lists

My Top Three 2019 Books…So Far

When you read a lot of books throughout the year it can be hard to keep track of them all not to mention come up with a short list of your favorites. One of my goals this year was to do a top three list of my favorite books for each quarter of this year in order to more easily share with you some books I really enjoyed. This list is only of the books that I’ve read and have been published this year.

  1. Fever King by Victoria Lee. This book is all about power, immigrants, and choices. I think it speaks powerfully to the current political climate the USA is experiencing. This is not an unbiased book. This is a clear calling out in many ways. But, I loved that about it.

2. The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson. This book I think asks the deep question of would you rather have freedom or be well provided for? Maybe a simple question for some, but I appreciated the strong female characters with the traces of fantasy woven in.


3. The Wicked King by Holly Black. There might not have been any large thought provoking questions here, but dang do I enjoy Jude. She’s scrappy and not always morally clean, but I think that’s why I enjoy her so much. The twist always make me happy as well.


Are any of these books among your favorites? If not, what books are on your 2019 top three so far?

lists

Top Five Anthologies to Get Excited About

Hello lovely readers! If you’ve been keeping an eye on my reviews for this blog you will notice that I only post reviews for novels. This is my preferred reading material and I tend to stick with. However, this year I’ve found some anthologies that I think I going to be well worth the read. Note: I haven’t read most of these so I’m going on summary alone.

  1. How long ’til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisin. I’ve been watching to read this author’s works for a long time, but just haven’t gotten to it. This collection focuses on African Americans who are put into fantastical situations. The summary of this anthology is what really sold me on it.
  2. New Erotica for Feminists by Caitlin Kunkel, Brooke Preston, Fiona Taylor, and Carrie Wittmer. I was intrigued by the title and once again drawn in by the summary. A retelling of some old stories, but also answers to some common questions. It’s cooler than what I make it sound
  3. Black Enough: Stories about being young & black in America by Ibi Zoboi, Tracey Baptiste, Coe Booth, Dhonielle Clayton, Brandy Colbert, Jay Coles, Lamar Giles, and Leah Henderson . As someone who works with a lot of young people I’m always interested in reading about their experiences. I’ve heard lots of good things about this one.
  4. Proud by Juno Dawson, Dean Atta, Fox Benwell, Caroline Bird, Tanya Byrne, Moira Fowley-Doyle, Simon James Green,and David Levithan . A collection of stories and poetry by lgbtq+ authors about the theme of pride
  5. Toil & Trouble: 15 Tales of Women & Witchcraft by Tess Sharpe, Jessica Spotwood, Brandy Colbert, Zoriada Cordova, Andrea Cremer, Kate Hart, Emery Lord, and Elizabeth May . diversity and witches? I’m sold.
ARC

ARC Review- The Bird King

Overall enjoyment: 4/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 3/5

Goodreads Summary:

Set in 1491 during the reign of the last sultanate in the Iberian peninsula, The Bird King is the story of Fatima, the only remaining Circassian concubine to the sultan, and her dearest friend Hassan, the palace mapmaker. 

Hassan has a secret–he can draw maps of places he’s never seen and bend the shape of reality. When representatives of the newly formed Spanish monarchy arrive to negotiate the sultan’s surrender, Fatima befriends one of the women, not realizing that she will see Hassan’s gift as sorcery and a threat to Christian Spanish rule. With their freedoms at stake, what will Fatima risk to save Hassan and escape the palace walls?

As Fatima and Hassan traverse Spain with the help of a clever jinn to find safety, The Bird King asks us to consider what love is and the price of freedom at a time when the West and the Muslim world were not yet separate.

Review

I was given a free copy of The Bird King by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I started this novel with some hesitation. The concept sounded interesting, but historical fiction is hit or miss with me. This novel was definitely a hit. I would say until towards the end the novel is fairly slow paced. I enjoyed it, but if you’re looking for some fast-paced crazy action this generally won’t be for you. The amount of love and care that I felt from this book was incredible. Just the amount of historical facts sprinkled within the novel was wonderful and then the fantasy elements just blended seamlessly together.

World building. The detail described throughout the book is wonderful. I read it and definitely could imagine the world. I’m not familiar with that time period in history or that particular area at the time, but it was easy to imagine. As a speculative novel there wasn’t anything to crazy from our normal world when it comes to governments, religion, etc.

