Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/23/23) – Only a Monster

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

This book has been on my radar for quite some time—I’m always up for a good urban fantasy every once in a while, and the V.E. Schwab comparison had me hesitantly optimistic. I figured it would be a good read for AAPI Heritage Month, but…alas, it was such a mess, and ultimately not worth my time.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Only a Monster (Monsters, #1) – Vanessa Len

Joan is set to have the perfect summer. She’s staying in London with her late mother’s side of the family, amidst historical buildings, a steady job (with a handsome co-worker, Nick), and the smell of magic in the air. But when a disaster leaves most of her family dead, Joan is confronted with an ugly truth—she comes from a long line of time-stealing monsters. Worse still, the handsome Nick comes from a long line of monster hunters. Can Joan hone her powers before the monster hunters track her down?

TW/CW (from Vanessa Len): murder, violence, blood, loss of loved ones (on & off-page), substance abuse, xenophobia (fantasy), racism, interrogation, brainwashing, weapon use

DNF at 27%.

Before I get into my rant: I’ll always appreciate how much time and love it takes to write a book and put it out there. Any kind of creative output like this is highly admirable, and I can give this novel a certain degree of slack knowing that it’s Vanessa Len’s debut novel. That being said, Only a Monster really wasn’t it for me, and sometimes 1-star rants can be good for the soul as long as they aren’t actively hurting anybody. Gotta air it all out sometimes.

I went into Only a Monster expecting for it to be a nice break from some of the denser books I’d just read—something fun, something charmingly over-the-top. And…well, the over-the-top element was very much present, but not in a good way at all. From what I read of this novel, it was really just a mess that lacked any sort of nuance whatsoever.

We had the setup right from the start—a monsters versus monster-hunters conflict, “Joan is not the hero of this story,” et cetera, et cetera. Before reading this, I figured a lot of that language was just going to be for the sake of putting a nice hook on the front cover and other marketing purposes; I assumed that the book was going to get into some of the morally gray (as much of a buzzword that’s become with books these days) aspects of that conflict, but…no. From the get-go, we’re hit over the head with a comically large sledgehammer that JOAN IS NOT THE HERO OF THE STORY!!! and that BEING A MONSTER IS BAD BAD BAD!! and that MONSTERS AND HEROES!!!! DO NOT MIX!!! EVER!!! It’s not so much a theme so much as it is a metal pipe that gets painfully shoved down your throat. It got to the point where I felt like it was insulting my intelligence—I didn’t need to be told all this over and over. I really didn’t. Jeez. It could’ve been developed somewhat compellingly, but….no.

Beyond that, I didn’t know going in to Only a Monster that there was going to be a dreaded love triangle, which…[EXTREMELY LOUD INCORRECT BUZZER]

If there’s anything that can instantly ruin a book, it’s that. THERE’S NO NEED. And the setup wasn’t even anything that hasn’t been done before—each love interest is on one side of the conflict (monster and monster-hunter), and while I didn’t care to stick around to find out how it was resolved, I had a feeling that it would end up as a trash fire. What I did manage to get, however, was the description of Nick as “stupidly good-looking.” Can we please, as a society, get rid of this? Please? It’s starting to become just like “she let out a breath she didn’t know she was holding” at this point. Again: zero nuance.

All in all, a bitter disappointment of a book that lacked the creativity and nuance that the blurb and reviews promised. 1 star.

Only a Monster is the first in Vanessa Len’s Monsters trilogy, which will continue with Never a Hero (slated for release this August) and an untitled third book.

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 (5/16/23) – The Isles of the Gods

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

If my constant blabbing about Aurora Rising from the past four years should bring you to any conclusion, it’s probably that I’m a massive Amie Kaufman fan. So when I heard that she was making her solo YA debut this year, I was BEYOND excited!! I immediately preordered, and it came right when I’d just finished up my first year of college—the perfect present! And even though I’ll always pick sci-fi over fantasy, if anybody can make a fantasy that I’ll give 5 stars, it’s Amie Kaufman.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Isles of the Gods (The Isles of the Gods, #1) – Amie Kaufman

Selly has the ocean in her blood.

She’s been tagging along with her father on the high seas since she was a baby, but now, he’s left Selly to her own devices in the port town of Kirkpool. Intent on tracking him down, she tries to set sail, only for her plans to go awry at the hands of Prince Leander, who wants to hitch a ride for his own gain—to seek out the storied Isles of the Gods, where the ruling deities of her world are fabled to be laying in a restless, dormant sleep. But when a disastrous assassination attempt leaves Selly and her crew stranded, she has no choice to trust Leander—and make it to the Isles no matter the cost.

isles ft. some rainy trees

TW/CW: murder, graphic violence, abandonment, assassination, fatal vehicle explosion

From what I can tell, The Isles of the Gods is a book around a decade in the making, a passion project that Amie Kaufman had been crafting relentlessly in between releasing some of her other collaborative novels. So there’s automatically 10 years of love in this novel—and boy, it really did show.

