But along the way, she realizes that the true meaning of her journey is far from what she thought it would be—and filled with unimaginable dangers.

TW/CW: animal death, violence, descriptions of corpses, freezing to death, descriptions of blood/animal skinning

the “not-like-other-girls” complex to queer awakening pipeline is real and this book is proof. I’ve lived it 💀

It’s been ages since I’ve read a fairytale retelling quite this wonderful! I came in with no expectations, and close to everything about it blew me away, from Kingfisher’s wry but tender writing style to Gerta’s endearing quest to save her friend.

I haven’t read any of Ursula Vernon’s T. Kingfisher books (the last book of hers I read was Castle Hangnail and that was…oh, seven years ago? remains iconic to this day), so this was my first introduction to her more YA/adult writing. And I’ve gotta say, I was blown away by her writing! Kingfisher hits the perfect balance between wry sarcasm and beautiful, immersive prose, which is a hard set to juggle. The humor didn’t feel overpowering, and likewise, the more descriptive prose wasn’t overly purple. It’s the kind of writing style that meshes perfectly with a fairytale, the kind of writing that really makes you feel like you’re experiencing real storytelling.

The Raven and the Reindeer’s characters were just as alluring and endearing! Gerta was a delightful and poignant subversion of a typical fairytale heroine, and she underwent some spectacular development over the course of the novel. (read the first line of the review again—in all seriousness, that’s the development in question, and it’s beautiful to watch.) A character like Mousebones could’ve easily been an infuriating gimmick, but he added just the right amount of levity to a frigid story. Along with them, all of the characters, both human and otherwise, added countless, immersive layers into an expertly-woven fairytale. Plus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Gerta and Janna’s sapphic romance—who doesn’t love queer bandit ladies?

Beyond that, Kingfisher simultaneously subverts this fairytale and brings it back to its roots. There are beautiful metaphors aplenty about reconnecting with nature—and by proxy, your true self. This combination of themes creates a poignant message that I’m sure will resonate with so many readers. Certainly resonated with me. The fact that these themes are present in a queer novel makes them all the more important: denying your true nature is a dangerous thing, so if possible, be the truest self that you can be. (And on a lighter note, don’t go into the frozen wilderness chasing after men, kids. It doesn’t always end well.)

All in all, one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read in recent years—wry and witty, but equally powerful thematically. 4.5 stars!

The Raven and the Reindeer is a standalone novel, but under this pseudonym, T. Kingfisher is also the author of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, The Seventh Bride, Bryony and Roses, and several other novels. Writing as Ursula Vernon, she is also the author of the Dragonbreath comic series, Castle Hangnail, and more.

Today’s song:

got around to listening to this album now that I’m back from vacation—fantastic all the way through!

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 (5/31/22) – Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak (Unstoppable, #2)

Hi again, bibliophiles!

I liked the first book in Charlie Jane Anders’ Unstoppable trilogy, Victories Greater Than Death, so when I saw book 2 at the bookstore the other day, I figured I’d give it a shot. I ended up giving it the same rating as book 1, but for different reasons; it felt like a middle book, but that wasn’t always a bad thing.

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Victories Greater Than Death. If you have not read it and intend to, proceed with caution!

For my review of Victories Greater Than Death, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak (Unstoppable, #2) – Charlie Jane Anders

Tina and her band of unlikely heroes have saved the universe—for now. But what comes next?

Tina has begun her studies at the Royal Space Academy, but every day, she’s still haunted by her transformation. As she begins to lose her former self, she questions whether or not her duty is worth it. Elza, already feeling distanced from Tina, enters a competition to become a princess, but is faced with the ghosts of the past in the famed Palace of Scented Tears. And Rachael, the quiet artist of the group, is struggling with the loss of her artistic abilities after a run-in with a strange artifact. All the while, the threat of the xenophobic Compassion is on the rise, and if it’s to be stopped, the three friends must reunite amidst their personal struggles.

