Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/16/23) – Little Thieves

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I forget exactly where I first heard about Little Thieves, but I think it may have been from seeing other people’s reviews here in the blogosphere. Now that I’ve read it, let me just say this: whoever’s review it was that inspired me to pick up this book, thank you so much. YA fantasy has started to become formulaic for me at worst, but Little Thieves was filled with charm, humor, and refreshing spins on the subgenre as a whole. Enjoy this week’s review!

Little Thieves (Little Thieves, #1) – Margaret Owen

Vanja Schmidt is the thirteenth daughter of a thirteenth daughter. Her mother knew how bad her luck would be, so when she was a child, she surrendered her daughter to be raised by the goddesses of Death and Fortune. But as Vanja grows older, she doesn’t seek to follow the paths of her surrogate parents and runs off on her own, making a living swindling and picking pockets. Vanja’s swindling gets as far as the royal palace, and with the theft of a charmed necklace of pearls, she assumes the identity of Princess Gisele.

But Vanja’s life of crime has attracted unwanted attention. When a Low God curses her body to turn to jewels at the full moon, Vanja must retrace her steps and right her past wrongs. Her trail of thievery will reach into the heart of a conspiracy that leads to Princess Gisele’s betrothed, and soon, Vanja realizes that she’s in for more than she bargained for.

some of the beautiful illustrations from Little Thieves, done by Margaret Owen herself!

TW/CW: child abuse, animal death, blood, descriptions of injury, sexual harassment

Barely halfway through the first month of the year, and I’m already running into books this good? SUCH a relief after the brief slump I was just in…

YA fantasies—fairytale retellings in particular—are books that I’ve started to steer away from slightly; over the years, they’ve gotten blatantly formulaic for me, and it’s rare that any have an impact on me anymore. It feels sad saying that, but after a while, I just got sick of all the secret royalty and love triangles and the lack of good worldbuilding. But Little Thieves showed me that there’s still faith in a sputtering subgenre and treated me to an exceptionally fun time!

It’s been a while since I’ve read a fairytale retelling—after a while, there are only so many Cinderella and Beauty and the Beast retellings one can take. But Little Thieves retold a fairytale that I hadn’t even heard of before—The Goose Girl, written by the Brothers Grimm. It also puts a spin on the fairytale’s antagonist, making her the main character and giving her more nuance and motives. From the first page, Little Thieves felt like a breath of fresh air into a tired genre, and I am all the better for it.

Owen’s vibrant characters seemed to leap off the page, and each and every one of the main cast won my heart in record time. They were all so distinct: Vanja with her determination and sass, Emeric’s delightfully uptight and sensitive demeanor, and the absolute chaos that was Ragne; I got attached to most of the main cast fairly quickly, which is certainly a rare occurrence for me. Little Thieves is also one of the only YA books I can think of that actually gets a morally gray protagonist right. “Morally gray” characters have almost become a buzzword after the success of books like Six of Crows, but most of the time, they just end up being characters that Do Crimes™️ but they have a Tragic Backstory™️ so they’re a Complex Character™️. Vanja, however, actually felt morally gray—her way of life, however shady her dealings and actions were—was her way of survival and defiance. Maybe that’s what happens when you’re raised by two surrogate moms that also happen to be the goddesses of Death and Fortune, but either way, it was refreshingly well-executed.

For the most part, I was also a fan of the writing style! It reminded me a lot of Ashley Poston—it was very cheeky and filled with humor, which matched Vanja’s voice perfectly, but it was also capable of plenty of nuance and depth, resulting in some spectacular bits of prose. Some of the humor bordered on meme-y at times, which was more than a little jarring, but in comparison to the rest of the book, I can let it slide. It’s the kind of charming writing that made me laugh, smile, and swoon, and it suited Owens’ story wonderfully.

The worldbuilding was also excellent, and I loved exploring the pseudo-German, medieval setting! It’s clear that Owens spent lots of time and energy into not only making a fleshed-out world with the appropriate amount of history and constraints, but also trying to stay faithful to German folklore and the original Brothers Grimm tale. All of the gods, shapeshifters, and other creatures were a delight—another reason why I’m a little bored with most YA fantasy is because they often shy away from having lots of mythical creatures (in place of just slapping a magic system onto a vaguely European setting), so, like so many other aspects of Little Thieves, this was such a breath of fresh air. I know I sound like a broken record every time I say that, but that’s seriously how reading all 500+ pages of this book felt.

