Posted in Art, Book Review Tuesday

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

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

That Dark Infinity – Kate Pentecost

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

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

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

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

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

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

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

Follow Your Arrow – Jessica Verdi

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

TW/CW: Biphobia, cyberbullying, homophobia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

YA Books for Nonbinary Awareness Week

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR NONBINARY AWARENESS WEEK

I Wish You All the Best, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: Magical realism, fiction, romance

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

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

Mooncakes, Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

GENRES: Fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

The Ghosts We Keep, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

Under Shifting Stars, Alexandra Latos

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Mask of Shadows, Linsey Miller

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

Today’s song:

this is so creepy I love it

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/12/22) – The Reckless Kind

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

In my endless hunt for books with good disability rep, I found this one recommended in several places. I’m not usually one for historical fiction, but I was glad to see a disability book in a genre other than realistic fiction. To my surprise, it became a rare 5-star read for me—tender, heartfelt, and so unabashedly queer and disabled!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Reckless Kind – Carly Heath

Norway, 1904. Even though marriage is what traditional society expects of her, Asta has no interest in marriage, and especially not in Nils, the rude boy her mother has set her up with. Her mother sees a life of domesticity as her only path, but Asta is determined to carve her own way. After Nils’ recklessness cements her wish to not marry, she runs away with her two friends, Gunnar and Erlend. They make a life caring for Gunnar’s family farm, but with the money running out and the rest of their village against them, it will take all of their strength to create their own destinies.

TW/CW (from Carly Heath, inside book): ableism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, suicidal ideations, violence, descriptions of injury, references to alcoholism, abuse, and self-harm

what if 😳 I melted down a priceless family heirloom 😳😳 and made it into a prosthetic arm for you 😳😳😳 (and we were both boys)

I picked up The Reckless Kind for the promise of queer and disabled rep, but I didn’t expect it to become a 2022 favorite of mine so quickly! It’s rare that I enjoy historical fiction this much, but this novel was a success on every front imaginable.

The diversity of The Reckless Kind is what drew me in, and it was such a central and beautiful aspect of this novel! This book focuses on not one, but four characters who are disabled—Asta has Waardenburg syndrome (includes single-sided deafness), Gunnar has Brown-Séquard syndrome and has a prosthetic arm, Erlend has an anxiety disorder, and Fred, one of the secondary characters, has Post-Concussion syndrome! On top of that, Asta is asexual, Gunnar and Erlend are in an mlm relationship, and the three of them are in a queerplatonic triad! Does it get any better than that? I think not. Just what I needed as a queer, disabled reader.

Each and every aspect of said diversity is handled so thoughtfully and lovingly; you can tell from the first page just how much love and care Heath put into writing this story. Even though their traditional society looks down upon them for a number of reasons, the journey these characters take to make their own way is heartwarming to read. Everything from the special modifications on Gunnar’s car to the life they carve out for themselves on the farm is filled with such palpable determination and love that only a bunch of outsiders making their own way can make me feel. Found family trope for the win, as always.

All of that would work fantastically on its own, but it’s Heath’s characters that made The Reckless Kind truly shine. Asta was an absolute DELIGHT. Just an absolute sweetheart. Even though the world has beaten her down so much, she has this consistent spunk and contagious kindness to her that she brings everywhere she goes. I loved the way she cared for all of the animals on the farm, and her story is sure to resonate with so many. Gunnar and Erlend were equally wonderful, and they balanced each other out perfectly, what with Erlend’s theatrical charm and Gunnar’s droll, self-deprecating humor. Their relationship made me giddy more than not; I loved how Heath depicted all the messiness of relationships, as well as two characters who did their best to work with each other’s problems. All three of them together made for the recipe for a near-perfect book.

Through it all, Heath presents a story of persistence despite the odds and the love it breeds between outsiders. All three of the characters faced parents, peers, and others who shunned them for parts of themselves, but this book was all about self-love and living in a world that doesn’t love you. It’s fiercely queer and disabled, and it’s the perfect story for anyone who has ever felt like the world is against them.

All in all, a tender, powerful, and heartwarming story of disability, queerness, and making your own way that quickly found its way to my 2022 favorites. 5 stars!

The Reckless Kind is a standalone and Carly Heath’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

YA Books for Disability Pride Month (2022 Edition) + my experience with SPD and why representation really, really matters

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

It’s July again, which means—though it’s too often overlooked—that it’s Disability Pride Month here in the U.S.! Even as intersectional as feminism and diversity efforts have become in recent years, the disabled community has been left out of the picture more often than not. YA books are no exception—even now, it’s difficult to find good, solid disability rep, and even harder to find books from disabled authors. So uplifting disabled voices is always important, as with uplifting all kinds of marginalized voices.