TW/CW: sci-fi violence, murder, xenophobia, anxiety, descriptions of injury

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak had the unmistakable feel of a middle book. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it.

Despite some of its shortcomings, Charlie Jane Anders’ brand of space opera is a breath of fresh air in the world of YA science fiction. The worlds she creates are multilayered, complex, and immersive, and all of the aliens in them are equally creative. For sci-fi fans looking for a series that’s endlessly creative, look no further. What makes it even better is the vast range of diversity present—just to name a few, we have a queer protagonist, a Black, Brazilian, queer protagonist, and a plus-sized protagonist with anxiety as the stars of Dreams. There’s queer rep aplenty in Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, and there’s something for everybody—it’d be hard to find some facet of yourself represented in some way in these books.

That being said, there were certain aspects of Dreams that I wasn’t as big of a fan of. Anders’ writing was what stuck out to me in this book in particular. There’s not much dressing on her prose; that isn’t always a bad thing, but it felt very bare-bones to me—lots of “[they] felt,” “[they] knew,” “[they] saw,” etc. I forget if this was as exacerbated in book 1, but this was what took away from my enjoyment the most in Dreams. At times, it almost had the effect of being talked down to—not an ideal writing style.

Additionally, I feel like the plot and pacing weren’t as strong as book 1’s were. While Victories moved at an almost dizzyingly breakneck pace, Dreams was comfortable to slow to a crawl, which was necessary for the character-building, but did little to move the plot forward. The plot itself was also lacking—it explored the paths of Tina, the protagonist of Victories, as well as Elza and Rachael. All of their POVs were interesting in concept, but Rachael’s tended to drag along. Although I love all of the characters that Anders created, it would’ve benefited the book so much more to just be from Tina’s POV; her plot was the most compelling of the three, and yet, it’s the one that the least time was allotted to. Once the three were reunited towards the end, it picked up, but before the last third of the book or so, it bordered on being a slog—I’m so surprised I’m saying that, given how overwhelmingly fast-paced Victories was!

However, as in Victories, the themes were as strong and timely as ever. Togetherness, acceptance, and fighting xenophobia and prejudice are at the heart of this story, and with such a diverse and lovable cast, these themes shone brighter than ever. It’s just the kind of sci-fi story we need right now, and I’m excited to see how it ends next year!

All in all, a victim of second-book-syndrome that made up for some of its flaws with its timely themes and loving and accepting energy. 3.5 stars!

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak is the second book of the Unstoppable trilogy, preceded by Victories Greater Than Death and concluded by the forthcoming Promises Greater Than Darkness, slated for release in 2023. Charlie Jane Anders is also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, Six Months, Three Days, Five Others, and several other novels and short story anthologies.

Since I’ve already posted once today, check out my May 2022 Wrap-Up for 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 (5/24/22) – A Magic Steeped in Poison

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I saw A Magic Steeped in Poison pop up on several blogs I follow whenever it first came out, and I figured I’d give it a go; I’ve become slightly jaded with a lot of YA fantasy by this point, but I was intrigued by the unique concept of tea magic that this novel promised. I bought it the other day, and I just recently finished it—lush and immersive, with a world that I loved getting lost in.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea, #1) – Judy I. Lin

In Ning’s world, tea is everything. The shennong-shi—masters of the art of tea-making—are revered in her society, known for conjuring magic and omens through their tea.

After an incident with poisoned tea kills Ning’s mother and incapacitates her sister, she turns to the only option to save her family. In the imperial city, there is a competition to find the most worthy shennong-shi in the kingdom; the winner earns the favor of the princess. Knowing that it may be the only way to save her sister, Ning ventures into the city, but what waits for her there may be more than she bargained for.

TW/CW: poisoning, loss of loved ones, violence, murder, animal cruelty

my brain can’t decide between “Tea” by Jim Noir or “Have a Cuppa Tea” by The Kinks as my internal soundtrack for this…a little help here?

