Penguin Teen Social 2019 - Recap (May 23, 2019)

Right before going to NYC for BEA/BookCon, I got to be at Penguin Teen Social event at Penguin Random House Canada HQ - effectively, kicking off my bookish 2 weeks. I was trying to write and upload this post before I left, but there was just too much happening!

I love going to book events in Canada as I get to see lots of bookish friends and bloggers! Not to mention get my hands on the newest releases. And this event was not an exception.

Read More

Book review: "The Magic Misfits" by Neil Patrick Harris (audiobook)

The Magic Misfits I came across “The Magic Misfits” as I was browsing the newest releases at my favourite Indigo store. I was thrilled to find out that Neil Patrick Harris wrote a book! The cover looked so adorable that I couldn’t wait to read it. Since I occasionally struggle with middle-grade books, I went to my favourite option - that is an audiobook.

“The Magic Misfits” has a gorgeous cover! And for once, I can’t decide whether I like US or UK edition better!

The Magic Misfits UK edition

Synopsis

 

From beloved award-winning actor, Neil Patrick Harris comes the magical first book in a new series with plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

When street magician Carter runs away, he never expects to find friends and magic in a sleepy New England town. But like any good trick, things change instantly as greedy B.B. Bosso, and his crew of crooked carnies arrive to steal anything and everything they can get their sticky fingers on.

After a fateful encounter with the local purveyor of illusion, Dante Vernon, Carter teams up with five other like-minded kids. Together, using both teamwork and magic, they'll set out to save the town of Mineral Wells from Bosso's villainous clutches. These six Magic Misfits will soon discover adventure, friendship, and their own self-worth in this delightful new series.

 

Review

 

“The Magic Misfits” is read by Neil Patrick Harris himself and it was a treat to my ears. I should not have expected anything less than a stellar performance from him, but I was still thrilled. He has a perfect voice range and goes from low and grumbly to high pitched. Neil also performs all the songs in the story, and that was just an added bonus! The audiobook is only 4 hours long, so I went through it fairly quickly.

My admiration for Neil’s performance, I was a bit bored by the plot. It is a cute story about an almost orphaned runaway boy who finds his place in the world and his new family. Everything from Carter’s backstory (which really reminded me of Oliver Twist for some reason) to the magic shop and carnival, to the group of unpopular kids - it all has been done before.

What has not been done before is this amount of diversity in a middle-grade book, and that representation is not the focus of the main story and nobody is given grief or bullied for whatever they represent. And that is a big deal! We have characters of colour, disabled characters, foster and adoptive families, as well as LGBTQ+ representation. In one middle-grade novel. I mean, c’mon! This book has to be a bestseller at least for that!

Sadly, I had issues with the plot, especially the very ending. The conflict seemed to have been resolved as if by magic (which it was, in a way). The book has filler chapters in which the author addresses the readers directly, breaking the fourth wall (which is my least favourite device as it keeps taking me out of the story), and provides instructions to future magicians on how to do tricks. It is a lovely concept and will, undoubtedly, appeal to the younger audience, but for me, it was all more of a nuisance. Overall, it felt as if the book was targeted at the younger side of the middle-grade scale. I mean, sometimes the author even explained certain words to the listeners! It felt as if it was not a recording but a real person reading the story, which is excellent, but I am obviously too old for that kind of narration.

It is hard to rate the book without taking into account the brilliant performance by Neil. So, I am going to give the book a half-star more for the narration and representation, although the plot left more to be desired. It was a cute story, but not a very original one.

However, since “The Magic Misfits” is only the first book in the series (a quartet?), I have hopes that the plot will improve with the sequel, and I definitely plan to continue reading the series.

 

Performance: 5 stars Plot: 2.5 stars Overall: 3.5 stars

 

More of my book reviews

 

Links:

Book review: “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages” edited by Saundra Mitchell

All Out: an anthology

I came across “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages” - which I will be calling “All Out” in my review for the sake of simplicity - at the beginning of this year. It is a collection of short stories by an ensemble of young adult authors. All of the stories have queer teen characters, as it is evident in the title, and the stories themselves vary in genres and settings.

Synopsis

Take a journey through time and genres and discover a past where queer figures live, love and shape the world around them. Seventeen of the best young adult authors across the queer spectrum have come together to create a collection of beautifully written diverse historical fiction for teens.

From a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood set in war-torn 1870s Mexico featuring a transgender soldier, to two girls falling in love while mourning the death of Kurt Cobain, forbidden love in a sixteenth-century Spanish convent or an asexual girl discovering her identity amid the 1970s roller-disco scene, All Out tells a diverse range of stories across cultures, time periods and identities, shedding light on an area of history often ignored or forgotten.

Review

I was extremely excited to get my hands on “All Out”. I admit that I was hesitant to buy my own copy, although I was tempted to, as the book was proudly (pun intended) displayed as a Pride Month pick at Indigo stores. I was cautious, as I had not read the books by all of the authors, so I was not sure if I am going to enjoy all of the stories.

As I expected I enjoyed some stories more and some stories less, so I will go through the list with my ratings for each one of them.

“Roja” by Anna-Marie McLemore

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: It seems like there is going to be a full novel, “Blanca & Roja”, about the same characters, and I am very excited! It is coming out in October!

“The Sweet Trade” by Natalie C. Parker

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: We have a girl who wants to sail away and another one who runs away as well. Not sure the ending worked plus I was not really feeling the characters. It was my first time reading anything by this author and I was slightly disappointed. (I read “Seafire” after I read "All Out".)

“And They Don’t Kiss At The End” by Nilah Magruder

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: Excellent writing and description of asexuality. I enjoyed it, but the skating rink and contemporary YA feel are just not my thing.

“Burnt Umber” by Mackenzi Lee

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: Loved every bit of this story. Excellent descriptions and characterizations. A painter’s studio in Amsterdam was an unusual setting. It was my first time reading a story by this author, and I can not wait to read more of her books!

“The Dresser & The Chambermaid” by Robin Talley

Rating: 2 stars
Notes: I did not like anything about this story. I couldn’t get behind the characters and their actions. Everything seemed a bit too exaggerated and boring.

“New Year” by Malinda Lo

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I liked the background of the story and Chinese New Year traditions and the discussions of immigrants life but I am not a huge fan of Malinda’s writing style, and there wasn’t much of a plot either.

“Molly’s Lips” by Dahlia Adler

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: Once again, I am not a fan of contemporary YA, however, all of the grange music and Kurt Cobain references were on point, so this story is getting an extra star for that.

“The Coven” by Kate Scelsa

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I expected this story to be more engaging than it was. It was confusing at times, and not much was happening. It was okay.

“Every Shade of Red” by Elliot Wake

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: A transgender Robin Hood retelling? Holy crap! Yes! Give me a whole book like that!! Excellent writing and now I am dying for the author to write more! (I know that there are books by this author written several years ago under a different name, but they are not exactly what I would read as they are NA romance novels.)

“Willows” by Scott Tracey

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: I loved the dreamy quality of the writing style. The ending was intense! Now, I want a sequel! It was my first time reading a story by this author, and I can not wait to read more of his books!

