Posted in Books

YA Books for AAPI Heritage Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

For those of you who didn’t know, in the U.S., May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month! I made a list of YA reads for the occasion last year (click here if you’d like to parse through), but since I’ve read so many more incredible books by AAPI authors since last May, I figured I would make another list. These are books from all genres, but all of them are from authors of AAPI heritage. And with all of these kinds of posts, I always want to impress the following: reading diversely should never be confined to one part of the year. That being said, it’s always important to uplift marginalized voices—AAPI in this case—and reading is a key way to do so.

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR AAPI HERITAGE MONTH (2022 EDITION)

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

GENRES: Fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

One of my favorite reads of last year, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was a raw and tender read filled with pirates, mermaids, and resonant love. Highly recommended!

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction, fiction, mental illness/disability

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A searing and powerful read that follows the story of a sixteen-year-old girl with OCD in the midst of the Malaysian race riots in the late sixties.

Gearbreakers – Zoe Hana Mikuta

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Gearbreakers is no ordinary YA dystopia—filled with mechs, found family, and fierce feminism and queerness, this is a must-read!

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Mind-bending and endlessly thought-provoking, The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a unique and unforgettable tale of sisterhood in the darkest of times.

Rise of the Red Hand – Olivia Chadha

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Rise of the Red Hand certainly wasn’t perfect, but it’s best element was its representation; it’s one of the only dystopias that I’ve seen that’s set in South Asia!

Forest of Souls – Lori M. Lee

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A rich and spooky fantasy that’s perfect for readers who like their traditional fantasy with a dash of necromancy, vengeful souls, and spiders.

Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: Dystopia, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Raw, fierce, and relentless, Iron Widow is a searing ode to those who are unafraid to take down the status quo—no matter the stakes.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know – Samira Ahmed

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A love letter to all of the women that history erases, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a sharply feminist story set in alternating timelines.

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A powerful and unforgettable story of grief and starting over. Akemi Dawn Bowman’s writing never fails to stir up all kinds of emotions in me.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by AAPI authors? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

That’s it for this post! 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 (4/19/22) – Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Carry On has been a favorite book of mine for years. Ever since book 3 came out back in July, I’ve been trying to find it in the bookstore and buy it. I went to Barnes & Noble recently and finally got my hands on it (the exclusive edition!! with the beautiful endpapers!! 😭), and although it wasn’t as strong as book 1 was, Rainbow Rowell’s endearing writing and characters continue to please.

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review may contain spoilers for the first two books, Carry On and Wayward Son. If you haven’t read either and intend on doing so, read at your own risk!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Any Way the Wind Blows (Simon Snow, #3) – Rainbow Rowell

After their trip to America, Simon, Baz, and Penny are called back to Watford. A new threat has arisen that threatens to upend the World of Mages, and despite his hesitance to be magickal, Simon is once again pulled into the fray. All the while, Simon still has personal questions left unanswered—if he leaves the World of Mages, what will happen to his relationship with Baz?

Simon’s friends are no better off; Penny has smuggled Shephard into England, and now must grapple with a demonic curse to save his life, and Baz’s family has drawn him back into the vampiric fray. Was America the last time that they were together, or will they remain the tight-knit group that they once were?

TW/CW: blood, animal death, cults/emotional manipulation, surgery, sexual content

I’m now reminded of why I had a crush on Baz when I was 14—how can you resist a sexy vampire who plays Kishi Bashi on his violin and sings Beatles songs to his two-year-old brother to help him go to sleep? Specifically THE WHITE ALBUM Beatles songs?? I’m getting all sappy at the thought of him singing “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”… 😭

I’ve been a fan of Rainbow Rowell for years, and Carry On is easily my favorite of her books. Wayward Son was fun, but it felt sloppy, and I hoped Any Way the Wind Blows would pick up the mess it made. However, this book had the weakest plot of the three; that being said, that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it—it’s Rainbow Rowell, so no matter the plot, it’s guaranteed that I’ll still adore the writing and characters.

