Posted in Books

🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️YA Pride Months Recs (2022 Edition) – Fantasy🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles!

Continuing with this year’s pride month recs (click here for this year’s queer YA sci-fi recs), this post’s focus is on fantasy! Some of the different books that I’ve grouped here fall into magical realism and paranormal fantasy, but they all have one thing in common: they’re all LGBTQ+! And as you read through, it’s always important to remember: don’t just diversify your reading for a month: read and uplift queer voices 24/7!

Let’s begin, shall we?

🏳️‍🌈THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S 2022 YA PRIDE MONTH RECS: FANTASY 🏳️‍🌈

The Raven and the Reindeer, T. Kingfisher

LGBTQ+ REP: Queer (bi/pan?) MC, sapphic love interest, wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A beautifully poignant retelling of “The Snow Queen” that doubles as a queer coming-of-age story. Highly recommended!

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

LGBTQ+ REP: Genderfluid MC, Bi/pan MC, queer relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This isn’t the first time you’ve seen me sing praises of this book and it won’t be the last—you truly don’t want to miss it!

The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore

LGBTQ+ REP: Pansexual MC, lesbian side character/past wlw relationship, side mlm relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

A searingly beautiful tale of solidarity, accountability, and recovery from sexual assault.

Squad, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

LGBTQ+ REP: Sapphic MC and love interest, wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Another win from Maggie Tokuda-Hall with sapphic werewolves on the hunt for rapists who’ve gone scot-free!

A Snake Falls to Earth, Darcie Little Badger

LGBTQ+ REP: Asexual MC

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A witty piece of magical realism that was a delight to read from start to finish! I haven’t read or seen a whole lot of LGBTQ+ characters that are also Native American, so books like this are always a breath of fresh air.

Extasia, Clare Legrand

LGBTQ+ REP: Sapphic MC, wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

(is it just me, or does the cover look sort of like young Winona Ryder?)

A haunting and gripping tale of post-apocalyptic witchcraft and mystery!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite queer YA fantasy books? Any recommendations for me? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

listened to this album (great all the way through) and forgot how much I love this song

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (6/14/22) – The Raven and the Reindeer

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve had The Raven and the Reindeer on my tbr since the dawn of time (read: 2016), and I’m not sure why I put it off for so long, but either way, I bought it for my vacation last week. I ended up reading it on the plane and in Yosemite, and I was surprised at how much I loved it—a beautifully immersive and queer retelling of “The Snow Queen”!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Raven and the Reindeer – T. Kingfisher

Gerta has grown up with tales told to her by her grandmother—tales of characters like the Snow Queen, a merciless, inhuman being who steals away children in the dead of winter. What Gerta never realized was that the Snow Queen is real all this time.

When her best friend Kay is stolen by the Snow Queen in the night, Gerta sets off on a quest across the frozen wilderness, determined to rescue him. But along the way, she realizes that the true meaning of her journey is far from what she thought it would be—and filled with unimaginable dangers.

TW/CW: animal death, violence, descriptions of corpses, freezing to death, descriptions of blood/animal skinning

the “not-like-other-girls” complex to queer awakening pipeline is real and this book is proof. I’ve lived it 💀

It’s been ages since I’ve read a fairytale retelling quite this wonderful! I came in with no expectations, and close to everything about it blew me away, from Kingfisher’s wry but tender writing style to Gerta’s endearing quest to save her friend.

I haven’t read any of Ursula Vernon’s T. Kingfisher books (the last book of hers I read was Castle Hangnail and that was…oh, seven years ago? remains iconic to this day), so this was my first introduction to her more YA/adult writing. And I’ve gotta say, I was blown away by her writing! Kingfisher hits the perfect balance between wry sarcasm and beautiful, immersive prose, which is a hard set to juggle. The humor didn’t feel overpowering, and likewise, the more descriptive prose wasn’t overly purple. It’s the kind of writing style that meshes perfectly with a fairytale, the kind of writing that really makes you feel like you’re experiencing real storytelling.

The Raven and the Reindeer’s characters were just as alluring and endearing! Gerta was a delightful and poignant subversion of a typical fairytale heroine, and she underwent some spectacular development over the course of the novel. (read the first line of the review again—in all seriousness, that’s the development in question, and it’s beautiful to watch.) A character like Mousebones could’ve easily been an infuriating gimmick, but he added just the right amount of levity to a frigid story. Along with them, all of the characters, both human and otherwise, added countless, immersive layers into an expertly-woven fairytale. Plus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Gerta and Janna’s sapphic romance—who doesn’t love queer bandit ladies?

