Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/20/21) – Sword in the Stars (Once & Future, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After falling in love with Once & Future two years ago, I knew I had to get my hands on book 2 as soon as possible. Unfortunately, after having to wait a year for its release, I couldn’t find it at the library or my favorite bookstore. But lucky for me, I managed to find it at Barnes & Noble over break, and I didn’t hesitate to buy a copy! While this sequel wasn’t as good as its predecessor, it was still a fantastic ending to a one-of-a-kind duology.

🗡BE WARNED! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Once & Future, so tread lightly! 🗡

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Sword in the Stars: A Once & Future Novel (Once & Future, 2)  (9780316449298): McCarthy, Cori, Capetta, A. R.: Books

Sword in the Stars (Once & Future, #2) – A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy

My copy ft. Once & Future, a section of my bookshelf, and the same filter I use every time

A near miss has landed Ari, Merlin and their ragtag band of intergalactic knights back in time. All the way back to the Middle Ages, to be exact, the time of the very first King Arthur. There, they are faced with an impossible task: to steal the grail of King Arthur and end the Arthurian cycle once and for all. Faced with the obstacles of blending in, dodging the…shortcomings, shall we say, of the time and its people, and not messing with the canon, Ari and the others must look to the past in order to save their future.

great, thanks. — imperio

TW/CW: racism, mentions of misgendering, fantasy/sci-fi violence, colonialism, pregnancy/labor, blood, near-death experiences

Everything’s more fun when you throw your characters in space, but throwing them in the Middle Ages is…tricky. Sword in the Stars was lacking in some of the elements that I loved most about book 1, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it. I did enjoy it, as a matter of fact. IMMENSELY!

It’s clear how much fun Capetta and McCarthy had with throwing a slew of characters suited to life in a progressive (mostly), technologically advanced future into the Middle Ages. There’s no shortage of weird, strange, and downright hilarious hijinks that ensue on their quest for the Holy Grail, and through it all, there’s nods to Arthurian legend and its many retellings aplenty. Once again, Ari and the other characters had wonderful chemistry, bouncing off of each other well while still maintaining their distinct personalities.

That being said, the Middle Ages part was also a bit of what dragged this book down for me. Coming right on the heels of a novel that was almost purely sci-fi, it didn’t quite fit with the mood that the duology tried to maintain. They do return to the future eventually, but as someone who was particularly hooked on the “King Arthur retelling in SPAAACE” part of the premise, that part was a little bit of a letdown. That’s just the raging sci-fi fan in me, I guess.

That’s where my criticism ends, really, because Sword in the Stars was just as action-packed, fast-paced, and downright fun as book 1. Daring escapes, supernatural forces, knights, space dragons, dismantling corporate greed…you want it, this duology probably has it. I laughed, I very nearly cried, and I felt myself overflowing with joy, just like I did with book 1, and man, I’m so glad this story exists.

But beyond that, what truly shone about Sword in the Stars was its message. Throughout the whole book, there’s a resonant theme of breaking free of a cycle of conformity and injustice to become your true self. The whole story is focused on individuality and changing narratives, and especially seeing as it’s a cast of almost entirely queer characters and written by two queer authors, it really hit the right note in me. The Once & Future duology is lots of action and fun, for the most part, but at its heart, it’s a story of resistance. It’s a story of finding yourself. It’s a story of defining yourself in the face of a world that wants you to do the opposite. And for that, this novel was truly special. I’m firm in the belief that this book will save somebody’s life someday. And I don’t say that for every book.

All in all, a phenomenal ending to an action-packed, inclusive, sci-fi fantasy duology.

And bonus points for the Prince references, the Monty Python quote at the beginning, and successfully breaking the fourth wall.

4.75 stars, rounded up to 5!

Sword in the Stars is the final book in the Once & Future duology, preceded by Once & Future. A.R. Capetta is also the author of Echo After Echo and The Lost Coast, and Cory McCarthy is also the author of Now a Major Motion Picture and You Were Here.

Today’s song:

This has a combination of Sparklehorse and Fruit Bats vibes and I am HERE for it

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/13/21) – These Violent Delights

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

A bit of good news before I begin; for one, I got the SAT over with today! I actually feel fairly confident on the math portion, for once. And this afternoon, I got my first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine! I’ll be getting dose 2 in a few weeks, and I’m so relieved.

Anyway, this book has been on my radar for a while, what with it generating mountains of hype before and after its November 2020 release. It finally came to the library recently, and I’m so glad I got to read it! Not 100% worth the hype, but a truly inventive retelling.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: These Violent Delights (9781534457690): Gong, Chloe: Books

These Violent Delights (These Violent Delights, #1) – Chloe Gong

My library copy ft. a cool filter and one of my bookshelves

Shanghai, 1926. A war between the Scarlet Gang and the White Flowers is brewing, and a gruesome illness and rumors of monsters run amok in the city. Caught in the middle are Juliette Cai, heiress of the Scarlet Gang, and Roma Montagov, her ex-lover and sworn enemy. As members of both gangs fall ill to the gory malady, they must set aside their pasts and work together before they fall prey to it.