Going off of that, I loved the casual queerness in Little Thieves! With a lot of fantasy settings where queerness is present, homophobia is still present because there’s a misconception that an ancient/older setting automatically equals homophobia/transphobia. I get the purpose of that on some level if the book is trying to share a message or theme about homophobia or transphobia, but on the other hand, if you can have a complex magic system and dragons, the concept of homophobia not being a thing in your fantasy world isn’t that strenuous of a stretch to make. Owens once again bashes all of these fantasy tropes and integrates queerness into her worldbuilding as something normal, and it made my heart so happy. Although no labels are specifically used in the book, Vanja and Emeric are both implied to be somewhere on the demisexual/asexual spectrum, Gisele is implied to be a lesbian (and later is in a relationship with Ragne), and there are several nonbinary and gender nonconforming side characters! More queer fantasy like this, please! (Also, I just loved Emeric and Vanja together. Just Love Them So Much)

All in all, a rare YA fairytale retelling that subverts all of the tropes of the genre and dazzles with its nuance and charm. 4.5 stars!

Little Thieves is the first in the trilogy, followed by Painted Devils (slated for release later this year) and an untitled third book. Margaret Owens is also the author of the Merciful Crow series, which consists of The Merciful Crow and The Faithless Hawk.

Today’s song:

just listened to this whole album today, perfect for winter!! this one almost sounds like Kid A

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

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Book Review Tuesday (1/10/23) – The Heartbreak Bakery

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of A.R. Capetta ever since I read the Once & Future duology, and when I was looking for a sweet rom-com to read the other day, the opportunity presented itself in this book. I’m glad to say that this is proof that Capetta almost never misses—a tender and sweet (no pun. intended) celebration of queerness and baking!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Heartbreak Bakery – A.R. Capetta

Syd loves nothing more than baking—especially when it’s at the Proud Muffin, the queer-run bakery at the center of Austin’s queer community. After a nasty breakup, Syd deals with it in signature Syd fashion—by baking all the frustrations and bad feelings out into a batch of brownies. But when Syd’s frustrations works its way into the brownies and causes everyone that eats them to have relationship troubles, Syd has to fix the issue how it began—with baking. Throw in the cute delivery-person, and Syd has to avoid a recipe for disaster…

TW/CW: gender dysphoria

this book: has several jokes about the fact that it’s still possible to have a bad hair day even when you’ve shaved your head

me, having just shaved my head: [chuckles] “I’m in danger!”

I came into The Heartbreak Bakery just for a queer romance to tide me over, and I can now say with certainty that A.R. Capetta never misses! This piece of magical realism is a love letter to queer communities and spaces, and it made my heart so happy.

First off, this is easily one of the most diverse rom-coms that I’ve ever read! Syd is the first main character that I’ve read that’s agender, and the main relationship is between Syd and Harley, another nonbinary character! I think the entire cast is queer—a gay couple owns the Proud Muffin, there’s a polyamorous couple on the side, and there are queer characters of all identities as side characters, and many of them are POC as well! Capetta never shies away from unapologetic queerness, but it particularly shone in The Heartbreak Bakery.

The magical realism aspect was also fantastic, and it also culminated into a theme that I thought was incredibly important. I liked the ambiguity of where it came from, but the concept of putting tangible feelings into baking that have a visible ripple effect had me on board instantly. It served to show a great theme: the feelings that you put into anything, be it a project, a relationship, or a batch of brownies, is what you’re going to get out of it. If you pour all of your negativity into something, that’s exactly what’s going to come out of it. The Heartbreak Bakery takes the concept very literally—brownies that make couples break up, cakes that make you apologize, et cetera—but it was a great theme to explore. I do feel like some of the problems being almost immediately solved by the “apology cake” were a tad bit too easy for Syd to maneuver, but I’m glad Capetta made it more complicated—having Marisol eat the cake by accident, for example. (I wish I had a physical copy of the book on hand—some of those recipes looked good!)

My only major qualm with The Heartbreak Bakery was the pacing. I’m all for slower, gentler books, but it felt like the main points of conflict were unevenly spaced. For instance, the final climax of the bake-off felt far too rushed for me; given how much hinged on the outcome, it should’ve gotten a lot more page time than it did. Some of the interim scenes between the main points of conflict should’ve been shortened in favor of the more important, plot/character building scenes. It was a great novel to start with, but I could’ve done with a little tweaking with the pacing and the importance placed on certain scenes.

All in all, an incredibly sweet (no pun intended) magical-realism romance that reads as an ode to baking, queerness, community, and love itself. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

The Heartbreak Bakery is a standalone, but A.R. Capetta is also the author of The Lost Coast, the Once & Future duology (co-authored with Cory McCarthy), Echo After Echo, and several other books.

Today’s song:

man I have so many memories of hearing this song when I was a kid

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/3/23) – Across a Field of Starlight

Happy first Tuesday of the year, bibliophiles!

