Reading

Crier’s War – Nina Varela | A Book Review

Title: Crier’s War

Author: Nina Varela

Genre: Fantasy (Young Adult)

About the book: It’s the first in a series with a female-female, enemies to lovers story. Ayla, a human girl, wants revenge by killing the sovereign’s daughter, Crier, an Automae. But after Alya becomes Crier’s handmaiden, both realize they aren’t that different from each other.

I received an advanced review copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I love a good fantasy read, so I was looking forward to this novel. The cover is beautiful.

Characters: I liked Ayla and Crier equally. They have their flaws, but I found them easy to root for. I enjoyed seeing their development alone as well as together. I will never not be a fan of diversity and representation, especially when it’s done well.

Quote:

“But if I give up, then what have I even been living for?”

Writing: The narrative alternates between the two main characters’ points of view. There’s a little romance near the end of the story. Varela is descriptive but not overly so.

Final thoughts: The ending doesn’t wrap up all the loose ends. Instead, it leaves many questions unanswered, setting the stage for the next book.

I highly recommend Crier’s War to fans of fantasy with LGBTQ+ representation.


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Reading

Break In Case Of Emergency – Brian Francis | A Book Review

Title: Break in Case of Emergency

Author: Brian Francis

Genre: Contemporary (Young Adult)

About the book: Toby Goodman’s mom committed suicide and her dad left before she was born. But now her father, a gay, female impersonator, comes home. When Toby’s plans to end her pain goes awry, she has to learn to pick up the pieces of her life and put them back together.

I received an advanced review copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I like the title and cover a lot. The premise intrigued me, so I was looking forward to reading it.

Characters: Toby develops a great deal throughout the course of the novel. Many of the characters are flawed in their own ways, which made it easy to relate to them.

Quote:

“It’s only when you lose something that you understand what it meant to you.”

Writing: The author explores topics such as mental health and suicide. In my opinion, Francis handles these issues really well. He doesn’t glamourize or trivialize anything.

The book isn’t too long, and the chapters are short. On one hand, it’s beautifully written; on the other, the story is so sad.

Final thoughts: The ending suits the rest of the story. Honestly, I wish I could’ve read this book when I was in high school.

I highly recommend Break in Case of Emergency if you want to read an emotional but important novel.


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Reading

A Treason Of Thorns – Laura E. Weymouth | A Book Review

Title: A Treason of Thorns

Author: Laura E. Weymouth

Genre: Fantasy (Young Adult)

About the book: It’s a stand-alone novel following Violet Sterling who has been in exile for seven years after her father committed treason. When she returns to her childhood home, Burleigh House, it’s in bad shape. Vi needs to decide what she’s willing to sacrifice in order to save her house.

I received an advanced review copy from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I haven’t read Weymouth’s debut, so I wasn’t too sure what to expect. That said, I love the cover and title. The beginning sets the stage for the rest of the story.

Characters: Violet is an interesting protagonist I could relate to, and she develops a good deal throughout the novel. Wyn is another main character who grew on me.

Quote:

“What if we don’t have to be who we were told to become?”

Writing: Weymouth is descriptive, describing many aspects of the world. The pacing is slower at the beginning and middle but picks up at the end. There’s not too much romance, just a little bit.

Final thoughts: The ending’s my favourite part of the book. Since it’s a standalone, loose ends are tied up.

A Treason of Thorns might not be for everybody, but if you enjoy fantasy with an unusual premise, consider checking it out. The novel is set in England with historical and magical realism elements.


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Obviously: Stories From My Timeline – Akilah Hughes | A Book Review

Title: Obviously: Stories From My Timeline

Author: Akilah Hughes

Genre: Nonfiction (personal essays)

About the book: It’s a collection of personal essays from Akilah Hughes’s perspective from being a spelling bee champion, moving to New York, and more.

I received an advanced review copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions:  I don’t read nonfiction often, much less personal essays, but the description intrigued me. The cover is beautiful.

Content: Hughes covers a mix of different subjects, ranging from her childhood to growing up and becoming an adult. I appreciate the author’s humour and perspective, especially in embarrassing or difficult situations. I understand that the book is about Akilah, and so the essays revolve around her, but her family and friends seem like very interesting people as well. I would have loved learning more about them.

Quote:

“I will do everything I want to do the way I want to do it, because that’s all there is.”

Writing: I enjoyed reading all the stories. They’re well-written, not too short or too long either. The book is under 300 pages.

Final thoughts: When I reached the end, I wanted more essays.

