Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/13/21) – Gearbreakers

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d been wanting to read Gearbreakers for a while, and coincidentally, the last time I went to my favorite bookstore was the day that it came out, so I grabbed a copy. I got a little scared from some of the reviews, but in the end, it was all worth it – a stunning debut that balanced a bleak atmosphere with tender romance!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, 1) (9781250269508): Mikuta, Zoe Hana:  Books

Gearbreakers (Gearbreakers, #1) – Zoe Hana Mikuta

my copy ft. a cool filter and my guitar amp

Eris Shinandai’s world is one of brutality – under the oppressive thumb of Godolia, poor towns like hers are constantly being snuffed out by the Windups, giant robots with immense firepower and cunning pilots. But Eris has a special occupation – she’s a Gearbreaker, specially trained to destroy the Windups from the inside.

But when a botched operation ends in her arrest, she meets Sona Steelcrest, a disillusioned Windup pilot with a few secrets of her own. Sona knows the oppression of Godolia firsthand, and she’s willing to help Eris take them down. Their uneasy alliance takes them back to the Gearbreakers, and into a dangerous new world of conspiracies.

Ask Box: Open — 2D finding out his S/O has been hiding their...

TW/CW: loss of parents/family (past), graphic sci-fi violence, death, gore, torture, blood

[chanting] sci-fi sapphics, sci-fi sapphics, SCI-FI SAPPHICS!

Oh man, I aspire to have a debut novel as good as this one! Gearbreakers does what most YA dystopian novels fail to do – balance light and darkness in a smart way, and fill the bleak spaces with warm hope and tenderness.

My favorite aspect by far was the found family aspect. The dynamic with Eris and the rest of her Gearbreakers crew was so sweet – Eris was a bit more of a hotheaded, stubborn character, but she was like a mom to all of the other Gearbreakers, and the love they all had for each other was so sweet. The relationship between Eris and Jenny, her older sister, was also so lovely – plenty of banter, but still a deep care for each other. Adding Sona to the mix created an interesting dynamic as well – there was a lot of mistrust for her from the other Gearbreakers, but Sona’s character development really shone in those moments as she tried to advocate for herself.

And coming off of that – CAN WE TALK ABOUT ERIS AND SONA? Their (budding) romance was more of a slow-burn one, but I enjoyed every minute of it. Their personalities were so glaringly different, but as they grew closer to each other, they meshed so well together. Without spoiling anything, I’m interested to see where it goes next – I’m hoping it’ll end smoothly…

The action in this book was also phenomenal! Again, Zoe Hana Mikuta does a stellar job of balancing levity with intense action, and it didn’t feel too comic-relief-y or too cynically dark. There’s nothing like destroying giant robots to get the action more fun, and there’s loads of that, and a whole lot of well-written fight scenes and explosions. The found-family dynamic of the Gearbreakers worked so well with these scenes – everybody all crammed in their jeep (do they specify what kind of car it was? I forget, I just imagined it as a beat-up jeep…) on their way to do some Robot Destruction™️ made for some great banter and amazing chemistry between the characters.

(And I recently heard that somebody’s already gotten the rights to Gearbreakers for a movie?? Which – WHOA, that was quick, and I’m a little worried, but that would make a GREAT movie. The more I read, the more I thought of how well a bunch of Gorillaz songs would be in the soundtrack…IMAGINE “19-2000” PLAYING THE FIRST TIME ERIS AND HER CREW GO DESTROY THE WINDUPS…)

Overall, the worldbuilding was good, but it was definitely the area where the novel had a few pitfalls. There was a lot of care put into the different kinds of Windups, how they worked, and the culture and training surrounding Sona and the other Windup pilots at the academy, which I loved! I just wish the same care was put into some of the history around the rise of Godolia, and where it was situated – there’s a little background, but not quite enough to make a fully-fleshed world. Most of the history we get is from the Tragic Backstories™️ of some of the characters, which I don’t really mind, but I wish the worldbuilding was as well-written as, say, the romance or the fight scenes.

In short, a fantastic sci-fi debut that balanced light and dark like very few other authors can. 4.5 stars!

Pin on star wars

Gearbreakers is the first in a series, and is also Zoe Hana Mikuta’s debut novel. The sequel, Godslayers, is set to release in June 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 (7/5/21) – Iron Widow

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’m always on the hunt for good YA sci-fi, and this one sounds incredible! I forget where I first heard about it, but everything about it hooked me – inspired by Chinese history, giant sentient machines, and a polyamorous relationship! September can’t come soon enough…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (7/5/21) – IRON WIDOW by Xiran Jay Zhao

Amazon.com: Iron Widow (9780735269934): Zhao, Xiran Jay: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain. 

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​ 

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

So why do I want to read this?

