Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (10/5/21) – Iron Widow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This novel came on my radar a few months ago, and I just had to put it on my TBR–what could go wrong with giant robots, aliens, and patriarchy-smashing? What more could a reader want, really? I preordered it, and I’m glad to say that it didn’t disappoint–and it got me out of a week-and-a-half-long reading slump too!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) by Xiran Jay Zhao

Iron Widow (Iron Widow, #1) – Xiran Jay Zhao

my copy ft. a nice filter and some more red and orange books

Hordes of aliens are invading Huaxia. Their last hope lies in the Chrysalises, supersized robots piloted by the best young boys that the country has to offer–and powered by girls, who inevitably die from the exertion.

It’s not a dream that most of the girls of Huaxia would entertain. But for 18-year-old Zetian, there’s more to the job than certain death. There’s a chance of revenge, specifically for her older sister, who was sacrificed by a Chrysalis pilot. Her murder successful murder plot garners her the rare title of Iron Widow, a role reversal where she pilots the Chrysalis and can only sacrifice boys. With her newfound title, Zetian has one more mission–tear the misogynist foundations of Huaxia’s army to shreds.

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TW/CW: misogyny, rape, graphic violence, death, past loss of loved one, alcoholism/substance abuse, withdrawal, torture

I’m ashamed that we didn’t think of this solution earlier…DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS

After a long slump, Iron Widow was just what I needed. Even if I’d been on a string of amazing books beforehand, though, this book would have been just as much of a wild ride as it was when I read it. Unapologetically feminist and action-packed, Iron Widow is sure to please sci-fi fans and those new to the genre.

The feminist aspect of Iron Widow is what stood out the most for me. Throughout, there’s unapologetic commentary on the harshest treatment of women in society, from the constraints of the gender binary to rape and institutionalized misogyny. Sure, we have hordes of aliens attacking the country in droves, but the rampant sexism and misogynist violence is the real antagonist here. Xiran Jay Zhao did an excellent job of showing all the facets of misogyny–and then having a character like Zetian tear them down little by little.

Zetian was the perfect protagonist for Iron Widow, and she’s a near textbook-perfect example of a flawed but sympathizable character. She’s ruthless, she’s fierce, she’s fiery, but what’s more important than her traits is why she became the way she did. It’s a perfect example of how oppression can shape a person’s character–Zetian might not have been so blindsided by revenge and filled with self-doubt were it not for the ingrained misogyny of Huaxia’s culture. Her character was such a well-crafted exploration of this theme.

On top of that, Zetian’s character made for the perfect catalyst to drive the plot forward! There was no shortage of drama or action that she either caused or that came in her wake, rocketing an already action-packed novel at a fast but consistently entertaining pace. The combination of Zetian and military drama, robots, and aliens made for a novel that never slowed down–in the best way possible.

Another aspect that Zhao handled well was the balance of plot elements. There’s more than a few heavy topics discussed in this book (see the TW/CW at the top), but they depicted their realness while also reveling in the more fantastical plot elements. I hesitate to call the latter “levity,” but there wasn’t an imbalance of either of those sections of the novel.

Now, I’m a little torn on the worldbuilding. For the most part, I loved it, especially the Chrysalises. Each one was based off of a creature from Chinese-inspired mythology, and I was so excited to see all of them come to life. Zhao also did a great job explaining the whole qi system without info dumping–there were just the right amount of evenly-spaced tidbits of information that I wasn’t deluged with anything, but by the time that these elements came in, I was able to go “oh, right, I understand how that works.” I just wish the same care was put into the Hundun aliens! Although I can’t wait to see how the twist with them is resolved in the next book, all of the details about them were so vague that I could hardly picture them.

Also, a big selling point about Iron Widow was that there was a love triangle solved by polyamory. I was so excited to see it come into play, but…it never seemed to happen? Maybe I missed something (is it just going to be slow-burn?), but I swear there was only some romantic undertones with both Li Shimin and Yizhi and the three of them haven’t been together for a very long time. Again, maybe I missed something, but I was a little disappointed by that. Maybe it’ll appear in book 2…

All in all, a raw and unapologetically feminist piece of YA sci-fi. 4 stars!

