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A book of choice: A Taste of Honey by Kai Ashante Wilson

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Long after the Towers left the world but before the dragons came to Daluça, the emperor brought his delegation of gods and diplomats to Olorum. As the royalty negotiates over trade routes and public services, the divinity seeks arcane assistance among the local gods.

Aqib bgm Sadiqi, fourth-cousin to the royal family and son of the Master of Beasts, has more mortal and pressing concerns. His heart has been captured for the first time by a handsome Daluçan soldier named Lucrio. In defiance of Saintly Canon, gossiping servants, and the furious disapproval of his father and brother, Aqib finds himself swept up in a whirlwind romance. But neither Aqib nor Lucrio know whether their love can survive all the hardships the world has to throw at them.”

I got this book when I was look through goodreads. The summary really intrigued me. The cover was beautiful and so I decided to give it a shot. Overall, I enjoyed this book. Most of the book was at a 4 rating for me, but the end just kinda cheapened everything for me. I love the thought of what the author was trying to do and I think he was very successful at accomplishing it, but in actuality I didn’t like it. If this vague comment bothers you I have explained at the end of this post after a spoiler warning. I know lots of readers hate spoilers so trying to be mindful!

Characters. Aqib is the character that we follow along for the whole of the story. It actually spans most of his life…sorta. He’s not perfect and is weak in some ways, but he’s aware of it and doesn’t seem to cover it up. We don’t know a ton about Lucrio, Aqib’s lover, but we are shown their love for each other. This book is short so the relationship moves fast, but for the length of the book I wasn’t surprised by that.

World building. I’m always surprised how some shorter books can include so much world building. There’s a definite religion to the country and we’re exposed to quite a bit of it from a distance. There is so larger mathematical magic talk that I’m not sure was necessary, but interesting and made an interesting plot point as well.

I would 100% this book is character driven. I wouldn’t really even say there’s a plot outside of exploring Aqib’s character and his life. It’s all about how the choices we make can have large affects on the outcome of our lives. As I said, an interesting premise even though it didn’t leave me completely satisfied.

Diversity. There’s some intersectionality in this book that made me happy. Aqib is a black, bisexual man and Lucrio is gay. We also have strong black women woven into this book that I really enjoyed.

Spoiler warning!!!!

So, what the author was trying to do. This book has multiple time jumps and time frames throughout the book. These are clearly marked and I found it easy to follow. One part of this story is focused on Abiq and Lucrio while another part of the story is focused on Abiq and if he is forced to marry a woman. All of Lucrio’s story seems to be set in the past while the marriage to the woman and the rest of his life takes up much of the book. It was sad, but I know that sometimes things like that happen.But, at the very end we learn that his whole marriage and life were just a possibility and that he never really got married at all, but actually chose to be with Lucrio. Now, I love the idea of writing about how the choices we make can vastly impact our lives and if this book had made it clear upfront that that’s what was being explored then I think at the end i wouldn’t have felt so frustrated. This book spent a lot of time on Aqib’s life being married and then to be told it didn’t happen was frustrating to me. I wish if the goal was to truly explore two life options that we got a bit more detail of Lucrio and Aqib’s life together than just the first meeting but I guess that would have given it away or maybe made reading the story more confusing. That is my take. I would still recommend reading this story. I think it’s very interesting and well written, but hopefully this helps you avoid some ending frustration.

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What Can I do? Supporting Our Black Communities

Hello lovely readers,

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic I have been largely taking a break from this blog. I have some reviews saved up, but given the current climate of the United States I decided to use this as a platform to spread the message. Recently in the USA a black man name George Floyd was murdered in Minnesota by a police officer. George died after telling a police officer for several minutes that he couldn’t breath. I hope that everyone reading this post can agree that this was a gross misuse of police power and what’s worse is that this is not the first instance in this country where a black person has been murdered by police for no reason. This has got to stop. Now, I know a lot of people (myself included) have been really wondering the best way to help this movement for justice and reform. I have done some research and am familiar with some organizations that are doing the good work.

