Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (4/12/21) – A Dark and Hollow Star

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I found this one via Edelweiss and have seen several of my fellow bloggers give it amazing reviews, so I’m so excited to read this one! Plus, what’s not to love about a queer urban fantasy?

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (4/12/21) – A DARK AND HOLLOW STAR by Ashley Shuttleworth

Advanced Review: A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth | Fangirlish

Blurb from Goodreads:

Choose your player.

The “ironborn” half-fae outcast of her royal fae family.
A tempestuous Fury, exiled to earth from the Immortal Realm and hellbent on revenge.
A dutiful fae prince, determined to earn his place on the throne.
The prince’s brooding guardian, burdened with a terrible secret.


For centuries, the Eight Courts of Folk have lived among us, concealed by magic and bound by law to do no harm to humans. This arrangement has long kept peace in the Courts—until a series of gruesome and ritualistic murders rocks the city of Toronto and threatens to expose faeries to the human world.

Four queer teens, each who hold a key piece of the truth behind these murders, must form a tenuous alliance in their effort to track down the mysterious killer behind these crimes. If they fail, they risk the destruction of the faerie and human worlds alike. If that’s not bad enough, there’s a war brewing between the Mortal and Immortal Realms, and one of these teens is destined to tip the scales. The only question is: which way?

Wish them luck. They’re going to need it. 

So why do I want to read this?

Secretos.. Familia... Venganza.. Poder.. Por siempre y Para siempre #detodo  # De Todo # amreading # books #… | Magic aesthetic, Elemental powers, Fire  manipulation
Challenge for myself: go through every single post and do a pushup every time I find a Hellboy gif

I think we’re all sick of the “x and y z”/”x of y and z” titles, but I’ll make a happy exception for this one, because MAN, it sounds AMAZING.

It doesn’t seem like there’s a huge market for urban fantasy in the world of YA, but this sounds like a welcome addition to the pantheon! There’s also a wide variety of LGBTQ+ main characters – according to the author, there are lesbian, questioning/later pansexual, bisexual, gay, and genderfluid characters! [EXCITEMENT INTENSIFIES]

It’s also great to see an urban fantasy that isn’t set in the U.S. or the U.K.; I haven’t run into a lot of Canadian literature/books set in Canada, so it’ll be fascinating to see what Toronto looks like under a grittier, fantasy lens.

And the synopsis is giving me all the found family vibes, and I’m HOOKED.

painting peaceful forest animation animated gif photoshop stream Digital  Painting animated painting elaine chen eec10 •

Today’s song:

so uhhhh guess who just listened to In Rainbows in its entirety

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

Posted in Books

Feminist YA Books for Women’s History Month

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I meant to post this earlier in the month, but, alas, school. But hey – March isn’t over yet, is it? And here in the U.S., March is Women’s History Month! So for the occasion, I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite YA novels with feminist themes not just for March, but for all year round, because we should all be uplifting the voices of women every day of every year.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Celebrate Women's History Month with Talenthouse

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Once & Future, A.R. Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Once & Future: Amy Rose Capetta, Cori McCarthy: 9781786076540: Amazon.com:  Books

GENRES: Sci-fi, romance, LGBTQ+, retellings

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I mean, how could the premise of an Arthurian retelling where the reincarnation of King Arthur is a POC, pansexual woman not hook you? Plus, lots of dismantling imperialism, sword fights, and an almost entirely queer cast.

Moxie, Jennifer Mathieu

Amazon.com: Moxie: A Novel (9781626726352): Mathieu, Jennifer: Books

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Can I rant for a minute? I loved this book to death, but the Netflix adaptation of it looks AWFUL. I watched the trailer, and it looks like it COMPLETELY misconstrued the message of the book. The movie makes feminism look like a joke; in the book, Viv was already conscious of the toxic environment of her high school, but in the movie, they (unintentionally?) painted feminism as something that was “trendy” or “what the kids are into.” (In the beginning of the trailer, Viv magically has this feminist awakening from seeing her mom’s old Riot Grrl pictures…) Also in the trailer, she only starts to notice the rampant sexism in her high school AFTER SOMEBODY TELLS HER…

[fumes] okay I’ll stop now but Y I K E S

just stick to the book, okay?

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, K. Eason

Amazon.com: How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse: Book One of the Thorne  Chronicles eBook: Eason, K.: Kindle Store

GENRES: Sci-fi, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Okay, I know this has been shelved as both adult and YA, but…hey, Rory’s 15 for most of the book, so I think I can slip it in this post. Plus, what’s not to love about disobedient, patriarchy-smashing princesses in space?

Sawkill Girls, Claire Legrand

Amazon.com: Sawkill Girls (9780062696601): Legrand, Claire: Books

GENRES: Horror, paranormal, fantasy, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Claire Legrand was a hit-or-miss author for me up until I read this one, but Sawkill Girls is such a powerful novel, both in its paranormal intensity and its resonant themes of sisterhood.