My first review of the year also happens to be the first book that I finished this year! I hadn’t heard anything about it before I came upon it while browsing the YA graphic novel section of Barnes & Noble. I’m always all in for queer sci-fi, and that, combined with the art style, was enough to convince me to buy it. I’m so glad to say that it was a wonderful graphic novel, full of heart, bright colors, and queerness aplenty.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Across a Field of Starlight – Blue Delliquanti

Lu and Fassen have been friends since childhood, after a chance meeting when Fassen’s spaceship crashed onto Lu’s peaceful planet. Though they came from entirely different backgrounds, they kept in contact even as Fassen was forced back into their duty as a soldier. But when the tyrannical Ever-Blossoming Empire begins a siege on Fassen’s resistance front and endangers Lu’s planet, the two are reunited. Together for the first time in years, they must set aside their differences to escape the Empire’s clutches—and discover truths about each other.

TW/CW: sci-fi violence, depictions of injuries/blood, war themes, vehicle crash, loss of loved ones (off-page)

Across a Field of Starlight was the perfect book to start my year off with! With its beautiful art, tender story, and unapologetic queerness all the way through, this is a graphic novel that you won’t want to miss.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge how wonderfully diverse Across a Field of Starlight is. I don’t think I’ve read anything—graphic novel or otherwise—quite this diverse in such a long time! Both of the protagonists are nonbinary and POC, Lu is plus-sized, and there is an array of POC and trans characters all throughout the story. I especially loved that Delliquanti didn’t shy away from giving their cast of characters a variety of different body types, and it made their world and story all the more rich.

Delliquanti’s art style made Across a Field of Starlight shine as well. Although the book gets into some dark themes—war, colonization, etc.—the colors are vibrant all the way through, giving it a very fantastical feel. It especially suited Lu’s more peaceful, utopian planet and its welcoming nature, as well as Lu’s caring personality. Delliquanti’s depiction of outer space has a beautiful vibrance to it, making for an incredibly inviting story.

art by Blue Delliquanti
art by Blue Delliquanti

The perspectives that Delliquanti chose gave the story a more compelling angle as well. Instead of most sci-fi/fantasy war stories, Across a Field of Starlight focuses on the Firebreak resistance front and a party completely outside the main conflict; most media (Star Wars comes to mind) focuses just on the tyrannical empire and the rebellion, but I liked that they largely left the Ever-Blossoming Empire as more of a looming threat. It also made the point that even though Firebreak was fighting to free the galaxy of colonization, they weren’t all pure and good either, and although the aim was good, the motives for some of the authority figures may have been less so. Never meet your heroes, kids.

That being said, I would’ve liked more context for the intergalactic conflict that this novel sets up. I did like that we were thrown right into the action, but I would’ve liked more historical context on how the Ever-Blossoming Empire and the Firebreak came to be, how long they’ve been at war, and the consequences for the rest of the galaxy. Across a Field of Starlight is great on its own, but with a world as expansive as the one Delliquanti has created, it’s begging for a few sequels or spin-offs, or at least some more background.

All in all, a highly enjoyable graphic novel filled with heart, diversity, and vibrant color. 4 stars!

Across a Field of Starlight is a standalone, but Blue Delliquanti is also the author of the comic series O Human Star, which currently has three volumes, and has contributed to several other comic collections.

Today’s song:

good mindset for this year, I think

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 (11/29/22) – The All-Consuming World

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I never learn, do I? Every few weeks, I always start craving sci-fi again, and when there’s nothing readily available at the library or on Kindle, I just sift through the dust bunnies in my TBR until I find something interesting. And to be fair, The All-Consuming World did sound interesting. I was willing to give it a chance despite the pitifully low ratings it’s been getting (a 3.28/5 on Goodreads, as of now), but it turned out to be exactly the disappointment that the reviews promised.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The All-Consuming World – Cassandra Khaw

Maya’s glory days are over. After being resurrected dozens of times, she’s slowly outgrown the Dirty Dozen, the galaxy’s most infamous criminal group, and decided to make her own way. But when the galaxy’s ruler, an all-powerful, sentient AI, threatens to hold their realm in a chokehold, it’s up to Maya to recruit the disbanded bunch of cyborgs, clones, and lowlives to save the galaxy from complete control.

TW/CW: body horror, sci-fi violence, amputation/emergency medical procedures, suicide

DNF at 35%.

I genuinely can’t think of a book with a more jarring writing style than this one. Jarring can sometimes be good, but in the case of The All-Consuming World, it seemed like a case of vast stylistic indecision, and this indecision dragged the entire book down with it. I really wanted to like this book—queer space opera is always up my alley, and I always want to try and support queer authors—but it ended up being a sore disappointment all the way through. (What I could stand to read before I gave up, anyway.) As I always say with my negative reviews: I completely understand. Putting yourself out there as an author is an immensely hard thing to do, and I always admire the work put in. But this book just did not click with me at all.

