Reviews

Everything I Hoped It’d Be- Once and Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

“I’ve been chased my whole life. As a fugitive refugee in the territory controlled by the tyrannical Mercer corporation, I’ve always had to hide who I am. Until I found Excalibur.

Now I’m done hiding.

My name is Ari Helix. I have a magic sword, a cranky wizard, and a revolution to start.

When Ari crash-lands on Old Earth and pulls a magic sword from its ancient resting place, she is revealed to be the newest reincarnation of King Arthur. Then she meets Merlin, who has aged backward over the centuries into a teenager, and together they must break the curse that keeps Arthur coming back. Their quest? Defeat the cruel, oppressive government and bring peace and equality to all humankind.

No pressure. “

Review

First off, I’ve been waiting for this book since I first heard about it. I’m not really a SyFy fan, but this was a retelling that I just couldn’t ignore. I haven’t read a ton of King Arthur stories recently, but I remember a bit about them from when I had to read them in school. This book has so many elements that I enjoyed.

First, let talk about the characters. There’s Ari who is an action first, think later kind of girl. She’s an orphan refugee that was taken in my two women and has grown up under the radar. She’s a fighter with the quest of returning to her planet and freeing her people. She’s skeptical and brash and I really enjoyed it. Now, there can of course be no Arthur without a Merlin. I’m going to be honest and say that Merlin is probably my favorite character. He’s just as much as a main character as Ari in this story. What really drew me in was his past though and his memory and relationship with all the past Arthur-s. It hurts to read sometimes, but I think it just added such a great, new element to the typical Arthurian legend that I was completely taken with him. Honestly, I’m taken with all of the characters. They’re so diverse and each of them has at least a little bit of backstory and history all that are new, but also tied to past King Arthur stories. Loved it.

The world of this story is set far in the future and it takes an interesting look on what could happen to not only our world, but our whole universe if we let our love of capitalism go too far. Corporations especially Mercer are out of control in this novel and it shows through how the planets are designed, built, and controlled. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it dystopian, but if you’re worried about the power of consumerism it could maybe feel that way.

The diversity in this book flourishes all over its pages and it didn’t feel like fan service! These characters got enough love and attention that they all seemed well entrenched and important to the story. Most of our characters are characters of color as well as lgbtq+. We even have a character that I really enjoy that is nonbinary. I love these characters.

Overall, I loved this book. As I mentioned, I was really pulled in by the summary and I wasn’t disappointed.


Have you read this book? What did you think? Is it on your TBR?

Reviews

Another Magic School novel: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 2/5

Diversity: 2/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Simon Snow is the worst Chosen One who’s ever been chosen.

That’s what his roommate, Baz, says. And Baz might be evil and a vampire and a complete git, but he’s probably right.

Half the time, Simon can’t even make his wand work, and the other half, he starts something on fire. His mentor’s avoiding him, his girlfriend broke up with him, and there’s a magic-eating monster running around, wearing Simon’s face. Baz would be having a field day with all this, if he were here — it’s their last year at the Watford School of Magicks, and Simon’s infuriating nemesis didn’t even bother to show up.

Carry On – The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow is a ghost story, a love story and a mystery. It has just as much kissing and talking as you’d expect from a Rainbow Rowell story – but far, far more monsters.

Review

I picked this book up because of the cover. I was interested in the possibility of there being a dragon-type character. Well, there really wasn’t, but this book was still pretty good. I’m going to be honest and say that at first I did not enjoy this book. I’m not a huge fan of Rainbow Rowell. I think most of her books are boring and this just seemed like a stereotypical magic school book. BUT, if you can make it to the middle of the book and especially the end then you find a little bit more substance to this book.