Beyond that, Kingfisher simultaneously subverts this fairytale and brings it back to its roots. There are beautiful metaphors aplenty about reconnecting with nature—and by proxy, your true self. This combination of themes creates a poignant message that I’m sure will resonate with so many readers. Certainly resonated with me. The fact that these themes are present in a queer novel makes them all the more important: denying your true nature is a dangerous thing, so if possible, be the truest self that you can be. (And on a lighter note, don’t go into the frozen wilderness chasing after men, kids. It doesn’t always end well.)

All in all, one of the best fairytale retellings I’ve read in recent years—wry and witty, but equally powerful thematically. 4.5 stars!

The Raven and the Reindeer is a standalone novel, but under this pseudonym, T. Kingfisher is also the author of A Wizard’s Guide to Defensive Baking, The Seventh Bride, Bryony and Roses, and several other novels. Writing as Ursula Vernon, she is also the author of the Dragonbreath comic series, Castle Hangnail, and more.

Today’s song:

got around to listening to this album now that I’m back from vacation—fantastic all the way through!

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 (5/24/22) – A Magic Steeped in Poison

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I saw A Magic Steeped in Poison pop up on several blogs I follow whenever it first came out, and I figured I’d give it a go; I’ve become slightly jaded with a lot of YA fantasy by this point, but I was intrigued by the unique concept of tea magic that this novel promised. I bought it the other day, and I just recently finished it—lush and immersive, with a world that I loved getting lost in.

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Magic Steeped in Poison (The Book of Tea, #1) – Judy I. Lin

In Ning’s world, tea is everything. The shennong-shi—masters of the art of tea-making—are revered in her society, known for conjuring magic and omens through their tea.

After an incident with poisoned tea kills Ning’s mother and incapacitates her sister, she turns to the only option to save her family. In the imperial city, there is a competition to find the most worthy shennong-shi in the kingdom; the winner earns the favor of the princess. Knowing that it may be the only way to save her sister, Ning ventures into the city, but what waits for her there may be more than she bargained for.

TW/CW: poisoning, loss of loved ones, violence, murder, animal cruelty

my brain can’t decide between “Tea” by Jim Noir or “Have a Cuppa Tea” by The Kinks as my internal soundtrack for this…a little help here?

As a reader, I’ve started to grow tired of some many of the beats that most YA fantasies follow—chosen ones, love triangles, and not much “fantasy” other than a basic magic system. I’m glad to say that A Magic Steeped in Poison was a breath of fresh air in that department, filled with lush prose and steeped (no pun intended) in Chinese culture and mythology!

First off, can we all take a moment to appreciate how beautiful this cover is? WOW. Seriously still in awe of how gorgeous it is. DANG. That is ART right there.

now, back to our scheduled program…

What immediately stands out about A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin’s prose. Like the brewing tea that shows up in so much of the book, it’s lush and immersive, filled with all sorts of sensory details that make the world feel all the more fleshed out. Lin’s writing makes it easy to picture the world that she’s created, from Ning’s rural home province to the luxury of the Imperial City. I could smell the tea, feel rain on my skin, and sense the tension that hung in the air during the shennong-shi competition.

I didn’t get overly attached to any of the characters, but Ning worked as the perfect kind of protagonist for A Magic Steeped in Poison; her determination, her hard-working spirit, and her devotion to her craft and family made her just the kind of protagonist to root for. For me, most of the other secondary characters weren’t as fleshed out, but I did like Lian as a secondary character, and the budding romance between Ning and Kang was totally sweet 🥺 (more of that!!! please!!!) I wanted more from these characters, but as a baseline, they were still good to work with.

However, I will say that the plot felt disorganized at worst. Amidst the main plot of the shennong-shi competition, there were a lot of secondary threads that only lasted a few chapters. Their resolutions were often very rushed, and I found myself wondering whether or not they were really relevant to the plot in the end. It felt a bit like an unfinished tapestry; the main picture was all there, but all of the loose, fraying threads at the edges made it almost look sloppy.

All in all, a refreshing fantasy that engaged all of my senses with ease. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

A Magic Steeped in Poison is Judy I. Lin’s debut, and the first book in the Book of Tea duology. Its sequel, A Venom Dark and Sweet, is slated for release this August.

