Book Review: Passing Strange

A sapphic historical romance that ALSO has magic?? You bet I scrambled to pick this one up as soon as possible.

Six women come together in 1940s San Francisco, united by a common love that society doesn’t understand. Together they explore a world of art, magic, chance, and ultimately, romance. 

I absolutely ATE THIS BOOK UP. For starters, all of the scenery is described so, so beautifully, which I guess makes sense given that one of the main characters is an artist. It really felt like I was looking into a painting. I don’t usually like long descriptive passages, but every single image was rendered in such gorgeous detail. 

Although the blurb claims that there are 6 main characters, I only saw three: Helen, Haskel, and Emily. I loved the romance, and this is another book that I so wish had a sequel where we could follow it further. I will say that this was also a tough read at times, as the way that LGBTQ+ people and POC were treated in this period was absolutely horrible. There’s a very big focus on how these communities had to “sell” themselves as entertainment in order to survive in society (I really want to emphasize the content warnings for racism/homophobia here so that nobody goes into this not knowing what to expect). 

While I was absolutely in love with the MCs and the way the story was written, especially for this being such a quick read, I was a little disappointed with the magic incorporation. It was kind of tossed in at the beginning and end, with little reference or importance throughout the middle. I think if the story had been expanded, the central conflict could have had more of a build up, and the magic could’ve been integrated better. 

But really, I very much enjoyed this. It had a very relaxing pace, but also brought up some really difficult topics in history. And of course, the romance was the best part. 

On a final note, I’d like to offer a disclaimer. This work takes place in the 1940s, and focuses on a couple of marginalized groups. There are a lot of stereotypes/slurs both used and discussed with the characters. In this review I aimed to evaluate how enjoyable the story and writing was, but I am in no way qualified to speak to the sensitivity or historical accuracy in how these communities were represented. I ask that if anyone has read this book and feels that it offers harmful representation, PLEASE don’t hesitate to let me know. 

Happy reading!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 3.5/5
Pace: Slow (but in a good way)
Intended audience: Adult
Content warnings: abuse (partner and parental), homophobia, slurs, sexual assault, mentions of terminal illness, suicide 

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Favorite Friday topic: favorite underrated book

ARC Review: Shielded

I think the beginning and end of this are two totally different books.

Princess Jennessara has hidden her magic for her whole life; as the second born child in her family, she isn’t supposed to have it. Determined to do aid her struggling kingdom, she agrees to a betrothal to Prince Enzo in exchange for military aid. But when Jenna’s caravan is attacked on the way there, an ancient power is revealed that could destroy everything, and her magic could be the only thing to stop it.

The first half of this book seemed like a really, really slow version of Shadow and Bone. Thankfully, once the setting shifted, things got a lot more interesting, and a lot less familiar. Once Jenna met Mari, Chiara, and Enzo, I actually found the book really enjoyable. I’m a sucker for found family tropes, and the relationship Jenna has with all of them was really sweet. The characters were definitely the best part, and I hope we get to see a lot more of them, with less of the filler/background in the next book. (Also, side note, I really loved the Italian elements thrown in, because I haven’t seen that done before in a book like this!)

The plot was just okay for me. There were parts that were confusing, and parts that were really predictable, which made for a bit of an odd mix. Although toward the end there was a nice little twist that I wasn’t expecting at all. I do wish that the in-between perspective chapters had come together quicker, as I had no idea what was happening in them for a while. The ending also felt a little strange, almost like a list of what was going to happen in the next book, but that’s being a little picky.

To sum up, this book didn’t have much that made it feel particularly new or exciting plot wise, but the character’s relationships seemed a lot more real than in other fantasy I have read. I really did find it likable though, and have higher hopes for the next installment. 

Happy reading!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆ 3.5/5 stars (rounded down)
Pace: slow beginning, fast end
Intended Audience: Young Adult
Content warnings: murder, death of a family member, sexual assault

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Favorite Friday topic: Favorite underrated book

Favorite Friday: My Favorite Book Genre

After I picked this week’s topic, I realized I actually have no idea what my favorite book genre is. But never fear! I am kind of, sort of, mostly sure I will be able to figure it out by the end of the post.

If you asked me this question 6 years ago, I would have without a doubt said romance. Now, though, romances are a very small part of what I pick up. And if my favorite gene is what I read the most of, it would probably be fantasy. But I don’t necessarily think that’s accurate either.

So, what IS my favorite genre? It is actually a subgenre that I only recently learned the name of: low fantasy. Sounds wonderfully mystical and fancy, right? Really what that means is that I enjoy fantasy set in an otherwise normal world that has small magical/fantastical elements. Don’t get me wrong, I love faeries and alternate realms as well, and some of my favorite books are high fantasy. But there is something undeniably special for me in being able to pretend the magic I am reading about actually exists in my world.

