Posted in Books

🏳️‍🌈🏳️‍⚧️YA Pride Month Recs (2022 Edition) – Sci-fi🏳️‍⚧️🏳️‍🌈

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

Once again, happy pride month! I hope all my fellow queer folks are taking care of themselves this month (and all the time) and finding tons of wonderful queer stuff to read. If nobody’s told you this lately, you are loved, you are valid, you are beautiful, and nobody has any say in your identity except for YOU.

For the past few years, I’ve been compiling YA recommendations of LGBTQ+ books for pride month; back in 2020, I was able to go by genre (click the links for sci-fi, contemporary, fantasy, and historical fiction), but last year, I just compiled my favorites I’d read since then in one post (click here for 2021’s recs). I was planning on doing the same thing as 2021, but my list got so long that I’ve decided to stagger it by genre again. So first off, here are my recs for queer YA sci-fi!

Let’s begin, shall we?

🏳️‍🌈THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S 2022 YA PRIDE MONTH RECS: SCI-FI 🏳️‍🌈

Spellhacker, M.K. England

LGBTQ+ REP: queer MC, nonbinary LI, several wlw and mlm side relationships

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This one technically could’ve gone in fantasy or sci-fi, but it leaned more to the latter for me, which is to say this is a fascinating mix of genres! Perfect for readers looking for a book like Six of Crows or The Gilded Wolves with a more futuristic twist.

Gearbreakers, Zoe Hana Mikuta

LGBTQ+ REP: Both MCs are sapphic, wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Queer cyborg girls taking down a tyrannical empire and falling in love—what’s not to love? I can’t wait to read the sequel!!

The Darkness Outside Us, Eliot Schrefer

LGBTQ+ REP: Queer MC (doesn’t use labels), gay love interest, mlm relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

One of my absolute favorite reads from last year—mind-bending, suspenseful, and above all, an infinitely potent testament to the power of love.

Iron Widow, Xiran Jay Zhao

LGBTQ+ REP: Queer MC and love interests, polyamorous relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I know I’ve gone on and on about this book ever since I read it, but if patriarchy-smashing via robots doesn’t entice you, then I’m not sure what will. Go read it!

The Grief Keeper, Alexandra Villasante

LGBTQ+ REP: Lesbian MC, sapphic love interest, wlw relationship

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Grief Keeper is so many things, and all of them are wonderfully well-written—a commentary on how the U.S. treats its immigrants, an exploration of grief, and a beautiful queer coming-of-age story.

The Kindred, Alechia Dow

LGBTQ+ REP: Demisexual/asexual MC, queer MC

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Alechia Dow always delivers for diverse sci-fi stories with tons of heart, and this book is no exception!

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

Today’s song:

not a single bad song on this album

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (5/31/22) – Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak (Unstoppable, #2)

Hi again, bibliophiles!

I liked the first book in Charlie Jane Anders’ Unstoppable trilogy, Victories Greater Than Death, so when I saw book 2 at the bookstore the other day, I figured I’d give it a shot. I ended up giving it the same rating as book 1, but for different reasons; it felt like a middle book, but that wasn’t always a bad thing.

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Victories Greater Than Death. If you have not read it and intend to, proceed with caution!

For my review of Victories Greater Than Death, click here!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak (Unstoppable, #2) – Charlie Jane Anders

Tina and her band of unlikely heroes have saved the universe—for now. But what comes next?

Tina has begun her studies at the Royal Space Academy, but every day, she’s still haunted by her transformation. As she begins to lose her former self, she questions whether or not her duty is worth it. Elza, already feeling distanced from Tina, enters a competition to become a princess, but is faced with the ghosts of the past in the famed Palace of Scented Tears. And Rachael, the quiet artist of the group, is struggling with the loss of her artistic abilities after a run-in with a strange artifact. All the while, the threat of the xenophobic Compassion is on the rise, and if it’s to be stopped, the three friends must reunite amidst their personal struggles.

TW/CW: sci-fi violence, murder, xenophobia, anxiety, descriptions of injury

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak had the unmistakable feel of a middle book. However, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy it.

