Posted in ARC Reviews

eARC Review: Sisters of the Wolf

Hi again, bibliophiles!

I have a little bit of extra time on my hands this evening, so I figured I’d use it to review the second eARC I got accepted for recently. Even though the writing and the dialogue wasn’t the best in this one, I’ll 100% vouch for the fact that Sisters of the Wolf boasts a premise unlike anything I’ve seen in YA historical fiction!

Enjoy this review!

Sisters of the Wolf | Dundurn Press

In the time of the Ice Age, every day is a race for survival, and the lives of Shinoni and Keena are no exception. Keena, hailing from a clan of Neanderthals, and Shinoni, the daughter of a Cro-Magnon shaman cross paths after a Neanderthal hunter wreaks havoc on both of their lives. Alone and lost in an unforgiving wilderness, the two girls must set aside their differences and fight for their lives – and the chance to return home once more.

Best Wolf Howling GIFs | Gfycat

TW/CW: loss of loved ones, violence, death of small children, animal death, racism/xenophobia (Neanderthal discrimination against Cro-Magnons and vice versa), sexism

Thank you to Edelweiss+ and Dundurn Press for sending me this eARC in exchange for an honest review!

Writing historical fiction takes loads of research. Writing historical fiction set in a time before written records and where the only clues we have to what life was like is the fossil record and cave paintings…that’s another feat entirely. I guess that’s why I haven’t seen many novels set in the Ice Age before this one, if any at all. So I’d be all for giving a huge round of applause to Patricia Miller-Schroeder for taking the risk, because even though Sisters of the Wolf wasn’t without its flaws, it was unlike any piece of historical fiction I’ve ever read.

There was so much care put into the worldbuilding, and every page was evident of it. Everything from the terminology and colloquial slang used by both Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon to the wildlife that the girls encountered was clearly well-researched, making for a very immersive and well-thought-out story. As someone who spent much of my childhood tagging along with my brother’s prehistoric life videos on TV, I had a lot of fun experiencing the world that Miller-Schroeder created.

That being said, the worldbuilding was the best element of Sisters of the Wolf. The writing felt rather bland, almost devoid of any interesting prose that would have made an otherwise decent story far more engaging. It wasn’t bad, I’d say, but it was just…somewhere in the middle. And normally I’m not fond of too much pontificating and excessive purple prose, but…that was kind of what this book needed.

I also found the dialogue to be a little bit stilted and corny. It leaned into almost Disney territory at times, and I found myself cringing a little bit at the way the onomatopoeia that was written most times. This, combined with my issues with the writing, took me out of the story at times, but I managed to stay somewhat engaged throughout most of the novel.

Everything that I’ve seen Sisters of the Wolf show up on has listed it as YA, but I honestly think that it would be just as suitable for middle grade level readers. That’s not a criticism of it in any shape or form, though; both of the protagonists are 13 years old, and it’s light enough for someone in the 8-12 age range to swallow, but dark enough that it stands out from a younger demographic. It would be a great intro for a pre-teen/early teen who’s just starting to get into YA books and needs a sort of transition book, a middle ground between the two genres. I certainly needed those books when I was that age, and I’m happy that books like Sisters of the Wolf exist for kids like I was.

All in all, a bold and original historical fiction novel that was bogged down by bland prose, but made up for some of it with exceptional worldbuilding. 3 stars!

Snow Forest GIF by Living Stills - Find & Share on GIPHY

Expected release date: August 24, 2021

Sisters of the Wolf is Patricia Miller-Schroeder’s YA debut, but she is also the author of several nonfiction science books for children.

Since I’ve already posted once today, check out this week’s Goodreads Monday for today’s song.

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

Posted in Books

YA Reads for Black History Month

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

Phew, I’m so glad to be on a long weekend…we have the day off school today and next Monday, so I think I’ll have some much needed time to wind down…

As some of you may know, here in the U.S., the month of February is Black History Month! So for the occasion, I decided that it would be a good idea to make a post full of my favorite YA reads from #OwnVoices Black authors. Now more than ever it is critical to share stories from marginalized voices, and in the current climate that much of the world is in, uplifting POC voices should be at the forefront of creative endeavors.

Image result for black history month gif

I’ve made a list of YA reads of all genres for this post, all of them 4-5 star reads for me. So let’s begin, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR BLACK HISTORY MONTH

The Sound of Stars – Alechia Dow

Image result for the sound of stars book

GENRES: Sci-fi, dystopia, LGBTQ+, romance

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

The Sound of Stars was one of my favorite reads of 2020! A diverse cast, a tender romance, and no shortage of music and book references. Other than the ending, it’s pretty much everything I could want in a book.

