Design a site like this with WordPress.com
Get started

MINI REVIEWS: A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney (4 Stars), Everless by Sara Holland (DNF)

Cover of A Blade So Black by L. L. McKinney, depicting a badass looking black girl holding a dagger

Rating: Four star rating represented by four bumblebees (4 out of 5)

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally. — Goodreads

I’ve seen A Blade So Black described as Buffy meets Alice in Wonderland and that’s exactly what you’re signing up for. Our Alice is a black bisexual badass. I loved her a lot. She isn’t afraid to mouth off to anyone, even royalty, except her mom. She is fierce but vulnerable, and she finds strength in overcoming her fears. Her narrative voice is casual, even conversational at times, and very engaging. My only criticism is that it sometimes veered into purple prose territory (no normal person describes eyes as “ice-blue orbs”).

I also disliked the unnecessary friendship drama, though that was resolved beautifully, or the love triangle. But other than these minor points, A Blade So Black is very enjoyable, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequel coming out in September!

CONTENT NOTES: parental death, some things that might be triggering to child abuse victims (e.g. Alice’s mom taking Alice’s bedroom door off its hinges as punishment), police brutality and off-screen murder of a black girl


Cover of Everless by Sara Holland, depicting an hourglass containing a red silhouetted face in the top half dripping down into the bottom half towards a castle

DNF @ 23%

In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.

No one resents the Gerlings more than Jules Ember. A decade ago, she and her father were servants at Everless, the Gerlings’ palatial estate, until a fateful accident forced them to flee in the dead of night. When Jules discovers that her father is dying, she knows that she must return to Everless to earn more time for him before she loses him forever.

But going back to Everless brings more danger—and temptation—than Jules could have ever imagined. Soon she’s caught in a tangle of violent secrets and finds her heart torn between two people she thought she’d never see again. Her decisions have the power to change her fate—and the fate of time itself. — Goodreads

I originally read Everless at the beginning of last year and gave it four stars. I was planning to reread it ahead of reading the sequel, but it’s not holding my attention. I have become more judicious in assigning star ratings, and I think I should probably have given this three stars to begin with. It would probably be enjoyable enough, but I have so many other amazing books to read that I don’t want to waste my time on books that are just okay. (Most of the time, at least.)


Have you read either of these books? What did you think? Let’s chat in the comments below!

FEBRUARY WRAP-UP: The Importance of Mood Reading and DNF’ing

My February reading was supposed to be drawn mainly from my F/F February Reading Challenge TBR. However, I failed to predict all of the things that February was going to throw at me, from more financial issues, to severe depression, and chronic illness flare-ups.

I quickly lost steam for completing the reading challenge and felt myself sliding into a slump. I was miserable and all I wanted to do was to immerse myself in the comfort of rereading Kate Daniels. I fought it for a while, but in the end I realised that having a set TBR was too restrictive for me, and that mood reading is a huge part of what makes reading so good for my mental health.

So I quietly failed out of the F/F February Reading Challenge. I don’t really see it as a fail though because it taught me something valuable about my reading patterns. Another thing that really helped me this past month was rigorously DNF’ing books that weren’t doing it for me, and even though I can’t help but feel a sense of failure when I do, ultimately it always feels freeing. (ETA: I totally forgot to mention this, but this post about good reading habits by Kaleena @ Reader Voracious played a huge part in my realisation that I fare better with mood reading than with a set TBR.)

All in all, I read 9 books in February, compared to the 14 books I read in January, but to be fair, February is like, only half as long as January. I managed to finish a bunch of ARCs that needed reviewing and to cross a couple of books off my F/F February TBR after all, and given my mental health struggles, I’m honestly glad I managed to do any reading at all, let alone as much as I did. To see what I read in February, take a look at my Goodreads Challenge or read on below! Clicking the book titles will take you to each book’s Goodreads page.