“The Girl With The Blue Lantern” by Tess Sharpe

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I liked the premise of the story, and it was relatively well written, but there was not much of a plot, to be honest.

“The Secret Life of A Teenage Boy” by Alex Sanchez

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: I was not entirely on board with the plot of this story. But I liked the descriptions and how well developed all characters were. Will be definitely reading more by this author!

“Walking After Midnight” by Kody Keplinger

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: It was a bit too Hollywood like and sugary for me, but the descriptions were well done. I was just not a fan of either characters or plot.

“The End of The World As We Know It” by Sara Farizan

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: I am not a fan of contemporaries or love stories set on New Year’s Eve, but I loved the references to historical events (e.g., the mention of the mass shooting) and I think more stories should talk about such things.

“Three Witches” by Tessa Gratton

Rating: 3 stars
Notes: I liked the setting of the story, but I did not like the characters, and the only thing that worked for me was the ending. The rest was just dull.

“The Inferno & The Butterfly” by Shaun David Hutchinson

Rating: 5 stars
Notes: A story about two apprentices serving two rivalling magicians was adorable. I loved the plot and the characters, and I wanted more! It was the first story by this author that I read, and I can’t wait to check out his books!

“Healing Rosa” by Tehlor Kay Mejia

Rating: 4 stars
Notes: I liked the writing style in this story, although there was not much of a plot, to be honest.

Even though I was not in love with all of the stories in “All Out”, I enjoyed most of them, and some of them were so good that I can not wait to get my hands on those authors’ books! I consider it to be time very well spent. I am not sure I would want to re-read any of the stories (except for, maybe, stories by Mackenzie Lee and Elliot Wake). Therefore I am giving this book only 4 stars.

I wish we had more anthologies like "All Out", as it is an excellent opportunity to give LGBTQ+ authors more exposure and for readers to discover new favourites.

Overall rating: 4 stars

More of my book reviews

Book review: “Seafire” (Seafire #1) by Natalie C. Parker

Seafire

I heard of “Seafire” months ago, and the plot of a new Young Adult fantasy book with all female pirates appealed to me greatly. I was dying to get my hands on it early and jumped on the opportunity to ask the publisher for the ARC. (Meaning, I begged. More than once.) I was so excited to receive it in the mail from Penguin Random House Canada and immediately put it on my ARC August TBR.

Synopsis

After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, whose lives have been turned upside down by Aric and his men. The crew has one mission: stay alive, and take down Aric's armed and armoured fleet.

But when Caledonia's best friend and second-in-command just barely survives an attack thanks to the help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether or not to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all…or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?

Review

Before I got to “Seafire”, I read a short story “The Sweet Trade” by Natalie C. Parker in the anthology “All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages” (edited by Saundra Mitchell). It did not click in my head immediately that I was reading the story by the same author, whose book I was anticipating so much (yes, I am that bad with names), but once I did, I felt a surge of uneasy. Because “The Sweet Trade” was not one of my favourite stories. As a matter of fact, I wouldn’t even be able to recall its plot now.

That did not make me very happy. I am a demanding reader, and I expect short fiction to be of the same quality as novels.

Nevertheless, I started “Seafire”.

Oh well.

Let me start by saying that I liked the world and the idea behind the book and ultimately gave the book 3.5 stars, which is not a bad rating. But I was very underwhelmed.

My biggest problem with “Seafire” came from the prologue. The prologue should not have been written. It gave us the background to the novel, explained why the characters were who they were, etc. The whole prologue was just a huge chunk of exposition. Instead, it would have been better to weave in that information into the plot through flashbacks - even that device would have been better. The readers would have been left to guess why Caledonia Styx was the way she was and why she hated Bullets so much.

Instead, everything was laid out in front of us in the prologue. More so, Caledonia is not that young in the prologue to make a mistake that big. If someone kept telling you all your life that those people were not to be trusted, would you have trusted one of them after five minutes of meeting them?

I don’t think so.

The prologue of “Seafire” annoyed me so much, I was getting stressed, thinking that the book would be like that as well. Thankfully it was not.

I do not think that Pisces would have been as trusting as we were led to believe in the book. Her insistence to trust someone who saved her life was valid but a bit too exaggerated. I even was confused by the timeline between she was off the ship and then back on it as it felt as if it was minutes but obviously could not have been. That was a weird timeline.

Certain parts of the book are really well developed. For example, everything that has to do with the navigation and running the ship was described in much detail and fabulous to read. There were certain things though, like running water in showers on board of the ship that seemed a bit too out of place, when everything else was just bunk beds and wooden furniture. (Well, I get that the author wanted to keep her girls clean, but it stuck out to me.)

The world building was intriguing, but very few things were explained. I went into the book thinking that it was a piracy age book, a colonist era, so to say. But there were mentions of the old world, and some of the technology was apparently inherited from a different time period, so the book should be classified as more of a dystopian adventure book, rather than fantasy. There were no fantasy elements in it, no magic, no supernatural abilities. Can’t say I was too let down by the lack of those, but “Seafire” turned out to be not what I had expected.

My second pet peeve with the book - besides the unfortunate prologue - was the love plotline. “Seafire” is full of teen girls, who live and fight side by side. Some of the same sex relationships were implied, but almost nothing stated outright. I was entirely sure that Caledonia was in love with her best friend and was in the relationship with her until another person came into the picture. The way the author kept throwing Caledonia together with another person felt as if she was trying to create a love triangle on purpose. But since nothing that Caledonia did or said reflected her true feelings - except for her eternal guilt for what had happened - it was really frustrating.

Do not get me wrong - I did like other characters and other pairings, but I assumed that the book written by a queer author would have more queer relationships in it. Big, visible, spelt out relationships, and not just a hint here or there. I think there was only one same-sex kiss in the book, but even that was not between lovers. I know that it can be argued that “Seafire” is not about sexuality or coming out - and I agree with that and would love to have any book in any genre with characters who just naturally happen to be in love, regardless of gender or sexuality, and not a coming of age story in a contemporary setting - but when you have the plot where all prerequisites of it exist, but the book still goes like “Nah, they are just BFFs who have been through a lot”, that is a tad upsetting.

I do want to stress that I adored the concept of “Seafire”, and all the action in the book. I was there for epic sea battles, and we got them. I did have some problems with the execution, but the way the book left off, I am very excited about the sequel. I want more books like “Seafire”. I am just sad that it did not fully live up to my expectations.

Overall, “Seafire” was a fun read, and I am very grateful to Penguin Random House Canada for providing me with an ARC.

“Seafire” is coming out on August 28, 2018.

Rating: 3.5 stars

More of my book reviews

Links

Book review: "The Scorpion Rules" (Prisoners of Peace #1) by Erin Bow

The Scorpion Rules  

 

I purchased “The Scorpion Rules” back in a day when it came out in this gorgeous paperback. I saw this book mentioned again and again in YA LGBTQ+ recommendations and was excited to read it. But as it often happens with impulse purchases, I didn’t pick up the book until much later.