Let start with the characters. There’s Simon, the chosen one who can’t actually control his own powers. He’s impulsive and fiery and that normally gets him in trouble. Simon also has the typical orphan chosen one status. Every summer he goes from foster home to foster home without true family. I really enjoyed this part of Simon’s character. Now because I like orphan stories, but because it explains a little bit around why he may be so fiery and impulsive. Then, you have Baz who is about the exact opposite. The relationship between them was okay. I wouldn’t say it’s anything too crazy simply because it seems pretty quick to me after years of antagonism, but most say love and hate are closer than we usually think. Rowell does do a great job though of filling you in on the characters history together. You get to read a lot about their feuds and pranks. What really kept me reading though was the villain. The villain that has the face of Simon as a child. Just think about what that could mean for a second. There’s not a ton about the villain, but how he’s connected into the story really moved me into thinking about the cost of power and what some people may be willing to pay for it.

The world building was almost nonexistent. There was a magic world, but it is basically like ours and so didn’t really contain anything new or unexpected from our own world.

The diversity was mainly with Baz and Simon would were lgbtq+. Others most characters are white and pretty uneventful.

Overall, I rated this book so high because of the final half of the book. It does have some interesting plot elements that I didn’t expect and there are some twists that I didn’t expect right away. I would say if you really enjoy magic school novels than you could really enjoy this book. If you’re looking for a new and exciting spin on the magic college thing or an epic romance this probably is not the book for you.

Reviews

A Helpful Education Resource- Seeing Gender by Iris Gottlieb

This is a nonfiction book that I received free of charge courtesy of NetGalley. All opinions are my own.

I haven’t requested any ARCs in quite some time. The number of unread books I currently own is kinda crazy, but I just was looking around when I saw this cover. Look at it, it’s absolutely gorgeous! I don’t normally post nonfiction book reviews here, but I think this is an important book for anyone who doesn’t know a lot about gender, sexuality, and ways to express them. Please think about giving this a read.

Review

There’s a lot that I really enjoy about this book. I downloaded this from Netgalley and sat down and read it all in one go. First, the content. This is why I requested this book in the first place. There is a lot to learn about gender, sexuality, and all other forms of expression. It’s hard sometimes to understand it all. I knew a lot of the stuff that Gottlieb shared in this book when it came to definitions, but what she really introduced me to were the historical figures and other relevant facts she seamlessly wove into this book. There so many facts and articles shared in this book that I really felt like I was learning a lot. The topics were also separated into small readable chunks. This is not a textbook, but a great way to begin your educational journey a small bit of information at a time.

Two, the art. The art is beautiful in the book, but is also always relevant to want is being written about. It’s a very visually appealing book.

Third, Gottlieb, provides usually simple and actionable steps to take to be a more helpful and mindful human being if you’re still learning about what may be appropriate vs not. Gottlieb has done her research well and has made this a book that speaks honestly and with intersectionality. A great book and resource if you’re interested in learning more about our ever expanding understanding of gender, identity, sexuality, and more.

Seeing Gender: An Illustrated Guide to Identity and Expression will be published on October 22, 2019.

Reviews

A Heartfelt and Deep Romance- Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 2/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

“What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?

When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? “

Review

This book has had a lot of media hype and so I was interested. I read the summary and was intrigued, but book readers if you like romance books or (like me) you aren’t a huge fan of romance, this book is amazing! I generally don’t enjoy romance, because having a plot focused on romance is generally uncompelling to me. This book had so many elements that I enjoyed though. One, it was a relationship that was actually built on deep feelings. Alex and Henry don’t get along at first. The reason seems a bit petty, but we’ve all been there I suppose. But, after they take that first step of friendship it just slowly builds into more. They talk about their families, their worries, and eventually secrets with each other. It’s just beautiful and is so much of what I’ve been trying to find in any book that has a bit of romance in it at all. It made me feel so warm inside. This is the healthy relationship I want to see in novels.

               I want to talk more about these characters. Alex is a biracial man who is the son of the president of the USA. It’s smart, fun, and a bit clueless about his feelings. We get him at his best and sometimes not his best. He’s so full of hope and has big dreams of change. I wish he was real. He’s also bisexual though he doesn’t quite realize that at first. However, this is not a gay for you story. Those always make me a bit squinty eyed and uncomfortable. No, Alex has had an attraction for both genders for a long time, but it just didn’t really sink in. I love this aspect of him. As someone who is also bisexual if nice to read about the confusion and sort of eureka moment in someone who’s in their 20s. It felt more relatable to me since that’s when it also sort of clicked for me.  Then, we have Henry. Henry is soft, anxious, and deep. We don’t even get Henry’s POV, this book is purely from Alex, but we still learn so much about him. Henry has had the weight of being in the royal family really take its toll on him. He shares the hardship with anyone who is told to lie about who they are or pretend to be something they’re not. There’s also a group of family members and friends throughout the book that are just really great. Most everyone if so supportive of these two that it makes me want to cry. Also, we don’t get a ton about him, but just wait until you read about Pez.