Although it isn’t technically fantasy, I am going to lump in some dystopia to that definition. But think of a “low dystopia” if you will: something more 1984 than Brave New World. If it takes place in a world that seems not far off from our own, you can bet it’s on my TBR. Not that I necessarily want to envision our world going full-on dystopia (although let’s be real, the U.S. is pretty much there), but it feels that much more immersive of an experience. Not to mention I think it’s good to recognize where we could be headed in order to stop it.

All of that being said, I really don’t have a genre, or even two, that I stick with. I’m not even great at reading a series without picking up different books in between. One of my absolute favorite things about reading is being taken to so many different places. I find I don’t get stuck on any particular world, genre, or character, because the joy of books for me is consuming as many different experiences as possible. And it is SO important to read about diverse characters/stories. Books are such a powerful tool, and I think we should all take the opportunities to learn about other people, communities, and cultures. I consider myself lucky to be able to do that.

I hope you enjoyed my very roundabout answer to this week’s favorite, and please tag me in your own favorite genre posts, or leave a comment!

Happy reading (:

All icons, animations, and graphics on this blog were designed by me. Click here to inquire about commission pieces and here to view my custom bookmarks on Etsy!

Next week’s favorite Friday prompt: Favorite underrated book

Monthly Wrap-Up (August)

So, this month did not go as planned (like, at all)

I had wanted to read at least 8 books, but only ended up getting to 5. Most of them I have already reviewed on here, so I am going to try out a new wrap-up style. Let me know how you guys like it!

THE WICKED KING
Thoughts: This was much faster paced than the cruel Prince, and probably my favorite book in the series
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★☆ 4/5
Pace: Fast
Intended audience: Young Adult
Content warnings: on page murder
Link to full review here

THE QUEEN OF NOTHING
Thoughts
: The ending to this one felt a little odd to me, but overall it was very enjoyable
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★☆ 4/5
Pace: Fast
Intended audience: Young Adult
Content warnings: murder
Link to full review here

SCARLET ODYSSEY
Thoughts
: I was absolutely in love with the fantasy world in this, and think it deserves way more hype!
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 4.5/5
Pace: Medium-Fast
Intended audience: Adult
Content warnings: murder, relationship between 17 and 21 year old (which I do not in any way condone), torture, rape, gore, definitely very graphic/grim at times
Link to full review here

THE SPACE BETWEEN WORLDS
Thoughts
: I really liked the plot line/themes of this one, but the romance wasn’t as present as I hoped it would be
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 3.5/5 (rounded up)
Pace: Fast
Intended audience: Adult/New Adult
Content warnings: relationship violence, murder, drug abuse, (I feel like I’m forgetting some but this is what I remember)
Link to full review here

TRISTAN STRONG PUNCHES A HOLE IN THE SKY
Thoughts: Everything about this book was beautiful, from the writing, to the mythology, to cultural history which was also heartbreaking).
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 4.5/5 (rounded up)
Pace: Fast
Intended audience: Middle Grade, but all ages should read it
Content warnings: mentions of slavery
Link to full review here

So even though I didn’t read as much as I planned, I really liked everything (and I consider myself a tough reviewer so that’s saying something)
And here is a slightly less ambitious TBR for this month, as it is the first month of classes for me:

Hope you guys enjoyed this, and happy reading!

All icons, animations, and graphics on this blog were designed by me. Click here to inquire about commission pieces and here to view my custom bookmarks on Etsy!

Favorite Friday topic: Favorite genre to read

Book Review: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky

Somehow, this book had me laughing, crying, and screaming “WHOA, plot twist” at my family. 

Tristan Strong is still reeling from the death of his best friend, Eddie, when his parents send him to work for his grandparents for the summer. After a thief attempts to steel Eddie’s journal, the last piece Tristan has of his best friend, all chaos breaks loose. In his efforts to get it back, Tristan ends up punching an ancient bottle tree, ripping a hole through our world and the world of Alke.  Now, Tristan must get to know a world of myths that are real, and confront his worst fears to get back home. 

I very much underestimated this book. I think because it’s technically a middle-grade read, I was expecting it to be slow, easy, and predictable. Let me tell you, it was none of the above. I’m not even sure where to begin here, so let’s just go with the characters. Tristan is the most developed protagonist I have read about in a long while. I loved that he wasn’t sure of himself in every step of his quest, unlike so many heroes. I found myself thinking of a quotation from Coraline while reading his story: “When you’re scared but still do it anyway, that’s brave.” Tristan Strong is definitely brave.

I do wish we’d seen more of Ayanna’s character. I just have a feeling she is going to be set up to be the Annabeth to Tristan’s Percy, so to speak, and I hope readers get to know her better in book 2! On the other hand, Gum Baby is the most hilarious character I think I have ever encountered. I have about a million highlights in this book, and her dialogue is half of them. 

