Posted in Books

Series I Need to Finish Soon (Somebody remind me…)

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles, and for those of you in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving! I’m thankful for all of your support, and I’m so thankful to have such a welcoming community here. 💗

I think this was a topic for Top Ten Tuesday a few weeks back, but I don’t usually do those since I do my book reviews that day. But it reminded me of a problem I often have—really enjoying a book, then never getting around to finishing the rest of the series. Too often, the sequel(s) immediately go on my TBR, and then…just disappear into oblivion and stay there for a few years. So this post is to call attention to some fun series—trilogies and duologies alike—that I need to finish, and a reminder for myself to finish said series.

Let’s begin, shall we?

SERIES I NEED TO FINISH SOON

Light the Abyss – London Shah

I had so much fun with London Shah’s unique take on dystopia, The Light at the Bottom of the World, so I was eager to read the sequel! Book 2 came out last year, and the sad part is that I regularly saw it at my local library and never got around to picking it up. Someday…

For my review of The Light at the Bottom of the World, click here!

Into the Crooked Place – Alexandra Christo

A lot of people didn’t seem to be as much of a fan of Into the Crooked Place as I was; I understand the sentiment that it was too similar to Six of Crows (Wes certainly was…), but I think it had a really inventive and twisty take on the YA heist fantasy genre. City of Spells came out last year, and it’s been sitting on my Libby wishlist for far too long…

For my review of Into the Crooked Place, click here!

Skin of the Sea – Natasha Bowen

I sort of have an excuse for having not finished this series yet, since Soul of the Deep only came out about two months ago, but I can’t wait to finish Natasha Bowen’s incredible mermaid duology!

The Bright Sessions – Lauren Shippen

I haven’t even listened to the podcast that these books were based on (although I’ve heard it described as “X-Men if they got therapy,” so you’ve sold me there), but I’ve had so much fun exploring Lauren Shippen’s tender, superpowered world. Some Faraway Place came out last year, and I’ve been meaning to put it on hold for so long…

For my mini review of The Infinite Noise, click here!

The Aurelian Cycle – Rosaria Munda

One of my best friends got me hooked on these fantastic books, and they’re proof that fantasy writers just don’t do nearly as much as they should with dragons. DRAGONS!!! (Also a protagonist that I imagine looking like a fantasy Black Widow…love Annie) Furysong came out this August, and I’m patiently waiting for it to be available on Libby…

The Gilded Wolves – Roshani Chokshi

Another incredibly inventive and twisty heist fantasy, The Silvered Serpents left me on a devastating cliffhanger, and now that The Bronzed Beasts is out, I might be able to get some closure at last…

Tell me what you think! What are some series that you want to finish, but haven’t? Are the sequels I’ve listed worth the hype? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

I need to listen to this album, don’t I

That’s it for this bookish post! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and take care of yourselves!

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Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (11/8/22) – Huntress (Ash, #0.5)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Huntress is one of those books that just sat on my TBR collecting dust for several years. I decided to read it after finishing Ash a few years back, and I finally was able to get my hands on a copy from the university library. After remembering liking Ash, my expectations were average, and I was rewarded with a solid, strong fairytale full of darkness in unexpected places.

Huntress is technically a prequel, but it doesn’t necessarily require reading Ash beforehand, as its set in the same world, but hundreds of years earlier (you should read it anyway, though!). If you’d like to read my review of Ash, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Huntress (Ash, #0.5) – Malinda Lo

Kaede and Taisin have been chosen for an insurmountable task: restoring order to the human world. For years, the sun hasn’t shone, the crops have dried up, and strange creatures have begun to breach the boundaries of human and otherworldly. The only way for them to seek answers is through the mysterious Fairy Queen, but the journey there may be more dangerous than what lies at the end. But as members of their party begin to die off, Kaede and Taisin must grapple with their futures—the future of the human world, and of the feelings they’re having for each other.

