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October Reading Wrap-Up!

Yes, we’re belated again, but last month I promised that I would stop talking about how belated all of my monthly wrap-ups are, so we’re just going to move on and forget that I already broke that promise.

October was such a fun month–in addition to experiencing October-ish things, like hiking in nearby Letchworth State Park, going on a ghost tour of an allegedly haunted old mansion, and going to a set of five haunted houses, I soaked up all of the fall weather and Trader Joe’s pumpkin-related products that I could find. I was also in Orlando for a week for a work conference, but went early enough that I was also able to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios for the first time, which made me ridiculously happy–I nerded out hard with my friend as we got frozen Butterbeer (delicious), went on the Hogwarts ride (the experience of waiting in line inside the castle was honestly more fun than the ride itself, but I mean that in a good way), explored Knockturn Alley, and picked out a wand at Ollivander’s (I ended up choosing Narcissa Malfoy’s wand, as it best matched my overall aesthetic, plus the actress also plays Polly in Peaky Blinders, so it was a double win). I may end up doing a separate post with a more full/thorough review of my experience there as someone who isn’t traditionally a theme park person–what do you guys think?

My October reading didn’t go quite as expected–I had set aside a dark fantasy TBR stack for the month that I didn’t end up picking from as much as intended–but I still had some really great reads, including a great YA historical fantasy, a novella from one of my favorite science fiction authors, and a re-read of a favorite from 2018.

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 4

Audiobooks: 0

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Emergency Skin by N.K. JemisinGet a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia HibbertThe Deep by Rivers SolomonThe Beautiful by Renée AhdiehTrail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseStorm of Locusts by Rebecca RoanhorseLove Her or Lose Her by Tessa BaileyAphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista MateerTo Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (re-read) (5 stars) – Update: upon re-reading, I changed my rating from 4 to 5 stars, because this book is fantastic. In the world of Trail of Lightning, a series of rapid catastrophic climate-change-related events have fractured what was once the United States and buried much of it underwater on an accelerated timeline. In the aftermath, the Navajo nation of Dinetah has formed in what was once the Southwestern United States, and Navajo legends and magical powers are manifesting among its people. Our main character Maggie possesses gifts that help her to slay the monsters that threaten her people, but also have her questioning whether she herself may be monstrous as well. An especially strange new monster has Maggie set on a new path, where, in between fighting monsters and dealing with beings out of Navajo legends, she grows closer with an attractive young medicine man while being haunted by her history with her former love, the legendary Monsterslayer. Urban fantasy can be very hit-or-miss for me, but I really enjoyed this book. With its post-apocalyptic setting and mythology-laden world-building, I think it would be great for readers of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. I loved that Rebecca Roanhorse took the very real threat of climate change as inspiration for the book’s setting and used that as a jumping-off point to introduce Navajo mythology into the world. It was so interesting getting to learn more about Navajo myths and legends. Maggie is a prickly, somewhat isolated main character at the beginning of the book, but we see a lot of growth even during this relatively short novel. I found it very easy to root for her, and I loved the concept of the clan powers, which played a large role in the book. The book’s secondary characters were also great; I especially loved Kai, her mysterious medicine-man love interest, and of course his grandfather Tah as well, but also thought Coyote was a great character. I think the world that Rebecca Roanhorse created has the potential for so many more stories, and I’m very excited to see where she takes Maggie next. Definitely recommend. I received a free signed copy of Trail of Lightning at an autographing session at BookCon.