Let me get my major complaint out of the way first—the plot. As much as I love Carry On, I stand by the argument that it should’ve been a standalone from the start. Wayward Son, even though I enjoyed it, was still unnecessary at worst, and it feels like Any Way the Wind Blows exists almost solely to tie up all the loose ends from the former. The concept of the whole Chosen One cult with Smith was an interesting premise, but it wasn’t nearly enough to carry over 600 pages. There are several plots going on in the book, but all of them felt like sideplots; maybe it’s the fact that all of the POV characters were separated to some degree, but all of them—even the main plot—came off like borderline afterthoughts.

As weak as the plot was, though, I will always love Rainbow Rowell’s writing! She has such a way with words that not many other authors have; every emotion feels genuine, her worlds are fleshed out, and her prose never fails to be endearing and poignant. It wasn’t enough to completely stitch up the plot problem, but I always enjoy reading her books.

Going off of that, part of what makes her writing so special is her characters. I already adored all of the gang™️ from this series, and they were just as delightful as they were in the previous books. Simon, Baz, and Penny are all so dear to me (Baz most of all), and everything that I loved about them from the previous books shone through just as much in Any Way the Wind Blows. These books have always explored how complicated relationships can be through the eyes of Simon and Baz, but I loved how Rowell didn’t hesitate to explore some of the messier sides of love; their relationship is far from perfect, but through it all, it felt messy in a refreshingly genuine way. The conflict felt realistic and wasn’t neatly wrapped in a bow, but through it all, Simon and Baz came through it. As abrupt as the ending was, I’m glad that their relationship got mended in the end. Gotta love my Snowbaz 🥹

All in all, the weakest addition to the Simon Snow trilogy, but still a sweet ending for the characters I love. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Any Way the Wind Blows is the third and final book in the Simon Snow trilogy, preceded by Carry On (book 1) and Wayward Son (book 2). Rainbow Rowell is also the author of Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, Pumpkinheads, and several other books for young adults and teens. She also wrote the 2017 run on Marvel’s Runaways.

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

Start ‘Em Young: YA Books to Transition Younger Teen Readers into YA Literature

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been an avid reader from a young age. I read voraciously throughout my pre-teen years, but as I got older, I began reading “older” books—I had been introduced into the wonderful world of YA literature. But it wasn’t quite as smooth as I thought; although young adult books generally encompass a teenage experience, there can often be a wide range of content. While some YA books are lighter and more suitable for younger teens, many range into the “older” teen spectrum that often deals with heavier and more mature subject matter. For me, at least, I think it’s good to have “transition” books for younger YA readers—books that are distinctly “teen,” but aren’t quite as graphic for someone who isn’t mature enough to handle certain topics. I’m doing my best not to make generalizations about the maturity of younger teenagers here, since I was one not so long ago, but I feel like it’s not the best idea to start an 11 or 12 year old on something as dark as Six of Crows or Illuminae. So for those reasons, I’ve decided to compile some books that I think would be great to introduce younger readers to the wide world of YA literature.

Let’s begin, shall we?

📖BOOKS TO TRANSITION YOUNGER TEEN READERS INTO YA 📖

Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson

GENRES: fantasy, high fantasy, romance

Sorcery of Thorns had the feel of a lot of middle-grade fantasy novels—not enough magical libraries in YA literature, such a shame 😤

For me, this novel had the perfect balance of whimsy and complexity, and presented a beautiful fantasy world full of magical books and demons!

The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

GENRES: historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism

Marie Lu’s books tend to stray on the darker side, but The Kingdom of Back is the perfect standalone for any reader to get into her books. This one is a favorite of mine—such a beautifully-crafted fairytale!

Sisters of the Wolf – Patricia Miller-Schroeder

GENRES: historical fiction

Sisters of the Wolf wasn’t my favorite book, but part of what stood out to me about it (apart from the amazing research that went into the prehistoric setting) was that it hit the perfect balance between middle grade and YA—it’s dark enough to be separated from middle grade, but still palatable for a younger reader transitioning between the age groups.

The Soul Keepers – Devon Taylor

GENRES: fantasy, paranormal, horror

Like Sisters of the Wolf, The Soul Keepers is the perfect bridge between middle grade and YA; even though most of the characters are written as older teens, the level of dark elements struck the perfect balance between younger and older teen readers.