I’ve preferred sci-fi to fantasy for years, but leave it to Amie Kaufman to craft a fresh setting that kept me turning the page for hours! I’m already a sucker for pirates in fantasy, and that aspect was executed with just the right balance of campy fun and nail-biting stakes. And after parsing through all of the rich facets of the world that Kaufman created, it’s left me with one question: what’s keeping authors from creating more industrial/advanced fantasy settings? Consider me done with fantasies with automatically medieval settings, can we do more 1920’s-inspired fantasies that don’t just focus on the jazz age stuff? I didn’t know I could possibly yearn for the melding of magicians and old-timey cars quite this much, but I’ll say it once and I’ll say it again: if anybody can do it, IT’S AMIE KAUFMAN.

Kaufman’s writing, as it always is, was the real star of the show in The Isles of the Gods. There’s something instantly transporting about her prose—from the first sentence, I felt dunked headfirst into this lush, rich world, from the gripping prologue to the delightfully suspenseful final sequence. Maybe this is just a consequence of me being so attached to her writing style, but she has such a way of drawing you into the story in record time. Every book is a little world in and of itself, but hers never cease to feel tangible. Reading fantasies with sea settings are always fun for me, being about as landlocked as you can get here in the U.S., but reading this reminded me of a passage from Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, about the protagonist imagining that the rain pattering against his window at night was waves on the hull of a ship. Good thing it was pouring rain when I was reading this book.

And speaking of Kaufman’s writing—now that I’ve seen her solo and collaborative works, I can say with certainty how clever of a writer she is. She sets up common conflicts that threaten to drag down the book, but whips them into cunningly-subverted left turns that kept me guessing all through the novel. A whole bunch of characters that you *can’t* quite tell apart, but are still personally relevant to the protagonist? Oh look, a botched assassination attempt that gets rid of them! Have a lovable but borderline one-note character who hasn’t had the chance to prove themself? Put that sorry little man in a Situation!™️ It may be diabolical, but it made my enjoyment of the book increase that much more—nothing like trope subversion and avoidance left and right to keep you on your toes.

As for the characters, I’m not quite as attached to them as I was with the squad of the Aurora Cycle, for example, but that’s way too high a bar, even if it’s still Amie Kaufman, but I did adore a lot of them! There was clearly so much love and care put into Selly, and it showed—she had a beautiful arc, and she was such a determined and lovable character to root for. Leander’s type of character—the charming, spoiled prince that the protagonist can’t help but fall for—has been done since time immemorial, but Kaufman’s take on the trope resulted in some lovely laughs and a slow-burn romance done right!

And…yes, I felt a little too called out by Keegan. The “bookworm who hasn’t seen the light of day in way too long” was already there, but…dude. I just shaved my head in January. DUDE. AMIE KAUFMAN, STOP PEEKING INTO MY BRAIN LIKE THAT. YOU COME INTO MY HOUSE, AND YOU MAKE A GENDER-SWAPPED CHARACTER OF ME?

Jude and Laskia (especially the former) didn’t get quite as much page time, but they were incredibly intriguing as not-quite-antagonists, but puppeteering each other and subsequently being puppets to political forces beyond their control. I kept getting hints that Laskia was going to turn to Selly/Leander/Keegan’s side, but now that we’ve seen ✨the cliffhanger,✨ the future is uncertain…hmm. I didn’t quite get the promised “squad” vibe that the blurb promised, but I have a feeling that the two camps are going to merge sooner than later…

Also, we love an absolutely Indiana Jones final sequence. NAILED the fantasy brand of campy.

One sidenote—Amie Kaufman said several times that Isles was going to have LGBTQ+ rep, and all we really got was the lesbian couple that appeared for a total of…maybe three pages? Which, yeah, that’s all well and good, but the question that many readers had about said rep was if any of the protagonists were going to be queer, and…so far, nothing? As much as I loved this book, I can’t help but be a little disappointed on that front.

All in all, a gripping, cinematic, and utterly lovable solo venture from one of my favorite authors. 4.75 stars, rounded up to 5!

bonus Hobbes content

The Isles of the Gods is the first in a planned duology, concluding with an unnamed final book slated for release in 2024. Amie Kaufman is also the co-author of the Illuminae Files, the Aurora Cycle (with Jay Kristoff), the Starbound trilogy, and the Other Side of the Sky duology (with Meagan Spooner). On her own, she is the author of the middle grade Elementals trilogy.