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph – Brandy Colbert

Image result for the revolution of birdie randolph

GENRES: Contemporary, romance, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The Revolution of Birdie Randolph is one of those special novels that simultaneously touches on a myriad of important issues, but still retains a lighter, slice-of-life mood. Romantic, sweet, and so inclusive!

Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now – Dana L. Davis

Image result for tiffany sly lives here now

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one, but Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now has stuck with me ever since. A resonant story about family, mental health and grief.

A Song Below Water – Bethany C. Morrow

Image result for a song below water cover

GENRES: Magical realism, contemporary, fantasy

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

I’m always on the hunt for good mermaid books, and I’m glad to say that A Song Below Water was such a unique novel! It certainly isn’t without its flaws, but this was a solid piece of magical realism.

Punching the Air – Ibi Zoboi & Yusef Salaam

Image result for punching the air book

GENRES: Poetry/Novels in verse, contemporary, fiction

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I don’t read an awful lot of poetry, but Punching the Air hit me so hard. This was a truly powerful novel about the corruption of the justice system and the transformative power of art.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

Image result for children of blood and bone

GENRES: High fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been a few years since I’ve read this one and my memory of it’s a bit hazy (oops), but from what I remember, Children of Blood and Bone was such a well-written and well-crafted fantasy! (Plus, that gorgeous cover…)

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them – Junauda Petrus

Image result for the stars and the blackness between them by junauda petrus

GENRES: Contemporary, fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, magical realism

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This was one of my first reads of the year, and wow, such a beautiful novel! I loved the relationship between Audre and Mabel, and the writing was so tender. Highly recommended.

Monday’s Not Coming – Tiffany D. Jackson

Image result for monday's not coming book

GENRES: Mystery, thriller, contemporary

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Mystery isn’t my go-to genre, but Monday’s Not Coming was truly astounding. Haunting, gripping and suspenseful–everything a mystery novel should be, really.

The Black Kids – Christina Hammonds Reed

Image result for the black kids book

GENRES: Fiction, historical fiction (1990s)

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Even though it’s set in the 1990’s, The Black Kids has no shortage of timely themes, and stands out as a powerful and immersive historical fiction novel. Highly recommended!

Raybearer – Jordan Ifueko

Image result for raybearer jordan ifueko

GENRES: High fantasy, fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I have a distinct memory of looking through reviews for Raybearer before I picked it up; it was a struggle to find any sort of reviews with ratings below 4 stars (I usually try to read reviews in the 3-2 star range before reading most books), and everybody and their mother seemed to be gushing about it. But I’m glad to say that Raybearer absolutely lived up to that hype, and I now count myself among the legions of 4-star ratings!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin – Roseanne A. Brown

Image result for a song of wraiths and ruin

GENRES: Fantasy, high fantasy, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I just finished this one last week (bought it with a gift card I got for Christmas!), and I must say, absolutely worth buying! Complex protagonists, and a writing style that all at once felt nostalgic and wonderfully fresh and unique. (I’ll try to review this one next week!)

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels, and what did you think of them? What are your favorite YA novels from #OwnVoices Black authors? Any recommendations?

Image result for black lives matter gif

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 Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (1/18/21)–Killing November

Happy Monday, bibliophiles!

First off, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the fact that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. day. Thank you, sir, for everything you have done in an effort to better this nation. ❤️

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

I put this one on my TBR after being blown away by How to Hang a Witch last year, and it sounds just as gripping! I still haven’t read Haunting the Deep, but I’m eager to get into more of Mather’s work.

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (1/18/21)–KILLING NOVEMBER by Adriana Mather

Amazon.com: Killing November (9780525579083): Mather, Adriana: Books

Blurb from Goodreads:

It’s a school completely off the grid, hidden by dense forest and surrounded by traps. There’s no electricity, no internet, and an eye-for-an-eye punishment system. Classes include everything from Knife-Throwing and Poisons to the Art of Deception and Historical Analysis. And all of the students are children of the world’s most elite strategists—training to become assassins, counselors, spies, and master impersonators. Into this world walks November Adley, who quickly discovers that friends are few in a school where personal revelations are discouraged and competition is everything. When another student is murdered, all eyes turn to November, who must figure out exactly how she fits into the school’s bizarre strategy games before she is found guilty of the crime…or becomes the killer’s next victim. 

So why do I want to read this?