I’ve talked a little about good and bad disability rep on this blog, but I haven’t talked about how it affects me—I did put it in my bio a few months ago offhandedly, but I’m disabled as well. I have sensory processing disorder (SPD), a neurological disability that causes me to over-respond to sensory input, mainly sound; My nervous system doesn’t translate stimulus like a neurotypical brain would, making me over-respond to certain sensory input. Big crowds, loud noises (fire alarms, stopping buses, and almost anything that you can find in a city) are major causes of anxiety and discomfort for me, and often cause me to go into a fight-or-flight position or overload entirely.

As a result, being in situations with lots of sensory stimuli, such as school or social gatherings, can be exhausting, what with trying to juggle keeping my cool with said stimuli and participating fully in an activity. It also affects how I go about ordinary tasks as well—driving, for instance, has been a struggle, what with my hypersensitivity combined with my iffy-at-best motor coordination. (Part of SPD is that the nervous system doesn’t fully integrate all of my senses, which is why tasks like these are difficult for me.) SPD makes me feel everything—sound especially—far more intensely than a neurotypical person might, which often overloads my system.

Here’s the thing: although I’ve seen other parts of my identity—bisexuality, being mixed race, or even just personalities like mine—represented in books, I’ve never seen SPD represented in a book. Not on TV, movies, or any other kind of media, either. Never. I’ve been looking for years, but most of the time, what comes up when I search for books with characters that have SPD usually ends up being help books for parents with SPD kids. (Not to dismiss the value of those books—just not what I’m looking for.) There have been a few, but even then, they haven’t been available at the library. (I’ve got one on hold though—let’s hope Not If I Can Help It is good) I could always be missing something (PLS IF ANYBODY KNOWS ANY KIND OF MEDIA WITH GOOD SPD REP DROP SOME IN THE COMMENTS BEGGING YOU), but it’s been frustrating going to google and getting something that decidedly wasn’t what you were going for.

Even though I’ve seen myself represented in other ways, it’s frustrating to not have book characters—even side characters—that have similar experiences to me. Growing up, I had my fair share of not-so-subtle teasing for expressing some of my symptoms, and in that respect, I had no role models, no fictional characters to really look up to in that respect. That’s part of why I’m writing books with protagonists that have SPD—there’s always a kid out there who just needs a fictional character to look up to when they have nobody else. This is why representation matters—for those who never saw themselves represented growing up, and for those to come who may have the chance to feel represented.

So here are my disability pride month recs for 2022—not all of them are from disabled authors, but I’ve done my best to compile a list from a variety of genres, a variety of backgrounds (POC, queer, etc.), and a variety of disabilities.

(for my list from 2021, click here!)

Let’s begin, shall we?

YA BOOKS FOR DISABILITY PRIDE MONTH

One for All, Lillie Lainoff

GENRES: Historical fiction, retellings

REP: MC with POTS (disabled author)

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

A Three Musketeers retelling featuring a swordfighting, chronically ill protagonist!

The Reckless Kind, Carly Heath

GENRES: Historical fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

REP: MC with Waardenburg syndrome, MC with Brown-Séquard syndrome, MC with anxiety, side characters with post-concussion syndrome (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll be reviewing this one soon—a beautiful and tender tale of a disabled, queerplatonic triad in 1900’s Norway!

The Weight of Our Sky, Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction

REP: MC has OCD

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A harrowing story of a girl with OCD in the Philippines searching for her mother during the race riots of 1969.

The Night When No One Had Sex, Kalena Miller

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

REP: Multiple POVs; one MC has Lupus (chronic illness)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A diverse and funny story of four pairs of teenagers on prom night and a humorously failed sex pact.

The Boy Who Steals Houses, C.G. Drews

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC has anxiety, autistic side character (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A messy and emotional story of a boy and his brother making their own in a world that turns its back on them.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder, Sara Barnard

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC is selectively mute, Deaf love interest

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A tender, sweet romance with disability front and center!

Gallant, V.E. Schwab

GENRES: Paranormal, fantasy

REP: MC is mute and uses sign language to communicate

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

Though this wasn’t my favorite V.E. Schwab book, I loved its paranormal atmosphere!

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: Magical realism, fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+

REP: MC with ADHD, MC with dyslexia (disabled author)

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

Lakelore is one of the most intersectional pieces of magical realism or fantasy that I’ve ever read—both protagonists are nonbinary, Latinx, and neurodivergent!

Meet Me in Outer Space, Melinda Grace

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC has Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) (disabled author)

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

Although I wasn’t as big of a fan of the romance, I loved how Meet Me in Outer Space explored navigating disability in college!

