I am very lucky with the books I get to read this year – I have had the opportunity to read and review most of my most anticipated books so far, and they don’t disappoint. 2021 is the year of diverse sapphic books and I’m all here for it. Black Water Sister is going to be playing in the highest leagues, and it’s a delicious story (it’s not just beautifully written, there’s also a lot of food mentioned).
Massive thanks to Macmillan and NetGalley for the eARC, all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 10/06/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: As Jessamyn packs for Malaysia, it’s not a good time to start hearing a bossy voice in her head. Broke, jobless and just graduated, she’s abandoning America to return ‘home’. But she last saw Malaysia as a toddler – and is completely unprepared for its ghosts, gods and her eccentric family’s shenanigans.
Jess soon learns her ‘voice’ belongs to Ah Ma, her late grandmother. She worshipped the Black Water Sister, a local deity. And when a business magnate dared to offend her goddess, Ah Ma swore revenge. Now she’s decided Jess will help, whether she wants to or not.
As Ah Ma blackmails Jess into compliance, Jess fights to retain control. But her irrepressible relative isn’t going to let a little thing like death stop her, when she can simply borrow Jess’s body to make mischief. As Jess is drawn ever deeper into a world of peril and family secrets, getting a job becomes the least of her worries. (from Macmillan)
OPINIONS: Black Water Sister is one of those magical novels that just captivate you and suck you into their world and teach you about our world in the process. Deeply rooted in Malaysian Chinese society, but told through the lens of Jess, raised in America and returning to Malaysia as an adult, this is a story of family, grief, and, yes, religion. Shortly after she arrives in Malaysia, the spirit of her grandmother starts possessing Jess and she gets pulled into a world of spirits, gangsters and gods.
Jess’s life is dominated by her family and trying to fit into the narrow confines of the expectations she believes her parents have for her. She is not straight, but she will also not ever admit to being gay – which means that she is keeping her girlfriend a massive secret from everyone in her life. This causes huge issues between them and Jess needs to figure out not only who she is and what she wants but also how far she is willing to risk her family’s approval to get it. And while I can’t speak to how well this was portrayed in terms of the culture it is set in – which is the one Zen Cho is from – I thought that Jess’s struggles were well done and relatable. She was a great leading character, a woman in her twenties, trying to juggle figuring out where she wants her life to go with her family’s expectations.
I generally felt that Black Water Sister managed to balance all its parts well. The characters were fleshed out, not just Jess, but also Ah Ma, her grandmother’s ghost, and many of the other minor and major players. The world was plastic, and the plot was consistently paced with high tension throughout. I can’t wait to re-read it and dive back into its world. This is a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it.
It is no secret that I love me some good middle grade. And macabre middle grade playing with black humour and accompanied by adorable illustrations? YES PLEASE! This is the perfect kind of book for those reluctant readers that are just about to enter middle grade territory.
Massive thanks to Little Tiger for sending me a review copy! All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 04/03/2021
STAR RATING: 4/5 ✶
SUMMARY: On Brutalia violence is a way of life. Ravenous ravens circle overhead, monstrous grot bears cause chaos and the streets are bulging with brawls. But Mort isn’t like the other islanders – he’s determined to live peacefully. His struggle is made even tougher when the cruel queen appoints Mort as Royal Executioner. No one has challenged the royals and lived to tell the tale. Can Mort keep his head and outwit the queen? (from Little Tiger)
OPINIONS: This is such an adorable story. I really loved Mort as a main character. The way the story was written and played with black humour added a lot of appeal to it and I think this will be great for reluctant readers at the lower end of the middle grade spectrum. George Ermos’ illustrations give the story another dimension and I found them sweet and playfully macabre at the same time.
Personally, I felt like the wordplay was occasionally a bit too much and the humour too on the nose, but that is my impression as an adult reader – Mort the Meek might cause the occasional eyeroll from adult supervisors, but it will be taken up enthusiastically by its young audience. I can just imagine children trying to imitate scenes from the book! Kid me would most definitely have loved this, and adult me is kind of sad that the kids in my life are just a bit too young for it. but in a few years…
Today, I’m thrilled to present my stop on the Titan Books Blog Tour for The Witch’s Heart by Genevieve Gornichec. This has been out for a while in the US, but the shiny UK paperback just came out this week! While I’m personally partial to the US cover, Genevieve has been lucky to get two very different but gorgeous covers for her debut based on Norse mythology. I absolutely loved it, and can wholeheartedly recommend this with a full five stars.
