Archive for the ‘books’ Category

Black Beauty
Black Beauty by Constance Burris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Content warnings: violence, attempted sexual assault, sexual harassment, girl on girl hate, drug (marijuana) use, alcohol use, racist microaggressions against black women, bullying

Oh. My. Gosh. This book blew me away. Like. I wasn’t expecting to like it so much. I mean. I KNEW I’d like it. Based off the description I had a feeling that I would presuming that the author’s writing style meshed well with my personal reading style. And oh does it.

From what little I know (and not for lack of trying) of African and Caribbean religions this book leans heavily into them for the magical elements. And I adore when people bring non European centric religions and beliefs into books because it gives me a bit more understanding into them and they break the monotony of Greek/Roman/Norse/English/French/German/Irish based religions/mythology/fairy tales that were all I’ve heard growing up. Even if what it is is a different country’s interpretation of a Greek/Roman/Norse/English/French/German/Irish based religious/mythology/fairy tale. It gives it a twist of that country and culture and shows that area’s tastes/flair. Which can make the most well known and over heard stories sound brand new. Which is what this does. It weaves in a little bit of the tale of medusa, well parts of minus the decapitation parts, with modern day high school and “good” hair vs “bad” hair (neither of which I actually believe exist but that’s neither here nor there) and bullying and trying to just fit in and survive.

For some, I could see it being a horror story. For me it was a fantastically told fantasy mixed in with just enough real life that I could just imagine it being true. But it still reeled me in and didn’t let me go. Not even when the story finished. When it finished I was still thinking about it and wondering what happened to everyone. And wound up buying books 1 & 2 in the series. I’m just waiting for book 3 so I can binge read all 3 books.

All in all, this is a FANTASTIC story that I’d definitely recommend to everyone to buy and read. And I’d give it a 4.5 if I could out of 5 stars only because of the minor triggers that I got out of it. It’s the only reason I can’t give it a full 5 stars. But otherwise, definitely read this book.

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Hades in Love
Hades in Love by Mel Bossa

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Content warnings: sex, gay relationships, prostitution, alcohol use, alcohol abuse, drug use, drug abuse, mentions of homophobia

 

I received a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This was an interesting take on capturing essences of what the Greek idea of Gods would be in perfume. With a romance thrown in. It was cute. And a really quick read. And not at all what I expected.

I had a few issues with how the prostitution was shown but I can’t exactly put my finger on the why I have the issues. I can say I do have issues with how he was treated by some of the other people in the story because screw that nonsense as sex work deserves just as much respect as any other work.

All in all, short cute ish story that I more or less enjoyed reading.

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Juliet Takes a Breath
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Content warnings: drug (marijuana) usage, mentions of cutting, equating women with having vaginas, lots of talk of feminism, intersectional feminism, polyamorous relationships, lesbian relationships, alcohol usage, cigarette smoking, medical issue discussion, microaggressions, discussions and mentions of racism, talks about allyship, talks about safe spaces, mentions of pregnancy, talks about privileges, talks about consent, brief mentions about sex, nudity mentions, mentions of alternative medicines (acupuncture and oils and meditations), mentions of politics, mentions of 9/11 and the after effects of the attack and first responders, mentions of religion (both Christianity and Judaism)

 

I received a free copy via Netgalley in exchange for a fair and honest review.

Oh. My. Gosh.

This book.

This fucking book.

NEVER thought I would see myself in a book with regards to my asthma. But I DID. And I practically cried. I mean that’s the only spot I really saw myself with this book but do you know how rare it is to see yourself in a book like this when it comes to asthma? Like the dumbest things (to me) trigger my asthma. Too much excitement. Too much stress. Too much panic. Too much anxiety. Running  (which is one of the only things I *DON’T* think is dumb that triggers it). Smoke of any kind (fire, cigarette, marijuana, etc). Laughing too much. Crying. Perfume/Cologne. And seeing a main character who not only has asthma but carries an inhaler AND USES it and it isn’t an afterthought but an integral part of WHO they are? That was wonderful and life changing and I want more. It made me realise what I was missing. And I NEED MORE.

And the calling out of the white lady fucking up. I was 100% there for that. As well as there for her calling out the white girls being rude. Because the one act doesn’t cancel out the other act. I can remember being in Juliet’s shoes. Learning who you are and discovering yourself. In a way I’m still kind of there. This is one of those books where I want to buy a bunch of copies and distribute them to libraries and to people who want a copy of it if I had the money to do so.

All I can really say is if you have the opportunity/means to do so, get this book and read it. It’s worth the price.