As a reader, I’ve started to grow tired of some many of the beats that most YA fantasies follow—chosen ones, love triangles, and not much “fantasy” other than a basic magic system. I’m glad to say that A Magic Steeped in Poison was a breath of fresh air in that department, filled with lush prose and steeped (no pun intended) in Chinese culture and mythology!

First off, can we all take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this cover is? WOW. Seriously still in awe of how gorgeous it is. DANG. That is ART right there.

now, back to our scheduled program…

What immediately stands out about A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin’s prose. Like the brewing tea that shows up in so much of the book, it’s lush and immersive, filled with all sorts of sensory details that make the world feel all the more fleshed out. Lin’s writing makes it easy to picture the world that she’s created, from Ning’s rural home province to the luxury of the Imperial City. I could smell the tea, feel rain on my skin, and sense the tension that hung in the air during the shennong-shi competition.

I didn’t get overly attached to any of the characters, but Ning worked as the perfect kind of protagonist for A Magic Steeped in Poison; her determination, her hard-working spirit, and her devotion to her craft and family made her just the kind of protagonist to root for. For me, most of the other secondary characters weren’t as fleshed out, but I did like Lian as a secondary character, and the budding romance between Ning and Kang was totally sweet 🥺 (more of that!!! please!!!) I wanted more from these characters, but as a baseline, they were still good to work with.

However, I will say that the plot felt disorganized at worst. Amidst the main plot of the shennong-shi competition, there were a lot of secondary threads that only lasted a few chapters. Their resolutions were often very rushed, and I found myself wondering whether or not they were really relevant to the plot in the end. It felt a bit like an unfinished tapestry; the main picture was all there, but all of the loose, fraying threads at the edges made it almost look sloppy.

All in all, a refreshing fantasy that engaged all of my senses with ease. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin’s debut, and the first book in the Book of Tea duology. Its sequel, A Venom Dark and Sweet, is slated for release this August.

Today’s song:

GOOD GOD this is SUCH A FANTASTIC ALBUM UGH

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 (5/17/22) – Gallant

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve only started reading V.E. Schwab’s books since last year, when I read the Shades of Magic trilogy and loved it (for the most part). Since then, I’ve had most of her other books on my TBR, including this one. It unexpectedly came on hold at the library recently (originally I was probably at…#43 on the waitlist or something💀), and so I jumped at the chance to read it. What I got was a lush and atmospheric fairytale and an ultimately satisfying read!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Gallant – V.E. Schwab

Olivia Prior knows little about her past. All the clues she has are in her dead mother’s journal, which seems to chronicle her descent into indescribable madness. After graduating from the Merilance School for Girls, Olivia has nowhere to go, until she is invited by letter to Gallant, the Prior family home. She is met with hostility by her estranged, distant relatives, but soon discovers a dark secret: every place in the world has its shadow, but the shadow at Gallant may be larger and more unpredictable than any of the Prior family could have expected.

TW/CW: animal death, ableist language (outdated), blood, murder, loss of loved ones, violence

Strange, dark, and atmospheric, Gallant is a lovely gem of a modern, Gothic fairytale. It’s only my third or fourth (though I remember next to nothing about This Savage Song) foray into Schwab’s writing, but it’s enough to almost put her at auto-buy/checkout status for me!

Where Gallant excels is the atmosphere surrounding it. Even though the supernatural aspect of the book isn’t explicitly shown until the last third or so, there was a consistent air of darkness that hung around it. Every description, from Olivia’s experience at the Merilance School to the mystery of the Gallant house, was filled with dark and creeping prose. It called to mind so many pieces of media that I love—I know Coraline (and Neil Gaiman in general) and Guillermo del Toro have been common comparisons, but they absolutely fit the bill. Reminded me a lot of Courtney Crumrin too.

But what created this atmosphere was all V.E. Schwab’s writing. She has such a unique way with words, and her specialty with crafting immersive settings is much of what made Gallant a success for me. Everything from Olivia’s mother’s descent into madness to the supernatural occurrences converging into Olivia and her cousins was described in such an artful, deliberate way that I could almost feel the dark atmosphere like misty fog on my skin. It’s hard to think of a writing style as unique and layered as V.E. Schwab’s.