Iron Man's HUD switching to battle mode in the Avengers: MovieDetails

Okay, WHOA. I haven’t seen a premise like this in YA before…

I LOVE all of the different aspects that are coming together in this novel; according to the author, all of the characters are inspired by figures in Chinese history, and they’re all integrated into an entirely new sci-fi world. I can already tell that I’m gonna love Zetian as a protagonist – strong-willed, independent, and willing to fight for her sister’s honor.

And PATRIARCHY SMASHING! MY FAVORITE! There seems to be a thread of fighting against misogynist institutions in Iron Widow, and I’m 100% here for it. Plus, it’s super cool that instead of having a traditional love triangle, there’s a polyamorous relationship – instead of Zetian having to choose between her love interests, she’s in a relationship with both of them, and the love interests are boyfriends as well! Even though we’ve been making great leaps in LGBTQ+ representation in YA, it’s not often that I see any kind of polyamorous rep, so I think it’s amazing that Xiran Jay Zhao is putting out a novel with that kind of rep.

Good For Her GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

All in all, sign me up for the patriarchy-smashing, the sci-fi vibes, and the LGBTQ+ rep!

Today’s song:

Alright I just started listening to this whole album…I’m about halfway through and it’s GREAT

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 (6/29/21) – The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

So first off, I owe a huge thank you to Phoenix @ Books With Wings for introducing me to this book (and sharing that great interview with Maggie Tokuda Hall!), because otherwise, I’m not sure if I would’ve heard of it! And man, I am SO glad that I picked this book up last week – such a beautiful queer story full of characters with heart and tender romance.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (9781536204315):  Tokuda-Hall, Maggie: Books
G A H THIS COVER

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

After being plucked off the streets by a ruthless pirate captain, Flora disguises herself as a boy, Florian, to pass amongst the crew of the pirate ship Dove. Life aboard the Dove has hardened her, but when the captain strikes a deal to transport a group of Imperials to the floating islands, she meets Evelyn, who is set to be married to a man she doesn’t even know. The two bond in secret, and they soon fall in love, but when the crew captures a mermaid, the Dove invokes the wrath of the Pirate Supreme and the Sea itself. Flora and Evelyn must escape the ship – or face the curse of the unforgiving Sea.

GIF starz 03x02 tele - animated GIF on GIFER - by Bluestone

TW/CW: torture, graphic violence, racism, imperialism, alcoholism, blood, rape/sexual assault (off-page), death

Pirate fantasy is one of my favorite types of fantasy, but in the YA department, most of the ones I’ve found have been bitter disappointments. But The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was exactly the opposite – a fantasy tale that was all at once brutal and beautiful that filled my heart up with tender joy.

For me, the characters were the part that shone the most in this novel. Flora and Evelyn were both incredible protagonists – multi-layered, and with distinct personalities that riffed adorably well off each other. I loved their romance, and their bonding over books and the captured mermaid was so sweet. Besides them, Rake had to be my favorite character – I adored his POVs! It’s clear that he’d been through so much before and during the novel, but all he wanted was to make sure that Flora and Evelyn broke free of the cruel life aboard the Dove. He got his moment in the spotlight too, and I loved seeing him come into his own near the end of the novel. (He reminded me a bit of Rabbi Milligan from Fargo, too… [aggressively goes through a box of tissues])

fargo season two | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir
MY B O Y

Beyond the protagonists, I loved how complex the relationships between all of the characters; Maggie Tokuda-Hall didn’t shy away from making them more than black and white, and I felt like it was a very realistic situation for Flora, in particular, having to eke out a living on the Dove. Much of the crew (minus Rake and Alfie) were deplorable people, but for Alfie in particular, he’s their brother; even though Alfie’s a deeply flawed person, Flora still had a sense of responsibility for him.

The queer rep in The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea also made me so happy! Over the course of the book, Flora realizes that they’re genderfluid, and while I can’t speak to how accurate or inaccurate the rep is (as a cis person), it was certainly a beautiful journey of identity and a supremely well written piece of character development. It’s also implied that Evelyn is bi/pan/queer (though her label is never specified), and she loves Flora no matter how they presented. The infamous and all-powerful Pirate Supreme, though we didn’t get to see as much of them, also used they/them pronouns, which was pretty cool! I love a good casually queer fantasy story, and this novel 100% delivered.

And speaking of queerness in fantasy, I loved all of the different fairytales woven into the Witch’s part of the story; they were all fascinating in their own right, but it was amazing to see casual queer rep in all of the tales that the Witch told to Flora. The Witch as a character (Xenobia) was more of a vehicle for Flora’s development than anything, but that part of the story was still critical for Flora.

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea also served as a good commentary on imperialism; although this all occurs in a fantasy world, it’s focused primarily on Japanese imperialism, which is a perspective I don’t often see in literature, period. The plotline of the Pirate Supreme and the Sea was the most well-developed of the commentaries; there’s a clear and important message of not encroaching on places that were never yours in the first place, both in the respects of neighboring countries and on nature itself. However, I do wish the world were a little more developed; the worldbuilding was good on the surface, but I wish we’d gotten a little more of the history behind the imperialism and some of the other countries.