Today’s song:

loving this album hnnnnngh

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

The Bookish Mutant’s Books for AAPI Heritage Month (2023 Edition)

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles! I wrote most of this post in advance, but as of now, I’m about to move out of my dorm!! I HAVE SUCCESSFULLY FINISHED MY FIRST YEAR OF COLLEGE!!

Here in the U.S., May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and I’ve compiled another list of book recommendations for the occasion! Diverse reading shouldn’t be restricted to a single month, but it’s so important to amplify marginalized—in this case, AAPI—voices during this month. My lists serve as guides to read during not just their respective months, but any time you’d like.

However, this year is a little different. Even though I’m too lazy to change the header image (sometimes you’ve gotta be a bit stingy with your media space), I’ve decided to put both YA and adult books on this list. I’ve started to read more adult books in the past few years, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t include some of these books on this list. So it’s a slightly wider pool to choose from this year—read at your leisure!

If you’d like to see my past lists, click below:

Enjoy these recommendations!




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

Today’s song:


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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (4/25/23) – Social Queue

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Earlier this month, I was looking for some books with autism rep for Autism Acceptance Month. I stumbled upon this one on a Goodreads list, and it seemed like a fun read. And while I did have some problems with the writing style, it was a solid romance through the lens of a young Autistic woman!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Social Queue – Kay Kerr

18-year-old Zoe is determined to turn over a new leaf. After a string of bad experiences in high school, she lands an internship at an online media company, where she writes pieces about her dating experiences—or lack thereof. But when these pieces get noticed by some of her old high school classmates, Zoe must reassess her idea of romance—and if taking second chances is worth it at all.

TW/CW: ableism, police brutality, bullying, sensory overload, misogyny

I found this one mostly on a whim (the quest for good disability rep never ends) and figured that it would be a good read for Autism Acceptance Month this year. And…I’ve come out of it with mixed feelings. I did like it, and I’d say it was a solid read. But I just had such a hard time getting into the writing, and while I loved all of the discussions around autism and disabled identity in general, they often came out very forced.

Let’s start with the good stuff. Zoe was a great protagonist, and she was the perfect fit for this kind of story. Although I wished we could have seen some more personality from her, I loved the journey of self-love and acceptance that she goes on over the course of this book. She had great character development, and her interactions with the other characters felt authentic and genuine. I can’t speak to how accurately her autism was depicted, but as a neurodivergent person, a lot of it felt very authentic, what with the sensory overload and whatnot. Either way, it’s always incredibly refreshing to see disabled characters/stories actually being written by disabled authors, so Kay Kerr deserves a thank you just for that.

There were some great conversations about autism and about disability in general as well in Social Queue! Zoe’s experiences—especially with her well-intentioned but ultimately harmful coworker trying to write about disabled issues—were so important to have in a book, and Kerr handled all of them very well. I loved the emphasis on restructuring the language we use around disabled people, especially removing the context of disability automatically being synonymous with suffering and doing away with the narrative of “overcoming” one’s disability. Social Queue raises so many questions that are so often left out of conversations about disability (and in feminism in general), and even as a piece of fiction, it works as a good primer for somebody looking into disabled issues.

That being said, some of the situations which Kerr tried to implement said conversations about disability came off as forced to me. For instance, early on in the novel, Zoe witnesses an instance of police brutality directed at an Autistic man. While this is a great starting point for conversations about disability and police brutality, it felt…blatantly like a plot device, like this horrifying instance of police brutality was set up just so that these conversations could be had in the book. Even though said conversations stemming from it were worth having, the placement and writing of it just made such a horrifying thing into nothing more than a conversation starter. Didn’t leave the best taste in my mouth.

I think part of why that instance didn’t work was because of Kerr’s writing style. Just like the cover, which looks like it was made in 15 minutes on Canva, nothing about it felt very distinct; none of the characters had unique voices, and most of the descriptions of the plot were mostly concerned with going from point A to point B without much embellishment. I’m not saying that Kerr should’ve gone headfirst with the purple prose, but the writing felt so dry that it needed some kind of embellishment, anything to make it more interesting. Even though Zoe was a solid character, this writing made for a significant amount of disconnect between her and some of the other characters that we were supposed to sympathize with.