TW/CW: blood, fantasy violence, death, descriptions of injuries/corpses

“I don’t want to marry the man you arranged for me to marry because I don’t know him and I want to have control over my life”: good, good

“I don’t want to marry the man you arranged for me to marry because I don’t know him, I want to have control over my life, and also I’m a lesbian”: EVEN BETTER

It’s been a few years since I’ve read Ash, but reading Huntress doesn’t necessarily require a whole lot of knowledge of Ash‘s world to understand it. What remains, however, is that you have to remember that it was some of the first of its kind. Nowadays, YA is dominated by fairytale-inspired and fairytale retellings, some of which are queer, but stories like Ash and this companion were some of the first ones to do so—and some of the first to be openly queer. If you remember that (and if you can get past the painfully dated cover), you’re in for a fun ride—a dark and atmospheric piece of high fantasy filled with all sorts of danger and strange creatures.

Lo’s world is pretty distinctly High Fantasy™️, which I’ve been jaded with as of late, but her unique spin on it was enough to create a captivating world. Although the magic system was a little hazy, Lo’s descriptions of the barren landscape and treacherous forests created a world that felt real enough to step into. Even more captivating were the creatures that inhabited this world—everything from unicorns to horrifying changelings; the mythology around them and the stakes they created propelled the story even more. Plus, it’s always refreshing to have non-European inspiration for a high fantasy novel; in the author’s note, Lo explains that most of the book was inspired by both Chinese and Japanese mythology.

What I remember about Ash was how much I loved the main couple, but with Huntress, that was a little bit less of the case. In fact, I found Kaede and Taisin to be almost interchangeable (accentuated by the sporadic POV changes), but still compelling enough to root for. Most of the other characters were rather underdeveloped and forgettable, but Lo has a grim solution for the problem—killing them off. For me, it was Con who stole the show; he was the only character with a distinct personality, and it was a very lovable one at that. He’s the kind of character who probably would’ve been lumped in as the love interest in any other YA book, but having him as a platonic friend was so much more endearing.

Even though I loved Lo’s worldbuilding, I still wish that more was explored; we only got tidbits of the creatures in the Fairy Queen’s kingdom, and especially since the main villain was introduced so late in the book, I wished that we’d spent less time on the road and more time near the destination. The journey was interesting, sure, but it would’ve been more interesting to explore the more alien, unfamiliar corners of the world Lo created.

All in all, a solid piece of fantasy that made good use of its dark, barren atmosphere, but could’ve pushed it even further. 3.5 stars!

Huntress is a prequel to Ash, and they are the only books set in that universe. Malinda Lo is also the author of Last Night at the Telegraph Club, the Adaptation duology (consisting of Adaptation and Inheritance), and several other books for teens and adults.

Today’s song:

found this and “Metal Mickey” in a video somebody made of a medley of Britpop riffs, and…maybe I should check them out now?

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

Posted in Art, Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (8/9/22) – That Dark Infinity (ft. my fanart!)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I wasn’t able to go to the library last week, so I went through the Kindle library for books to read. I was in a fantasy mood for no rhyme or reason for most of the week, and That Dark Infinity presented itself. My expectations were average, but this book turned out to be one of the most creative fantasies that I’ve read in a long time!

Enjoy this week’s review!

That Dark Infinity – Kate Pentecost

The Ankou is an infamous, immortal monster hunter, but few know his true secret: while he’s still immortal, a curse made it so that during the day, he’s nothing more than a pile of bones. All he wants is to break the curse—and be able to die.

Flora is the former handmaiden of the princess of Kaer-Ise, but after her kingdom is sacked and she’s left for dead, she goes on the run. Looking for work, she seeks the Ankou to become a monster hunter like him. His only condition is that she help break his curse that’s kept him immortal. But the price of breaking the curse may be greater than she ever could have imagined.

TW/CW: off-page rape, rape/sexual assault-related trauma, violence, murder, body horror, suicidal ideation, descriptions of illness

I remember liking Kate Pentecost’s previous novel, Elysium Girls, but I didn’t have any expectations for That Dark Infinity. But to my surprise, it blew me away—one of the most inventive YA fantasy standalones that I’ve read in ages!

Let’s start off with the worldbuilding, which was a good portion of what made That Dark Infinity so unique! Pentecost doesn’t shy away from pushing the boundaries of the genre, and it really shows. Not only do we have classic fantasy settings filled with strange monsters, but there are also more industrializing parts of the kingdom, with buildings made of copper and automatons! There are tons of interesting creatures, from the hydra-like monster in the water system to giant eagles large enough to ride like horses. It all felt so imaginative, and even amidst the darker themes of the book, pure fun.