Iron Widow is Xiran Jay Zhao’s debut novel and the first in the Iron Widow series. The series will be continued by an as-of-yet untitled sequel set for release in 2022.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/28/21) – Final Draft

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book has been on my radar for at least a year and a half. I was drawn to it because of the premise of a character who is an aspiring sci-fi writer (like me!) going through high school. I bought it on my Kindle recently, and though my expectations were high, I found Final Draft to be enjoyable, but a little lacking–both in development and length.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Final Draft by Riley Redgate

Final Draft – Riley Redgate

Laila Piedra dreams of becoming a sci-fi author, and she spends every moment she can crafting new worlds on her laptop. Her biggest supporter is her creative writing teacher, Mr. Madison, who is always there to lend a word of advice or support. But when Mr. Madison gets in a car accident and can no longer teacher, he’s replaced by Nadiya Nazarenko, a renowned author who doles out scathing critiques faster than the speed of light. Pressured to impress her new teacher, Laila stretches herself into places that she never would have dreamed of. But what will it cost her dream of writing–and her mental health?

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actual footage of me once I finished the book

TW/CW: underage drinking, fatphobia, depression, death, descriptions of injury

Final Draft had the makings of a great story, but it only felt like half a book. It left me wanting more in the end–everything felt so crammed and rushed, and as a result, all that could have been good ended up suffering. However, that wasn’t to say that it wasn’t at least enjoyable–it was a decent story, but it felt unnecessarily truncated.

I’ll start out with what I liked–the representation! Final Draft was a very diverse book–Laila is mixed-raced and half-Latina, and her rep made me feel so seen! She’s also plus-size and pansexual, and that combination of representation is always fantastic to see. Additionally, her love interest is Korean-American and a lesbian, and there are several Latinx side characters. So I owe a big thank you to Riley Redgate for all of that great rep!

Now, Final Draft started out with a lot of promise. The setup in the first third or so had the makings of a great story–a clear setup and a difficult conflict for Laila to overcome. But at about the 40% mark, everything felt crammed into a scant amount of pages. Everything happened at almost breakneck speed, shoving key conflicts into far fewer pages than was necessary to develop the events of the novel. (For reference, the Kindle edition of Final Draft was only 272 pages, so there could have been so much more content to bulk everything up and make it coherent!) It all felt so rushed, and as a result, the message came across muddy and underdeveloped. There are so many themes that are so important to discuss–the cautionary tale of the “suffering artist,” mental health and depression, and grief, to name a few–but they were all glossed over in such a short amount of time that they were all unfinished and badly handled.

That being said, although the story was unnecessarily rushed, at least the topics discussed were there. For creative people, mental health is so often neglected in the face of criticism and perfectionism, and having a story like Laila’s is an important one not just for writers, but any young person with creative passions. Laila’s story needs to be told–I just wish it was fully fleshed out.

All in all, a book that had the potential to be potent and powerful, but suffered from excessive rushing. 3 stars.

i love you ! [ 𝗺𝗮𝗶𝗿𝗶 ]. | Anime scenery, Anime gifts, Aesthetic gif

Final Draft is a standalone, but Riley Redgate is also the author of Noteworthy, Seven Ways We Lie, and the forthcoming Alone Out Here, which is slated for release in April 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 Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (9/21/21) – Harley in the Sky

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of Akemi Dawn Bowman ever since I read Starfish around three years ago. This is the latest of her books that I’ve read, and I’m glad to say that it doesn’t disappoint – just as poignant and gut-wrenching as her other novels!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Harley in the Sky: 9781534437128: Bowman, Akemi Dawn: Books

Harley in the Sky – Akemi Dawn Bowman

Harley Milano grew up surrounded by vibrant costumes and trapeze artists in her parents’ circus. Her dream has always been to join the circus, but her parents want her to go to college for computer science instead.

After a fight on her eighteenth birthday, Harley goes against everything that they’ve ever wished for–she runs away and joins the Maison du Mystère, the rival traveling circus. There, she is thrust into the world of the circus, quickly falling in love and rising to the top of the hierarchy as one of its lead trapeze artists. But Harley’s past is catching up to her, and she must grapple with the people she betrayed in order to see her dreams come to fruition.

WIL WHEATON dot TUMBLR dot COM

TW/CW: depression, racism, emotional manipulation, suicidal ideation

I think all of us have read plenty of books about characters running away to pursue their dreams and leaving everything they knew behind. But very few discuss the consequences–the people they leave behind and the emotional wounds that they may open up. Harley in the Sky is one such book, and man, it was just as heart-wrenching as Akemi Dawn Bowman’s other novels. All at once tender, heavy, and messy, it grapples with all sorts of hefty emotions and handles them all with aplomb.

Harley was, by all means, a very unlikeable character. She has a plethora of issues that she leaves undealt with when she takes off in search of her circus dreams, but you can’t help but root for her. I will say that I related to her on one plane: that of her mixed-race identity. Both of Harley’s parents are biracial, and as a result, she feels as though she doesn’t fit in anywhere. As a mixed-race person myself, Bowman handled her identity in a way that really resonated with me. And despite how tangled of a character Harley is, she displays some significant growth over the course of the novel, and by the end, she begins to reconcile with everything that she’s done and everything she’s left behind.