Characters. This is what really sells the book to me. Wilson focuses most of her attention on mostly three or four character at a time and its perfect. Fatima is amazing. A concubine who was educated and uses that to power her through a tough journey. Hassan, our devote Muslim who draw fantastical maps. I don’t want to give a ton away, but I feel like you do get to really see into who these characters are and to watch them grow. They’re messy and imperfect, but there’s just something I find so interesting about all the characters we meet in this novel. Maybe it’s the realism, but I fall in love with them.

Diversity. This books diversity is mainly through Hassan I would say. He’s a devote Muslim who also happens to be openly gay. There are other characters in the book who are also Muslim in the first half of the book. Fatima I believe would identify as Muslim if asked, but she’s not very religious.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. The ending left me feeling a little unsatisfied, but I think it was a realistic way to end it and it is probably the best way to end it. Fatima has some great quotes about women that I really enjoyed. I would call her a determined feminist. If you have any interest at all in historical or speculative fiction I would highly recommend this book! It will be released on March 12th.

Reviews

The Fever King by Victoria Lee

Overall Enjoyment: 5/5

World building: 4/5

Characterization: 5/5

Diversity: 5/5

Goodreads summary:

In the former United States, sixteen-year-old Noam Álvaro wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the viral magic that killed his family and made him a technopath. His ability to control technology attracts the attention of the minister of defense and thrusts him into the magical elite of the nation of Carolinia.

The son of undocumented immigrants, Noam has spent his life fighting for the rights of refugees fleeing magical outbreaks—refugees Carolinia routinely deports with vicious efficiency. Sensing a way to make change, Noam accepts the minister’s offer to teach him the science behind his magic, secretly planning to use it against the government. But then he meets the minister’s son—cruel, dangerous, and achingly beautiful—and the way forward becomes less clear.

Caught between his purpose and his heart, Noam must decide who he can trust and how far he’s willing to go in pursuit of the greater good. 

Review:

So, I’ve been excited about this book for awhile. Magic as a virus rather than a cool mystical force? I was sold. I’ve had the book for a week or two before finishing up my previous book in order to get started on this book. This book didn’t disappoint and I can’t wait for the sequel! This is definitely a relevant book for the current culture of the USA.

The characters. What I think I love most about Lee’s characters is they all have backstories. We might not have fully gotten all of them in this book, but we’ve gotten hints of them. These characters have had it rough maybe not in all the same ways, but they all have reasons for being the way that they are. Let’s start with Noam. I adore Noam. He reminds me of a student I use to have. He’s young and he’s got big ideas and he’s willing to put himself on the line to accomplish what he sees as needing to be done. A+ character. Then we have Dara. We don’t necessarily get a ton of information about him until the end, but I still like him. He’s been in this whole mess of the plot since he was young and he’s got some serious stuff going on. Then, there’s Lehrer. Wow, this dude. I don’t want to spoil anything so I’ll leave it at that. If you want characters with sad backstories then you’re going to enjoy this. The one thing I was a little bit disappointed about was Noam and Dara. I wanted more build-up and interaction between them where they weren’t at each other’s throats. The ending with them was amazing, but I’m just not quite sure how they got to that level with each other.

Worldbuilding. This is a dystopian futuristic world with hints of fantasy. I initial started reading this book with the assumption that it was more of a fantasy novel, but it’s definitely more speculative fiction. There’s lots of elements that tie into what elements are currently happening in our own world which I personally enjoyed; especially, in regards to immigrants legal or otherwise. It’s hard to describe without going into too much detail, but Lee took the time to craft an interesting, dark history for her world that really spoke to me.

Diversity. It’s everywhere and I love it! Lee via twitter says Dara is Persian. Noam is a bi man whose half Jewish, half Colombian. There are other characters with other elements of diversity throughout the novel that you’ll find out about as you read, but this is probably the book with the best inter-sectional diversity that I’ve read so far. Major props.

If interested you can buy The Fever King by Victoria Lee here.


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

wonder wednesday

Wonder Wednesday: The Power of a Single Story

Hello everyone and welcome to Wonder Wednesday! This particular wonder today is going to come with a lot of information so give it a read if you can and then we can chat. I’m so excited to share this with you!