READ

  1. Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand Four star rating represented by four bumblebees (4 out of 5, REVIEW)
  2. Gunmetal Magic (Kate Daniels #5.5) by Ilona Andrews Four star rating represented by four bumblebees (4 out of 5, Reread)
  3. Magic Gifts (Kate Daniels #5.4) by Ilona Andrews Five star rating represented by five bumblebees (5 out of 5, Reread)
  4. Ash by Malinda Lo Four star rating represented by four bumblebees (4 out of 5, REVIEW)
  5. Sparks of Phoenix by Najwa Zebian Four star rating represented by four bumblebees (4 out of 5, REVIEW)
  6. Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) by Ilona Andrews Five star rating represented by five bumblebees (5 out of 5, Reread)
  7. Descendant of the Crane by Joan He Rating of four-and-a-half out of five stars represented by bumblebees (4.5 out of 5, REVIEW)
  8. Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews Five star rating represented by five bumblebees (5 out of 5, Reread)
  9. Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows #2) by Leigh Bardugo (2 out of 5, REVIEW)

DNF

  1. Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea Cameron (DNF @ 30%, REVIEW)
  2. Huntress by Malinda Lo (DNF @ 27%, REVIEW)
  3. Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility by Andrea Fekete, ed., Lara Lillibridge, ed. (DNF @ 50%, REVIEW)
  4. Mirage by Somaiya Daud (DNF @ 23%)

CURRENTLY READING

  1. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow (43%)
  2. The Brilliant Death by Amy Rose Capetta (5%)

(Oops, I clearly need to work on making some progress with Hamilton.)


FRIDA OF THE MONTH

In order to make my blog a little more personal, I’m trying something new: monthly pictures of my dog Frida! Let me know if you like it so I know whether to make this a regular thing!

My small brown dog Frida curled up on a white shaggy rug, sleeping with eyes closed. She's bathed in sunlight and her long fur looks shiny and soft.


How was your February? What did you read? Let’s chat in the comments below!

ARC REVIEWS: the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace, and Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility

Rating: (2 out of 5) The mermaid is known for her siren song, luring bedroom-eyed sailors to their demise. However, beneath these misguided myths are tales of escapism and healing, which Lovelace weaves throughout this empowering collection of poetry, taking you on a journey from the sea to the stars. They tried to silence her … Continue reading “ARC REVIEWS: the mermaid’s voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace, and Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility”

Cover of the mermaid's voice returns in this one by Amanda Lovelace

Rating: Rating of two out of five stars represented by bumblebees (2 out of 5)

The mermaid is known for her siren song, luring bedroom-eyed sailors to their demise. However, beneath these misguided myths are tales of escapism and healing, which Lovelace weaves throughout this empowering collection of poetry, taking you on a journey from the sea to the stars. They tried to silence her once and for all, but the mermaid’s voice returns in this one. (Goodreads)

I was vaguely aware of Amanda Lovelace prior to reading this as the author of the princess saves herself in this one, which I hadn’t read but knew had received some raving reviews, so I thought I couldn’t go wrong. Unfortunately, this poetry collection fell quite short of my expectations.

I don’t begrudge Lovelace her premise (this collection is part of a poetry series called Women Are Some Kind of Magic) or her intention of female empowerment, especially for victims of sexual abuse, but her writing isn’t for me. Her poetry lacks a strong voice and a distinct style. The language is for the most part bland and unevocative, as well as void of stylistic devices. Most of her poems consist of texts with line breaks after every single word while others don’t have line breaks at all; both of these are absolutely valid stylistic choices, however here they don’t seem to serve a clear purpose, and the lack of craft leaves me questioning whether any of these texts are really poetry at all.

My favourite works in this collection were the guest contributions in the fourth part of the book, where Lovelace has curated some real gems, though sadly the comparison highlights the shortcomings in her own writing even more starkly.

Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.


Cover of Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility

DNF @ ~50%

Are there moments in your life when your femaleness is a source of power or hardship? When does your voice ring its clearest? When have you been silenced?

Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Invisibility brings together international poets and essayists, both award-winning and emergent, to answer these questions with raw, honest meditations that speak to women of all races, nationalities, and sexual orientations. It is an anthology of unforgettable stories both humorous and frightening, inspirational and sensual, employing traditional poetry and prose alongside exciting experimental forms. Feminine Rising celebrates women’s differences, while embracing the source of their sameness—the unique experience of womanhood. (Goodreads)

Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Visibility won’t be receiving a rating from me because I decided to put it aside at around the 50% mark, but I still wanted to share some thoughts on it.