Curses – Lish McBride

GENRES: fantasy, retellings, romance

Nothing like a good fairytale retelling to introduce a reader to YA! Lish McBride’s sense of humor never fails to make me smile, and Curses was a continuously clever and hilarious retelling of Beauty and the Beast. If there’s any Beauty and the Beast retelling to start a reader on, it’s this one.

The Tiger at Midnight – Swati Teerdhala

GENRES: fantasy, high fantasy, romance

The Tiger at Midnight has all of the elements of a classic YA fantasy book, and it’s the perfect choice for introducing a reader into the vast world of YA fantasy! I don’t know why I haven’t picked up the next few books—book 1 was a lot of fun!

Geekerella – Ashley Poston

GENRES: fiction, romance, rom-com

For a reader who wants to jump into romance, the Once Upon a Con series is a perfect starter! Plus, what’s not to love about comic cons, books, and tons of pop culture references?

Once & Future – A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy

GENRES: LGBTQ+, science fiction, retellings, romance

Speaking of retellings…here’s one for readers who are keen on Arthurian legends! Once & Future presents one of the most inventive Arthurian legends I’ve read in a while—space, corporations, curses, and more! It’s wonderfully queer all around as well.

The Light at the Bottom of the World – London Shah

GENRES: dystopia, science fiction, romance

There are a lot—and I mean a lot—of astoundingly mediocre and ridiculous YA dystopias that tried to jump on the Hunger Games train, so why not start off a reader with something that’s genuinely fun and inventive? The Light at the Bottom of the World is a stand-out, action-packed and creative, with a determined protagonist that you can’t help but root for!

I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

GENRES: fiction, romance

Here’s another light and sweet romance! I Love You So Mochi is the perfect feel-good romance, and it doubles as a spectacular coming-of-age story about finding your passion and your place.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are some other books that you’d recommend for younger teens who are just starting to read YA? Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

this is such a fun album!! not a bad song here

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/5/22) – Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!! I’m still reeling from finally seeing Spiritualized last night—such a transcendental show!

Rom-coms aren’t my go-to as far as genres go, but I really enjoyed The Henna Wars, so I wanted to given Adiba Jaigirdar’s newest rom-com a try. It ended up being one of those books that I put off for no good reason—I had it on hold at least twice at the library and left it on the shelf too long because of trips or something—but I ended up picking it up on Kindle over spring break. Having read it, I liked it overall, but generally, I have a few mixed feelings about it.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating – Adiba Jaigirdar

Humaira Khan—Hani for short—has started coming out to her friends and family as bisexual, but her friends don’t believe her. In their (horribly biphobic) beliefs, Hani can’t be bi if she’s only ever dated boys. So to save face, Hani blurts out that she’s dating Ishu, a top-of-the-class perfectionist and the only other Bengali girl at her school.

From then on, Hani and Ishu make a pact to orchestrate a fake relationship—as soon as both of their goals are achieved, they will stage a fake breakup worthy of the Oscars. But as they get deeper into their plan, they realize that their relationship might not be so fake after all.

TW/CW (from Adiba Jaigirdar): racism, homophobia, biphobia, lesbophobia, Islamophobia, toxic friendships, gaslighting, parental abandonment

I loved The Henna Wars, but despite all the hype that Hani and Ishu is getting, I’ve come away with mixed feelings. The setup is all there and the diversity is fantastic, but it’s difficult to enjoy a rom-com when the romance itself feels forced.

I’ll start out with what I enjoyed; Adiba Jaigirdar’s writing is consistently charming and funny. Her style is perfect for a rom-com, filled with wit and sarcasm. I can’t exactly say that she hit the perfect balance of levity and dealing with the aforementioned content in the TW/CW section (especially the biphobia, in my experience—more on that later), but it almost hit that sweet spot for me.

Adding onto that, it’s always wonderful to see POC characters at the forefront of rom-coms, and the fact that they’re LGBTQ+ makes it so much better! I can’t speak to the accuracy of the representation myself (Hani is Bangladeshi-Irish, and Ishu is Indian-Irish, and they’re both Muslim), but most of the LGBTQ+ rom-coms out there are…pretty white. So it’s always a breath of fresh air to see non-white LGBTQ+ characters in literature.