However, I still had some complaints. From reading the Shades of Magic trilogy, I felt like the plot itself was what dragged some of the books down. The same was true for Gallant; although the setting, characters, and general premise were set up and well-executed, the plot itself felt nebulous at best, clinging to the singular plot thread of Olivia moving from the girl’s school into her mysterious family home. Everything sped up in the last third of the book or so, and the elements of that section were some of the most interesting—I wanted more!

Additionally, I would’ve liked to know when the book takes place in the first place—there wasn’t a concrete establishment of that. From bits of the worldbuilding and some of the language (particularly the outdated language that surrounded Olivia’s mutism), it was implied that it could’ve been anywhere from the 1800s to the early 1900s. Not necessarily essential, but it made some aspects confusing. (Same problem I had with Encanto—no way I would’ve known that it was set in the 50’s if I hadn’t googled it.)

All in all, a dark and immersive fairytale from an author that I’d love to read more from. 4 stars!

Gallant is a standalone, but V.E. Schwab is also the author of several other book series, including the Shades of Magic trilogy, the Villains trilogy, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

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 (5/10/22) – The Psychology of Time Travel

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I don’t remember exactly where or when I heard about this novel; I don’t read a lot of books that involve time travel, but this one (paired with its beautiful cover) reeled me in some time ago. I finally got the chance to read it last week, and although it wasn’t the perfect book, it’s certainly a standout for its thorough worldbuilding.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Psychology of Time Travel – Kate Mascarenhas

In 1967, four women created the first time machine and turned their invention into an empire. But as the project was being unveiled, one of them suffered a mental breakdown, condemning her contributions to be erased from history.

In 2017, Ruby Rebello lives in a world where time travel is commonplace. Her enigmatic grandmother, known only as Granny Bee, was one of the four women who created the time travel Conclave, but she reveals little about her past. But when a clipping detailing a mysterious future murder arrives on Ruby’s doorstep, she must dig through time itself to find out if Granny Bee’s life is at stake.

TW/CW: murder, descriptions of a corpse, mental breakdowns, loss of a loved one, death, gore

“Time travel! I see this as an absolute win!”

The Psychology of Time Travel is a textbook example of how worldbuilding can make or break a novel. In this book’s case, it enhanced it exponentially, making for a highly nuanced and lived-in world that compelled me to no end!

So! About said worldbuilding—it was Psychology’s strongest point, and it was what consistently made it worth reading. Mascarenhas imagines a world where time travel was invented in the 60’s, and how the four women who invented it created a veritable empire out of recording the future, predicting events, and preventing occurrences from happening. But she didn’t just have time travel exist and leave it at that—every possible nuance of time travel that one can think of was explored in some way. Everything from time machine toys to time-travel law to the psychological toll of it all (hence the title) was explored in marvelous detail. All without infodumps, too; with the split POV that jumped back and forth between timelines, the information felt more like anecdotes than dumps.

Psychology’s themes of women in history and how they are treated were also a consistent standout. All of the central characters are women, and through them, Mascarenhas explores how history books overlook women, and how some things may never change; even still, all of Psychology’s women are determined, steadfast, and innovative characters. They all bring home a powerful message and sustain a plot that jumped back and forth through time—just like the rabbits that this book’s first time machines were tested on.

Psychology is a murder mystery at its heart, and for the most part, I’d call it a compelling one. However, the plot’s intricate worldbuilding was a drawback when it came to the plot. With around six or seven time periods that Psychology jumps back and forth between, it was easy for the main mystery to be lost in the threads of the vast time tapestry. I’d read a chapter, remember what happened, read the next chapter in a different timeline, then only get to the thread in the first chapter six chapters later. For the most part, Mascarenhas managed to keep it together, but it was easy to get lost.

All in all, a fascinating and intricate novel that explores time travel and all of its implications across several decades. 3.5 stars!