SUMMARY: Angrboda’s story begins where most witch tales end: with being burnt. A punishment from Odin for sharing her visions of the future with the wrong people, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the furthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be the trickster god Loki, and her initial distrust of him—and any of his kind—grows reluctantly into a deep and abiding love.
Their union produces the most important things in her long life: a trio of peculiar children, each with a secret destiny, whom she is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.
Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family—or rise to remake it.
OPINIONS: Hi you need to read this queer story based on Norse mythology. I love Angrboda. She is a wonderful leading lady, a complex character not easily reduced to anything. And Loki is just… Loki. Smug bastard, in all his weird and wonderful glory as a trickster. I might also be slightly in love with Skadi, just as Angrboda is. She is amazing, and while she is a badass, she is also kind of a cinnamon roll and super supportive and just, everything that one might wish for in a partner.
Genevieve manages to take these elements of Norse mythology and craft them into a magnificent tale of her own, an epic fantasy that is nevertheless contained in a volume that does not threaten to smother its reader by sheer volume. All the pieces of the story fit together, and when I read it, it was exactly what I needed in that precise moment. I am already looking forward to rereading it – and these days, I don’t get around to doing a lot of rereading, so that’s high praise!
I can’t wait to see what Genevieve comes up with next, and I look forward to seeing where her journey as a writer takes her – if I enjoyed her debut this much, and found it this well-crafted, it can only get better from here, and I have high hopes. If you enjoy epic historical fantasy along the lines of Madeline Miller or Lucy Holland’s Sistersong, or even more Grimdark takes on Norse stories such as those by John Gwynne, you’ll probably like this one a lot.
Last summer (let’s be honest, FAR too long ago), Team Bkmrk was kind enough to send me a full set of books for their #ReadWithPride campaign that they are doing with Lucy Powrie – As I’ve been reading a lot of hefty adult fantasy, this stack of queer YA has been proving a great summer distraction (and then taken me all winter to actually finish with them because I am a horrible person and can’t be trusted), and I thought I’d share mini-reviews of all of the lovely books with you!
A massive thank you to Hachette Children’s Publishing for providing me with the books!
Heartstopper is the first volume of the print version of a webcomic focusing on two teenage boys falling in love. It is adorable and emotional – I read this in a single sitting while feeling lonely one night and almost cried. It makes me so happy that books like this exist and are accessible nowadays – I think I would have figured out quite a few things about myself a lot earlier if YA was as inclusive in the early 2000s as it is now (even if it isn’t perfect). Alice Oseman poignantly tells the story of Nick and Charlie as they navigate being queer, teenagers, and coming-of-age in today’s Britain, accompanied by wonderful art. I very much recommend and I can’t wait to keep reading this series.
Becoming Dinah by Kit de Waal is a modern reimagining of Moby Dick – it took me quite a while to grasp that and the references to it, as it was not clear from the blurb (should have guessed, given that one of the characters was named Ahab, but that’s heatwave and Covid brain for you). It is the story of a teenager discovering her sexuality and coming to terms with her life, told through the lens of a dusty classic that most of us have only heard of. Kit de Waal manages to make the story accessible, relevant and immediate, though for me the stakes of the story didn’t come through enough. It led to the tension lagging and the pace dragging a bit, but that might be more due to me as a reader than the book itself, as I do rarely read contemporaries these days.
Eight Pieces of Silva by Patrice Lawrence was one of the books on the stack that tempted me most – but it didn’t work for me at all. I almost DNF’d it so many times, as to me, the plot was not believeable at all. This is the story of Silva and Becks, London teenagers left alone while their newly married parents are on honeymoon. A story of obsession, love and its aftermath. I know this sounds weird coming from a fantasy reader, but when I read contemporary, I do have to be able to somewhat see the story as realistic. Maybe it is due to a cultural disconnect from how and where I grew up, but this didn’t work for me, though reviews indicate it does for many others.