               There’s not much world building in this novel since it’s contemporary; however, there was enough with creating a completely new first family and monarchy that I thought it deserved at least a bit of recognition. What I love most about this book and its mirror world of ours is that it’s so hopeful. The current state of the USA has really been hurtful and frustrating and honestly so embarrassing. This book makes me feel hopeful though. That even though there might be those out there who want to be so conservative and traditional that if we pull together out of love and respect for each other we could really build a country that is headed in a direction I would like to see. It gave me a bit more faith in us again for better or worse.

The diversity is nice in this book. Alex is a bisexual who is also biracial. Henry is very gay. We also have some supporting characters who are gay and bisexual as well. Henry also has some briefly mentioned anxiety which is some minor mental health rep.

Overall, this book lived up to the hype. I am in love with it and hope to see more from this author soon. The characters are well-rounded and lovable. The plot is great, a read through it so quickly and easily. It gave me so much hope and all the warm fuzzies. If you have even a little interest in romance (for more than the sex) then I think you will so easily fall in love with this novel. Couldn’t recommend it enough!


Have you read this book? What do you think? Do you love it, hate it, somewhere in between? I’d love to hear your thoughts/feelings.

Reviews

A Tough Read- The Love and Lies of Rukshana Ali

Overall enjoyment: 2.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 3/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Seventeen-year-old Rukhsana Ali tries her hardest to live up to her conservative Muslim parents’ expectations, but lately she’s finding that harder and harder to do. She rolls her eyes instead of screaming when they blatantly favor her brother and she dresses conservatively at home, saving her crop tops and makeup for parties her parents don’t know about. Luckily, only a few more months stand between her carefully monitored life in Seattle and her new life at Caltech, where she can pursue her dream of becoming an engineer.

But when her parents catch her kissing her girlfriend Ariana, all of Rukhsana’s plans fall apart. Her parents are devastated; being gay may as well be a death sentence in the Bengali community. They immediately whisk Rukhsana off to Bangladesh, where she is thrown headfirst into a world of arranged marriages and tradition. Only through reading her grandmother’s old diary is Rukhsana able to gain some much needed perspective. 

Rukhsana realizes she must find the courage to fight for her love, but can she do so without losing everyone and everything in her life?”

Review

I started this book think while there might be a little teenage hardship in this book it would be a fairly light read. I was WRONG!!!! Normally I don’t give book warnings since everyone has their own personal triggers and opinions, but this one got unexpectedly dark. There were definitely times were I almost put this book down. Maybe it was because it hit a bit too close to home for me, but there’s some serious homophobia in this book. If you’re sensitive to that I would encourage you to read with caution. This book starts out light with normal teenage concerns and then hits on some serious topics.

The characters.  Rukshana herself was an interesting character and I love that we were introduced to some of her Bangladesh culture and how that affects her as someone who is a first-generation teenager living in the US. I think it also was very open and honest about the different cultural pressures some girls with more traditional family may experience. There are of course other characters, but they seemed pretty shallow to me. I would say Rukshana’s family gets a little depth especially her grandmother, but I was left wanting more especially about Rukshana’s girlfriend.

World building was minor in that it takes places in the modern world, but there’s so much cultural bits in this book that I feel I was given a look into another experience of what life could be had I been born into a different family. I very much enjoyed it.

Diversity. This book was focused on Rukshana, a Desi lesbian. It also includes other LGBTQ+ characters as well as her family which is as mentioned originally from Bangladesh. Definitely a diverse read!

Overall, I AM GOING TO GIVE SPOILERS! PLEASE SKIP IF WANT TO AVOID!!!!!