Today’s song:

GOOD GOD this is SUCH A FANTASTIC ALBUM UGH

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 (5/17/22) – Gallant

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve only started reading V.E. Schwab’s books since last year, when I read the Shades of Magic trilogy and loved it (for the most part). Since then, I’ve had most of her other books on my TBR, including this one. It unexpectedly came on hold at the library recently (originally I was probably at…#43 on the waitlist or something💀), and so I jumped at the chance to read it. What I got was a lush and atmospheric fairytale and an ultimately satisfying read!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Gallant – V.E. Schwab

Olivia Prior knows little about her past. All the clues she has are in her dead mother’s journal, which seems to chronicle her descent into indescribable madness. After graduating from the Merilance School for Girls, Olivia has nowhere to go, until she is invited by letter to Gallant, the Prior family home. She is met with hostility by her estranged, distant relatives, but soon discovers a dark secret: every place in the world has its shadow, but the shadow at Gallant may be larger and more unpredictable than any of the Prior family could have expected.

TW/CW: animal death, ableist language (outdated), blood, murder, loss of loved ones, violence

Strange, dark, and atmospheric, Gallant is a lovely gem of a modern, Gothic fairytale. It’s only my third or fourth (though I remember next to nothing about This Savage Song) foray into Schwab’s writing, but it’s enough to almost put her at auto-buy/checkout status for me!

Where Gallant excels is the atmosphere surrounding it. Even though the supernatural aspect of the book isn’t explicitly shown until the last third or so, there was a consistent air of darkness that hung around it. Every description, from Olivia’s experience at the Merilance School to the mystery of the Gallant house, was filled with dark and creeping prose. It called to mind so many pieces of media that I love—I know Coraline (and Neil Gaiman in general) and Guillermo del Toro have been common comparisons, but they absolutely fit the bill. Reminded me a lot of Courtney Crumrin too.

But what created this atmosphere was all V.E. Schwab’s writing. She has such a unique way with words, and her specialty with crafting immersive settings is much of what made Gallant a success for me. Everything from Olivia’s mother’s descent into madness to the supernatural occurrences converging into Olivia and her cousins was described in such an artful, deliberate way that I could almost feel the dark atmosphere like misty fog on my skin. It’s hard to think of a writing style as unique and layered as V.E. Schwab’s.

However, I still had some complaints. From reading the Shades of Magic trilogy, I felt like the plot itself was what dragged some of the books down. The same was true for Gallant; although the setting, characters, and general premise were set up and well-executed, the plot itself felt nebulous at best, clinging to the singular plot thread of Olivia moving from the girl’s school into her mysterious family home. Everything sped up in the last third of the book or so, and the elements of that section were some of the most interesting—I wanted more!

Additionally, I would’ve liked to know when the book takes place in the first place—there wasn’t a concrete establishment of that. From bits of the worldbuilding and some of the language (particularly the outdated language that surrounded Olivia’s mutism), it was implied that it could’ve been anywhere from the 1800s to the early 1900s. Not necessarily essential, but it made some aspects confusing. (Same problem I had with Encanto—no way I would’ve known that it was set in the 50’s if I hadn’t googled it.)

All in all, a dark and immersive fairytale from an author that I’d love to read more from. 4 stars!

Gallant is a standalone, but V.E. Schwab is also the author of several other book series, including the Shades of Magic trilogy, the Villains trilogy, and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue.

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

YA Books for AAPI Heritage Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

For those of you who didn’t know, in the U.S., May is Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage month! I made a list of YA reads for the occasion last year (click here if you’d like to parse through), but since I’ve read so many more incredible books by AAPI authors since last May, I figured I would make another list. These are books from all genres, but all of them are from authors of AAPI heritage. And with all of these kinds of posts, I always want to impress the following: reading diversely should never be confined to one part of the year. That being said, it’s always important to uplift marginalized voices—AAPI in this case—and reading is a key way to do so.

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR AAPI HERITAGE MONTH (2022 EDITION)

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

GENRES: Fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

One of my favorite reads of last year, The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea was a raw and tender read filled with pirates, mermaids, and resonant love. Highly recommended!

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction, fiction, mental illness/disability

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A searing and powerful read that follows the story of a sixteen-year-old girl with OCD in the midst of the Malaysian race riots in the late sixties.

Gearbreakers – Zoe Hana Mikuta

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Gearbreakers is no ordinary YA dystopia—filled with mechs, found family, and fierce feminism and queerness, this is a must-read!

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Mind-bending and endlessly thought-provoking, The Ones We’re Meant to Find is a unique and unforgettable tale of sisterhood in the darkest of times.

Rise of the Red Hand – Olivia Chadha

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Rise of the Red Hand certainly wasn’t perfect, but it’s best element was its representation; it’s one of the only dystopias that I’ve seen that’s set in South Asia!