Alice in Wonderland is my favourite classic. It is wonderfully weird and quirky and nonsensical, and I love it more than anything. Wonderland by Juno Dawson is just as strange and wonderful. Technically the third in a series of interconnected novels, it reads just as well as a standalone – it is the first of Dawson’s works I have read and I did not feel like I was missing out on anything. The Wonderland allegories are sometimes very heavy-handed, but that is what created the magic for me: half contemporary thriller about a trans girl, half crazy psychodelic trip through Wonderland. It is not fully realistic, nor a work of fantasy, but something in between – I enjoyed it a lot. Alice’s transness and bisexuality – and unashamed sexuality – just happened to be part of the story rather than the main element being interrogated, which was refreshing. Yay for incidental queerness!
After that, Only Mostly Devastated was the calm after the storm. Back to the roots of contemporary YA rom-com. Refreshing, cute, but still nuanced, the story of Will and Ollie is a cute summer read – exactly what the doctor ordered to distract myself from my problems. After they have a summer fling, Ollie finds himself moving to the same town as his crush Will, only to realise that Will isn’t out yet… Chaos and shenanigans ensue, they run hot and cold, and the importance of friendship and being true to yourself is explored.
Sadly, I did not enjoy Can Everyone Please Calm Down? by Mae Martin at all. Conceived as a sort of guidebook to modern sexuality it read more as a very self-indulgent autobiography of coming to terms with the author’s own sexuality in a supportive environment rather than being a helpful handbook for struggling teens. The tone was often cringeworthy and had me rolling my eyes throughout. I think a book more along the lines of Kelly Jensen’s recent anthology Body Talk specifically aimed at sexuality would hit the spot much more (see here for my review of the anthology).
The same is true of Read With Pride by Lucy Powrie. I was not able to connect with the book at all and ended up abandoning it after about eighty pages. I think part was as I am clearly too old to be the target audience for the novel, as it is a lower-YA aimed book, but also I felt like issues were over-explained and plot elements were too predictable. But as the book has a 4.22 rating on Goodreads, it is likely more of a me-thing than anything else!
The Black Flamingo by Dean Atta was probably my favourite book out of the bunch. On paper, it’s not my thing at all – I’m not a poetry person and this is a novel in verse, but I fell in love with it. It is raw and honest and deals with figuring out who you are away from home as you grow into being an adult. I thought it was brilliant and devoured it in a single sitting. And oh, how strong its sense of fuck you to society and conformity is. This is the kind of book every teen needs, especially teens with marginalised identities. Michael is a fabulous leading character, because he doesn’t have any answers, he makes them up as he goes and is just as clueless as most of us are.
Last, but not least, The Deathless Girls by Kiran Millwood Hargrave. This is the only book on the list that I’d read beforehand – I’d pre-ordered it in hardback and was now sent it in paperback too. This is the story of Dracula’s brides, and how they came to be. It is a story of fierce girls, of sisters who love each other more than anything, while being incredibly competitive with each other. It also features a very sweet sapphic relationship between two traumatised girls – I’m all here for the slow-burn and helping each other heal. And Kiran’s writing is stunning – she is a brilliant writer in all her book, be it this YA or her MG or adult work.
Yeah, so, I’m not a contemporary reader. The older I get, the more I realise that it’s connected to growing up in a very different setting to the ones represented in most books – Switzerland is an utterly different world to the UK or US that it’s a completely different conversation from the diversity conversations that are had in publishing at the moment. And this is not me complaining – merely musing on why I’ve been struggling to relate to contemporary stories, especially in a YA space. But then, there come these rare gems that transcend that by being such powerful stories of self-discovery that they leave a profound impact on the reader. And Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender is such a story.
Many many thanks to Bethany Carter and Faber Books for sending me an ARC of Felix Ever After for review. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 18/05/2021
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Felix Love has never been in love – and, yes, he’s painfully aware of the irony. He desperately wants to know what it’s like and why it seems so easy for everyone but him to find someone. What’s worse is that, even though he is proud of his identity, Felix also secretly fears that he’s one marginalisation too many – Black, queer and transgender – to ever get his own happily-ever-after.
When an anonymous student begins sending him transphobic messages – after publicly posting Felix’s deadname alongside images of him before he transitioned – Felix comes up with a plan for revenge. What he didn’t count on: his catfish scenario landing him in a quasi–love triangle . . .
But as he navigates his complicated feelings, Felix begins a journey of questioning and self-discovery that helps redefine his most important relationship: how he feels about himself.
