Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (7/19/21) – Warrior of the Wild

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’ve been a huge fan of Tricia Levenseller for years after how much I adored her Daughter of the Pirate King duology, but I haven’t gotten around to reading anything else of hers. This one came shortly after the duology, but I haven’t read it yet – but given how well she handled fantasy, I bet this one will be just as good!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (7/19/21) – WARRIOR OF THE WILD by Tricia Levenseller

Amazon.com: Warrior of the Wild (9781250189943): Levenseller, Tricia: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

How do you kill a god?

As her father’s chosen heir, eighteen-year-old Rasmira has trained her whole life to become a warrior and lead her village. But when her coming-of-age trial is sabotaged and she fails the test, her father banishes her to the monster-filled wilderness with an impossible quest: To win back her honor, she must kill the oppressive god who claims tribute from the villages each year—or die trying.

So why do I want to read this?

Fantasy Pixel Art Gifs - Album on Imgur

Looking back, I’m really not sure if I would even read this if not for the fact that it was written by Tricia Levenseller. From the synopsis, it looks like your standard YA fantasy – botched coming-of-age ritual, impossible tasks, strange realms. But after how much I enjoyed Daughter of the Pirate King and Daughter of the Siren Queen, I have utmost faith in this novel.

With how well Levenseller handled both her compelling and determined female protagonists to her lush worlds filled with unique characters, Warrior of the Wild would be so exciting in her hands! I’m not sure how Rasmira will measure up to how wonderful Alosa Kalligan was, but I trust Tricia Levenseller enough to make her as compelling as the former.

In short: Tricia Levenseller sold me on this one, but I’ll absolutely see this one through.

Animated gif about gif in – fantasy lives – by ran (キング)

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (7/6/21) – Spellhacker

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I got to take a trip to my favorite bookstore last week, and this was one of the books that I picked up. I’d been meaning to read it for years after loving M.K. England’s debut, The Disasters, and I finally got to buy it and reading! And despite the average ratings, England’s second novel is a genre-bending success!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Spellhacker by M.K. England

Spellhacker – M.K. England

my copy ft. a cool filter and some crystals, stones, and my bismuth

Kyrkata is a place where futuristic technology and magic – known as maz – live in harmony, but after a magical plague wracks the population, the maz supply is depleted. Corporations now hold maz with a tight fist, racking up the prices while the people who need it most turn to crime in order to get it.

Enter Diz, Remi, Jaesin, and Ania. For two years, they’ve run an illegal maz-siphoning operation. But with college on the horizon, their next heist has to be their last. When their “last job ever” results in a deadly new strain of maz, the four teens must stop a dangerous secret from coming to the surface – and get to the bottom of a corporate conspiracy that may mean the end of their world.

cute, pixels and aesthetic - image #6916550 on Favim.com

TW/CW: descriptions of illness, loss of loved ones (off-page), violence, near-death situations

Ok. Hear me out.

So if all of the strains of maz have the suffix -az at the end of them (ex. firaz, magnaz), would that mean that Gorillaz would be a valid name for a strain of maz? Guess they’d have to call it maz-19-2000 instead of maz-15…

…okay, I’ll shut up now. I’m just making myself giggle at this point

Gorillaz: Song By Song: 19/2000
the Gang™️ after the maz-15 incident

[ahem] anyways

It’s really such a shame that this book isn’t getting the recognition it deserves. This is what a genre-bending novel should be – it’s a seamless blend of sci-fi and fantasy, with enough worldbuilding to make both of them work! And Spellhacker has everything – heists, found family vibes, weird creatures, exploding magic, and casual queerness!

What stood out most for me was the tender found-family dynamic in this novel. All four of the main characters – especially Diz, our protagonist – are delightfully real and as messy as they come, but they just felt so genuine. They all had their lovely little quirks, and they all bounced so sweetly off of each other. The love between them (both platonic and romantic, I might say) brimmed off the page, and it made my heart so happy. Through thick and thin, they were all there for each other. Spellhacker reminded me of why the found family trope is easily my favorite trope!