The main characters were so incredibly endearing as well! I haven’t come across a character quite like the Ankou/Lazarus in a while; his curse is so unique, and the way that Pentecost handles how it affects both his physical and mental health was so well-thought-out and detailed. He’s both caustically sarcastic and incredibly thoughtful and tender, which is a refreshing combination after years of male YA fantasy characters who were all aloofness. (Plus, can’t deny that he’s got a 10/10 wardrobe) Flora was also a lovely protagonist, so authentically written and wonderfully determined! I love the bisexual rep, and I also love the fact that Pentecost didn’t take the easy way out and automatically throw her into a romance with the Ankou; giving them a platonic relationship was a much wiser (and sweeter) decision, and romance would’ve been weird with him. (Still scarred by many years of authors pairing up their teenage protagonists with love interests who are 100+ years old…)

That Dark Infinity‘s depiction of trauma was also incredibly respectful, which was, again, very refreshing. It’s implied off-page that Flora is raped, but instead of that being a plot point just to amp up the drama in the book and give her a Tragic Backstory™️, her trauma and healing journey is a consistent part of the book. Her healing journey is one that I rarely see in fantasy books, and I’m so glad Pentecost included it as more than an afterthought. And another addition to why I love the Ankou—he was also incredibly considerate when her triggers resurfaced, making their friendship all the more strong. Again—I’d be hard-pressed to find a male protagonist written quite like this, and I’m grateful for both Flora and the Ankou as characters.

My only major gripe with That Dark Infinity was the ending. It was a…weird way to resolve the book, to say the least? Without spoiling it, I’ll say that it felt rather rushed, but in the end, the very last twist made me like it a little more. Even though it took a roundabout way to get there, I liked that Flora and the Ankou got their hopeful endings.

Also—the Ankou/Lazarus was such a fun character design-wise that I decided to draw him! I haven’t shared any art of mine on my blog since middle school (we don’t talk about how this blog was in middle school 🫥), but I figured it would be an artistic challenge (since I’ve never really drawn skulls without a reference) and a fun addition to the review. So here we are—my interpretation of the Ankou!

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

and here’s my sketch/practice page, just for fun:

credit to madeline @ The Bookish Mutant

All in all, an inventive standalone fantasy that was tender, inventive, and truly one of a kind. 4.5 stars!

That Dark Infinity is a standalone, but Kate Pentecost is also the author of Elysium Girls.

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 Tags

Last, Now, Next Book Tag

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

I figured I’d do a tag, so here’s one that looks fun! I found it over at Laura @ The Corner of Laura (who you should absolutely follow if you don’t already), and the tag was originally created by Shivakshi @ Tales I Tell.

Rules:

  • Link back to the ORIGINAL CREATOR- Shivakshi @Tales I Tell
  • Show gratitude to the person who tagged you.
  • Mention these points in your post.
  • Answer the following questions and use the original graphics and featured image.
  • Use the tag “Book Tag |LAST, NOW, NEXT|” in your post.
  • Tag as many bloggers as you want.
  • Have fun!

Let’s begin, shall we?

graphic credit to Shivakshi @ Tales I Tell

THE LAST, NOW, NEXT BOOK TAG

LAST

What was the last book you read?

I just finished That Dark Infinity, and it was fantastic!! definitely expect a review next week

Will you recommend this book to others?

Absolutely! At worst, I’m a little jaded with how formulaic certain parts of YA fantasy have gotten, but this one was refreshingly inventive. (plus, bisexual rep!!)

NOW

What is your current read?

I just started August Kitko and the Mechas from Space last night. I’m not very far into it, but it’s alright so far.

Why did you pick this book?

I was in the mood for some sci-fi, and this one was available on the Kindle library and seemed fun, so it was perfect. I originally found out about it from a review by Kate @ Feathered Turtle Press (thanks, Kate!)

How much time do you think you will take to finish your current read?

August Kitko is on the longer side (465 pages on the Kindle edition), so maybe one or two more days.