Below is a TED talk from Chimamanda NGOZI Adichie. It’s all about how a single narrative in the stories that we’re all told and sold affect how we see ourselves and the world. I personally think this is a very powerful video about the importance of representation.

When Adichie mentions that as a young girl she only first wrote about little white girls it was eye opening for me. I, as a white person, obviously never had a problem finding stories about people that looked like me. But, while Adichie is the first person I heard speak about this issue she definitely isn’t the last or only one. In an article featuring Tomi Adeyemi she also mentions that she didn’t write about another black character until she was about 10. There’s many accounts like this. Now, I have no problem with people writing about those that are different from themselves. If it’s well written and tastefully done, but as kid these authors and other poc didn’t see themselves as being a part of the stories I got to enjoy. That’s a problem. There’s no question about it. Now, some progress is being made. There has been a large portion of the book community that is really pushing for more diverse books. There’s even a wonderful nonprofit, We Need Diverse Books, that is devoted to this cause. Not to mention a cool project, called Marginsbox, that’s currently in it’s Kickstater phase (*cough* go support it *cough*).Not to mention the countless book bloggers I’ve found that promote and discuss diverse books. Everyone deserves to be able to see themselves in some of the books they read. This is not only true for young kids who read picture books or middle grade books, but also young adult. I think this is where much of the push is and it’s so important. I work in education and let me tell you if you don’t already know. Adolescents are put under an extreme amount of pressure on the daily. There’s school and teachers, family members, friends, and they’re really starting to explore who they want to be as a person. All aforementioned groups have expectations and are pushing for something. I cannot stress enough how important it is for these kids to see themselves in books and movies. It really helps create a feeling of acceptance even if maybe you don’t feel that acceptance outside of a book. I even feel that now as an adult.

So, to the wondering portion of this long post.


How do you feel about representation in books? Has representation in books had any affect on you? Do you have a similar story as the authors I mentioned above? I’d love to discuss this with you! Feel free to just share your thoughts even if it doesn’t answer one of these questions.

Reviews

Heartfelt: A review – No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll

Note: I received this book free of charge through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

My brief personal summary: This book is a collection of short fairy tales featuring trans and nonbinary characters.

The book as a whole. 4/5

I really enjoyed it. The author’s note was so touching and I think the hopes for this book were realized. Diversity in all types of fiction is really necessary so that we might all find ourselves and our potential in the stories we enjoy. The one thing at the beginning that threw me off was that these really are short stories/fairy tales. These are not long novels with in-depth stories and though that is made very obvious in the description this sometimes made me feel left hanging. Now, to the stories themselves

Story One: Tangled Nets 3/5

Wren was an interesting character. Xhie had obviously been through a lot with xer sister and there was a lot going on, but I just didn’t feel attached to xer.  There was some cool world exploration, but right as I wanted to know more about xer the story was over. I think my biggest thing was there was some information about the other dragons and what happened to the white dragon that while interesting would have been better used as time to explore Wren more.

Story Two: King’s Favor 3/5

I liked this one better than Tangled Nets. There’s world building, but there’s also some exploration of Caran that I enjoyed about why nee was doing what nee was doing and why nee was specifically chosen. While I felt a bit of attachment to nee I wanted more. Caran got this amazing opportunity at the end and then it was over.

Story Three: His Father’s Son 5/5

This story was all I wanted! Nocien was the first character I really felt attached to in the book and he was glorious. We got his backstory through him remembering everything in a lot more detail than I feel like the previous short stories and I was hooked. Then, there was action, a great amount of it that really hit you and then the ending! I felt like I got the complete story.

Story Four: Daughter of Kings 4/5

This one got me right in the feels. Finndis is lovely, but there’s a past that is a bit painful. We get just enough of her history to really enjoy her victory. What a great story.

Story Five: Early to Rise 3/5

The most obvious retelling of a fairy tale in the book. An interesting retelling of Sleeping Beauty. It was short, but I enjoyed it well enough

Story Six: No man of Woman Born 4/5

Innes asks some great questions about prophesies that I admit I never thought about. I love that all the details don’t seem to slow any of these characters down. I think it really speaks to most of us who have dreamed of being heroes during at least one point in our lives. What a great story to give people faith in themselves.

Story Seven: The Wish-Giver 4/5

Short, but so heartwarming.

You can purchase No Man of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll here.