Below is some information on what you can do to help. Note that these are just a few resources that you can utilize and is far from all the resources and organizations out there. Please also know that while I and others post blogs, posts, or whatever else that it is simply not enough. We’ve tried that route and haven’t gotten very far. We need to mobilize in whatever ways our talents best allow. Please use your voice, your time, your money, etc. to be a source of positive and just change during this time. This is not the time to be complacent and this is not the time to be silent.

Organizations to Donate to

Below are a list of organizations that are ran by or run to support black people/communities. I will provide a brief summary of the organization, but I urge you to investigate on your own as well. This list is not just about supporting the current moment. This fight for justice and equality has been going on for years. It is also not just a list of legal organizations. While laws must change without a change in attitude those laws are not fairly enforced. This organizations contain legal organizations, education organizations, camps for kids, etc.

NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund: This is a nonprofit organization that works civil rights cases as well as providing scholarships for students to get an education.

Campaign Zero: Campaign zero is an organization that is focused on ending police violence through analyzing police practices, researching effective solutions to ending police violence, and creating model legislation .

Color of Change: color of change is an online organization with the mission to build political and cultural power for black communities.

Camp Kupugani: Multicultural Summer Camp. This is a black-owned summer camp for kids that is based in Illinois. This camp focuses on diversity and empowerment. They have a scholarship fund that supports getting more kids to camp. Their facebook page is also a great place to find great posts/articles.

Know Your Rights Camp: This camp is a traveling camp with the mission to empower black kids to know their right and through that empower them to become future leaders. They also have a legal fund that are supporting those that have been arrested while protesting.

Donorschoose.org: This organization doesn’t strictly support black students, but any classroom that is in a high poverty area. These are largely schools made up of black and brown students. This platform allows you to donate to a specific school and a specific goal such as getting new laptops or buying extra materials or supporting distance learning.

Support a Black Lives Matter or local organization near you!

HAVE NO MONEY???

Watch this Youtube video with ALL THE ADS. It is a video full of black creatives with all the money going to a variety of black-supporting organizations (list at beginning of video). After watching the first time make sure to watch 5 other videos and then go watch again. If you watch different videos your continuous watching of this video won’t count as spam.


Using your voice

As I mentioned, making posts and social media posts while nice is not enough, but you can use your writing skills in ways to help.

Write to your political leaders. Write to local, state, and federal level representatives. We will only win this battle if a black person can go anywhere without the fear for their lives.


Educate Yourself

It is your responsibility to be an informed person. Black people have been telling people there’s a problem for YEARS and YEARS. It’s not their responsibility! There is SO much information and educational resources out there that you really have no excuse to be uninformed at this point.

Zinn Education Project: This is a nonprofit educational resource that is free and meant to provide resources for middle and high school teachers. However, this is also a great resource to educate yourself if you’re looking for a particular time in history.

Teaching Tolerance: This is another resource that is meant for teachers that strives to provide an anti-bias, anti-racist curriculum, but could provide some food for your thought.


Read Diversely

Now, this is a book blog focusing on diverse fantasy because I love fantasy books, but really if you love reading then I IMPLORE YOU please read diversely and encourage others to do the same. Now, this will hopefully support diverse voices, but this will also do something else. It will allow you to read black characters who are heroes, black characters you love and can relate to. It has the ability to change your mindset. Now, this will probably not change the mind of someone who is blatantly racist, but America has a problem with subtle racism too that can be just as damaging. Mainly through microaggressions.

“Microaggression is a term used for brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative prejudicial slights and insults toward any group, particularly culturally marginalized groups.”

Notice that microaggressions can be UNINTENTIONAL. Think of it as you’ve been raised to do, say, and act certain ways that are harmful to black people and you might not even realize it. It can be as simple as frowning every time you see a black person whether you realize you’re doing it or not.

The more we read and build relationships with black people the less likely (hopefully) those microaggressions will become.