Additionally, the romance aspect was iffy for me. I loved the premise of Zoe reconnecting with people from her high school and exploring her sexuality, but since the writing was so bland, most of said love interests were interchangeable to me. The only distinguishing factor was a) one of them was a girl (we love to see characters questioning their sexualities, though!! good stuff), and b) that one of them was a creep. That was pretty much it. Also, the fact that Zoe ended up with Gabe after all that infuriated me. I get forgiving and forgetting, but if a guy makes a WHOLE CLASS PRESENTATION about how you’re “so inspiring” just because you’re disabled, I WOULDN’T EVEN CONSIDER GIVING HIM A SECOND CHANCE. WHY. Apologies aren’t even enough at that point. That’s just disgusting. And I’m glad that they did cover that, but…Zoe. Bestie. You can do so much better than him. There was a lot of “he was mean to you because he had a crush on you, so it’s fine” action in Social Queue as a whole too, which rubbed me the wrong way, but Gabe was the most offensive for me.

All in all, a romance novel that did a good job of representing disabled and Autistic issues, but was let down on several occasions by its bland writing. 3 stars.

Social Queue is a standalone, but Kay Kerr is also the author of Please Don’t Hug Me and Love & Autism.

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 Uncategorized

Book Review Tuesday (4/11/23) – Stars & Smoke

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Here’s the thing—I’m not sure if I would read this book if it weren’t for Marie Lu. It’s not the kind of story that I would normally pick up, but if I’ve learned one thing as a longtime fan, it’s that she’s deft at writing for a variety of different genres. After finishing Stars and Smoke, it proved my point—I probably wouldn’t have read it otherwise, but it was still a fun read.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Stars and Smoke (Stars and Smoke, #1) – Marie Lu

Winter Young is on top of the world. The former backup dancer has had a meteoric rise to fame with his solo career, with sold-out tours and chart-topping albums every year. But his talents are wanted elsewhere—as a spy.

For Sydney Cosette, Winter is the key to taking down Eli Morrison, a prominent crime boss. After Morrison’s daughter, Penelope, requests a private concert for her birthday, Sydney and her colleagues recruit him for the Panacea Group, a spy organization willing to do the dirty work that most won’t do. Winter is the perfect opportunity to infiltrate Eli Morrison’s rank—and take him down for good. But sparks are flying between Winter and Sydney—sparks that could compromise the mission itself…

TW/CW: poisoning, murder, loss of loved ones

I’ve been a fan of Marie Lu since middle school, and she’s become an autobuy author for me, no matter the story—in my experience, she’s shown herself to be incredibly versatile when it comes to hopping genres. When I saw the description for this book, I knew one thing: I probably wouldn’t have read this book had her name been on it. It didn’t seem like my type of story. And although that’s still true, Marie Lu gave it her best shot at that magic touch that she applies to every novel she writes.

Lu said that in the acknowledgements that after the pandemic and all of the chaos and awful things that have happened as of late, this book was meant to be a piece of light escapism to distract from it all. Given how dark some of her works have gotten, I really respect creating a book just for that purpose—some days you can’t swallow a whole, literary masterpiece full of emotional turmoil. And as with every other novel she’s written, Lu achieves that goal perfectly. Stars and Smoke is pure fun—it’s the YA version of an action-packed blockbuster, filled with fun and romance. Lu keeps the plot and pace going steadily, and I never found myself getting bored.

However, even though most of the book hinged on the premise of said romance, it barely felt fleshed out. In the last 2-3 years, I’ve seen the “enemies to lovers” trope being slapped on advertisements and blurbs for books as a selling point from its popularity from both fan fiction and BookTok. Listen—I adore the dynamic when it’s done well, but the trope has become such a buzzword that a lot of authors seem to have forgotten what it’s really about. All too often, the stretch between “enemies” and “lovers” is virtually nonexistent, making for a half-baked romance that ends up feeling like it has no chemistry—going to complete disgust to head-over-heels in love in no time at all.

Stars and Smoke, unfortunately, fell into this trap as well, which is frankly surprising, since Marie Lu has done enemies-to-lovers (and romance in general) well before. Winter and Sydney seemed to have hardly any chemistry at all—they seemed to go from “eh, I really don’t want to work with [x]” (and vice versa) to “excuse me while I write a chart-topping love confession for [x]” in a very short span of time. The “enemies” part was very understated too—not that I’m complaining, but if anything, it was more “mild annoyance to sorta lovers, I guess” than anything. Again: enemies to lovers has become a complete buzzword. Trope terms are helpful, but love is often more complicated than that, and the key to getting them right is to recognize the nuance beyond the basic premise of the trope.

All in all, a light, fun novel that lacked in the romance department, but delivered in the pure escapism that it promised. 3.5 stars!