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (4 stars) – After re-reading Trail of Lightning, I could not have been more excited for the sequel, and although I did absolutely still enjoy the read, this one didn’t quite work for me as well as the first book did. It’s a month after the events of the first book, and Maggie Hoskie, our badass, monsterslaying protagonist, is living with her elderly friend Tah, whose nephew and Maggie’s love interest, Kai, is still MIA. So Maggie’s been taking on jobs with the local Thirsty Boys mercenary crew to fill the time, and after a job goes sideways, she finds herself the guardian of a young teenage girl named Ben, and from there on the road after Kai, who seems to have been abducted by a cult leader called the White Locust. I still absolutely love Maggie as a main character; she’s tough, but is learning to care about people more and more; newcomer Ben added more to the story by bringing out Maggie’s protective side and casting her into a big sister role. The world Roanhorse created with this series is fascinating, and I would easily read ten books set here; every time we see a new angle of the Sixth World, I’m impressed with her creativity all over again. What was missing for me this time was Kai and Coyote, two of my favorite main characters from the first book, who are both pushed to the back burner for this one and aren’t given enough time to shine. I like both of their dynamics with Maggie, and I felt that the side characters from this book didn’t hold as much interest for me, with the exceptions of Ben and Rissa. Quite a few interesting things are set up towards the end of the book that definitely bode well for future stories in this series, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (4 stars) – I’ve seen the phrase “vampires are back!” associated with The Beautiful more than anything else, and although I’m not averse to the idea (although I don’t believe vampires in literature really went anywhere in the first place, nor did I want them to), I think it’s misapplied to this book in particular. It sets up Twilight-esque expectations, or maybe a new version of True Blood, when that’s simply not the case. The Beautiful is a lot of things, but I absolutely would not call it a vampire book. That being said, I absolutely loved it. Check out my full review here.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (4 stars) – The Deep is a short but profoundly impactful novel that blends history and fantasy together to tell the story of Yetu, a young woman who shoulders the intense burden of being the historian for her people, the wajinru, who are mer-people descended from enslaved pregnant African women who were thrown overboard on the journey to the Americas. While all other wajinru are able to spend most of their lives spared from reliving the horror of the collective memories of their people, Yetu must constantly bear it all, and, understandably, she’s struggling to do so and still survive. When her people gather together for an event where they periodically share the memories, guided by Yetu, she flees, and embarks on a journey where she learns more about herself and her people. It’s a powerful story, one that deserves to be widely read, and one that I would absolutely recommend. I received an ARC of The Deep from the publisher at BookExpo.

Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin (3.75 stars) – Technically a short story, but I’ll take anything I can get from N.K. Jemisin, who’s one of my favorite authors. “Emergency Skin” is science fiction, told in second person, and follows a soldier sent back to a destroyed Earth from an extraplanetary colony that abandoned our planet centuries previously, in search of genetic information that would help to ensure the survival of his society. It’s a very quintessentially N.K. Jemisin story that utilizes several hallmarks of her writing (twists, second person narration, commentary on current societal issues), but, having recently read her fantastically amazing short story collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?, I’d say that overall it wasn’t one of her strongest stories for me. I’d definitely still recommend the read, though, especially as it’s free if you have Amazon Prime.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (3.5 stars) – This contemporary romance, set in England, follows web designer Chloe Brown, a guarded woman dealing with her fibromyalgia diagnosis, and Redford Morgan, an artist-turned-property-manager, who’s dealing with insecurity and the aftermath of a traumatizing relationship. Our story kicks off when Chloe undergoes a near-death experience and decides that she needs to, well, get a life–to stop being afraid to make bold life decisions and go out and experience the world. She initiates this by moving out of her family’s house, but stalls trying to accomplish any of the next few tasks (ride a motorcycle, travel the world with minimal luggage, have meaningless sex, etc) until she meets Red, who she seems to think is the sort of “dangerous” guy who could help her with her list, but who in actuality is a complete sweetheart who happens to ride a motorcycle. While working through Chloe’s list, with some necessary modifications, the two confront their mistaken first impressions of each other (Red assumes Chloe is a rich snob, Chloe assumes Red is carefree and full of himself) and end up falling for each other. You can read my full review here; I received an eARC of Get a Life, Chloe Brown from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this second installment in Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series quite as much as the first book, Fix Her Up, but it was still a fun, quick read that I think a lot of contemporary romance readers will likely enjoy. Love Her or Lose Her follows a married couple (unusual for a romance novel!), Rosie and Dominic, who, despite a deep love for one another that began when they were childhood sweethearts, find themselves at a point in their marriage where they’re only truly able to connect in the bedroom; otherwise, their communication has completely broken down. Rosie in particular has been feeling the strain, and kicks off the novel by leaving Dominic, as she’s feeling unappreciated and unsatisfied both professionally and in their relationship. The plot of the novel revolves around Rosie and Dominic’s attempts to reconnect through a hippie version of last-ditch couples counseling Rosie initially proposes as a challenge to Dominic, thinking there’s no way he’ll let his guard down enough to try therapy, and Rosie’s efforts to start her own restaurant, which she’s been dreaming about her entire life. My full review is linked here; Love Her or Lose Her comes out on January 14th. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer (3 stars) – I didn’t enjoy this poetry collection nearly as much as Mateer’s other collection Honeybee, which I read earlier this year, but it’s a gorgeously designed book with a great concept that I think a lot of readers will likely appreciate. Although I love Greek mythology, the poetry in this collection was in parts too pared down and in other parts too over-explained for my personal preference.