The Psychology of Time Travel is a standalone and Kate Mascarenhas’ first novel. She is also the author of The Thief on the Winged Horse and the forthcoming Hokey Pokey.

Today’s song:

I’ve had this on repeat all day today and I can’t get enough aagh

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 (5/3/22) – Beyond the Ruby Veil

Happy Tuesday!

Beyond the Ruby Veil wasn’t a high priority for me, but I figured I would check it out and give it a chance despite the bad-to-mediocre reviews. However, when I read it, I found the result to be lukewarm and underdeveloped—all the potential in the world without the execution to pull it through.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Beyond the Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald

In Occhia, all of the water comes from a creature called the watercrea; in order for the city to be hydrated, it demands sacrifices in the form of the townspeople who show an omen mark on their skin. For centuries, all of the citizens of Occhia have obeyed. But Emmanuela Ragno has hid her omen for years, evading death until now. When her omen is exposed at her arranged wedding ceremony, she kills the watercrea, effectively cutting off Occhia’s entire water supply.

To return water to Occhia, Emmanuela must venture into a secretive neighboring kingdom that seems to have everything that Occhia doesn’t have. But behind the veneer of luxury is something far more sinister, and Emmanuela will do whatever it takes to take back her city’s water.

TW/CW: blood, violence, murder, torture, body horror

Describing a book with the words “queer,” “dark,” and “fantasy” are always enticing. Do I love queer books? I’m bisexual, of course I do! Do I love dark books? Yes indeed. Do I like fantasy books? Also yes. And yet, a good half of the books described as “queer, dark fantasy” end up being disappointing for me (also see: Ruinsong, Beyond the Black Door…maybe the problem is books with “Beyond” in the title?). I’m sad to say that the case was the same for Beyond the Ruby Veil.

If I had to describe Beyond the Ruby Veil in one word, it would be underdeveloped. I’ll give Fitzgerald one thing—the premise is still intriguing. Suffice to say, there isn’t a whole lot else to it. The bones of a story were there: a good start on worldbuilding, history, and a general direction for the plot. However, the muscle of the book was completely missing. It felt like a first draft, one where Fitzgerald hadn’t fully fleshed out the book and instead published the start of a story.

At least the one part of the book that I wasn’t supposed to like worked—Emmanuela. One of the major selling points of Beyond the Ruby Veil that I’ve seen was of her as an unlikeable anthero; unlike most of the book, I did like this part. Emmanuela was appropriately headstrong, rash, and impulsive, and those traits made for a character that wasn’t likable as a person but fun to follow as a character.

However, she wasn’t enough to carry the rest of the plot, and the few characters that showed up didn’t pick up her slack in the slightest. Ale wasn’t much more than a stereotypically clumsy sidekick, and he served almost no purpose whatsoever. Verene was one of the only other characters that mattered in the story, and she was only introduced at about the halfway mark; even then, her only personality trait was that she was alluringly secretive. As fun as Emmanuela was, Fitzgerald doesn’t give much to work with as a reader, making for a story that felt filled with holes.

The plot itself didn’t hold much water (no pun intended) either. After the botched wedding ceremony and the killing of the watercrea, it was mostly just Emmanuela and Ale bumbling around a foreign kingdom and trying to find clues. Not only did Emmanuela seem to get away with a lot more than was realistic (there wasn’t any context on how she enters this completely foreign kingdom and is immediately able to attempt and pull off the accent AND subsequently speak to the palace?? And get an audience with The Heart?? In a relatively short amount of time?? HUH??), but after the halfway mark, there wasn’t a whole lot of plot to speak of. There’s the beginning of…well, I won’t quite call it romance since there wasn’t much other than heavily implied context to hint at it instead of, y’know, actual chemistry, but in the midst of a book that already felt like a first draft, it felt even more like an afterthought than everything else did. And that’s saying something. Like I said: with a lot of polishing, this could’ve been a fascinating book, but it didn’t have much to sustain it—even in a book that’s less than 300 pages long.