And if there’s one thing better than found family, it’s a casually queer and diverse found family! Diz is queer, Remi (her love interest) is nonbinary, and there’s several wlw and mlm couples! (Or, to quote M.K. England themself, “elderly science husbands.”) There’s also a lot of POC-coded characters present, and the diversity truly shines in this novel.

And beyond that, Spellhacker is SO. MUCH. FUN. If any of you here are fans of Six of Crows or The Gilded Wolves, YOU’RE GONNA EAT THIS BOOK UP. It’s fast-paced, high-stakes, and full of disguises, hacking, chase-scenes, and breakneck action. From the moment the crew botched their last heist, the novel takes off, not letting go until the final page. But even with all that, England still allowed the crew moments to be tender, allowing for a lot of sweet scenes and character interactions. It’s the perfect balance of action and softness.

I have…mixed feelings about the worldbuilding, though. For the most part, I thought it was great; there was clearly a lot of care put into the types of maz and how society controlled them, and the various underground operations to siphon it. Kyrkata’s implied to be a world completely different from ours, but there were references to things that were very Earth-specific (I can’t remember them off the top of my head), and several of the characters had very Earth-sounding last names, which threw me off a little. But overall, the things I found were fairly nit-picky, so the worldbuilding was solid overall.

There was also something unexpected hidden in Spellhacker that I loved – England wove the usage of the maz into a metaphor for climate change, and the relationship that corporations have with the environment. Without spoiling anything, there’s themes of greed and destroying the environment in the name of making money, and I love how Diz and the others combatted that. We all love seeing corporations getting their comeuppance, don’t we?

All in all, a fast-paced novel that seamlessly blends sci-fi and fantasy to make an action-packed bundle of exploding fun. 4.5 stars!

satchel cannon | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir
okay I KNOW I need to stop with the Rabbi Milligan gifs, but Diz says something almost exactly like this line and it made me so giddy ksdjhfskjdfh

Spellhacker is a standalone, and M.K. England’s second novel. They are also the author of The Disasters and a forthcoming middle grade novel called Ultimate Gaming Showdown, 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 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!

wholesome cat memes hearts - Google Search | Cute cat memes, Cute love  memes, Heart meme

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 Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (6/28/21) – Queen of Coin and Whispers

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.

As Pride 2021 comes to a close, I’ve found an exciting LGBTQ+ pick for this week’s Goodreads Monday! I’d forgotten that it was on my TBR, but now I can’t wait to read it – sapphic romance between a queen and her spy? COUNT ME IN.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (6/28/21) – QUEEN OF COIN AND WHISPERS by Helen Corcoran

Queen of Coin and Whispers' Isn't Just a Book; It's an Immersive Experience  - the Roarbots

Blurb from Goodreads:

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

When teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold … Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.

Faced with dangerous plots and hidden enemies, can Lia and Xania learn to rely on each another, as they discover that all is not fair in love and treason?

In a world where the throne means both power and duty, they must decide what to sacrifice for their country – and for each other …

So why do I want to read this?

euphoniumpets — The red princess | The weeping monk x reader

I was digging around for some queer fantasy on my TBR the other day, and I found this one sitting in the middle reaches – I shelved it a while ago, and now I can’t wait to get my hands on it! I couldn’t find it on the Kindle library, but maybe the physical library will have it…

Even though YA fantasy has been a bit hit-or-miss for me as of late, Queen of Coin and Whispers sounds incredible! I’ll have to let go of my “x of y and z” title pet peeve, because this one shows loads of promise.

