Reviews

Kingdom of Souls Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3.5/5

Characterization: 3/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

Magic has a price—if you’re willing to pay.

Born into a family of powerful witchdoctors, Arrah yearns for magic of her own. But each year she fails to call forth her ancestral powers, while her ambitious mother watches with growing disapproval.

There’s only one thing Arrah hasn’t tried, a deadly last resort: trading years of her own life for scraps of magic. Until the Kingdom’s children begin to disappear, and Arrah is desperate to find the culprit.

She uncovers something worse. The long-imprisoned Demon King is stirring. And if he rises, his hunger for souls will bring the world to its knees… unless Arrah pays the price for the magic to stop him.”

Kingdom of Souls was a rollercoaster for me. I fell in love with the beginning of this book. The world building was great with wonderful descriptions that really painted a picture for me. The whole being upset because all her family had magic and a lot of it made sense. However, about halfway through the book just stalls.  The descriptions get boring and it just get so drawn out and most of what was compelling about the story disappears. I almost gave up on it, but I pushed through and the last 40-50 pages made it worth reading til the end. I’m even curious about the second book.

I’m in love with the world building. The author did an excellent job of describing the different tribe as well as the city life. The magic and religion are described fairly well. The author also did an excellent job of creating some morally gray characters especially surrounding the mother. It was nice for the world to show that rarely are all people all good or all bad.

Characters. I would say this is where the book struggles the most. Alyna is alright. I found her interesting at the beginning, but then kinda lose interest. She has a complex relationship with her mom, but I don’t ever feel like enough is done with it for it to feel compelling or as interesting as I was hoping for. She has a loving relationship with her dad which I enjoyed, but then that disappeared too. All the other side characters got so little attention they really felt more like plot devices than full, breathing people. I would say this is more of a plot driven story vs a character driven story.

Plot. Normally talk about plot in relation to all the other categories, but I felt like it might be needing its own section. This in my opinion is a plot driven story. There’s lots of interesting stuff happening in the beginning and end of this book that definitely made me want to keep reading. What you really need to worry about in this story is the middle. As I mentioned, it just completely stalls in my opinion. Alyna and family go to a more remote location so there’s no one else to interact with and it’s basically 100 pages of inability for anyone to do anything. It was a part of the book where there was no hope and that made me feel really uninterested in the story. It gets better though so I encourage you to push through if you enjoyed the beginning of the book.

The diversity is okay. We’re set in a fantasy Africa setting so obviously all our characters are people of color. We have a woman of color as our lead which is excellent. There’s so mentioned of lgbtq+ characters, but its so vague and fleeting that its almost not worth mentioning. We have some characters who have definitely experienced trauma and have some PTSD, but again it feels so vague I’m not sure if you’d truly count it as representation.

Overall, it was an alright book. I tend to prefer character driven stories which is really what kept me from truly enjoying this story as much as I was hoping to. However, if you prefer a novel that really focuses on the development of the plot rather than focusing on characters, I think you could really enjoy this book.

Reviews

It was Meh – Only Mostly Devastated Review

Overall Enjoyment: 3/5

World building: 1/5

Characterization: 3/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads Summary:

“Summer love…gone so fast.

Ollie and Will were meant to be a summer fling—casual, fun, and done. But when Ollie’s aunt’s health takes a turn for the worse and his family decides to stay in North Carolina to take care of her, Ollie lets himself hope this fling can grow to something more. Dreams that are crushed when he sees Will at a school party and finds that the sweet and affectionate (and comfortably queer) guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High.

Will is more than a little shocked to see Ollie the evening of that first day of school. While his summer was spent being very much himself, back at school he’s simply known as one of the varsity basketball guys. Now Will is faced with the biggest challenge of his life: follow his heart and risk his friendships, or stay firmly in the closet and lose what he loves most. “

What really first pulled me into this story was the idea of this being a gay, modern spin on grease. My curiosity was peaked. This is a fairly lighthearted story that deals with a couple of heavier topics in there too. If you’re looking for a slice of life story about a boy finding love while dealing what other events high school throws at him I think you will enjoy this story. I think what threw me off from completely loving this story was just how much this story had in it. There was the relationship that needed to be worked out not only with Ollie, but also his friends, there was serious family stuff going on, and each character had their own stuff going on too. All this extra stuff in the book was meant to round all of the characters out, at least the girls and Ollie. I felt like the boys were a bit flat and had some behaviors that weren’t fully addressed, but overall a pretty enjoyable story.