Above all else, I loved the message, and it is one I feel particularly important to remember in these times. This book is full of beautiful (and heartbreaking) African Mythology, and a lot of it is rooted in the stories of slaves. What Tristan tells us is clear: we need to tell the stories of the past, with all of the pain, and all of the joy. When we begin to rewrite stories, as so many of our history books have tried to, we cause nothing but harm. Tristan said it best, so I will leave you with a final quotation, and my insistence that EVERYONE READS THIS BOOK.

“As Anansesem, it was my job to carry the stories of the land to its people. All the stories. If we ignored the past, how would we learn from it?”

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 4.5/5 (rounded up)
Pace: Fast
Intended audience: Middle Grade (but all ages should read this book)
Content warnings: mentions of slavery

Shoutout to JV for picking this for our book club’s monthly read, and Happy reading!

Favorite Friday topic this week: Favorite genre to read

All icons, animations, and graphics on this blog were designed by me. Click here to inquire about commission pieces and here to view my custom bookmarks on Etsy!

Favorite Friday: My Favorite Main Character

Welcome to Favorite Friday #2! I’m not sure if others are interested in participating, but if so I will be including the prompt at the bottom of my posts throughout the week. If you’re like me you rarely write a blog post more than a few hours in advance, but still!

Now, on to the post. My absolute favorite character comes from my first 5-star rated book of 2020. What book/character combo could possibly be worthy of such a title, you ask?

Circe! Now, as a former Percy Jackson kid, I’m drawn to anything Greek mythology-based. But I hadn’t really found anything in the genre that wasn’t either geared toward a younger audience, or written in times of the Odyssey. So, when I heard about Circe, I knew I had to pick it up. However, I wasn’t expecting to fall as in love with this book as I did.

As the title suggest, the story follows the Goddess Circe and her journey from being an outcast, to living in exile, to finally finding her inner strength. While the prose was gorgeous and all of the characters were compelling, Circe was undoubtedly the highlight of the story for me.

I am so used to reading about people who overcome their challenges because they have some divine gift, or innate power that sets them above everyone else. Never before have I read about someone who has to make their own power. I loved that Circe wasn’t handed everything; she wasn’t at the top of Olympus, or even favored in her family. She was taken for granted by almost everyone in her life, and yet she found a way to be better than them all, and to live for herself. She proved everyone wrong.

I came out of reading this feeling like I could take on the world (which is saying a lot for me). Circe’s is a story that champions the underdog, and speaks to finding power in the most unlikely of places. If you ever need inspiration to find your own inner strength, don’t hesitate to look to Circe.

*Content warning: rape

I hope you guys enjoyed this, and feel free to tag me in your own Favorite Friday post, or leave a comment with your top main character.

Happy Reading!

All icons, animations, and graphics on this blog were designed by me. Click here to inquire about commission pieces and here to view my custom bookmarks on Etsy!

ARC Review: The Space Between Worlds

Is there going to be a sequel? Please tell me there’s going to be a sequel.

Cara is a traverser; someone who walks between the 382 worlds accesible to traveling. All she dreams of is finding her place in the city’s comfortable limits, a place her job will provide. But when that same job leaves Cara nearly dead and stranded on another world, she must reevaluate everything she thought she knew.

Let me start by saying I really did enjoy this book, but it left me confused in a few places. Maybe it’s the fact that I read it while in a reading slump, but there were a few passages that didn’t make sense, or rules/traditions of the world that didn’t have enough explanation.

Besides that, I thought that there were a lot of things that worked well. The characters were all pretty likable and well-developed (especially Esther!), and the world was captivating. I was hoping to see a little more of Cara and Dell’s relationship, and was a bit sad that everything was wrapped up so quickly. I think it felt abrupt because there were so many small subplots instead of one long one; I didn’t really know where the story was headed until it was over.

Its strongest points for me were the themes. I really enjoyed the exploration of healing, interconnectedness, and a kind of nature-versus-nurture dialogue (I know, the psych nerd in me is showing). It made me think of the butterfly effect, and the difference a life can make. And even though this is set in a futuristic earth, there were several heartbreaking parallels to the racism that is alive today in our own world.

I know there probably won’t be a sequel, but I really want there to be, if just to see more of Cara and Dell. Overall this was an enjoyable read, and I’m so happy to see another sci-fi book with LGBTQ+ and POC rep!

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆ 3.5/5 (rounded up)
Pace: Medium
Intended audience: Adult/New Adult
Content warnings: relationship violence, murder, drug abuse, (I feel like I’m forgetting some but this is what I remember)

On a separate note, the topic for this Favorite Friday will be fave main character for anybody who would like to join.

Happy Reading!

All icons, animations, and graphics on this blog were designed by me. Click here to inquire about commission pieces and here to view my custom bookmarks on Etsy!