OPINIONS: Hi, yes, this broke me. I love it with my whole heart, but it also led to much questioning of my whole identity – in a good way. Felix’ struggles with coming to terms with his identity and figuring out who he is deep down are extremely relatable and dig deeper than your average contemporary YA novel. While the setting of it is deeply rooted in its YA story, the issues that Felix faces are universal, and are ones that confront adults in their twenties, even their thirties just as much.
What are our relationships with our friends at their core? Who are we, really? And who do we value most? While I obviously can’t speak to the portrayal of the black or transgender experience, this twenty-eight year old queer got reaffirmed in queerness and discovered new things about myself that I was not able to put into words before. It is really to Kacen’s credit that they can manage to write such excellent books in a variety of genres – I haven’t read their middle grade books, but I really liked Queen of the Conquered and King of the Rising, the duology is nominated for the Subjective Kind of Chaos Awards, and you can read my review for King here. Not many authors show that range and sustained level of quality throughout all of their ventures, I am impressed. They are a treasure and I can’t wait to see where their career takes them next.
This really is a brilliant book throughout, and one that transcends over its status as a YA novel. It is highly recommended for anyone who might be thinking about their own gender or sexuality, or just generally likes to read widely. I love it with my whole heart even if it destroyed me at times.
The entire first print run of the UK paperback will have AMAZING flowery sprayed edges. So I highly suggest you actually pre-order this one and don’t just wait until you maybe see it in a bookshop at some point, because you might miss out on the epic first edition. Add Felix Ever After to Goodreads here, and pre-order your copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Cryptic title today. But it’s simply the main themes of the three novels that get mini reviews here: This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria, A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth and Nowhere on Earth by Nick Lake. I received NetGalley ARCs of all of these – thank you so much to the respective publicists – and as usual, all opinions are my own.
This Golden Flame by Emily Victoria is the story of Karis, a girl separated from her family long ago. She lives on an island belonging to the Scriptorium, a faction set on reactivating an automaton army. But then, Karis accidentally awakens Alix, an automaton with a mind of his own who has been deactivated for two centuries. This starts her on a quest that involves finding her family and rebellion. It is a compelling YA novel about standing up against an oppressive regime and fighting for what you believe in, but not an outstanding one. It feels like quite a few other recent titles, fitting well into the market but not innovating it. What I did really like about This Golden Flame is that Karis is outspokenly ace, and the story focused on friendships rather than romance. You can order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
A Dark and Hollow Star by Ashley Shuttleworth is a YA fantasy romp. Set in Toronto around a group of (more or less) teens with supernatural backgrounds – there are fae, there is an ex-fury and more – the main characters try to solve a string of murders before it is too late. It is very queer, and it is a lot of fun. But ultimately, the story didn’t live up to my expectations. I found the characters flat and felt little emotional investment. I simply did not care what happened. It is a perfectly solid book though, great escapism, and I can see how it would likely work better for readers who are huge fans of the Folk of the Air series or Sarah J. Maas’s books. Copies are available from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Nowhere on Earth by Nick Lake is set in Alaska, which makes it stand out. It is the story of Emily and her ‘brother’ Aidan, who turns out to be an alien, triggering a protective reflex in humans. They are on the run from pursuers, and on the way to a facility that will let Aidan call for rescue from Earth. It is a compelling read, flies by very fast, but there isn’t much substance to it. It felt like it kept missing the mark for me, whenever I thought that we were going to get some emotion and depth, the story moved on. It is clearly YA based on the MC, but from the way themes were addressed it had more of a MG feel to it. And that made the whole book seem a bit disjointed to me. I still enjoyed reading it, but I’m not really tempted to pick up more of the author’s work. Copies are available via Bookshop here, if you’re tempted (affiliate link).
Just like many of you, I really miss exploring the world. I miss going new places so much, but for now I have to do all my traveling with the help of novels for now. So I’m very happy that I’ve got to read some books with wonderful worlds recently – and here are mini reviews for a few of them!