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The Devil's Prayer
The Devil’s Prayer by Luke Gracias

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Content warnings: religious zealots, lots of talk of religion specifically of catholicism and orthodoxy, death, rape, attempted murder, selling your soul to the devil, death of teenager, miraculous healing, dealings with the devil (multiple), self flagellation, torture, religious torture (self imposed and not), suicide, alcohol use, drug use

I received a free copy via Netgalley for a fair and honest review.

There’s a lot to digest about this. From the non ending ending to the religious conspiracies to the research that I need to do to fact check to see if we’re given factual information with religious conspiracies or if just barely researched wikipedia information religious conspiracies to the statements made by Catholic priests that don’t sound like they’re coming from Catholic priests. It’s a LOT to digest.Which has a website you can visit if you’re interested.

So, a few quotes in this book stood out to me. For very distinct reasons. Both these quotes were stated by priests. And honestly, from being raised in a non denominational household (by my parents) and having very religious family members (Roman Catholic on dad’s side and extremist Christian on mum’s side) and going to church A LOT as a child, I can unequivocally say that no Catholic priest (and it was stated that it was Catholic priests) would say anything like this. They might infer it but wouldn’t outright say either.

Religion is the oldest business in the world. “We sell faith. Faith is being sure in what we cannot see and being certain in what we live for. The greatest fear of the human race is loneliness. Religion offers you God as your companion, to be with you all the time, wherever you go. “It is instilled in the very young by wonderful myths like Santa Claus that bring enormous happiness to children. Many come back to religion when death knocks at their door; for with religion you will not walk alone, and perhaps you will not walk alone when you leave this earth. Every day, in nearly every city and town in the world, some old man or lady dies, leaving behind something in their will—a house, some money, some land—all to the Church, their last friend who kept them company in their time of loneliness. Some perhaps hope it buys their way to heaven or makes amends for their sins in the past. Guilt is the currency of the Catholic faith.

 

There are many religions, many having their own gods. So which god is the Devil fighting?”Father Jakub answered softly. “You are confusing God with religion. It is like water. Water is water, whether you drink it from the tap, or you get it from a bottle sparkling or still, it is always water, irrespective of the brand or packaging. God is like water and religion is the brand or packaging.”“What are your thoughts on the hundreds of thousands of innocents killed over the ages in the name of God? As a priest, how do you still believe in God?”Jakub replied, “The problem is neither with religion nor with God. The problem is with man and what he does in the name of God. Religion is like a knife: in the hands of a surgeon, it heals, but in the hands of a murderer, it kills. “Every religion encourages you to have a regular dose of God in your life in the form of regular prayer and meditation. In the words of Renaissance physicist and occultist Paracelsus, ‘Sola dosis facit venenum’, which means the dose makes the poison. Even oxygen and water, which are essential to all living creatures, are toxic if the dose is too high. And so it is with religion, too.

That all said, both quotes are very true. Catholicism’s currency is guilt and the way that deity works is that the deity is there regardless of your particular religious beliefs. All religions tend to believe the same things especially amongst the Abrahamic religions and as much as it makes them angry to hear it, Christianity is closest to Islamic beliefs rather than Judaism. And Judaism is also closer to Islam than Christianity. And Christianity, Islam, and Judaism are the triad that make up the Abrahamic religions (and all believe in the same God).

Anyway, off of the religion topic because I don’t like discussing religion for varying reasons (but I will if people want to in the comments), this was a very compelling read. And while I wasn’t too happy about the unexpected rape scene, I am happy how it was resolved in the end. I am also happy that the goodreads page has been updated to add content warnings for the book it’s nice to see that as content warnings aren’t often seen or used and it’s often a fight to get authors to even consider using them.

As to the history part of the novel, I can say that there’s quite a bit of the book that is accurate like some of the specific people mentioned and quotes attributed to them that may or may not have actually been said by them (or misquoted by them) and their reputations. The prologue was interesting to read.

If you like historical fiction and you like religious conspiracy books, this book will be right up your alley. But if you don’t, then you probably won’t like this book.

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Breaking Point
Breaking Point by Vikki Romano

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

Content warnings: heterosexual relationships, violence, PTSD, mentions of the forced augmentation that was done in the previous book, sex

I received a free ARC from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This is a continuation of Edge of Darkness. This is more Sierra’s story. And it was so enjoyable. It showed more her internal struggles regarding the augmentation and her feelings. In addition to everything else going on in the world that she is dealing with. The first book, had a lot of background and set up and this one picked up where that one left off with the action.