 

Have you read any of these? How did your October reading go?

Book Review: The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)

 

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

Rating: 4 stars

Genre: YA historical fantasy

Release date: 10/1/19

 

I’ve seen the phrase “vampires are back!” associated with The Beautiful more than anything else, and although I’m not averse to the idea (although I don’t believe vampires in literature really went anywhere in the first place, nor did I want them to), I think it’s misapplied to this book in particular. It sets up Twilight-esque expectations, or maybe a new version of True Blood, when that’s simply not the case. The Beautiful is a lot of things, but I absolutely would not call it a vampire book. That being said, I absolutely loved it.

A much more accurate description of this book would be that it’s a young adult romantic historical fantasy, which is, I guess, a less succinct genre tag than “vampires,” but, I don’t think, a less appealing one. I’ve seen a lot of reviews that express disappointment over the lack of vampires in The Beautiful, and a lot of ratings that may be lower than the book deserves, but all of this could have been avoided if different expectations had been set.

But I’m going to stop talking now about expectations and ratings, and talk about the book itself, which I don’t think we’re hearing nearly enough about. The Beautiful is the story of feisty, headstrong, fun-loving Celine Rousseau, the antithesis of a timid, clumsy, Bella Swan-type YA heroine, who flees to New Orleans haunted by what she had to do to survive in her hometown of Paris. In the company of several other girls from around the world, Celine takes up residence in a convent while awaiting viable marriage proposals and becomes drawn into the seductive underworld of New Orleans society when she meets a mysterious, confident, pants-wearing woman who wants to employ her for her dressmaking skills. While Celine is visiting the headquarters of this attractive, dangerous underworld known as the La Cour des Lions, a murder is committed, and Celine becomes sucked into the investigation as well as the orbits of two former friends and present enemies, dark and alluring leader of the Cour des Lions Sebastien Saint Germain and savant police detective Michael Grimaldi.

So, why did I like this book? The New Orleans setting was a huge part of that. Ahdieh’s descriptions of the lush, vibrant, diverse city portray a New Orleans that’s both alluring and sinister, and the perfect setting for a fantasy story. Celine is a heroine who isn’t afraid–of danger, of intrigue, to do what needs to be done, or to just have a good time, and I very much appreciated that. Female friendships and side characters aren’t overlooked in favor of the romance; I liked both Pippa, Celine’s conventional and loyal British friend, and Odette, a member of La Cour des Lions, who flaunts conventions and gender norms in every scene she steals. And the romance itself was a lot of fun to read about; I wasn’t aware that this book actually had a love triangle, and although I know a lot of readers can’t stand those, I am definitely not one of them. Did I need a lot more backstory about why Bastien and Michael hated each other? Yes. Did it make any sense that Michael was somehow the best police detective in New Orleans at age nineteen? Of course not. But if that’s what needed to happen so that we could set up an angsty love triangle, then I’m on board.

If you enjoy romance-centric YA, and the idea of a series that’s lighter on fantasy but heavy on atmosphere appeals to you, I think you’ll also really like The Beautiful.–just don’t expect it to be Twilight.

 

I received an ARC of The Beautiful from the publisher at Book Expo in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: My Favorite YA Book of the Year: The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Genre: contemporary YA fiction, Shakespeare retelling

Release date: 10/1/19

Rating: 4.5 stars

The Last True Poets of the Sea is a book that wasn’t even on my radar prior to Book Expo, when I heard it pitched in a YA Buzz books panel discussion as, I’m not kidding, a book that’s really hard to describe. Despite the vagueness of this description, or perhaps because of it, I was drawn to pick it up, even though when the panel had started I’d promised myself to only pick up one book that was being pitched, The Grace Year by Kim Liggett, because I wanted to limit the number of ARCs I picked up from BookExpo to ensure that I’d have time to read them all. I broke my promise to myself, which was pretty inevitable in hindsight, and I’m so glad I did, because The Last True Poets of the Sea is probably going to end up being my favorite YA book of the year.