These Feathered Flames by Alexandra Overy takes you to a Slavic inspired world, in a queer retelling of the story of the Firebird. Izaveta and Asya are sisters, one raised at court as the future ruler and the other with her aunt, the Firebird. The Firebird is a creature of magic, making deals with the people for favours in exchange for a steep price. This is a beautifully written tale of magic, sisterhood and growing up. It has all the elements of a great story, the kind of YA fantasy escapism that the world needs right now. It evokes some similar vibes to Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha series or Lana Popivic’s Wicked Like Wilfire duology. I love it – I preordered my copy ages ago, and I can’t wait to reread this in its finished form. It came out on the 20th of April, and you can get your own copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Our next stop on this tour is the Spanish inspired Puerto Leones of Zoraida Cordova’s Illusionary. This is the second in a duology. Incendiary, the first one was one of the most compelling YA fantasy novels I read in 2020, and this follow-up takes everything I loved about it and made it even better. Renata Convida is a great leading lady, and the reader can’t help but be charmed by the rebel prince of Puerto Leones, Castian (and his brother Dez, raised by actual rebels). All of the characters undergo massive growth arcs over the course of the story, and I loved the way the book ended. It felt very apt, without being overly cliché. And we get to spend time with Leo again who is just an amazing cinnamon roll of a person. If you haven’t checked this series out yet, please do. Illusionary will be released on the 11th of May, and you can order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood takes you to Ethiopia. This reimagining of the classic Jane Eyre story interprets the heroine as a debtera, a religious sort of exorcist. Andromeda, orphan, thrown out by her mentor, takes a job in a fancy manor house, owned by a mysterious and rich man. While it largely follows the known storyline of the classic, Lauren Blackwood manages to twist it into something new and unexpected. Yes, obviously Andromeda and her dark and brooding employer end up together as they do in Charlotte Brontë’s version, but the journey there is what makes this interesting. It is deeply rooted in its Ethiopian background, and also explores the role of foreign, colonial, influences. This won’t be out until the 9th of November, but preorders are open, and you can get a copy via Blackwells here.
Last, but not least, our trip around the globe takes us to the US, to Oregon. You’ve Reached Sam by Dustin Thao is a contemporary YA, though with a supernatural twist. Julie is shortly before high school graduation when Sam, her boyfriend, dies in a car accident. The story follows her as she navigates her grief, and rebuilds her life after this massive upheaval. But this isn’t made easier by her being able to call Sam on her phone. Somehow, they are able to have conversations across the boundaries between life and death, and Julie gets a chance to say goodbye all over again. This is heart-wrenching – though not as emotional as I was expecting it to be. But it’s still a very solid read, even if I personally didn’t fall in love with it. This is also not out until November, but you can pre-order a copy from Blackwell’s here.
So, a couple of hours I got an email from Edelweiss. The notification that I’ve been granted a digital ARC of The Heartbreak Bakery. I’ve had a bit of a crappy day today, so I thought I’d check out the beginning. Only, I just raced through the whole story and love it so much that I can’t wait to write about it. This is exactly what I needed, probably the queerest book I’ve ever read, and absolutely brilliant.
Massive thanks to Candlewick Press and Edelweiss for the eARC. All opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 12/10/2021
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: Syd (no pronouns, please) has always dealt with big, hard-to-talk-about things by baking. Being dumped is no different, except now Syd is baking at the Proud Muffin, a queer bakery and community space in Austin. And everyone who eats Syd’s breakup brownies . . . breaks up. Even Vin and Alec, who own the Proud Muffin. And their breakup might take the bakery down with it. Being dumped is one thing; causing ripples of queer heartbreak through the community is another. But the cute bike delivery person, Harley (he or they, check the pronoun pin, it’s probably on the messenger bag), believes Syd about the magic baking. And Harley believes Syd’s magical baking can fix things, too—one recipe at a time. (from Candlewick)
OPINIONS: This book. It’s EXACTLY what I needed today – just like Syd’s baked goods would be. I adore the story, the characters, the writing. I’m probably slightly biased because the book worked so well for me today – but I think even without the context, it is pretty damn amazing. I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed a book this quickly – it’s only been about two hours since I got my hands on it. This is why I am a reviewer – magical books that will find their perfect audience in the right moment and make a difference to someone’s life.
One of my favourite things about The Heartbreak Bakery is that it includes actual recipes. Some of them for abstract things, but many of them for baked goods, complete with Syd’s intention. And you can bet that I’m going to bake that strawberry peach basil pie ASAP. I’m very very hungry after reading this story… Also it might well be the queerest thing I’ve ever read. And I’ve been reading Anna-Marie McLemore and Charlie Jane Anders for a long time. So you know, standards are high.