All in all, a book with an ambitious premise that ultimately suffered from a lack of fleshing-out in all departments. 2 stars.

Beyond the Ruby Veil is Mara Fitzgerald’s first novel, and it is the first book in the Beyond the Ruby Veil series. This book is succeeded by Into the Midnight Void.

Today’s song:

first heard this in 6th grade, forgot about it for years, and just remembered it last week…good stuff

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 (4/26/22) – One for All

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Disability representation—especially in YA—is few and far between, and even when I do find it, a lot of disability rep is still written by abled authors. (That isn’t always necessarily a bad thing, but it’s easy to fall into harmful tropes and misrepresent disability that way.) So when I heard about One for All, I was so excited—a feminist, historical fiction novel about a girl with a chronic illness! And beyond that—a girl with a chronic illness WHO SWORDFIGHTS. Doesn’t get much better than that, am I right? My copy finally came from the library last week, and although it wasn’t the perfect book, I enjoyed a lot of it!

Enjoy this week’s review!

One for All – Lillie Lainoff

Tania de Batz is determined for the world to see her as more than just a “sick girl.” As the daughter of a former musketeer, her passion is swordfighting, and with the help of her father, she’s become a skilled fighter. But when her father is brutally murdered, she discovers his dying request to send her to a finishing school.

But what she finds at L’Academie des Marieés is no finishing school—it’s a secretive school that trains young women as musketeers. Tania is soon swept into a world of swords and secrecy, and soon, she and her fellow students have an assassination plot to uncover. The only clue to the plot—and maybe even her father’s murder—lies in a boy named Étienne, but his charms may be Tania’s undoing.

TW/CW: ableism, blood, murder, loss of a loved one, past mention of sexual assault

Good disability representation—especially in YA—seems to only happen once in a blue moon. So I was so happy to find this book—a feminist historical fiction book written by a disabled author, no less! And while I did have a few problems with the story overall, One for All was no doubt a fantastic debut!

First things first—disability rep! While I can’t speak to the accuracy, Lillie Lainoff (the author) has the same chronic illness as Tania—Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)! Disabled representation from disabled voices always makes my heart so happy! For me, it’s even better that One for All is a historical fiction piece; most books with disabled characters only exist in contemporary/realistic fiction books, and I adamantly believe that disability rep in genres like historical fiction, fantasy, and science fiction is just as important, if not more important; it’s crucial for disabled readers to know that they don’t only exist in modern realistic fiction realities—they have always existed in history, and they can exist in fantasy and sci-fi worlds as well. One for All did a fantastic job at detailing all the aspects of Tania’s POTS and how it affected her daily life, from her routine to her social interactions and childhood. So many chronically ill readers will be able to see themselves in Tania, and that, to me, is immensely impactful.

Beyond that, One for All is fiercely feminist! It’s set in France in the 1600’s, and the themes of empowerment and sisterhood ran deeply through it. Throughout most of the book, Tania struggles with her place in the world as a disabled woman in a time where both are frowned upon, but her journey for self-empowerment is one that is sure to resonate with so many readers. Although some of the other students don’t treat Tania with the respect she deserves at first, there are themes of recognizing and correcting your previous ableism. The friendship that Tania eventually shares with the rest of the fellow L’Academie des Marieés students is wonderfully tender and strong, and it makes for an incredibly empowering novel overall.

As much as I loved the aforementioned aspects, however, there were a few aspects of One for All that I didn’t like as much. For the most part, I liked the writing style well enough; Lainoff’s prose flowed well and was appropriately descriptive when the time called for it. However, Lainoff’s style tended to fall towards the over-the-top side of the spectrum. I could let it slide in most instances—it fit with the mood and tone of the book in general—but in some cases, it felt overly purple and theatrical. It had a dramatic feel to it, and while it fit the classic retelling tone at times, it felt superfluous in other cases.