I hope these resources give you at least a place to start. With this pandemic and the riots you may not feel safe to join the physical protest, but I hope you find ways in this post to lift your voice and your power for the respect, dignity, and freedom for our black community members. If you have any other resources that you feel are super important to share or you have a personal relationship with please let me know and I will be happy to add it to this post as soon as I can. Please note that I am a white woman and have no true understanding of fearing for my life every day simply because of the color of my skin. While I hope this post was helpful I urge you to listen to all the black voices currently crying out. They have the experience and they can share with you more than I could ever hope to.

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A Ferry of Bones & Gold Review

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 3/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

When the gods come calling, you don’t get to say no.

Patrick Collins is three years into a career as a special agent for the Supernatural Operations Agency when the gods come calling to collect a soul debt he owes them. An immortal has gone missing in New York City and bodies are showing up in the wake of demon-led ritual killings that Patrick recognizes all too easily from his nightmares.

Unable to walk away, Patrick finds himself once again facing off against mercenary magic users belonging to the Dominion Sect. Standing his ground alone has never been a winning option in Patrick’s experience, but it’s been years since he’s had a partner he could trust.

Looking for allies in all the wrong places, Patrick discovers the Dominion Sect’s next target is the same werewolf the Fates themselves have thrown into his path. Patrick has been inexplicably attracted to the man from their first meeting, but desire has no place in war. That doesn’t stop Patrick from wanting what he shouldn’t have. Jonothon de Vere is gorgeous, dangerous, and nothing but trouble—to the case, to the fight against every hell, and ultimately, to Patrick’s heart and soul.

In the end, all debts must be paid, and Patrick can only do what he does best—cheat death.”

I picked up A Ferry of Bones and Gold when I was looking at reading kindle unlimited. It was a free read and it sounded like something I could be interested. The plot was interesting, the urban fantasy world was given a new spin on what I normally read, and the characters were alright.

Our main character in this book is Patrick. He’s a mage that works for basically what amount to a supernatural FBI and this dude has been through some stuff. I don’t to give too much backstory way as it could spoil some things, but pieces are of his backstory are littered throughout the book. We also have Jono. He’s a lonely werewolf with a secret. We don’t get much of him which is a bit frustrating with how involved he becomes for what seems like very little reason. Honestly, even though we get backstory on these two I still feel like they could have been a bit more developed. This book is part of a series though, so we’ll probably see more as we go along.

I was pleasantly surprised with the world building. It’s urban fantasy so there’s not a whole new world created, but I think Turner did a nice job of creating a mirror world that took into consideration what our world might look like if we had supernaturals wandering around. They’re embedded in the legal system with political structures of their own, not to mention the military branches. There werewolves also get an interesting explanation as well as a new concept to me called a god pack.

I would consider this a plot driven story. Our characters do get some history added to them in bits and pieces, but it is definitely the plot that keeps this story going.

The diversity in this book is okay. Our main characters are gay, and we do have a sprinkling of racially diverse characters on the outskirts, but they only get brief mentions so I wouldn’t say there is a lot of representation in this book.

Overall, this is a decent and enjoyable book if you enjoy urban fantasy. It has a bit of grittiness to it that makes it interesting and a plot that keeps you interested. If you enjoy urban fantasy I think you could enjoy this as well.

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How Diverse Was My Reading for 2019?

Hello everyone, for this post I’m going to be looking over the books I’ve read this year and seeing if I’m actually meeting my goal of reading diversely. I’ll be looking at different aspects of the books I’ve read and going over them here. If you want to consider how diversely you’ve read then maybe consider some of these questions too. I’ve read a total of 40 published books this year. Not all these books were fantasy book, but we’ll count them anyway to make it easier.

Gender

Men: This year I read 13/ 40 books with male leads

Women: This year I read 24/40 with female leads

Trans/nonbinary: This year I read 1/20 books with a trans or nonbinary lead.

N/A: This year I read 2 nonfiction books that really had nothing to do with gender.