Forest of Souls – Lori M. Lee

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A rich and spooky fantasy that’s perfect for readers who like their traditional fantasy with a dash of necromancy, vengeful souls, and spiders.

Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: Dystopia, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Raw, fierce, and relentless, Iron Widow is a searing ode to those who are unafraid to take down the status quo—no matter the stakes.

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know – Samira Ahmed

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A love letter to all of the women that history erases, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a sharply feminist story set in alternating timelines.

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A powerful and unforgettable story of grief and starting over. Akemi Dawn Bowman’s writing never fails to stir up all kinds of emotions in me.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books by AAPI authors? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/3/22) – Beyond the Ruby Veil

Happy Tuesday!

Beyond the Ruby Veil wasn’t a high priority for me, but I figured I would check it out and give it a chance despite the bad-to-mediocre reviews. However, when I read it, I found the result to be lukewarm and underdeveloped—all the potential in the world without the execution to pull it through.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Beyond the Ruby Veil – Mara Fitzgerald

In Occhia, all of the water comes from a creature called the watercrea; in order for the city to be hydrated, it demands sacrifices in the form of the townspeople who show an omen mark on their skin. For centuries, all of the citizens of Occhia have obeyed. But Emmanuela Ragno has hid her omen for years, evading death until now. When her omen is exposed at her arranged wedding ceremony, she kills the watercrea, effectively cutting off Occhia’s entire water supply.

To return water to Occhia, Emmanuela must venture into a secretive neighboring kingdom that seems to have everything that Occhia doesn’t have. But behind the veneer of luxury is something far more sinister, and Emmanuela will do whatever it takes to take back her city’s water.

TW/CW: blood, violence, murder, torture, body horror

Describing a book with the words “queer,” “dark,” and “fantasy” are always enticing. Do I love queer books? I’m bisexual, of course I do! Do I love dark books? Yes indeed. Do I like fantasy books? Also yes. And yet, a good half of the books described as “queer, dark fantasy” end up being disappointing for me (also see: Ruinsong, Beyond the Black Door…maybe the problem is books with “Beyond” in the title?). I’m sad to say that the case was the same for Beyond the Ruby Veil.

If I had to describe Beyond the Ruby Veil in one word, it would be underdeveloped. I’ll give Fitzgerald one thing—the premise is still intriguing. Suffice to say, there isn’t a whole lot else to it. The bones of a story were there: a good start on worldbuilding, history, and a general direction for the plot. However, the muscle of the book was completely missing. It felt like a first draft, one where Fitzgerald hadn’t fully fleshed out the book and instead published the start of a story.

At least the one part of the book that I wasn’t supposed to like worked—Emmanuela. One of the major selling points of Beyond the Ruby Veil that I’ve seen was of her as an unlikeable anthero; unlike most of the book, I did like this part. Emmanuela was appropriately headstrong, rash, and impulsive, and those traits made for a character that wasn’t likable as a person but fun to follow as a character.

However, she wasn’t enough to carry the rest of the plot, and the few characters that showed up didn’t pick up her slack in the slightest. Ale wasn’t much more than a stereotypically clumsy sidekick, and he served almost no purpose whatsoever. Verene was one of the only other characters that mattered in the story, and she was only introduced at about the halfway mark; even then, her only personality trait was that she was alluringly secretive. As fun as Emmanuela was, Fitzgerald doesn’t give much to work with as a reader, making for a story that felt filled with holes.

The plot itself didn’t hold much water (no pun intended) either. After the botched wedding ceremony and the killing of the watercrea, it was mostly just Emmanuela and Ale bumbling around a foreign kingdom and trying to find clues. Not only did Emmanuela seem to get away with a lot more than was realistic (there wasn’t any context on how she enters this completely foreign kingdom and is immediately able to attempt and pull off the accent AND subsequently speak to the palace?? And get an audience with The Heart?? In a relatively short amount of time?? HUH??), but after the halfway mark, there wasn’t a whole lot of plot to speak of. There’s the beginning of…well, I won’t quite call it romance since there wasn’t much other than heavily implied context to hint at it instead of, y’know, actual chemistry, but in the midst of a book that already felt like a first draft, it felt even more like an afterthought than everything else did. And that’s saying something. Like I said: with a lot of polishing, this could’ve been a fascinating book, but it didn’t have much to sustain it—even in a book that’s less than 300 pages long.

All in all, a book with an ambitious premise that ultimately suffered from a lack of fleshing-out in all departments. 2 stars.