Despite some of its shortcomings, Charlie Jane Anders’ brand of space opera is a breath of fresh air in the world of YA science fiction. The worlds she creates are multilayered, complex, and immersive, and all of the aliens in them are equally creative. For sci-fi fans looking for a series that’s endlessly creative, look no further. What makes it even better is the vast range of diversity present—just to name a few, we have a queer protagonist, a Black, Brazilian, queer protagonist, and a plus-sized protagonist with anxiety as the stars of Dreams. There’s queer rep aplenty in Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak, and there’s something for everybody—it’d be hard to find some facet of yourself represented in some way in these books.

That being said, there were certain aspects of Dreams that I wasn’t as big of a fan of. Anders’ writing was what stuck out to me in this book in particular. There’s not much dressing on her prose; that isn’t always a bad thing, but it felt very bare-bones to me—lots of “[they] felt,” “[they] knew,” “[they] saw,” etc. I forget if this was as exacerbated in book 1, but this was what took away from my enjoyment the most in Dreams. At times, it almost had the effect of being talked down to—not an ideal writing style.

Additionally, I feel like the plot and pacing weren’t as strong as book 1’s were. While Victories moved at an almost dizzyingly breakneck pace, Dreams was comfortable to slow to a crawl, which was necessary for the character-building, but did little to move the plot forward. The plot itself was also lacking—it explored the paths of Tina, the protagonist of Victories, as well as Elza and Rachael. All of their POVs were interesting in concept, but Rachael’s tended to drag along. Although I love all of the characters that Anders created, it would’ve benefited the book so much more to just be from Tina’s POV; her plot was the most compelling of the three, and yet, it’s the one that the least time was allotted to. Once the three were reunited towards the end, it picked up, but before the last third of the book or so, it bordered on being a slog—I’m so surprised I’m saying that, given how overwhelmingly fast-paced Victories was!

However, as in Victories, the themes were as strong and timely as ever. Togetherness, acceptance, and fighting xenophobia and prejudice are at the heart of this story, and with such a diverse and lovable cast, these themes shone brighter than ever. It’s just the kind of sci-fi story we need right now, and I’m excited to see how it ends next year!

All in all, a victim of second-book-syndrome that made up for some of its flaws with its timely themes and loving and accepting energy. 3.5 stars!

Dreams Bigger Than Heartbreak is the second book of the Unstoppable trilogy, preceded by Victories Greater Than Death and concluded by the forthcoming Promises Greater Than Darkness, slated for release in 2023. Charlie Jane Anders is also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, The City in the Middle of the Night, Six Months, Three Days, Five Others, and several other novels and short story anthologies.

Since I’ve already posted once today, check out my May 2022 Wrap-Up for today’s song.

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

Posted in Books

YA Books for AAPI Heritage Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

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

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

GENRES: Fantasy, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

The Weight of Our Sky – Hanna Alkaf

GENRES: Historical fiction, fiction, mental illness/disability

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Gearbreakers – Zoe Hana Mikuta

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

The Ones We’re Meant to Find – Joan He

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, mystery

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

Rise of the Red Hand – Olivia Chadha

GENRES: Science fiction, dystopia, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Forest of Souls – Lori M. Lee

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Iron Widow – Xiran Jay Zhao

GENRES: Dystopia, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know – Samira Ahmed

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Summer Bird Blue – Akemi Dawn Bowman

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

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

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

📖BOOKS TO TRANSITION YOUNGER TEEN READERS INTO YA 📖

Sorcery of Thorns – Margaret Rogerson

GENRES: fantasy, high fantasy, romance

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

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

The Kingdom of Back – Marie Lu

GENRES: historical fiction, fantasy, magical realism

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

Sisters of the Wolf – Patricia Miller-Schroeder

GENRES: historical fiction

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

The Soul Keepers – Devon Taylor

GENRES: fantasy, paranormal, horror

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

Curses – Lish McBride

GENRES: fantasy, retellings, romance

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

The Tiger at Midnight – Swati Teerdhala

GENRES: fantasy, high fantasy, romance

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

Geekerella – Ashley Poston

GENRES: fiction, romance, rom-com

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

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

GENRES: LGBTQ+, science fiction, retellings, romance

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

The Light at the Bottom of the World – London Shah

GENRES: dystopia, science fiction, romance

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

I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

GENRES: fiction, romance

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

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

Today’s song:

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

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

Posted in Books

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

Happy Thursday, bibliophiles!