I would recommend Obviously: Stories From My Timeline to fans of Akilah Hughes or anyone interested in personal essays. There’s nothing quite like reading people’s stories to get to know them better.


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Reading

Missing Person – Sarah Lotz | A Book Review

Title: Missing Person

Author: Sarah Lotz

Genre: Mystery

About the book: It’s a standalone novel revolving around a bookseller named Shaun Ryan who learns that his uncle, Teddy, didn’t die in a car accident but rather he fled home and went missing. As more secrets start to come out, Shaun tries to discover what really happened to Teddy.

I received an advanced review copy from Hachette Book Group in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I was excited to delve into this story as I love a good mystery. The cover is well done, as it symbolizes an important part of the narrative.

Characters: There are a lot of characters, and two of them had similar names, so it took a little work keeping track of everybody. The novel follows four main characters, all of them with different flaws.

Quote:

“And there it was: the perfect life for the taking.”

Writing: It’s written in the third person with four POVs. Even though it’s tough to pull off multiple perspectives, I think Lotz did a good job balancing them all. The writing is detailed and descriptive. While the book is longer than I expected, the pacing wasn’t too slow for me. There are a lot of moving parts to the story, but I appreciate the connections.

Final thoughts: The author comes full circle at the end, typing up loose ends. That said, it left me wanting more.

I’d recommend Missing Person to fans of suspenseful reads that plays out similar to an episode of Criminal Minds.


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Reading

A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook – Riche Billing | A Book Review

Title: A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook

Author: Riche Billing

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing)

About the book: This is a guide on the writing and publishing process, specifically focusing on fantasy. It was independently publishing and came out earlier this year.

I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I don’t write much fantasy, but I love reading about writing, so I was excited.

Content: There’s a little bit of everything from writing to editing to marketing. The author compiles some useful resources such as a list of publications that accept fantasy stories. Billing also quotes other authors and includes comments from readers. I found the sections on weapons and armour especially interesting.

Quote:

“You have something to give to the world.”

Writing: The book isn’t super long at around 300 pages, broke up into chapters. They’re informative, giving a basic overview of topics like fighting and world-building.

Final thoughts: Overall, this is a helpful guide for writers. Even if you aren’t a fantasy author, a lot of the advice applies across all genres. If you’re looking for a useful book that covers different parts of the writing process, check out A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook.


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Reading

Saints And Curses – Alexis Langten | A Book Review

Title: Saints and Curses

Author: Alexis Langten

Genre: Fantasy (Anthology)

About the book: It’s a collection of fantastical short stories.

I received a free copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: I don’t know of many fantasy short story collections, but I do tend to enjoy fantasy novels, so I was looking forward to reading this anthology.

Characters: There are a lot of different characters, and even though the stories aren’t long, I still found myself liking or relating to many of them. The stories mainly follow a protagonist with a few secondary individuals.

Quote:

“None of the things I loved could ever make me any money.”

Writing: For the most part, the stories are short. Some run longer than others, and at the end, the author includes a few very short ones that fit the length of a tweet.

I appreciated how most of the stories started off realistic with fantastical or magical elements appearing a little later. It was nice to feel grounded in a real-world setting first, which in my opinion, made the magic more believable.

Final thoughts: It’s a short book at under 200 pages filled with a number of stories about fantasy. If that sounds like your cup of tea, consider checking out Saints and Curses.


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Reading

The Downstairs Girl – Stacey Lee | A Book Review

Title: The Downstairs Girl

Author: Stacey Lee

Genre: Historical Fiction (Young Adult)

About the book: It follows a Chinese teenager named Jo Kuan. She works as a maid by day and writes an anonymous advice column by night. Jo challenges commonly held ideas of race and gender in 1800s Atlanta, which leads to backlash from readers.

I received an advanced review copy from Penguin Random House in exchange for an honest review.

First impressions: The cover sold me. I was also intrigued by the title and premise.

Characters: Jo is curious and resourceful. I saw so much of myself in her. I enjoyed seeing the different individuals develop as the story went on. I wasn’t too fond of certain characters early on, yet they grew on me.

I love diversity and representation of traditionally marginalized groups, especially when it’s done right.

Quote:

“One should never confuse cost with value.”

Writing: There’s a little bit of romance but not too much. I’m no expert on how people in Atlanta around 1980 spoke, but in my opinion, the language seems to capture that time period well.

Final thoughts: The novel gets better, and the ending is satisfying.

I highly recommend The Downstairs Girl especially if you’re a fan of historical fiction. Even if you aren’t, it’s an eye-opening read that explores racism and sexism from different perspectives.


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