NEXT

What genre would you like to read next?

I was in a fantasy mood for the first half of the week, but I think I’m leaning more towards sci-fi now (hence August Kitko). I think I’ll pick up some more sci-fi before my library books come in.

What would you like to pick: a long read or a short read?

It doesn’t matter much to me, but I think I’d prefer something in the middle—something that’ll keep me going for a while, but not something overly long.

Mention some books you’re eyeing!

I just got a notification that the copy of Alone Out Here that I put on hold at the library came in! This will be my second Riley Redgate book—I thought Final Draft was alright, but this sounds like a very different book, so I’m excited.

I TAG:

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

YA Books for Nonbinary Awareness Week

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

This week, July 11-17, is Nonbinary Awareness Week, and today, July 14, is International Nonbinary People’s Day! I’ve done a few specific lists for books with different identities within the LGBTQ+ community, but I don’t think I’ve done a specific nonbinary one. Given that it’s the perfect time to do it, I figured I would shine a light on books with protagonists (and sometimes authors!) with nonbinary and gender non-conforming identities. Representation always, always matters, especially for a community who face scrutiny even from within the LGBTQ+ community. 💛🤍💜🖤

Let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA BOOKS FOR NONBINARY AWARENESS WEEK

I Wish You All the Best, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

All at once heartbreaking and tender, I Wish You All the Best is an incredibly powerful story of a nonbinary teen’s journey of acceptance and self-love.

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: Magical realism, fiction, romance

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

Anna-Marie McLemore never misses, and this beautiful story of two nonbinary, Latinx, and neurodivergent teens and a secret world beneath a lake is proof.

Mooncakes, Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

GENRES: Fantasy, paranormal, urban fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

An absolutely ADORABLE graphic novel about a nonbinary werewolf and a hard-of-hearing witch!

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

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea features a powerful genderfluid pirate as one of the main characters! There’s another prominent side character who is nonbinary as well.

The Ghosts We Keep, Mason Deaver

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Though I didn’t enjoy this one as much as I Wish You All the Best, The Ghost We Keep is still an incredibly powerful exploration of grief. It’s also one of the only books I’ve seen that features a protagonist that uses multiple pronouns—Liam uses he/they pronouns!

Under Shifting Stars, Alexandra Latos

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Clare, one of the twins featured at the forefront of Under Shifting Stars, is genderfluid!

Mask of Shadows, Linsey Miller

GENRES: Fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mask of Shadows is a super fun fantasy novel featuring a genderfluid assassin!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite books with nonbinary and gender non-conforming rep? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

this is so creepy I love it

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

Posted in Books

YA Books for Disability Pride Month (2022 Edition) + my experience with SPD and why representation really, really matters

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

It’s July again, which means—though it’s too often overlooked—that it’s Disability Pride Month here in the U.S.! Even as intersectional as feminism and diversity efforts have become in recent years, the disabled community has been left out of the picture more often than not. YA books are no exception—even now, it’s difficult to find good, solid disability rep, and even harder to find books from disabled authors. So uplifting disabled voices is always important, as with uplifting all kinds of marginalized voices.

I’ve talked a little about good and bad disability rep on this blog, but I haven’t talked about how it affects me—I did put it in my bio a few months ago offhandedly, but I’m disabled as well. I have sensory processing disorder (SPD), a neurological disability that causes me to over-respond to sensory input, mainly sound; My nervous system doesn’t translate stimulus like a neurotypical brain would, making me over-respond to certain sensory input. Big crowds, loud noises (fire alarms, stopping buses, and almost anything that you can find in a city) are major causes of anxiety and discomfort for me, and often cause me to go into a fight-or-flight position or overload entirely.

As a result, being in situations with lots of sensory stimuli, such as school or social gatherings, can be exhausting, what with trying to juggle keeping my cool with said stimuli and participating fully in an activity. It also affects how I go about ordinary tasks as well—driving, for instance, has been a struggle, what with my hypersensitivity combined with my iffy-at-best motor coordination. (Part of SPD is that the nervous system doesn’t fully integrate all of my senses, which is why tasks like these are difficult for me.) SPD makes me feel everything—sound especially—far more intensely than a neurotypical person might, which often overloads my system.