I loved the cultural elements of this book and I was really excited to read it, but how the LGBTQ+ elements were handled in this book made it almost impossible for me to enjoy. First, there is really no meaningful relationship between Rukshana and Ariana in my opinion. They’re together in the book, but we never learn how they met or really why Rukshana even loves Ariana so much. They’re either making out, arguing, or apologizing. It was flat for me and really disappointing. Once the mother catches the two girls together Rukshana is tricked into going to Bangladesh with her parents where they hire someone who basically tells the family that Rukshana is controlled by a jinn and they need to do and exorcism. Now, while this was horrifying to read I understand that there can be some importance to having this experience in the novel. I’m not sure if this is being practiced in any part of Bangladesh or anywhere today, but if so then I would want people to know about it and understand what experience men and women from these areas may be having. What I didn’t appreciate was that once Rukshana’s parents realize they were wrong the follow through of regaining trust, apologizing, etc. seemed too brief and easy to me. I wanted more conversation and depth, but it sped all too quickly for me. I also had mixed feelings about the death of Sohail, a closested gay man that Rukshana’s parents want her to marry. I think the author was maybe trying to open our eyes to the struggles of LGBTQ+ youth in Bangladesh and if this character had been more of a focal point with more backstory maybe it would have felt more powerful to me, but I felt like Sohail was only in the books so that his death could make Rukshana’s parents realize how awful it would be if their daughter was murdered. This then makes them realize that they’d rather accept her rather than see her killed. He was a plot point and I have a hard time with that. So, maybe I’m still too raw and emotional about this book to see it objectively. If you see it from a different angle I wouldn’t mind hearing your thoughts and maybe discussing it. I want to like this book and I do love the cultural aspects, but the rest is hard to swallow.

SPOILERS OVER

What do you think about the book? Did you enjoy it? Is it on your TBR? I’d love to hear what you think!

Reviews

A Review- A Faire Encounter By A.M Valenza

Overall Enjoyment: 2.5/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 2/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary: Elena is working the Renaissance Faire with her cousin Luís when she spots the Cutest Girl Ever, a yawning, shivering, chubby little thing dressed up in a dragon onesie. The only problem is getting her attention. She comes up with a plan: impress that adorable dragon girl at all costs. A little magic wouldn’t hurt either.

Review

I picked up this book because it was set at a ren faire. I love renaissance faires. I think they’re so fun and nerdy. I enjoyed the beginning of this book, but the more I read the more it just became a little too silly for me.

The best thing about this book was the characterization. Ines was a shy, asexual who got pulled into the whirl wind known as Elena. While I enjoyed Ines, Elena was too much for me to enjoy. She was supposed to be at least an older teenager, but she responded like someone much younger than that and I found that very disappointing. Each of these characters had very distinct voices though and I did really enjoy that.

The world building in this story was fairly minor. As I mentioned before it is set at a renaissance faire with the surprise that witches are real. There’s very little explanation about the witchcraft other than its normal to be happening at the faire.

Diversity is where this novel also really shines. There’s representation for some different sexual orientation, diabetes, mutism, etc. While I appreciated it I also felt like it was a little bit of fan service. The story was short enough and I felt like while we met a diverse cast we really just got a snapshot of them before moving on. I always find that a bit unsatisfying, but it wouldn’t be any different with any other minor character in a relatively short novel.

Overall, I wasn’t satisfied. There are such few f/f novels that I find that I want them to all be magnificent to encourage more people to read and enjoy them. This novel was light, fluffy and if you don’t mind crazy characters you could enjoy this story. If you’re looking for something deeper you’re going to be disappointed.

