Reviews

Review: Good Neighbors, by Stephanie Burgis

Blue title card with a book cover on the left, and the title of the post on the right. 
The book cover on the left is pink-purple with the shadow of a castle and a dead tree in the background. There is a black line for the ground. Above, the word GOOD in Black capital letters with an ornate gate on the first O and a spiderweb on the second O. A man with a hat and a cane stands on the left, a woman in a dress stands on the left, all in black shadows. A raven is perched on the D. Below ground, the word "neighbor" in ornate black letters. 

The title  on the right of the card reads: Review: Good Neighbors by Stephanie Burgis. There are flowery decorations in purple and green tones above and below.

Whoo, it’s been a while since I’ve posted an actual review! One reason is that I’ve read decent stuff, but nothing that truly sparked joy. This book, though! For context, Stephanie ran a giveaway back in… February maybe? Some time ago anyways, for her newsletter subscribers. So I nabbed this for free, and it’s been at the back of my mind since then.

Then over the weekend, I was in the mood for a short and sweet romance, and I thought, let’s do it! Readers, I was not disappointed. My sleep schedule took a hit though, as I absolutely had to finish it, even if it took me to 3am… that’s what bank holidays are for, though, right?

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ARC review: Spelunking through Hell, by Seanan Mcguire

So as some of you might know, I’m a big fan of Seanan McGuire. I’ve made it one of my goals this year to reread all of the October Daye series (I’m at the start of book 6 now, thanks largely to audiobooks), but I also enjoyed what I’ve read of the InCryptid series quite a lot, so I jumped on the chance to grab this review copy from netgalley. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the free copy in exchange for an honest review!

The Story

Now in trade paperback, the eleventh book in the fast-paced InCryptid urban fantasy series returns to the mishaps of the Price family, eccentric cryptozoologists who safeguard the world of magical creatures living in secret among humans.

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My Top Horror Reads

Tile card in teal colour with flowery decorations, reading "top horror reads" in bold letters

I’m the first to say I don’t particularly enjoy horror books. I don’t naturally gravitate towards them. But sometimes you do read a book that stays with you, and horror novels do tend to stay with me. So I thought I’d make a little list with my favourites. I know it’s nowhere near halloween and all that, but I rarely end up reading horror books in October anyway, and just grab them whenever I’m in the right mood.

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ARC Review: Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar Nelson, by Tara T. Green

I’m still hoping to read more nonfiction books in 2022, so I jumped on the chance to get this one through NetGalley – the biography of a queer, Black woman who was a writer and activist from the late 1800s to the 1930s.

The Book

Love, Activism, and the Respectable Life of Alice Dunbar-Nelson is about the love one Black woman had for her race, of men and women, and, finally, of herself.
Born in New Orleans in 1875 to a mother who was a former slave and a father of questionable identity, Alice Dunbar-Nelson was a pioneering woman who actively addressed racial and gender inequalities as a writer, suffragette, educator, and activist. While in her 20s, she took the national stage from New Orleans as an early Black feminist, active with the Black Club Women’s Movement. From there, she built important relationships with leaders in New York, Wilmington, DE, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. She used her fiction, drama, poetry, and journalism to give voice to immigrants, poor people, women, Black people, and Creoles of color. Despite chronic illnesses, financial instability, and other struggles, her diaries reveal the ways she put herself first for the good of her mind and body, practices that became necessary after surviving an abusive relationship with Paul Laurence Dunbar—the first of three husbands.
Tara T. Green builds on Black feminist, sexuality, historical and cultural studies to construct a biographical study that examines Dunbar-Nelson’s life as a respectable activist-a woman who navigated complex challenges associated with resisting racism and sexism, and who defined her sexual identity and sexual agency within the confines of respectability politics.

The Review

TW: rape, sexual, emotional and physical abuse, sexism, racism.

I know Netgalley insists on giving star ratings, but I find this extremely hard when it comes to a nonfiction book, especially on a subject I’m not familiar with, from sources I’ve not seen. For me, as long as it seems logically and ethically sound, and I’m learning something… Look, it’s a biography, I can’t even say I like Alice, because that isn’t the point.

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Shakespeare book adaptions: The good, the bad, the ugly

If you don’t know it already, I’m a Shakespeare Nerd. I wrote my master’s dissertation on queer productions of Shakespeare. One of my hobbies is to read adaptations of the plays, because I love a good modernization or reworking, and there’s so much interesting stuff that can be done with this dude’s work. He’s not a Classic ™ for nothing.

But having read a number of adaptations also means I’ve encountered a fair share of books that made me go “yikes” and “nope”. Sharing now with you: my short guide to the good and the bad of Shakespeare adaptations, as well as some non-book stuff I want to highlight, starting with…

The Bad

These aren’t just books I did not like. They have Something Wrong With Them that made me absolutely pissed off. These are fights I’m ready to fight with the authors. I don’t normally post negative shit like this, but for these books I make an exception. These are my ultimate “do not read, if you love yourself”.

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Book Review: Soulstar, by C. L. Polk

This is the last novel in the Kingston Cycle, and I had to wait a little bit for the audiobook to become available, but it was worth the wait. You can see my reviews of Witchmark and Stormsong as well. There will be possible spoilers for the first two books at least, in the review below.

Do the three covers together make a bisexual flag? You bet!

The Synopsis

With Soulstar, C. L. Polk concludes her riveting Kingston Cycle, a whirlwind of magic, politics, romance, and intrigue that began with the World Fantasy Award-winning Witchmark. Assassinations, deadly storms, and long-lost love haunt the pages of this thrilling final volume.