My main problem, however, is with the excessive biphobia throughout the book. I fully recognize that all of it was challenged, but there was just so much of it that it became unnecessarily triggering. Hani’s “friends,” in almost every scene they’re in, invalidate her every chance they get, and a lot of the extreme bigotry they displayed definitely triggered me as well. All of the biphobia was challenged and I appreciate Adiba Jaigirdar for putting the trigger warning there, but for a book that was advertised as a feel-good rom-com, it decidedly did not make me feel good as a bisexual person. I feel like Hani’s bisexuality was well-depicted and relatable, but there didn’t need to be that much biphobia to sell the point of how bigoted and toxic Hani’s “friends” were—there was already enough evidence towards them being disgusting people. (I will say, though—Jaigirdar did a great job of writing how difficult it is to break out of toxic friendships. So props to her for that.)

Other than that, I never got on board with the romance. The setup was all there, but even through all of the bonding that Hani and Ishu had, I just never felt like they had any chemistry at all. There was just this feeling of…neutrality throughout the whole thing. Like their relationship was just acquaintances at best, even though they were sold as an almost enemies-to-lovers kind of deal. They just didn’t seem to click for me. And seeing as Hani and Ishu was billed as a rom-com, I didn’t get a whole lot of the “rom.”

All in all, an LGBTQ+ rom-com that was sweet in concept, but messy in its execution. 3 stars.

Hani and Ishu’s Guide to Fake Dating is a standalone; Adiba Jaigirdar is also the author of The Henna Wars and the forthcoming A Million to One.

Today’s song:

this was the third song they played last night…still in awe of how smoothly they transitioned from “She Kissed Me (It Felt Like a Hit)” to this. beautiful 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

Feminist YA Books for Women’s History Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

Women’s History Month is here again in the U.S., and I figured I’d gather some more books to celebrate! Literature has always been an act of resistance, and it’s so important for readers—especially young girls—to see characters and narratives like their own to inspire change in our world. And as always, these books aren’t just for March—they’re for all year round; feminism doesn’t start and stop in March. My goal here is to uplift marginalized voices, and now is the perfect time to uplift those of women.

If you’d like to see my list from last year, click here!

Let’s begin, shall we?

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Samira Ahmed

GENRES: contemporary, historical fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Told in intersecting timelines between the present day and 19th-century. Paris, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a love letter to all the women whose stories have been overshadowed and lost to history. Samira Ahmed is such a wonderful author!

Iron Widow, Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: sci-fi, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+, retellings

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Iron Widow is a fierce, fast-paced sci-fi tale that deftly explores themes of rape culture, institutionalized misogyny, and society’s treatment of women through the eyes of a spitfire pilot determined to tear down an empire. (DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS! I said what I said.)

Squad, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

GENRES: graphic novels, contemporary, paranormal, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Squad presents a timely theme—when holding rapists accountable, where is the line between accountability and pure vengeance?—and puts a paranormal spin on it. If the premise of werewolf girls hunting down rapists doesn’t entice you, I don’t know what will.

Slay, Brittney Morris

GENRES: contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Though this isn’t my favorite of Brittney Morris’ books that I’ve read (that title would go to The Cost of Knowing as of now), Slay was a wonderfully proud and feminist novel about gaming and Black pride.

The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: magical realism, fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+, retellings, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Anna-Marie McLemore never misses a beat with their books, and The Mirror Season was no exception! All at once raw and beautiful, it presents a searing tale of love after trauma and the fight to hold rapists accountable.

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

GENRES: alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, dystopia, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Through a blend of several different genres, Charlotte Nicole Davis presents the stories of five girls, bonded through sisterhood and trauma, who take control of their own fates and fight their fair share of patriarchy—and demons.

Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera

GENRES: fiction, contemporary, LGBTQ+, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Juliet Takes a Breath is a fantastic, queer coming-of-age novel about sexuality, self-discovery, identity, and being a feminist. There’s an especially important discussion of the harm of “white feminism,” which, for a YA novel, is crucial to discuss.