Race

This is a bit tricky due to reading fantasy novels, but many of the books I read had fairly obvious coding. These will be very broad categories. The N/A category is for nonfiction books or a character with a race that doesn’t exist in the real world.

So, looking at this I realize about 50% of my reading still has white or non-realistic races. Honestly, I thought it would be a lot lower.


Sexuality

Some of these books weren’t clue on whether the characters were bisexual vs gay vs pansexual. For the sake of ease if it isn’t specifically mentioned in the book I put then in the category based on the relationship they have in the book. N/A is for nonfiction as well as those that involved no obvious relationships or mention of them.

This is a bit more what I expected. A little bit more lgbtq+ reading than just the normal hetero couple. I tried to be very mindful of my reading about this in particular.


Intersectionality

This is a category I expect to be relatively low. The more diversely I tried to read the more I realized that many books are just focused on one type of diversity rather than having a character with multiple diverse elements.

LGBTQ+ characters with mental health representation: 2/40

LGBTQ+ characters who are also characters of color: 9/40

Characters of color with mental health representation: 3/40


Diverse Authors

It’s important to represent diverse authors too! This is based on the information that these authors readily have shared with the public.

Authors of Color: 14 authors

LGBTQ+ authors: 8 authors

Own Voices: 14 authors


Overall, I feel like its a pretty good start. Most of my reading was at least 50% diverse in these categories. I could definitely read more diversely, but I think my goal would be to maybe try and find more stories with better intersectionality. I only read 3 books this year that were fiction with a focus on straight, white people. A very good run for me I’d say. No reason we can’t all read diversely!


How about you? Have you thought about reading more diversely? Have you made any efforts? What is your favorite diverse book and/or author? I always love recommendations!

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My Heart Hurts- Girls of Storm and Shadow

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

“In this mesmerizing sequel to the New York Times bestselling Girls of Paper and Fire, Lei and Wren have escaped their oppressive lives in the Hidden Palace, but soon learn that freedom comes with a terrible cost.

Lei, the naive country girl who became a royal courtesan, is now known as the Moonchosen, the commoner who managed to do what no one else could. But slaying the cruel Demon King wasn’t the end of the plan—it’s just the beginning. Now Lei and her warrior love Wren must travel the kingdom to gain support from the far-flung rebel clans. The journey is made even more treacherous thanks to a heavy bounty on Lei’s head, as well as insidious doubts that threaten to tear Lei and Wren apart from within.

Meanwhile, an evil plot to eliminate the rebel uprising is taking shape, fueled by dark magic and vengeance. Will Lei succeed in her quest to overthrow the monarchy and protect her love for Wren, or will she fall victim to the sinister magic that seeks to destroy her? “

Review

I received this ARC for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Okay, I have so many mixed feelings!!!! So MANY!!!!! First, I was extremely honored and excited to receive this ARC. I really enjoy Natasha Ngan’s writing style and Girls of Paper and Fire was the first sapphic book that I actually felt a connection to which really gave this series a special place in my heart. However, reading this book was really tough for me. The first half was great, but as the book went along I increasingly struggled.

Lets talk characters. I will say that we are introduced to many new ones and I enjoyed the ones that I would consider the mains though as usual I wished we had more about them. I love my character development. You’ll see Merrin, the owl demon who rescued Lei and Wren at the end of Girls of Paper and Fire. You get leopard demon siblings, and a shaman as well, I will say that I think Lei is the most consistent and enjoyable character in this book. She does what needs to be done, but has the heart that make you fall in love with her. Wren though. This book was so hard for me mostly because of her. I don’t want to give away spoilers, but lets just say we learn a lot about her in this book and it was hard for me to swallow. We get some morally gray characters going on here which normally I honestly love, but I just felt angry honestly. I felt angry for the last half of this book and I wasn’t compelled by these characters’ arguments.

The world building was good. We get to explore more of the world that had been built with the first book. You get to see more of the country which is enjoyable in its geographical difference and you will notice that there are different cultures sprinkled throughout the book though they weren’t super developed I did enjoy them.

