Short Fantasy Reviews: queens, heists & folklore

Spoiler-alert; they were all kind of let downs in different ways.

The Shadows Between Us by Tricia Levenseller

I was promised a “cunning, villainous queen” who wanted to take the reign from the king with magical shadowy powers & secrets, even though I suspected she would fall in love with him instead. What I got was a lot of whining and unpreparedness after she’d shown considerable ambition. The writing falls into the hole of telling you how dangerous certain people are without truly following through, there seems to be little consequences. Like you might call both the main characters cold-blooded murderers, but it’s just based in a lack of reaction to murders happening around them or those they commit in some kind of self-defense. There’s very little of the expected morally-gray aspects here. Also imagine me shaking my fist at how the main character manages to get noticed by the king because she’s not a follower like all the other girls at court. It feels like a worse version of Holly Black’s ‘The Cruel Prince’ in every way, as this MC lacks a lot in comparison, like the true viciousness or skill. This book started out good, which was the reason I finished it, but in total it was a let down. Read it for the romance, I guess, but it’s pretty plain and straight forward. 2/5 stars.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

A young adult fantasy that I was excited for because of the heist, found family, dark vibes and the morally gray & diverse characters which a lot of other bloggers seems to have fallen for as I’ve seen a lot of five stars reviews. Not to forget the bisexual character & autistic scientist. Still, I DNF’ed at 32% as I tried to give it a fair chance. The first thing that didn’t match with me was simply the writing, then nothing else about the characters, plot or world-building caught my interest. It’s been three weeks since I read it and there’s nothing remarkable I remember at all unfortunately. For the record, I absolutely loved Six of Crows, which it has been compared to a lot.

Silver in the Wood (Greenhollow Duology #1) by Emily Tesh

You ever have those books that you enjoyed the experience of reading, but looking back it wasn’t all that much? I feel so mixed about this book, because I liked the cottagecore aesthetic of the Wild Man of Greenhollow and the secret-folklorist that comes upon him. In 112 pages this novella manages to deliver on the fairytale-ish forest, magical realism vibes in the writing, but plot-wise, character-wise, etc. it does come up short to me. The m/m relationship and yearning could’ve been so much better than it was. I don’t quite understand the idea of giving out a second novella either, instead of having used that time setting up the story to fulfill its potential. It seems strange. Definitely an interesting debut author to watch, but I think I’ll pass on that sequel for now. 2/5 stars.

Graphic Novels: dark fairytale, dystopian & fluffy gay romance | Short Reviews

I’m having a bit of a hard time reading as I’m busy with studying (2nd year physics student) as well as ill at the moment (no worries, thankfully not corona, I’ve been tested twice). So it’s the perfect time to again read as many graphic novels that I could get my hands on! Here’s some of my other graphic novels reviews.

Through the Woods by Emily Carrol

As I begun reading I was sceptical because the illustrations were breath-taking from the start, giving all the dark fairytale vibes, but I didn’t know how much of a substance the plots would have. A few pages in it truly got much better, as the fairytale twists got mysterious, exciting and dark. It’s made up from several different “short stories”, some more red riding hood inspired and some that reminded me some of Coraline and some of the podcast The Magnus Archive. Reading this felt like playing a game where you know every decision is a bad one. I also immediately ordered the author’s other graphic novel «When I arrived at the castle»! 5/5 stars.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina vol. 1

Plus points for being dark, but that’s the only positive in my eyes. I was excited for this as I truly liked the new TV series made from Sabrina the teenage witch. But this graphic novel drains any personality Sabrina is known for out of the character. I get that setting up somewhat the same plot as the TV series does in multiple episodes is difficult in one volume, but it just isn’t done with any charm at all. I won’t be reading the rest of the series as I felt it has little potential. 2/5 stars.

Paper Girls vol. 1 & 2

First impression of volume 1 was that I liked the retro apocalyptic stranger things vibe featuring a teen girl squad. It didn’t really get further into the plot or explanation than unexplained aliens, but it was also a lot to set up. It’s about a group of girls out delivering newspapers when they get caught up in this mystery of disappearing people and frightening strangers hunting after them. 3/5 stars.

Volume 2 had a higher chance of keeping the suspense up without as much of the confusion, which made the time-travel, sci-fi aspects much more enjoyable as well as delving into an interesting cast. Not to forget how monster tardigrades was a thing I didn’t know I needed in my life before now. I yelped out loud from surprise and happiness – I can’t explain it either. It’s just a good mix of chaos & the unexpected. Like the looming, flying ships that came into the picture suddenly. The color scheme is also truly lovely.