I appreciate that the author, when sending me the file, gave me the heads up that there were the content warnings for this book. It helped a lot. Both in my ability to read the book and my ability to enjoy the book. The book still reminds me a lot of Deus Ex with the augmentation. And I don’t think the trilogy will ever stop reminding me of it. But it’s not a bad thing. It’s just what it is because I play video games as well as read books as well as have a lot of book reading and video game playing friends. I do like that the books don’t appear to suffer (yet, at least) from Trinity Syndrome with her (which is a problem I’ve seen more times than I care to count in SFF though usually when it’s written by male writers). And yes, she’s flawed but she’s flawed in the same human way that most humans are. In that we have emotions and sometimes emotions can rule us (and for that matter, Calder has his moments where his emotions rule him as well).

Overall, enjoyable book and I’m looking forward to the third book that I hope ties everything up. If you enjoyed the first book, definitely pick this one up.

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Althea & Oliver
Althea & Oliver by Cristina Moracho

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

 

Content warnings: rape, rape jokes, alcohol use, medical disorders, abusive friendship, sex, heterosexual relationships

This book is actually about a star and a half. I rounded up to be nice. Though I constantly waver on lowering it down to a 1 star. This review contains spoilers.

Let me go for the few bits of good I can speak to in this book. I like the minimalist cover. It could have been a lot worse and it wasn’t and I appreciate that. The author was fairly good at writing. Though, minus like one reference to a graduating class in the 90s, this book did not feel like it was written in the 90s.

So that was the good. The bad.

Althea is well written as a teenager but at the same time teenager. And she’s written as such a self absorbed one that she doesn’t give a shit about her mother and barely cares about her dad. Or at least that’s how she came across to me for the latter.

So Oliver is stated as having Kleine-Levine Syndrome and really it reads as taken to the extreme and author did the bare minimum research into the syndrome.

So about the rape joke, there’s the Halloween party interaction:

Coby: “What are you supposed to be?”

Althea: “A date rapist?”

and holy crap was that a terrible joke. Homicidal maniac. Serial killer. Overly stressed teenager. ANY of those would have been better and funnier than what she answered. I mean there’s issues with the first two but it’s still better than making tasteless rape jokes. Especially in a book that you’re marketing to teenagers.

And the biggest clue ever that it was rape from the conversation that happened months after it happened between Oliver and Althea:

“I’m not upset because we didn’t have sex, I’m upset because we did. And you don’t remember, and it’s like it never happened, but it did happen, and you keep complaining because things are different except nothing’s different.” […]

“I feel nauseous. I told you, I said I wasn’t ready–“

“You wanted to,” Althea says stridently.

[…] “You stupid bitch, it wasn’t me! You knew it wasn’t me, you knew I wouldn’t remember, how could you let it happen? I didn’t want to, I told you–“

“Oh no? You didn’t want to? What did you think happened then? Do you think I forced you? Do you think I held you down and made you do it?” […]

“You knew it was a big deal to me,” he says. “You knew I never would have wanted it to happen like that. How could you not tell me? You’ve been lying for months.”

Ignoring the calling her a stupid bitch, I’m going to shout this forever until everyone finally gets this: BODILY REACTIONS DO NOT MEAN CONSENT NOR DO THEY MEAN YOU WANT OR ENJOY SOMETHING. RAPE DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN THAT ONE PARTY WAS HELD DOWN. EXTERNAL STIMULI USUALLY CAUSE BODILY REACTIONS WHETHER YOU WANT THEM OR NOT. And personally, I feel it’s irresponsible of the author to continue this misinformation of “well you were erect and ejaculated so you obviously enjoyed it so shut up”. Had this happened opposite (guy took advantage of girl) you can bet just about everyone would be up in arms about this (which is another issue I have altogether but I’ll address that later).

And then the interaction between Oliver and Will/Kentucky while they’re in the hospital:

“You didn’t–” Kentucky can’t even finish the thought. “Did you?”

Oliver shakes his head. “No, no, it was nothing like that. She wanted to, she’d be wanting to forever. But I told her I didn’t want to, that I wasn’t ready, and she did it anyway. And when I woke up, she didn’t tell me. Not for months. So isn’t that kind of like the same thing?”

“So you’re saying she–is that what you’re saying?”

Oliver winces. I don’t even know what I’m saying.” He remembers Althea screaming at him in the driveway: Christ, I’m not a fucking rapist. He didn’t argue with her, not on that point. Something about the word doesn’t feel right. It’s too broad, not specific enough to describe what Althea did to him. Kentucky can’t even say it out loud. “No, that’s not what I’m saying. Not exactly.

Kentucky looks baffled. “I don’t get it.”

“What don’t you get?”

“Is she ugly or something?”

“Fuck you, she’s beautiful.”