As for diversity this book does well. We get to meet a couple more lgbtq+ characters as well as Lei and Wren both being women of color as well as lesbians. There are also characters who are experiencing mental health disorders. A story with some good intersectionality.

Overall, I’m frustrated. I loved Lei and Wren, but this book was a tough read for me and left me on a note that was frustrating and dissatisfying. I believe there will be a 3rd book and I will read it just to see where this goes, but honestly I really considered just not reading anymore past this point. I’m writing this write after I finished the book so I’m definitely on an emotional high, but heck this book hurt.

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ARC Review- Blood of the Pack aka lesbian werewolves

Overall enjoyment: 2.5/5

Characterization: 2/5

Overall worldbuilding: 3/5

Diversity: 3/5

I was given a free advance copy of this book through Netgalley in return for an honest review. This book will be released on August 13th.

I wanted desperately to like this book more than I did. Lesbian werewolves?! I was so excited. I was pumped. I became very frustrated very quickly. First, I didn’t realize that this was part of a series. My fault I didn’t do the research and so some things were confusing but may have been explained in previous books of the series. This is book three. Some confusion though was not what truly frustrated me so much as the missed potential of this book. The premise of the book and most of the major plot points were amazing ideas! I could have easily fallen in love with this book if not for the writing style. Now, that may sound petty, but listen. Every problem that arose in this book was solved in what felt like five pages or less. Any part of the book that could have been a secret or big reveal to other characters was somehow discovered through the random senses of the characters. It made me want to scream.

The characters of this book were pretty lackluster. They had potential. A female alpha paired with a woman who has been abused by alphas? There was a lot of potential for long conversation, dates, mutual respect and honest. Beautiful character development. Did we get that? Nope, we got instant feelings and wolf senses. I’m not opposed to wolf senses. That’s one of parts of werewolf stories that I enjoy, but senses were used to replace any meaningful conversation and compromises.  

Worldbuilding: It seems to be set in modern times, but there was definitely an attempt to develop a history and culture. There was mention older wolf packs and battles. Kenrick had different bracelets that represented different things. I appreciated the attempt though I still felt a bit off put at time about the dominant and submissive roles. There may have been what I felt like a sexist line or two in there.

Diversity. This story had at least a bit of diversity. There are obviously lesbian women in this book which is refreshing for a change. There are hints that Zaria is a woman of color. There may also be a transgender character? I’m not quite sure if that’s the case or there is some added female alpha wolf anatomy happening.

Overall, if you don’t mind insta-feelings stories where the romance is mostly the focus you could enjoy this story. If you’re looking for something more in-depth with lots of fantasy action and a more slow build relationship this book is NOT for you. I wanted to like this book. I was so very excited about it, but it was just frustrating to read.


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

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Five Fantastic LGBTQ+ Authors You Should Read

So, it’s pride month and I thought it would be a great time to post about my favorite LGBTQ+ authors. We get a lot of straight people writing these stories and while I’m not opposed to that idea if the story is well written I think members of the community really deserve their time to shine. I must admit this is also a very limited list. I’ve only read a limited amount of #ownvoices lgbtq+ fiction, but that doesn’t make these authors any less fantastic.

  1. TJ Klune: a phenomenal author. I would say he has a great range of writing with numerous published novels. I really couldn’t recommend him enough. I especially enjoy his fantasy work. You can check him out here.


2. Victoria Lee: A newly published author, but I really enjoyed her first novel, Fever King. You can find her here.


3. Kayla Ancrum: This woman doesn’t play. Her book ,The Wicker King, takes a serious look at the effects mental illness can have on someone. Very friendly and willing to talk with fans. You can find her here.


4. Natasha Ngan: All I can say is that Girls of Paper and Fire is still my favorite f/f novel. It was really the first one that I could really connect with. Check out here twitter.


5. Amy Rose Capetta: She has written numerous books as well. I’m especially excited to read Once & Future. You can check her out here.