Fever Ray Rose GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

TW/CW: graphic violence, body horror, abuse, gruesome descriptions of illness, substance abuse, blood

The hype made my expectations for this one pretty high, but I’m glad to say that These Violent Delights lived up to a good portion of it! Not a perfect novel, but one I enjoyed a whole lot.

First off, can we give a round of applause to Chloe Gong for putting such an inventive twist on Romeo & Juliet? I LOVED the setting, first off; it’s both a time period and a place that don’t usually turn up in YA, and the descriptions made me feel as through I was walking in Juliette’s footsteps. The discussions of racism and colonialism gave another layer of darkness to the setting as well, which made it feel a lot more authentic, especially when we saw it through Juliette’s eyes. The gang rivalry set the perfect scene for an R&J retelling, and a lot of the related scenes gave me some slight Fargo (Year 4) vibes, which is always a resounding YES in my book. And to top all that wondrousness off, supernatural vibes! The fantasy element of the plague and the monster in the river were woven in seamlessly with the historical setting, making for a world that felt lush and wonderfully fleshed-out.

As for the characters, Juliette was probably my favorite; she had a refreshing amount of agency, and she was full of drive and wit. I didn’t like Roma quite as much, but his backstory seamlessly fed into his character and made him feel more authentic. And I LOVE LOVE LOVED Benedikt and Marshall! They had such lovely chemistry, and Benedikt especially (my favorite behind Juliette) had such distinct qualities that truly set them apart in this story. It was also loads of fun to make connections back to Shakespeare’s original work, although…I had one problem: Tyler. I get it that he was supposed to be the Tybalt-surrogate, but…Tyler doesn’t seem like a 1920’s name at all. I get it that most of the Chinese characters in the novel had Westernized names, and I get that Tyler and Tybalt are very similar, but when I think of the name “Tyler,” I think more of 1990’s-2010’s, not 1920’s. I looked it up, and it seems like it was a fairly uncommon name at the time, but I could suspend my disbelief a little bit.

My other problem with the novel was with a certain aspect of the writing. For the most part, it was stellar; like I said, lush descriptions, gripping action, amazing prose. Thing is, there were a lot of metaphors that got stretched out far beyond their use. If some of the metaphors remained at one sentence, it would’ve been fine. However, some of them got dragged out to…entire paragraphs, which…mmm, nope, not my cup of tea. [gets out a pair of gardening shears to trim the purple prose down] Lots of drama in the writing department, but it fit with the story, for the most part. It was a lot to handle sometimes, but given…well, everything about the plot, I can see the point of most of it.

All in all, a high-stakes, high-drama retelling of Romeo and Juliet full of action and authenticity. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

rabbi milligan Tumblr posts - Tumbral.com

These Violent Delights is Chloe Gong’s debut novel, and is the first novel in the These Violent Delights duology. Its sequel, Our Violent Ends, is slated for release in November 2021.

Today’s song:

NEW DANNY ELFMAN ALBUM IN JUNE THIS IS NOT A DRILL

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, Books

Book Review Tuesday (3/30/21) – The Light at the Bottom of the World

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’d had this novel on my TBR for a good two years or so, but I forgot about it until I saw it on display at my local library. I picked it up as soon as I could, and man, I’m so glad I did! I’ve started to lose faith in a lot of YA dystopian novels, but London Shah shows us all the way to do it almost exactly right.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, 1)  (9781368036887): Shah, London: Books

The Light at the Bottom of the World (Light the Abyss, #1) – London Shah

London, 2099. The entire city has been swallowed by the rising oceans, and humankind ekes out a living, in fear of the evolved creatures of the sea and the genetically-modified Anthropoids who lurk alongside them.

Leyla McQueen makes a living as a submersible racer, and when she enters a prestigious competition, she doesn’t enter for the fame or the fortune – all she wants to do is save her father, who was imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. But after the Prime Minister refuses her pleas after she wins the competition, she sets out on her own to find him, leading her through a dark, watery world of secrets and lies.

♡.∙∘❀○‿✿⁀♡Pinterest: adisyaamadea♡‿✿⁀○❀∘∙. | Finding nemo, Finding nemo  2003, Bee and puppycat

TW/CW: graphic violence, frightening situations, animal injury, incarcerated parent

This book wasn’t perfect, but man, I’d do anything to have a debut as good as this! London Shah restored my faith in dystopian literature, and The Light at the Bottom of the World is practically a guidebook on how to do dystopian YA right.