“Listen, I pulled out my dick in front of my mother. AK-47’s little sister is going to need years of psychotherapy. New Jersey got dumped for some infraction he’ll never even know about. That shit is irreparable. You just told me you got laid.”

“But it’s like I wasn’t even there.”

Irate, Kentucky leaps to his feet and points to the door. “New Jersey tried to fuck a window treatment! You fucked your beautiful best friend! What the hell are you doing here, man? Go find this girl and screw her brains out! And this time you’ll remember!”

I get it. Really I do. Teen boys and all. But this is kind of very flippant about everything. Beautiful or not rapists do NOT have a specific look. They look like *EVERYONE* because they can BE everyone.

This review also highlights the rape and does it more eloquently than I ever could.

TL;DR if your friendship with your best friend looks like Althea & Oliver’s it’s not a friendship and you should distance yourself from them.

Not a book I’d highly recommend but if you really have to then I’d check it out from the local library to be honest.

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Ghost Girl in the Corner
Ghost Girl in the Corner by Daniel José Older

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

 

Content warnings: lesbian relationship, death, drug mentions

I adored this book. It’s a nice novella to tide you over in between Shadowshaper and Shadowhouse Fall that’s coming out later this year. I haven’t read Bone Street Rumba but I did catch the character that appeared in this novella from that world. I also caught a lot of other references that I’m not going to mention because you’ll just have to read it and catch them yourself (and it’s so worth it trust me).

I adored the fact that this, like Shadowshaper, was a political commentary especially with regards to how police can and do tend to treat brown people when they go missing. Which basically comes down to the fact of if you’re not white they don’t particularly care as much.

The author also did this wonderful interview with himself about this book here which I advise all of you listen to. I definitely advise you read this book AFTER reading Shadowshaper (it’ll make SO MUCH MORE sense).

Buy it here:

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Shadowshaper
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

Content warnings: discussions or depictions of violence, racism, sexism, gentrification, family values, appropriation, family values, heterosexual relationships, lesbian relationships, police brutality, respectability politics, anti-blackness, misogyny, colorism, racial identity, white apathy,  ancestral memory, street harassment, slurs, ableism

This was my first book I read from this author. Like I’ve read the stuff he’s put up on his Wattpad account and follow his Twitter account and read the stuff he puts up on his website as well. So I knew going into this that I already liked his style of writing and I like his voice (both his speaking voice and his writing voice) as well as the things he says. Knowing all that going in, holy crap! I was still blown away by this book. THIS is a good example of what I mean when I say I want diverse books.

Once I started this, I did NOT want to stop reading it. And *HATED* having to put it down to do anything. I read it in once sitting essentially. With interruptions of having to deal with life things (unfortunately food is needed to survive so shopping was necessary). But like initially, the cover was what drew me in. It’s colourful. It’s GORGEOUS. It’s unapologetic. It not only fits the general theme of the book’s main character Sierra (especially her unapologetically being authentically herself which I *LOVED*) and the book itself but it sets the entire mood and theme of the book and helps you to really get into the book IMO. The cover photo was done by Michael Frost and the cover art and design was Christopher Stengel and they deserve so much appreciation and love for what they’ve helped to create for this book. Truly.

Nydia was one of my favourite characters and I want her to get her own library so badly in this series at some point. I loved Tee and Izzy as well. But I adored Nydia and Sierra the most. I also loved that there was no heroine hijacking in this book (where MC girl meets boy and suddenly the story is ALL about their love story and him instead of where it originally was going because that seriously irks me in books and is a huge thing in YA that happens). Sierra’s portrayal and her friendships felt real and authentic to me. Like they were people who I could run into were I to go out with the intention to meet people. I loved that her friends supported her but they weren’t guilted in the “if you don’t support everything I do then we’re not friends” way that some novels do. And that the ones who felt they couldn’t support this part by doing what everyone else was doing weren’t guilted into doing the thing. Yes some tried and it was stated that the characters felt bad that this person couldn’t be there for them to do this but they more or less understood and weren’t going to try and make them. Acknowledging the hurt and accepting it was an important thing to show since a lot of media especially geared at teens and female teens in particular like to focus on ignoring the fact that things like that can and will hurt and that it’s ok to tell a friend that you love and support them but can’t physically be there supporting them for this. We need more healthy depictions of friendships like that.

The acknowledgement of attraction to Robbie but not wanting to be too involved in him was also great. As was the discussion Sierra and Robbie had regarding his tattoos and his not fully knowing his heritage/ancestry.

One of my favourite quotes in the book comes from Sierra looking at herself in the mirror and giving herself her own pep talk.

Today she looked menacingly into the mirror and said: “I’m Sierra María Santiago. I am what I am. Enough.” She sighed. These days were spooky enough without her talking to herself. “More than enough.”