The writing style is what, for me, made The All-Consuming World crash and burn. Maya was clearly supposed to be a rough-around-the-edges character, battered and bruised, and all around Tough and Gritty™️, and at least half what I read seemed to try and get that voice…with at least 15 f-bombs dropped within rapid succession of each other on each page. Now, I don’t have a problem with swearing at all, and I appreciate the art of a well-placed, well-timed swear. But the excess of ill-placed cusses (along with more f-bombs than there are leaves on the trees in the Amazon Rainforest)—half of which were in combinations that made absolutely no sense at all—made for writing that read more like a middle schooler trying to be edgy than a tough and hardened criminal.

But on the other hand, the other half of what I read was some of the wordiest, floweriest prose I’ve ever read. And some of that had moments of being good—I’ll give Khaw some credit for that—but it was such a jarring contrast. Sometimes, juxtaposition like this works, but the two, distinct voices that Khaw was trying to go for had such a vast gulf in tone between them that it lacked any sense of cohesion whatsoever. I really wanted to stick it out to see what happened, but it was just giving me such a headache to try and weather the writing, so I had to quit.

I stopped at 35% of the way through, and I still don’t have a clue what was going on, plot-wise. I seriously can’t remember if there was a plot beneath all of the flashbacks and exposition, impenetrable prose, and multitudinous f-bombs. From the synopsis, I was told that Dimmuborgir was supposed to be a central plot point, but I only remember it being mentioned a single time. Yes, 35% of the way in isn’t all that far, but that close to the halfway point, I would’ve thought that the characters would have at least moved the slightest bit towards their destination. It was all very…vague. Vague sense of rebellion towards a vague concept of an omniscient, ruling AI with a vague set of characters that fell into either AI or Hardened Criminal™️ boxes. And the worldbuilding? Left the building before the book had even begun. Trying to read The All-Consuming World felt like trying to dig through a messy closet, and emerging an hour later without having found the thing you needed to find in the first place.

All in all, a book that it pains me to rate so low, but crashed and burned in almost every conceivable aspect. 1 star.

The All-Consuming World is a standalone, but Cassandra Khaw is also the author of the Persons Non Grata series (Hammers on Bone and A Song for Quiet), Nothing but Blackened Teeth, These Deathless Bones, and several other novels and novellas.

Today’s song:

BACK TO BLUR AGAIN!! so far, this is my least favorite album of theirs that I’ve listened to, but it’s still a fantastic listen—take this song, for instance

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 (11/15/22) – She Gets the Girl

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! Even more snow today…

I initially put She Gets the Girl on my TBR because of so much buzz from my fellow bloggers, and I like to go for a queer romance every once in a while. I read it recently and I liked that it was from the perspective of a freshman in college (hey, it’s me!), but beyond that, it felt more like a mess of unlikeable characters and uncomfortable peer pressure instead of feel-good romance.

Enjoy this week’s review!

She Gets the Girl – Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick

Alex Blackwood is entering college on the heels of a nasty breakup. Molly Parker is looking for love, and she’s in luck—her longtime crush, Cora Myers, is attending the same college as her. Problem is, Molly’s hopelessly awkward, especially around people she likes. When she and Alex have a chance encounter, they hatch a plan for Alex to polish up Molly’s flirting skills so that she can get the girl. But when Molly starts falling for Alex instead of Cora, the end goal becomes hazy…

TW/CW: alcoholism, toxic relationships, internalized racism, substance abuse

It’s all fun and games until the romance you picked up because you wanted it to be somewhat “feel-good” turns out to be…more uncomfortable than feel-good. It’s even harder when you hate one of the characters, and harder still when the two main characters seem to have hardly any chemistry. That’s the story of She Gets the Girl—a romance with an easy enough concept that was dragged down by forced and unlikable elements.

I’m sorry, I just have to get it out of the way: I hated Alex Blackwood. Hated her. It was clear that the authors were trying to make her a rough-around-the-edges character that would a) contrast Molly’s uptight and awkward personality and b) push her out of her comfort zone, which was a good enough pairing in concept. Key words here are “in concept.” What Alex ended up being was a total hypocrite—she’s so intent on being the opposite of her toxic ex, but turns around and manages to be just as toxic, just in a different way. And the whole concept of pushing Molly out of her comfort zone so that she can get with Cora? Most of it just ended up being Alex forcing Molly to do things that she was deeply uncomfortable with.

Thus, Molly and Alex had almost zero chemistry. Their entire relationship was built on the shaky foundation of knowing that they would end up together by the end of the book, and not much else. Everything was just…so forced. It’s heavily implied that Cora wasn’t a good option either since, yes, it as forced, but…I really don’t think dating Alex would’ve been a great option either, seeing as how much of a manipulative jerk she was to Molly. Proposed third option: Molly just takes off and finds better friends/lovers that…y’know, aren’t toxic?