Stars and Smoke is the first in a planned duology, concluding with an as-of-yet unnamed sequel set to be released sometime in 2024. Marie Lu is also the author of the Legend series (Legend, Prodigy, Champion, and Rebel), the Young Elites trilogy (The Young Elites, The Rose Society, and The Midnight Star), the Warcross duology (Warcross and Wildcard), the standalone Kingdom of Back, the Skyhunter duology (Skyhunter and Steelstriker), and many other books for children and young adults.

Today’s song:

criminally short

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

Posted in Books

Feminist YA Books for Women’s History Month (2023 Edition)

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles, and more importantly, Happy International Women’s Day!

Aside from that, the month of March in the U.S. is Women’s History Month! These past few years have been tumultuous for women here in the U.S. and elsewhere, with the attacks on bodily autonomy being some of the most violent in recent years. But despite it all, we cannot lose hope—by lifting each other up, we can foster an environment that respects women as equals. And as I’ve always said, literature is resistance: it isn’t just real-life heroes that can inspire us to incite change—fictional heroines can have just the same effect. So for the occasion, I’ve gathered even more feminist YA book recommendations.

For my previous lists, click below:

Enjoy these book recommendations!


Most Likely, Sarah Watson

GENRES: Contemporary, realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

An intersectional story that weaves together the lives of four girls in their senior year of high school—one of which will become the president of the United States.

Extasia, Claire Legrand

GENRES: Dystopia, paranormal, horror, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Claire Legrand has made another gem of a feminist novel—this time, a chilling tale of unseen beasts and hidden power.

One for All, Lillie Lainoff

GENRES: Historical fiction, retellings

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

A genderbent retelling of The Three Musketeers with a disabled, swordfighting protagonist—actually by a disabled author too!

Hollow Fires, Samira Ahmed

GENRES: Contemporary, realistic fiction, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Samira Ahmed always ends up showing up on these lists, and for good reason—she’s never missed with any of her raw and fiercely feminist novels, and Hollow Fires is no exception.

The Most Dazzling Girl in Berlin, Kip Wilson

GENRES: Historical fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

A beautiful novel in verse about two queer girls who perform in a cabaret in 1930’s Berlin.

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School, Sonora Reyes

GENRES: Contemporary, realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A fantastic novel about a lesbian Mexican-American girl navigating a Catholic high school—and her budding feelings for a classmate.

Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo

GENRES: Historical fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A raw but tender love story of two queer, Chinese-American girls in 1950’s Chinatown.

Cool. Awkward. Black. – Edited by Karen Strong (anthology)

GENRES: Fiction, fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

An anthology of Black stories of all genres, but with a particular focus on geek culture!

The Reckless Kind, Carly Heath

GENRES: Historical fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ve described this one enough times, but I promise that I will NEVER shut up about how meaningful this book is. Just go read it. TRUST ME.

Follow Your Arrow, Jessica Verdi

GENRES: Contemporary, realistic fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Though this book was far from perfect, I think it’s still worth it to put on this list; the writing and romance weren’t great, but Follow Your Arrow has plenty of timely discussions around bisexuality and how we treat queer women.


The Trouble With White Women: A Counterhistory of Feminism, Kyla Schuller

GENRES: nonfiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Although this list was intended to be just for YA and fiction, I’d be remiss if I made a post about feminism and didn’t include this book. The Trouble With White Women presents a view on feminism that is necessary for moving past simply white feminism, and presents the feminist movement through those on the margins, such as Frances Harper, Pauli Murray, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. It’s seriously one of the best nonfiction books I’ve read in ages—on any subject matter.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What did you think of the books on this list? What are your favorite feminist YA books? Let me know in the comments!

Today’s song:

Most of the Warpaint I’ve heard hasn’t done much for me (aside from their great cover of “Ashes to Ashes”), but I love the quietness of this one!

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

Posted in Books

YA & Adult Reads for Black History Month (2023 Edition)

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

February has just rolled around, and in the U.S., the month of February is Black History Month! Ever since I’ve started interacting more with the book blogging community, I’ve been working on reading more diversely, and making posts like these to encourage others to do the same—reading from a single, homogenous perspective is effectively reading in a bubble, when part of what makes reading so special is its ability to give you an easily accessible insight into the perspectives of others.

But this year, the theme of Black History Month is Black Resistance. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how that relates to YA; a good portion YA literature is inherently tied to resistance and anti-authority sentiments. And yes, part of that may be teenagers rebelling against their parents, but it also instills so much power into its impressionable teen audience: even though you’re young, you have the power to change the world. Now that YA has become more diverse in recent years, it has shown that resistance is even more tangible. That tyrannical, dystopian government that the protagonist must defeat can be translated into real-word terms: systemic racism, police brutality, and so much more. Teaching teenagers (and everybody else, for that matter) that they have that power to change the world is such an important thing, because they will grow up knowing that they can enact the same changes as the characters they read about.