The last line especially. She is definitely more than enough. Everyone is. And I think that’s a quote that will resonate with people, especially teens. At least I hope it will.

I look forward to reading more in this series. It’s a  great first book. There’s background, there’s action, there’s conflict, there’s resolution, there’s a solid ending that is both ambiguous enough to continue but enough to leave you satisfied and happy that it’s an end.

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Written in the Stars
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 

Content warnings: kidnapping, drugs, marital rape, forced marriage, abduction, imprisonment, servitude, heterosexual relationships, forcibly making someone eat, abuse*

Firstly, Aisha Saeed has done a wonderful job with this book. I LOVE her note at the end about how even in religions and cultures where arranged marriages are a thing, that forced marriages are frowned on. And I especially loved that she put a list of resources in the back of the book. That was wonderful.

Second, this book ripped my heart out. I recommend it. And for those of you who are not Pakistani and/or do not come from similar cultural/religious types backgrounds to *NOT* paint all with the brush of the types depicted in this book (for those of us Americans who aren’t of cultural/religious backgrounds that participate in arranged marriages, which, from everything I’ve read, usually wind up being consented by the parties being married and wind up being happy marriages fwiw, imagine us all being depicted as the ignorant assholes who do ridiculous things like we deface historical buildingstaking indecent photos inside of holy sitesknown for defacing our own national parksthat even our celebrities deface our national parksand that hey, most of us are ok with celebs destroying sacred sites (while simultaneously having this faux outrage about a piece of fabric and “patriotism”) or even being the stereotypical white redneck being interviewed on Fox News about the natural disaster that has just ripped through the city/county/state and is dirty, unkempt, barely literate, more concerned about guns and religion than anything else, backwoods, (insert whatever other stereotype you want here).)

This was both engaging and heartbreaking. Because not only is it fictional but it’s also completely a thing that happens outside of fiction. And it’s a terrifying thing to think about and no doubt go through.

Now, in my content warnings, there’s an asterisk next to abuse. There’s a reason for that. What I, as an American, particularly a white American, who doesn’t come from a religion or culture where I wouldn’t be sold at a bride price or an arranged marriage (or in case of this book a forced one) or really anything of the sort see as abuse can be seen from a cultural and/or religious perspective as normal (see: swatting your kid once or twice on the butt for doing a thing you told them not to in the 80s vs now. Then it was just discipline/re-enforcement of the “no” and now it can be considered child abuse even if first time if someone else sees you do it). So, my perspective, some of the things in this book are very highly abusive in my experiences. However, in someone who is raised heavily in a religion or culture where things as described in book as punishments for disobedience are seen as “the norm” it might not be seen the same way. But I would very much consider forcing someone to eat who doesn’t want to eat as a form of abuse given the circumstances of the why and all that.

ALL of that said, I hope to see more books from this author. Hopefully not as heavy as this one but definitely more books with non white main characters following what they believe is right to do what they believe is right. I bought the book before I had even finished half of it because I wound up that engrossed in it. It’s not a purchase I regret.

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

 

Content warnings: death, heterosexual relationships, psychiatric treatment, mentions of WW2, mentions of bombings, mentions of the holocaust, mentions of abilities bordering on magical, minor gore mentions, kidnapping, attempts to force someone into something they don’t want to do, mentions of body horror (minor mostly), mentions of blood and gore, mentions of mental illnesses, gun violence

I really want to do more content warnings for this book. Truly. But if I do I fear it will spoil the book. So those are the minimum I feel comfortable doing.

This was a decent book. It didn’t necessarily drag me in like people have told me it would. But it also wasn’t terribly off putting. It was just somewhere in between. Decent we’ll say. There’s a lot of world building in this book. In fact, at least 3/4 of this book felt like world building (which, this isn’t the first book I’ve read that has done that and probably won’t be the last and isn’t necessarily good or bad it just is). Which, for what I think it’s setting up for is absolutely needed.

The version of the book I read has photos in it some depicting some of the aforementioned warnings above. So if you have issues with any of those visually you might want to do so on one of your better days and know that’s going to happen going into it.

Overall my feelings are generally neutral about this book and it will probably be more one of those hit and miss books. I liked that it didn’t skimp over certain details (especially being a YA book and teens don’t need to be handled with kid gloves despite what some people in America might think with their pearl clutching “think of the children” mindsets).

I had one thing that did unsettle me but I feel it’s kind of a spoiler to speak of it so for my review I’m not going to but those who have read this book who want to know/talk about it feel free to contact me via email or twitter and I’ll talk it over with y’all.

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