Netflix Hargreeves GIF by The Umbrella Academy - Find & Share on GIPHY

One thing I’d definitely like to note…I haven’t even read Deadly Class, but this book sounds similar…(has anybody here read or watched it? Let me know…)

[ahem] anyway…

Mather’s talent in How to Hang a Witch was 100% her characters and mastery of the art of tension; with the medium of a school where the students are literally bred to kill, I’m so excited to see how she executes this again! I’m usually not one for mysteries or thrillers, but this is a twist on it that I’ve rarely seen in the world of YA. The “every student for themself” aspect also gives it another layer of tension, which I’m eagerly looking forward to.

This one’s available at my library, so I might have to snag a copy soon…

Count Dooku GIFs - Get the best GIF on GIPHY

In conclusion, Madeline finds herself, in a very rare instance, actively looking for a certain YA thriller.

Today’s song:

[insert Walter dog here]

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (10/6/20)–All These Monsters

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Yeah, everybody has a different definition of happiness, but can we really deny the universal giddy joy of finding out that your preorder has reached the shipping department? SKYHUNTER WILL BE IN MY HANDS VERY, VERY SOON…[incoherent screaming]

Anyway, I put this on my TBR at the beginning of this year, but remembered it from Amie Kaufman’s recommendation of it in an episode of Amie Kaufman on Writing. Since it was available on the Kindle library, I decided to check it out, and I am SO glad I did! I didn’t think that anything would ever fill up the B.P.R.D.shaped hole in my heart, but All These Monsters very nearly did it.

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: All These Monsters (9780358012405): Tintera, Amy: Books

All These Monsters–Amy Tintera

For nearly a decade, the Earth that Clara knows has been decimated by the Scrabs, burrowing monsters that have popped up in cities all over the world and prey on any humans that stumble into their paths.

Clara feels confined in her home, considering dropping out of high school and trapped by her abusive father and absent mother. But when an opportunity to join an international scrab-fighting task force arises, she sees it as exactly the kind of escape she needs. Leaving her home behind, she joins the fight, but soon realizes that fighting monsters is more deadly–and lifechanging–than she ever imagined.

hellboy gifs | WiffleGif

After B.P.R.D. came to a close last year, I thought that there wouldn’t be anything that could ever measure up to it. I didn’t even go into All These Monsters thinking that the two were all that similar, but somehow, this novel partially filled up the B.P.R.D.-shaped hole in my heart–and seeing how close those comics are to my heart, that’s seriously high praise coming from me.

First off, All These Monsters has some great representation–our protagonist Clara is half white, half Latinx [INTENSE HAPPY NOISES], and we have Black, Asian American, and Indian-American side characters. I loved Clara, and the team dynamic Tintera creates with her, Patrick, Edan, and all the rest is lovely! Those of you who have been following my reviews for a bit know that I’ll take found family any time of day, and All These Monsters portrayed it wonderfully.

And monsters. MONSTERS! I loved the scrabs–they gave me major Hell on Earth vibes, and I had so much fun going along for the ride with Clara and the rest of the gang. Not only does Tintera give us baseline physical descriptions of the scrabs, she goes in-depth to explore the international/political implications of them laying waste to the world. It’s certainly a lived-in kind of setting, so…come for the monsters, stay for the worldbuilding.

Beyond that, All These Monsters isn’t just about misfits fighting monsters–it’s a very raw exploration of abuse and toxic relationships. I’ll be clear–it’s not an easy read, but Tintera handles all of these tough topics with grace and aplomb, making you sympathize with some of the characters and hate some of the others with an appropriately fiery passion.

All in all, a dystopian sci-fi that delivers in both diversity and good old fashioned monster fighting. 4 stars!

The Mandalorian' 1x04: "Sanctuary" Roundtable | Fangirlish

All These Monsters is the first in the Monsters duology, concluding with the forthcoming All These Warriors, which is scheduled to come out in July 2021. (I got an eARC of it and read it over the weekend, so expect that review soon!). Tintera is also the author of the Ruined trilogy (Ruined, Avenged, and Allied) and the Reboot series (Reboot and Rebel).

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, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/29/20)–The Black Kids

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

Just a heads up before I begin, and probably one that’ll apply for the next few months. Now that I’ve been in school for a month, my schedule and workload are both getting more demanding, and so I won’t be able to post quite as much. This week in particular, I probably won’t be able to post much after this review–partly due to the slew of exams and quizzes I have later this week, but I’m also going to be gone for a few days. I’ll probably still be able to visit everyone else’s posts, but my posting schedule will be a bit more lethargic–Goodreads Mondays, Book Review Tuesdays, my Weekly Updates, and sometimes Top 5 Saturdays can probably be expected, but other than that, I won’t post as much per week. So just a heads up.

Now, back to our scheduled program…

I don’t read much historical fiction, but The Black Kids was such a stunning novel! All at once relevant to our past and our present, this book is brimming heart and the universal (I hope) desire for justice and equality in marginalized communities.