The rest of the characters also shone! There was such a unique and diverse cast, and the circuses that Bowman created felt like ones that might travel cross-country in the real world. Each character was refreshingly distinct, all with unique backstories and personalities. I especially loved Vas–yeah, yeah, I’m a sucker for the brooding British guys who play instruments, but he was such a well-fleshed-out character, both standing on his own and as a love interest for Harley.

As with all of Akemi Dawn Bowman’s novels, Harley in the Sky deals with some heavy topics. I won’t lie–it was a hard book to read at times, but Bowman handles all of these topics, from undiagnosed mental illness to toxic relationships, with incredible skill. All of her books stir up such profound emotion in me, and this one was no exception.

All in all, a novel that was all at once tender and heartbreaking that will leave a permanent mark on your heart. 4 stars!

circus gifs Page 12 | WiffleGif

Harley in the Sky is a standalone, but Akemi Dawn Bowman is also the author of Starfish, Summer Bird Blue, and the Infinity Courts series, which includes The Infinity Courts, and the forthcoming The Genesis Wars.

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 (8/31/21) – The Good Luck Girls

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This week’s review was a fairly recent addition to my TBR. I found out about this series through a great post by Simone and her Books (thanks for putting it on my radar!), and I had a good feeling about it when I bought it with my birthday money the other day. I’m glad to say that I was right – my favorite out of all the books I bought that day!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Good Luck Girls by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The Good Luck Girls – Charlotte Nicole Davis

my copy ft. a few more purplish books (I don’t have a whole lot of purple books ksjdhfksjdhf)

Branded and trapped in a “welcome house” against their wills, the lives of the Good Luck Girls are filled with anything but good luck. Sisters Clementine and Aster have lived their lives in one such welcome house, waiting for the impossible day when they can go free. But when Clementine accidentally kills a wealthy man, she knows she’s put her life on the life. Along with her sister Aster, their friends Tansy and Mallow, and Violet, the prickly favorite of the welcome house, she risks a daring escape, meeting friend and foe alike as she flees into the wild.

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TW/CW: rape, branding, sex slavery, murder, descriptions of illness, misogyny, torture, loss of loved ones/death, substance abuse

Have you ever finished a book and immediately thought something along the lines of “man, why has nobody gotten the rights to make this a TV show?” My thoughts exactly for The Good Luck Girls – its cinematic writing makes it the perfect fit for the small screen, and its effortless blending of paranormal, Western, and dystopian genres made it stand out from all the rest!

I’ve never really read or watched many Westerns or Western-inspired books, movies or TV shows (I’m counting The Mandalorian in there though), but I found myself latching onto the immersive and unique world that Charlotte Nicole Davis presents us with in The Good Luck Girls. It’s equal parts Western, paranormal fantasy, and dystopia, and all of them fit to make a fascinating world! There’s something for everybody. You want girls rising up and fighting the power? FIVE OF THEM! You want ghosts, demons, and other weird monsters? Plenty of those to go around. Magic? Lots of that too. Whatever genre you usually gravitate you, there’s something for everybody in this novel.

The feminism and themes of sisterhood also shone in this novel! We follow a diverse cast of characters (some of them are POC and there’s a wlw relationship between two of them) as they escape a life of sex slavery, encountering no shortage of horrors along the way but sticking together through it all. Especially regarding most of the scenes in the “welcome house,” there are plenty of heavy and hard-to-read topics, but Charlotte Nicole Davis handled them in a way that balanced realism and giving the slightest bit of hope. I’m always up for books with a gang of well-written women taking down the patriarchy (and in the case of this book, fighting against misogyny and rape culture in particular), and The Good Luck Girls delivered 100% in that respect.

As for the characters, I liked most of them a reasonable amount, but I didn’t get completely attached to all of them. For Violet in particular, I liked that even though she was the token “bad-natured one who refuses to get along with anybody else” character, Davis gave her just as much depth and backstory as characters like Clem and Aster. However, I do wish that Tansy and Mallow got more page time; they just seemed like footnotes in contrast to Aster, Clem, and Violet, and we didn’t get much of their backstory. The Good Luck Girls would have been more enjoyable with a multiple POV structure, in my opinion; we got inside Aster and Clem’s heads, but since there’s an ensemble cast, I would have liked to get some of the motivations and quirks of characters like Violet, Tansy, and Mallow from their perspectives.

All in all, an effortless blend of wildly different genres that results in a fiercely feminist and cinematic journey. 4 stars!