Let’s start with world building. This was a contemporary real world setting so there wasn’t much world building needed, but I felt like there could have been more. North Caroline didn’t really get any description other than not as progressive as California. The school is much the same with the school being pretty cookie cutter.

The characters. Ollie is what kept me going in this book. He has little comparisons that I found interesting and was generally just a sweet guy. There was drama, but in generally this character was really mature. Lara, she grew on me. I would say honestly one of the more complex characters. Wasn’t a huge fan of her at first, but she grew on me. Will, what a confused dude. He frustrated me some times, but while he can be not the greatest he grows. The thing that bothered me a bit were the basketball guys. They definitely make some not great comments/ jokes about Ollie only to be like “it’s was just a joke” and that was the end of it. Not really a huge fan of that easy solution, but I guess it’s easier to deal with than them actually being 100% homophobic.

Diversity: There are a few lgbtq+ characters in this book and many people of color. The focus is definitely the gay relationship in the story. While there are people of color it doesn’t really seem to affect anything and is mentioned so briefly you could have missed it. Maybe you enjoy that, maybe you don’t.

Overall, if you’re looking for an overall, light feel good read I think you’ll enjoy this. As mentioned, there are a couple heavier issues, but overall I would say the book has a light feel to it that makes it easy to enjoy if not a little underwhelming.

lists

My Top Diverse Fantasy Reads of 2019 That You Should Definitely Read

Hello lovely readers! 2019 is over and we’re well into 2020 on hopefully a positive note. Below is a list of my favorite books that I have read this year. Each book has a Goodreads link with it. If you’re interested in learning more about the book. Enjoy!

Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

This book has the first lesbian couple that I felt like actually understood and could feel the same about. The written descriptions aren’t crude, but you still definitely feel the attraction. Not to mention you have strong women of color keeping secrets and smashing the patriarchy. What’s not to love?

Representation: Lesbians, Asian characters, Asian women as main characters, own voices

Find it here

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

This book wrecked me. The characters are so good, but you’re going to go on a hard and painful ride with these characters. This is not a happy book, but it’s a very real book. The world building is good too.

Representation: African characters, African girl as main character, own voices

Find it here

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

This book is the first book that really brought to life some Aztec gods for me. I’m always a bit hesitant to read when people give voice to gods because sometimes it can come off really cheesy, but this was very well done and beautifully written.

Representation: Latinx characters, Latinx woman as main character, own voices

Find it here


Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse

This book is a sequel and possibly even better than the first book. I love the character development in this story, the moral grayness that characters deal with. Navajo mythology put in a post apocalyptic world done VERY well.

Representation: indigenous people, indigenous woman as main character, own voices

Find it here

Heartsong by TJ Klune

This is the third book in a series. It’s Robbbie and Kelly’s story. If you want an interesting plot, but also some deeper character relationships that focuses on family and love there you could really enjoy this book. Not to mention, werewolves and witches!

Representation: gay and asexual characters, own voices

Find it here

Spin the Dawn by Elizabeth Lim

This book has so many great elements to it. The beginning is Mulan-inspired, but then we get into a quest with beautiful mythology. I loved the writing style of the book and just couldn’t recommend it enough.

Representation: Asian characters, Asian woman as main character, own voices

Find it here


Did you read any of these books during 2019? Are any of these some of your favorite reads too? What are some of your favorite books that you read in 2019?

Reviews

The Black God’s Drums by P. Djèlí Clark

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Diversity: 5/5

Amazon Summary:

“In an alternate New Orleans caught in the tangle of the American Civil War, the wall-scaling girl named Creeper yearns to escape the streets for the air–in particular, by earning a spot on-board the airship Midnight Robber. Creeper plans to earn Captain Ann-Marie’s trust with information she discovers about a Haitian scientist and a mysterious weapon he calls The Black God’s Drums.

But Creeper also has a secret herself: Oya, the African orisha of the wind and storms, speaks inside her head, and may have her own ulterior motivations.