That brings me to the weird message of this book. Throughout the book, all of the things that Alex pushes Molly to do to win Cora’s love involve changing herself in some way: changing her wardrobe into things she would normally be uncomfortable wearing, going to events that you have no experience in just to fit in with Cora, etc. It was sort of resolved by the relationship with Cora not working out, but Alex’s “advice” boiled down to Molly changing herself so that Cora would like her. I suppose they were trying to go with a “be true to yourself” message, which I really would’ve liked, but they resolved it by…pairing Molly with Alex, the one who was trying to force Molly to change in the first place. And Alex never apologizes for any of that—they just fall in love and then move on. Hence—no chemistry. No repercussions, save for the fling with Cora not working out. All that really happened was Alex’s manipulative actions being rewarded, which really rubbed me the wrong way. Even though Molly and Alex got into an argument about that, there was no sense of Alex taking responsibility for forcing Molly into all that uncomfortable stuff. I really wish Lippincott and Derrick had handled their relationship—and the message—better. She Gets the Girl had an easy way to send a good message, but it ended up bungling it all in the end.

There were a few aspects of She Gets the Girl that I did like. It’s always nice to have a mixed race character, and having Molly be mixed race really freshened things up, as well as some of the discussions about internalized racism. Even though I still despise Alex, the way they handled the situation with her mother was also respectfully handled—hard to read, but it seemed genuine to me. However, a lot of this ended up being overshadowed by how much of a mess the rest of the book was.

Overall, a romance that stumbled and fell when creating chemistry between the two characters, making for an uncomfortable book—and an uncomfortable message. 2 stars.

She Gets the Girl is a standalone, and the first and only book that Rachael Lippincott has written with her wife, Alyson Derrick. Lippincott is also the author of Five Feet Apart and All This Time (both co-written with Mikki Daughtry), as well as The Lucky List.

Today’s song:

listened to the whole album yesterday! it was one of those cases where I listened to all of the best songs beforehand so the rest of the album wasn’t *as* good (still good though), but it’s a great album

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 (11/8/22) – Huntress (Ash, #0.5)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Huntress is one of those books that just sat on my TBR collecting dust for several years. I decided to read it after finishing Ash a few years back, and I finally was able to get my hands on a copy from the university library. After remembering liking Ash, my expectations were average, and I was rewarded with a solid, strong fairytale full of darkness in unexpected places.

Huntress is technically a prequel, but it doesn’t necessarily require reading Ash beforehand, as its set in the same world, but hundreds of years earlier (you should read it anyway, though!). If you’d like to read my review of Ash, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Huntress (Ash, #0.5) – Malinda Lo

Kaede and Taisin have been chosen for an insurmountable task: restoring order to the human world. For years, the sun hasn’t shone, the crops have dried up, and strange creatures have begun to breach the boundaries of human and otherworldly. The only way for them to seek answers is through the mysterious Fairy Queen, but the journey there may be more dangerous than what lies at the end. But as members of their party begin to die off, Kaede and Taisin must grapple with their futures—the future of the human world, and of the feelings they’re having for each other.

TW/CW: blood, fantasy violence, death, descriptions of injuries/corpses

“I don’t want to marry the man you arranged for me to marry because I don’t know him and I want to have control over my life”: good, good

“I don’t want to marry the man you arranged for me to marry because I don’t know him, I want to have control over my life, and also I’m a lesbian”: EVEN BETTER

It’s been a few years since I’ve read Ash, but reading Huntress doesn’t necessarily require a whole lot of knowledge of Ash‘s world to understand it. What remains, however, is that you have to remember that it was some of the first of its kind. Nowadays, YA is dominated by fairytale-inspired and fairytale retellings, some of which are queer, but stories like Ash and this companion were some of the first ones to do so—and some of the first to be openly queer. If you remember that (and if you can get past the painfully dated cover), you’re in for a fun ride—a dark and atmospheric piece of high fantasy filled with all sorts of danger and strange creatures.

Lo’s world is pretty distinctly High Fantasy™️, which I’ve been jaded with as of late, but her unique spin on it was enough to create a captivating world. Although the magic system was a little hazy, Lo’s descriptions of the barren landscape and treacherous forests created a world that felt real enough to step into. Even more captivating were the creatures that inhabited this world—everything from unicorns to horrifying changelings; the mythology around them and the stakes they created propelled the story even more. Plus, it’s always refreshing to have non-European inspiration for a high fantasy novel; in the author’s note, Lo explains that most of the book was inspired by both Chinese and Japanese mythology.

What I remember about Ash was how much I loved the main couple, but with Huntress, that was a little bit less of the case. In fact, I found Kaede and Taisin to be almost interchangeable (accentuated by the sporadic POV changes), but still compelling enough to root for. Most of the other characters were rather underdeveloped and forgettable, but Lo has a grim solution for the problem—killing them off. For me, it was Con who stole the show; he was the only character with a distinct personality, and it was a very lovable one at that. He’s the kind of character who probably would’ve been lumped in as the love interest in any other YA book, but having him as a platonic friend was so much more endearing.

