Book Review: Blanca & Roja

blanca and roja
Title:
 Blanca & Roja
Author:
 Anna-Marie McLemore
Genre: Young Adult/Magical Realism
Version: ARC – ebook
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Latina protagonists, LGBTQ+ characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of magical realism and fairytale retellings
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for giving me this ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Man, am I ever disappointed at the rating I have to give Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore. I’m certain it’s purely the result of “It’s not you, it’s me” combined with a healthy dose of “wrong book, wrong time.”

Let me preface this by saying there is nothing inherently bad about this book. In fact, McLemore’s prose masterfully captures the dream-like quality you expect of magical realism along with a dash of purple prose that maintains its beauty without being excessive.

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Most Anticipated Book Releases – August 2018

Hey all! Back with another anticipated book release round, this time for August 2018. This year is just flying by, it seems, but at least the book releases have kept up.

I’m going to be doing the formatting for these a little differently, at least for now as I try new things out. But enough talking shop, let’s get to the books!

City-of-Ghosts


City of Ghosts
by Victoria Schwab takes the top spot because frankly, I love Schwab and I trust her. After many successful YA and Adult series, she’s now bringing her talents to the Middle Grade genre. I haven’t read any Middle Grade books in a long time, so I’m excited to dive back in and meet Cassidy Blake and her ghost best friend, Jacob (and possibly a cat???) as they investigate Scotland for malevolent spirits who should’ve been sent beyond the Veil instead of being left to haunt her world. Sounds spooky and fun, I’m in! Release date: August 28

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Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

jemisin_hundred-thousand-kingdoms-tpTitle: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms
Author:
 N.K. Jemisin
Genre: Fantasy, Romance
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 427
Publisher: Hachette Book Group Orbit
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC protagonist, LGBTQ+ relationships
Recommended Readers: People looking for a challenging fantasy read and those who are into their female MCs getting entangled with monster gods
Rating: ★★★★★

This is the first book I’ve read from N.K. Jemisin, who I’ve heard is a much-respected author and a legend, and now I understand why. Jemisin displays absolutely no fear in her writing, already seeming to be a master of sprezzatura when she penned the ambitious The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms.

Even having just finished it, I’m struggling to put all my feelings about it into words. I’ll start by saying that I initially chose it to read because I was expecting a certain Hellsing element, aka mortal woman gets involved with a half-crazed immortal being, whose hair and darkness float around him constantly.

the hundred thousand kingdoms

Happy to say, I got exactly that and still so much more! What I did not expect, however, was how much this book was going to challenge me, both as a reader and as a demonstration of how fantasy and storytelling can be told.

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Book Review: And I Darken

and i darken

Title: And I Darken
Author:
 Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 512
Publisher: Ember
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Feminism, LGBT characters, POC characters
Recommended Readers: Those interested in a slow-build, female Vlad the Impaler retelling
Rating: ★★★★☆

I read And I Darken by Kiersten White with @dearjenna for our Femme Trash bookclub, and I was happily surprised by it.

The historical figure Vlad the Impaler and the Dracula legend based off him is one of my favorites, so I was worried about how changing him into a female character would go. (This is purely for selfish reasons as I have quite a crush on Vlad, vampire version mostly but historical figure, too.)

But I’m happy to report that Ladislav “Lada” Dragwlya was an incredible character, and this book was an impressive and intricate historical retelling that’s just getting started.

White’s writing style was particularly refreshing because it never once became flowery or dipped into purple prose to make the events of the novel seem more beautiful or profound than they were. Instead, White’s style is blunt but with an edge you didn’t realize had cut you until you realize the full impact of what you just read is saying:

As the baby latched on with surprising fierceness, the nurse offered her own prayer.
Let her be strong.
Let her be sly.
And let her be ugly.

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Book Review: If We Were Villains

If We Were Villains9781250154958
Title: 
If We Were Villains
Author:
 M. L. Rio
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 368
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: LGBTQ+ Characters
Recommended Readers: Fans of Shakespeare and murder mysteries
Rating: ★★★★★

One thing I’m sure Colborne will never understand is that I need language to live, like food—lexemes and morphemes and morsels of meaning nourish me with the knowledge that, yes, there is a word for this. Someone else has felt this before.

This was an unexpectedly amazing find! All my love and thanks to my friend Colby for making me aware of such a fantastic book.

M. L. Rio delivers a debut novel that is both thoughtful and mesmerizing, blending the works of Shakespeare with the lives of seven student actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory. If We Were Villains delves into the beauty and manic competition of Shakespearean theatre and the sharp edges that come with becoming too much like the roles you play. At what point does art separate itself from life and vice versa?

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Book Review: Batwoman, Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death

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Title: Batwoman, Vol. 1: The Many Arms of Death
Author:
Marguerite Bennett, James Tynion IV, Steve Epting, Stephanie Hans, Renato Arlem
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novels, Superheroes
Version: ARC (eBook)
Page Count: 168
Publisher: DC Comics
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: Gay, female-led superhero title
Recommended Readers: New and veteran comic fans
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Thank you, DC Comics and NetGalley, for providing me with an ARC of my first ever Batwoman comic in exchange for an honest review.