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

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

Let’s begin, shall we?

FEMINIST YA BOOKS FOR WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH

Mad, Bad & Dangerous to Know, Samira Ahmed

GENRES: contemporary, historical fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

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

Iron Widow, Xiran Jay Zhao

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Squad, Maggie Tokuda-Hall and Lisa Sterle

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

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

Slay, Brittney Morris

GENRES: contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

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

The Mirror Season, Anna-Marie McLemore

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.25

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

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

Juliet Takes a Breath – Gabby Rivera

GENRES: fiction, contemporary, LGBTQ+, historical fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

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

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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

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

Today’s song:

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

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday

Book Review Tuesday (3/1/22) – Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy Women’s History Month! Can’t believe it’s March already…

I got hooked on the Goddess in the Machine duology back in 2020, and I stuck around for how creative and suspenseful Goddess in the Machine was. Devil in the Device came out last August, but I hadn’t been able to get around to finding it/reading it until last week. It was a little rocky at first, given that I didn’t remember parts of book 1, but once it got going, it was a wild and twist-filled ride!

Now, tread lightly! This review may contain spoilers for book 1, Goddess in the Machine, so if you haven’t read book 1 and intend to do so, proceed with caution.

thought I reviewed book 1 but apparently not oops 😵‍💫

Enjoy this week’s review!

Devil in the Device (Goddess in the Machine, #2) – Lora Beth Johnson

Eerensed has been plunged into chaos.

In hiding underground, Andra grapples with her new identity and the secrets that she has uncovered. The rest of her fellow colonists, still in cryosleep, are relying on her to get off of their dying planet. But the further she gets on her mission, the more Andra realizes that the situation is far more complicated than she could have ever comprehended.

Aboveground in Eerensed, Zhade grapples with ruling the people while in disguise as Maret. His power holds tempting amounts of influence, but his people are in chaos, overrun by rogue Angels and unruly magic. Can he take control of the situation—and find out what became of Andra?

TW/CW: murder, loss of loved ones, blood/gore, substance abuse (alcohol), violence, grief, mind control, mild sexual content/innuendos

wordpress please stop autocorrecting “Zhade” to “Shade” challenge

Even without remembering…oh, at least half of Goddess in the Machine, I enjoyed reading Devil in the Device quite a lot—not quite as strong as book 1, but still endlessly twisty!

Getting into a sequel without a proper re-read or recap is always rocky; that was the case with Devil in the Device, especially the fact that I completely forgot about the weird, future Eerensed dialect of English that Zhade’s POVs were written in. I have mixed feelings on that part in general, but although it read in a very cringy way, it makes sense. I could have done without “certz” and “for true” and all that, but just like those corny Star Wars alien idioms that make no sense without context, they’re a necessary evil.

But once I got my memory jogged of book 1, Devil in the Device was a great sequel! Having the characters split up usually isn’t something I go for in sequels, but since there were only Andra and Zhade to deal with, it worked a lot more smoothly. Their split POVs gave a broader insight onto different parts of the worldbuilding, and beyond that, they created a lot of tension; most of the major revelation on Andra’s end of the line, and having Zhade be completely ignorant of almost all of it created a lot of suspense and buildup.

The fast pace was also a highlight of Devil in the Device, and with the amount of curveballs that Johnson throws throughout the course of the book, it makes for a very tense and exciting read! Secrets, deception, and betrayal all ran rampant through this book, and every page invited a new revelation. There are twists aplenty, but in the case of Devil in the Device, it turned out to be a double-edged sword; most of the twists were mind-boggling and earthshattering (@ Dr. Griffin WHOA CHILL JEEZ), but almost all of them were crammed into the last quarter of the book. All of those twists one after the other bordered on overstuffing, but overall, it had the effect of appropriately amping up the tension.