Even though I loved Lo’s worldbuilding, I still wish that more was explored; we only got tidbits of the creatures in the Fairy Queen’s kingdom, and especially since the main villain was introduced so late in the book, I wished that we’d spent less time on the road and more time near the destination. The journey was interesting, sure, but it would’ve been more interesting to explore the more alien, unfamiliar corners of the world Lo created.

All in all, a solid piece of fantasy that made good use of its dark, barren atmosphere, but could’ve pushed it even further. 3.5 stars!

Huntress is a prequel to Ash, and they are the only books set in that universe. Malinda Lo is also the author of Last Night at the Telegraph Club, the Adaptation duology (consisting of Adaptation and Inheritance), and several other books for teens and adults.

Today’s song:

found this and “Metal Mickey” in a video somebody made of a medley of Britpop riffs, and…maybe I should check them out now?

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 (11/1/22) – I Am the Ghost in Your House

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! I hope you all had a safe and spooky Halloween!! I went to class (and took a stats test) dressed up as Columbia from The Rocky Horror Picture Show (in the pajamas and the Mickey Mouse ears), so that was a lot of fun, even though I didn’t see a bunch of other people dressed up. I guess most of the Halloween festivities happened over the weekend. Oh well.

I picked this book up on a whim while scrolling through the books on my Libby wishlist to see what was available. The cover was already eye-catching (no pun intended), but I didn’t expect for I Am the Ghost in Your House to hit as hard as it did—stunning prose and a poignant, strange story to match.

Enjoy this week’s review!

I Am the Ghost in Your House – Mar Romasco Moore

Pie and her mother have been on the run for their entire lives. They are both invisible—Pie born and her mother turned as a teenager—and have been living in other people’s houses all across America. Their lives are constantly transient, and although Pie has lived in many places, she doesn’t have a place to call home.

When her mother disappears, possibly dead, Pie is left alone. Sheltering in Pittsburgh with a group of art students, she goes in search of her missing mother and a girl she once loved. But if the girl Pie loves can never see her, how can they be together?

TW/CW: kidnapping, off-page sexual assault (past), substance abuse, absent father

For a book I picked up almost purely on a whim, this was such an emotional hard-hitter. From this alone, I’m absolutely going to seek out Moore’s other books—I haven’t read such fantastic, immersive prose in ages, and through Pie, Moore has created a truly unique protagonist and a strange world paired with her.

Moore’s prose is what stood out the most to me about I Am the Ghost in Your House. Magical realism is a hard genre to get right, and writing prose that fits with it can be half the battle, and it’s a battle that Moore absolutely won; their weaving of delicate metaphors into Pie’s voice created such a distinct atmosphere around the whole book, as though we too were nestled in lonely train cars, unable to be seen by anyone but our own kin. I read this on my Kindle, and I highlighted so many passages—Moore’s prose rarely faltered, and it was the perfect vehicle to carry this story.

The worldbuilding behind invisibility in I Am the Ghost in Your House was incredibly thought out as well! With magical realism novels like these, it’s sometimes okay to have changes to a world with little to no explanation—it adds some ambiguity to the story, and if it’s done well, it can add a charm and mystery to the world. Moore, however, has done the opposite. Without infodumping or rambling excessively, they define so much about invisibility, its origins, and more importantly, its limits, in terms that make something so fantastical seem so authentic. It feels like the kind of story that stemmed from a conversation—what would you do if you were invisible? Where would you live? What would you get away with, knowing that nobody’s watching?

Pie herself, however, was what made this novel so emotional and poignant. There’s an intense loneliness to her; after her mother disappears, she has nobody, since her father left her before she was born. Moore’s prose shapes a character with seemingly ordinary struggles—unrequited love and general uncertainty, among other things—into someone so deeply isolated, someone fighting alone, since only a handful of people can even see her in the first place. But as she develops, meeting other people and coming to terms with truths about her family, she finds closure in solace in knowing that she’s never been alone, being able to communicate with visible people and knowing that there are others out there like her.

My only problem was the paranormal investigator subplot. In contrast to how smoothly and deliberately most of the book moved, this spot near the end felt rushed and unfinished, thrown in at the last minute to add conflict where there didn’t need to be. Since it was crammed in the last 20% of the book or so, it didn’t feel like it had any place, other than providing a little more worldbuilding details on invisibility. Given what happens to Pie, the suddenness almost feels genuine, but it seemed to come more from a place of rushed writing than actual feeling.

All in all, a bittersweet and atmospheric piece of magical realism that never falters in its deeply emotional core. 4.25 stars!

I Am the Ghost in Your House is a standalone, but Mar Romasco Moore is also the author of Some Kind of Animal and the anthology Ghostographs: An Album.