If I would criticize something it’s the ‘feminism’ branding push that seems a bit ‘off’, not that I’ve looked further into reasons behind it. It’s a similar feeling that lingers as from the casual homophobia that makes an appearance in volume 1, as if that was something that just belongs with the retro vibes. It was called out by other characters, so I just mentally noted it down as strange for now and makes me second-guess the future dynamic of the friendgroup somewhat. 4/5 stars.

Heartstopper vol. 2 & 3 by Alice Oseman

Review of vol. 1! To sum up I really like the author’s writing in general and that it was a truly cute, important gay coming of age story. And I love the illustration style. And this is true for the second and third volume as well. My only critique is a somewhat big one; a lot doesn’t happen in each volume. It feels like the story told could’ve been cut down in some ways, but at the same time I realize it’s aimed at a younger audience for the most part and I’m so happy it just exists. 3/5 stars for both.

Queer Poetry Collections | Short Reviews

I thought I’d already reviewed these poetry collections and then realized that I forgot I saved them up for pride month seeing as I ‘acidentally’ read poetry collections from only queer authors there for a while.

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Favourite poems: ‘Notebook Fragments’, ‘Prayer for the Newly Damned,’ ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’, ‘Trojan’ – nearly all of them in other words

I’d heard a lot of good things about this queer author, but I truly didn’t imagine the vividness he brought. Everything in here contains so many aspects, like when looking at violence. Vuong brings another level of honesty and delicacy to it, while not softening that violence or its consequences either. Vuong is extremely good at looking into and describing the different layers of his story; of being mixed, coming from a refugee camp in the Philippines to America, the Vietnam war and how this all plays out in the dynamics of his family and relationships. I think I’ll reread this after I finish his newer debut novel ‘On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous’, because it so far gives more backstory to where he’s coming from and I like it even more.

Felicity by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver is my all time favourite poet, basically, and I wrote a whole post on it this pride month. ‘Felicity’ is one of her later works (even if it’s from 2005 so … not that recent), which I seem to prefer generally. I truly enjoyed this collection as well; it’s about love, memory, being oneself, belief and loss. It’s still a bit outside of her usual work, as love is so much a general thing to try to write about, and Oliver usually finds her excellent moments that carries the poems in the small things, inspired by nature or humans alike. Meaning it’s not the collection I would recommend someone to start with, but it’s still good and gives a better perspective on Mary Oliver as a person and her relationship to her late partner Molly Cook. In trying to describe something so universal as love, she reveals more of herself than before.

Soft Science by Franny Choi

I was so into the concept (from the synopsis) of: “explores queer, Asian American femininity” and “how to be tender and feeling and still survive a violent world filled with artificial intelligence and automation”. Unfortunately, I just didn’t understand most of the poems because of the fragmented style. The reason I make short reviews of poetry often is that, as someone who’s not a poet, reviewing poetry is strange because it feels more up to personal-taste than any novel. Still, I would shy away from not recommending a collection to someone, in hopes they get something from it.

Bad bad-boy romance & good queer fantasy | Short Reviews

The Midnight Lie by Marie Rutkoski

It’s a young adult fantasy about an orphan Nirrim that has magical abilities (takes a while to realize), something that belongs to the upper classes in the society she lives in. Going through constant discrimination and trying to help those around her makes it important for her to keep her head down. But it also keeps her from developing or learning about the world around her, making it easy to be taken advantage of. Her fierce spirit lands her in prison, where she meets a stranger that transforms her life, and also starts a slow-burn of a queer romance. It’s a very character-driven novel and I really enjoyed it, while it was far from perfect. The magic system reminded me of a much less complex version of Warbreaker by Sanderson. A dubious 4/5 stars, for the f/f romance.

Vicious by L. J. Shen

You ever just pick up a book because it promises enemies to lovers romance and that’s what you’re craving. But while the writing isn’t bad, the dialogue is so cringy and you hope it gets better, but it doesn’t, but you’re too far in to quit, but it never ever gets better. Yeah, this is one of those types of books. I regretted even picking it up. It just has every element of a “rich bad boy poor good girl” thing, but never puts them together in a fresh or interesting way. The murders from the backstory that are never discussed much was the most interesting part, huh. I still give it 2/5 stars, for the good parts in between. I did like Emilia and her sister. The romance is not worth it, neither is the cringe. It’s almost my fault for starting to read it, almost.