Additionally, I wasn’t quite as invested in the assassination part of the plot as I was in the rest of the book. Seeing as that (after Tania’s father’s murder) was the main driving force to the plot, it didn’t come through all the way; it was overshadowed by more mundane character interactions (which I did like), and as a result, felt rushed and oversimplified. For something that was supposed to be the primary inciting incident of the second half of the book or so, it felt more like a subplot than anything. As a result, I felt my mind wandering a bit during these parts, but it didn’t take me out of the book entirely.

All in all, a feminist retelling with a disabled heroine who all readers will want to cheer on. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

One for All is a standalone and Lillie Lainoff’s debut novel.

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 (4/12/22) – All Systems Red

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been reading more adult sci-fi in the past few years, and this novel has been one that’s popped up on many a review from bloggers I follow, as well as recommendations from friends. It sounded clever, so I ended up buying it recently—and it was wonderfully clever!

Enjoy this week’s review!

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1) – Martha Wells

In the far future, no spacefaring mission goes without a SecUnit—an android who oversees the crew and their safety. One such SecUnit is different—it’s hacked into its own governor module, and now seeks to find out more about itself. Its chosen name is Murderbot.

Murderbot cares for little other than watching entertainment vids and avoiding humanity at all costs. But soon enough, its original duty is called into play when another mission severs contact without an explanation. Will Murderbot be able to discover itself—and keep its status hidden from the rest of the crew?

TW/CW: attempted suicide, blood, sci-fi violence, death, animal attack

everybody always asks where the comic relief android is…but nobody asks how the comic relief android is 😔

For such a small package, All Systems Red delivers a sci-fi character study unlike anything I’ve read! A perfect blend of sarcastic and introspective that struck a chord with my sci-fi loving heart.

A character study is all that All Systems Red really is, and for me, that’s not a complaint. I love delving into characters and seeing what makes them tick, so I ate up most of this novel. Murderbot is an instantly likable character; their sarcastic and caustic nature made for no shortage of laugh-out-loud passages. But beyond that, it was simultaneously complex—it truly doesn’t know the depths of who it is, and its quiet quest of self-discovery and its place in the universe was a consistently poignant one. I’m in it for the rest of the series (I think?) solely because of Murderbot. And yes, the first line of this review is a joke, but it’s exactly what All Systems Red did—it took a common sci-fi trope (the comic relief robot) and switched it to their perspective.

Murderbot’s development also shone in All Systems Red! Over the course of less than 200 pages, it goes from a misanthrope that does next to nothing all day to an android who realizes that it’s the only one that can control its destiny. Murderbot’s liberation story is an unexpectedly beautiful one, and I can’t wait to see how it continues.

Like I said—I adore books that focus more on character building and character studies. That being said, I did feel like there were a few aspects that got left behind in the process of making Murderbot so fleshed out. For the most part, I liked the worldbuilding well enough; the theme of corporate neglect and the struggles of the lower-level workers was well-executed, and I got a decent amount of context for the current situation. That being said, I felt as though there were…something missing. Just a tad bit more detail to give the world a little more oomph.

In addition, I felt like the rest of the characters were afterthoughts in comparison to the expertly-developed Murderbot. They all felt interchangeable, and they all blended together; they all sort of shared Murderbot’s sense of humor, and although it fit well on Murderbot, once it stuck onto the other characters, it just grew tired. Add in the fact that there are at least 8-10 other human characters in the mix that all blend together, and it all becomes a bit of a mess. I get that they’re side characters, but don’t give them all the same personality and sense of humor and call it a day.

All in all, the start to a compelling sci-fi series, and a masterful character study of an unlikely hero. 4 stars!

All Systems Red is the first novella in the Murderbot Diaries series, which consists of Artificial Condition (book 2), Rogue Protocol (book 3), Exit Strategy (book 4), Network Effect (book 5), Fugitive Telemetry (book 6), and three more untitled novellas. Martha Wells is also the author of The Books of Raksura, the Ile-Rien series, and many other series and standalone novels.

Today’s song:

Jack White is infuriating but man he can make some g o o d music

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