And the characters are absolutely brilliant. Syd is going through so much character growth, it’s amazing to see, and her queer group of people around her are both interesting and heartwarming. This is a character-driven book, with hints of magic, and a lot of humour. When I think about what I consider a comfort read, this is exactly that – I think it will also appeal to readers who have loved T.J. Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea. It has those same kind of magical and comfy vibes. I love The Heartbreak Bakery with my whole heart.
This is a book you simply need. It is magic. Add it to Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy from my favourite queer indie Portal Bookshop here. I know it’s not out for a while, but please support the author and get yourself an advance present!
This book blew my mind in the best possible way. Historical epic fantasy set in India, with two amazing sapphic leads. I was only a few pages in when I messaged a friend to yell about how much I love Priya. This was also a rare book that I started the day I received it (though it did take me a week to read it). I really hope this review doesn’t devolve in incoherent squeeing!
Massive thanks to Orbit (and also especially the friend who was kind enough to let me read her ARC), all opinions are my own.
RELEASE DATE: 08/06/2021
STAR RATING: 5/5 ✶
SUMMARY: One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne.
The other is a priestess searching for her family.
Together, they will change the fate of an empire.
Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of powerful magic – but is now little more than a decaying ruin.
Priya is a maidservant, one of several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to attend Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, as long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides. But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled… (from Orbit)
OPINIONS: This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I had to take breaks because it was just so full of relatable quotes, and I needed to process the awesomeness. I am absolutely in love with this book, and Tasha, feel free to keep stomping all over my heart any time. I need the sequel as soon as possible (yes, I’m aware that The Jasmine Throne isn’t out yet and won’t be for a while). Also, I need to learn more about medieval-ish India, because I’m fascinated by the world that this is set in. It’s not a pleasant world for everyone – and especially the roles of women are heavily regulated, but it is so interesting.
And damn, those characters. Priya and Malini are both god-tier leads, but I’m partial to Priya. She is such a badass and I am completely in love with her. Their relationship with each other is a joy to read – and it makes me very happy that there is not a huge focus on smooth sailing and a HEA. While there is a romance in the book, this is not a romance book at all. There is bickering and tension, and a strong foundation in friendship below it all. The characters are all fleshed out, even very minor players in the story aren’t just two-dimensional inserts but have their own wants and goals.
I already can’t wait to reread this when I get my hands on a finished copy, that’s how good this is. Add The Jasmine Throne to your Goodreads here, and pre-order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Wench by Maxine Kaplan is one of those books I picked up because it sounded vaguely interesting, but I ended up liking a lot more than I expected. It is the story of a tavern wench, Tanya, who, after losing the tavern she was supposed to inherit, accidentally bonds with a magical quill that had been stolen. This is the start of a life she has never imagined possible. Wench is funny, addictive and sweet. It is also queer (I think Tanya is either bi or pan and likely poly, but because of the setting it’s not addressed directly). This is YA escapist fantasy how it should be. Don’t expect a deep story but be prepared to disappear into fantasy land for a few hours. Order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Now, it’s no secret that I love fairy-tale like stories, especially twisted ones. And The Shadow in the Glass by J.J.A. Harwood is one of the good ones. It is a story in which the main character, Ella, goes from innocent Cinderella-type to the villain in her own story. She is offered a deal by her fairy godmother, but this is no Disney fairy. It corrupts here and unaware, Ella does things she never thought possible of herself. I devoured this deliciously dark story and can’t wait to read more of the author. It is the kind of book you get emotionally invested in and suffer along with the characters. Give this twisty tale a shot! Order a copy from Bookshop here (affiliate link).
Honor Among Thieves by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine has been out for a while, but I only read it recently (why am I so terrible with reading books I should read?!). This is a story of a future in which Earth has been contacted by aliens, the Leviathan. Think of them as a sort of giant space whales. Each year, a group of humans gets invited to join the Leviathan on a journey through space, using them as a sort of living spaceship. And now Zara Cole, who grew up on the streets as part of a criminal gang, has been invited. She travels into space on board Nadim, and learns about the universe in ways she did not expect. I read this in a single sitting, it is so addictive. I was very excited because this is a story that focuses on character building and friendship rather than romance. I wouldn’t classify this fully as an asexual series, as it goes a bit into that in the second volume, but I would definitely recommend it as a book that goes in that direction. The authors have managed to build a fascinating world in this series, although I didn’t love book two as much as the first one. Still need to read the third, but I’m really looking forward to it! Order a copy via Bookshop here (affiliate link).