Have you heard of any of these authors? Do you have any new authors to recommend? I’d love to read more LGBTQ+ authors.

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Wonder Wednesday: Life Changing Books

Hello everyone, welcome to Wonder Wednesday! I hope you’re all staying nice and toasty in this very cold winter. Today I’d like to talk about life changing books. Now, perhaps life changing may seem like an extreme, but as a lover of books I feel like there are many books that have had a very powerful effect on me. Books have the power to make us question our assumptions, bias, and encourage us to consider ideas maybe we haven’t thought about before.

Do you have a book that you feel like has been life changing for you? How has it changed your perspective or affected you?

Do you feel like books have the power to create a deeper understanding for something in people or are they just for fun?


I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please feel free to comment below!

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Name Change Announcement

Hello everyone,

I’ve been giving some serious thought to where I would like the direction of this blog to go. I started this book blog a little over a week ago during my winter break off of work. I started with the idea of just doing this for fun, but I’ve fallen in love with the idea. I enjoy writing these book reviews, thinking of what other content people may enjoy reading next, and looking at books in terms of different aspects of diversity. I want to be a bit more serious when I’m working on this blog. Keeping that in mind, I’ve decided to change the name of this blog on Friday ( January 11th). I created the name Dragons and Other Worlds in a mad dash so that I could get started on writing this blog before I lost motivation. I want to be more mindful than that and I want people drawn to this blog who are actually looking for book reviews and other book- related content. Not just people looking up dragons. I have chosen the name Diverse Fantasy Reads. It’s simple and maybe not be the most original title that you’ve ever heard, but I think it does a better job encompassing what I really hope to make this blog about. That being said, I still currently own the Dragons and Other Worlds domain. I will be holding onto it until it expires, but it will simply direct you straight to Diverse Fantasy Reads until the year is up. There may also be some site design changes as I work out a design that is more visually appealing and readable. Thank you for your patience and thank you also to those who have already begun to follow me. It’s much appreciated!

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So, what’s the Point?

Now, if you’re reading this you might be wondering, what’s the point of this blog? Aren’t there already tons of book blogs out there?

And my answer to you would be yes! There most certainly tons of book blogs out there. What I hope to accomplish is to share my thoughts with you about the fantasy and paranormal books I read. Not just any thoughts though. I really want to look at certain aspects of these fantasy and paranormal books that I read particularly world building, characterization, and diversity. Now, I want to share these particular aspects with you because these are the parts of books that to me take a book from kinda just meh to being a really great novel worth sharing. Now, let me break down these three aspects down.

World building

This is a little bit more important in fantasy novels in my personal opinion, but is still helpful in a paranormal novel as well. When I purchase a fantasy novel I want to be swept away into a world unlike my own. I read as a form of escapism and so a new, well written world is paramount to my enjoyment. That means I want a world with its own history, it’s own culture, and even its own races. Paranormal is a little different for me since it really takes places in what is suppose to be our current world. So, the best thing a paranormal novel could do for me when it comes to reading is seamlessly add in supernatural elements and races in such a way that it seems totally possible they could have existed with us all along. Now, I’m sure there will always be excepts to everything I just listed, but this is my starting point.

Characterization 

The most important thing in any novel ever! If you don’t have great characters I don’t care if you have the best world ever or anything else really. I need great, well developed characters. I want back stories and flaws and struggle. I want to really get to know the characters in the book otherwise I just don’t care and I want them to be realistic. Insta-love and hand wavy explanations are cheap writing.

Diversity

We live in a diverse world full of diverse places and people. There is no reason for every fantasy novel to be set in what is basically medieval Europe with a completely white, completely hetero, gender binary, etc. characters. We’re better than that and people of all sorts deserve representation. Now, that’s not to say a book is awful if it’s set in medieval Europe with a completely stereotypical cast , but just that it’s not necessarily the most original idea.

If you’re interested in these aspects of books as well then stick around and join me on this crazy journey!