 

I was quite in the mood for a YA Sci-Fi audiobook after listening to Nyxia, and while browsing Overdrive library, I saw that “The Scorpion Rules” was immediately available.

I downloaded it to my iPhone and started listening to it right away. I had only a vague recollection of the plot of “The Scorpion Rules” from the back of the book. I knew that the book had diverse characters, was generally considered to be sci-fi, and was somehow related to Canada. For the sake of accurate spelling of names, I am providing the official synopsis below.

 

Synopsis

 

A world battered by climate shift and war turns to an ancient method of keeping peace: the exchange of hostages. The Children of Peace - sons and daughters of kings and presidents and generals - are raised together in small, isolated schools called Prefectures. There, they learn history and political theory, and are taught to gracefully accept what may well be their fate: to die if their countries declare war.

 

Greta Gustafsen Stuart, Duchess of Halifax and Crown Princess of the Pan-Polar Confederation, is the pride of the North American Prefecture. Learned and disciplined, Greta is proud of her role in keeping the global peace — even though, with her country controlling two-thirds of the world’s most war-worthy resource — water — she has little chance of reaching adulthood alive.

 

Enter Elián Palnik, the Prefecture’s newest hostage and biggest problem. Greta’s world begins to tilt the moment she sees Elián dragged into the school in chains. The Prefecture’s insidious surveillance, its small punishments and rewards, can make no dent in Elián, who is not interested in dignity and tradition, and doesn’t even accept the right of the UN to keep hostages.

 

What will happen to Elián and Greta as their two nations inch closer to war?

 

Review

 

I listened to “The Scorpion Rules” for about 10 minutes, paused and went online to look up the narrator. The audiobook is narrated by Madeleine Maby, who, judging by her website and extensive Audible presence, is a rather experienced voice actor. I was not impressed though at all. Madeleine gives all characters distinctive voices, but her intonation is clipped and artificial. (There were mentions of accents in the book, but it still didn’t make much sense to me.) I would have understood if she narrated for AI in that manner, but it was all of the characters in different variations. I found the narration for Greta the most annoying as she talked in the way that Siri or an artificial intelligence might, with odd stops between words and occasional uprise in intonation. Elian’s southern accent came and went, and seemed to be more prominent whenever there was a line in the book referring to it.

 

I was so not impressed by the narration, that I even considered switching to a paper book. However, I decided to stick to the audiobook as I wanted to listen to something during the commute or work breaks. Getting over the narration style was a bit difficult, but I somewhat got used to it by the end of the book.

 

Now, onto the plot. Sadly, I was somewhat disappointed by it too. I think “The Scorpion Rules” is more character driven than plot driven, which is usually fine by me, but not in this case. It took awhile for me to get into the plot. The first third of the book, I was bored and couldn’t figure out why things were the way they were. There is a lot of exposition in the book, which I do not like. We have even quotes and reciting from the AI that at times seemed a bit unfitting to the main narrative. I enjoyed the world but didn’t like the fact that I could barely make head or tail of local politics, not to mention rivalries and alliances between countries.

 

Regarding characters, I liked Michael the best, from the moment he made an appearance. Everything about him, his character, the circumstances of his arrival, the complications, etc. - I liked everything. But regardless of role in the plot of “The Scorpion Rules”, Greta and Elian were the main protagonists (which is confirmed in the synopsis), and I did have a lot of problems with both of them.

 

Greta seemed too plain to be anything special, and yet she was. She was too all over the place in her emotions and affections, and yet she was described as exceptional and strong. Elian seemed perpetually confused and rebellious, even when nothing was happening to warrant either. I could not understand Greta’s feelings towards Elian. She viewed him as someone who needs care and protection and at the same time - as someone dangerous.

 

There are a lot of descriptions in the text of what characters felt, lots of comparisons - the language flows most of the time quite wonderfully. However, I often felt that the lack of actual reasoning and plot holes were being hidden behind grand statements about life and sacrifice and characters’ feelings. We were often being told that something was happening just because it was happening. I would have been able to oversee it if there was more action, but too frequently it felt as if nothing was moving at all. And when something was happening, we were not really told why. At times, I could feel my mind drifting, as I was almost bored with the book. Perhaps, it is once again the fault of the narrator, who failed to make “The Scorpion Rules” sound engaging enough.

 

“The Scorpion Rules” disappointed me from the standpoint of LGBTQ+ representation too. The book is tagged and listed on GoodReads as having prominent LGBTQ+ characters, however, the only female/female relationship proved not to be strong enough to overcome the obstacles (add to that a cliched presence of a male protagonist - obviously), and the only male/male couple was not given any visibility until the tragic end. Yes, we get various sexualities in the book, and there is some sort of a gender swap, so to say, which can be viewed as gender dysphoria almost, but I am hesitant to say that it can be viewed as a representation for genderfluid or transgender people. Perhaps, it was not intended as either at all, and it was my wishful thinking trying to find more representation in the book.

 

The Children of Peace and Swan Riders come from various countries and therefore from different racial and cultural backgrounds. I liked that about “The Scorpion Rules”. In my opinion, the cultural representation was handled well.

 

Perhaps, if I approached “The Scorpion Rules” in physical format, I would have connected with the characters better. Unfortunately, I finished the audiobook feeling somewhat cheated. I didn’t get the representation I was looking for; the plot was murky; the characters - annoying, and the only thing that I liked about the novel - the world itself - was presented to us through obvious exposition, which often felt detached from the plot.

 

I like “The Scorpion Rules” much more as an idea for a book or a sales pitch, as opposed to the actual result. I can’t tell if it is the writing style that I have more problems with or the narration of the audiobook - or, maybe, both. “The Scorpion Rules”, as well as some other books by Erin Bow, received favourable reviews from multiple sources and was even listed in Kirkus Reviews Best Teen Books of 2015. I still decided to continue with the series, in spite of feeling disappointed by the first book.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

More of my book reviews

 

Links

 

 

Book review: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

The Wicker King  

I came across The Wicker King on Indigo website. I think it was among the new teen releases or something similar. I knew it was tagged as LGBTQ+ on GoodReads, and that is more than enough for me.

 

I got this book from the library, and I kept it on my shelf for awhile before I picked it up.

 

And oh my god.

Summary

 

The Wicker King is a psychological young adult thriller that follows two friends struggling as one spirals into madness.

 

When August learns that his best friend, Jack, shows signs of degenerative hallucinatory disorder, he is determined to help Jack cope. Jack’s vivid and long-term visions take the form of an elaborate fantasy world layered over our own—a world ruled by the Wicker King. As Jack leads them on a quest to fulfill a dark prophecy in this alternate world, even August begins to question what is real or not.

 

August and Jack struggle to keep afloat as they teeter between fantasy and their own emotions. In the end, each must choose his own truth.

 

Review

 

I read The Wicker King in less than two days. I would have finished it in one go, if I had time. I picked it up because I was not feeling like reading anything and The Wicker King had such an appealing cover. Besides, I knew nobody else who read this book, and I was very intrigued.

 

Ten pages in, I was so hooked that I couldn’t put the book down.