One other aspect that I’ll always appreciate about the Goddess in the Machine duology is its casual diversity—Andra is mixed-race and plus-sized, and there are consistently lots of queer secondary characters. Kiv, one of the secondary characters, is also Deaf, which I loved to see as well! The fact that he’s shown in a happy relationship makes me even happier—more disabled characters in loving relationships, please! (Plus, Kiv and Lilibet are so cute I CAN’T)

All in all, a sequel that wasn’t quite as strong as its predecessor but excelled in the plot twist department. 4 stars!

Devil in the Device is the second and final book in the Goddess in the Machine duology, preceded by Goddess in the Machine.

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 (2/15/22) – Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As soon as I found out about Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, I immediately put it on hold at the library. The premise of a sci-fi survival story with racing wolves and vengeful gangsters hooked me in no time. However, what I found inside was a different story: too much exposition, too little story.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves: A Novel: 9781250785060: Long,  Meg: Books

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves – Meg Long

Sena Korhosen vowed to never involve herself in sled racing after it claimed the lives of both her mothers. But when her pickpocketing habit gets her in trouble with a prominent crime syndicate, she’s forced to flee. Along with the head gangster’s prizefighting wolf, Iska, Sean bands up with a team of scientists who can get her off of the frozen planet of Tundra—but at the cost of her helping them win the sled race that killed her moms. Trapped in the frozen wilderness, Sena faces a choice: brave the woods and the beasts within them, or risk a fate worse than death?

shadow and bone 1x06 | Explore Tumblr Posts and Blogs | Tumgir

TW/CW: violence, gore, blood, past death of parents, animal cruelty, animal death, animal attacks

This is what I get for getting my hopes up for every YA sci-fi book I come across…

It’s such a shame, though; the premise hooked me with no effort, but Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves ended up being a disappointment through and through.

For Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, its best aspect was simultaneously its worst aspect. That aspect was the worldbuilding. I’ll start out with why most of it worked: with each page, it was clear that there was so much time put into making all of the dominoes fall in the right place. Everything from the social cleavages to Tundar’s fauna to the intricacies of the sled race were so thoughtfully written with a clear intent on making an immersive world—which Meg Long succeeded in.

However, said worldbuilding was lumped into so much of the first half of this novel that it felt more exposition than story. The plot didn’t pick up until about halfway through. I expected more of a through-and-through survival story, but Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves lingered more in civilization than it did out in the frozen wilderness that it promised. What wasn’t exposition was most often just descriptions of animal attacks, and that combination wasn’t ideal.

The other curse from the worldbuilding was the naming of certain things. There was already a degree of suspension of disbelief implied, but naming a frozen planet Tundar (tundra) and giving the animals names like rënedeer (reindeer) made Meg Long’s world all the less plausible. With all of the thought that was clearly put into this book, I feel really bad saying this, but the names just felt…plain lazy. I’m not saying that the names have to be perfect, but they shouldn’t be that derivative of what they’re based on.

With all of that mess piled on, I found it hard to get attached to any of the characters. Sena’s personality got on my nerves from the get-go, and since most of the other characters were introduced around the 1/3-1/2 mark, they came off as having little to no personality. Sena never quite developed, either, and a lot of her actions seemed to have unrealistic motivations, given her past. Add an all-too-easily-defeated villain to the mix, and you’ve got yourself a batch of very halfhearted characters.

All in all, a sci-fi novel with a bold premise that was unfortunately bogged down by too much of a good thing—great worldbuilding, but half a book’s worth of exposition to show it. 2 stars.

Luke skywalker star wars mark hamill GIF - Find on GIFER

Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is a standalone, and is Meg Long’s debut novel.

Today’s song:

HELP I CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO THIS I LOVE IT SO MUCH

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 Reads for Black History Month (2022 Edition)

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

It’s February again, and in the U.S., February is Black History Month! For the past few years, I’ve been making an effort to diversify my reading and read books from a variety of BIPOC authors all year round, but during this month, I like to take the time to uplift Black voices and authors. It’s crucial to open yourself up to new perspectives and insights, and all it takes is picking up a new book. (But as always, read books from BIPOC authors all year round!)