However, I’ve seen this in a few reviews and thought it was worth noting – it didn’t quite sit right with me that Flora, who was a Black-coded character, works on a slave ship; given…well, much of world history, really, that doesn’t seem terribly thoughtful. The reviews I’ve seen mention this were from non-Black readers, and I haven’t been able to find any Black reviewer’s thoughts (on Goodreads, at least). They don’t really elaborate the concept that the Dove is a slaver ship beyond the prologue (which I just chalked up to iffy worldbuilding), to a degree where I pretty much forgot that it was a slaver ship in the first place, but it’s still something to keep in mind.

I swallowed this novel almost all at once – it was a little bit slow to start, but once it got going, man, it really got going! After about the 25% mark (I read this on my Kindle), the plot kept me hooked until the very last page. I especially loved the final showdown of the Dove, the Pirate Supreme, and the Sea – the action scenes were incredible, and though parts were hard to read (RAKE 😭😭😭), it was lovely to see the characters get their justice.

But GAAAH, for the most part, THIS BOOK MADE ME SO HAPPY. Finally, I’ve gotten my hands on a pirate fantasy that actually delivers – in anti-imperialism commentary, in queer rep and romance, and in lovable characters and action. 4.5 stars!

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The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea is the first in a series; however, no information has been released other than the fact that there will eventually be a sequel. (GIMMEEEEE) Maggie Tokuda-Hall is also the author of the forthcoming YA novel Squad (2021), as well as several picture books.

Today’s song:

AHAHAHAAAAAAAA THIS IS SO GOOD

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 (6/22/21) – The Ones We’re Meant to Find

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever since reading Descendant of the Crane about two years ago and loving it, I’ve been itching to read more of Joan He’s novels. My wishing was rewarded with this book, which came out in early May of this year. (Star Wars day, I think….YES) I bought it recently at my favorite bookstore, and I’m glad to say that The Ones We’re Meant to Find is even better than her debut – complex, tense and tender!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Ones We're Meant to Find — Joan He

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

my copy ft. a cool filter and yesterday’s overcast skies

As far as everyone else knows, Celia Mizuhara – Cee for short – went missing three years ago, presumed dead. But Cee is very much alive, stranded on a distant island. She’s been eking out an existence there for three years, with only a strange android for company. But when a boy washes ashore and nearly kills her, she must question what she knows of her life before – and herself.

Meanwhile, Cee’s sister Kasey lives in a floating city, protected from the natural disasters that wrack their climate change-ravaged world. Intelligent and reclusive, she lives an isolated lifestyle, working with experts on the latest technology that could further protect their floating utopia. But Cee’s fate remains at the back of her mind, and Kasey knows that her sister is still out there.

amie kaufman – The Bookish Mutant

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, cancer, grief, violence, near-death situations (drowning, attempted murder), natural disasters

It’s been almost a week since I finished this one, and lemme tell you, I am still REELING. I think I need to go back and re-read it soon…

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is very nearly a masterpiece. It’s haunting in every sense of the word, from the natural disasters surrounding it to the conspiracy within it, and it hooked me to the last page.

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is told in the dual POVs of sisters Cee and Kasey, but I enjoyed Cee’s the most; her story was the more compelling of the two, in my opinion, and I loved seeing her unravel the mystery of her marooning and of her life before. I honestly would’ve been fine if it was just her story – as much as I loved the rest of the novel, her story would’ve been a great standalone as well. I loved all of her little mannerisms and quirks, and she was such a fascinating, multi-layered character. Her tense dynamic with Hero was also so well-written – their relationship was never certain, and I loved the mercurial aspect of it. And she bounced so well off of U-me, the android, too! The friendship that they’d built over the course of three years was so weirdly touching.

Who is the best sidekick droid? (others in comments) | Fandom

And the worldbuilding? PHENOMENAL. Both Cee’s island and Kasey’s floating utopia were so complex and well-developed. There was clearly so much love and care put into every inch of this novel, and it shone through in the best way possible. I could practically feel the hum of machinery, the pouring rain, the battering ocean waves…IMMACULATE.

The mystery at the heart of The Ones We’re Meant to Find was equally compelling. I had to look back through the last few pages just so it could sink in – just when I thought it was over, He delivered another heartstopping twist that had my eyes bugging out of my skull. There are plot twists upon plot twists UPON PLOT TWISTS, and I loved it.

My only complaint is Kasey’s side of the story. I appreciated that she was more of a cold, unlikable character, but her whole side of the plot seemed rather convoluted. Remember how I said that the care put into the worldbuilding showed? There’s a bit of a catch to that, sadly; there were so many aspects that factored into the conspiracy around Cee, Kasey, and Actinium, but the sheer amount of them made me forget their significance, and when the final reveal was made, I had to flip back through just so I could remember “wait, what did that mean again? Why do we care about that?” Like I said – I need to give this one another re-read. Maybe that’ll help me absorb it all. But in the midst of all this wondrousness, this is basically my only major complaint.