Today’s song:

this song just emanates sheer power—there’s truly nothing quite like 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 Art, Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/9/22) – That Dark Infinity (ft. my fanart!)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I wasn’t able to go to the library last week, so I went through the Kindle library for books to read. I was in a fantasy mood for no rhyme or reason for most of the week, and That Dark Infinity presented itself. My expectations were average, but this book turned out to be one of the most creative fantasies that I’ve read in a long time!

Enjoy this week’s review!

That Dark Infinity – Kate Pentecost

The Ankou is an infamous, immortal monster hunter, but few know his true secret: while he’s still immortal, a curse made it so that during the day, he’s nothing more than a pile of bones. All he wants is to break the curse—and be able to die.

Flora is the former handmaiden of the princess of Kaer-Ise, but after her kingdom is sacked and she’s left for dead, she goes on the run. Looking for work, she seeks the Ankou to become a monster hunter like him. His only condition is that she help break his curse that’s kept him immortal. But the price of breaking the curse may be greater than she ever could have imagined.

TW/CW: off-page rape, rape/sexual assault-related trauma, violence, murder, body horror, suicidal ideation, descriptions of illness

I remember liking Kate Pentecost’s previous novel, Elysium Girls, but I didn’t have any expectations for That Dark Infinity. But to my surprise, it blew me away—one of the most inventive YA fantasy standalones that I’ve read in ages!

Let’s start off with the worldbuilding, which was a good portion of what made That Dark Infinity so unique! Pentecost doesn’t shy away from pushing the boundaries of the genre, and it really shows. Not only do we have classic fantasy settings filled with strange monsters, but there are also more industrializing parts of the kingdom, with buildings made of copper and automatons! There are tons of interesting creatures, from the hydra-like monster in the water system to giant eagles large enough to ride like horses. It all felt so imaginative, and even amidst the darker themes of the book, pure fun.

The main characters were so incredibly endearing as well! I haven’t come across a character quite like the Ankou/Lazarus in a while; his curse is so unique, and the way that Pentecost handles how it affects both his physical and mental health was so well-thought-out and detailed. He’s both caustically sarcastic and incredibly thoughtful and tender, which is a refreshing combination after years of male YA fantasy characters who were all aloofness. (Plus, can’t deny that he’s got a 10/10 wardrobe) Flora was also a lovely protagonist, so authentically written and wonderfully determined! I love the bisexual rep, and I also love the fact that Pentecost didn’t take the easy way out and automatically throw her into a romance with the Ankou; giving them a platonic relationship was a much wiser (and sweeter) decision, and romance would’ve been weird with him. (Still scarred by many years of authors pairing up their teenage protagonists with love interests who are 100+ years old…)

That Dark Infinity‘s depiction of trauma was also incredibly respectful, which was, again, very refreshing. It’s implied off-page that Flora is raped, but instead of that being a plot point just to amp up the drama in the book and give her a Tragic Backstory™️, her trauma and healing journey is a consistent part of the book. Her healing journey is one that I rarely see in fantasy books, and I’m so glad Pentecost included it as more than an afterthought. And another addition to why I love the Ankou—he was also incredibly considerate when her triggers resurfaced, making their friendship all the more strong. Again—I’d be hard-pressed to find a male protagonist written quite like this, and I’m grateful for both Flora and the Ankou as characters.

My only major gripe with That Dark Infinity was the ending. It was a…weird way to resolve the book, to say the least? Without spoiling it, I’ll say that it felt rather rushed, but in the end, the very last twist made me like it a little more. Even though it took a roundabout way to get there, I liked that Flora and the Ankou got their hopeful endings.

Also—the Ankou/Lazarus was such a fun character design-wise that I decided to draw him! I haven’t shared any art of mine on my blog since middle school (we don’t talk about how this blog was in middle school 🫥), but I figured it would be an artistic challenge (since I’ve never really drawn skulls without a reference) and a fun addition to the review. So here we are—my interpretation of the Ankou!

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

and here’s my sketch/practice page, just for fun:

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

All in all, an inventive standalone fantasy that was tender, inventive, and truly one of a kind. 4.5 stars!

That Dark Infinity is a standalone, but Kate Pentecost is also the author of Elysium Girls.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/26/22) – Follow Your Arrow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever read a book because of one aspect people have been telling you about? That was me about Follow Your Arrow—I don’t know if I would have picked it up if not for several people telling me how good the bi rep was. And you know how much of a sucker I am for good bi rep. So I picked it up—and yes, the bi rep and discussions around biphobia were great, but the rest of the story I found to be a little lacking.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Follow Your Arrow – Jessica Verdi

CeCe Ross is an influencer with nearly a million followers. Her relationship with her girlfriend of two years, Silvie, has gained an extensive following, with thousands of fawning followers making #Cevie all the rage. But when she and Silvie break up, her life is turned upside-down—both on and offline. To make matters more complicated, she’s met Josh, a musician who has no idea about her online following. Will she be able to reckon with the storm she’s stirred up online—and keep her secret from Josh?

