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!

yay allison! | Tumblr
* 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!

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!

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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!

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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 (2/8/21) – The Gilded Ones

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

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

Continuing with novels by Black authors for Goodreads Monday this February, here’s one that’s been on my TBR for almost two years. I’m always compelled by books with protagonists who are reverse chosen-ones of sorts–that is to say, characters with unique abilities, but the environment that they’re in makes it so that these abilities work against them. I’m hoping this one will deliver, and I’m sure it will!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (2/8/21) – THE GILDED ONES (DEATHLESS, #1) by Namina Forna

Image result for the gilded ones by namina forna cover

Blurb from Goodreads:

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

So why do I want to read this?

Image result for hellboy 2 gif

[sees a book cover with even the vaguest hint of teal/turquoise on it] [slams the “want to read” button]

Wow, this one sounds so exciting! Right off the bat, what stood out to me was the significance of the color gold in this novel–normally, it’s symbolic of wealth, prosperity and good fortune in many places, but it’s fascinating to see Forna turn that common symbolism on its head and make it stand for impurity. Ooh, I like this already…

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Beyond that, I love the idea of our protagonist, Deka, joining an army of pseudo-immortal misfits with strange powers. Plus, looks like there’s demons in here somewhere…SIGN ME UP

I knew when I posted this that it would be close to the release date of The Gilded Ones, but I’d completely forgotten that it comes out tomorrow! I’ll have to put it on hold at the library, I’m highly intrigued…

Image result for thor yes gif

Today’s song:

I swear I’m fine this just came on shuffle this morning and I’d forgotten about it

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (1/5/21)–Among the Beasts & Briars

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! This is my last day before I have to go back to school… :/ so heads up, I’ll probably be posting less frequently in the next few months because of school.

Anyway, this book was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. Ashley Poston is one of my favorite authors, and I’ll always hold her Heart of Iron duology close to my heart. And although Among the Beasts & Briars didn’t quite hit the level of wondrousness of that duology, it was still a fantasy like no other that I’ll always cherish.

Enjoy the first book review Tuesday of the year!

Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Among the Beasts & Briars–Ashley Poston

Cerys leads a quiet life in the kingdom of Aloriya, working with her father to tend the royal gardens. But behind her life of peace is a haunted past–as a child, the woods surrounding her kingdom stole her friends and her mother. She has never seen them again since. But by some miracle, the woods left Cerys alone, marked only by traces of magic in her blood.

When the woods invade the coronation of Aloriya’s new queen, Cerys is forced to flee. Joined by a familiar fox who followed close behind her in the gardens and a bear hiding momentous secrets, she must journey to the heart of the woods, where it is said that an isolated town has escaped the curse that took her mother and friends. But the woods hold secrets darker than the three could ever know…

Fantastic Mr Fox Animated GIF | Fantastic mr fox, Fox gif, Mr fox
Soul of Stars spoilers without context

TW/CW (from Ashley Poston): Frightening Situations, Secondary Character Death, Trypophobia, Bleeding/Self-Harm (not suicidal), Animal Attack, Blood, Grotesque Transformations

I saw a fox outside my window this morning when I woke up…maybe it was a sign that today was the perfect day to write this review…

I think Among the Beasts & Briars was the last book I read this year, and I honestly can’t think of a better book that I could’ve ended the year on. Ashley Poston’s pulled off another masterpiece, chock-full of lovable characters and lush imagery.

With all of Poston’s novels, what shines the most is usually the characters; I’m delighted to say that Among the Beasts & Briars was no exception! Cerys was such a lovable heroine. I’m always drawn to and relate to characters who don’t possess the typical qualities of traditional heroes/heroines–they’d rather stay on the sidelines, aren’t quite so brave, and are unwillingly forced into strange situations. Like Aurora Rising, I really resonated with the message that you don’t have to be brave or be from a noble background to be the hero of your own story, and Cerys exemplifies that theme in its fullest.

And I can’t talk about characters without talking about Fox! He was such a delightful character, and I loved his development as he grappled with his transformation. There’s no shortage of interesting details in his POV of the shifts between his fox form and the unintentional human form, and he and Cerys had the best chemistry. Vala was also wonderful, and they made for a perfect trio of fantasy misfits. I won’t spoil anything, but Seren was one of my favorites too–REDEMPTION ARCS DONE RIGHT, PEOPLE!