The introductions by both of the editors, Andrea Fekete and Lara Lillibridge, as well as the foreword by Dr. Amy Hudock made me suspect the anthology would tend towards some trends in feminism that are anything but intersectional, but they were promising “to give a microphone to those who had never had a chance to have their voices heard”, so I wanted to give Feminine Rising a fair chance.

If you read the summary, you’ll see that something is notably absent from the equation here: disability. If you want to uplift the voices of women who have previously been silenced, it is unacceptable not to include disabled voices, considering disabled women have been some of the most disenfranchised, abused, and unheard, even in feminist circles. Additionally, any feminism that doesn’t even attempt to challenge the gender binary is far from revolutionary, and this anthology reeks of biological essentialism. I have to admit that I don’t know if there are any trans voices present, but I have my doubts, considering how strongly the relationship between womanhood and menstruation or childbearing keeps being drawn.

I think one of the pitfalls of Feminine Rising is that Fekete didn’t seek out a co-editor (or co-editors) who would have been able to cover some of her own blindspots. In her introduction, she details how the anthology came to be, and it sounds like she didn’t actively approach marginalised women for submissions, which is another issue. I also felt like one text in particular written by a white woman used people of colour, and specifically women of colour, as learning experiences. A more diverse editing team would almost certainly have balanced some of these issues, and it’s unfortunate that that doesn’t seem to have been a priority.

There were a select few pieces that stood out from the throng, but overall Feminine Rising: Voices of Power and Visibility fails in what it set out to do.

Thank you to NetGalley and Cynren Press for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

MINI REVIEWS: Ash and Huntress by Malinda Lo, Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea Cameron #FFFebruaryReads

Cover of Ash by Malinda Lo, depicting a girl in a white dress curled up on a black background

Rating: Four star rating represented by four bumblebees (4 out of 5)

Ash by Malinda Lo is a (sort of) Asian and lesbian retelling of Cinderella. I’ve read the book before, many years ago, and I remember being disappointed, but I wanted to give the it another chance for F/F February.

The book roughly follows the basic pattern of the original fairytale; Ash is orphaned and forced to live with her abusive stepmother and perform menial tasks around the house, wishing for a better life. During my first read, I was bothered by the lack of any sort of romance between Ash and the Prince, and I thought the romance developing between Ash and the king’s huntress instead was predictable. I didn’t feel this way at all this time around, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe it’s because I knew what to expect and went in very much wanting to read about Ash and Kaisa falling in love?

Either way, I loved their slowly blossoming romance. It was so cute and I really found myself rooting for them. The relationship between Ash and the fairy Sidhean felt somewhat superfluous and ended quite anticlimactically, but other than that, I was absolutely entranced. The book is slow-paced, but the writing flows so easily that it pulls you in and leaves you wanting to turn the page. I’m glad I gave Ash a second chance.


Cover of Huntress by Malinda Lo, depicting a young Asian woman holding a staff in a fighting pose

DNF @ 27%

Huntress by Malinda Lo was also on my F/F February TBR. It is set in the same world as Ash, though several hundred years earlier, but both books can be read as stand-alones. After enjoying Ash, I was really looking forward to delving into this book, but it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. The story itself sounded interesting, and this book is again focussed on an F/F romance, but the writing threw me off. The point of view kept shifting without rhyme or reason, sometimes every couple of sentences, and it was driving me nuts. It’s bewildering, since Ash had none of these same issues. I wonder what happened here.


Cover of Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea M. Cameron, depicting a young white woman in a wedding dress on a pink background

DNF @ 30%

I’m sorry to say that Marriage of Unconvenience by Chelsea Cameron was another disappointment. I’d been excited to read it ever since I first read the summary of trope-y goodness, but I couldn’t force myself to keep wasting time on it after the first few chapters.

The writing is in desperate need of editing. It just drags on and on, and the author keeps contradicting herself. The most egregious example is the main character’s need to marry for money, while she is also spending money left and right seemingly without a second thought. She splurges on not one, but two engagement rings (both for herself and her prospective wife) while at the same time worrying that she won’t be making rent. It was confounding.

I had also been expecting this to be white, but not quite so painfully white. There is of course queer / wlw representation, and one of the side characters is a trans man, but unfortunately that didn’t make up for the lackluster writing.


What have you been reading lately? Have you read any books mentioned in this post? Are you participating in F/F February? Let’s chat in the comments below!