Bookish update #1

Hey guys! I know I usually post reviews on Monday buuut I’ve been super into preparing for launching my art store! As some of you may know I’ve been making custom bookmarks (which you can see an Etsy listing by clicking on the picture in my sidebar). I am planning to make a full post with images & prices soon, but I wanted to give an update for why I’ve been a little slow on my reviews.
Feel free to suggest any designs I should make for my shop, or inquire about a custom (:

Happy reading!

Favorite Friday: My Favorite Book of 2020

I don’t think I have seen anybody do a Favorite Friday book tag (if they have let me know so I can credit them), so I wanted to start one up! Every week I will be picking a different bookish favorite of mine–whether it be favorite main character, genre, author, or something else. This is mostly just for me to have more meaningful weekly discussion on my blog, but feel free to tag me in your favorites as well!

So without further ado, I present to you my favorite book of 2020 so far:

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

I read The Starless see a couple of months, and dozens of books, ago but I still can’t get it out of my head. The level of mystery and whimsy in this book is absolutely unparalleled; if I could choose to live in the storyline of one book, it would probably be this one.

Throughout the novel we mainly follow Zachary Ezra Rawlins after he discovers a book in his school library with impossible contents; including a chapter from his own life. He follows the mysterious book to the Starless Sea, a type of archive between time for all manner of stories. There he discovers a world of love, friendship, and storytelling that he must fight to keep alive.

Personally, one theme I will never get tired of is books about books, and boy does this take the trope to a whole other level. Morgenstern’s imagination is absolutely astounding in the way that she weaves stories together. Both how she connects the short clips between chapters, and intertwines them into Zachary’s narrative are so magical. I think I could read the novel a thousand times and never fully understand how it all fits together (but in a good way).

I very much believe that you are doomed to love one and hate the other of Morgenstern’s works. Personally, The Night Circus wasn’t for me. It didn’t have much plot, and the bits between chapters felt pointless. But everything that book lacked, this one had. In fact, at the end I thought there was just the tiniest bit too much going on (which is why I gave it 4 instead of five stars on Goodreads). The last one hundred pages got a little too chaotic for my liking. So, the fact that this remains my favorite of 2020 really says something about the work as a whole. I was truly surprised with every page turn, and immersed until the end.

If you aren’t a fan of writing based in beauty, wonderment, and mystery, this may not be for you. A lot of the critiques I read commented on how it wasn’t cohesive enough, and that it felt like a lot of beautiful words randomly strung together. In my opinion though, it is a work that speaks to the joy of journeys, fate, and how all of our stories are more connected than they seem.

So if the glowing review of a bibliophile who seldom gives praise and the enchanting description aren’t enough for you to pick this one up, I don’t know what is. I hope you guys enjoyed my first Favorite Friday! Feel free to tag me in your own, or leave a comment.

Happy Reading!

All icons, animations, and graphics on this blog were designed by me. Click here to inquire about commission pieces and here to view my custom bookmarks on Etsy!

WWW Wednesday #1

I’m so excited to be posting my first WWW Wednesday tag! For those of you who don’t know, this tag is hosted by Taking on a World of Words, and consists of answering the three Ws:

  1. What are you currently reading?
  2. What did you just finish reading?
  3. What do you think you will read next?

So let’s get to it!

Currently reading: The Space Between Worlds

I’m not going to lie, I’m very behind on my TBR this month because I have been a little busy, but that’s okay! I am super excited to get farther into this one, and hopefully finish it to get you guys a review in the next few days. I anticipate liking it a lot. I mean, what’s not to love? LGBTQ+ sci-fi in a futuristic world is pretty much perfect in my book (haha). Thank you NetGalley for the ARC.

What I just finished reading: Scarlet Odyssey by C.T Rwizi

As some of you probably remember from my review, I absolutely loved this one (click here for the full post & list of content warnings). It was steeped in magic, intricate plot lines, and lovable characters. It even ended up in my dreams a few nights, so you can definitely say I couldn’t get this book out of my head. My only disappointment is that I’m going to have to wait so long for the next book to come out! Shoutout to my awesome twitter mutual Lynn for buddy reading it with me. And thank you to NetGalley for the ARC.

This has been on my TBR for entirely too long. I can’t wait to finally start it as a buddy read with another one of my awesome twitter mutuals, Sabrina. I have a very sinking suspicion that this one is going to make me SOB as it spans both Augusto Pinochet’s coup in Chile, and 9/11 in the United States. So, get ready for a very tearful review to come. Thank you NetGalley for the ARC (clearly I am catching up on me NetGalley shelf this month).

I hope you guys enjoyed my first true book tag, and let me know if you would like to see more of them.

Happy Reading!

All icons, animations, and graphics on this blog were designed by me. Click here to inquire about commission pieces and here to view my custom bookmarks on Etsy!