✔️|2| 𝐒𝐏𝐎𝐍𝐓𝐀𝐍𝐄𝐎𝐔𝐒 [CA:CW] - 𝐄𝐩𝐢𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡 | Magic aesthetic, Aesthetic  gif, Powers

The Good Luck Girls is the first book in the Good Luck Girls series, followed by The Sisters of Reckoning. Charlotte Nicole Davis also contributed the short story All the Time in the World to A Phoenix Must First Burn, an anthology of sci-fi/fantasy stories by Black women and gender nonconforming people.

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 Mini Reviews

Mini Reviews of Books I Read in Florida

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I was in Florida about a week ago for a quick trip, but as I always do, I brought some books along on my Kindle to get me through the plane rides and the heat. I like doing little mini-reviews of these books when I go somewhere else, so I figured I’d do it again here, since I certainly read a couple of very interesting books while I was in Florida. So here we have three mini-reviews of books I read in Florida.

Let’s begin, shall we?

🦎BOOKS I READ IN FLORIDA🦎

Forgotten Star – Colin Weldon

Amazon.com: Forgotten Star eBook : Weldon, Colin: Kindle Store

Blurb from Goodreads:

Following a devastating encounter with an unknown alien ship resulting in the disappearance of her parents as a child, Tamara Cartwright now spends her life scouring the galaxy in the hope of finding the dark force that attacked her father’s ship.
Now the Captain of a rescue vessel, The Massey Shaw, she makes a choice, resulting in the destruction of a star in order to save a stricken vessel, a prohibited act while using alien technology. Now, an outlaw, she is entrusted with the fate of a very unusual young girl endowed with special abilities. She must also find the survivors of an ill-fated ship at the hands of a malevolent race know only to the humans as the Ghosts. Driven by the hope of finding the truth of her parent’s disappearance and one last chance to make a difference to those in need of rescue, she must go on one final mission into deep space and deal with the monsters from her past.

Hansolo Badfeeling GIF - Hansolo Badfeeling Starwars GIFs | Star wars gif, Star  wars, Gif

TW/CW: human experimentation, loss of loved ones, death, graphic violence

Forgotten Star wasn’t without its flaws by a long shot, but it was such a fun and fascinating piece of space opera! With lots of political intrigue, strange aliens, and mysterious powers, there’s something for every sci-fi fan in here.

I need to start off with my main problem, though: the grammar. It was…inconsistent, at best. This novel definitely needed an extra round of editing (or two) in that respect; there were lots of errors in punctuation (mostly placement of commas), and there were a few misspellings and omissions that could have been fixed. (As well as a misspelling of “berth,” as in “a wide berth,” as “birth” …YIKES) On occasion, the faulty grammar was enough to take me out of the story entirely, but for the most part, I could let it slide. Sometimes.

But other than that, Forgotten Star was a great piece of sci-fi! One thing this novel did incredibly well was the handling of multiple POVs – for a lot of multiple POV books, it takes a while for all of the characters/elements to coalesce, but it didn’t take long for all of the elements here to come together, making for a cohesive and intricate story. I also loved all of the alien races, and the intricacies of their relationships with humans. It’s always a breath of fresh air to see aliens that clearly have some creative design put into them.

Some of the dialogue and characters were a little stiff and inauthentic at times, but for the most part, a lot of the characters were interesting to delve into. I liked Ona and Urhan, in particular – they had very interesting arcs and backstories, and I loved seeing them develop.

My only other major problem was that the ending wrapped up a *little* too nicely? From everything that built up over the course of the story, it seemed like there was a setup for a sequel, but the ending tried to wrap everything up too quickly. I’d like to see more from this universe.

All in all, though, a well-thought-out and intricate piece of space opera. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.75

Queen of Coin and Whispers – Helen Corcoran

Amazon.com: Queen of Coin and Whispers: A kingdom of secrets and a game of  lies: 9781788491181: Corcoran, Helen: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

‘She loved me as I loved her, fierce as a bloodied blade’

When Lia, an idealistic queen, falls for Xania, her new spymaster–who took the job to avenge her murdered father–they realise all isn’t fair in love and treason.

Lia won’t mourn her uncle: he’s left her a bankrupt kingdom considered easy pickings by its neighbours. She’s sworn to be a better ruler, but if she wants to push through her reforms, she needs to beat the Court at its own games. For years, Xania’s been determined to uncover her father’s murderer. She finally gets a chance when Lia gives her a choice: become her new spymaster, or take a one way trip to the executioner’s axe. It’s an easy decision.