 

The Wicker King is a hard book to describe as it should be approached more like an experience than the story. It is about two best friends, friendships and loves, relationships, and other worlds. It is a lot about trust, and faith, and abandonment.

 

The chapters in The Wicker King are short. Sometimes just a couple of pages. Sometimes - a paragraph. As the story progresses, the edges of the book get darker and darker - a visual representation of the darkness that is slowly swallowing August and Jack.

 

The synopsis calls The Wicker King a thriller, which is true in the sense that it does create the atmosphere of suspense and tension. However, I would call the novel a mix of contemporary and magical realism. The things that Jack sees and the things that both characters experience at times feel more real than the real world itself. I loved the writing and the characters in the book. You need to pay attention to chapter titles and the small bits here and there, that make the story so compelling, and a bit weird (but in a good way).

 

At times poetic and symbolic, at times outright scary - The Wicker King is a vortex that pulls readers into its depths, spinning heads and breaking hearts. I cried halfway into the book. I cried at the end. I cried because it was over and I was not ready to let August and Jack go.

 

I read the library book and then went and purchased my own copy. The Wicker King is undoubtedly going to be my favourite read of 2018.

 

The Wicker King novella

 

There is a novella set in the same world. It is titled The Legend of the Golden Raven, and it is free on Kindle. You have to read it after reading The Wicker King though, as it won’t make much sense otherwise, and you will get so much more emotions if you read the novella afterwards. I gave the novella the same rating as The Wicker King.

 

I refuse to believe that this is the only book and there is no sequel.

 

Kayla Ancrum has instantly become my auto-buy author. Her next novel, The Weight of the Stars, is coming out in March 2019 (although initially it was listed as October 2018).

 

I can not wait to see what this author comes up with next.

 

Rating: 5 stars

 

More of my book reviews

 

Links:

 

 

Book review: Take Me with You by Andrea Gibson (poetry)

Take Me with You

I discovered Andrea Gibson from The Morning Show on Global, which I have been watching religiously for the past 5 years. They invited Andrea as part of Take Me with You, poetry collection, release promotion, and it was the first time I ever heard the name. I was instantly intrigued.

After discovering Rupi Kaur and falling in love with her artistic and melodic performance of poetry, I have been keeping my eyes open for more contemporary poets, even though my tastes primarily lie within classics or speculative genres.

Immediately after the show, I went to my library website and put Take me with You on hold.

Summary

 

For readers of Rupi Kaur (Milk and Honey) and Cheryl Strayed, a book small enough to carry with you, with messages big enough to stay with you, from one of the most quotable and influential poets of our time.

 

Andrea Gibson explores themes of love, gender, politics, sexuality, family, and forgiveness with stunning imagery and a fierce willingness to delve into the exploration of what it means to heal and to be different in this strange age. Take Me With You, illustrated throughout with evocative line drawings by Sarah J. Coleman, is small enough to fit in your bag, with messages that are big enough to wake even the sleepiest heart. Divided into three sections (love, the world, and becoming) of one liners, couplets, greatest hits phrases, and longer form poems, it has something for everyone, and will be placed in stockings, lockers, and the hands of anyone who could use its wisdom.

 

Review

 

I read Andrea Gibson’s Take Me with You poetry collection in one go while having my morning coffee. The poems range from raw and open, bleeding across the pages, - to cute and funny (there are sketches of dogs!), - to the ones which sound like a battle cry against injustice, patriarchy, discrimination. It is the poetry that is saturated with the world’s problems and political views, and I can not imagine anything more relevant nowadays. I found myself both nodding my head in agreement and holding back tears when some of those poems struck too close home.

 

I can’t recommend Take Me with You enough. So, I will just say - read it. The world is a better place with this book on the shelves. I will leave you with this one poem:

Take Me with You

About author

 

Andrea Gibson is an award-winning poet and activist who lives in Boulder, Colorado. Their poetry focuses on gender norms, politics, social reform and the struggles LGBTQ people face in today's society. In addition to using poetry to express what they feel and provide social and political commentary on real issues, they are involved with many activist groups. They often perform at Take Back the Night events, LGBTQ events, pride events, trans events, anti-war rallies, peace rallies, organizations against the occupation of Palestine, and groups focused on examining the wrongs of capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy. They also work with a group called Vox Feminista whose model is to "comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable" on all these issues. Throughout the year, they tour Universities and other venues across the country.

 

Rating: 4 stars

 

More of my book reviews

 

Links:

 

Book review: "The Prince and the Dressmaker" by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker  

If you ask me now how I head of The Prince and the Dressmaker, I would not be able to tell you. But it was on my Amazon wishlist way before it came out. I was even going to purchase it when I saw it available on OverDrive through my library. So, obviously, I had to request it.

 

I found the summary of the book a bit spoilery, so if you would like, just skip over it to my review.

Summary

 

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

 

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

 

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairytale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

 

Review

 

Okay, so my first reaction when I opened up The Prince and the Dressmaker was “this is a graphic novel????”. I admit that my habit of not reading the summary and staying away from spoilers completely blindsided me in this case.

 

I was delighted though as I found that the format of a graphic novel worked very well for this story.

 

Discovering this story as it goes felt as if I was a kid reading one of the classic fairy tales for the first time. The pace is great, and the story has all the attributes of a good tale: we have a hard-working dressmaker with a dream and a misunderstood prince who struggles to express himself.

 

I flew through the book. I found it adorable and cute, a very easy and light read, but lacking in some unidentifiable way, even though I think it is well written. Perhaps, my impression came from the fact that I kept thinking of Gru from Despicable Me every time I saw Sebastian and it just ruined all drama for me (I am sorry! It is the nose!). There are some earlier sketches at the back of the book, and I liked Sebastian better in those with a less pointy nose.

 

I loved Frances, though. She is strong and talented, and I like how she goes in the pursuit of her dreams even though it means breaking her heart. A delightful character!

 

Only after finishing the story, I realized that The Prince and the Dressmaker was tagged as a middle-grade book on GoodReads. I am not sure if it is the actual case, as it didn’t feel like a middle-grade novel. I often struggle with the middle-grade genre as those books tend to stay away from edgy topics or gloss over certain details, focusing more on external conflicts rather than internal. In The Prince and the Dressmaker, there is an internal conflict (for both Frances and Sebastian) as well as an external one, and the characters are in their teen years, so I would rather classify it as young adult. However, there is no violence, explicit sexual scenes, etc.,  and it is generally a happy book overall.

 

Would I give it to read to a 10-12-year-old kid? Absolutely.

 

The Prince and the Dressmaker can show children that sometimes people can be different, and it is okay. In some ways, it reminded me of George by Alex Gino, although Sebastian does not have the same gender identity (it is not explicitly explained as the story is set in a fairytale setting, but I assume Sebastian is non-binary or gender fluid).

 

I highly recommend you pick up The Prince and the Dressmaker. It is a light and fun read with an important message hidden within the folds of pretty dresses.