I made a list of YA reads from Black authors last year (you can find it here!), but I wanted to do it again since I’ve read so many amazing books since last year. So let’s begin, shall we?

Black History Month Black Lives Matter GIF - Black History Month Black  Lives Matter Mlk - Discover & Share GIFs

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH (2022 EDITION)

The Kindred, Alechia Dow

The Kindred by Alechia Dow

GENRES: sci-fi, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I’ll start this list off with a recent read from an author who is quickly climbing up the ranks of my favorites! Although this wasn’t quite as good as The Sound of Stars, The Kindred was such a sweet, feel-good sci-fi romance!

The Cost of Knowing, Brittney Morris

Amazon.com: The Cost of Knowing: 9781534445451: Morris, Brittney: Books

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Cost of Knowing is immensely powerful; through the perspective of a teen with the power to see the future of everything that he touches, Morris tackles a multitude of important topics, from mental health to police brutality to grief.

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

Buy A Phoenix First Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black Girl Magic,  Resistance, and Hope Book Online at Low Prices in India | A Phoenix First  Must Burn: Sixteen Stories of Black

GENRES: short stories, fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

A Phoenix Must First Burn is a beautiful anthology of short stories of all genres that depict the Black experience—particularly Black women and nonbinary people. There’s only one short story that I didn’t like as much, but all the rest are fascinating in their own right. My favorite was Amerie’s When Life Hands You a Lemon Fruitbomb.

The Good Luck Girls, Charlotte Nicole Davis

Amazon.com: The Good Luck Girls eBook : Davis, Charlotte Nicole: Kindle  Store

GENRES: historical fiction/alternate history, fantasy, paranormal, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read a lot of alternate history or historical fiction books, but The Good Luck Girls was a fantastic read! If you’re a fan of demons, ghosts, patriarchy-smashing, and sisterhood, this is the book for you.

The Black Flamingo, Dean Atta

Amazon.com: The Black Flamingo: 9780062990297: Atta, Dean: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Again—novels in verse aren’t my usual choice for reading, but The Black Flamingo is a must-read! A beautiful coming-of-age story about growing up mixed-race and gay and discovering drag.

A Chorus Rises (A Song Below Water, #2), Bethany C. Morrow

A Chorus Rises eBook by Bethany C. Morrow - 9781250316028 | Rakuten Kobo  United States

GENRES: contemporary, magical realism

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

Set in the same world as A Song Below Water, A Chorus Rises explores Naema’s side of the story. Not a lot of authors write separate books from the point of view of the story’s antagonist, and this book was testament to the fact that not everything is black and white—there are several sides to every story.

Every Body Looking, Candice Iloh

Every Body Looking by Candice Iloh

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, novels in verse

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

Raw and honest, Every Body Looking is a poetic coming-of-age story of growing up as a woman, growing up Black, and growing up as the daughter of an immigrant. It’s a rough ride, but it packs a punch.

When You Were Everything, Ashley Woodfolk

Amazon.com: When You Were Everything: 9781524715915: Woodfolk, Ashley: Books

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

When You Were Everything is the perfect book for anyone who has had a close friendship deteriorate. It’s messy, it’s raw, it’s painful, but above all, it felt so real and wonderfully genuine.

Ace of Spades, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

Amazon.com: Ace of Spades eBook : Àbíké-Íyímídé, Faridah: Kindle Store

GENRES: mystery, thriller, contemporary, realistic fiction, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t go for mysteries most of the time, but Ace of Spades was the dictionary definition of edge-of-your-seat suspenseful. All at once a nail-biting mystery and a commentary on systemic racism, this is one you can’t let pass you by.

You Should See Me in a Crown, Leah Johnson

You Should See Me in a Crown - Indiana Authors Awards

GENRES: contemporary, realistic fiction, romance, LGBTQ+

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

I guess I’ve bookended this list with feel-good reads…I don’t see a problem with that. You Should See Me in a Crown is a fun and tender LGBTQ+ romance about two candidates for prom queen falling for each other!

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 by Black authors? Let me know in the comments!