Girls of Paper and Fire, Natasha Ngan

Girls of Paper and Fire (Girls of Paper and Fire Series #1) by Natasha  Ngan, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

GENRES: High fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

As disappointing as the sequel was, Girls of Paper and Fire still remains a book that stunned me like no other. A powerful tale of rebelling against oppression and corruption – and some lovely forbidden romance!

The Black Coats, Colleen Oakes

Amazon.com: The Black Coats (9780062679628): Oakes, Colleen: Books

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, mystery, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

A super twisty and inventive novel with plenty of morally grey characters and secret societies. Plus, it raises some great points about vigilante justice. And there’s nothing better than getting back at misogynists and rapists, right?

The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow

Amazon.com: The Sound of Stars (9781335911551): Dow, Alechia: Books

GENRES: Sci-fi, dystopian, LGBTQ+, romance

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

Every time I look back at this book, I think something along the lines of “man, I’m so glad I bought this.” Secret libraries, alien invasion, quality music references, cross-country road trips, and more than a little bit of resistance. Very nearly flawless!

Music from Another World, Robin Talley

Amazon.com: Music from Another World (9781335146779): Talley, Robin: Books

GENRES: Historical fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A beautiful romance set against the backdrop of protest and resisting homophobia in 1977 San Francisco. There’s lovely representation for both lesbian and bisexual characters, and it’s such a tender and resonant read!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels, and if so, did you like them? What are your favorite feminist YA reads?

Women's History Month

And while I’m at it, might I direct you all to the Women’s History Book Tag? It was created by Margaret @ Weird Zeal, and I had such a blast doing it last March, and I figured I should direct it to your attention. 🙂

Today’s song:

The way this song reminds me of the very beginning of quarantine now –

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (3/15/21) – You Should See Me in a Crown

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

I needed a few days’ break last week, so that’s the reason behind the lack of a weekly update last week. That, and I had a bit of an underwhelming reading week. But now I have an eARC, a new book from the mail, and a book I love to re-read for book club for this week, so here’s hoping things will get a bit better.

Anyways, Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

I shelved this one back in May and I’ve had it on hold at the library for ages, so hopefully I might actually get to read it soon…but in the meantime, I’m all for POC leads and wlw romance!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (3/15/21) – YOU SHOULD SEE ME IN A CROWN by Leah Johnson

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Blurb from Goodreads:

Liz Lighty has always believed she’s too black, too poor, too awkward to shine in her small, rich, prom-obsessed midwestern town. But it’s okay — Liz has a plan that will get her out of Campbell, Indiana, forever: attend the uber-elite Pennington College, play in their world-famous orchestra, and become a doctor.

But when the financial aid she was counting on unexpectedly falls through, Liz’s plans come crashing down . . . until she’s reminded of her school’s scholarship for prom king and queen. There’s nothing Liz wants to do less than endure a gauntlet of social media trolls, catty competitors, and humiliating public events, but despite her devastating fear of the spotlight she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get to Pennington.

The only thing that makes it halfway bearable is the new girl in school, Mack. She’s smart, funny, and just as much of an outsider as Liz. But Mack is also in the running for queen. Will falling for the competition keep Liz from her dreams . . . or make them come true?

So why do I want to read this?

Pin em Chess

I’ve had this one on hold since…oh, maybe July or August, AND YET SOMEHOW I’M ONLY #11 ON 8 COPIES… [screams into the void]

[ahem] Anyway, contemporary/rom-com isn’t my favorite genre, but You Should See Me in a Crown looks like it has all the elements that’ll hook me in! It’s so wonderful to see queer, POC leads becoming more prevalent in YA literature (and literature as a whole), and I can already tell that I’ll be rooting for Liz. And SAPPHIC ROMANCE, to top it all off! Like I said, I don’t read many rom-coms, but we need more queer rom-coms out there, absolutely.

That, combined with a (friendly?) rivalry for Prom Queen and some determination and friends-to-lovers romance (from the looks of it), You Should See Me in a Crown looks like it has the perfect recipe for a book I’d adore!

Allison Tolman Waiting GIF by ABC Network - Find & Share on GIPHY
me “patiently” waiting for my hold to arrive

Today’s song:

It took a while for this song to grow on me for some reason but I love it now

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/9/21) – A Phoenix Must First Burn

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I don’t review short story collections/anthologies very often, but I definitely want to put in my two cents on this one, because I enjoyed it so much! A variety of historical fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy stories with Black protagonists from #OwnVoices Black authors! Such a lovely anthology.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic,  Resistance, and Hope (9781984835659): Caldwell, Patrice: Books

A Phoenix Must First Burn – edited by Patrice Caldwell

(summary from Goodreads)

Sixteen tales by bestselling and award-winning authors that explore the Black experience through fantasy, science fiction, and magic.