 

More of my book reviews

 

Rating: 4 stars

 

Links:

 

Book review: "Aerie" by Jon Keys

Aerie  

I requested Aerie from NineStar Press, LLC on NetGalley based on the description and the fact that it is a blend of fantasy and LGBTQIA+ genres.

Description

 

Askari, Dhala, and Gyam grew up as childhood friends during happier days for the Chinjoka, an Iron Age people with the ability to shapeshift, but now they must learn their place among the tribe while dealing with both a devastating plague and war with the Misiq.

 

Ena is a young warrior for the more savage Misiq, a tribe whose cruelty exemplifies their deity—the Angry God. The Misiq, also shifters, have declared a genocidal war against the Chinjoka, blaming them for the disease devastating both tribes. As a result, they are locked in a battle for survival. But when Ena is shown compassion by those he means to harm, he begins to question all he’s ever known.

 

A chance meeting changes their lives, and maybe their tribes, forever.

 

Review

 

Aerie sort of throws you in the world with little exposition. It took me a second to understand what was happening and why it was relevant. The writing is solid enough, however, lacks the descriptions that would have enriched the experience for me as a reader and made the world easier to comprehend.

 

The fantasy world of Aerie is set in Iron Age, which is not something that is very common for this genre, much less LGBTQIA+ romance. However, one of my favourite indie series has a similar setting and has set the bar pretty high, and, unfortunately, Aerie didn’t live up to my expectations.

 

I was a bit confused about what kind of creatures the characters shifted into: perhaps, some versions of prehistoric animals and birds and dinosaurs? I would have preferred more explanations concerning the magic system and how the gods fit into it as well. The world seemed a bit undeveloped, and most things were explained as “this is how things are”, and that was it.

 

My biggest problem was with the feud between Chinjoka and Misiq which was a big part of the plot. The author failed to fully explain why the war had begun, skipping over details and mentioning briefly that Misiq blamed the other tribe for the plague but never clarified why or how. The use of the world “genocide” in the book which is set in Iron Age was ridiculous. I would have understood “blood feud” or “blood war” or whatever else, but inserting a contemporary term into the narrative was a mistake.

 

The writing was not too bad, and once I familiarized myself with the world, I began to enjoy the story. I did find that the relationships were not as well developed, as I would have preferred. I do, however, appreciate the fact that the sexuality in this world was never an issue and the only conflicts resided either in the war between tribes or within the characters themselves.

 

The book ends with the issues resolved for the characters but not the tribes. I am rather curious to know whether this is supposed to be a stand-alone or not, as the plot certainly can be developed into a series.

 

However, I did enjoy Aerie to a certain extent and I would be interested in reading a sequel if there is ever one.

 

Rating: 3 stars

 

More of my book reviews

 

Links:

 

Book review: "Ibuki" by Kathryn Sommerlot

Ibuki  

I have requested a copy of “Ibuki” from NetGalley. It was marked as LGBTQIA and Fantasy read, which is one of my favourite genre combinations.

Description

 

Ibuki: the gift of healing through breath. Chiasa has possessed the ability since childhood and shares it with her father as they care for their Inuru community. Chiasa has never doubted the stability of her simple life. That is, until Namika, a water-gifted priestess, shows up outside the Ibuki shrine gates with information promising Chiasa’s doom.

 

With Namika’s help, Chiasa is determined to find the secrets behind the ritual that will claim her life, but her growing feelings toward the other woman reach beyond her control, adding to the confusion. Time is rapidly running out, and Chiasa can’t seem to sort out the lies woven through the magic of Inuru and its emperor.

 

Caught in a tangled web of immortality, betrayal, and desire, Chiasa must find the right people to trust if she hopes to stop the ritual—or she will pay the consequences.

 

Review

 

“Ibuki” is a novella long story set in a semi-alternative version of Imperial Japan. The magic in this world is elemental, and only few priests and priestess possess it. It reminded me a lot of various anime series that I watched years ago. The magic system is integrated seamlessly into the narrative and I liked the depictions of the life and everyday tasks that Chiasa had to do.

 

However, the story lacks depth, and the narrative is rather bland, once you look past trite metaphors and cliches. Even the big twist at the end of the story was obvious from ahead and made me only roll my eyes. There was almost no tension or suspense, and the ending didn’t surprise me at all.

 

“Ibuki” is a sweet story if you are okay with cliches and glaring plot holes. I did not find the relationship believable but it was not the worst I read in a short story.

 

I love Japanese culture and language and I studied it for some time years ago. It was lovely to read a story set in Japan, however, I did have issues with the writing.

 

In spite of my opinions on the writing, I am thankful to the publisher for giving me an opportunity to read and review “Ibuki”.

 

Rating: 2.75 stars

 

More of my book reviews

 

Links:

Book review: Space Mac by Emma Jane

Space Mac  

I requested “Space Mac” from NineStar Press, LLC on NetGalley after reading the description. The cover caught my eye and I was very eager to read it. However, I struggled with writing this review.

Description

 

Cocky escort Mackenzie “Mac” Jones has just the right type of blood so that when he steals an odd silver brooch from a client, it transports him to a strange planet. Frightened and confused—and confronted by aliens—he flees and ends up bumping into a handsome humanoid male named Teevar.

 

But Teevar and his companions are also on the run, and Mac finds himself embroiled in the affairs of his new friends with no idea how to get back to Earth. Can Mac and Teevar survive long enough to work out their feelings for each other? And will Mac ever see home again?

 

Review

 

I was extremely pumped to read “Space Mac” - it sounded like a queer love story in space, which is totally my jam. However, I was bitterly disappointed.

 

The writing is very jerky and lack expressiveness or detail. Meagre descriptions made the narration confusing. It felt as if the characters jumped from one place to another. The emotions portrayed by characters felt artificial and their actions very often were not believable. I struggled to understand why things were happening the way they were and very quickly I stopped to care. There seemed to be lots of running and fighting and conning (or trying to out-con) somebody with no real purpose to the story. The main protagonist, Mac, wanted to get back to Earth but he only ever bemoaned his lack of knowledge how to do it and didn’t really do anything until very end.

 

His relationship with Teevar, which seemed to be a focal point of the book description, didn’t develop as I expected it to, and felt a bit forced. It was, however, the most tolerable part of “Space Mac”, even though I did find Mac behaving like a spoiled child around Teevar. Overall, I didn’t find any of the characters likable at all.

 

It was a rather short book, more of a novella really, but I struggled to finish it. I could have dealt with jumpy plot if the writing had a better flow, which, sadly, was not the case. The only saving grace of “Space Mac” is its cover - it is stunning!

 

Nevertheless, I am grateful to the publisher for giving me an opportunity to read and review this book.