We Are Black History I Am Black History Sticker - We Are Black History I Am  Black History Africanamerican - Discover & Share GIFs

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books

Sci-Fi Tropes, part 2: Spiders, Telekinesis, and More

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

I made a post a few months back discussing a handful of sci-fi tropes that I’ve seen in books—here it is, if you’d like to have a look! When I wrote it, I knew I’d be writing several more similar posts; the world of sci-fi literature is so diverse in its content, so there’s no shortage of tropes, however specific, that I can discuss. Some of these tropes are broader and others are fairly minute, but I think they’ll be a lot of fun to discuss.

So let’s dive in, shall we?

David welcomes you | Shipping | Know Your Meme

SCI-FI TROPES: PART 2

MYSTERIOUS, TELEKINETIC WOMEN

dark phoenix gif | Tumblr | Dark phoenix, Jean grey phoenix, Marvel gif
had to include her bc she was the blueprint for this trope…probably

Here’s an interesting one to tackle. I see this one almost exclusively in space operas, but the basic premise is usually as follows: a woman, usually younger than the rest of the main cast, is either gifted with or born with unexplainable and unparalleled telekinesis. This power usually means that she’s the main decider in ✨the fate of the universe✨. These powers of hers often result in mind-bending displays of grandeur, including but not limited to: killing enemies in disturbing ways, crumpling spaceships like soda cans, and bending space and time itself.

Often, these powers come along with an intense emotional burden; at the heart of it, there’s a quintessential “why me?” dilemma with respect to her powers. Inner conflict is all part of the package with godly telekinesis, which often results in this character losing her mind and/or lashing out at other members of the cast. And, well…given that it’s either a “puppet of an all-powerful cosmic entity” or “being devoured from the inside by space energy” situation, it’s understandable.

What sometimes rubs me the wrong way about this trope—although I’m all for cosmic women tearing apart the fabric of the universe (who isn’t?)—is the fact that most of these women have a lack of agency. Which, given that a lot of the characters that come to mind are written by men, is more than a little concerning. Even with all of this awe-inspiring power, these women are often portrayed as helpless. Many of their breakdowns about the burden of their power are often reduced to “oh, she’s just a women being overly emotional, typical.”

Which brings me to why I appreciate a particular instance of this trope—Auri from Aurora Rising. She may still be frightened of her own power, but she takes control of the situation—she takes it upon herself to master her powers, break away from the path that the Eshvaren have set for her, and ultimately save the galaxy. She has agency, and, yes, that’s the bare minimum, but she’s written with a significant amount of sway over her abilities as the books go on.

This trope can be poignant and powerful if used right, but if misused, it can lead to a lot of reductive stereotypes.

BOOKS WITH TROPES: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Forgotten Star (Colin Weldon), The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams)

IF THE ALIENS AREN’T BASICALLY HUMANS, THEY’RE JUST ANTHROPOMORPHIZED ANIMALS

Bossk Star Wars GIF - Bossk Star Wars Empire Strikes Back - Discover &  Share GIFs
this is far from the most dramatic example, but Bossk is the only one I can find a gif of

I get it. Creature design is hard—how do you create an alien that’s simultaneously familiar enough for a reader to project onto (if that’s the goal) but also weird enough to pass as “alien?”

In my last post, I talked about the trope of aliens that just looked like humans. That’s the ultimate alien design deal-breaker for me, unless there’s a good explanation for it. But in my opinion, the next level down is just making your aliens intelligent versions of animals with no other changes. Like the human-alien trope, it just feels like lazy design. It’s not that basing your alien design off of a certain animal is bad—on some level, most alien design is just that. The lazy part is just making an upright version of an already existing animal and changing nothing beyond that. (Plus, if it’s mammalian, you’re just…making intergalactic furries? Uh…)

One of the worst examples that I can recall is from The Stars Now Unclaimed, which I DNF’d. Not only was their an alien species that were just upright wolves, the species itself was called a Wulf. I KID YOU NOT. At that point, it’s almost…self-aware of how lazy it is? Or it seems that way, at any rate. But you just…don’t do that. Under any circumstances.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Stars Now Unclaimed (Drew Williams), Earth Force Rising (Monica Tesler), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson)

AND ON THAT SUBJECT, WHAT’S WITH ALL THE SPIDERS?