Soon, Creeper, Oya, and the crew of the Midnight Robber are pulled into a perilous mission aimed to stop the Black God’s Drums from being unleashed and wiping out the entirety of New Orleans.”

This book popped up in the suggestions for another book I was looking at. The summary had me interested, but I’m not a huge fan of science fiction or novellas. However, as you can tell by ratings above this story really blew me out of the water! I tend not to like novella because I feel like a lot is left out and the story is annoyingly bare bones because its so short. The Black God’s Drum puts all those fears to rest and more

There are two main characters is this story. The first character you meet goes by Creeper. You don’t even learn her name until later in the book, but she paints us an immersive picture of what life is like for her in New Orleans. She’s a strong, street savy girl that knows the community around her. She is paired with the Orisha goddess, Oya, who has been with her since she was born. Then, you have a character that goes mainly by Captain. She’s a captain of an airship and pairs up with Creeper when they are after similar goals. Both characters get chunks of personal history throughout the book that creates well rounded, interesting characters. Very lovely characters for a novella.

The world building threw me off at first, but I acclimated to it within the first 20 pages. The world is set in what I would consider an alternate New Orleans during the civil war period with steampunk elements, mainly, air ships. The main world building that happens in this novel is setting up what would happen if civil war ended differently or at least was a tentative truce. The amount of history put in this novella without info dumping is truly skillful. There’s even some writing done about the African gods and how the drums work that I really enjoyed.

The diversity in this book was great. There were a host of diverse characters in the background, but I tend not to count them since they don’t get much attention. Creeper is a young black girl. Captain is where the real diversity is at. I’ve been disappointed by the general lack of intersectionality in most characters I’ve been reading, but Captain is a strong black, bisexual woman who also has a metal leg. Wow. I’m in love with her.

Overall, if you’re looking for a well written, but quick read with some great, intersectionality I couldn’t recommend this book to you more.

ARC

ARC Review- The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

Overall Enjoyment: 4/5

Characterization: 4/5

World building: 5/5

Diversity: 4/5

Goodreads summary:

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due. “

I requested this book because of the summary. Csorwe seemed like she’d be interesting, and I was curious at the culture that would encourage sacrifice of a person (orc). I enjoyed this book. This book felt massive to me though. There were many arcs within this book with an overarching story, but there was so much going on and it was so long that at the end I lost a bit of interest in it. This is book 1 of 3 from my understanding and I must admit I’m really not sure how this story will continue for 2 more books.

The world building was a bit confusing to me in the beginning. This is a book that explains elements only when it becomes relevant to the story and not just in the interest of world building. However, when you need answers the author is very deliberate about explaining the necessary information or leaving it for later as a twist later. There is a small element of cyberpunk with the technology of this world with flying ships which was the part that got the least attention and was the most confusing for me. The three main sentient species in this story were orcs, humans, and elves (black elves specifically). Each group is given its own religion which is what is given the most attention in this story and is really a major driving force throughout this fiction. The religions are a bit darker than I’m use to, but they were well thought out and interesting. A very interesting grouping of worlds.

For characters I felt that everyone had a pretty distinct voice with enough story to the main characters that I felt like they were very well rounded. Csorwe is a character I really enjoyed though I didn’t fully understand all the time. She’s very loyal in a way that was unquestioning and then she suddenly wasn’t. I like the character development with her though at the beginning it didn’t make much sense. Then, Tal. I didn’t like him at first, but he grew on me. I think I liked him a bit more simply because he felt more relatable to me. He’s just trying to do his best and is just getting the rough end of deal most of the time. There’s also Oranna who I guess you could say could be consider the villain, but within the world she just comes off as a very strong-willed determined lady. You also have Shuthmili and Sethannai, but while they both play very important roles within the story, I feel like they don’t get as much attention.

The diversity in the book was refreshing. The main characters are mostly people of color and there are sprinklings of queer characters throughout the book including the main characters.

Overall, even though there were points where the book was slow, I think the book was really well written. The worlds were carefully written and built, and the story line was interesting. If you’re looking for a diverse adult fantasy book, then this book is for you. The book will be published on February 11th. Keep a look out for it!