Shah’s worldbuilding is what stood out most to me. There’s rich history in every chapter, presenting a post-apocalyptic world swallowed by rising oceans, where the last pockets of humanity war with the deep and corrupt governments tighten an iron fist around the needy. I loved seeing how the inhabitants of this drowned London eked out a living, from the submersible races to the ruined architecture.

Leyla McQueen was also the perfect protagonist for this book! Besides having great #OwnVoices British-Muslim rep, she was just the kind of main character that we could root for – quick-witted, clever, sassy, determined, and fueled by a love for her father and a flaming desire to make things right. Her chemistry with Ari was great, and she was so spirited and authentic in a way that most dystopian protagonists aren’t. Plus, I may not be a dog person, but Jojo was so adorable and must be protected at all costs 🥺

The only pitfall about The Light at the Bottom of the World for me was the writing. It wasn’t bad, per se, but it just felt a bit lacking. Everything was quick and to the point, without much metaphor or dressing. Now, I’m not saying that it needed to be bright purple prose, but I feel like it could have used a bit more vivid imagery and language. The plot made up for it though; I truly felt the adrenaline of the characters for the whole book, whether it was in the breakneck submersible races or a daring prison break.

Either way, a fantastic YA dystopia with a lovable cast of characters and a fascinating world swallowed by the waves. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

There's always a bigger fish - Album on Imgur

The Light at the Bottom of the World is London Shah’s debut novel, and it is the first in the Light the Abyss duology, followed by Journey to the Heart of the Abyss, which is slated for release on October 26, 2021.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

Feminist YA Books for Women’s History Month

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

Celebrate Women's History Month with Talenthouse

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

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

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

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Moxie, Jennifer Mathieu

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

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

just stick to the book, okay?

How Rory Thorne Destroyed the Multiverse, K. Eason

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

GENRES: Sci-fi, fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Sawkill Girls, Claire Legrand

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

GENRES: Horror, paranormal, fantasy, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Girls of Paper and Fire, Natasha Ngan

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

GENRES: High fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

The Black Coats, Colleen Oakes

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

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, mystery, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

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

The Sound of Stars, Alechia Dow

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

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

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

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

Music from Another World, Robin Talley

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

GENRES: Historical fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

Women's History Month

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

Today’s song:

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

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

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

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

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

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

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

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

You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

Blurb from Goodreads:

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

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

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

So why do I want to read this?

Pin em Chess

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

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

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

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

Today’s song:

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

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

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

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

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

Enjoy this week’s review!

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

A Phoenix Must First Burn – edited by Patrice Caldwell

(summary from Goodreads)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wormhole GIF | Gfycat

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

Gilded – Elizabeth Acevedo: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

fargoedit | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melie – Justina Ireland: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Potion Bottle GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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

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

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

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

Hearts Turned to Ash – Dhonielle Clayton: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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

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

Tender-Headed – Danny Lore: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

jean grey rp gifs | WiffleGif

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

Kiss the Sun – Ibi Zoboi: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

The Actress – Danielle Paige: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sequence – J. Marcelle Corrie: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

He Loved It GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (2/22/21) – Sorrowland

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

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

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

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

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

Blurb from Goodreads:

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

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

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

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

So why do I want to read this?

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

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

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

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

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

Flower Opening GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (2/16/21) – A Song of Wraiths and Ruin

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

And now, onto another book that I bought with my Christmas gift card and loved!

I’ll admit to being a bit jaded with most YA fantasy novels at present (even though I still read them in droves), but the cover and the mythology of this novel convinced me to buy myself a copy, and I’m so glad I did! A novel that simultaneously felt nostalgic and something wholly new and original.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Image result for a song of wraiths and ruin

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #1)–Roseanne A. Brown

My copy ft. a cool filter and one of my bookshelves

In the wealthy city of Ziran, it is a time for celebration, many days of carnivals and competition at the Solstasia Festival. This year, however, the lives of two very different teens with cross in ways that could change their world forever.

Malik came to Ziran to escape, but at a price; as an entrance fee, an evil spirit captured his sister, and the only way that he can get her back is to kill Karina, the crown princess of Ziran.

Karina yearns for a life outside the palace, but after her mother, the Queen, is assassinated, she begins dabbling in dark magic to bring her back. Her magic, too, has a price–it requires a king’s beating heart, and the only way she can get that is to sneak her way into the Solstasia competition–where Malik has entered in order to get closer to her.

Their destiny is to kill each other–but their feelings for each other cannot be ignored, and they may have to twist fate itself to find their way out of this conundrum.

Image result for dark magic aesthetic gif

TW/CW (from Roseanne A. Brown, at the front of the book): self harm (magic ritual), violence, abuse (emotional and physical), anxiety/panic attacks, loss of loved ones, animal death

Wow, it’s been so long since I’ve read a fantasy that I’ve loved as much as I did this one! A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is truly a treasure.