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner

Far far back I wrote a five star predictions post. It’s a lot of fun until you have one book left that you never get to reading. This was that book and I bought it, I tried to read it once. Gave up because I wasn’t in the mood. Tried to give it a real try the second time, but the writing just didn’t click with me, and that’s the one thing that makes it nearly impossible for me to care about a book. There was nothing luring me in. So I’m considering this a DNF, even though it has such good ratings and I can remember nothing from it already.

Short reviews from quarantine: young adult

I’m just going to be doing these laid back short reviews for a while I think, because I’ve got time, but not nearly enough energy hahha. Hope everyone is doing well, feel free to just chat with me in comments or on twitter regardless if we’ve talked before! I promise I won’t be quick to answer, but I would love to.

These short reviews in particular are books I read a while back, but only had collected a couple sentences about.

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air #3) by Holly Black

I truly loved The Cruel Prince. I kind of enjoyed/tolerated The Wicked King. I really didn’t care for The Queen of Nothing. My feelings reading this book; I love Jude Duarte so much, but this is just filled with expected turns and lacking plot. I really wanted to like it, but I just feel like Jude’s character is going constantly one step forward and two backwards in terms of how bold she is or how much of a villain/hero she is supposed to be. Make her darker or give her some good reasons, I don’t know. 2/5 stars.

I wasn’t planning on reading this book anytime soon, but at the beginning of the year, this book was on a free-for-all bookshelf in my hostel in Edinburgh, calling to me.

The Vanishing Stair (Truly Devious #2) by Maureen Johnson

I loved Truly Devious as well. It’s a good enough sequel, following the same type of mystery boarding-school vibe as the first one. You certainly get further in the story, especially about the old mystery at the school the main character is trying to solve. But it was also lacking the freshness and felt a bit repetitive. I’m still excited to read the third book, but a bit less hopeful I guess. 4/5 stars!

Funfact: reading the first book I definitely appreciated how all the different characters was the best at their skill. Especially Janelle’s character and how creative and stereotypical engineer-mind she had. But since then I’ve met and currently live with someone who’s the guy’s version of her and I definitely realized so while reading this. I can never say my wild plans out loud anymore, because suddenly they go from theoretical to “ahh actually, if we do it this way” … and me facepalming.

Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

I was going to write a longer review, but my copy is far far away from me and then also my notes in it. Yes, I do write in my books, especially if they are pocket books.

There were lots of small things I loved in this book, but it was very much the interactions between characters I already loved from The Raven Cycle. Stiefvater has said that you could read this series as a stand-alone, but I’m not sure I agree. Call Down the Hawk didn’t feel as coherent as a book, and for me it floated on knowing the history of these characters. Like Ronan interacting with Adam’s new college friends and their too-complex card game, especially as Adam is trying to urge him to remain calm. Knowing more about how dreaming magic worked was really cool. And another upside is that I find it hard to imagine someone not falling in love with Ronan or Adam at first sight. In general I’m glad this book exist, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the Dreamer trilogy! 4/5 stars.

“Do you understand? For you, reality is not an external condition. For you, reality is a decision.”

Call down the hawk by Maggie Stiefvater

Short Reviews: DNF (magical realism, queer, classics)

Some books I stopped reading, but still want to share my thoughts about.

1984 by George Orwell: I joined my first book club and was so excited, got through 40% of this book, and wasn’t able to go dicuss it. I probably will give it another try, someday. I’ve heard the ending described as amazing, but as for now I feel like I’ve already read so many books that has taken inspiration from this one (both for worse and better) to the point where nothing in it feels revolutionary or intriguing to me, even though it clearly was for its time.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: I had hope for this latina bisexual main character witch and her story. But then, in the very beginning, she meets the mysterious guy and obvious future love interest, and it unravels from there. It just felt badly written. And then the mc fucks up and has to save her family and I got flashback to Percy Jackson going to the underworld, but without knowing any of the characters enough to care what happened to them. I got 40% through (it’s starting to become a cursed percentage).

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: here’s another queer book (with trans main character) that I wanted to love. I’ve given this book a couple tries. It seems that McLemore’s writing is just not for me. It’s flowery magical realism, with a lot of imagination and interesting aspects. Which is absolutely something I love, but not in this case. I would whole-heartedly suggest to give it a try and see for yourself!

I found the worst book as I tried to purge my TBR

Back in June I took a look at my too long list of books I wanted to read, with 432 books, and then I took a look at the single last postponed exam I had that held me back from doing anything other productive – and I decided that time was short and I would pick up books I wasn’t sure about and quickly stop reading them with no guilt if they weren’t working. As to make it both unfair and fair way – my goal was to read one to three chapters of a book and make a decision if it’s worth investing the time in it for me. It went better than expected, as I found the worst and best book of this year. Probably.