Beyond the Ruby Veil is Mara Fitzgerald’s first novel, and it is the first book in the Beyond the Ruby Veil series. This book is succeeded by Into the Midnight Void.

Today’s song:

first heard this in 6th grade, forgot about it for years, and just remembered it last week…good stuff

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

Start ‘Em Young: YA Books to Transition Younger Teen Readers into YA Literature

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been an avid reader from a young age. I read voraciously throughout my pre-teen years, but as I got older, I began reading “older” books—I had been introduced into the wonderful world of YA literature. But it wasn’t quite as smooth as I thought; although young adult books generally encompass a teenage experience, there can often be a wide range of content. While some YA books are lighter and more suitable for younger teens, many range into the “older” teen spectrum that often deals with heavier and more mature subject matter. For me, at least, I think it’s good to have “transition” books for younger YA readers—books that are distinctly “teen,” but aren’t quite as graphic for someone who isn’t mature enough to handle certain topics. I’m doing my best not to make generalizations about the maturity of younger teenagers here, since I was one not so long ago, but I feel like it’s not the best idea to start an 11 or 12 year old on something as dark as Six of Crows or Illuminae. So for those reasons, I’ve decided to compile some books that I think would be great to introduce younger readers to the wide world of YA literature.

Let’s begin, shall we?

📖BOOKS TO TRANSITION YOUNGER TEEN READERS INTO YA 📖

Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson

GENRES: fantasy, high fantasy, romance

Sorcery of Thorns had the feel of a lot of middle-grade fantasy novels—not enough magical libraries in YA literature, such a shame 😤

For me, this novel had the perfect balance of whimsy and complexity, and presented a beautiful fantasy world full of magical books and demons!

The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

GENRES: historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism

Marie Lu’s books tend to stray on the darker side, but The Kingdom of Back is the perfect standalone for any reader to get into her books. This one is a favorite of mine—such a beautifully-crafted fairytale!

Sisters of the Wolf – Patricia Miller-Schroeder

GENRES: historical fiction

Sisters of the Wolf wasn’t my favorite book, but part of what stood out to me about it (apart from the amazing research that went into the prehistoric setting) was that it hit the perfect balance between middle grade and YA—it’s dark enough to be separated from middle grade, but still palatable for a younger reader transitioning between the age groups.

The Soul Keepers – Devon Taylor

GENRES: fantasy, paranormal, horror

Like Sisters of the Wolf, The Soul Keepers is the perfect bridge between middle grade and YA; even though most of the characters are written as older teens, the level of dark elements struck the perfect balance between younger and older teen readers.

Curses – Lish McBride

GENRES: fantasy, retellings, romance

Nothing like a good fairytale retelling to introduce a reader to YA! Lish McBride’s sense of humor never fails to make me smile, and Curses was a continuously clever and hilarious retelling of Beauty and the Beast. If there’s any Beauty and the Beast retelling to start a reader on, it’s this one.

The Tiger at Midnight – Swati Teerdhala

GENRES: fantasy, high fantasy, romance

The Tiger at Midnight has all of the elements of a classic YA fantasy book, and it’s the perfect choice for introducing a reader into the vast world of YA fantasy! I don’t know why I haven’t picked up the next few books—book 1 was a lot of fun!

Geekerella – Ashley Poston

GENRES: fiction, romance, rom-com

For a reader who wants to jump into romance, the Once Upon a Con series is a perfect starter! Plus, what’s not to love about comic cons, books, and tons of pop culture references?

Once & Future – A.R. Capetta and Cory McCarthy

GENRES: LGBTQ+, science fiction, retellings, romance

Speaking of retellings…here’s one for readers who are keen on Arthurian legends! Once & Future presents one of the most inventive Arthurian legends I’ve read in a while—space, corporations, curses, and more! It’s wonderfully queer all around as well.

The Light at the Bottom of the World – London Shah

GENRES: dystopia, science fiction, romance

There are a lot—and I mean a lot—of astoundingly mediocre and ridiculous YA dystopias that tried to jump on the Hunger Games train, so why not start off a reader with something that’s genuinely fun and inventive? The Light at the Bottom of the World is a stand-out, action-packed and creative, with a determined protagonist that you can’t help but root for!

I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

GENRES: fiction, romance

Here’s another light and sweet romance! I Love You So Mochi is the perfect feel-good romance, and it doubles as a spectacular coming-of-age story about finding your passion and your place.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are some other books that you’d recommend for younger teens who are just starting to read YA? Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

this is such a fun album!! not a bad song here

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

Posted in Books

Feminist YA Books for Women’s History Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

Women’s History Month is here again in the U.S., and I figured I’d gather some more books to celebrate! Literature has always been an act of resistance, and it’s so important for readers—especially young girls—to see characters and narratives like their own to inspire change in our world. And as always, these books aren’t just for March—they’re for all year round; feminism doesn’t start and stop in March. My goal here is to uplift marginalized voices, and now is the perfect time to uplift those of women.