Visible Confusion GIF - Visible Confusion StarWars - Discover & Share GIFs
here I go piling on all the Star Wars gifs again

All in all, a haunting and complex cli-fi with androids, sisterhood, and no shortage of thrilling twists. 4.5 stars!

𝖣𝗂𝗌𝗍𝗋𝗂𝖼𝗍 9 - 𝗣𝗿𝗼𝗹𝗼𝗴𝘂𝗲 - Wattpad

The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a standalone, but Joan He is also the author of Descendant of the Crane, and an untitled mystery/thriller novel slated for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

hmm, I listened to this whole album yesterday and loved it? what could have possibly tipped you off?

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, Mini Reviews

Mini Reviews of Books I Read on Vacation

Good morning (or whatever time it is where you are), bibliophiles!

I’m back from vacation! I took a trip with my family to Glacier National Park last week, and it was STUNNING. We did some hiking, went on a few boat tours, and went canoeing, and it was such a beautiful experience. Walking through the forest fed my soul…I’m recovering from online learning crushing my soul last year, and the trees certainly helped

Anyway, I bought a few books on my Kindle for the trip, and I thought I’d share my reviews for them. It was definitely a hit-or-miss batch, but at least 2/3 of them were good.

Let’s begin, shall we?

🏔VACATION MINI-REVIEWS 🏔

Off Planet (Aunare Chronicles, #1) – Aileen Erin

Off Planet (Aunare Chronicles, #1) by Aileen Erin

Blurb from Goodreads:

In an all-too-plausible future where corporate conglomerates have left the world’s governments in shambles, anyone with means has left the polluted Earth for the promise of a better life on a SpaceTech owned colony among the stars.

Maité Martinez is the daughter of an Earther Latina and a powerful Aunare man, an alien race that SpaceTech sees as a threat to their dominion. When tensions turn violent, Maité finds herself trapped on Earth and forced into hiding.

For over ten years, Maité has stayed hidden, but every minute Maité stays on Earth is one closer to getting caught.

She’s lived on the streets. Gone hungry. And found a way to fight through it all. But one night, while waitressing in a greasy diner, a customer gets handsy with her. She reacts without thinking.

Covered in blood, Maité runs, but it’s not long before SpaceTech finds her…

Arrested and forced into dangerous work detail on a volcano planet, Maité waits for SpaceTech to make their move against the Aunare. She knows that if she can’t somehow find a way to stop them, there will be an interstellar war big enough to end all life in the universe.

There’s only one question: Can Maité prevent the total annihilation of humanity without getting herself killed in the process?

Gardengirl — The Baths- Obi-Wan Kenobi Smut

TW/CW: sexual assault, graphic violence, burning, near-death situations, trauma-related dreams, claustrophobia

Off Planet wasn’t perfect, but it was a solid sci-fi! It blended elements of hard sci-fi and space opera, and for the most part, they came together somewhat seamlessly.

The plot and tension shone in this novel – Aileen Erin did a great job at making a fast-paced, high-stakes story that kept me on the edge of my seat. The worldbuilding was well fleshed-out as well. I loved all of the different planets that we saw, as well as the near-future, dystopian vision of Earth.

I didn’t get attached to any of the characters, but I’d say they were decently developed. Most of them were likable, but I did like Tyler a lot. I wish we’d seen more of him. However, even though I liked Lorne, his name threw me off a little, because a) hey, it’s more of a human name, and he’s an alien, and b) my inevitable association of that name with Lorne Malvo from Fargo, which…[shudders]

My only major problem was the dialogue – it felt a little stilted and not quite authentic, which took away some of the believability of the characters. Other than mannerisms, there wasn’t a whole lot that distinguished each character’s voice.

But overall, a solid start to an intense and well-thought-out sci-fi trilogy. 3.5 stars!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Orphanage of Gods – Helena Coggan

The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan

Blurb from Goodreads:

Twenty years ago, the humans came for their gods.

In the bloody revolution, gods were all but wiped out. Ever since, the children they left behind have been imprisoned in an orphanage, watched day and night by the ruthless Guard. Any who show signs of divine power vanish from their beds in the night, all knowledge of their existence denied.

No one has ever escaped the orphanage.

Until now.

Seventeen-year-old Hero is finally free – but at a terrible price. Her sister has been captured by the Guard and is being held in a prison in the northern sea. Hero desperately wants to get her back, and to escape the murderous Guardsmen hunting her down. But not all the gods are dead, and the ones waiting for Hero in the north have their own plans for her – ones that will change the world forever . . .

As she advances further and further into the unknown, Hero will need to decide: how far is she willing to go to do what needs to be done?