Ron Weasley is my spirit animal - GIF on Imgur

While we’re on the topic of creature design, here’s another trope that I’ve found several times. Lots of alien species in literature—most intended to be menacing, but not all—have been based on spiders, or described as spiders or spider-like.

One aspect of basing an alien design off of an animal is to still try and make it as alien as possible, and one way to do that is to base it off of an animal that many already consider “alien” or “scary.” These are often invertebrates—cephalopods, jellyfish, insects, and arachnids—spiders. By creating a creature with elements that are already unnerving to a lot of people, you’ve achieved the effect of making it alien without making it totally unfamiliar.

But why spiders in particular? Most of the spider-aliens that I’ve seen at the forefront of sci-fi stories are meant to be menacing. I suppose there’s already a latent metaphor of spiders catching unsuspecting prey in their webs, if menacing is the route the author intends to go on. If these characters are meant to be antagonistic, spiders are the perfect combination—not only do they look alien to us, but they’re also a commonly feared animal. They’re also involved in a lot of insidious metaphors, creatures known for ensnaring their prey in webs. I can speak to the “commonly feared” part myself—I’m fine with really small ones (jumping spiders and such—they’re cute), but big spiders? No way. I blame the wolf spider that I found in my room when I was five. (WHY DO THEY RUN SO FAST AAAAAA)

As far as aliens with animal basis, I think spider-aliens are effective. Even if they do fall into the “animals with no changes other than intelligence” trope, at least they’re not completely bipedal and upright—eight legs! But already, they’re so wildly different from us—the perfect starting point for an interesting alien.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: The Doom Machine (Mark Teague), Project Hail Mary (Andy Weir), One Giant Leap (Dare Mighty Things, #2) (Heather Kaczynski), The Outside (Ada Hoffmann)

THE FATE OF COMIC RELIEF RESTS ON THE MACHINES

C-3PO and R2-D2 discovered by Lux on We Heart It

Are none of your characters particularly funny? Have they not gotten the chance to banter properly? Are they all on a spaceship? I’ve got a trope for you, then…

This is the exact flip side of one of the tropes I mentioned in my first post—unhinged AI. Often times in space opera books with large cast, there is a character that’s some sort of machine: a droid, a ship’s AI, et cetera. But their main role, apart from providing convenient solutions to hacking-relation problems, is to lighten the mood.

So why machines? I’m not entirely sure myself, but I have a theory. Part of it may be to avoid risk—sometimes it’s too dangerous to have a character whose only personality trait is to be “sassy” or “the funny one,” so putting this personality onto an AI of some kind reduces the possibility of a one-dimensional flesh-and-blood character. AI are often reduced to minimal personality traits, as often, they’re designed for a particular task. Unless they have a short character arc where they have an epiphany of some kind about breaking free of their programming, they’re usually helpful vessels of humor in an otherwise hardened and dry-humored crew.

What’s more about this trope is how often it shows up—pick up any space-opera in the bookstore or the library, and there’s a good 75% chance that there’s a minor Sassy AI™️ character. I hesitate to say that it’s tried and true, but it’s certainly difficult to screw up. The problem is that most of them have the same sense of humor—sass, “oh, you humans are so stupid haha” condescension, and making jokes at inopportune times. (There’s also the inevitable running joke of the flesh-and-blood characters telling said AI character to shut up.) I appreciate good AI comic relief, but it’s become a formula, almost to the point where what I once thought was hilarious now makes me feel almost nothing.

So give your AI something unique—glitches, specific quirks, something, anything that will set it apart from 50% of other machines on the shelf.

BOOKS WITH THIS TROPE: Aurora Rising (Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff), Columbus Day (Craig Alanson), To Sleep in a Sea of Stars (Christopher Paolini), Crownchasers (Rebecca Coffindaffer), Honor Among Thieves (Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! What are your opinions on these tropes? What are some other tropes that you’d like me to discuss? Tell me in the comments!