What I’m most excited for is the relationships – I can’t wait to see how Corcoran executes the dynamic between Lia and Xania as a queen and a spy! I haven’t seen a whole lot of dynamics like that, and it sounds like the perfect setup for a fantasy romance. And it’s sapphic, too! Helena Corcoran confirmed that both Lia and Xania are lesbians, and that Xania is also demisexual! I don’t see a whole lot of aspec literature floating around, so I’m glad that this one exists. Maybe I’m getting my hopes up too high, but this looks amazing.

Alexandra Makes Gifs — Faceless Weaponry GIF Hunt

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 Goodreads Monday

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

Hi again, bibliophiles!

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

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

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

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

Blurb from Goodreads:

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

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

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

So why do I want to read this?

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

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

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

✅Cross-dressing pirates

✅Sapphic romance

✅Mermaids

✅Witches

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

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

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

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

Since I already posted once today, check out my May 2021 Wrap-Up for today’s song.

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

Posted in Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (5/17/21) – Sisters of the Snake

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

(whew, it’s been a while since I’ve done one of these…ap tests, man…)

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.

For the remainder of the month, I’m going to feature some #OwnVoices AAPI books from my TBR for Goodreads Monday, starting with this one! I forget exactly how I came across this one, but it sounds like so much fun – I really need to read more mistaken-identity stories!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (5/17/21) – SISTERS OF THE SNAKE by Sasha and Sarena Nanua

Amazon.com: Sisters of the Snake (9780062985590): Nanua, Sasha, Nanua,  Sarena: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

A lost princess. A dark puppet master. And a race against time—before all is lost.

Princess Rani longs for a chance to escape her gilded cage and prove herself. Ria is a street urchin, stealing just to keep herself alive.

When these two lives collide, everything turns on its head: because Ria and Rani, orphan and royal, are unmistakably identical.

A deal is struck to switch places—but danger lurks in both worlds, and to save their home, thief and princess must work together. Or watch it all fall into ruin.

Deadly magic, hidden temples, and dark prophecies: Sisters of the Snake is an action-packed, immersive fantasy that will thrill fans of The Crown’s Game and The Tiger at Midnight.

So why do I want to read this?

Kermit Vs. Constantine (Dark Kermit) GIF | Gfycat
I can’t not put this gif in somewhere

First off, how cool is it that this book was written by twins? Something about that just makes the already amazing premise of this book even more amazing.

Mistaken identity is a trope that shows up quite a lot in fantasy, to varying degrees of success. But I love the concept of Rani and Ria’s situation here: two entirely different backgrounds, chaos ensues, reluctantly working together. I haven’t had much luck with YA fantasy lately, so I’m thinking this one will be great! I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high, though…

Eh, when has that ever stopped me?

Cat Shelves GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Sisters of the Snake is set to come out on June 15, 2021, so I’ll see you all then…

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

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!

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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 Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (3/29/21) – Feathertide

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.

This one is a fairly recent addition to my TBR and was released last May, and it sounds like a fascinating blend of mythologies! We really need more quality mermaid fiction out there.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (3/29/21) – FEATHERTIDE by Beth Cartwright

Feathertide by Beth Cartwright

Blurb from Goodreads:

A girl. 

A secret.

A life-changing journey. 

Born covered in the feathers of a bird, and kept hidden in a crumbling house full of secrets, Marea has always known she was different, but never known why. And so to find answers, she goes in search of the father she has never met.

The hunt leads her to the City of Murmurs, a place of mermaids and mystery, where jars of swirling mist are carried through the streets by the broken-hearted. 

And Marea will never forget what she learns there

Feathertide is an enchanting, magical novel perfect for fans of Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus and Katherine Arden’s The Bear and the Nightingale.

So why do I want to read this?

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Even though the thing in the synopsis about it being recommended for fans of The Bear and the Nightingale turned me off a bit (I DNF’d that one a few years ago), Feathertide sounds like a lovely fantasy! I’m always drawn to anything and everything with mermaids (to varying degrees of enjoyment *coughcough DEEP BLUE SUCKED coughcough*), but this one sounds like it puts an inventive twist on it. There’s an interesting dichotomy presented with a girl covered in feathers and a city of mermaids, which…wouldn’t normally mix, I would think, so I’m eager to see how Cartwright handles the contrast.