 

Rating: 2 stars

More of my book reviews

 

Links:

My Top 5 Favourite Under-appreciated YA Books | Blogmas Day 1

While thinking about what topics to do for Blogmas, I realized that there are several YA books that I really love, but which seem to be either unpopular among bloggers/booktubers or simply have lower than I would have expected ratings on GoodReads. So, I decided to make a list of those! Let me know if you have read any of these! :D

Anything Could Happen

Anything Could Happen by Will Walton Genre: contemporary, romance, LGBT+ Tagline: When you’re in love with the wrong person for the right reasons, anything could happen. My review: Perhaps, some readers might consider this book a bit cliched. But for me, it was sweet and realistic, and the plot was very well executed. If you liked "Simon vs Homo Sapiens Agenda", you will enjoy "Anything Could Happen". However, this book has more real-life problems in it, which I really appreciated. My rating: 4 stars GoodReads link Buy this book

 

 

 

Hero

Hero by Perry Moore Genre: drama, superhero, LGBT+ Tagline: To survive, Thom will face challenges he never imagined. To find happiness, he'll have to come to terms with his father's past and discover the kind of hero he really wants to be. My review: This book broke my heart a bit. Mostly because of Thom's father. The plot switches between contemporary drama and superhero action, which can seem a bit jumbled, but it is well-written overall. Sadly, this was the only book by Perry Moore. Since it was published in 2007, I feel as if few people know of it. My rating: 4 stars GoodReads link Buy this book

 

 

The Abyss Surrounds Us

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie
Genre: dystopian, sci-fi, pirates, LGBT+
Tagline: Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?
My review: This book has amazing sea monsters that are reminiscent of those in Pacific Rim. Plus, pirates. Plus, badass girls. Definitely, a must read! I had some issues with the writing at times, but it is a solid book for a debut. It is book one in duology, but I am yet to read the sequel.
My rating: 4 stars

 

 

Made of Stars

Made of Stars by Kelley York
Genre: contemporary, suspense/thriller, LGBT+
Tagline: Even the stars are lies
My review: I loved this book! I read it almost in one sitting, and I couldn't put it down. Told from the three perspectives of three characters, don't let it full you that it is going to be a fluffy contemporary romance. It is not. It is realistic, thrilling and the ending broke my heart. (How could you, Kelley, how could you?!) I have been wanting to re-read it for a while, but I am terrified to.
My rating: 5 stars

 

 

27 Hours

27 Hours (The Nightside Saga #1) by Tristina Wright
Genre: dystopian, sci-fi, LGBT+
Tagline: Hour zero means war.
My review: I have read and reviewed this book on my blog (LINK), and it is a new release. However, I am adding it here as it has not enough (in my opinion) positive reviews for such an amazing book. It is definitely one of my favourites of 2017.
Read it and have Beatles' "Hey Jude" forever stuck in your head.
My rating: 5 stars
Here are all of my under-appreciated (in my opinion) YA books, and hey! All of them have queer characters! ?

More of my Blogmas 2017 posts

More of my book reviews

**Some of the links might be affiliated.

Book/play review: "Outside" by Paul Dunn

I would like to start my review by saying thank you to Playwrights Canada Press for giving me an opportunity to not only read the play but also attend the launch party and the performance at Buddies in Bad Times theatre.  

My review might contain some spoilers.

Outside cover

Synopsis

 

Daniel’s ready to talk. And his friends Krystina and Jeremy are ready to help. But is it too late? Set in separate but simultaneous lunch periods at two different high schools, the teenagers are faced with acknowledging what drove them apart. At his new school, Daniel speaks to the Gay-Straight Alliance about the bullying and depression that forced him to move. He looks back fondly at the bond he formed with Krystina and Jeremy in history class and the trauma he faced from anonymous text messages. At his former school, Krystina and Jeremy are setting up for their first GSA meeting while grappling with the guilt of not doing more to help their friend. For the first time Daniel has an appreciative audience, but his friends face an empty room. The narratives intertwine as Daniel gains more confidence in his queer identity and Krystina and Jeremy try to assess their boundaries as straight people who want to create a safe space. By talking about mistakes, abuse, a suicide attempt and a move, the teens find comfort in perspective and power in numbers.

 

Review

 

I read Outside in one go - it is a short and a quick read. The perspective shifts flawlessly from Daniel to Krystina and Jeremy and back. It is not easy to read this play, as you can see from the very beginning how everything starts to snowball and you begin to dread the ending. As always when I read about bullying, I was overcome with annoyance towards adults in the play who would not interfere or do enough to help Daniel. The thoughts of ‘what if’ and ‘if only’ followed me throughout my reading experience, and once the play was over, I was left feeling slightly bereft. As if there was something else that was missing from it. Something vital, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

 

Outside launch party

 

I went to the launch party and got to listen to Paul Dunn and Andrew Lamb, the Artistic Director of Roseneath Theatre, talk about the inspiration behind the play, the research they did, and the reception by the targeted audience. Since I barely skim through synopses on the backs of books before reading them - for the fear of spoilers - I had not realized before coming to the launch that this play is written as an educational piece for the way younger audience than myself. It is targeted at grades 7 to 12 kids and is intended to be a conversation starter about bullying in schools and how this behaviour can lead to serious consequences. The play was partially inspired by the stories behind "It Gets Better" campaign, and we see Daniel when he is already in a better place and safe, as his story unfolds through the series of flashbacks.

 

After the party - and getting my copy signed by the author, yay! - we went to see the play. It was a great production with some ingenious set design that allowed the actors to quickly change the scene by moving parts of it. The design is minimalist and parts of the costumes are interchangeable, which allows actors to do everything on stage themselves, and makes touring across the province possible. I loved the cast! They all fit their characters perfectly. The cast is as follows: G. Kyle Shields as Daniel, Mina James as Krystina, and Giacomo Sellar as Jeremy. (I couldn’t place where I had seen Mina before, but then found out that she played Helena in “All’s Well That Ends Well” in Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in the Park in 2016. That was a fun play!)

 

Cast of Outside

 

After the performance, the actors stayed on stage and explained how they usually follow up the performance with introducing themselves, and then starting the dialogue with the audience and answering questions. They talked both about their experiences as actors and as educators and how much impact the play has on schoolkids. Some kids even came up to them after the show, identifying with the characters and sharing their stories.

 

Outside creative team

 

One of the interesting aspects mentioned by the cast is how different it is to perform this play (or read it for that matter) in front of adults and children. Adult viewers can tell immediately how serious things are and how potentially dangerous situation was for Daniel - and this was exactly how I felt while reading the play. Kids, however, are not able to foresee the consequences. In some aspect, their reactions to what is happening on stage is genuine and uninhibited. For example, kids tend to find certain things funny and would laugh in the places, where adults would not. The actors mentioned that even if there is noise during the performance at the beginning, it usually dies down by the end of the play.

 

Andrew Lamb mentioned that after their performances many schools across Ontario started their own Gay-Straight Alliances. To date, over 34,000 young people have seen the play. This is amazing!

 

I was absolutely delighted by the concept of blending theatre and education! Needless to say, the bullying is an incredibly serious problem and can lead to devastating results as it is proven again and again (as I am writing this, there was another story on the news about the boy committing suicide after being severely bullied as school in QC). It is on us, adults, to prevent this from happening not only by executing vigilance, but also by educating kids.

 

This is a wonderful and educational play, and I hope that it would continue its touring across Ontario, and there is also a possibility for it going to US! Wishing all the best to Paul Dunn and the creative team behind the play!