VFX Movies Gallery

I also loved the fantasy world of Aloriya and the woods. Poston’s prose makes for so much lush imagery, making for a world that’s as lived-in as it is fantastical. My favorite aspect was absolutely the Woodcurse–there was clearly so much time spent creating the mythology around it, and it was simultaneously fascinating and creepy. And Hellboy made me a sucker for all sorts of spooky monsters, and everything that got swallowed by the Woodcurse just made the paranormal part of my heart so happy.

As with most of Poston’s novels, Among the Beasts & Briars was reasonably dark, but at its heart, it had such a resonant warmth to it, a glimmer of hope and joy no matter what. With every novel she writes, it clearly shines through how much she loves crafting stories, and it shines through on every page.

All in all, a fresh and unique addition to Poston’s pantheon of masterful literature. 5 stars!

Princess Mononoke gif - GIF on Imgur

Among the Beasts & Briars is likely a standalone, but Poston is also the author of the Heart of Iron duology (Heart of Iron and Soul of Stars) and the Once Upon a Con series (Geekerella, The Princess and the Fangirl, and Bookish and the Beast).

Today’s song:

I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the version with the whole cast on the Legion score, but Noah Hawley has such a gorgeous voice…this makes me cry every single time

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 (1/4/21)–Marrow Charm

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 shelved this one early last year and forgot about it, and I definitely want to see if it’s available at the library now…I’m always here for tales of magic gone sinister.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (1/4/21)–MARROW CHARM by Kristin Jacques

Marrow Charm (The Gate Cycle, #1) by Kristin Jacques

Blurb from Goodreads:

Azure Brimvine lives in a world decimated by magic. One where humans have retreated underground from the overwhelming dangers of the surface. But Below is no safer than Above. Magic borne plagues continue to eat away at the remaining human cities. A sickness that doesn’t merely kill, but creates aberrations from the stricken: people twisted by magic into something dark, dangerous, and powerful. 

But when Azzy’s brother, Armin, is infected and cast out into the Above, she sets out after him, determined to be there for him no matter what he becomes. The world Above is full of monsters, both wild and cunning, some more human than Azzy was led to believe. 

Her search for Armin leads her to Avergard, a ruthless city of inhuman lords and twisted creatures. Azzy must find allies and forge new bonds in this broken world, brave the perils of the Above, and reach Armin before his new power is used to open the Gate once more.

So why do I want to read this?

Pan's Labyrinth: Pale Man on Make a GIF

Leave it to me to do a Goodreads Monday on a book involving plague during a global pandemic…

[ahem] anyways…

Even though our protagonist’s name definitely bugs me, I LOVE any kind of story that explores the dark side of magic. I especially love the idea of a sickness borne from magic itself, something that molds its victims into something more sinister. Reminds me a little bit of the Woodcurse in Among the Beasts & Briars. And if the writing’s good, I’m excited to see if/how Jacques explores the effects of this magical plague on this human society.

All that, and the cover gives me THE BEST of vibes…

So Exciting GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

In conclusion, I’m here for the dark magic and the spooky vibes. Shut up and take my library card.

Today’s song:

OKAY SO I LISTENED TO THIS WHOLE ALBUM LAST NIGHT AND IT HAS NO BUSINESS BEING THIS GOOD

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

Posted in Books, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (12/21/20)–Elysium Girls

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

WHEW, I’m out of school for the semester! I SURVIVED AN ENTIRE SEMESTER ONLINE! And to everyone else who has done the same, pat yourself on the back! You did it!

Pat On The Back GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Anyway, 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 had this book on my TBR for almost exactly a year, and it sounds like an exciting mashup of YA fantasy and…Western vibes? I think? We’ll see, but it definitely looks like something new…

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (12/21/20)–ELYSIUM GIRLS by Kate Pentecost

Amazon.com: Elysium Girls (9781368041867): Pentecost, Kate: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a ten-year game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind.

When Sal is named Successor to Mother Morevna, a powerful witch and leader of Elysium, she jumps at the chance to prove herself to the town. Ever since she was a kid, Sal has been plagued by false visions of rain, and though people think she’s a liar, she knows she’s a leader. Even the arrival of enigmatic outsider Asa-a human-obsessed demon in disguise-doesn’t shake her confidence in her ability. Until a terrible mistake results in both Sal and Asa’s exile into the Desert of Dust and Steel.

Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.

So why do I want to read this?