A Phoenix Must First Burn, Patrice Caldwell et. al. (anthology)

GENRES: short stories/anthologies, fantasy, contemporary, paranormal, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There’s not a single bad short story in A Phoenix Must First Burn! Through several different genres, all of these stories center around the experience of growing up as a Black woman, and include everything from aliens to sorcery to the American west.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite feminist YA books? Have you read any of these books, and if you have, what did you think of them? What have you been reading for Women’s History Month? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

NEW SOCCER MOMMY IN JUNE?? I’m convinced that 2022 is the year of being blessed by the music gods

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/15/22) – Love in the Time of Global Warming

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As a bi person, I’ve been on the hunt for more bisexual representation in literature for years. Love in the Time of Global Warming popped up on a whole bunch of lists of YA books with bisexual characters, and the premise intrigued me, so I gave it a go. This one has a lot of bad reviews, but to me, it was a beautifully-written and inventive retelling of The Odyssey!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Love in the Time of Global Warming – Francesca Lia Block

Human civilization has been reduced to its barest remnants after a cataclysmic event known only as the Earth Shaker set the apocalypse in motion. After her house is raided by mysterious men, Pen sets out into the wasteland of what was once Los Angeles in search of her missing mother and brother. Along the way, she meets a cast of strange, lost characters who join her on her quest. But their path is plagued by giants and mad scientists, and they must search the ends of the Earth for what they seek.

TW/CW: sexual content, descriptions of death/murder, past descriptions of abuse/homophobia, use of a trans character’s deadname

Bonus points have been preemptively awarded for the TV on the Radio reference. To Francesca Lia Block—if you see this review, I’m just here to tell you that you have great taste.

I initially picked up this book because I’d seen it show up on loads of lists of YA books with bisexual protagonists, and now that I’ve read it, I’m so glad I did! Most of the reviews I’ve read aren’t too positive, but for the most part, I enjoyed this one quite a bit.

A lot of the complaints about Love in the Time of Global Warming were centered around Block’s writing style. I can usually get on board with more flowery, dreamlike prose, and that’s certainly how Block seems to write. I loved her lush descriptions; the hazy, mystic atmosphere of it made it feel all the more like a retelling, especially one of The Odyssey. Even though Love in the Time of Global Warming was strictly dystopia/sci-fi at its core, Block’s writing gave it a magical feel, which, for the story she was trying to tell, meshed perfectly.

As far as retellings go, Love in the Time of Global Warming was loose, but there were still enough callbacks to The Odyssey to make it feel like a retelling. Pen’s quest did have an odyssey-like feel to it, and some of the parallels (Circe, the cyclops, etc.) were clear, although the addition of Hex reading The Odyssey as they went along felt borderline ham-handed, as though to say “guys! GUYS! Guess what!!! This!!! Is a retelling!!!!1!!” However, Love in the Time of Global Warming was inventive in its brand of apocalypse, which made the setting—and the feel of the retelling itself—a lot more enjoyable. Having giants created by a mad scientist gave the book a fantastical feel without being a fantasy book, which I found to be a very creative move. With Block’s descriptive prose added to that, it made for a very creative retelling.

Another highlight for me was the fact that all of the main characters were casually LGBTQ+! It’s always great to see lots of queer representation in a story, and there is no shortage of queer and trans characters in Love in the Time of Global Warming. Plus, I loved having a brave, unique heroine like Pen be bisexual—always warms your heart to see yourself represented, isn’t it? Certainly warmed mine. Plus, I loved the little jab that they have about being told all their life that they’d be going to hell for being queer, and yet it’s them—not the homophobes—who survive the apocalypse. Call it comeuppance.

However, though most of the LGBTQ+ representation was positive and well-written, I do have a few issues with how parts of Hex, a trans man, was written. Take this as you will, since I’m cis, but there were definitely some parts that rubbed me the wrong way. After Hex comes out as trans, his deadname and old pronouns are used…frequently? Most of it’s in flashbacks, but even still, it’s generally accepted that using a trans person’s deadname and old pronouns after they’ve come out as trans is not the most considerate thing to do. I doubt there was any harm meant by it, but it was a little uncomfortable that Block wrote him this way.

All in all, though, a strange, dreamlike, and unapologetically queer retelling of The Odyssey. 4 stars!