Enjoy this week’s review!

The Black Kids | Book by Christina Hammonds Reed | Official Publisher Page  | Simon & Schuster

The Black Kids–Christina Hammonds Reed

1992. Ashley Bennett’s life has been a sheltered one, nearly finished with high school and hanging out with her friends in Los Angeles. Her older sister took up the cause of advocating for racial justice years ago, but Ashley always preferred to stay on the sidelines.

But as riots begin to spread across the country after the brutal beating of Rodney King, she tries to continue to live her life as she always has, staying on the sidelines, not caring what goes on around her. Her friends have begun to isolate themselves from her, and she accidentally spreads a rumor about a classmate that could make or break his future. Ashley soon realizes that the world is bigger than the bubble she’s confined herself to–and that unity is the key to righting her personal wrongs.

I Cant Breathe Black Lives Matter GIF by Digital Pratik - Find & Share on  GIPHY

Historical fiction isn’t a genre that I readily pick up, most of the time. But instances like these remind me of the sheer possibility of the genre, to not just tell a story about our past, but to inspire change and to encourage readers to better examine themselves and the world around them. I’m glad to say that The Black Kids was one of these great novels–brimming with heart and with a message that will resonate for decades to come.

At the time I’m writing this review, it’s been about a month and a half since The Black Kids‘ release (August 4), and I must say, what better time than this to publish a novel like this one? Even though it’s set almost 30 years in our past, the themes of racial justice and police brutality resonate as though this book was set a year ago. (Which…okay, it’s absolutely disgusting that police brutality, racism, and everything related to that is still rampant today, but what I’m trying to say is that it’s timely and brilliantly timed.) Whether or not readers experienced the Rodney King riots or felt its repercussions, its sure to inspire a wide range of the audience.

The Black Kids boasts a dynamic cast of characters, and even better, no shortage of great character development, mostly on Ashley’s part. Her transformation from someone so sheltered to someone who genuinely cares about the world around her was beautiful to see, and Reed’s heartfelt writing fleshed it out even more so. There’s some relatable themes of letting go of toxic friendships and finding those who you truly connected with, which is something that I connected with the most.

On the subject of her writing, Reed’s prosed managed to be simultaneously authentic and poetic, a mix of brutal realities and immersive language that made me feel as though I was living in the novel. I’m not a 90’s kid, but I loved all the little music and pop culture references that were slipped in there as well.

All in all, The Black Kids boasts nearly all the hallmarks of a good historical fiction–facing the harsh realities from a fresh perspective, but making you feel immersed and invested in the setting and characters as though they were from the present day. 4 stars!

Standing Ovation Applause GIF by BAFTA - Find & Share on GIPHY

The Black Kids appears to be a standalone, and it’s Christina Hammonds Reed’s debut novel. (I can’t wait to see what else she writes in the future!)

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Books, Goodreads Monday

Goodreads Monday (9/28/20)–Song of the Dryad

Happy Monday, bibliophiles! Hard to believe that September’s almost over, but at least SPOOKY SEASON starts on Thursday! 🎃🦇☠️🍁😈

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

I put this novel on my TBR at the very beginning of this year. I haven’t heard much about it–it’s from an indie publisher, so I haven’t seen many reviews, if any, floating around the blogosphere–but it looks like an intriguing fantasy!

Let’s begin, shall we?

GOODREADS MONDAY (9/28/20)–SONG OF THE DRYAD by Natalia Leigh

Amazon.com: Song of the Dryad eBook: Leigh, Natalia: Kindle Store

Blurb from Goodreads:

Seventeen-year-old Charlotte Barclay is still haunted by an encounter she had eight years ago – a run-in with a fairy beast that had eyes like witchlight and a taste for flesh. Charlotte has avoided the Greenwood ever since, pretending fairies don’t exist and choosing instead to focus her energies on graduating from high school and perfecting her audition piece for the Bellini Institute. However, everything changes when her mom goes missing, kidnapped by the fairies that haunt the forest behind Charlotte’s home. 

When Charlotte’s search for her mom leads her into the fairy realm, she discovers that she hails from a line of Shrine Keepers – humans tasked with maintaining ancient fairy shrines. Charlotte’s family has failed their duties to the fae, and now she has no choice but to strike a deal with the dryad, an ancient and powerful tree nymph responsible for her mom’s disappearance. But the dryad only gives her a month to complete her task: retrieve five stolen fairy stones and return them to the ancient fairy shrine. If she doesn’t return the stones in time, the dryad has threatened to imprison another of Charlotte’s loved ones.