Rey Big Secret GIF - Rey BigSecret Classified - Discover & Share GIFs

Okay, waaaaaaaaait, wait wait–

We’ve got:

  • Demons?
  • Girl gangs of witches?
  • False prophecies?
  • Alternate history of the Dust Bowl?
  • Robot horses?
  • AND DID I MENTION DEMONS?

Elysium Girls definitely has something of a bold premise, and there’s quite a lot of elements crammed into it; alternate histories are hard to get right, and harder still when there’s a whole host of fantasy elements in it, like this one has. But that’s exactly what hooks me in–from the synopsis, it’s unafraid, it’s daring, it’s bold, and man, it sounds like a whole lot of fun. Also, I REALLY like the premise of the whole plot being the result of a decade-long game between Life and Death. That seems promising.

This one’s available at the library, so I might have to put it on hold soon…

General Kenobi. You Are A Bold One GIF | Gfycat

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 Uncategorized

Book Review Tuesday (12/8/20)–Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

After finally getting to Serpent & Dove back in July, I found out that the sequel was slated to come out in September. I put in on hold at the library soon after, and it finally arrived about a week ago. But sadly, although book 1 managed to stay afloat of its messy worldbuilding with a fast-paced plot and lovable characters, Blood & Honey lost momentum–and stretched it out over 500 pages. Disappointing, but still entertaining.

WARNING: This review will likely contain spoilers for book 1, Serpent & Dove.

For my review of book 1, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove) (9780062878052): Mahurin,  Shelby: Books

Blood & Honey (Serpent & Dove, #2)–Shelby Mahurin

After a near-fatal encounter with Lou’s mother and the Dames Blanches, she, Reid, and the rest of their band of misfits are on the run. Under the radar and stranded in the woods, they know that making the wrong move could result in death, or discovery by Morgane, Lou’s sadistic mother. But their paths are forced to separate, and they find themselves going on strange journeys. And as both roads begin to lead to certain doom, they must find each other before time runs out.

black and white coraline gif | Coraline cat, Coraline aesthetic, Coraline  jones

Judging from most of the reviews, Blood & Honey has become very divisive–the reviews are either gushing or utterly disappointed. Sadly, I’m leaning more towards the latter camp, even though this one wasn’t as anticipated of a read for me as it was for a bunch of readers I know. A bit of a letdown for me, but it was still entertaining nonetheless.

From what I’ve heard, Serpent & Dove was originally slated to be a duology, but got turned into a trilogy at the last minute. And it shows–Blood & Honey fell into the unfortunate trap of becoming the disappointing middle book. One of the things that I loved most about book 1 was the plot; it constantly kept me guessing, and I loved going along for the ride with Lou, Reid, and the rest of the gang. But in book 2, the plot felt tragically weak. We’re led up to an anticlimactic event with a series of loosely tied subplots that didn’t seem to serve much of a purpose save for a bit of tension in having the characters separated. And Blood & Honey is a pretty thick book–the hardcover edition that I read was a whopping 528 pages, and a good 80-90% of it felt like filler. I hate to say it, but it almost felt like a chore to read.

Another aspect that shone for me in book 1 was the characters. Luckily, Mahurin stayed true to them for the most part in Blood & Honey. I loved being back with Lou, Reid, Coco, Ansel and the rest of the gang again, and there’s certainly an interesting direction being taken with Lou. There’s…a hint of a corruption arc going on with her? Maybe that was just me? Either way, I liked the almost “descent into madness” plot Mahurin was alluding to with her. (Also, THE WHITE HAIR!) Lou and Reid’s romance was also a joy to see blossom, as always. But some of the characters from book 1–namely Beau and Madame Labelle–didn’t serve much of a purpose. They didn’t have much of a role, and I remembered next to nothing about them from the previous book. The side characters were similarly forgettable, and I didn’t see much point in them aside from fleshing out parts of the world. However, I will say that I LOVED the twist with Claud–but no spoilers, of course. I’m not that heartless. 😉

Even though the worldbuilding is still kind of a mess, I like all of the new aspects that were added to it in Blood & Honey. I mean…blood witches? Werewolves? The possibility of MERMAIDS? OTHER SIMILARLY SPOOKY WOODLAND CREATURES? Oh, and I loved all of the little ghost creatures that tagged along with the gang. (I forget the technical term they had for them.) Absalon has my heart.