It’s true that you could say The Last True Poets is hard to describe; you could also say that it’s a loose retelling of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night as a YA contemporary, set in a small town in Maine, that focuses on mental health issues, sibling relationships, and family mythology. And yes, that is a lot of components for a premise, but it blends together perfectly through Julia Drake’s seemingly effortless writing style. We’re following fantastically flawed Violet (an incredibly dimensional, realistic main character), whose twin brother Sam has just survived a suicide attempt, and who’s been sent to live with her uncle in Maine for the summer while Sam receives treatment at a mental health facility, and where presumably she’ll be forced to stay out of trouble. Because while Sam has been struggling more and more with his mental health, Violet’s been partying more than she should, to the point where she doesn’t know how or where to draw the line. In Lyric, Maine, the small town where her family originates from and, legend has it, founded the town after her ancestor survived a shipwreck off the coast (one of the many Twelfth Night connections in this story), Violet gets a job at the local aquarium, falls in with an existing friend group, two of whose members, Orion and Liv, instantly appeal to her, and tries, sometimes successfully, sometimes not, to do better–as a daughter, a niece, a sister, a person. Her efforts are flawed and halting some of the time, but she’s trying, and as she does, she starts to investigate the mythology behind her family and the town of Lyric, and simultaneously starts falling for Liv, an unofficial Lyric history truther.

It’s so hard to review a book when your primary thoughts are I LOVE THIS BOOK SO MUCH, YOU ALL NEED TO READ IT, I PROMISE YOU WILL LOVE IT TOO. Because while that’s all true, I do need to also find other, more appealing ways to say it, so let’s try this: The Last True Poets of the Sea is one of the most authentic-feeling books I’ve ever read. It’s able to capture both the contradictions and complexities of being a teenager and also the atmospheric and unique Maine setting, seemingly without much effort, because Julia Drake’s writing is a style that almost seems simple until you realize just how skillful it is. It’s a beautiful book, but it doesn’t shy away from anything difficult or ugly, and it talks about mental health in ways that seem truer than most nonfiction I’ve read. It talks about love, not just first romantic love but sibling love and family bonds, and love for a place that’s wrapped in nostalgia and difficult to recapture as we get older. The characters are people that are so easy to identify with, because none of them are perfect, but messy in a way that’s somehow better. Reading this book made me feel and think about so many things; I was brought back to the three months I spent living in a small town in Maine during grad school, and also to the doubt and insecurities of being a teenager, and to the anxiety I deal with as an adult. The best books are like that, I think: consuming when you read them, and lingering long after you finish, to the point where you can’t help but keep thinking about them.

Hopefully somehow this messy, disjointed review somehow fits with this gorgeous book that’s impossible to simplify, and I hope that you all love it as much as I did.

 

I received an ARC of The Last True Poets of the Sea at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

 

Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered, #2)

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Release date: January 14th, 2020

Genre: contemporary romance

Rating: 3 stars

Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this second installment in Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series quite as much as the first book, Fix Her Up, but it was still a fun, quick read that I think a lot of contemporary romance readers will likely enjoy. Love Her or Lose Her follows a married couple (unusual for a romance novel!), Rosie and Dominic, who, despite a deep love for one another that began when they were childhood sweethearts, find themselves at a point in their marriage where they’re only truly able to connect in the bedroom; otherwise, their communication has completely broken down. Rosie in particular has been feeling the strain, and kicks off the novel by leaving Dominic, as she’s feeling unappreciated and unsatisfied both professionally and in their relationship. The plot of the novel revolves around Rosie and Dominic’s attempts to reconnect through a hippie version of last-ditch couples counseling Rosie initially proposes as a challenge to Dominic, thinking there’s no way he’ll let his guard down enough to try therapy, and Rosie’s efforts to start her own restaurant, which she’s been dreaming about her entire life.  We also get to see glimpses of Georgie and Travis, the main characters from Fix Her Up, as well as what’s presumably the setup for the third book in the series, a meet-cute between Bethany and new-in-town, cowboy hat-wearing Wes.