If you’d like to see my list from last year, click here!

Let’s begin, shall we?

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Samira Ahmed

GENRES: contemporary, historical fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Told in intersecting timelines between the present day and 19th-century. Paris, Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know is a love letter to all the women whose stories have been overshadowed and lost to history. Samira Ahmed is such a wonderful author!

Iron Widow, Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: sci-fi, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+, retellings

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Iron Widow is a fierce, fast-paced sci-fi tale that deftly explores themes of rape culture, institutionalized misogyny, and society’s treatment of women through the eyes of a spitfire pilot determined to tear down an empire. (DESTROY THE PATRIARCHY WITH ROBOTS! I said what I said.)

Squad, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

GENRES: graphic novels, contemporary, paranormal, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Squad presents a timely theme—when holding rapists accountable, where is the line between accountability and pure vengeance?—and puts a paranormal spin on it. If the premise of werewolf girls hunting down rapists doesn’t entice you, I don’t know what will.

Slay, Brittney Morris

GENRES: contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Though this isn’t my favorite of Brittney Morris’ books that I’ve read (that title would go to The Cost of Knowing as of now), Slay was a wonderfully proud and feminist novel about gaming and Black pride.

The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: magical realism, fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+, retellings, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

Anna-Marie McLemore never misses a beat with their books, and The Mirror Season was no exception! All at once raw and beautiful, it presents a searing tale of love after trauma and the fight to hold rapists accountable.

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

GENRES: alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, dystopia, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Through a blend of several different genres, Charlotte Nicole Davis presents the stories of five girls, bonded through sisterhood and trauma, who take control of their own fates and fight their fair share of patriarchy—and demons.

Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera

GENRES: fiction, contemporary, LGBTQ+, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Juliet Takes a Breath is a fantastic, queer coming-of-age novel about sexuality, self-discovery, identity, and being a feminist. There’s an especially important discussion of the harm of “white feminism,” which, for a YA novel, is crucial to discuss.

A Phoenix Must First Burn, Patrice Caldwell et. al. (anthology)

GENRES: short stories/anthologies, fantasy, contemporary, paranormal, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

There’s not a single bad short story in A Phoenix Must First Burn! Through several different genres, all of these stories center around the experience of growing up as a Black woman, and include everything from aliens to sorcery to the American west.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your favorite feminist YA books? Have you read any of these books, and if you have, what did you think of them? What have you been reading for Women’s History Month? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

NEW SOCCER MOMMY IN JUNE?? I’m convinced that 2022 is the year of being blessed by the music gods

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

Posted in Books

In Which I Re-Read the Smoke Thieves trilogy (Chaotic Thoughts)

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles, and happy St. Patrick’s Day! 🍀 We got dumped with snow over here last night, and we got a snow day today! So I’m sitting here in my pajamas, watching the snow slowly die down.

In last week’s Weekly Update, I mentioned that I’d be re-reading the Smoke Thieves trilogy, and I’ve kept my promise. It’s one of my favorite fantasy series, and I’ve been meaning to go back through it ever since I finally got a copy of The Demon World. (Perks of being involved with the library—getting books that go out of circulation!) So since I’ve already done full reviews of all three books, I thought I’d just compile some thoughts I had while reading each book.

Fair warning: this post will be crawling with spoilers. Sorry.

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S THOUGHTS WHILE RE-READING THE SMOKE THIEVES TRILOGY

BOOK 1: THE SMOKE THIEVES

  • Right off the bat…I remember these books being dark, but WHOA. One of the first scenes is somebody being forced to watch a brutal execution, and…yeah, it only gets worse from there. Yeesh.
  • Also I forgot how angry March was??? It’s understandable, honestly, but this man is just THROBBING with rage
March, constantly
  • Tash!!! My demon-hunter child!!
  • And Catherine!! I liked her already, but going back and reading this books again makes me love her even more. She’s so wonderfully independent.
  • Headcanon: Catherine is bi. She’s gotta be. I know the whole joke about Tash was just that, but I just know she’s gotta be bi. Call it gaydar.
  • Also, I want to wear Catherine’s wedding dress. HHHHHGH
  • Ambrose was my least favorite character of the main five when I first read these books, and…I still stand by that. His only personality trait is that he’s got the hots for Catherine and knows he can’t have her, and it just gets tiring after a while. Meh. But nonetheless, he deserves better. Green does explore some of his grief after Tarquin gets killed (in the worst possible way…agh, brutal…), but I wish we got a more in-depth exploration of it.
  • @ SALLY GREEN CAN YOU PLEASE GIVE MARCH A BREAK P L E A S E

Overall, I had so much fun getting back into Sally Green’s detailed world! 100% holds up after about two and a half years. Same rating: 4.25 stars.