Charlotte dives into a world as magical as it is deadly, coming face-to-face with fairy creatures that never get mentioned in the story books – including the creature that haunts her dreams. She must embrace her task and conquer her fears, or else she’ll never see her mom again.

So why do I want to read this?

Imgur | Forest art, Fantasy, Fantasy landscape

Accidentally wandering into the realm of Fae and discovering that you have a connection with it is a fairly common trope I see in a lot of YA fantasy, but Song of the Dryad looks like it’s put an inventive twist on it! I also hardly ever see dryads as the star of the show as far as mythical creatures go in fantasy novels, so I’m excited to see how Leigh handles them. They hold so many possibilities for twists and plotlines, not to mention atmospheric imagery.

All in all, Song of the Dryad admittedly has the possibility of falling into several unfortunate tropes, but having the plot center around a dryad is giving me enough faith to keep reading.

young maleficent | Tumblr

Today’s song:

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

Posted in ARC Reviews, Books

eARC Review: Things That Grow

Happy Friday, bibliophiles!

Whew, I’m so glad the school week’s over! I might not be able to do Top 5 Saturday tomorrow because I’ve got some studying to do…plus, I haven’t been able to come up with anything for this week’s prompt…🤣

Either way, I recently got this eARC, and right after finishing something as long and dense as Dune, this novel was just what I needed. Darkly humorous and full of heart, Things That Grow is a lovely piece of contemporary fiction.

Enjoy this review!

Amazon.com: Things That Grow eBook: Goldstein, Meredith: Kindle Store

Things That Grow–Meredith Goldstein

Grandma Sheryl was seventeen-year-old Lori’s whole world, her anchor when her absent mother wasn’t there to care for her. So when she passes away, Lori’s world is thrown off-center–not only is her beloved grandmother gone, but in her absence, she’ll have to move back in with her mother and start her senior year in Maryland, without her old friends and the peaceful life she led.

But Grandma Sheryl left Lori and her family one final mission–a list of four gardens to travel to and spread her ashes. Along with her uncle Seth and her best friend Chris, Lori sets off on a chaotic journey that will change her life–and the way that she sees her grandmother.

The Big Lebowski (1998) - Scattering Donny's Ashes GIF | Gfycat
This is exactly the kind of darkly hysterical vibe that the book gave off

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

I really haven’t read much contemporary fiction lately; it’s one that I try to read frequently, but I always end up gravitating more towards sci-fi or fantasy. But Things That Grow reminded me of what happens when the genre is executed right–it tugged at all the right heartstrings and made me crack up at the same time.

This novel certainly tackles some heavy topics, grief being the most prominent of them. I expected it to be a more somber novel, but Goldstein imbues a grimly humorous aspect that had me cracking up every few pages. It struck the perfect balance between honestly addressing grief and its consequences and having moments of being comedic and lighthearted. This is my first exposure to Goldstein’s work, but I can already see her clever writing shining through.

The other aspect that I enjoyed the most was the characters. Lori, Seth, Chris and all the rest were such distinct and lovable characters, and they all had lovely chemistry–part of what made a lot of the jokes I mentioned earlier land. They were all so authentic and well-developed, and I loved delving into their individual stories. I loved Chris and Lori’s friendship–the romance seemed a bit half-baked at its worst times, but I loved their whole backstory with his art and her stories.

That being said, Things That Grow wasn’t without its flaws, certainly. The conflict between Lori and Seth was interesting in concept, but felt very rushed and poorly executed; we only get introduced to the plot line maybe…3/4 of the way through? After that, they touch on it once or twice before it’s too-neatly resolved. That certainly left something to be desired, but it didn’t take as much away from the novel for me.

All in all, Things That Grow was a memorable contemporary novel that hit just the right balance between serious and hilarious. 4 stars!

Anime butterfly garden gif - GIF - Imgur

Release date: March 9, 2021

Today’s song:

I haven’t listened to this in years…I haven’t even seen this movie, but this cover brings back so many memories… ;_;

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/22/20)–TRUEL1F3 (Lifelike, #3)

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles, and happy Autumn Equinox! 🍁

Two reviews of trilogy finales in one week? I’m in rare form…

Anyway, this is the last of my birthday book haul that I’ll be reviewing. TRUEL1F3 was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and with this novel, I can clearly say that Jay Kristoff has never once disappointed me (though I’ve yet to read The Nevernight Chronicle…) The Lifelike trilogy was a sci-fi series to be reckoned with, and it all came together for a third book that surpassed both books 1 and 2–and made me feel ALL the feels, trust me.