Blade Runner 2049 - Album on Imgur

Today’s song:

listened to this whole album the other day. it was hit or miss for me overall, but when it got good, it got good

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 (1/25/22) – Railhead

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

As of last week, it had been ages since I’ve read anything by Philip Reeve. I’d gotten through the whole Larklight trilogy in middle school and loved it, and I read Fever Crumb as well and wasn’t as much of a fan. I forgot about him for a while, until I got a recommendation from Sabrina (thank you!) about another series of his—the Railhead series. I decided to pick it up, and I ended up liking it—after reading this, I definitely want to see how the rest of the story goes!

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Railhead: 9781630790486: Reeve, Philip: Books

Railhead (Railhead, #1) – Philip Reeve

In the distant future, it isn’t spaceships that transport humanity across the stars—it’s a massive network of trains. The Great Network spans across the entire galaxy, and one line can take you anywhere that you so choose. It’s the perfect place for Zen Starling, a young thief who makes a living from the goods he steals from passenger cars. But when he attracts the attention of the mysterious Raven, Zen finds himself entrenched in a royal conspiracy. Soon, his own identity as a nobody from the streets is called into question, and his success on Raven’s mission may determine the rest of his career.

Star Wars Prequel - Planet Coruscant | Star wars, Film inspiration, Gif

TW/CW: violence (fairly mild), descriptions of killing animals/dead animals, fire, fear

It’s been about 5 years since I’ve read anything by Philip Reeve; I loved the Larklight trilogy but didn’t have the same luck with Fever Crumb, so he was generally hit-or-miss for me. But ultimately, I’m glad I picked Railhead up! It was the perfect antidote after reading something as heavy as Anthem; fun, light-hearted, and fast-paced. (Thanks again for the rec, Sabrina!)

The worldbuilding of Railhead made the whole book. It’s the kind of intricate worldbuilding that I aspire to have in my own writing; no stone is left unturned in terms of the little details that make the Great Network so genuine-feeling and fleshed out. Best of all, none of it is delivered in info-dumps; pieces of information are spaced out and don’t distract from the overall story. There was so much love put into every little nook and cranny of Reeve’s world, from the trains to the android history to the graffiti on the walls. I especially loved the Hive Monks—the concept behind them was so inventive! I wished we’d seen more of Uncle Bugs and the others.

As far as characters go, I didn’t get attached to many of them, but they were at least decently flushed out. Zen himself didn’t have many traits that would distinguish him from the average middle grade/YA protagonist, and having him get saddled with this trilogy’s equivalent of the chosen one trope didn’t exactly help his case. He was simply…alright for me. I felt the same way towards most of the other characters; they were distinct enough to not be trope-y, but not distinct enough to be rememberable. I did like Nova, though. She was my favorite out of the main cast—I liked her backstory a lot, and her being an android (or a “moto,” as is the lingo in Zen Starling’s world) added a unique layer to her story.

The plot itself was a little lacking for me, but its fast pace saved it. At its worst, the plot seemed to [Robert Plant voice] ramble on without any clear direction, but at its best, it was loads of fun. You do get the sense that you’re clinging to the top of a speeding train, the way the events move—it’s very fast-paced, and given both the setting and the premise, it’s perfect!

I wasn’t as invested in the main plot, but I tended to gravitate more towards the side plots, the short anecdotes that fleshed out Railhead’s world even more. The fact that I got more excited about seeing giant manta ray creatures and looking at the insides of futuristic trains than the actual should probably say something about the book itself, but those parts gave me joy, and that’s that. Again—it’s the tiny details that made Railhead as entertaining as it was.

All in all, a romp through a futuristic world at breakneck speed that shone in its detailed worldbuilding. I’m on board with continuing the rest of the series! 3.75 stars, rounded up to 4!

Padawanlost — ✩ star wars gif meme ✩ [¾] planets: Coruscant...

Railhead is the first book in the Railhead trilogy, and it is followed by Black Light Express (#2) and Station Zero (#3). Philip Reeve is also the author of the Larklight trilogy (Larklight, Starcross, and Mothstorm), the Mortal Engines quartet (Mortal Engines, Predator’s Gold, Infernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain), the Fever Crumb series (Fever Crumb, A Web of Air, and Scrivener’s Moon), and several other series for young adults and children.

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!