BOOK 2: THE DEMON WORLD

  • Can we appreciate how creative the concept of the Pitorian army is in terms of the hair dye allegiance concept? Gotta love it
  • “Hey there demons, it’s me, ya boy” – Tash
  • What if 😳😳😳 we slept together next to a demon’s corpse to keep warm 😳😳😳 (and we were both boys) 😳😳😳
  • The whole time I was reading the scene where Edyon, March, and Geratan are trying to jump into the demon world, all I could think of was this:
  • The whole demon world itself was super inventive!! I especially love the concept of how everybody had to communicate through touch-based telepathy—that was very creative.
  • Gonna need more of the Tash and Geratan friendship, please and thank you
  • HAHAAAAA THE FIST BUMP AFTER THEY BOTH GOT OUT OF THE DEMON WORLD
  • I completely blocked out the trial scene from my memory, but honestly, it…did drag a little. I liked seeing Catherine as the judge, but it still went on for too long, in my opinion.
  • Also, I didn’t remember Edyon being so forceful about his and March’s relationship? He gets better about it, but in the beginning, it was almost hard to read. Hey…Edyon…uh…why don’t you try…letting people make up their own minds about relationships and not…forcing them into anything…
  • Catherine wearing a suit of armor is everything
  • AGH I FORGOT ABOUT THAT CLIFFHANGER! I remembered there being a cliffhanger, but the March/Edyon situation and Tash getting trapped in the demon world ONE AFTER THE OTHER WHEW

The Demon World was originally a 5 star read for me, but I don’t feel quite the same way now. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy it immensely—I did, but parts of it just didn’t do it for me the second time around (The beginning stages of Edyon and March’s relationship, the trial scene, etc.). Bumping my rating from 5 stars down to 4.5 stars, because it was still great stuff, but not quite a 5-star book anymore.

BOOK 3: THE BURNING KINGDOMS

  • Alright. Let’s talk about the cover. The fact that 3/5 of the figures are knocked over stressed me out when I first saw it, but at the same time…WHY DOES IT LOOK SO FUNNY IT JUST LOOKS LIKE SOMEONE DID THIS
  • OKAY THE PAIN WHENEVER EDYON AND MARCH THINK ABOUT EACH OTHER WHEN THEY’RE SEPARATED 😭 P A I N
  • Geratan ripping off his hat to reveal his new hair color is absolutely iconic. The right way to do it. Wish I’d thought of that freshman year when a) my hair was also dyed red (very different red though), b) my hair was short enough to cover with a hat, and c) I HAD a hat that I could’ve done it with
  • Sally Green understands the power of hundreds of brainwashed, adolescent boys. Everything with Harold and the Bull Brigade is appropriately disturbing.
  • Can we talk about Catherine’s almost-corruption arc? Sally Green executed it so well; she’s tasting power (and demon smoke) and realizing the extent of both, and it nearly makes her the same as her father—the one she vowed to not be like in the first place. For me, Catherine’s the most well-developed character in the series.
  • Forgot to mention him in the Demon World section, but Twist!! What a guy
  • Took Ambrose three whole books to realize that he and Catherine weren’t meant to be…yowch
  • I forgot how brutal and…just horrifying the battle with Harold and the boy army at Calidor was…I feel like I was tensed up for the whole scene. I have to hand it to Sally Green for making some of the most tense battle scenes I’ve ever read in any series. Right up there with the last 100 pages of Aurora’s End. At least Harold got his comeuppance.
  • THE FIRST PART OF THE EPILOGUE?? WHERE MARCH AND EDYON ARE FINALLY BACK TOGETHER AGAIN AND THEIR SYMBOLS ARE JOINED ON THE TITLE PAGE???? GAAAAAAAH
  • AND I COMPLETELY FORGOT ABOUT THE LAST SCENE WHERE TASH AND GERATAN GO FISHING BAHAHA!! In all seriousness, it’s so sweet how he became a father figure over the course of the last few books—as much as Gravell protected Tash, Geratan was far more of a positive role model for her. Again, love their friendship.
  • Also, can we just imagine Tash wearing this?