WARNING: This review likely contains spoilers for LIFEL1K3 and DEV1AT3, so if you haven’t read them and intend to, tread lightly!

My review of LIFEL1K3

My review of DEV1AT3

(Would you look at that…my review for book one was almost exactly a year ago…) :,)

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: TRUEL1F3 (Truelife) (LIFEL1K3 Book 3) eBook: Kristoff, Jay:  Kindle Store

TRUEL1F3 (Lifelike, #3)–Jay Kristoff

My copy, ft. LIFEL1K3, my guitar amp, and K-2SO

Once, Eve and Lemon Fresh were the best of friends. But war and love, family and fate have torn them apart. Now, the destiny of the entire Yousay is in their hands.

Lemon has been captured by the BioMaas swarm, who are convinced that her Deviate genes hold the key to turning the tides of war in their favor. A rift has come between Eve and her Lifelike siblings, who are bent on unleashing a computer virus–one that will free every android and robot in the Yousay from the programming given to them by the humans. And despite everything that has come between them, joining forces once more may be what tips the balance between salvation and annihilation.

star wars GIFs - Primo GIF - Latest Animated GIFs

The simplest way for a book to get me choked up? Separate some of the main cast over the course of a book or two, and let them have a happy, tearful reunion after both parties thought the other was dead. (See The Battle for WondLa, “Frankenweenie,” etc.) It’s the little things, man, it’s the little things.

I was itching to find out what happens to my beloved gang of misfits ever since finishing DEV1AT3 about a year back, but I truly didn’t expect the absolute masterpiece that book 3 would bring. TRUEL1F3 brings back every stellar aspect about the previous two novels, and brings them all together in a blazing fireworks display of a trilogy ender. I laughed, I cried, my eyes bugged out of my head…this novel made me run the emotional gamut, but in the best way possible.

In this end to the trilogy, Kristoff introduces a whole plethora of catastrophic twists and new aspects, especially to the post-apocalyptic android mythos, which I thoroughly enjoyed. The various family ties–be it true family or found family–are explored even more in depth. Even though it’s been nearly a year since finishing book 2, I was fully invested in everybody within the first few pages. (Also, the little recap/glossary/whatever you’d like to call it helped.) All of the varied, multifaceted cast had their time to shine, and shine they did, until the very last page.

Lemon and Cricket are still my favorites, and they were as wonderful as ever in this final book. Solomon and Abe are up there too, but…I’m thinking that Kristoff had a bit *too* much fun playing with our feelings in their department. (No spoilers, but…yikes, can anybody in this book get a rest? Jeez…) There’s no shortage of fascinating themes, from the morally gray to the role of AI in our lives. I loved the plotline with the virus–not only did it make for some great action, there’s some seriously tense psychological business that results from it as well. (Remember what I said about Kristoff having a bit too much fun?)

TRUL1F3 took me a little longer to read because I was still adjusting to online school, but that doesn’t mean that every page was positively action-packed. The tension is higher than ever, and Kristoff’s lush and fast-paced writing never fails to throw you right smack in the middle of the action, making you feel as if you’ve fallen into the Yousay yourself. The worldbuilding was as detailed and immersive as ever, making for a final book that I won’t forget anytime soon.

All of these elements made for a trilogy ender that I ate up every last page. It chokes me up to say goodbye to Eve, Lem, Cricket, and all the rest, but the Lifelike trilogy is one that I’ll never forget. 5 stars!

Leia Rey Hug.gif GIF by Streamlabs | Gfycat
Too many Star Wars gifs? Never…

TRUEL1F3 is the final book in the Lifelike trilogy, preceded by LIFEL1K3 and DEV1AT3. Jay Kristoff is also the author of The Nevernight Chronicle, the Lotus Wars trilogy, and the forthcoming Empire of the Vampire (all of which are on my TBR). He has also co-authored The Illuminae Files and The Aurora Cycle with Amie Kaufman.

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 Reads for National Latinx Heritage Month

Happy Wednesday, bibliophiles!

As some of you may have known, National Latinx Heritage Month started yesterday (September 15th), and ends on October 15th. So for the occasion, I figured that I would compile a list of some YA books of all genres! (All of the books listed are #OwnVoices in that respect.) As someone who’s half Latinx, this month is definitely close to my heart, and I always love seeing latinx characters on the YA scene.

Let’s get to it, shall we?

THE BOOKISH MUTANT’S YA READS FOR NATIONAL LATINX HERITAGE MONTH

The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

GENRE: Poetry/novels in verse, contemporary fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

This one was recommended to me by a friend, and it’s easily one of the best–if not the best, period–novels in verse that I’ve ever read. I know it’s gotten quite a lot of hype in the past few years, but I can say with certainty that it deserves it all.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (Hardcover) |  Politics and Prose Bookstore

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, LGBTQ+, romance, coming-of-age

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

It’s been years since I’ve read this one, but it’s such an important novel–not just in the Latinx representation, but in the LGBTQ+ representation as well!