What stood out most for me was the writing style. There’s something about Brown’s writing that’s evocative of so many things that bring joy to me; there’s an almost Marvel sensibility about it, maybe a little bit of Disney (normally, I’m not the biggest fan of Disney, but this made it work)…it’s hard to quite put my finger on it, but the style was delightfully cinematic, calling to mind a classic, feel-good adventure movie. This would translate to well to the big screen, I’d love to see a movie adaptation of this one…

The characters were wonderful as well! Karina was such a lovable protagonist, and I adored her free spirit and determination. (Plus, the image of her standing on top of a table and aggressively serenading an entire restaurant…immaculate) Malik was the perfect character to balance her out, more of a calming and grounded presence. Both of their traumas felt very authentic, and it’s always good to see male protagonists that not only have mental illnesses (Malik seems to have some form of anxiety), but are openly sensitive and express their feelings. Together, they created such a captivating, enemies-to-lovers romance! Yeah, yeah, I know the whole “they’re both trying to kill each other, BUT HEY, THEY’RE MADLY IN LOVE NOW” trope has been done before, but Karina and Malik are both such well-written characters that I can make an exception. What can I say, I’m a total sucker for enemies to lovers.

And the worldbuilding! Brown’s world was so lived-in and full of resonant magic. My favorite aspect was the mythology surrounding all of the different deities and spirits, and I had such a fun time discovering the world piece by piece as the plot progressed. Like I said, I haven’t read a fantasy novel that’s filled me with *this much joy* in quite a while. GAH!

Image result for oh it's beautiful gif
I think I used this gif when I did a Goodreads Monday on this one…I’m coming full circle

All in all, an adventurous and well-written fantasy that filled me to the brim with joy. Maybe I’m not so jaded with YA fantasy after all. 4 stars!

Image result for wholesome cat meme gif

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin is the first novel in Roseanne A. Brown’s A Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology, followed by A Psalm of Storms and Silence, which is scheduled to be released on August 31, 2021. Wraiths is Brown’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

rewatching of Season 2 is well underway…the strings at the end of this give me Sparklehorse vibes and I love it

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (2/15/21) – Dear Haiti, Love Alaine

Happy Monday, bibliophiles! Wow, can’t believe we’re halfway through February already…

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 novels by Black authors for Goodreads Monday this February, here’s one that’s been sitting on my TBR for *way* too long. I’m always up for novels with different formats, and this one, paired with a distinct-sounding writing style, sounds like such a good book!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (2/15/21) – DEAR HAITI, LOVE ALAINE by Maika & Maritza Moulite

Image result for dear haiti love alaine

Blurb from Goodreads:

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…

You might ask the obvious question: What do I, a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?

Actually, a lot.

Thanks to “the incident” (don’t ask), I’m spending the next two months doing what my school is calling a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. I’m toiling away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle at her new nonprofit. And my lean-in queen of a mother is even here to make sure I do things right. Or she might just be lying low to dodge the media sharks after a much more public incident of her own…and to hide a rather devastating secret.

All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with my mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. I’m even exploring my family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.

You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing I can’t handle.

So why do I want to read this?

Image result for red gif tumblr

There aren’t enough books in the world that are bold enough to be told in an almost exclusively epistolary way; it’s hard, absolutely, but the payoff, if done well, is something that’s truly unique. (See: The Illuminae Files). Dear Haiti, Love Alaine seems to consist of articles, diary entries, emails, and letters, so I’m excited to see how that format weaves into the story! Judging from the description, it looks like a perfect fit.

Also judging from the description, the writing sounds wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, and I’m looking forward to some laughs and misadventures! Alaine sounds like a reasonably flawed protagonist, but just the kind of heroine you’d want to root for. Plus, THAT COVER…THE RED…

Image result for kermit gif

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 Books

YA Reads for Black History Month

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

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

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

Image result for black history month gif

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

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The Sound of Stars – Alechia Dow

Image result for the sound of stars book

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

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

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

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph – Brandy Colbert

Image result for the revolution of birdie randolph

GENRES: Contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis

Image result for tiffany sly lives here now

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

A Song Below Water – Bethany C. Morrow

Image result for a song below water cover

GENRES: Magical realism, contemporary, fantasy

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

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

Punching the Air – Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

Image result for punching the air book

GENRES: Poetry/Novels in verse, contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

Image result for children of blood and bone

GENRES: High fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them – Junauda Petrus

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

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Monday’s Not Coming – Tiffany D. Jackson

Image result for monday's not coming book

GENRES: Mystery, thriller, contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

The Black Kids – Christina Hammonds Reed

Image result for the black kids book

GENRES: Fiction, historical fiction (1990s)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko

Image result for raybearer jordan ifueko

GENRES: High fantasy, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin – Roseanne A. Brown

Image result for a song of wraiths and ruin

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

Image result for black lives matter gif

Today’s song:

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