When they fall for each other, their love complicates Lia’s responsibilities and Xania’s plans for vengeance. As they’re drawn together amid royal suitors and new diplomats, they uncover treason that could not only end Lia’s reign, but ruin their weakened country. They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other.

Animated gif about pretty in Fantasy and medieval by Marveline.

TW/CW (from Helen Corcoran): off-page suicide, murder, emotional torture

I’m not sure if I would necessarily call Queen of Coin and Whispers a fantasy novel – there wasn’t a whole lot that would distinguish it from a historical setting (no different magic properties/creatures/worldbuilding/etc.). But that’s not to say that it was a bad book – in fact, it was stunning!

There’s plenty of YA fantasy books on the market with protagonists who suddenly ascend to royalty. But Queen of Coin and Whispers addresses what most of those novels don’t – the mental tax of ruling a country at such a young age. Lia goes through endless trials and tribulations and even faces becoming the ruler that her uncle was, all while grappling with love and other relationships. Corcoran wrote her development so well, and it’s so refreshing to see a genuine-feeling story like Lia’s.

Additionally, the romance! Lia and Xania’s relationship was so sweet – sharing books, secret conversations, and all things warm and fuzzy. They go through all the ups and downs of first love, and I love seeing wlw rep like theirs in non-contemporary stories. I love those two. 💗

Other than that, the political intrigue and the depiction of the transition of power was so well-done! Everything was so multi-layered and detailed, making it feel like Lia and Xania’s world was a real and fleshed-out one. Just when you think you know the answers, something new pokes out its head, and you’re left guessing until the very last page.

All in all, a fascinating royal mystery with genuine characters and a sweet sapphic romance. 4 stars!

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) – RoAnna Sylver

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2) by RoAnna Sylver

Blurb from Goodreads:

Parole is still burning. And now the day everyone has been waiting for is finally here: it’s collapsed. A lucky few managed to escape with their lives. But while their city burned, the world outside suffered its own devastating disaster. The Tartarus Zone is a deadly wasteland a thousand miles wide, filled with toxic storms, ghostly horrors, and just as many Eyes in the Sky as ever. Somehow, this new nightmare is connected to Parole. And it’s spreading. 

Now Parole’s only hope lies in the hands of three teenagers reunited by their long-lost friend Gabriel – in their dreams. Now they’re on a desperate cross-country race, carrying vital plans that may be Parole’s salvation. First they’ll board the FireRunner, a ship full of familiar faces that now sails through Tartarus’ poison storms. Then, together, they’ll survive Tartarus’ hazards, send a lifeline to lost Parole – and uncover the mystery connecting everyone, inside Parole and out.

The world outside Parole isn’t the one they remember, and it didn’t want them back. But they’ll save it just the same. It’s what heroes do.

TV Shows | Queer Culture Chats

(for my mini-review of book 1, Chameleon Moon, click here!)

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, violence, near-death situations

I didn’t like this one *quite* as much as I did Chameleon Moon, but it was still such a fun read!

One of the things I love most about this series is how diverse it is – easily the most diverse series I know! We have an almost entirely different cast of characters in The Lifeline Signal, but among the three main characters, we have a nonbinary (xie/xir pronouns) Native American (Tsalagi) character with Arnold-Chiari malformation, a bisexual Indian-American character, and an aro-ace autistic Vietnamese-American character! Among the side characters, there’s no shortage of queer, POC, and disabled characters, including a Black hijabi woman, a nonbinary character, polyamorous relationships, and more! Books as diverse as this series don’t come along very often, so three cheers for RoAnna Sylver for all this representation!

The worldbuilding outside of Parole was also fascinating – there’s all sorts of weird sci-fi and fantasy aspects, including, but not limited to: superpowers, ghosts, dragons, giant ships, and robotic animals of immense size. As you can imagine, it’s a lot of fun! Between the relationships between all of the characters and the expansion of the worldbuilding, there’s no shortage of interesting elements to chew on. Plus, it was so sweet to see all of the characters from Chameleon Moon come back.

My only major problem was that the plot got a little bit convoluted at times – I found myself thinking “wait, why is all this happening?” several times throughout the novel, but it didn’t take me out of the story itself. Don’t get me wrong – The Lifeline Signal has a great story, but it seemed to get lost in itself at times.

All in all, a sequel that does justice to book one as well as expanding its world, while still providing an original storyline. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

⭐️⭐️⭐️.75

Today’s song:

I saw Sleater-Kinney and Wilco (we came for Wilco, they were AMAZING) on Tuesday night, and even though most of Sleater-Kinney’s stuff didn’t make me feel anything, there were a couple songs that I thought were interesting! This is one of them

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

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!