On the positive side, this eARC really saved me when I found out that my flight had been delayed for 4 hours and was stuck at the airport, finding myself not quite in the right mood for any of the physical books I’d brought with me but looking for a fun contemporary romance. It’s a quick read, Rosie is a likable main character, and Bailey’s writing is snappy and funny. I continue to enjoy the girl-power aspect of this series that centers around the women in their community forming the “Just-Us League,” a group designed for female support and empowerment, and how Georgie, Rosie, and Bethany lean on each other and have each other’s backs.

On the negative side, I wasn’t so much a fan of Dominic, and I felt that there was a lot of his backstory that wasn’t explored thoroughly enough for me to root for him and Rosie as a couple. He was also very possessive, and there was a definite feeling of him reinforcing traditional gender roles in certain aspects of their relationship, which very much did not work for me. The actions of all the male characters in this book were often very unappealing; one scene in particular, when Rosie and her friends are planning a girls’ night out in the city, and their love interests are so insecure and upset by this that they follow them all the way to New York to exhibit possessive behavior and deny them a night out with their girlfriends, really rubbed me the wrong way. I’ll still definitely look to read more Tessa Bailey in the future, as I did enjoy Fix Her Up quite a bit, but overall I don’t think this was quite the right book for me.

I received an eARC of Love Her or Lose Her from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Genre: contemporary romance

Release date: November 5th

Rating: 3.5 stars

This contemporary romance, set in England, follows web designer Chloe Brown, a guarded woman dealing with her fibromyalgia diagnosis, and Redford Morgan, an artist-turned-property-manager, who’s dealing with insecurity and the aftermath of a traumatizing relationship. Our story kicks off when Chloe undergoes a near-death experience and decides that she needs to, well, get a life–to stop being afraid to make bold life decisions and go out and experience the world. She initiates this by moving out of her family’s house, but stalls trying to accomplish any of the next few tasks (ride a motorcycle, travel the world with minimal luggage, have meaningless sex, etc) until she meets Red, who she seems to think is the sort of “dangerous” guy who could help her with her list, but who in actuality is a complete sweetheart who happens to ride a motorcycle. While working through Chloe’s list, with some necessary modifications, the two confront their mistaken first impressions of each other (Red assumes Chloe is a rich snob, Chloe assumes Red is carefree and full of himself) and end up falling for each other.

There’s a lot to like about Chloe Brown, chief among them being the titular main character. Chloe is smart and fierce, but she’s also grappling with a lot of insecurities and still working on figuring herself out, especially in the context of the aftermath of her fibromyalgia diagnosis. She’s instantly likable, and scenes from her perspective are hilarious, full of surprising quips and witty observations; she’s a character I would happily spend more time with. I would also be completely on board with more books involving Chloe’s family, since her two awesome sisters and badass grandmother stole every scene they were in. I wasn’t as much of a fan of her love interest, Red, who wasn’t nearly as charismatic of a viewpoint character, and I felt that their romance, once it began, progressed much more quickly than felt natural. But there was another issue I had while reading this book, which I’m probably going to explain terribly, and which probably will be a reason many people love this one.

At risk of sounding like a terribly cynical person, I was taken aback by how considerately everyone treated each other in this book. Let me explain: Chloe Brown is ostensibly a hate-to-love romance, but the main characters never actually hate each other, and even if they make certain assumptions, they always treat each other with an abundance of consideration and respect. There are misunderstandings and disagreements, sure, but they’re all dealt with incredibly nicely. Which is fine! It’s fiction, it’s a romance novel, I totally understand that respect, consideration, and niceness are how we should all treat one another in life and in relationships. But for me, a lot of the time it did feel unrealistic, as people tend to be much more imperfect and messy when it comes to emotions, and although I can of course suspend disbelief when it comes to fiction and romance a lot of the time, I think I’d have preferred a messier story to a more perfect one. I think a lot of people might disagree with me on that, but I think it comes down to a matter of preferences in romance: I tend to like a little less ease and a little more angst, whereas Chloe Brown definitely falls into the “sweet” category, which was why, although I did overall enjoy the read, it didn’t get a higher rating from me.