For years, Robin Thorpe has kept her head down, staying among her people in the Riverside neighborhood and hiding the magic that would have her imprisoned by the state. But when Grace Hensley comes knocking on Clan Thorpe’s door, Robin’s days of hiding are at an end. As freed witches flood the streets of Kingston, scrambling to reintegrate with a kingdom that destroyed their lives, Robin begins to plot a course that will ensure a freer, juster Aeland. At the same time, she has to face her long-bottled feelings for the childhood love that vanished into an asylum twenty years ago.

Can Robin find happiness among the rising tides of revolution? Can Kingston survive the blizzards that threaten, the desperate monarchy, and the birth throes of democracy? Find out as the Kingston Cycle comes to an end.

The Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Trigger warnings: forced institutionalization, forced pregnancy, physical abuse and neglect, executions, police brutality, tear gas, abusive family (non exhaustive list, it’s been a while).

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Book review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Tessa gifted me the hardback for this for my birthday (yes, yes, that was a few months back) and I finally got my sh#t together to read it, by buddy-reading it with Nikki. It was fun to be able to discuss it together and made the experience all the more enjoyable.

Book cover for Six Crimson Cranes. A landscape in pastel shades of blue and pink, with mountains and a japanese style palace in the background, plants also in blue and pink with gold foil in the foreground.  In the bottom third of the cover, a lady in an intricate kimono sits with our back to us, her long dark hair pinned up with a golden pin. Above the palace, the title reads in black: Six Crimson Cranes. A red lantern is in the middle of the O. Six white cranes with a spot of red on their heads swoop down in an arc above and to the left of the title.
This picture just does not do it justice

The Synopsis

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

The Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

First off, I gotta gush about the cover for a minute. I mean, it is absolutely stunning, and the hardcover is a neat cream colour under the dust jacket, with the spine in foil. It’s also one of the rare cases where an author wins the cover lottery and both the US and UK covers are gorgeous as hell.

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Review: A Master of Djinn, by P. Djèlí Clark

On this blog, we stan P. Djèlí Clark. I’ve yet to be disappointed by anything he’s written, and his books are generally kickass, magic-filled, queer, feminist books. I had been looking forward to this for ages, and was just waiting for the audiobook (as I’ve read both other novellas in this universe in audio and they were amazing). But since it was Not Happening, I just settled for a paper copy.

This is the cover that I have, but for once it’s a case of I almost prefer the US one? Both are cool though!

The Synopsis

Nebula, Locus, and Alex Award-winner P. Djèlí Clark returns to his popular alternate Cairo universe for his fantasy novel debut, A Master of Djinn

Cairo, 1912: Though Fatma el-Sha’arawi is the youngest woman working for the Ministry of Alchemy, Enchantments and Supernatural Entities, she’s certainly not a rookie, especially after preventing the destruction of the universe last summer.

So when someone murders a secret brotherhood dedicated to one of the most famous men in history, al-Jahiz, Agent Fatma is called onto the case. Al-Jahiz transformed the world 50 years ago when he opened up the veil between the magical and mundane realms, before vanishing into the unknown. This murderer claims to be al-Jahiz, returned to condemn the modern age for its social oppressions. His dangerous magical abilities instigate unrest in the streets of Cairo that threaten to spill over onto the global stage.

Alongside her Ministry colleagues and her clever girlfriend Siti, Agent Fatma must unravel the mystery behind this imposter to restore peace to the city – or face the possibility he could be exactly who he seems…

The Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This was a highly anticipated read for me, and I think it took me so long to get properly started with it because I was so afraid to be disappointed. I wasn’t in any way, though!

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Book Review: Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas

I promised a full review of this book… a few months ago when I read it with all the other Lodestar YA novels. I’ve been procrastinating on the delivery, but I still love the book just as much as when I first read it!

Cover of Cemetery Boys: Over a purple background with a giant moon overhead, two brown boys standing back to back. The one looking towards the reader holds a flower in his hand. He looks eager and ready to spring to action. The second boy looks stern. 
There are tombs in the background. Over the two boys, with the moon like a halo, stands a woman's figure in an old timey dress, with a flower crown and a bloody skull for a face.

The Synopsis

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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Book Review: The Galaxy and the Ground Within, by Becky Chambers

I’ve owned this book for a while but despite absolutely loving Becky Chambers’ every book I’ve read so far, I was not starting it. I think because it’s the last in the Wayfarers series, which made me really sad. I could honestly read 20 more books in this universe, I dream of a sitcom set in it.

The Story

With no water, no air, and no native life, the planet Gora is unremarkable. The only thing it has going for it is a chance proximity to more popular worlds, making it a decent stopover for ships traveling between the wormholes that keep the Galactic Commons connected. If deep space is a highway, Gora is just your average truck stop.

At the Five-Hop One-Stop, long-haul spacers can stretch their legs (if they have legs, that is), and get fuel, transit permits, and assorted supplies. The Five-Hop is run by an enterprising alien and her sometimes helpful child, who work hard to provide a little piece of home to everyone passing through.

When a freak technological failure halts all traffic to and from Gora, three strangers—all different species with different aims—are thrown together at the Five-Hop. Grounded, with nothing to do but wait, the trio—an exiled artist with an appointment to keep, a cargo runner at a personal crossroads, and a mysterious individual doing her best to help those on the fringes—are compelled to confront where they’ve been, where they might go, and what they are, or could be, to each other.

The Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.
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