Reviews

Epic Read: In This Land by Matthew Haldeman-Time

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 5/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

In This Land Summary (taken from the website):

Bade, prince of the tiny, overlooked country of Nosupolis, doesn’t have a plan for his life. His ambitious older brother Tiko, heir to the throne, seems to have everything under control without Bade or his twin brother’s help. Bade hopes to marry well and find some way to be a credit to the crown, but never in his wildest dreams does he expect an invitation to court the Pharaoh of Orina Anoris, the divine ruler of the most powerful country in the world. Bade always thought that Tiko would be the one to change their homeland for the better, but now he has a chance to wed the pharaoh, ally their two nations through marriage, and do more for Nosupolis than anyone in centuries. Suddenly whisked away by Prince Orinakin, royal diplomat and handsome purple-haired child of the gods, Bade finds himself in an exotic land that dazzles his senses and opens his eyes like never before. The people of Orina Anoris are uninhibited, expressive, flirtatious, and don’t seem to know the meaning of sexual repression. The handsome Seven Siblings are no exception. Boyfriends, lovers, harems–it boggles Bade’s mind to witness a freedom he never even imagined. But the endless parade of beautiful men pales in comparison to the Pharaoh Anosukinom. Tall, gorgeous, and physically flawless, Anosukinom’s beauty is literally perfection. And if that weren’t enough, the rumors are true: he really is both god and man. Crackling with power, intimidating yet friendly, he is as unconventional as he is traditionally Anorian. Daunted in the face of his divinity, Bade isn’t sure if he can win the heart of a deity, but at the very least he hopes to bring attention to the plight of his ignored, forgotten country. After being exposed to a vibrant, colorful new world, nights of sizzling passion, and the possibilities of true love, how can Bade face the thought of being rejected and returning home? Will he be able to win the pharaoh’s heart and finally help his people? Experience the rich, luxurious fantasy world of Orina Anoris only in Matthew Haldeman-Time’s series, “In This Land,” and watch as eight handsome brothers try to balance ruling a nation with finding true happiness. Find out what happens to Bade, Anosukinom, and the sexiest siblings in the world.

The Review

I titled this an epic read, because this is a massive ongoing web serial that is one of the best things I’ve ever read. Now, please don’t let the fact that this stories isn’t complete stop you. This story has been going on for years and its updated EVERY SINGLE Friday/Saturday depending on your time zone. Also, if you haven’t read it before then even if you binge read it’ll probably take you at least 3-4 days (probably more honestly) to be all caught up on this story. There are hundreds of chapters. It does cost $5/per month to read, but that is pocket change compared to what I feel like this story is worth. This story makes me want to be a better person. Why you might ask? Let me tell you,

Love, positivity, and acceptance are the ongoing themes of this whole series. It’s such a long series that it’s hard for me to really explain all that goes on within the story without giving away some serious spoilers and everyone hates spoilers. But, let me tell you what I can. This series is full of lgbtq+ characters and it’s not even seen as a big deal, it’s just accepted as love is love. It smashes some gender norms. There are guys in dress, there are women in men’s clothing and it’s seen as a generally acceptable way to dress. There are people of color though I will say most of the main characters are what I would describe as white. Its sex positive which means that sex is seen as a normal and healthy part of a person’s life without the slut shaming going around. I could continue gushing about it, but those are the big hitters for me. It doesn’t hit every type of diversity in the world, but the message is very clear in this story.

On that note though while I love this series I would not say that it could be categorized as fantasy or paranormal more like perhaps speculative fiction and it would obviously fall in the romance section. This is not like a George R. R. Martin book where there is lots of murder and death and political intrigue. While there are discussions about politics and the negative things that are happening in the countries outside of Orina Anoris it’s not the main focal point. This is a fairly light read in that regard, but I do believe that this book gives you things to think about and consider. There is tension and struggle within this story it’s just more personal than political.  You’re guarantee to fall in love with at least one of the brothers and each one is getting or already has their own story with them as the main focus.

This series also has well thought out and detailed world building.  As I’ve mentioned in posts before I’m a sucker for excellent world building. This series has a multitude of countries in it and they all have histories to them, different cultures, and religions. Some countries are more explored than others, but the author has spent some serious time creating unique places for us to enjoy.

With that all being said I hope you’ll check it out. You can read it here. Also, if you are completely against monthly subscriptions Matthew Haldeman-Time has published some of his series into printed books. You can buy the first one here. A word of warning though, there is a copious amount of the online story that hasn’t been published into print. The author doesn’t seem to plan on releasing printed versions in the near future either so if you want the full story then you’d need to subscribe.