Now that I’ve read the whole series in one sitting, I can say with certainty that The Burning Kingdoms was a fantastic end to the trilogy—and maybe even my favorite book in the series! Although the ending felt a bit rushed, it was still a satisfying way to wrap up the series. Bonus points for showing that everything doesn’t wrap up neatly after a costly war. I’m remembering now what makes The Smoke Thieves so special to me—there’s so much love put into every ounce of it, from the worldbuilding to the characters to their relationships. Reading it all at once is like looking at a giant tapestry, thousands of interconnected threads coming together to make a beautiful and cohesive image. Needless to say, I had such a fun time re-reading this series. You’re doing yourself a disservice if you haven’t picked up these books—highly recommended! Keeping my rating at 4.5 stars for this one.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read The Smoke Thieves trilogy, and what did you think of them? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

I haven’t been able to stop listening to this album all week…wondrous

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/8/22) – A Psalm of Storms and Silence (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy International Women’s Day!

My, two sequel reviews in a row…hmm

I got hooked on the Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology last year after buying book 1 with some of my Christmas money—the cinematic writing style and fast pace made me want so much more in this universe! I wasn’t able to get my hands on a copy from the library until recently, but I’m so glad I did—a breakneck-paced ending to a spectacular fantasy series!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, so if you intend on reading it and haven’t yet, proceed with caution.

For my review of A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

A Psalm of Storms and Silence (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #2) – Roseanne A. Brown

After Karina’s resurrection of her sister plunges Sonande into chaos, she and Malik must work to pick up the pieces—all while mending the cracks in their relationships.

Disowned by the royal family, Karina sets out to mend the barrier between the mortal and godly after her resurrection ritual. What she finds may mean the difference between complete harmony and absolute anarchy—and an end to Sonande as she knows it. Malik lives in the chaos that Karina’s actions have sown, and his mission is to restore the kingdom to what it once was. But his path is all too similar to Karina’s, and when he discovers that Karina may be the catalyst to prevent total destruction, he must reckon with his feelings for the person he once tried to kill—and now loves.

TW/CW (from Roseanne A. Brown): issues of self-harm, fantasy violence, emotional and physical abuse, anxiety and panic attacks, grooming, and suicidal ideation

I don’t think I’ve been this invested in a fantasy series since Smoke Thieves! It’s a shame that A Psalm of Storms and Silence is the last we’ll see of this universe (for now?), but it was a beautiful end to the series.

It’s not easy to make a fantasy world, but it’s even harder to make a world where you can convincingly narrate it from the perspective of a storyteller narrating the events that unfold before you. Just like Wraiths, Brown’s writing has a uniquely cinematic writing style that makes the world she’s created all the more engaging and compelling. It’s twisty, it’s intricate, it’s multifaceted, and best of all, it’s just plain fun. This was a book that I looked forward to reading every time I had to put it down, and for giving me that much joy, I owe so much to Roseanne A. Brown.

For me, Storms was even better than book 1, although they’re close! What set book 2 apart was how it expanded on the world that was already set forth without info-dumping. We’re introduced to new parts of the story and mythos through the eyes of Karina and Malik, and it made Brown’s already wondrous world feel all the more believable and fascinating to explore.

The new side characters also shone in Storms! There were all sorts of amazing characters introduced throughout the story, and I loved them just as much as Karina, Malik, and the others. All of the god/goddess characters were so creepy and imaginative (think…uh, centipede…centaur?), and I loved having Caracal and Ife tag along on Karina’s journey (both of them are absolute icons). Even though none of the characters I mentioned took the center stage, they felt just as fleshed out as some of the more prominent characters. Also, bonus points for the casual mlm/nonbinary rep!

As a whole, Storms also succeeded in making a sequel that raised the stakes high enough to sustain the rest of the plot but also bring it down so that (most) everything was wrapped up by the time the book ended. It’s a long book, sure, but it hit the perfect balance of creating tension without having to rush everything all in the last few pages. That being said, I did feel the ending was abrupt and a bit rushed, but by the end, everything had concluded in a satisfying way. It was more the timing of the ending than the content of the ending that was the problem.

All in all, a beautiful conclusion to one of my favorite fantasy series in the past few years. 4.25 stars!

A Psalm of Storms and Silence is the final book in the A Song of Wraiths and Ruin duology, preceded by A Song of Wraiths and Ruin. Roseanne A. Brown is also the author of the forthcoming Serwa Boateng’s Guide to Vampire Hunting, slated for release in September of this year.

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!