 

Book rating: 4 stars

Performance rating: 5 stars

 

Links:

 

 

More of my book reviews

 

More of my play reviews

Musical review: Falsettos (Broadway Revival) - Live from Lincoln Center

Falsettos  

I am so used to going to special events and broadcasts at Cineplex on Thursdays, that I almost completely missed a broadcast of "Falsettos" on Wednesday, July 12 (yes, I am a bit behind on reviews - thanks for noticing ?).

 

"Falsettos" was one of those classic ‘know nothing about but it sounds gay, so I am going to watch it’ moments for me. I got a ticket almost last minute - which for me means a day or two ahead - and spent a lovely evening laughing my heart out.

 

Information

 

DIRECTOR

James Lapine

 

CAST

Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block, Andrew Rannells, Brandon Uranowitz, Anthony Rosenthal, Tracie Thoms, Betsy Wolfe

 

SYNOPSIS

Live From Lincoln Center & Lincoln Center Theater present “Falsettos” Nominated for five 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical, Falsettos is a hilarious and poignant look at a modern family revolving around the life of a gay man Marvin, his wife, his lover, his soon-to-be-bar-mitzvahed son, their psychiatrist, and the lesbians next door. Originally created under the specter of the AIDS crisis, this timely musical about middle-class family dynamics manages to remain buoyant and satirically perceptive even as it moves towards its heartbreaking conclusion. Lincoln Center Theater’s production stars Christian Borle, Stephanie J. Block, Andrew Rannells, and Brandon Uranowitz, all of whom received Tony nominations for their respective performances.

 

"Falsettos" is absolutely hilarious. There are lots of middle-age crisis jokes, lots of Jewish jokes, lots of ‘my husband is gay and I don’t know how to deal with it because I kind of support him and also want to stab him’ jokes. The time flew by as I watched it.

 

Since I did not know that one of the plotlines of "Falsettos" would touch upon AIDS or I would have mentally braced myself. Earlier in July, I watched the brilliant production of “Angels in America” that I loved to the very bottom of my heart, and was not ready to revisit the subject matter.

 

The musical went from extremely funny and happy to sad by the end of the story. Someone in the audience behind me was crying hysterically at the very end. And believe me, it was indeed really hard not to do the same.

 

Jason, the young son of Marvi, is torn between his drifting apart parents. He is confused by the appearance of a boyfriend in his father’s life, as well as the crazy obsession of both parents to celebrate Bar Mitzvah in the way they want. Jason definitely steals the show at times, but my heart is firmly with Marvin and his relationship with Whizzer.

 

Marvin tries to be both true to himself and also keep his tight-knit family. It is both funny and heartbreaking to watch as he goes between his wife and son, and his lover. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone but even when things seem to be getting better - they actually aren’t.

 

I liked the music, and jokes, and the acting, but I would not call "Falsettos" the best musical I have ever seen. The plot is somewhat predictable at times, and as it was set in a certain time period, the ending is sad but unsurprising. I wish it had ended differently, though.

 

Acting deserves at least 4 stars, but the plot is about 3 stars.

 

Overall rating: 3.5 stars

 

Links

 

 

More of my play reviews

Book review: "27 Hours" by Tristina Wright

27 Hours  

I have received an e-ARC of this book from Entangled Teen in exchange for a free and honest review.

I found out about this new young adult, science-fiction novel at BookCon in New York City this year. I was browsing the app to find new authors or new book releases when I saw that this book promised queer characters, so of course I had to get my hands on a copy.

 

Sadly, by the time I got to the line for the "27 Hours" ARC, it was already capped. I was sad, but since I had other things to tend to, I didn’t even think about leaving a business card with the author or the rep. (Too bad too, as those business card were handmade by yours truly and they all are gone now. Just saying.)

 

I kept thinking about this book when I got back home and eventually decided to do something that usually do not do (because I am a chicken) to approach the author’s rep and ask for an ARC of "27 Hours". Not only I got put on the list for the ARC, I also got an opportunity to review some other books published by Entangled Teen. So, a special thank you goes to Melissa Montovani for giving me this opportunity!

 

Now, onto the book.

 

Synopsis

 

Rumor Mora fears two things: hellhounds too strong for him to kill, and failure. Jude Welton has two dreams: for humans to stop killing monsters, and for his strange abilities to vanish.

But in no reality should a boy raised to love monsters fall for a boy raised to kill them.

Nyx Llorca keeps two secrets: the moon speaks to her, and she’s in love with Dahlia, her best friend. Braeden Tennant wants two things: to get out from his mother's shadow, and to unlearn Epsilon's darkest secret.

They’ll both have to commit treason to find the truth.

During one twenty-seven-hour night, if they can’t stop the war between the colonies and the monsters from becoming a war of extinction, the things they wish for will never come true, and the things they fear will be all that’s left.

"27 Hours" is a sweeping, thrilling story featuring a stellar cast of queer teenagers battling to save their homes and possibly every human on Sahara as the clock ticks down to zero.

 

I freaking loved this book.

 

The plot is fast-paced with lots of twists and turns, that keep you on your toes. Granted, it is a young adult novel, so do not expect it to be on par with big names in literary fiction in terms of style or plot twists, but Tristina Wright knows her way around the prose and does it really well. The narrative flows easily. There wasn’t a moment in my reading when I would think: “ah, this is a bit slow”. It was action after action, and at times I needed a moment to process who was running where and who was almost killed this time.

 

Because I swear, all of the characters of "27 Hours" seem to have a death wish.

 

It is a well-constructed world, with enough composition and descriptions to fill you in as you go. I found the idea of mystic creatures, chimera (not gargoyles, thank you very much), living on the moon fascinating. The rules of the world are well defined, and even though at some point I was a bit confused about the hierarchy of HUBs and colonies, I felt quite comfortable while reading about the rest of it.

 

Characters

 

I think the characters of "27 Hours" is the best part of this novel. I have not read a single other young adult (or adult, for that matter) book that would have this much representation. We have characters of colour, various origins, ability, gender identities, and sexuality. There is no discrimination based on any of that either. However, using her characters’ voices, the author touches upon few very critical issues that exist in our world, making them sound as ridiculous and horrific as they truly are.

 

Quote 1

 

"It's... preconception, You hear gargoyle, and you think monster. What if..." Jude floundered for a comparison that was just as horrible and unconscionable. "Okay, what ifwe labeled certian people as monsters based on their skin color or hair color or gender or whatever? No matter what they did or had done or acted like. You'd have an issue with that, right?"

 

Quote 2

 

Humans weren't supposed to die at the hands of other humans, of people trained and sworn to protect them.

 

I loved this book, plain and simple. It gave me a band of incredibly brave teenagers, who are set on defending their home, even though it seems like a suicide mission. Who are willing to against everything they were taught. Who stand together in spite of differences that try to pull them apart.

 

I loved "27 Hours" so much that I doodled George. I am not an artist but it had to be done. Just because.

 

George from "27 Hours"

 

I loved all the characters in the book, I can’t even decide who is my favourite. And I ship all of the ships. Yes.