Here’s the thing: although I’ve seen other parts of my identity—bisexuality, being mixed race, or even just personalities like mine—represented in books, I’ve never seen SPD represented in a book. Not on TV, movies, or any other kind of media, either. Never. I’ve been looking for years, but most of the time, what comes up when I search for books with characters that have SPD usually ends up being help books for parents with SPD kids. (Not to dismiss the value of those books—just not what I’m looking for.) There have been a few, but even then, they haven’t been available at the library. (I’ve got one on hold though—let’s hope Not If I Can Help It is good) I could always be missing something (PLS IF ANYBODY KNOWS ANY KIND OF MEDIA WITH GOOD SPD REP DROP SOME IN THE COMMENTS BEGGING YOU), but it’s been frustrating going to google and getting something that decidedly wasn’t what you were going for.

Even though I’ve seen myself represented in other ways, it’s frustrating to not have book characters—even side characters—that have similar experiences to me. Growing up, I had my fair share of not-so-subtle teasing for expressing some of my symptoms, and in that respect, I had no role models, no fictional characters to really look up to in that respect. That’s part of why I’m writing books with protagonists that have SPD—there’s always a kid out there who just needs a fictional character to look up to when they have nobody else. This is why representation matters—for those who never saw themselves represented growing up, and for those to come who may have the chance to feel represented.

So here are my disability pride month recs for 2022—not all of them are from disabled authors, but I’ve done my best to compile a list from a variety of genres, a variety of backgrounds (POC, queer, etc.), and a variety of disabilities.

(for my list from 2021, click here!)

Let’s begin, shall we?

YA BOOKS FOR DISABILITY PRIDE MONTH

One for All, Lillie Lainoff

GENRES: Historical fiction, retellings

REP: MC with POTS (disabled author)

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

A Three Musketeers retelling featuring a swordfighting, chronically ill protagonist!

The Reckless Kind, Carly Heath

GENRES: Historical fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

REP: MC with Waardenburg syndrome, MC with Brown-Séquard syndrome, MC with anxiety, side characters with post-concussion syndrome (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll be reviewing this one soon—a beautiful and tender tale of a disabled, queerplatonic triad in 1900’s Norway!

The Weight of Our Sky, Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction

REP: MC has OCD

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A harrowing story of a girl with OCD in the Philippines searching for her mother during the race riots of 1969.

The Night When No One Had Sex, Kalena Miller

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

REP: Multiple POVs; one MC has Lupus (chronic illness)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A diverse and funny story of four pairs of teenagers on prom night and a humorously failed sex pact.

The Boy Who Steals Houses, C.G. Drews

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC has anxiety, autistic side character (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A messy and emotional story of a boy and his brother making their own in a world that turns its back on them.

A Quiet Kind of Thunder, Sara Barnard

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC is selectively mute, Deaf love interest

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A tender, sweet romance with disability front and center!

Gallant, V.E. Schwab

GENRES: Paranormal, fantasy

REP: MC is mute and uses sign language to communicate

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

Though this wasn’t my favorite V.E. Schwab book, I loved its paranormal atmosphere!

Lakelore, Anna-Marie McLemore

GENRES: Magical realism, fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+

REP: MC with ADHD, MC with dyslexia (disabled author)

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

Lakelore is one of the most intersectional pieces of magical realism or fantasy that I’ve ever read—both protagonists are nonbinary, Latinx, and neurodivergent!

Meet Me in Outer Space, Melinda Grace

GENRES: Contemporary/realistic fiction, romance

REP: MC has Central Auditory Processing Disorder (CAPD) (disabled author)

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

Although I wasn’t as big of a fan of the romance, I loved how Meet Me in Outer Space explored navigating disability in college!