Television - I used to dismiss THE CLONE WARS as a "kid's show" ... | Page  2 | Sherdog Forums | UFC, MMA & Boxing Discussion
am I gonna put a Star Wars gif with every review? Possibly…

TW/CW: graphic violence, discrimination, death, blood, gore

I really wanted to give this one a chance – the low average rating on Goodreads put me off a little (2.88 at present), but there didn’t seem to anything blatantly offensive in the reviews I read, so I gave it a shot.

…which was a mistake on my part. Oops.

The Orphanage of Gods had an interesting premise on the surface, but it was weighed down by a whole bunch of aspects. The worldbuilding was flimsy at best, the plot seemed to ramble without meaning, the characters didn’t have many defining traits (and there were too many of them to keep track of, making them interchangeable), and the POV switches at each of the three parts didn’t seem to have any point. If Coggan had kept the POV at Hero for the whole book, it might have made more sense, as she was unfamiliar with the world introduced. But alas…

I tried. I really tried. I wanted to give this one three stars, but it just got worse and worse as the book went on…I think the only redeeming factor was that there was a sapphic romance at the forefront, but even that was just thrown in there at the last minute. The writing had moments of being good, and I think that’s the only reason I didn’t DNF this one entirely.

All in all, a novel weighed down by poor handling of almost every aspect save for the writing. 2 stars.

⭐️⭐️

Chameleon Moon (Chameleon Moon, #1) – RoAnna Sylver

Chameleon Moon - Kindle edition by Sylver, RoAnna. Literature & Fiction  Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Blurb from Goodreads:

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

Regan, silent, scaly stealth expert, is haunted by ten years of anxiety, trauma and terror, and he’s finally reached his limit. Evelyn is a fearless force on stage and sonic-superheroic revolutionary on the streets. Now they have a choice – and a chance to not only escape from Parole, but unravel the mystery deep in its burning heart. And most of all, discover the truth about their own entwining pasts.

Parole’s a rough place to live. But they’re not dead yet. If they can survive the imminent cataclysmic disaster, they might just stay that way…

Xmen Mutant GIF - Xmen Mutant Proud - Discover & Share GIFs
…so I guess I’m not putting a Star Wars gif with every review

TW/CW: violence, PTSD, loss of loved ones, fire, anxiety, torture, trauma

This is just the kind of sweet, diverse and hopeful dystopia that the world needs more of. Chameleon Moon wasn’t without its flaws, sure, but it was such a lovely novel.

First off, this is easily one of the most diverse novels I’ve read in a long time – we’ve got a polyamorous family at front and center, an asexual MC, a trans woman MC, several nonbinary characters, several Black characters, and several characters with anxiety and PTSD. So a big thank you to RoAnna Sylver for making an effort to make a novel with all that representation!

The characters were the best aspect of the novel for me – they all had such distinct personalities and quirks, and I loved all of the different superpowers they sported. Danae was easily my favorite – I loved all of her little metal creations, and she had such a spirited personality. (Kind of imagined her like Jessie Buckley, for no particular reason.) Hans was also great – he reminded me a lot of Klaus from The Umbrella Academy, if he were a bit more unhinged.

What was really special about Chameleon Moon for me, though, was that even though it was clearly a dystopia, there was a consistent message of hope. Even in the midst of unimaginable horrors, there was still love, still families caring for each other, still listening to everybody’s traumas, and still persisting no matter the odds. It’s an uncommon sight in dystopia, and in times like these, it’s just the kind of novel we need.

All in all, a queer and hopeful dystopia that sets itself apart with no shortage of representation and a powerful message. 4 stars!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Today’s song:

That’s it for these mini-reviews! Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/1/21) – The Infinity Courts

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and more importantly, happy happy pride month! 🏳️‍🌈 My review for today sadly isn’t queer, but you can be certain of lots of queer reviews soon. (I mean, I usually read/review queer books, but…)

Regardless, this was one of my most anticipated releases of 2021. I got a free copy from a library program, and I’m so glad that I’m able to add it to my bookshelf! And it was 100% worth it – a truly inventive dystopia that takes the typical YA formula and inverts it in every possible way.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman

The Infinity Courts (The Infinity Courts, #1) – Akemi Dawn Bowman

My copy feat. a cool filter and a bit of my bookshelf

On her way to a graduation party, Nami Miyamoto is unexpectedly murdered, sending her into the afterlife. But the afterlife she enters isn’t the kind that she expected. Here, four princedoms rule over a court of humans, now turned into mindless puppets, and ruling over them is Queen Ophelia, an Alexa-like AI who forces them into submission as revenge for her treatment in the world of the living. Nami escapes to a community of humans who have escaped the pull of Ophelia, hoping to destroy it from the inside. With Nami as their new spy, they may have a chance at freeing the deceased – but the glittering princedom may hold secrets that could tear humanity down…

it's not inception weird it's just mindless weird gifs | WiffleGif

TW/CW: murder, frightening situations, torture

WOW. WOW! The Infinity Courts marks Akemi Dawn Bowman’s first foray into science fiction/dystopia, and I must say, it’s a complete success!