I received an eARC of Get a Life, Chloe Brown from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

September Reading Wrap-Up

I had set a vaguely defined goal for myself for September (something like “read lots of books”) and I’m happy to report that I accomplished that. Not only did I finish more books than I have in the past few months, but I read several books that I rated over 4 stars, and I honestly enjoyed every single thing I read in September.

Let’s go to the stats and reviews:

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 2

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Sapphire Flames by Ilona AndrewsKill the Queen by Jennifer EstepThe Future of Another Timeline by Annalee NewitzShame Is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary LambertParkland by Dave CullenWe Died in Water by Meg FloresBloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovernRadio Silence by Alice OsemanThe Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (4.5 stars) – Sapphire Flames is technically the fourth book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, although it’s also technically the start of a new trilogy featuring the younger sister of books 1-3’s protagonist. I’ve actually just finished this one and LOVED it; I’m an Ilona Andrews superfan, but this was actually one of my favorites of hers. It’s set in a version of our world that features warring dynasties of magical families, and our main character Catalina has a very unique power; we follow her trying to solve a friend’s mother’s murder, protect her own family, and maybe connect with her crush, Alessandro, who has more than a few secrets up his sleeves. Honestly, this book is SO GOOD, and I think it’s also a great starting point for readers new to Ilona Andrews.

Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary Lambert (4.5 stars) – An impactful, striking, shiver-inducing autobiographical collection of poems that discuss sexual assault and its aftermath, falling in love, heartbreak, mental illness, and survival. There were several poems in this collection that made me pause, re-read, and take a moment to consider how Lambert used so few words to say so much. Her writing style is sometimes fluid and sometimes jarring; the poems are relatable and very readable but contain a lot of depth. I’d definitely recommend this one.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (4.25 stars) – I absolutely loved this YA contemporary retelling of Twelfth Night that dealt skillfully with mental illness and sibling relationships; my full review will be up soon. I received an ARC at BookExpo from the publisher.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (4 stars) – really well done YA contemporary, revolving around two misfits and a science fiction podcast. I absolutely loved the main characters, and the writing and perspective felt extremely authentic. I did feel that the plot stumbled a bit towards the end, but overall I really loved this one.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (4 stars) – Creative, feminist time-travel science fiction, set mainly in the 1990s and 1890s. Check out my full review here.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – A very necessary and topical read. I listened to Dave Cullen’s Columbine on audiobook last month and was impressed by his research and thoroughness, and I wanted to pick up Parkland especially because it focuses almost exclusively on the March for Our Lives kids and movement rather than the school shooting itself; although the books are related, they emphasize very different things. The Parkland kids are so impressive and inspirational, and I think Cullen did a great job capturing what they are trying to accomplish.

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (4 stars) – the first graphic novel I’ve picked up in literally years, because it’s by the author of a webcomic I adore (My Life as a Background Slytherin). It’s a parody of historical/Regency romances, with an added fantastical element, and I quite enjoyed it. We follow Lucy, our heroine, who feels like a misfit under the constraints of proper society; Lord Byron (“from books!”), a poet with a very short attention span and a penchant for stabbing any vampire he sees; and Sham, a mysterious vampire hunter, on their adventures around England while trying to infiltrate a secret vampire society but keep getting sidetracked. I found it very cute, quirky, and funny, although for me it maybe wasn’t quite as consistently hilarious as McGovern’s webcomic tends to be, likely because there’s a lot more plot in a graphic novel than a 1-page webcomic. The art style and colors are likewise adorable and fun, and I’m definitely glad I picked it up.

We Died in Water by Meg Flores (4 stars) – We Died in Water is a memoir told in short prose poems that focuses on themes of love and leaving, using the ocean to help tell the author’s story in a variety of metaphors. The memoir itself mirrors the waves in structure, by repetition of the stories of loving and heartbreak that both the author and her mother experienced, stories that echo each other and force both the author and the reader to wonder if we are doomed to repeat our families’ pasts. As someone who’s always loved the ocean (as you can probably garner from my account name), I loved the integration of waves and ocean imagery into the author’s retelling of her story, and I found the writing overall to be lovely and fluid, while still retaining clarity, which can be difficult in a book with a nontraditional structure. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful little book, and I’d recommend it if you enjoy unconventional structures, poetry, and the ocean.