That being said, I have been shifting to read more adult books in the past few years, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about some of the amazing books by adult Black authors as well. I’m too lazy to change the graphic, but I’m also going to include some adult-oriented books in here as well.

So with that, here are some of the YA and adult books by Black authors I’ve read in the past year. If you’d like to see my posts from previous years, click below:

Let’s begin, shall we?


White Smoke, Tiffany D. Jackson

GENRES: YA, horror, thriller, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Tiffany D. Jackson has a talent for building suspense, but this is the first time I’ve seen her do a full-blown horror novel—and it was exceptionally chilling!

Noor, Nnedi Okorafor

GENRES: Adult, science fiction, Afrofuturism

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

A wildly imaginative piece of Afrofuturism with a disabled protagonist!

Skin of the Sea, Natasha Bowen

GENRES: YA, fantasy, retellings

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

YA mermaid novels have historically been disappointing for me, but Skin of the Sea gave me hope that a good one is possible—and there can be so many creative twists and perspectives put on it!

Blackout, Dhonielle Clayton et. al. (anthology)

GENRES: YA, fiction, romance, short stories (anthology)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

A collection of short stories about different romances during a blackout in New York City!

The Final Strife (Ending Fire, #1), Saara El-Arifi

GENRES: Adult, fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

A fantasy with exceptional worldbuilding, an unlikely chosen one, and a sapphic romance!

Vinyl Moon, Mahogany L. Browne

GENRES: YA, realistic fiction, novels in verse

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Half prose and half novel-in-verse, Vinyl Moon is a beautiful story of healing and friendship.

Binti (Binti, #1), Nnedi Okorafor

GENRES: Adult, science fiction, space opera

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Normally, I wouldn’t double up on authors, but Nnedi Okorafor really deserves it here—I still need to finish this series, but it’s so charming and inventive!

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are some of your favorite books by Black authors that you’ve read recently? Tell me in the comments!

Today’s song:

somehow I didn’t know that this song existed until a few days ago, and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it since

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (1/10/23) – The Heartbreak Bakery

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

I’ve been a fan of A.R. Capetta ever since I read the Once & Future duology, and when I was looking for a sweet rom-com to read the other day, the opportunity presented itself in this book. I’m glad to say that this is proof that Capetta almost never misses—a tender and sweet (no pun. intended) celebration of queerness and baking!

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Heartbreak Bakery – A.R. Capetta

Syd loves nothing more than baking—especially when it’s at the Proud Muffin, the queer-run bakery at the center of Austin’s queer community. After a nasty breakup, Syd deals with it in signature Syd fashion—by baking all the frustrations and bad feelings out into a batch of brownies. But when Syd’s frustrations works its way into the brownies and causes everyone that eats them to have relationship troubles, Syd has to fix the issue how it began—with baking. Throw in the cute delivery-person, and Syd has to avoid a recipe for disaster…

TW/CW: gender dysphoria

this book: has several jokes about the fact that it’s still possible to have a bad hair day even when you’ve shaved your head

me, having just shaved my head: [chuckles] “I’m in danger!”

I came into The Heartbreak Bakery just for a queer romance to tide me over, and I can now say with certainty that A.R. Capetta never misses! This piece of magical realism is a love letter to queer communities and spaces, and it made my heart so happy.

First off, this is easily one of the most diverse rom-coms that I’ve ever read! Syd is the first main character that I’ve read that’s agender, and the main relationship is between Syd and Harley, another nonbinary character! I think the entire cast is queer—a gay couple owns the Proud Muffin, there’s a polyamorous couple on the side, and there are queer characters of all identities as side characters, and many of them are POC as well! Capetta never shies away from unapologetic queerness, but it particularly shone in The Heartbreak Bakery.

The magical realism aspect was also fantastic, and it also culminated into a theme that I thought was incredibly important. I liked the ambiguity of where it came from, but the concept of putting tangible feelings into baking that have a visible ripple effect had me on board instantly. It served to show a great theme: the feelings that you put into anything, be it a project, a relationship, or a batch of brownies, is what you’re going to get out of it. If you pour all of your negativity into something, that’s exactly what’s going to come out of it. The Heartbreak Bakery takes the concept very literally—brownies that make couples break up, cakes that make you apologize, et cetera—but it was a great theme to explore. I do feel like some of the problems being almost immediately solved by the “apology cake” were a tad bit too easy for Syd to maneuver, but I’m glad Capetta made it more complicated—having Marisol eat the cake by accident, for example. (I wish I had a physical copy of the book on hand—some of those recipes looked good!)