There’s been a lot of comparisons drawn for this one, but for me, it felt like equal parts Tenet, Ex Machina, and Inception, but YA and minus all the convoluted timelines of the first. (Have I seen Tenet twice? Yes. Do I understand any of it? Nope. Did I enjoy it? Absolutely.) It’s a fascinating blend of all sorts of sci-fi tropes and subgenres – dystopian tyranny, AI, spies, and a grim afterlife in which the only choices are to become a mindless drone or to run.

On the surface level, once we reach Bowman’s afterlife in The Infinity Courts, it’s set up like a typical YA dystopia – you’ve got your reluctant Chosen One, a love triangle, rebellion, and struggling to maintain faith to the cause after one member of said love triangle pulls them to the dark side. But with every single one, it’s subverted in truly inventive ways – I won’t spoil anything, but the fate of the love triangle had me REELING. This novel boasts some of the most inventive plot twists I’ve seen in a long time, and it’s hard to see them coming.

I also loved the concept of Ophelia; the frequent trips into her mind were chilling, and I imagined her as almost a Raised by Wolves-like AI. It’s all a fascinating exploration of not only the role of AI in our lives, but what might happen if it gets smart enough to perceive itself as being mistreated. Again, Ex Machina, but having Ophelia rule over her own afterlife was such an inventive concept, and executed so well!

The lower point for me was the characters; I thought they were all okay, but I didn’t get attached to any of them. Bowman did do a great job with handling an ensemble cast, though – there were several different characters all living and playing their parts in the rebellion, but I didn’t lose track of any of them, and they all at least had somewhat distinct personalities. I liked Shura though.

All in all, a twisty and original YA dystopia with no shortage of intrigue and action. 4 stars!

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The Infinity Courts is the first in a trilogy, with the untitled sequels slated for release in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Bowman is also the author of Summer Bird Blue, Starfish, and Harley in the Sky.

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 (5/31/21) – The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea

Hi again, 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.

Wrapping up my focus on AAPI authors for the month of May (though I’ll always try to pick diverse books from my TBR for this meme), here’s one I found out about more recently. (thanks, Phoenix!) I’m always on the hunt for good fantasy novels with mermaids in them, and I’m confident that this one will deliver.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (5/31/21) – THE MERMAID, THE WITCH, AND THE SEA by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Amazon.com: The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (9781536204315):  Tokuda-Hall, Maggie: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

A desperate orphan turned pirate and a rebellious imperial daughter find a connection on the high seas in a world divided by colonialism and threaded with magic.

Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian. 

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself.

So why do I want to read this?

Soy la sultana mahidevran gulbahar la que alguna vez fue llamada Cata…  #ficciónhistórica # Ficción histórica # … in 2021 | Black pearl ship, Pirate  history, Pearl aesthetic

I think I need to read more pirate books. Seems like the kind of thing that would be good for my soul.

I’ve become a little bit jaded with YA fantasy in the last year or so, but I think my faith is slowly being restored! The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea looks like it has everything that makes for a fantasy that I’ll adore. We’ve got:

✅Cross-dressing pirates

✅Sapphic romance

✅Mermaids

✅Witches

And the Sea itself as a character? I’m SO excited! We explored the concept of places as characters a lot in my AP English class last year, and this one sounds like a fascinating example.

The cherry on top? The cover, of course! It’s one of those covers that makes me notice something new every time I look at it – I didn’t notice the figures in the sea and in the clouds at first! GAH

In short, you had me at “sapphic fantasy with mermaids.” I’m a woman of simple tastes.

M o o d / / Sea」おしゃれまとめの人気アイデア|Pinterest|Tofiam | 海 波, 風景, Gifアート

Since I already posted once today, check out my May 2021 Wrap-Up for 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 Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (5/25/21) – Summer Bird Blue

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! Hope you’re all doing okay. I’m finally having a little peace after this awful school year…I still have one more day left, BUT I’M FINALLY DONE WITH PRECALC! MY SOUL IS NO LONGER BEING ACTIVELY CRUSHED!

[ahem] anyway

This book was been on my TBR since the dawn of time, added soon after I finished Bowman’s debut, Starfish. I finally got around to picking it up at the library recently, and I’m so glad I did! An immensely powerful portrait of sisterhood, grief, and music.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Summer Bird Blue (9781481487757): Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Music is everything to sisters Rumi and Lea, who write songs together based on spur-of-the-moment wordplay. But when Lea is killed in a car crash, Rumi’s life is upended completely. In a fit of grief, her mother sends her to Hawaii to live with her aunt, hoping that there, she’ll be able to process her emotions.