Nocturna (A Forgery of Magic, #1), Maya Motayne

Amazon.com: Nocturna (9780062842732): Motayne, Maya: Books

GENRE: High fantasy

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️

Although I wasn’t as big a fan of this one as some of the others on this list, I loved the Latinx inspired world/magic system! One part that stood out to me was the fact that all the spells were Spanish verbs, which…okay, not gonna lie, took some of the surprise away from what the characters were about to do when I understood the words, but it’s an interesting aspect. And you can’t deny how gorgeous that cover is…

When the Moon Was Ours, Anna-Marie McLemore

Amazon.com: When the Moon Was Ours: A Novel (9781250058669): McLemore,  Anna-Marie: Books

GENRE: Fantasy, fiction, magical realism, LGBTQ+

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I swear, Anna-Maria McLemore can do no wrong. Her prose is so beautiful, and it’s wonderfully diverse as well. There isn’t a book by her that I wouldn’t recommend, though I haven’t read Dark and Deepest Red or The Weight of Feathers yet…

Fire With Fire, Destiny Soria

Fire with Fire by Destiny Soria

GENRE: Urban fantasy, fiction, LGBTQ+, paranormal, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

I recently received this one as an eARC, and I don’t regret it! Both of the main characters are mixed race (half Latinx/half white), and Dani is bisexual! It’s the first time in a bit that representation in a book got me THAT excited. Plus, there’s the general fantasy fun of butt-kicking girls teaming up with butt-kicking dragons.

With the Fire on High, Elizabeth Acevedo

Amazon.com: With the Fire on High: From the winner of the CILIP Carnegie  Medal 2019 (9781471409004): Acevedo, Elizabeth: Books

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, realistic fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Another powerful tale from Elizabeth Acevedo, another gorgeous cover! This book is not only guaranteed to tug at your heartstrings, but guaranteed to make you REALLY hungry.

They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera

Amazon.com: They Both Die at the End (9780062688514): Silvera, Adam: Books

GENRE: Contemporary fiction, science fiction, LGBTQ+, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

Absolutely worth a read, but it’s one of those books that you have to be in a good, stable mood to read. I mean, they tell you exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s no less rough…[sniffles]

Wild Beauty, Anna-Marie McLemore

Amazon.com: Wild Beauty: A Novel (9781250124555): McLemore, Anna-Marie:  Books

GENRE: Fantasy, magical realism, LGBTQ+, fiction, romance

MY RATING: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️.5

This was my first exposure to McLemore, and it’s left a lasting impression on me to this day. It’s the kind of prose that makes you smell flowers and grass and want to dance through fields of colorful wildflowers.

TELL ME WHAT YOU THINK! Have you read any of these novels? What did you think? Are there any other great books by Latinx authors that you recommend? (Everybody’s putting Cemetery Boys on their lists…I still haven’t gotten around to reading it, but I have it on hold at the library…)

Another announcement before I go–guess what else started yesterday? Bisexual visibility week! Bi visibility day is September 23rd, so I’ll be compiling another list, this time for books with bisexual protagonists and authors. Stay tuned!

Today’s song:

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

Posted in Book Review Tuesday, Books

Book Review Tuesday (9/8/20)–Cinderella is Dead

Happy Tuesday, bibliophiles!

It’s been a bit of a chaotic day for me–I couldn’t get into one of my zoom meetings for one of my classes, and it’s snowing. The latter is deeeeefinitely kind of worrying–here in Colorado, it usually doesn’t start to snow until mid to late October, and persists until late May.

IT’S THE SECOND WEEK OF SEPTEMBER. Yep, friendly reminder that climate change isn’t just global warming, but unpredictable weather patterns like this. Climate change is still very real, folks.

Anyway, I’ll step off that soapbox for a minute…only to get right back onto another one.

Ever since I found out about it in May, Cinderella is Dead was one of my most anticipated releases of this summer. A Black, sapphic protagonist, a multiracial wlw relationship, and a dystopian society based on the tale of Cinderella? I was FASCINATED. And while this novel did deliver in the aforementioned aspects, it was dragged down by the poor execution of nearly everything else.

Prepare for a rant review, folks…

Enjoy this week’s review!

Amazon.com: Cinderella Is Dead (9781547603879): Bayron, Kalynn: Books

Cinderella is Dead–Kalynn Bayron

Everybody knows the tale of Cinderella, the dismissed orphan who was visited by a fairy godmother and lived happily ever after with the dashing Prince Charming. But do you know what happened 200 years later?