 

And today, I ordered my own copy of "27 Hours" - because I need to have something to console me as I impatiently wait for book two in this trilogy.

 

I am usually pretty fair with my rating. To be honest, I would give the plot itself only 4 stars. However, the diversity and representation in this book are so good, that it deserves an extra star. I can not wait to find out what happens next in the story.

 

Personal rating: 5 stars

 

Links

 

 

More of my book reviews

 

Book review: "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake

The Uncrossing  

I received an e-ARC of "The Uncrossing" by Melissa Eastlake from Entangled Teen in exchange for a free and honest review.

 

The moment I saw this book available for request, I immediately hit ‘send’ button. Gay boys, curses, and magic? Hell yeah!

However, when I started reading the book, my excitement dampened.

Let’s start with the plot.

 

Synopsis

 

Luke can uncross almost any curse—they unravel themselves for him like no one else. So working for the Kovrovs, one of the families controlling all the magic in New York, is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can't break. And it involves Jeremy, the beloved, sheltered prince of the Kovrov family—the one boy he absolutely shouldn't be falling for.

 

Jeremy's been in love with cocky, talented Luke since they were kids. But from their first kiss, something's missing. Jeremy's family keeps generations of deadly secrets, forcing him to choose between love and loyalty. As Luke fights to break the curse, a magical, citywide war starts crackling, and it's tied to Jeremy.

 

This might be the one curse Luke can't uncross. If true love's kiss fails, what's left for him and Jeremy?

 

Plot

 

The synopsis sounds more coherent and put together than the book itself. I loved the idea of an urban fantasy set in a modern New York City. I loved that it was all about old curses and family secrets. However, I found the execution of this plot as well as world building rather weak. Magic system seems to be connected to spells, blood, and voodoo-like curses, but the limitations of the magic, or how each character does what they do, is never really explained.

 

"The Uncrossing" lacks exposition to the point that I had to go back a page or two to visualize what is happening. It took me some time to get used to the narration. It is not a poorly written book, but it has holes that often left me floundering and second-guessing what I am reading.

 

Luke and Jeremy though. Ah, those two are absolutely adorable. I enjoyed all the characters in the book, although the attempts at creating morally ambiguous and grey characters, like Andrei and Sergei, with this sort of jumpy narration have largely failed, in my opinion. I liked them both, but some aspects just missed the mark for me.

 

Problematic aspects

 

Even though the book is great when it comes to diversity, the choice of cultural background for the characters left me slightly confused. The Kovrovs are Russian, while the Melnyk family is Ukrainian-Creole. I can not speak for the Creole culture, but I can speak for the Eastern European part.

 

The portrayal of a rich and influential Russian mafia family (because let’s be honest, this is what the Kovrov family is) is so stereotypical for western society to the point of being mildly offensive. The Ukrainians are portrayed as hardworking but poor.

 

Besides mentioning a prayer in Russian or some Russian or Ukrainian words, without actually mentioning them in the text, the cultural background of both families is shown only in their given names and the mention of borscht in the first chapter - which, let me be absolutely clear, nobody would ever serve to an important guest as a meal neither in Russia nor in Ukraine, unless we are speaking of a rural Russia in the feudal times.

 

There are reviewers who love to throw around complaints about “cultural appropriation”, but in spite of my feelings on the subject, "The Uncrossing" is hardly damaging. I would have, however, appreciated a more meaningful portrayal of both cultures. Both Russian and Ukrainian folklore have enough depth to provide inspiration for any fantasy setting or magic system.

 

I had problems with the world building and magic system, mild issues with some of the characters, but I adored the romance part in the book, although it is usually the least favourite plotline for me. I also felt that the ending of the book was better thought through than some middle parts. I found myself more engaged in the book after I hit 50-60%.

 

It is a debut novel, so I hope that Melissa would produce more fiction in the future. Hopefully, it would also be about queer boys and magic. It was overall a fun read, even though it took some time to get used to the style. Recommend for the fans of the YA LGBT books, otherwise, you might find it boring.

 

Personal rating: 3.5 stars

 

LINKS

My book reviews on my blog

BLOG: Preview of The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake

The Uncrossing  

As you know, I love LGBT+ books and I always support indie or emerging authors. I was very lucky to receive an e-ARC of The Uncrossing by Melissa Eastlake from Entangled Teen. This is a debut, YA fantasy novel that I am currently reading and quite enjoying. The novel is coming out on October 2, and I will have the review on my blog by or on that date. However, today I have an exclusive preview from The Uncrossing! So, thank you so much to Melissa for giving me this opportunity to share it with you.

Synopsis

The Uncrossing is a Rapunzel-esque romance between two boys who have grown up in the magic mafia. Luke can break almost any curse—they unravel for him like no one else. Working for the Kovrovs is exciting and dangerous, especially when he encounters the first curse he can’t break…

Excerpt

Luke always seemed busy and independent for a teenager, very…was glamorous the word? Mature. Intense.   Like the rest of his family, he wore formal clothes, but he carried them nicely. The top button of his white shirt was undone, a V of skin peeking under the knot of his tie.   What Instagram had taught Jeremy about Luke: He liked cats, purple Gatorade, and street art. He liked his parents’ cooking better than restaurants, unless it was okra or beets, and he worked a lot but he enjoyed it. He liked math and science better than English and history, which Jeremy could hardly even imagine.   Also, one of his friends posted weekly Thursday thirst traps of models and celebrities, all across the gender spectrum, but Luke only ever commented on the pictures of guys. Once, the friend had posted a picture of a wan model, all cheekbones and legs, and Luke had replied, “Drag me.”   Jeremy could second-guess the blue of the sky, but the evidence was pretty solid that Luke liked boys.   Jeremy snapped his eyes back to his empty plate, but Alexei’s attention was hot enough to burn his cheeks. This was the treat, or the test: just say something. Luke also liked the kind of flashy action movies no one in Jeremy’s family ever wanted to watch, so all Jeremy had to do was bring up The Fast and the Furious. “It sounds great on the new sound system at home…” Something like that. Something cool.   “We have a little business to discuss.” Alexei nodded to Yuri and Helene. “And there is a task I would like our witch doctor’s help with.”   The Melnyks all straightened in their chairs, their attention sizzling as Jeremy grabbed his messenger bag from the floor and pulled out two burlap witch bags.   Luke winced, and Camille leaned forward. “Oooh.”   “Quite,” Alexei said. “A client found these in their home, luckily before they managed to hurt anybody. I’d like an inventory of the contents and a swift execution.”   Luke nodded. “Yes, sir.”   “Wonderful. Jeremy will stay with you until that’s done—call me if there are any problems.” He turned to Jeremy. “I won’t need long, but take your time. Call me when you’re done, and we’ll come pick you up.”   Sure he would. He’d want a debrief on everything Jeremy had said to Luke, and there would be nothing to tell him. “I’ll take the subway.”   Alexei arched one sly eyebrow but didn’t answer. He followed Helene and Yuri downstairs and left Jeremy alone with the twins.

Links

More of my book reviews