Instead, Rumi finds herself even more depressed than before, grappling with the absence of Lea and the waning of her creativity. But with the help of a few unexpected neighbors, Rumi begins to realize that her love of music – and the people around her – are the key to overcoming her great loss.

Tweet Roundup | The Most Wholesome Reasons I'm Not Crying, You're Crying |  Flight of the conchords, The wedding singer, Bones funny
me internally while reading this book

TW/CW: car crash, death, loss of loved one (sibling), panic attacks, near-death experiences (drowning)

GAH.

It’s been years since I read Starfish, but what I remembered most was the powerful gut feeling it stirred up in me. But reading Summer Bird Blue made me realize what a profound talent that Akemi Dawn Bowman has, and it’s proof that sometimes, books don’t just make you feel ordinary emotion. Sometimes they make you feel raw emotion right down to your core.

Fair warning: Summer Bird Blue is one of those books that you should probably be in a good and stable place mentally before reading. I probably couldn’t have read it myself at certain (recent) points in my life, so I’m glad I read it when I did. It’s heavy: it’ll make you hurt, it’ll make you feel low, but that’s exactly what grieving feels like. The best part of this novel may be how Bowman handles grief; it’s something that holds you in its jaws and won’t let go until it’s had its fill of you. Rumi’s struggles with coping with her younger sister’s death felt all too real, from the physical symptoms to the creeping self doubt about relationships with the deceased. It’s unflinching and it doesn’t hold back, but that completes the picture of not just Rumi’s grief, but the grief of so many others.

What also stood out to me was how well-executed Rumi was as a flawed character. Even though she’s lost her sister, you don’t feel 100% sympathetic for her – she’s selfish at time, has a tendency to lash out at those she loves, and is more than a bit lacking in the apologizing department. But having Rumi be a less-than-perfect person is part of what made her and her journey all the more authentic. She feels real, fleshed-out. And her representation is also great – not only is she biracial, but she’s aromantic-asexual as well! I don’t see a whole lot of asexuality represented in YA literature (though I’m steadily seeing it increasing), so it’s great to have characters like Rumi out there.

Rumi’s personal journey was nothing short of beautiful – character development at its finest. She experiments, she makes bad decisions, she tries new things, but ultimately discovers the healing power of creativity. For her, music was intrinsically tied to her sister, but creativity was, along with her newfound relationships, was what brought her out of the darkness. And I think that’s just lovely. We love our passions dearly, but we always underestimate their power to truly save us, and that’s what makes our passions our passions.

All in all, a raw and beautiful exploration of grief and healing 4 stars!

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Summer Bird Blue is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Harley in the Sky, and The Infinity Courts; the first two are standalone novels, but The Infinity Courts is a trilogy, with the last two books slated for release in 2022 and 2023, respectively.

Today’s song:

woke up with this song in my head

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 (5/24/21) – The Ones We’re Meant to Find

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.

Continuing with AAPI books on my TBR for the rest of the month, here’s one I can’t wait to read! I’ve been seeing this one EVERYWHERE lately, and every time I see a post about it, I get even madder that my library doesn’t have it yet…[screams in the void]

I was a huge fan of Descendant of the Crane, and this one sounds even better! We’ll see…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (5/24/21) – THE ONES WE’RE MEANT TO FIND by Joan He

The Ones We're Meant to Find by Joan He

Blurb from Goodreads:

Cee has been trapped on an abandoned island for three years without any recollection of how she arrived, or memories from her life prior. All she knows is that somewhere out there, beyond the horizon, she has a sister named Kay, and it’s up to Cee to cross the ocean and find her.

In a world apart, 16-year-old STEM prodigy Kasey Mizuhara lives in an eco-city built for people who protected the planet―and now need protecting from it. With natural disasters on the rise due to climate change, eco-cities provide clean air, water, and shelter. Their residents, in exchange, must spend at least a third of their time in stasis pods, conducting business virtually whenever possible to reduce their environmental footprint. While Kasey, an introvert and loner, doesn’t mind the lifestyle, her sister Celia hated it. Popular and lovable, Celia much preferred the outside world. But no one could have predicted that Celia would take a boat out to sea, never to return.

Now it’s been three months since Celia’s disappearance, and Kasey has given up hope. Logic says that her sister must be dead. But nevertheless, she decides to retrace Celia’s last steps. Where they’ll lead her, she does not know. Her sister was full of secrets. But Kasey has a secret of her own.

So why do I want to read this?

Aesthetic Ocean Gif Tumblr - Largest Wallpaper Portal

NO NO I’M JUST VIBRATING IN MY SEAT WAITING TO GET MY HANDS ON THIS BOOK –

Joan He’s thing in writing must be genre-blending, and man, it looks like she hit her stride again! Both of the sisters’ plots – one on an empty island and the other in a near-future eco city – sound equally fascinating. I always love sibling stories as well, so I’m excited to see how Cee and Kasey’s narratives are tied together and what their relationship looks like.