On the Edge of Gone, Corinne Duyvis

GENRES: Science fiction, survival, post-apocalyptic

REP: Autistic MC (disabled author)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A gripping post-apocalyptic book featuring a determined, Autistic protagonist!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these books, and if so, what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA books with disability rep? And please, does anybody have any recs for media with good SPD rep? Kinda desperate over here…

(I can only go with my headcanon that Jean Grey from X-Men has SPD for so long, folks, please…)

Today’s song:

I wanna hate Jack White so bad but HE JUST KEEPS PUTTING OUT SONGS LIKE THIS

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 (7/5/22) – Among Thieves

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I forget when or how I came upon this book, but looking back, I sadly wish that I’d passed it by; I put it on hold at the library to have another queer fantasy book to read, but I ended up finishing it in about an hour feeling sorely disappointed. The reviews promised Six of Crows but gayer (of course you have my attention), but what I read ended up being a shameless Six of Crows ripoff.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Among Thieves (Thieves, #1) – M.J. Kuhn

Ryia Cautella is an infamous assassin, earning the name of The Butcher with her axe-wielding tactics. What she hides, however, is her past; after narrowly escaping the Guildmaster, the tyrant ruler of her kingdom, he and his lackeys have been searching all over the city of Callowwick for her. The only way out is to find her way into the Guildmaster’s highly fortified stronghold, and it’s a job she can’t do alone. With the help of Cal Clem, the head of a failing crime syndicate, and a band of criminals and misfits, Ryia may finally have a chance at freedom. But will her search for freedom cost Ryia her life?

TW/CW: slavery, violence, dismemberment, mentions of branding

I’ve noticed a trend over the past few years with YA; after the dystopian craze (mostly) blew over, fantasy heist books in the vein of Six of Crows started becoming far more popular. Unlike a lot of the dystopian books that came after books like The Hunger Games, however, the fantasy heist trend actually produced plenty of really fun, memorable books with a lot of originality. However, with every book trend, there come books that are obvious, blatant ripoffs of their inspiration. I hate to say it, but Among Thieves is one of them.

Now, I try to preface my negative reviews with this: I 100% understand how hard it is to put yourself out there into the book world. And there’s some slack I’m willing to give Among Thieves since it appears to be M.J. Kuhn’s debut novel.

That being said…all I can really say about Among Thieves is that it’s basically a Walmart version of Six of Crows.

Soon after the book started, I noticed all the pieces falling into place for a vague Six of Crows ripoff; apart from a little gender-swapping, most of the characters were nearly carbon copies of the iconic characters from Six of Crows; the only major difference I found was that there was a sapphic romance (sort of?) between Ryia (Inej, basically) and a gender-swapped version of Wylan (Evelyn), and that Cal (Kaz) just stood there on the sidelines. Otherwise, it was almost offensive how much these characters were almost carbon-copies of SoC characters—most notably Ivan, who was so, so similar to Matthias that it nearly gave me a headache. Same appearance, same vaguely-Northern/Western-European fantasy background, same personality…the only difference was that he was a forger. That was it. It’s always great if you take inspiration from certain books when you create your book—in fact, it’s impossible not to take some inspiration from something—but if it becomes as blatant as a ripoff as this, it’s just a steaming, unoriginal pile of garbage.

Nothing made much sense after Cal and Ryia assembled their crew. Granted, as soon as I saw how ripped-off the characters were, I started to lose faith in everything else. That being said, most of the heist made little to no sense, and the progression just felt like being tossed around to random places with seemingly no sense or purpose. They’re trying to break into this stronghold, and…now they’re in a prizefighting ring? Now they’re at sea again? It just felt like “now we’re in an airplane!” kind of nonsensical plot progression without any rhyme or reason.

As for what the reviews described as “Six of Crows but gayer,” I felt…more than a little let down. There was sapphic representation (sort of a will-they-won’t-they romance between Evelyn and Ryia), but they seemed to be the only queer characters. I would’ve liked it more if I was more invested in the characters, but it was…just alright. Nothing groundbreaking, and it wasn’t exactly “gayer” than SoC, since it had the exact same amount of queer rep that SoC did. I love sapphic fantasy any day, but it left me wanting a lot more. Most of the book did, really.

All in all, a half-baked ripoff of Six of Crows that seemed far too obvious for its own good. I slapped on a half star to my rating since Kuhn’s writing style had moments of being good, but that’s about all of the positives I can think of for this book. 1.5 stars.

Among Thieves is M.J. Kuhn’s debut novel, and the first novel in the Thieves series, followed by the forthcoming Thick as Thieves, slated to be published in 2023.

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 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!