I received an early copy of We Died in Water from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep (3.75 stars) – Mistakenly thought this was UF when I picked it up (the leather pants threw me off!) but it’s actually a really fun, fast-paced royal revenge plot in a full fantasy world with a writing style that reminds me of UF. I really enjoyed it–our main character Everleigh, a minor royal, survives an assassination attempt on the royal family, and joins a gladiator troupe, where survival turns into a desire for vengeance. She has to use the magic she’s kept hidden her entire life as well as every ounce of the cold rage that fuels her in order to do what she’s never even imagined–try to kill the queen. It’s got action, humor, and the hint of a romance, plus literally every character is wearing black leggings at all times, which is a fantasy world I can really get behind. There’s also a really interesting magic system featuring everything from enhanced senses, shapeshifting, and elemental magic. I’m about to start the second book, Protect the Prince, and I’m really interested to see where the story goes from here.

 

Have you read any of these, or are any of them on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Genre: science fiction

Rating: 4 stars

I have mixed feelings about time travel-focused science fiction; it’s never an element that draws me toward a story, but I’ve found it to be an interesting plot device in the hands of the right author (prior to picking up this book, namely Connie Willis, whose writing style I love). One of the things that can make or break a time travel plot is the method of time travel presented, and this was an element that I really enjoyed in The Future of Another Timeline: time travel is geology-based, and centers around specific rock formations in several locations around the world. We’re never sure whether the rock formations are a natural occurrence or whether they’re a remnant of a past advanced or alien civilization, but we know that one travels through time by tapping out specific patterns into the rock, and that humanity has barely scratched the surface of what the machines are truly capable of, and that explanation/non-explanation worked for me, because it felt unique, somewhat organic, and added a persistent oddness and potential for twists in the story.

The Future of Another Timeline follows time-traveling geologist Tess, who is ostensibly a researcher focusing on the late 1800s but in actuality is part of a secret organization dedicated to fighting for women’s and non-binary persons’ rights and preserving their contributions to society by manipulating the timeline and fighting against a shadow organization attempting to suppress women and non-binary persons in the past so that they can create a male-dominated future. We’re also following Beth, a teenager in the 1990s in California who is enmeshed in riot grrl culture and who’s dealing with a complex and precarious family situation, as well as the fact that she and her friends have just killed a rapist. We bounce back and forth between these two storylines throughout the book, with a few interludes from other perspectives, as Tess and her organization strategize about how to save the future while Beth deals with both emotional fallout and rising danger.

I found the writing style of Timeline to be concise, clear, and quick-moving; Newitz’s background as a science journalist feels clear in the story’s telling. It’s a fascinating premise, and one that could be intimidatingly complex if not told as succinctly as it was. The emotional depth of the story, however, was more inconsistent; I felt much more connected to Beth’s story than Tess’s, and not just because one involved time travel and one didn’t, but because Beth felt like a more fully realized character, whereas I never truly felt like I had a handle on who Tess was, beyond her fight for societal justice.

Beth’s portion of the plot, as well, was more gripping for me, probably because it was much more personal and immediate; it was as though, strangely, even though this is a book about time travel, it may have been a stronger story without the time travel element altogether, and just focusing solely on Beth. Newitz creates a fully realized vision of 1990s California, rife with punk rock, hypocrisy, the allure of freedom, and the crushing weight of restrictions placed on teenagers that prevent them from fully realizing that freedom as it lurks just out of reach with the escape of college. There were parts of Tess’s story that did work for me as well, particularly the parts featuring the other members of her society, the Daughters of Harriet (named for Harriet Tubman, who became a senator in this version of history), but for me the parts set in the 1890s tended to drag and felt oddly paced.

If you enjoy fast-paced, well-written science fiction that focuses on politically relevant issues, I do think you’ll enjoy this one. The Future of Another Timeline comes out tomorrow, September 24th.

 

Thank you so much to the publisher for the opportunity to pick up an ARC of The Future of Another Timeline at BookExpo.