Kate Kane has intrigued me ever since I first learned of her a few years ago. Up until that point, I’d had no idea she was one of the first gay female superheroes, who was once a soldier, expelled from the army due to her sexuality and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. Her story and the reasons she put on the cowl instantly became memorable and important to me.

Other than the Batman: Bad Blood film and DC’s Bombshells run, I had not experienced that story in any kind of comic book form before, so I was delighted to begin her Rebirth origins, The Many Arms of Death. I was both relieved and pleased to see many of her origin details left not only intact but also emphasized here. I’m very much beginning to trust Marguerite Bennett, especially, for how she’s handling so many female superhero-led projects. She clearly knows what’s up!

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Book Review: Iron Cast

iron cast

Title: Iron Cast
Author:
 Destiny Soria
Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Version: Hardcover
Page Count: 384
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC characters, LGBTQ+ characters, Friendship-focused
Recommended Readers: Fans of magical realism, 1920s-era
Rating: ★★★★★

Ah, gosh, I loved this. Magical realism, 1919 setting, diverse characters, thoughtful prose. Consider me swept away!

Iron Cast is Destiny Soria’s debut, standalone novel, and I am an instant fan. The cover alone stole my breath, and the contents inside delivered, taking me to this historical yet magical Boston that I didn’t want to leave.

The novel follows the fierce friendship of two young women, Ada Navarra, the daughter of immigrants, and Corinne Wells, the daughter of an elite Boston family. Neither of them seem to have much in common besides the fact that they’re both hemopaths, or people whose blood cannot tolerate iron and who possess certain gifts. Corinne is a wordsmith who can bring people into her thrall, experiencing any emotion and memory she desires by reciting poetry, and Ada, a songsmith, does the same with her violin.

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Book Review: Between the Blade and the Heart

between the blade

Title: Between the Blade and the Heart
Author:
 Amanda Hocking
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy
Version: ARC (Uncorrected Proof)
Page Count: 319
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: LGBTQ+ characters
Recommended Readers: Ages 14+, mythology enthusiasts, newcomers to fantasy
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I received an ARC from St. Martin’s Press and Wednesday Books in exchange for an honest review.

When I found out I had won an Advanced Reader Copy of Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking, I was ecstatic. First ARC and a new author? Well, she’s new to me. I have yet to read her Trylle trilogy or Watersong series, but this book instantly had my attention. Valkyries? Revenge? Shattered world views? Sign me up!

Even from the get-go, however, this book threw me off guard. I was expecting a Norse/Valhalla-inspired world of old, especially given the lovely, simplistic cover with the glowing blade in front of some dark, spooky woods. Instead, I was thrown into a futuristic, soft sci-fi city setting, but I adapted to it and was intrigued to learn more about it.

Unfortunately, the intrigue dried up rather quickly because the author didn’t give the city so much as a name. It’s just some vague, made-up city in the United States. In fact, everything about the world seemed vague and made-up as the author drew inspiration solely from past mythologies, which is a shame. The concept of walking into a bar and seeing demons, incubi, goblins, and mortals all hanging out is my aesthetic, but here it came across as flat, not possessing its own breath of originality that I was hoping for.

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Book Review: Ironside

Ironside

Title: Ironside
Auth
or: Holly Black
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Urban Fantasy
Version: Paperback
Page Count: 323
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC characters, LGBTQ+ characters
Recommended Readers: Ages 14+, Lovers of Dark Themes
Rating: ★★★★☆

 

I chose to skip Valiant, book two in this Modern Faerie Tale trilogy, because it didn’t have much bearing on the actual plot. Ironside picks up where Tithe left off, with Kaye preparing for Roiben’s coronation and Corny trying to discover how he, as a human, can become immune to faerie charms. When Kaye drunkenly declares herself to Roiben in front of his court, he gives her a seemingly impossible task to fulfill: find a faerie that can tell an untruth.

Kaye spends much of the novel separate from Roiben, attempting to solve his riddle while wrestling with her Changeling status. Meanwhile, Roiben is dealing with Fae politics, both from the Seelie Court and within his own court, which he’s chosen to rule and protect although the denizens there revolt him.

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Book Review: Wonder Woman: Warbringer

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Title: Wonder Woman: Warbringer
Auth
or: Leigh Bardugo
Genre: Young Adult, Superheroes, Sci-Fi
Version: Hardback
Page Count: 369
Publisher: Random House
Synopsis: GoodReads
Notable Notables: POC characters, LGBTQ+ character, Feminism, Origin Retelling
Recommended Readers: Fans of Diverse Characters, DC Comics/Wonder Woman fans
Rating: ★★★★★

When I found out my favorite YA author was writing not only a DC Comics book but a Wonder Woman book, a single tear rolled down my face, and I said, “For so long I give, and now I get to receive.”

And receive, I did. Completely separate from the film that debuted earlier this year, Wonder Woman: Warbringer is another origin story for Diana of Themyscira, one that takes place even before she’s considered a true Amazon like the rest of her people but set in our modern time. Diana is considered separate from the rest of the Amazons because she was the only one actually born on their hidden, secluded island; she didn’t earn her way like the rest of them did, these women warriors who evoked the names of their female goddesses and deities before dying in battle.

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