Note: I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Let's Talk Bookish

Lets Talk Bookish- Is there a time limit on spoilers?

Welcome to my Let’s Talk Bookish post. Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, created and hosted by Rukky @eternitybooks, where we discuss chosen topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts. So, this discussion post was supposed to be written in December, but due to time constraints I didn’t get a chance to post it then. So, here it is.

Previous week’s topic: Is there a time limit on spoilers?

My answer: Yes! I think spoilers are the worst. I hate when things are spoiled for me and I know others do too. However, if you don’t make an effort to see and/or read something after a certain point my sympathy fades a bit. I would say the larger question for me is how long do you have to wait?

I have two answers.

Two Weeks

My impatient answer is two weeks. I love talking and sharing my joy with people about good books or movies. I feel like I’m almost bursting if I can’t share my thoughts with anyone. This can be in on the internet or to people who have no intention of watching/reading whatever it is I’m excited about. I would say that this is the super fan timeline of willingness to wait.

A month

This is the more patient and understanding part of me. We all have busy lives and not all of us can read everything right as it comes out. A month gives someone much more time to go at their own pace and schedule without having to drop everything in order to beat the super fans and their crazy love.

Spoiler Warnings

I know I said there is a time limit on spoilers, but I think a nice thing to do is put a spoiler warning; especially, if you’re writing a review. People have very strong views on spoilers and whether you agree with them or not I wouldn’t recommend alienating readers. If you give a spoiler warning then at least people know what they’re getting into.


How do you feel about spoilers? Do you think that there is a time limit? If so, how long do you think it should be? I’d love to read your thoughts!

Let's Talk Bookish

Lets Talk Bookish – Biases with books & authors

Hello lovely readers and welcome to another Let’s Talk Bookish post! Let’s Talk Bookish is a weekly meme, created and hosted by Rukky@eternitybooks, where we discuss chosen topics, share our opinions, and spread the love by visiting each other’s posts.

I haven’t had time to do one of these in awhile with the holidays, but I’m excited to be able to participate again!

This week’s topic is: Does your like or dislike of an author bias you towards their books?

My answer: Yes, but only to a point.

I read for the stories not the authors

My author loyalty is low. I’m reading the book for the story so there is only one author I will give every single one of their books a shot and that’s Jordanna Max Brodsky. I love her books. The amount of detail she puts into them is just stunning and so I will always given them a shot.

All other authors I will read the summary of their book and see if I’m interested. I’m very particular about the books I choose to read for myself so if a book doesn’t sound interesting then I tend not to waste my money on it. I like Leigh Bardugo generally, but even with all the hype about Ninth House I have zero interest in reading it. However, authors that I know I like do get the benefit of me at least looking at their book. Half the battle I feel like is for people to even decided to pick your book up. I pay attention to the authors of stories I like and so if they say they are publishing a book I will automatically check it out. I will still decide based on the summary if I want to get it or not, but the chances are high that I’d probably like it. However, that habit can be a double edge sword for authors. If I don’t like the first book I read from them then it takes a lot for me to decide to pick up another one from them unless the summary is good. If the summary is good then I might be willing to give it another shot. If I read two books from an author though and don’t like either chances are I probably won’t read another one of their books.

Another bias that affects my decision to read a book

As much as authors only affect me to a point reviews are my kryptonite. I generally don’t read book reviews until after I’ve read the book. I find that even if I’m really excited about a book coming out, but it has even just some bad reviews it takes away most of the excitement I have for it. It’s horrible how easily I’m turned off books by bad reviews. It’s that fear of spending my money on a bad book syndrome.


How about you? Are you biased on books if they’re by certain authors? Are there any authors you would always read even if it didn’t sound like a book you’d enjoy? I look forward to reading your thoughts!

Reviews

A Must Read Sequel – Storm of Locust by Rebecca Roanhorse Review

Overall enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads summary:

“It’s been four weeks since the bloody showdown at Black Mesa, and Maggie Hoskie, Diné monster hunter, is trying to make the best of things. Only her latest bounty hunt has gone sideways, she’s lost her only friend, Kai Arviso, and she’s somehow found herself responsible for a girl with a strange clan power.