Animated gif about gif in Oh my Goth! by 𝕷𝖎𝖘 𝕮𝖑𝖎𝖔𝖉𝖍𝖓𝖆

And even though Blood & Honey was certainly a letdown, I think I’ll stick around to see what happens to the gang next. Even though that ending was awful. Nope.

All in all, a sequel that failed to live up to its predecessor, but still provided for some fantasy fun. 3 stars.

That Could Have Gone Better GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Blood & Honey is the second book in Mahurin’s Serpent & Dove trilogy, preceded by Serpent & Dove (book 1) and soon to be followed by Gods & Monsters (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 Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (12/7/20)–Shadow Frost

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 some reason, this seems like something that’s been on my TBR for an eternity, but I only put it on in February. Regardless, this one sounds like a fascinating twist on the YA fantasy genre!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (12/7/20)–SHADOW FROST by Coco Ma

Amazon.com: Shadow Frost (Shadow Frost Trilogy, Book 1) (9781982527440):  Coco Ma: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

IN THE KINGDOM OF AXARIA, a darkness rises.

Some call it a monster, laying waste to the villagers and their homes. 
Some say it is an invulnerable demon summoned from the deepest abysses of the Immortal Realm. 
Many soldiers from the royal guard are sent out to hunt it down.

Not one has ever returned. 

When Asterin Faelenhart, Princess of Axaria and heir to the throne, discovers that she may hold the key to defeating the mysterious demon terrorizing her kingdom, she vows not to rest until the beast is slain. With the help of her friends and the powers she wields — though has yet to fully understand — Asterin sets out to complete a single task. The task that countless, trained soldiers have failed. 

To kill it. 

But as they hunt for the demon, they unearth a plot to assassinate the Princess herself instead. Asterin and her companions begin to wonder how much of their lives have been lies, especially when they realize that the center of the web of deceit might very well be themselves. With no one else to turn to, they are forced to decide just how much they are willing to sacrifice to protect the only world they have ever known. 

That is, of course… if the demon doesn’t get to them first.

So why do I want to read this?

Illustration Eyes GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

Oooh, I should see if this is available at the library…

There’s two aspects that are really jumping out at me here. First off, I do love a good “there’s something monstrous lurking in the shadows, and everyone who has tried to see it hasn’t come back” kind of plot. Sure, it’s been done before, but it’s one of those tropes in both sci-fi and fantasy that I’m absolutely a sucker for. I mean, I’m using it in the WIP I was working on for NaNoWriMo this year…

Second, I LOVE the twist with the assassination plot buried within the search for the demon! That’s a really inventive way to subvert the trope, and I’m SUPER EXCITED to see how Ma executes it. It’s shelved as LGBTQ+ on Goodreads, too, but I can’t seem to find the specific rep. Either way, this sounds like a fantastic fantasy!

Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) dir Guillermo...

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (10/27/20)–The Other Side of the Sky

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Whew, my week went from “relaxing snow day” to “dear god I have at least 4 different tests and projects due next week” in the span of 24 hours…it’s only Tuesday, have mercy on my poor soul…

Hence why I’m writing this review a little later than usual. I’ll probably be a bit less frequent with my posting in the upcoming weeks, but I can do the usual memes and reviews, at the very least. ✌️

Anyway, I preordered this book back in July, mostly just on the basis of a) Amie Kaufman and b) THAT PRETTY COVER. It came in the mail with Skyhunter a few weeks back, and I’m pleased to say that The Other Side of the Sky was a genre-bending success!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Other Side of the Sky by Amie Kaufman

The Other Side of the Sky–Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

My copy feat. Rey

North and Nimhara are from worlds that couldn’t be more different than each other. But a twist of fate will bring them together, with possibly disastrous consequences…

North is the prince of his domain in the sky, a floating city fueled by advanced technology. A tragic accident with his aircraft causes him to crash, thrusting him into the world below. The world that, legend has it, is uninhabitable.

The legends were wrong.

In the lands below lives Nimhara, anointed at a young age as the living vessel of the divine. But her people are suspicious of her–every god and goddess has a unique aspect. Nimhara has yet to summon hers.

North’s crash landing thrusts them both headfirst into the words of an ancient prophecy, once that may spell the end of both of their worlds. Will Nimh and North be able to join forces and save their homes?