Love in the Time of Global Warming is the first book in Francesca Lia Block’s Love in the Time of Global Warming duology, followed by The Island of Excess Love. Block is also the author of Weetzie Bat, The Rose and the Beast: Fairy Tales Retold, Echo, Witch Baby, and several other books for teens and young adults.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

YA Reads for Black History Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

It’s February again, and in the U.S., February is Black History Month! For the past few years, I’ve been making an effort to diversify my reading and read books from a variety of BIPOC authors all year round, but during this month, I like to take the time to uplift Black voices and authors. It’s crucial to open yourself up to new perspectives and insights, and all it takes is picking up a new book. (But as always, read books from BIPOC authors all year round!)

I made a list of YA reads from Black authors last year (you can find it here!), but I wanted to do it again since I’ve read so many amazing books since last year. So let’s begin, shall we?

Black History Month Black Lives Matter GIF - Black History Month Black  Lives Matter Mlk - Discover & Share GIFs

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH (2022 EDITION)

The Kindred, Alechia Dow

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

GENRES: sci-fi, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll start this list off with a recent read from an author who is quickly climbing up the ranks of my favorites! Although this wasn’t quite as good as The Sound of Stars, The Kindred was such a sweet, feel-good sci-fi romance!

The Cost of Knowing, Brittney Morris

Amazon.com: The Cost of Knowing: 9781534445451: Morris, Brittney: Books

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Cost of Knowing is immensely powerful; through the perspective of a teen with the power to see the future of everything that he touches, Morris tackles a multitude of important topics, from mental health to police brutality to grief.

A Phoenix Must First Burn, Patrice Caldwell et. al. (anthology)

Buy A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic,  Resistance, and Hope Book Online at Low Prices in India | A Phoenix First  Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black

GENRES: short stories, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Phoenix Must First Burn is a beautiful anthology of short stories of all genres that depict the Black experience—particularly Black women and nonbinary people. There’s only one short story that I didn’t like as much, but all the rest are fascinating in their own right. My favorite was Amerie’s When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb.

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

Amazon.com: The Good Luck Girls eBook : Davis, Charlotte Nicole: Kindle  Store

GENRES: historical fiction/alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read a lot of alternate history or historical fiction books, but The Good Luck Girls was a fantastic read! If you’re a fan of demons, ghosts, patriarchy-smashing, and sisterhood, this is the book for you.

The Black Flamingo, Dean Atta

Amazon.com: The Black Flamingo: 9780062990297: Atta, Dean: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Again—novels in verse aren’t my usual choice for reading, but The Black Flamingo is a must-read! A beautiful coming-of-age story about growing up mixed-race and gay and discovering drag.

A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water, #2), Bethany C. Morrow

A Chorus Rises eBook by Bethany C. Morrow - 9781250316028 | Rakuten Kobo  United States

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

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

Set in the same world as A Song Below Water, A Chorus Rises explores Naema’s side of the story. Not a lot of authors write separate books from the point of view of the story’s antagonist, and this book was testament to the fact that not everything is black and white—there are several sides to every story.

Every Body Looking, Candice Iloh

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse

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

Raw and honest, Every Body Looking is a poetic coming-of-age story of growing up as a woman, growing up Black, and growing up as the daughter of an immigrant. It’s a rough ride, but it packs a punch.

When You Were Everything, Ashley Woodfolk

Amazon.com: When You Were Everything: 9781524715915: Woodfolk, Ashley: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When You Were Everything is the perfect book for anyone who has had a close friendship deteriorate. It’s messy, it’s raw, it’s painful, but above all, it felt so real and wonderfully genuine.

Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Amazon.com: Ace of Spades eBook : Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah: Kindle Store

GENRES: mystery, thriller, contemporary, realistic fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t go for mysteries most of the time, but Ace of Spades was the dictionary definition of edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. All at once a nail-biting mystery and a commentary on systemic racism, this is one you can’t let pass you by.

You Should See Me in a Crown, Leah Johnson

You Should See Me in a Crown - Indiana Authors Awards

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

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

I guess I’ve bookended this list with feel-good reads…I don’t see a problem with that. You Should See Me in a Crown is a fun and tender LGBTQ+ romance about two candidates for prom queen falling for each other!

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 YA books by Black authors? Let me know in the comments!