Then the Goodacre twins show up at Maggie’s door with the news that Kai and the youngest Goodacre, Caleb, have fallen in with a mysterious cult, led by a figure out of Navajo legend called the White Locust. The Goodacres are convinced that Kai’s a true believer, but Maggie suspects there’s more to Kai’s new faith than meets the eye. She vows to track down the White Locust, then rescue Kai and make things right between them.

Her search leads her beyond the Walls of Dinétah and straight into the horrors of the Big Water world outside. With the aid of a motley collection of allies, Maggie must battle body harvesters, newborn casino gods and, ultimately, the White Locust himself. But the cult leader is nothing like she suspected, and Kai might not need rescuing after all. When the full scope of the White Locust’s plans are revealed, Maggie’s burgeoning trust in her friends, and herself, will be pushed to the breaking point, and not everyone will survive.”

This is the sequel to the book Trail of Lightning, and I loved this book more than the first one! Roanhorse really is a very talented writer. We’re introduced to a couple new characters and get an even deeper look at who Kai and Maggie are. Be prepared for an interesting new story line with the same beloved characters. So, buckle up you’re in for an exciting and enjoyable ride.

Characters. Maggie is back and as interesting and complex as ever. Maggie is still a no-nonsense monster hunter, but she’s been taking some to look a bit deeper at who she wants to be. I think what I love most about Maggie is that she is a tough character, but also Roanhorse allows her to also be hurt and vulnerable. This I think is what makes Maggie a dynamic character and why I love her so much. She’s so strong most of the time, but when you look inside she’s lonely and hurt by the loss that she’s experienced. Kai, still the absolute best! You don’t see much in this novel. He’s away doing some stuff, but you hear about him through other characters. He sounds as loving and generous as when readers first met him. Also, there’s a scene. Wow, this guy is powerful. I love what he can do. This would honestly make an excellent movie. You see more of Rissa as well. She’s just as complex as Maggie and just as not-to-be-trifled with. You get a bit more of her backstory as well. It comes in handy though not in a way I would anticipate. We also meet a new character, she goes by Ben. She’s young and hurt, but bring a bit of youthfulness to everything.

The world building continues to be interesting although it takes a darker turn in this book. Maggie is leaving the safety of the walls of Dinétah and is introduced to the dangers of the outside world. I don’t want to say too much more than that because I think it could give away some spoilers, but Roanhorse does an excellent job at creating a dangerous, apocalyptic world. I would warn that this content could be a bit triggering depending on your personal experiences, but Roanhorse keeps the worst to vague description so I would be aware, but not too concerned. I think it hits on some serious real world issues. We also learn a bit more about clan powers and how they manifest which was really eye opening when it came to the plot.

The diversity continues to be mainly racial with indigenous and black characters leading the story. I have really enjoyed the look into indigenous beliefs and gods. I’m unfamiliar with Navajo beliefs so I’m not quite sure how true versus fantasy-based Roanhorse’s writing is, but I really enjoyed the continuing of indigenous-inspired fantasy. I also really enjoyed how female driven this particular book was. This series is of course focused on Maggie, but this book really puts many of our male characters in the backseat and really lets the women shine!

Overall, if you like the first book or haven’t read it yet I would highly recommend this series. The characters and their development are excellent, the world is interesting, and the plot is immersive. Go check it out!


Have you read this exciting series yet? Have you read this book of A Trail of Lightning? Is it on your TBR?

Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday- Most Anticipated Book Releases for the First Half of 2020

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018.

This year looks (as always) like it’s going to be a great year for books. I can’t wait to show you these top ten books I’m excited about and to see yours as well! These books are put in chronological order of when they are being published.

Seven Deadly Shadows by Courtney Alameda and Valynee E. Maetani

published on January 28th


The Shadows between Us by Tricia Levenseller

Published February 25th


Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing by Charlie Adhara

Published on March 2nd


The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

Published on March 17th


Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran

Published on April 6th


The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Published on May 26th


The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska

published on June 1st


Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Published on June 9th


Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

Published on June 23rd


The Empire of Gold by S. A. Chakraborty

published on June 30th


Those are my top ten books coming out in the first half of 2020. Do any of our books match? Have you heard of any of them before? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Uncategorized

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!