TW/CW: Biphobia, cyberbullying, homophobia

My feelings about Follow Your Arrow can essentially be summed up by that one Reductress article—“Why I Couldn’t Care Less About Your Relationsh—Oh, It’s Gay? Tell Me More.” I don’t think I would’ve picked up this book if not for several people telling me about how great the bisexual rep was, and I liked it on that front. However, it was definitely lacking for me in some of the other departments.

So, the bisexual rep! That aspect of Follow Your Arrow was what stood out most to me, and it was the most well-executed aspect of the book! Verdi did a fantastic job of discussing so many aspects of bisexuality and biphobia, especially about the stigmas of bisexual people in straight-passing relationships. Even though some of the social media aspects of the book weren’t very well-done (more on that later), the backdrop of social media was a perfect setting for CeCe to come into her own. There’s so much discussion about how bisexual people are pigeonholed as simply straight or gay, depending on their relationship, and how even within the queer community, there’s still so much biphobia present. Follow Your Arrow is a solid book for anyone who wants to learn more about bisexuality, and Verdi did a great job of representing it respectfully.

As far as the other aspects of the book…I wasn’t quite as invested. The romance, although the representation of bi people in a straight-passing relationship was great, didn’t hold a lot for me. It’s a pretty standard setup—”she’s an influencer, he’s a hipster musician who doesn’t even have social media! oh boy, how will this work out? he doesn’t even know what ‘ship’ means, tee hee!” It didn’t help that neither CeCe nor Josh were characterized much more beyond a few base character traits. The combination of the cliche pairing without much of an original spin on it (other than CeCe being bi) and the lack of characterization for both parties made me lose interest more than not.

I also had an issue with the writing—it tried way too hard not to date itself, but it ended up backfiring spectacularly. Even though app names (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) weren’t specifically mentioned (there was only the mysterious App…oookay) , the slang peppered in and the excessive use of hashtags at the end of every other paragraph made it feel painfully like a Gen X-er trying to sound “hip.” (How do you do, fellow kids?) CeCe’s status as an influencer didn’t make the hashtags make any more sense—I doubt that even influencers think in random hashtags. It felt weird. Additionally, Follow Your Arrow couldn’t seem to make up its mind about the message it was trying to share about social media; all it got was that there are good and bad aspects of social media, but it never got much more nuanced than that. Given how large of a role social media played in this book, I wish that were more developed.

All in all, a decent rom-com with great discussions around biphobia and bisexuality, but not-so-great writing and an underdeveloped romance. 3 stars.

Follow Your Arrow is a standalone, but Jessica Verdi is also the author of And She Was (really hoping that’s a Talking Heads reference lol), The Summer I Wasn’t Me, What You Left Behind, and several other novels.

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 Books

YA Books for Nonbinary Awareness Week

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

This week, July 11-17, is Nonbinary Awareness Week, and today, July 14, is International Nonbinary People’s Day! I’ve done a few specific lists for books with different identities within the LGBTQ+ community, but I don’t think I’ve done a specific nonbinary one. Given that it’s the perfect time to do it, I figured I would shine a light on books with protagonists (and sometimes authors!) with nonbinary and gender non-conforming identities. Representation always, always matters, especially for a community who face scrutiny even from within the LGBTQ+ community. 💛🤍💜🖤

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR NONBINARY AWARENESS WEEK

I Wish You All the Best, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

All at once heartbreaking and tender, I Wish You All the Best is an incredibly powerful story of a nonbinary teen’s journey of acceptance and self-love.

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: Magical realism, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.75, rounded up to ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Anna-Marie McLemore never misses, and this beautiful story of two nonbinary, Latinx, and neurodivergent teens and a secret world beneath a lake is proof.

Mooncakes, Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

GENRES: Fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

An absolutely ADORABLE graphic novel about a nonbinary werewolf and a hard-of-hearing witch!

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

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea features a powerful genderfluid pirate as one of the main characters! There’s another prominent side character who is nonbinary as well.

The Ghosts We Keep, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Though I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I Wish You All the Best, The Ghost We Keep is still an incredibly powerful exploration of grief. It’s also one of the only books I’ve seen that features a protagonist that uses multiple pronouns—Liam uses he/they pronouns!

Under Shifting Stars, Alexandra Latos

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Clare, one of the twins featured at the forefront of Under Shifting Stars, is genderfluid!

Mask of Shadows, Linsey Miller

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mask of Shadows is a super fun fantasy novel featuring a genderfluid assassin!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite books with nonbinary and gender non-conforming rep? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

this is so creepy I love it

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