Evoking Beyoncé’s Lemonade for a teen audience, these authors who are truly Octavia Butler’s heirs, have woven worlds to create a stunning narrative that centers Black women and gender nonconforming individuals. A Phoenix First Must Burn will take you on a journey from folktales retold to futuristic societies and everything in between. Filled with stories of love and betrayal, strength and resistance, this collection contains an array of complex and true-to-life characters in which you cannot help but see yourself reflected. Witches and scientists, sisters and lovers, priestesses and rebels: the heroines of A Phoenix First Must Burn shine brightly. You will never forget them.

Authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Amerie, Dhonielle Clayton, Jalissa Corrie, Somaiya Daud, Charlotte Davis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Justina Ireland, Danny Lore, L.L. McKinney, Danielle Paige, Rebecca Roanhorse, Karen Strong, Ashley Woodfolk, and Ibi Zoboi.

Wow, what a stellar anthology! I think there was only one single story collected within that was at/below 2 stars, and I loved getting tastes of all genres from authors familiar and unfamiliar to me alike.

I’ll break down my thoughts for each short story, because they all deserve some time in the spotlight here:

When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb – Amerie: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Wormhole GIF | Gfycat

My favorite short story out of the bunch, by a long shot. (No surprise, really, since I’m such a sucker for sci-fi…) A beautiful tale of setting aside differences and embracing the other, complete with aliens, wormholes, and tender friendships. [Magneto voice] “Perfection…”

Gilded – Elizabeth Acevedo: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ve read plenty of Acevedo’s poetry, but this was my first taste of my prose. And I must say, she is uniquely talented in both! I loved this blend of magical realism and historical fiction, and the themes of resistance against colonialism in the 16th century.

Wherein Abigail Fields Recalls Her First Death, And, Subsequently, Her Best Life – Rebecca Roanhorse: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

fargoedit | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

I’ve had several of Roanhorse’s novels on my TBR for years and haven’t gotten around to reading them, but this story of rebirth and revenge in the old American West has me 100% convinced to get into her work! Stellar writing and dialogue, with no shortage of charm.

The Rules of the Land – Alaya Dawn Johnson: ⭐️⭐️

This one was a low point in the collection for me. While there was clearly a lot of care put into the worldbuilding, there were just so many terms and politics thrown around without any explanation, which left me super confused throughout the whole story.

A Hagiography of Starlight – Somaiya Doud: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Time Lapse Desert GIF by Pearl Lion - Find & Share on GIPHY

Props for the fact that I’d never heard of the word “hagiography” before reading this story, and it’s so pretty…

I had about the same experience of this story as I did with Mirage; the plot wasn’t terribly compelling, but the prose was so immersive and lush. This story also had what The Rules of the Land lacked: lots of new fantasy terms, but an explanation for all of them, which was a welcome reprieve.

Melie – Justina Ireland: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Potion Bottle GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Dragons! Mermaids! Sorcerers! Potions! A lovable and determined protagonist! Sweet romance! I might just have to check out Justina Ireland’s other novels, because Melie filled me with so much joy. Short story or not, this restored a bit of my faith for YA fantasy.

The Goddess Provides – L.L. McKinney: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Pin by Samm on '' The Isla of Pirates ... '' | Sea of thieves, Water  effect, The incredibles

This one was quite immersive; immediately, there’s lots of sensory description, which made me feel like I was in the story. And beyond that, who doesn’t love a good tale of pirates, royalty, revenge, and good triumphing over evil?

Hearts Turned to Ash – Dhonielle Clayton: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

An interesting and magically literal take on heartbreak, of a heart crumbling after a nasty breakup. I loved the magical realism aspect of this one, and the witchcraft woven throughout. Not my favorite of the stories, but still sweet.

Let the Right One In – Patrice Caldwell: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Lady Halloween Cosplay: Viago from What We Do in the Shadows – Schtick and  Substance

Some of the experiences of the protagonist really struck a chord with me, as someone who is/was quieter and lives through books. Plus, I’m down for a sapphic romance with vampires ANY day, trust me. SIGN ME UP.

Tender-Headed – Danny Lore: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

jean grey rp gifs | WiffleGif

I loved the concept of this one, and the writing was good throughout, but the conclusion left me wanting something more. It just felt…unresolved? Maybe a few more pages could have done this one some good.

Kiss the Sun – Ibi Zoboi: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was a weird one, but definitely in a good way. Genre-defying, full of flowery prose and a dark, strange kind of twist. The strangest story out of the bunch, and I mean that 100% as a compliment.

The Actress – Danielle Paige: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Not my favorite, but an interesting one for sure. A slow-burn, on-and-off-screen love story between two actors in a romantic teen TV drama about vampires, one of which may possess magic of her own.