My only major qualm with The Heartbreak Bakery was the pacing. I’m all for slower, gentler books, but it felt like the main points of conflict were unevenly spaced. For instance, the final climax of the bake-off felt far too rushed for me; given how much hinged on the outcome, it should’ve gotten a lot more page time than it did. Some of the interim scenes between the main points of conflict should’ve been shortened in favor of the more important, plot/character building scenes. It was a great novel to start with, but I could’ve done with a little tweaking with the pacing and the importance placed on certain scenes.

All in all, an incredibly sweet (no pun intended) magical-realism romance that reads as an ode to baking, queerness, community, and love itself. 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

The Heartbreak Bakery is a standalone, but A.R. Capetta is also the author of The Lost Coast, the Once & Future duology (co-authored with Cory McCarthy), Echo After Echo, and several other books.

Today’s song:

man I have so many memories of hearing this song when I was a kid

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 (11/15/22) – She Gets the Girl

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles! Even more snow today…

I initially put She Gets the Girl on my TBR because of so much buzz from my fellow bloggers, and I like to go for a queer romance every once in a while. I read it recently and I liked that it was from the perspective of a freshman in college (hey, it’s me!), but beyond that, it felt more like a mess of unlikeable characters and uncomfortable peer pressure instead of feel-good romance.

Enjoy this week’s review!

She Gets the Girl – Rachael Lippincott and Alyson Derrick

Alex Blackwood is entering college on the heels of a nasty breakup. Molly Parker is looking for love, and she’s in luck—her longtime crush, Cora Myers, is attending the same college as her. Problem is, Molly’s hopelessly awkward, especially around people she likes. When she and Alex have a chance encounter, they hatch a plan for Alex to polish up Molly’s flirting skills so that she can get the girl. But when Molly starts falling for Alex instead of Cora, the end goal becomes hazy…

TW/CW: alcoholism, toxic relationships, internalized racism, substance abuse

It’s all fun and games until the romance you picked up because you wanted it to be somewhat “feel-good” turns out to be…more uncomfortable than feel-good. It’s even harder when you hate one of the characters, and harder still when the two main characters seem to have hardly any chemistry. That’s the story of She Gets the Girl—a romance with an easy enough concept that was dragged down by forced and unlikable elements.

I’m sorry, I just have to get it out of the way: I hated Alex Blackwood. Hated her. It was clear that the authors were trying to make her a rough-around-the-edges character that would a) contrast Molly’s uptight and awkward personality and b) push her out of her comfort zone, which was a good enough pairing in concept. Key words here are “in concept.” What Alex ended up being was a total hypocrite—she’s so intent on being the opposite of her toxic ex, but turns around and manages to be just as toxic, just in a different way. And the whole concept of pushing Molly out of her comfort zone so that she can get with Cora? Most of it just ended up being Alex forcing Molly to do things that she was deeply uncomfortable with.

Thus, Molly and Alex had almost zero chemistry. Their entire relationship was built on the shaky foundation of knowing that they would end up together by the end of the book, and not much else. Everything was just…so forced. It’s heavily implied that Cora wasn’t a good option either since, yes, it as forced, but…I really don’t think dating Alex would’ve been a great option either, seeing as how much of a manipulative jerk she was to Molly. Proposed third option: Molly just takes off and finds better friends/lovers that…y’know, aren’t toxic?

That brings me to the weird message of this book. Throughout the book, all of the things that Alex pushes Molly to do to win Cora’s love involve changing herself in some way: changing her wardrobe into things she would normally be uncomfortable wearing, going to events that you have no experience in just to fit in with Cora, etc. It was sort of resolved by the relationship with Cora not working out, but Alex’s “advice” boiled down to Molly changing herself so that Cora would like her. I suppose they were trying to go with a “be true to yourself” message, which I really would’ve liked, but they resolved it by…pairing Molly with Alex, the one who was trying to force Molly to change in the first place. And Alex never apologizes for any of that—they just fall in love and then move on. Hence—no chemistry. No repercussions, save for the fling with Cora not working out. All that really happened was Alex’s manipulative actions being rewarded, which really rubbed me the wrong way. Even though Molly and Alex got into an argument about that, there was no sense of Alex taking responsibility for forcing Molly into all that uncomfortable stuff. I really wish Lippincott and Derrick had handled their relationship—and the message—better. She Gets the Girl had an easy way to send a good message, but it ended up bungling it all in the end.