On the Edge of Gone, Corinne Duyvis

GENRES: Science fiction, survival, post-apocalyptic

REP: Autistic MC (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A gripping post-apocalyptic book featuring a determined, Autistic protagonist!

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 with disability rep? And please, does anybody have any recs for media with good SPD rep? Kinda desperate over here…

(I can only go with my headcanon that Jean Grey from X-Men has SPD for so long, folks, please…)

Today’s song:

I wanna hate Jack White so bad but HE JUST KEEPS PUTTING OUT SONGS LIKE THIS

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 (7/5/22) – Among Thieves

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I forget when or how I came upon this book, but looking back, I sadly wish that I’d passed it by; I put it on hold at the library to have another queer fantasy book to read, but I ended up finishing it in about an hour feeling sorely disappointed. The reviews promised Six of Crows but gayer (of course you have my attention), but what I read ended up being a shameless Six of Crows ripoff.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Among Thieves (Thieves, #1) – M.J. Kuhn

Ryia Cautella is an infamous assassin, earning the name of The Butcher with her axe-wielding tactics. What she hides, however, is her past; after narrowly escaping the Guildmaster, the tyrant ruler of her kingdom, he and his lackeys have been searching all over the city of Callowwick for her. The only way out is to find her way into the Guildmaster’s highly fortified stronghold, and it’s a job she can’t do alone. With the help of Cal Clem, the head of a failing crime syndicate, and a band of criminals and misfits, Ryia may finally have a chance at freedom. But will her search for freedom cost Ryia her life?

TW/CW: slavery, violence, dismemberment, mentions of branding

I’ve noticed a trend over the past few years with YA; after the dystopian craze (mostly) blew over, fantasy heist books in the vein of Six of Crows started becoming far more popular. Unlike a lot of the dystopian books that came after books like The Hunger Games, however, the fantasy heist trend actually produced plenty of really fun, memorable books with a lot of originality. However, with every book trend, there come books that are obvious, blatant ripoffs of their inspiration. I hate to say it, but Among Thieves is one of them.

Now, I try to preface my negative reviews with this: I 100% understand how hard it is to put yourself out there into the book world. And there’s some slack I’m willing to give Among Thieves since it appears to be M.J. Kuhn’s debut novel.

That being said…all I can really say about Among Thieves is that it’s basically a Walmart version of Six of Crows.

Soon after the book started, I noticed all the pieces falling into place for a vague Six of Crows ripoff; apart from a little gender-swapping, most of the characters were nearly carbon copies of the iconic characters from Six of Crows; the only major difference I found was that there was a sapphic romance (sort of?) between Ryia (Inej, basically) and a gender-swapped version of Wylan (Evelyn), and that Cal (Kaz) just stood there on the sidelines. Otherwise, it was almost offensive how much these characters were almost carbon-copies of SoC characters—most notably Ivan, who was so, so similar to Matthias that it nearly gave me a headache. Same appearance, same vaguely-Northern/Western-European fantasy background, same personality…the only difference was that he was a forger. That was it. It’s always great if you take inspiration from certain books when you create your book—in fact, it’s impossible not to take some inspiration from something—but if it becomes as blatant as a ripoff as this, it’s just a steaming, unoriginal pile of garbage.

Nothing made much sense after Cal and Ryia assembled their crew. Granted, as soon as I saw how ripped-off the characters were, I started to lose faith in everything else. That being said, most of the heist made little to no sense, and the progression just felt like being tossed around to random places with seemingly no sense or purpose. They’re trying to break into this stronghold, and…now they’re in a prizefighting ring? Now they’re at sea again? It just felt like “now we’re in an airplane!” kind of nonsensical plot progression without any rhyme or reason.

As for what the reviews described as “Six of Crows but gayer,” I felt…more than a little let down. There was sapphic representation (sort of a will-they-won’t-they romance between Evelyn and Ryia), but they seemed to be the only queer characters. I would’ve liked it more if I was more invested in the characters, but it was…just alright. Nothing groundbreaking, and it wasn’t exactly “gayer” than SoC, since it had the exact same amount of queer rep that SoC did. I love sapphic fantasy any day, but it left me wanting a lot more. Most of the book did, really.

All in all, a half-baked ripoff of Six of Crows that seemed far too obvious for its own good. I slapped on a half star to my rating since Kuhn’s writing style had moments of being good, but that’s about all of the positives I can think of for this book. 1.5 stars.

Among Thieves is M.J. Kuhn’s debut novel, and the first novel in the Thieves series, followed by the forthcoming Thick as Thieves, slated to be published in 2023.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

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

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

Lakelore – Anna-Marie McLemore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Tags

Queer Book Tag 🏳️‍🌈

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

I figured I’d do another book tag for pride month, and this one looked like so much fun! I found this one over at Laura @ The Corner of Laura, and the tag was originally created by Anja Xuan.