The Curse of Love – Ashley Woodfolk: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Red Lips Lipstick GIF by Sky Ferreira - Find & Share on GIPHY

Simultaneously filled with despair and hope, The Curse of Love presents resonant themes of family and the risks we’re willing to take for love–and a family curse that dooms all of the women in the Dunn family to a fate worse than death should they fall head-over-heels in love. There are a lot of magical realism stories in this collection, and this one absolutely shines!

All the Time in the World – Charlotte Nicole Davis: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Evan Peters is racing to play Quicksilver again in X-Men: Dark Phoenix

I haven’t read anything by Charlotte Nicole Davis before, but I’m all for giving her a round of applause, because SECOND PERSON POV IS REALLY HARD TO DO. Really hard. And she did it with such aplomb, all while weaving in elements of sci-fi and discussions of racism, all in one. Such a wonderful story!

The Witch’s Skin – Karen Strong: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

All at once tender and creepy, this was a story that evoked imagery of graveyards at night and creatures lurking in dark corners. All at once a tale of fantasy and a heartstring-pulling story of heartbreak, and the lengths we go to get our vengeance.

Sequence – J. Marcelle Corrie: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Not quite as compelling as some of the other stories, but I like the discussion of the role that technology plays/may play in our lives. An interesting vision of the life of a group of teens in a time when major decisions are made via highly intelligent electronics, more so even than today.

I averaged out all of my ratings for each of the short stories, and it came out to about a 3.5, but before I did that, I put my rating as 4 stars. Normally, I don’t round up from 3.5 to 4 (I usually only do it when it’s 3.75), but the better stories in this collection make me want to keep my rating at a solid 4! Such a beautiful collection, running the gamut of genre, experience, science and magic. There’s something for everybody here, no matter what genre you tend to gravitate towards. Highly recommended!

He Loved It GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Patrice Caldwell is also the editor of the upcoming YA paranormal romance anthology Eternally Yours, and the upcoming novel Where Shadows Reign, scheduled for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (3/8/21) – The Dead and the Dark

Happy Monday, bibliophiles, and more importantly, happy International Women’s Day! It’s always crucial to remember that none of us would be here without the work of so many women – literally and figuratively. (Later on, I’m thinking of compiling some feminist YA reads for this Women’s History Month, so stay tuned!)

International Women Day GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

This novel was a more recent addition to my TBR, as well as a 2021 release. I don’t usually read horror or mystery, but The Dead and the Dark sounds right up my alley–I mean, what could go wrong with a sapphic romance and paranormal investigation?

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (3/8/21) – THE DEAD AND THE DARK by Courtney Gould

The Dead and the Dark by Courtney Gould

Blurb from Goodreads:

The Dark has been waiting for far too long, and it won’t stay hidden any longer. 

Something is wrong in Snakebite, Oregon. Teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the weather isn’t normal, and all fingers seem to point to TV’s most popular ghost hunters who have just returned to town. Logan Ortiz-Woodley, daughter of TV’s ParaSpectors, has never been to Snakebite before, but the moment she and her dads arrive, she starts to get the feeling that there’s more secrets buried here than they originally let on.

Ashley Barton’s boyfriend was the first teen to go missing, and she’s felt his presence ever since. But now that the Ortiz-Woodleys are in town, his ghost is following her and the only person Ashley can trust is the mysterious Logan. When Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who—or what—is haunting Snakebite, their investigation reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that neither of them are ready for. As the danger intensifies, they realize that their growing feelings for each other could be a light in the darkness.

So why do I want to read this?

Flipside Upside Down for Stranger Things ~ A Ticket for Two

I don’t read an awful lot of horror, but I’d certainly say that I’m a huge fan of all things paranormal in literature. (And you have one thing to blame for that: Hellboy.) The Dead and Dark seems like a fascinating take on the genre, though!

Not only did the aspect of a series of bizarre and frightening occurrences following a team of TV paranormal investigators draw me in, I’m so excited to see the sapphic romance! LGBTQ+ representation is always my cup of tea, and I’m 100% on board with the concept of two queer girls teaming up to solve a paranormal mystery.

Perfection Fassbender GIF - Perfection Fassbender Magneto - Discover &  Share GIFs | Michael fassbender, X men, X men evolution

The Dead and the Dark is expected to come out on August 3, 2021, so I’ll see you all then!

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Music

Little Oblivions – Julien Baker album review

Julien Baker → Little Oblivions

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles! I suppose this isn’t a bookish post, but I’ll keep my normal greeting, because hey, most of what I post is about books. But here’s something a little different.

So here I am, finally reviewing Little Oblivions!