We Are Black History I Am Black History Sticker - We Are Black History I Am  Black History Africanamerican - Discover & Share GIFs

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/1/22) – Beyond the End of the World (The Other Side of the Sky, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, Happy beginning of Black History Month, and happy Lunar New Year! 🐅 My, today’s a momentous occasion…

I’ve been a fan of Amie Kaufman’s for years, and at this point, I’ll read almost anything that she writes. I discovered The Other Side of the Sky during a really tough time in my life, and reading it and immersing myself in her and Spooner’s world made the pain just that much more bearable. I preordered book 2 last year, and it came in the mail recently! Although it was a bit of a slow start, Beyond the End of the World was a jaw-dropping conclusion to a creative duology!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, The Other Side of the Sky! If you haven’t read book 1 and intend on doing so, I’d suggest that you skip this review just in case.

For my review of The Other Side of the Sky, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Beyond the End of the World: 9780062893369: Kaufman, Amie,  Spooner, Meagan: Books

Beyond the End of the World (The Other Side of the Sky, #2) – Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner

my copy ft. Anakin the cat being very tired of me

Nimh and North have switched places, and only a miracle can get them back where they each belong—and solve the conflict brewing Below.

Nimh and Inshara, the cultist bent on usurping her, are stranded in Alciel, Prince North’s domain in the clouds. But when Nimh wakes up, she realizes that Inshara has contacted the Queen and convinced her that she is Nimh. Below, Prince North is on the brink of discovering a secret that may upend all that Nimh and her people stand for. With the odds stacked against them both, their only chance is to reunite, but the hidden secrets Below may mean chaos for both North and Nimh.

Sky GIF - Sky - Discover & Share GIFs

TW/CW: train crash, frightening situations, descriptions of blood, murder

Every sequel that has a recap of what happened in the previous book is already great by my standards. But in all seriousness, Beyond the End of the World was a sequel that delivered a satisfying end to a uniquely inventive duology!

My only problem with Beyond is the first 100 or so pages; it moves a little slowly for the first quarter, and even though I love Amie Kaufman’s (and I guess Meagan Spooner’s, by proxy, even though I haven’t read any of her solo books) writing, I found myself losing interested. But once the inciting incident—Nimh’s in particular—is set into motion, Beyond’s pace accelerates to the perfect speed.

I loved the prospect of North and Nimh being trapped in worlds completely alien to them, but what made it so tense and well-executed was the introduction of conflict. Once the aftermath of book 1 fades off, Kaufman and Spooner did a fantastic job of setting up obstacles for each of them to overcome. Not only that, but these obstacles had fascinating ramifications that had such a jaw-dropping impact on the last quarter of the book.

I’m not usually one for twists thrown into the last book in the series not long before it ends, but the revelation at the end of Beyond was enough to put a giddy, baffled grin on my face. DANG. Without spoiling anything, I’m still reeling from it just thinking about it. Part of what made it so great was its implications on the worldbuilding—once this domino is set in motion, it tears down everything about Nimh’s world that you thought you knew. So well done, and so well-built-up over the course of two books!

I have one slight problem with said twist. One of the aspects of this duology that I loved so much was the fact that it’s the only “magic vs. technology” book that I’ve read that actually works. The twist, however well-executed that it was, did kind of throw a wrench in the whole concept. Again, no spoilers, but the fact that this is the direction that the twist meant that the “magic vs. technology” part was almost rendered moot. I still hold that this twist was incredibly well-written, but it’s a bit of a disappointment on the themes front.

Of course, it was wonderful to be back in Kaufman and Spooner’s shiny world of goddesses and floating cities. Although I’m more partial to Nimh than North, it was great to see them both again, and it was even sweeter to see them reunite. I didn’t feel a whole lot for the side characters, but given how wonderfully written most everything else, I could let that slide. Plus, cats. I would do anything to pet the Bindle cat.

Overall, a stunning and tense conclusion to one of the most creative series that I’ve come across in the past few years. 4 stars!

Medieval | Gif Hunt | Aesthetic gif, Gif, The witcher

Beyond the End of the World is the conclusion to the Other Side of the Sky duology, preceded by The Other Side of the Sky. Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner have also written the Starbound trilogy (These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, and This Fractured Light) and the Unearthed duology (Unearthed and Undying) together.

Today’s song:

besides being on of my favorite TV on the Radio songs, this music video just cracks me up every time

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