Let’s begin, shall we?

🏳️‍🌈QUEER BOOK TAG🏳️‍🌈

QUEER FAVES: What’s your favorite queer book that you’ve read this year?

I know I haven’t shut up about this one since I came back from California, but The Raven and the Reindeer is easily one of my favorite queer reads from this year so far.

LESBIAN: What’s your favorite f/f book?

On a Sunbeam is one of my favorite queer books, and probably one of my favorite books, period. One of the most beautiful graphic novels I’ve ever read, and it’s super diverse as well!

MLM: What’s your favorite achillean/mlm book?

The Darkness Outside Us has stuck with me ever since I read it last August—it’s mind-boggling, it’s heartstring-tugging, and it’s a must-read.

BISEXUAL: What’s your favorite book with a bisexual main character?

Darcy from Perfect on Paper is bisexual, and this book had some of the best bisexual rep I’ve read in ages!

TRANSGENDER: What’s your favorite book with a trans main character?

Dreadnought is a fantastic book about a trans superhero!

QUEER: What’s your favorite #ownvoices queer book?

Once & Future is tons of fun and boasts tons of diversity and queer rep!

ARO-ACE: What’s your favorite book with an aro-ace main character?

Nathaniel from Tarnished are the Stars is aro-ace, and he has an incredibly sweet coming-out scene in this book!

PANSEXUAL: What’s your favorite book with a pansexual main character?

Ciela from The Mirror Season is pansexual, and this book is just another example of how Anna-Marie McLemore never misses the mark with their books!

QPOC: What’s your favorite book with a QPOC main character?

Both of the main characters from The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea are QPOC, and their romance is tender and absolutely lovely!

What queer books are you looking forward to for the rest of this year and/or the next year?

I just realized that Godslayers comes out TOMORROW (!!!!), and I’m so looking forward to it after how much I loved Gearbreakers!

I TAG:

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️YA Pride Month Recs (2022 Edition) – Contemporary/Realistic Fiction🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

Here we have the last of my pride month recommendations for this year! This post is focused on contemporary and realistic fiction books, but romance and mystery are included in here as well. And as always with my recommendations: diversify your reading 24/7, but always take this time to uplift LGBTQ+ voices!

(click here for this year’s queer YA sci-fi and fantasy recs!)

So let’s begin, shall we?

🏳️‍🌈THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S 2022 YA PRIDE MONTH RECS: CONTEMPORARY/REALISTIC FICTION 🏳️‍🌈

Perfect on Paper, Sophie Gonzales

LGBTQ+ REP: Bisexual MC, lesbian, bi, pan/nonbinary, and gay side characters, straight-passing relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m saying this as a proud bisexual woman: Perfect on Paper is seriously some of the best bisexual rep I’ve ever read! There’s so many important discussions in this book, from internalized biphobia to how the queer community views straight-passing relationships, all with a sweet and messy romance!

Sick Kids in Love, Hannah Moskowitz

LGBTQ+ REP: Bisexual love interest, straight-passing relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Sick Kids in Love is such an important book for so many reasons (namely its groundbreaking disability rep), but this is what intersectionality looks like—both protagonists are disabled and Jewish, and the love interest is also bisexual! Always warms my heart to see disabled bisexual characters.

The Falling in Love Montage, Ciara Smyth

LGBTQ+ REP: Lesbian protagonist, lesbian love interest, wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A tender and emotional piece of teen romance, complete with messy lesbian misadventures and plenty of rom-com references.

Loveless, Alice Oseman

LGBTQ+ REP: Aromantic/asexual MC, lesbian, aroace/nonbinary, pansexual side characters

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’m not ace myself, but I’m certain that Loveless’ coming-of-age asexuality story will resonate with so many ace readers!

Sasha Masha, Agnes Borinsky

LGBTQ+ REP: Trans woman MC

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A beautiful coming of age story about a trans teenager discovering her identity!

Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

LGBTQ+ REP: Bisexual MC, Gay MC

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A nail-biting thriller and a fierce and suspenseful manifesto for the takedown of institutionalized racism!

Heartstopper, Alice Oseman

LGBTQ+ REP: Gay MC, bisexual love interest, mlm relationship, trans woman, lesbian, and gay side characters, side wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include Heartstopper here—such a sweet and heartwarming LGBTQ+ romance comic! Plus, I can say with certainty that the bisexual rep is ON POINT. I adored the Netflix show too! (did anybody else full-on SOB during Nick’s coming out scene 😭)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite queer YA contemporary/realistic fiction books? Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? Tell me 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 (6/21/22) – A Lesson in Vengeance

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Lesson in Vengeance – Victoria Lee

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s song:

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