I got into Julien Baker late last year, starting with Sprained Ankle after hearing her distinct voice as part of the supergroup boygenius (with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus). I was immediately hooked on Sprained Ankle, liked but didn’t love Turn Out the Light (Sprained Ankle > Turn Out the Lights, fight me Pitchfork), and so of course I was excited to see that she was coming out with something new. What stands out most to me about her music is the raw emotion of it; Baker never hesitates to explore the darker side of everything, and does so with such intense, palpable motion. Even with just a guitar or a piano, she can make a shrieking ballad of grief or heartbreak out of anything.

And I’m glad to say Little Oblivions is no exception. While Baker experiments with bigger, brighter sound, she stays true to the emotional aspect that defines her body of work, making a whole new set of resonant and soaring music.

So let’s begin this review, shall we?

Julien Baker is a queer, Christian, socialist — we had to talk to her by  Religion and Socialism Podcast

JULIEN BAKER LITTLE OBLIVIONS (album review)

TRACK 1: “Hardline” – 9/10

Say it’s not so cut and dry,

Oh, it isn’t black and white,

What if it’s all black, baby,

All the time?

– Julien Baker, “Hardline”

NOW THIS IS WHAT I CALL AN AMAZING OPENING TRACK! Baker’s foray into new, more electronic sound proves an immediate hit, paired with her signature raw lyricism. Plus, we’ve got an amazing stop-motion music video to match!

TRACK 2: “Heatwave” – 7.5/10

The last single to be released before the whole album, “Heatwave” is reminiscent of the boygenius EP. There’s a deceptively upbeat tone and composition to it, hiding some of Baker’s darkest lyrics. The instrumentation almost reminds me of Wilco.

TRACK 3: “Faith Healer” – 9/10

This one was the first single to be released before the whole album, and it has been a consistent earworm for MONTHS, let me tell you…

Such beautiful, concise instrumentation, a steady beat, and even the effects overlaid over Baker’s unique voice fit right in with the almost spacey keyboards. A completely new direction for her musically, but one I’m ADORING.

Wooohoooo!!! — Marvel Contest of Champions

TRACK 4: “Relative Fiction” – 9/10

‘Cause I don’t need a savior,

I need you to take me home…

– Julien Baker, “Relative Fiction”

It would be a bit of a stretch to call this a love song, but that’s almost how I interpreted it on the first listen. “Relative Fiction” delves into Baker’s quieter, more musically sparse roots for a tender and poignant song of grappling with emotions and questioning one’s own self worth, and the meaning one might hold for others.

TRACK 5: “Crying Wolf” – 7.5/10

Continuing “Relative Fiction”‘s trend of quieter and sadder introspection, “Crying Wolf” presents a piano ballad reminiscent of Turn Out the Lights that soars to a resonant conclusion. (That “OOOOOO” that starts at about 2:33…[CRIES])

TRACK 6: “Bloodshot” – 7/10

There’s no glory in love,

Only the gore of our hearts…

– Julien Baker, “Bloodshot”

The song where we get the album cover’s gorgeous lyricism, “Bloodshot” toes the line between the two musical themes of Little Oblivions so far, oscillating between the electronic experimentation and the sparser, quieter ballads. Another deceptively upbeat song, telling of messy emotions and shaky relationships.

TRACK 7: “Ringside” – 6.5/10

I still enjoy this one, that’s for sure, but it felt a little bit like a lull in the middle. The lyricism is still stellar, but something about it doesn’t pack as much of a punch as the rest of the album so far has.

TRACK 8: “Favor” – 8.5/10

You pulled a moth out

From the grill of your truck,

Saying it’s a shame,

How come it’s so much easier

With anything less than human,

Letting yourself be tender?

– Julien Baker, “Favor”

As with “Graceland Too” on Phoebe Bridgers’ Punisher, this boygenius collaboration truly shines. The combination of the voices of Baker, Bridgers and Dacus never fails to make my heart soar to the clouds, and paired with such poignant lyrics, “Favor” is absolutely a highlight of this album.

TRACK 9: “Song in E” – 10/10

My favorite song on the album, hands down. This one again harkens back to Turn Out the Lights, but something about both the piano and Julien’s vocals takes it to all new heights. It’s just…[sniffles]

And something about the way she says “name” at about 0:40 just makes my heart go 🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺🥺

TRACK 10: “Repeat” – 9/10

Ocean of strip malls,

I help you swim across

To the other side…

– Julien Baker, “Repeat”

Another example of Julien’s decision to go more electronic with her sound paying off 100%. Catchy, but continually poetic in its lyricism, this was one of my favorite songs that wasn’t released as a single before the album’s released. Again, can’t put my finger on it, but I love the way Baker sings all of the words past the 3/4 mark with the long ‘e’ sound (ex. means, speak, street, dream, repeat). My brain can’t be troubled for a concrete reason, but it’s so beautiful.