And the worst book is Sweet Evil. Just – christian paranormal with extremely bad writing and damaging viewpoints and morals. Why – how – why does this have to be a thing I now have to worry about is infecting my TBR now? Any YA demon-angel book I’m giving suspicious glares, like a bloodhound trying to sniff out hidden unfeministic christian propaganda.

Books I DNF’ed

Defiance by C. J. Redwine

Remove. Been on my TBR for four years. Part of trilogy. YA dystopia.

Why: I’m not often in the mood for dystopias anymore, the writing was just ok and all reviews by people I follow says it’s more YA romance than action, despite its dark cover. The main turn-off was the protagonist starts off in the book being handed over to another guardian, obviously with little rights and not allowed to say much on her own. With the context it all didn’t seem like it would be for me.

Fighting for Flight by J.B. Salsbury

Remove. NA romance. Part of a seven book series. Been on my TBR for four years.

Why: I was 48% in before I gave up, it just didn’t get better at all. Why was this even on my TBR? Probably because I read a similar fighter tense romance that I liked around that time. I can’t bring myself to care for these characters & when *slight spoiler* the mechanic girl protagonist is again taken interest in by her famous pimp dad the story became annoyingly surreal. Also there’s A TON of putting other girls down for being “too slutty” and I want to write a whole post on this because that’s something that just makes me go “ohh fuck you” and that I’ve seen too much of.

He motions to the dark- haired girl with gigantic breasts shoved into a tiny top. Won’t have to worry about her sinking in the pool. 

Fighting for Flight by J. B. Salsbury
*facepalm*

Outrun the wind by Elizabeth Tammi

Remove. YA standalone. Been on my TBR for a year.

Why: Chapter three and I’m not feeling it. We started out the book with a fight scene no one was invested in, then switched pov for a scene to create some mystery with a cousin/kidnapper. The writing isn’t for me.

Sweet Evil by Wendy Higgins

Remove. Stopped reading after I felt my eyes burning at the virgin talk. Been on my TBR for four years. I got to chapter eight.

Why: HOW does this get so good reviews? This book is SO VERY christian paranormal where the virgin «not-like-other-girls» girl finds out she’s nephilim, meets a demon and SO MUCH cringy dialogue. Her own thoughts are so weird to follow. It’s so much worse than Twilight and the parts I’ve read of Fifty Shades of Gray. THE PROTAGONIST IS KILLED IF SHE CONTINUES TO BE A VIRGIN? WHAT KIND OF AWFUL DAMAGING SHIT IS THIS? Find your propaganda to not stray from the lord’s path and not do drugs or hook up with handsome biker-demon/nephilim-boys elsewhere.

A sixteen-year-old Neph virgin! How do you expect to be a bad influence to humans if you aren’t behaving badly yourself? I assume you at least partake in substances with your peers?

The Demon Dad of Handsome-Nephilim-Crush to the Protagonist

The Summoning by Kelly Armstrong

Remove. YA Paranormal. Been on my TBR for four years. Got to chapter five.

Why: I’m just not interested in this one, not that it necessarily seem like a bad book. Maybe I’ve read enough books with girls who can see ghosts and are claimed to be insane? The writing isn’t luring me in and also books or anything set in a psychiatric ward isn’t usually for me.

Wicked lovely by Melissa Marr

Remove. Been on my TBR half a year. I got 20% into the book.

Why: Nothing is happening. Nothing. How slow can a book be, especially at the beginning? That’s all I have to say, really, which makes it better than some of the others here, haha.

Books I Continued

(Don’t You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn

KEEP! This is what I’m talking about! Standalone YA fantasy. Been on my TBR for four years.

Why I’m continuing reading it: the moment I read a couple pages I was so drawn in and intrigued by where the story was going. Halfway the mystery is still kept up, the writing allows for just the right amount of confusion, secrets and tension. I’ve never seen amnesia, self-made through drugs or not, written in a better way! So excited for this!

Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough

Continue reading. YA paranormal. Part of trilogy. Been on my TBR for four years.

Why: a mysterious professor that needs help, the protagonist a misfit among her witch family as she has no powers and they keep reminding her. I was sold after the 2nd chapter, ending with the protagonist hitting a child with a teddybear as he used his powers to keep it from a toddler, which seemed like a regular occurence in this strange family. The writing is good with a lot of feeling shown in between the lines.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Continue reading. YA Fantasy. Been on my TBR for maybe a couple months (I don’t really know how long). Currently eight chapters into it.