In Sophia Grimmins’ world, the tale of Cinderella is now the backbone of every tradition in town. Every year, all of the eligible girls must attend the Annual Ball, to be picked and chosen by the men. But for as long as she can remember, Sophia has never wanted a man–she’s wanted a woman. She flees the ball with her life, only to find herself in the tomb of Cinderella herself. There, she finds Constance, the last surviving descendant of Cinderella, who seeks to help bring down the patriarchal kingdom. Sophia and Constance join forces, and sparks soon fly between them–but the truths they thought about Cinderella are far from true…

Seriously Disappointed GIF by The Resident on FOX - Find & Share on GIPHY
My range of emotions through the course of this book

Let me be perfectly honest: it truly pains me to give this book such a low rating. It’s such a joy to see #OwnVoices books outside contemporary and historical fiction with POC/LGBTQ+ leads, and we certainly need more of those out in the world. But even though Cinderella is Dead boasted great representation all around, it failed to meet my expectations in almost every other aspect.

I’ll start off with the good before the bad: representation! This dystopian fantasy is absolutely an #OwnVoices book, with a Black, lesbian protagonist, a lesbian love interest, and a gay side character who has a semi-prominent role. Throughout the book, there’s themes of contradicting patriarchal tradition, abuse, and misogyny, and it’s always wonderful to see a sapphic couple kicking sexist butt, so that’s always a win. But even then…Sophia wasn’t a very distinct character. I struggle to find any traits that would make her much of an individual, other than the desire to smash the patriarchy. (Don’t we all, though? Can’t go wrong with that.) I liked Constance a little bit better, but their relationship felt very rushed and glossed over. And the themes I just talked about it? They felt very forced, relying more on telling than showing. There wasn’t very much subtlety or creativity in the ways that they were tackled, making the commentary…almost not worth it. I appreciate Bayron’s attempt to discuss these issues, but there are so many ways that they could have been handled better.

All of the Cinderella mythos had SO MUCH potential, from the punchy title to the concept itself. It was still reasonably spine-chilling in execution, but other than the fact that the tale has been weaved into the world’s operating system, the worldbuilding was…wait a minute…[picks up a telescope] wait a minute, where’d it go? A little help here?

…okay, that was probably harsh, but it was RIDDLED with holes.

Coming Lets Go GIF by The Detour - Find & Share on GIPHY
Me @ the worldbuilding

[spreads out a sheet of paper] Okay, let’s see. We’ve got a country ruled by a monarchy, with some forests around it, presumably. It’s hinted that it’s a bit more antiquated technology-wise, but we don’t get any sense of where society has gone as far as technology, transportation, all of that. There’s a little bit of evidence to suggest that magic exists, but the only wielder we know of is the Fairy Godmother. (So is there some sort of ban on magic? Has nobody else been able to find it? Who knows…) The character’s names range from ones that were popular in the 19th century to those in the 21st century, but most of them fall into the latter. (ex. Liv, Isla, Sophia) So…wait, what? It’s been a good two and a half weeks since I’ve read Cinderella is Dead, and I STILL have no idea what’s going on there. I NEED ANSWERS. PLEASE. THIS IS A MESS.

Confused Screaming | Filthy Frank | Know Your Meme

The worldbuilding is my main criticism, but other than that, my issues are a little more nit-picky. Things like Sophia having very few defining traits (if any) and the telling method of tackling the issues, the villains had very lackluster, overdone motives and no redeemable qualities to speak of. The dialogue also had a tendency to be overly stiff, and nobody had a distinct voice.

Again, I feel so bad for giving this book such a low rating. #OwnVoices books are so pertinent and important in this day and age, but…there are so many better ones that you could be reading than this one. I could chalk this rating up to my high expectations, but other than the representation and concept, Cinderella is Dead was such a mess. Amazing concept, terrible execution. 2.5 stars, but the half star is likely just for seeing a multiracial wlw couple smashing the patriarchy. [sad harmonica noises]

Let Down GIF - LetDown Disappointed YouHaveLetMeDownALot - Discover & Share  GIFs

Cinderella is Dead is Kalynn Bayron’s YA debut, but she has several other adult and nonfiction works. Cinderella is Dead is likely a standalone, but I’ve heard a rumor about spin-offs set in the same universe, but I haven’t been able to confirm their validity.

Today’s song:

That’s it for this week’s Book Review Tuesday! I promise that the next reviews I write will be more positive. Have a wonderful rest of your day, and take care of yourselves!