TRACK 11: “Highlight Reel” – 7.5/10

Not my favorite on the album, but the instrumentation itself is what shines for me. I love the drums, the guitar, the…well, the everything. I can’t quite pick out what instrument (probably keyboard?) it is, but the part from about 3:21 to the end reminds me a bit of St. Vincent’s “Teenage Talk.”

TRACK 12: “Ziptie” – 6.5/10

Not the best ending for this album and a lower point overall, but still lovely. The lyricism is still painfully beautiful, but it just seems to wander about almost aimlessly. A good listen, but maybe something like “Repeat” or “Bloodshot” would have been a better end to the album.

Julien Baker is just being honest | EW.com

I averaged out all of the scores for each track, and they came out to almost exactly 8! I’d say that’s accurate; Little Oblivions wasn’t without its occasional low points, but even those were songs that I’ll surely come back to. A stellar album, and a bold new direction that payed off with every song.

And even though this wasn’t on the album, I can’t not talk about this…

I–

I think I’ve died and gone to heaven. This is a transcendental cover. And hey, Julien Baker and Radiohead: two of my favorite things.

Since this post is full of songs, consider this whole album today’s song.

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

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: A Dark and Starless Forest

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles! I can’t believe it’s almost March…

Last week, I got approved for not one, but three eARCs (!!!) which are all loaded up on my Kindle at present. I recently got around to reading the first of the three, and I’m SO EXCITED to see it go out into the world! A Dark and Starless Forest is just the kind of diverse dark fantasy that we all need.

Enjoy this eARC review!

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

A Dark and Starless Forest – Sarah Hollowell

Derry is one of eight magical lost children living in the woods. Though they are not related by blood, they all possess different types of magic, and they all live under the roof of their caretaker, Frank, who helps them hone their Alchemist abilities. But when Jane, the oldest of the siblings, goes missing in the dark woods beyond their home, Derry is determined that she’s still alive. As she tries to get to the bottom of Jane’s disappearance, she and her siblings confront dark secrets about their upbringing, and that their caretaker may not be the kindly man he makes himself out to be.

Spectacular Time-Lapse GIFs of Flowers Blooming

TW/CW: Death/disappearance of loved ones (siblings), fantasy violence, body horror, frightening situations

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and HMH Books for Young Readers for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I was intrigued by the premise of this one, but wow, I didn’t expect to be blown away as much as I was! A Dark and Starless Forest was such a rich and dark fantasy, and a page-turner in every sense of the word.

First off, I was so glad to see all of the representation in A Dark and Starless Forest! Derry, our protagonist, is plus-sized, and among her siblings, there’s several Black and Latinx characters, a nonbinary (they/them pronouns) character, a trans girl, and several Deaf characters; and beyond that, it’s implied that most of them (if not all of them) are queer, and two of them were confirmed to be on the asexual spectrum. It was such a joy to see such a diverse and unique cast of characters as the stars of the show in this novel, and I’m sure that I’ll be recommending this one to lots of people!

What also stood out to me was the unique relationship shared by all of the siblings. Most of them aren’t related by blood (save for two sets of twins), but they’re such a tight-knit community, in tune with each other’s comings and goings no matter what. Each of the characters had such distinct personalities, and there was clearly so much care put into each and every one of them. They were all so caring towards each other, and they stuck together until the end.

Beyond the characters, I loved the dark fantasy aspect of A Dark and Starless Forest! It’s more of an urban fantasy (real-world, but with fantasy aspects woven in), but there’s no shortage of gripping suspense and creepy plot twists. Without spoiling anything, there was definitely a sensibility about it that reminded me of some of the darker X-Men storylines, and I loved seeing how the story unravelled. (I guess the X-Men parallels go beyond that – the relationship that the siblings have is certainly akin to the denizens of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Mutant and proud.) Hollowell hits a perfect balance between showing the tender side of the siblings’ magic and showing the darker, more body-horror side to it.

At its heart, A Dark and Starless Forest is a story of sibling-hood, a story of resistance and uncovering hidden truths, and a story of sticking together against all odds. It’s a beautiful found-family story, and even though the ending was more bittersweet, it made me feel so warm inside at some points.

All in all, a dark but tender story of family and magic that’s sure to enchant so many readers. 4.25 stars!

yay allison! | Tumblr
* and one nonbinary sibling

Expected release date: September 14, 2021

A Dark and Starless Forest is Sarah Hollowell’s debut novel, but her work has also been included in The (Other) F-Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce anthology.

Today’s song:

OKAY LITTLE OBLIVIONS IS SO GOOD AND I PROMISE I’LL REVIEW IT SOON

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (2/22/21) – Sorrowland

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

Goodreads Monday is a weekly meme created by Lauren’s Page Turners. All you have to do to participate is pick a book from your Goodreads TBR, and explain why you want to read it.