And the themes are…eerily timely here. Looks like there’s going to be a big discussion about climate change, what with these near-future eco cities presumably being built to withstand the severe natural disasters that come with it. I haven’t read much cli-fi (sci-fi specifically dealing with climate change – new term for me), and I’m excited to expand my horizons with this one!

Oh, and I can’t NOT talk about that beautiful cover…🥺

In short:

a) I’m here for Joan He

b) I’m here for sci-fi Joan He

Future City GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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 Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (5/18/21) – Victories Greater Than Death

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Whoops…I’ve been meaning to review this for…oh, about a month? But studying for AP tests and finals just said “no you won’t :)” so here we are now

And this is also the first review I’ve written in a month, so…

Awkward Look Monkey Puppet | Know Your Meme

[ahem] now back to our scheduled program

I found out about this book via Edelweiss, and the more I heard about it, the more excited I got; Star Wars-inspired sci-fi with tons of queer characters, found family, and a gorgeous cover? SIGN ME UP. So I preordered it at the beginning of this year, and it came in the mail last month. And although it wasn’t exactly everything that I wanted it to be, it was still a lot of fun!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Victories Greater Than Death by Charlie Jane Anders

Victories Greater Than Death (Unstoppable, #1) – Charlie Jane Anders

My copy feat. some pretty flowers

On the surface, Tina Mains is an ordinary teenage girl, but she hides an earth-shattering secret: she’s the secret clone of a great alien general. When she comes of age, her destiny is to reunite with her old crewmates in order to defeat intergalactic evil.

No pressure.

So when her beacon finally activates, Tina and her best friend are launched into space, joined by a myriad of aliens and an enlisted squad of self-proclaimed nerds from Earth. As Tina struggles to grapple with her transformation, she realizes that it’ll take more than just inherited wisdom to save the galaxy from annihilation.

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me @ the first half of this book

TW/CW: violence, transphobia, racism, mentions of abuse (past), eugenics

The more I found out about this one, the more excited I got, because…yeah, I’ll pick up anything that’s billed as a “queer space opera.” (Hey. I’m a woman of simple tastes.) But although it wasn’t without its flaws, Victories Greater Than Death was SO much fun!

My major criticism was the pacing. Most space opera is generally pretty fast-paced, but this was…far too much so. I like for things to move along quickly, but for the first half of Victories, everything seemed to happen in mere seconds. We’re on Earth? Nope. WHAM. Weird stuff’s immediately happening. Next page? Different weird thing. WITHOUT MERCY. The pacing made my head spin a bit, but luckily, this was my only major criticism.

Otherwise? GAAAH THIS WAS SO MUCH FUN! The world needs more sci-fi like this; diverse, and with a balanced tone juggling light-hearted fun and grave action. Tina’s struggle as she was thrust into a completely unfamiliar world of aliens and intergalactic politics (and not to mention her newfound legacy) was wonderfully relatable, and I had so much fun tagging along with her adventures across the galaxy. The representation was also incredible: Tina herself is bi/pan, her love interest is a Black trans woman who is also bi/pan, there’s Black, Chinese, and Indian side characters, and many of the alien crewmates have a variety of pronouns. And I’m always up for normalizing asking for people’s pronouns in introductions, and there’s lots of that.

One of the unique aspects of Victories Greater Than Death is that Anders took some pitfalls that most books handle poorly and used them to her advantage. There’s quite a lot of infodumping, but there’s a good reason for it – as Tina is making the transition from her human self to her original alien form, her brain is filling in the gaps as the information from her old life is returning to her. Normally, I absolutely despite infodumps (don’t we all, though?), but this was a genius way to make it work! There was also a huge cast – Tina, Rachel, the rest of the humans, plus all of her alien crewmates; it was tough to remember all of them for most of the book, but weirdly enough, the high body count…helped? Most of the alien characters were fairly underdeveloped, but the ones that we knew almost nothing about were killed off by the end of the book, which…morbidly enough, made things a bit less confusing. Morbid, I know, but I think there had to be at least 20 characters in all. (Same deal with season 4 of Fargo, if you think about it – super wide cast of characters, but at least 80% of them die by the end, so…)

Through it all, though, Victories Greater Than Death made me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside; even though these characters face unbeatable odds, they’re consistently there for each other. No matter their backgrounds or beliefs, they stuck together no matter what. It’s such a sweet found family story.

All in all, a YA sci-fi that was messy and a bit *toooooooo* fast at worst, but diverse, light-hearted, and colorful at best. 3.5 stars!

the next world | Guardians of the galaxy, Marvel cinematic universe, Marvel  cinematic

Victories Greater Than Death is the first in the Unstoppable trilogy, followed by two untitled (as of now) books set to come out in 2022 and 2023, respectively. Charlie Jane Anders is also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, and several other novels.

Today’s song:

no I’m not gonna shut up about this album

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