Why: It started out a bit original and hopeful, but then again nothing happened as we fell down the hole of human and elf is travelling to a elven court and just talking with each other. Aside from that, the author definitely got talent and while the book feels very unfinished, it also have a few interesting parts so far.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this, besides the really bad books I ran into. I think (Don’t you) Forget About Me is going to be a favourite read this year! In general the concept just felt so effective and brought less guilt than usual of DNF’ing books or saying they’re just not for me anymore. Hopefully I’ll do this again, even though it required more than the usual review. It felt good to be more ruthless about my “maybe” reads if it also meant giving them a chance I wouldn’t otherwise have.

Short Reviews: queer magical realism & graphic novels

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

DNF’ed at 70%, which says a lot about how I really wanted this book to work for me.

I love magical realism, but sometimes I’ve found that the books I can’t get into have in common that they have no set plot making the focus feel all over the place and I don’t personally connect with the characters. Which was my problem with this one. I loved the family, the idea that they were tied to their land, the writing (well, it did get too flowery at points), and the queer girls. It feels like someone wrote a lovely world with these girls with flower magic and this lost boy with amnesia, and then just didn’t have a clear vision of the rest. Also the writing tried to push the magical feeling at points by describing the place instead of showing how the magic really could be used, or where it was hiding within the ground, story and people. I still think & hope I might like “When the moon was ours” by the author better.

But Estrella let all those things chase her down the stairs, out of the stone house, through the gardens where dahlias and calla lilies rose up around her like a flowering forest. The lawns and paths flew under her feet, but still, she ran, until the gardens thinned and the land passed from tended to wild. 

Wild Beauty by Anne-Marie McLemore p. 164

Big Mushy Happy Lump & Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen

Sarah’s Scribbles book 2 (four out of five stars) & 3 (three out of five stars).

The second graphic novel felt very much similar to the first one in all the good ways. Obviously the concept of the drawing panels are further developed, but the spirit of the introverted relatable character is still all over it. It experimented with a storyline, which I didn’t like as much. Which is probably why I didn’t like the third graphic novel as much, because it really stayed to themes which felt very much like anything you would find on tumblr/twitter in comparison to the previous ones. It’s still good, but more average. Would recommend the first (Adulthood Is A Myth, full review here) and second, probably the third is worth a try if you’ve liked them.

Herding cats

Loved & Disliked | Short Reviews: Solitaire & The Life-changing Magic of Tidying

It’s a strange mix of books, I know, but they represent what’s going on right now; I’m reading a lot of queer books and also trying to tame the chaos before moving. Here’s my other mini/short reviews, where I try to keep it under three sentences (which is hard for me). Let’s go.

Solitaire by Alice Oseman

I’ve loved every other book by Oseman, but it’s obvious that this is a debut that she started writing at 15 with now already cringy references and not yet developed writing. The protagonist & other characters come off as angsty. After reading the awesome spin-off graphic novel Heartstopper I could see what she was trying to do with them, but didn’t have the skills to yet. The thing I liked was the cover & the plot. 2/5 stars.

The life-changing magic of tidying up by Marie Kondo

I’ve read parts of this book before (pre tv-show), but as I declutter before packing and moving, I felt the need to go through the whole thing in the middle of a sleepless night. IT’S GREAT. Every problem you’ve got with the show is explained and while I’m a very practical over spiritual person the organization techniques and methods have already worked so well in my life, I love this ❤ ❤ Would recommend even to the already organization-research-freaks out there, like me. 5/5 stars.

Short reviews: short fantasy story & more poetry

Anyone surprised? I love doing short reviews on poetry. Here’s the other short reviews.

soft magic. by Upile Chisala: The beginning of this poetry collection had me worried, but it got better. The style is very minimalistic, instagram-poetry as I’ve heard it described as. It is about being black, family, love, it’s meant to empower. It’s not that I don’t like this style, it is just harder to convey powerful pictures with so few words and make it somewhat unique. I don’t think this collection quite manages it. The message is definitely great, and I think those who pick it up and is looking for that empowerment will like it just as “milk and honey” has been loved. It’s an easy read, good to get people into poetry, but I found it lacking.

2/5 stars. I received a copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review, thank you. Goodreads.

The one’s who walk away from Omelas: I found this with a recommendation of stunning writing and story-telling. It’s only about 30 pages. Started out with beautiful, descriptive writing about a happy city and then it took a turn. Ursula gives such a simple, as in few elements, of a moral dilemma. It took some time before it dawned for me the extent of it. And it showed so much through the people’s reactions to it, in just 30 pages. Everyone should read it, especially if you want to tell good stories.

5/5 stars. Goodreads.