There were a few aspects of She Gets the Girl that I did like. It’s always nice to have a mixed race character, and having Molly be mixed race really freshened things up, as well as some of the discussions about internalized racism. Even though I still despise Alex, the way they handled the situation with her mother was also respectfully handled—hard to read, but it seemed genuine to me. However, a lot of this ended up being overshadowed by how much of a mess the rest of the book was.

Overall, a romance that stumbled and fell when creating chemistry between the two characters, making for an uncomfortable book—and an uncomfortable message. 2 stars.

She Gets the Girl is a standalone, and the first and only book that Rachael Lippincott has written with her wife, Alyson Derrick. Lippincott is also the author of Five Feet Apart and All This Time (both co-written with Mikki Daughtry), as well as The Lucky List.

Today’s song:

listened to the whole album yesterday! it was one of those cases where I listened to all of the best songs beforehand so the rest of the album wasn’t *as* good (still good though), but it’s a great album

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 (7/26/22) – Follow Your Arrow

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Ever read a book because of one aspect people have been telling you about? That was me about Follow Your Arrow—I don’t know if I would have picked it up if not for several people telling me how good the bi rep was. And you know how much of a sucker I am for good bi rep. So I picked it up—and yes, the bi rep and discussions around biphobia were great, but the rest of the story I found to be a little lacking.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Follow Your Arrow – Jessica Verdi

CeCe Ross is an influencer with nearly a million followers. Her relationship with her girlfriend of two years, Silvie, has gained an extensive following, with thousands of fawning followers making #Cevie all the rage. But when she and Silvie break up, her life is turned upside-down—both on and offline. To make matters more complicated, she’s met Josh, a musician who has no idea about her online following. Will she be able to reckon with the storm she’s stirred up online—and keep her secret from Josh?

TW/CW: Biphobia, cyberbullying, homophobia

My feelings about Follow Your Arrow can essentially be summed up by that one Reductress article—“Why I Couldn’t Care Less About Your Relationsh—Oh, It’s Gay? Tell Me More.” I don’t think I would’ve picked up this book if not for several people telling me about how great the bisexual rep was, and I liked it on that front. However, it was definitely lacking for me in some of the other departments.

So, the bisexual rep! That aspect of Follow Your Arrow was what stood out most to me, and it was the most well-executed aspect of the book! Verdi did a fantastic job of discussing so many aspects of bisexuality and biphobia, especially about the stigmas of bisexual people in straight-passing relationships. Even though some of the social media aspects of the book weren’t very well-done (more on that later), the backdrop of social media was a perfect setting for CeCe to come into her own. There’s so much discussion about how bisexual people are pigeonholed as simply straight or gay, depending on their relationship, and how even within the queer community, there’s still so much biphobia present. Follow Your Arrow is a solid book for anyone who wants to learn more about bisexuality, and Verdi did a great job of representing it respectfully.

As far as the other aspects of the book…I wasn’t quite as invested. The romance, although the representation of bi people in a straight-passing relationship was great, didn’t hold a lot for me. It’s a pretty standard setup—”she’s an influencer, he’s a hipster musician who doesn’t even have social media! oh boy, how will this work out? he doesn’t even know what ‘ship’ means, tee hee!” It didn’t help that neither CeCe nor Josh were characterized much more beyond a few base character traits. The combination of the cliche pairing without much of an original spin on it (other than CeCe being bi) and the lack of characterization for both parties made me lose interest more than not.

I also had an issue with the writing—it tried way too hard not to date itself, but it ended up backfiring spectacularly. Even though app names (Instagram, Twitter, etc.) weren’t specifically mentioned (there was only the mysterious App…oookay) , the slang peppered in and the excessive use of hashtags at the end of every other paragraph made it feel painfully like a Gen X-er trying to sound “hip.” (How do you do, fellow kids?) CeCe’s status as an influencer didn’t make the hashtags make any more sense—I doubt that even influencers think in random hashtags. It felt weird. Additionally, Follow Your Arrow couldn’t seem to make up its mind about the message it was trying to share about social media; all it got was that there are good and bad aspects of social media, but it never got much more nuanced than that. Given how large of a role social media played in this book, I wish that were more developed.

All in all, a decent rom-com with great discussions around biphobia and bisexuality, but not-so-great writing and an underdeveloped romance. 3 stars.

Follow Your Arrow is a standalone, but Jessica Verdi is also the author of And She Was (really hoping that’s a Talking Heads reference lol), The Summer I Wasn’t Me, What You Left Behind, and several other novels.

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!