Here’s my final Goodreads Monday pick for Black History Month here in the U.S., as February is coming to a close. (Still can’t believe it’s almost March). At this point, I’ll read anything that Rivers Solomon writes, so this was a novel that I immediately added to my TBR when I found out about it!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (2/22/21) – SORROWLAND by Rivers Solomon

Amazon.com: Sorrowland: A Novel (9780374266776): Solomon, Rivers: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

Vern – seven months pregnant and desperate to escape the strict religious compound where she was raised – flees for the shelter of the woods. There, she gives birth to twins, and plans to raise them far from the influence of the outside world.

But even in the forest, Vern is a hunted woman. Forced to fight back against the community that refuses to let her go, she unleashes incredible brutality far beyond what a person should be capable of, her body wracked by inexplicable and uncanny changes.

To understand her metamorphosis and to protect her small family, Vern has to face the past, and more troublingly, the future – outside the woods. Finding the truth will mean uncovering the secrets of the compound she fled but also the violent history in America that produced it.

Rivers Solomon’s Sorrowland is a genre-bending work of Gothic fiction. Here, monsters aren’t just individuals, but entire nations. It is a searing, seminal book that marks the arrival of a bold, unignorable voice in American fiction.

So why do I want to read this?

Gardens of the night GIFs - Get the best gif on GIFER

First off, THAT COVER! I just love the color scheme, the plants, the typeface…🥺

I started getting into Solomon’s novels last year. The Deep and An Unkindness of Ghosts were masterpieces, so of course I’m jumping at the chance to read something else that they’ve written! Their prose is consistently powerful, unique and gripping, and it’s clear that they’re a master storyteller.

The synopsis describes this one as gothic fiction, and I think Solomon’s writing style would translate perfectly into that kind of story! I’m always up for paranormal tales of the woods and strange monsters, and the fact that we’ll soon see Solomon’s take on it is so exciting for me!

Sorrowland is expected to come out this May, so I’ll see you all then…

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Today’s song:

That’s for this week’s Goodreads Monday! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Books

YA Reads for Black History Month

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

Phew, I’m so glad to be on a long weekend…we have the day off school today and next Monday, so I think I’ll have some much needed time to wind down…

As some of you may know, here in the U.S., the month of February is Black History Month! So for the occasion, I decided that it would be a good idea to make a post full of my favorite YA reads from #OwnVoices Black authors. Now more than ever it is critical to share stories from marginalized voices, and in the current climate that much of the world is in, uplifting POC voices should be at the forefront of creative endeavors.

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I’ve made a list of YA reads of all genres for this post, all of them 4-5 star reads for me. So let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The Sound of Stars – Alechia Dow

Image result for the sound of stars book

GENRES: Sci-fi, dystopia, LGBTQ+, romance

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

The Sound of Stars was one of my favorite reads of 2020! A diverse cast, a tender romance, and no shortage of music and book references. Other than the ending, it’s pretty much everything I could want in a book.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph – Brandy Colbert

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GENRES: Contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is one of those special novels that simultaneously touches on a myriad of important issues, but still retains a lighter, slice-of-life mood. Romantic, sweet, and so inclusive!

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis

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GENRES: Contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now has stuck with me ever since. A resonant story about family, mental health and grief.

A Song Below Water – Bethany C. Morrow

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GENRES: Magical realism, contemporary, fantasy

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

I’m always on the hunt for good mermaid books, and I’m glad to say that A Song Below Water was such a unique novel! It certainly isn’t without its flaws, but this was a solid piece of magical realism.

Punching the Air – Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

Image result for punching the air book

GENRES: Poetry/Novels in verse, contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read an awful lot of poetry, but Punching the Air hit me so hard. This was a truly powerful novel about the corruption of the justice system and the transformative power of art.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

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GENRES: High fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one and my memory of it’s a bit hazy (oops), but from what I remember, Children of Blood and Bone was such a well-written and well-crafted fantasy! (Plus, that gorgeous cover…)

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them – Junauda Petrus

Image result for the stars and the blackness between them by junauda petrus

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was one of my first reads of the year, and wow, such a beautiful novel! I loved the relationship between Audre and Mabel, and the writing was so tender. Highly recommended.

Monday’s Not Coming – Tiffany D. Jackson

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GENRES: Mystery, thriller, contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mystery isn’t my go-to genre, but Monday’s Not Coming was truly astounding. Haunting, gripping and suspenseful–everything a mystery novel should be, really.

The Black Kids – Christina Hammonds Reed

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GENRES: Fiction, historical fiction (1990s)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Even though it’s set in the 1990’s, The Black Kids has no shortage of timely themes, and stands out as a powerful and immersive historical fiction novel. Highly recommended!

Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko

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GENRES: High fantasy, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have a distinct memory of looking through reviews for Raybearer before I picked it up; it was a struggle to find any sort of reviews with ratings below 4 stars (I usually try to read reviews in the 3-2 star range before reading most books), and everybody and their mother seemed to be gushing about it. But I’m glad to say that Raybearer absolutely lived up to that hype, and I now count myself among the legions of 4-star ratings!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin – Roseanne A. Brown

Image result for a song of wraiths and ruin

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I just finished this one last week (bought it with a gift card I got for Christmas!), and I must say, absolutely worth buying! Complex protagonists, and a writing style that all at once felt nostalgic and wonderfully fresh and unique. (I’ll try to review this one next week!)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA novels from #OwnVoices Black authors? Any recommendations?

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Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/26/21) – Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After adoring Zero Repeat Forever last week, I knew I had to get my hands on the sequel. As luck would have it, book 2 was available at my library, and I was able to get it along with the rest of my library haul. But even though it was still entertaining, Cold Falling White lost the tender spark that made Zero Repeat Forever so memorable.

Now, TREAD LIGHTLY! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Zero Repeat Forever!

For my review of book 1, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions Book 2) eBook:  Prendergast, G. S.: Kindle Store

Cold Falling White (The Nahx Invasions, #2)–G.S. Prendergast

Left for dead, Raven wakes up in an unfamiliar place in clothes that aren’t hers. And she’s not alone. Many of her friends from camp that had been killed by the Nahx are there, but they’re still alive. Aboard a Nahx ship, she must escape with her life, but she may discover secrets about these invaders of Earth. And above all, she must find August.

Xander believes that Raven, along with all of the former campers, is dead. On his own, he flees a refugee camp, only to find August, the Nahx who saved Raven’s life not long ago. Forming an uneasy alliance, the two connect with a rebellious faction of Nahx who may hold the keys to halting the ongoing invasion.

With the odds against them, these three must reunite or fall under Nahx rule.

Will-o'wisp | Will o the wisp, Creature concept art, Rise of the guardians

TW/CW: human experimentation, violence, loss of loved ones, mentions of freezing to death

What in the resurrection trope was this?

I’m glad that I read Zero Repeat Forever right before reading this, because otherwise, I would’ve been so lost. Come to think of it, I was still a bit lost through some of the book, but regardless, Cold Falling White was a rambling mess compared to its predecessor.

One of my main problems with this novel was the new POV. Xander was a character that I sort of liked in book 1; he didn’t bug me, but I didn’t get super attached to him. Having his POV in the book made almost no sense. Not only was his voice rather bland, his subplot dominated the other two POVs for no good reason. The only thing that connected his plot to the rest of the book was the eventual Nahx rebellion, and that part didn’t even come into play until the last half of the book. (For reference, this book is nearly 600 pages.) However, I will say that it’s cool that we have a queer Asian lead as one of the POVs. (Xander’s sexuality is never specified, from what I remember, but we see him in an mlm romance. The romantic subplot definitely felt shoehorned in, but hey, at least it’s decent rep.)

I really wish that Raven’s POV had a more prominent role; her chapters were often shorter than Xander’s, and we didn’t learn much from them. One of my complaints about Zero Repeat Forever that I forgot to mention in my review was that we really didn’t get any context/backstory for the Nahx and why they invaded. We got some interesting stuff on their culture/anatomy/physiology in Cold Falling White, but there’s still no reason given for why they invaded Earth in the first place, or why they started resurrecting and modifying humans at will. The tidbits that we got were interesting, I will say, but as a whole, it felt very rushed and full of holes. (I sort of liked Blue’s species…I forget what they’re called, the little alien will-o-the-wisp things?)

And even though we got some of his chapters in the latter half, I really missed August’s POV. However, somewhere down the line, all of the poetic tenderness and philosophical musings got lost, and I don’t know where they went. I’m not sure if Aurora (from Xander’s POVs, mostly) was an attempt at a female stand-in for him, and I liked her a little, but she just didn’t hit that tender spot like August did in book 1. All of the other rebel Nahx were kind of interchangeable, too. Sigh.

Best Fargo GIFs | Gfycat

That being said, Cold Falling White was still somewhat entertaining. It all went progressively downhill, but the writing was still good, and I liked the harsh setting of the Canadian wilderness. Plus, you’ll always get brownie points from me for peppering in lots of Frankenstein references. Like the Edgar Allan Poe in book 1, I liked how all that tied into the theme of the novel.

And all that for…such a weird cliffhanger? I was under the impression that this was a duology, so what was that all about? [confused screaming]

All in all, a sequel that retained good writing and imagery, but lacked in plot and worldbuilding. 3, sad little stars.

My Disappointment Is Immeasurable, And My Day Is Ruined HD 1080P GIF |  Gfycat

Cold Falling White is the second book in the Nahx Invasions duology, preceded by Zero Repeat Forever. G.S. Prendergast is also the author of the Ella series (Audacious and Capricious), as well as the middle grade novel Pandas on the Eastside.

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!