Social - CLOUD CITY CANTINA (20.0) The Force Ghost Party! | Page 51 | Jedi  Council Forums

Melding opposing worlds of science in magic is uncommon in literature, and it may be for good reason. Both of the times I’ve read books with such concepts (see The Wrinkled Crown, Story Thieves), it’s fallen disappointingly flat. But never fear–The Other Side of the Sky is the shining exception to that rule! Though most of the book is set in Nimh’s terrestrial, magic-oriented home, the fantasy and science worlds both felt seamlessly fleshed out–and packed with lovely imagery, at that.

Going off of that…this is honestly worldbuilding that I could–and want to–lose myself in. Every inch of this fantastical realm felt so lived-in and authentic, and there wasn’t any instances where I felt like information was being unceremoniously dumped over my head. The imagery only accentuated the fact–rich, vivid, and immersive, it made reading this novel not just a way to take a break from my (overwhelming) reality, but an experience in and of itself.

And the characters! I really haven’t read much by Meagan Spooner (save for These Broken Stars and Unearthed, which are others that she co-wrote with Kaufman), but Amie Kaufman (or, at least *partially* Amie Kaufman) never misses the mark with every aspect of the characters, from their individual personalities to their chemistry. Nimh was not only intelligent and resourceful, but she had an authentic vulnerability to her as well. Anyone with a big responsibility on their shoulders (even though I don’t know anybody who’s actually a living/god/goddess/goddexx…hello?) will absolutely relate to her. North was similarly cunning, but it was kind of funny to see how bumbling he first was upon landing in Nimh’s world and seeing how he coped with knowing nothing at all about his surroundings. Made for some great character development, too.

Oh, and the representation! Both Nimh and North are implied to be POC, and North not only has two moms, but was in a polyamorous relationship with a girl and another boy, so he’s poly and bi (or pan or omni? not entirely sure, but I’m here for it either way)! 🙂 (Sidenote…I kind of imagined North like Hunter from Raised by Wolves…random, but I thought it was worth noting…)

(EDIT: Amie Kaufman just confirmed that North is bi! 💗💜💙)

Raised by Wolves, Part 4 – Weird Getting Weirder (Season 1 Episodes 8 & 9)  | 25YL
Hunter’s the one on the left in this picture, for reference. There’s very few pics of him when I google him, for some reason…I guess it’s bc the show’s newish…EH I digress

All in all, a vividly designed and lushly written melding of science fiction and fantasy. 4 stars!

Beautiful 8-bit Color Cycling Pixel Art - Imgur | Pixel art background,  Pixel art, Vaporwave art

The Other Side of the Sky is the first in a duology, followed by an untitled second book set to be released next year (2021). Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner together are also the authors of the Starbound Trilogy and the Unearthed duology. Kaufman and Spooner have also written several series on their own, including the Elementals trilogy (Kaufman), the Illuminae Files (Kaufman, cowritten with Jay Kristoff), the Aurora Cycle (Kaufman, cowritten with Jay Kristoff), the Skylark trilogy (Spooner), Hunted (Spooner), and Sherwood (Spooner).

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, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (10/12/20)–Kingdom of Souls

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

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

Continuing the theme of paranormal and horror novels for this lovely spooky season, here’s one that I’ve been meaning to read for a good year and a half. It seems to have gotten quite a lot of hype last year, and it looks fascinating! I don’t see many books that deal with witch doctors, and Kingdom of Souls looks amazing!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (10/12/20)–KINGDOM OF SOULS by Rena Barron

Amazon.com: Kingdom of Souls (9780062870957): Barron, Rena: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him. 

So why do I want to read this?

Soul GIFs | Tenor

Okay, first off, can we talk about the cover? No, coverS–plural–THEY ALL LOOK GORGEOUS. And the typeface on this cover…I JUST…AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH

It's so beautiful - GIF - Imgur

[ahem] anyway…

Now, for the actual plot…I mean, COME ON, what’s not to love? Witch doctors, demons, POC rep, and impending paranormal doom? Of COURSE you have my attention! I also like the idea of a reverse Chosen One, if that makes any sense; instead of showing [ominous thunderclaps] Great Power™️ at a young age and being destined from birth to save the world and all that, we have a more relatable character who struggles to make her magic surface. I really wish we had more books like this–not only is it a bit more relatable (for me, at least), but it also makes for some great character development, if handled in the right way.

In short–I’m so glad I dug this up from my TBR. Excuse me while I see if it’s available at the library…

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Today’s song:

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