But either way, I’m down for a piece of magical realism with strange creatures and quests for missing parents. Sign me up!

Past Life Memories Spell - Witchy Things | Black and white aesthetic, White  aesthetic, Past life memories

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 ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: A Dark and Starless Forest

Happy Saturday, bibliophiles! I can’t believe it’s almost March…

Last week, I got approved for not one, but three eARCs (!!!) which are all loaded up on my Kindle at present. I recently got around to reading the first of the three, and I’m SO EXCITED to see it go out into the world! A Dark and Starless Forest is just the kind of diverse dark fantasy that we all need.

Enjoy this eARC review!

A Dark and Starless Forest by Sarah Hollowell

A Dark and Starless Forest – Sarah Hollowell

Derry is one of eight magical lost children living in the woods. Though they are not related by blood, they all possess different types of magic, and they all live under the roof of their caretaker, Frank, who helps them hone their Alchemist abilities. But when Jane, the oldest of the siblings, goes missing in the dark woods beyond their home, Derry is determined that she’s still alive. As she tries to get to the bottom of Jane’s disappearance, she and her siblings confront dark secrets about their upbringing, and that their caretaker may not be the kindly man he makes himself out to be.

Spectacular Time-Lapse GIFs of Flowers Blooming

TW/CW: Death/disappearance of loved ones (siblings), fantasy violence, body horror, frightening situations

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and HMH Books for Young Readers for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

I was intrigued by the premise of this one, but wow, I didn’t expect to be blown away as much as I was! A Dark and Starless Forest was such a rich and dark fantasy, and a page-turner in every sense of the word.

First off, I was so glad to see all of the representation in A Dark and Starless Forest! Derry, our protagonist, is plus-sized, and among her siblings, there’s several Black and Latinx characters, a nonbinary (they/them pronouns) character, a trans girl, and several Deaf characters; and beyond that, it’s implied that most of them (if not all of them) are queer, and two of them were confirmed to be on the asexual spectrum. It was such a joy to see such a diverse and unique cast of characters as the stars of the show in this novel, and I’m sure that I’ll be recommending this one to lots of people!

What also stood out to me was the unique relationship shared by all of the siblings. Most of them aren’t related by blood (save for two sets of twins), but they’re such a tight-knit community, in tune with each other’s comings and goings no matter what. Each of the characters had such distinct personalities, and there was clearly so much care put into each and every one of them. They were all so caring towards each other, and they stuck together until the end.

Beyond the characters, I loved the dark fantasy aspect of A Dark and Starless Forest! It’s more of an urban fantasy (real-world, but with fantasy aspects woven in), but there’s no shortage of gripping suspense and creepy plot twists. Without spoiling anything, there was definitely a sensibility about it that reminded me of some of the darker X-Men storylines, and I loved seeing how the story unravelled. (I guess the X-Men parallels go beyond that – the relationship that the siblings have is certainly akin to the denizens of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Mutant and proud.) Hollowell hits a perfect balance between showing the tender side of the siblings’ magic and showing the darker, more body-horror side to it.

At its heart, A Dark and Starless Forest is a story of sibling-hood, a story of resistance and uncovering hidden truths, and a story of sticking together against all odds. It’s a beautiful found-family story, and even though the ending was more bittersweet, it made me feel so warm inside at some points.

All in all, a dark but tender story of family and magic that’s sure to enchant so many readers. 4.25 stars!

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* and one nonbinary sibling

Expected release date: September 14, 2021

A Dark and Starless Forest is Sarah Hollowell’s debut novel, but her work has also been included in The (Other) F-Word: A Celebration of the Fat and Fierce anthology.

Today’s song:

OKAY LITTLE OBLIVIONS IS SO GOOD AND I PROMISE I’LL REVIEW IT SOON

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