WELCOME From some of the most exciting bestselling and up-and-coming YA authors writing today…journey from Ecuador to New York City and Argentina to Utah, from Australia to Harlem and India to New Jersey, from Fiji, America, Mexico and more… Come On In. With characters who …
Title: The Last Story of Mina LeeAuthor: Nancy Jooyoun KimPublisher: Park Row Books Genre(s): Fiction, Historical FictionSubject(s)/Themes(s): Asian-American immigrantsRepresentation: Korean MCs (ownvoices) Release Date: September 1st, 2020Page Count: 384 (hardback)Rating: 4.0/10 Margot Lee’s mother, Mina, isn’t returning her calls. It’s a mystery to twenty-six-year-old Margot, …
How does one…read a book?
If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to mail out a note to my brain detailing step-by-step instructions, as the poor thing has clearly forgotten. Which, turns out, is a bit of an inconvenience when you’re trying to run a book blog.
It’s not that I don’t have the time – quite the opposite, really. It’s not that I don’t have a good selection of books to read, or that I’m not excited to get to them – because I have and I do. It’s just that I open a book, read the first couple of chapters, and then think, “Oh look, squirrel!” and proceed to chase the squirrel instead. And in this case the squirrel is a text message or a cute YouTube video or a dark blotch on my ceiling that I swear is a spider. I feel like, at this point, if I were stuck in a 10 ft x 10 ft room with nothing but the clothes on my back, some water, and a Kindle on my lap, I would still manage to find an excuse to NOT read.
Sigh. It’s a maddening puzzle, my friends. But one I’m determined to crack this month. There are so many incredible-sounding books coming out in the next couple of months, and I do not want to miss them.
In the meantime, here are a few mini reviews that I’ve been procrastinating on!
Title: The Shadows
Author: Alex North
Publisher: Celadon Books
Genre(s): Mystery, Thriller
Subject(s)/Themes(s): Childhood, Dreams
Release Date: July 7th, 2020
Page Count: 326 (hardback)
You knew a teenager like Charlie Crabtree. A dark imagination, a sinister smile–always on the outside of the group. Some part of you suspected he might be capable of doing something awful. Twenty-five years ago, Crabtree did just that, committing a murder so shocking that it’s attracted that strange kind of infamy that only exists on the darkest corners of the internet–and inspired more than one copycat.
Paul Adams remembers the case all too well: Crabtree–and his victim–were Paul’s friends. Paul has slowly put his life back together. But now his mother, old and suffering from dementia, has taken a turn for the worse. Though every inch of him resists, it is time to come home.
It’s not long before things start to go wrong. Paul learns that Detective Amanda Beck is investigating another copycat that has struck in the nearby town of Featherbank. His mother is distressed, insistent that there’s something in the house. And someone is following him. Which reminds him of the most unsettling thing about that awful day twenty-five years ago.
It wasn’t just the murder.
It was the fact that afterward, Charlie Crabtree was never seen again…
The Shadows is less of a thriller-horror than what the blurb suggests, and a more reflective story of a man who returns home to reconcile with a traumatic past. It’s got the tone of rifling through a box of old photographs, with all the tension and melancholia that accompanies it, which I absolutely vibe with – sad trips into the fictional past are my jam – but it wasn’t quite the skin-crawling experience I was hoping for.
It is, however, still a solid atmosphere-driven tale and, in a weird way, there’s this magical lustre to it. Maybe it’s just that my brain has a tendency to categorize all stories involving dreams as fantasy-adjacent, but this feels like it exists in that grey narrative space between reality and not-quite. It’s in the way that the characters long for things they know they can’t have, and long for them hard enough to stitch their own world, their own stories, into existence. And I love it when stories do that – grounded in the real world but still dangling a thread of “But what if?”
Aside from the main character, the rest of the cast kind of fade into the background. I understand why the author chose to alternate Paul’s chapters with Amanda’s. His narration is so entrenched in old memories and biases, and the detective offers a more outside-in look into everything with better objectivity (the thriller/mystery aspect definitely becomes sharper with her chapters). But I couldn’t help but feel that she’s mostly there to serve as a mirror for all the strangeness that’s going on, and not so much as a fleshed-out character. A narrative device, really, albeit an effective one.
Creepy handprints on the cover notwithstanding, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone looking for a high-octane horror story. It’s the quiet exploration of childhood traumas and our compartmentalization of them that truly shines throughout.
Review copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Title: Red Heir
Author: Lisa Henry and Sarah Honey
Genre(s): Fantasy, Romance
Subject(s)/Themes(s): Fake royal, Road trip
Representation: Gay MC and side characters
Release Date: July 28th, 2020
Page Count: 234 (ebook)
Imprisoned pickpocket Loth isn’t sure why a bunch of idiots just broke into his cell claiming they’re here to rescue the lost prince of Aguillon, and he doesn’t really care. They’re looking for a redheaded prince, and he’s more than happy to play along if it means freedom. Then his cranky cellmate Grub complicates things by claiming to be the prince as well.
Now they’re fleeing across the country and Loth’s stuck sharing a horse and a bedroll with Grub while imitating royalty, eating eel porridge, and dodging swamp monsters and bandits.
Along the way, Loth discovers that there’s more to Grub than meets the eye. Under the dirt and bad attitude, Grub’s not completely awful. He might even be attractive. In fact, Loth has a terrible suspicion that he’s developing feelings, and he’s not sure what to do about that. He’d probably have more luck figuring it out if people would just stop trying to kill them.
Still, at least they’ve got a dragon, right?
A dwarf, an elf, a human, and an orc crash into a prison where two redheads await. One of them is the lost prince, you see, and these unlikely band of rescuers are determined to snatch him away to safety and earn all the glory. A case of mistaken identity, however, lands the wrong guy as the prince and his cellmate as his grumpy tagalong. Cue adventure.
This was….okay, in every sense of the word. It’s a simple story; it doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting with the imposter royal trope, the worldbuilding is sparse, and the side characters are cute and provide some extra banter. In terms of queer fantasy adventures, it’s nowhere near the kind of funny that Lightning Struck Heart is, but it definitely has its witty moments.
I was just rather bored with it. I mean, the book knows what it’s about – it’s not meant to be a sprawling fantasy epic – but everything from the characters to the relationship to the plot felt surface-level and derivative compared to other stories that tackle this premise in a more interesting way. It plays safe and doesn’t attempt to be anything it’s not, but damn, I sure wish it’d at least tried.
But if you’re looking for quick and light-hearted fantasy that you want to squeeze inbetween heavier reads, or you just really love red-haired protagonists, then this might be one for you.
Thank you to Gay Romance Reviews and the authors for providing the review copy
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Title: Burn Author: Patrick Ness Publisher: Quill Tree Books Genre(s): YA Fantasy, Historical Fiction Subject(s)/Themes(s): War, Discrimination, Dragons Representation: Biracial MC, Gay MC Release Date: June 2nd, 2020 Page Count: 384 (hardback) Rating: 8.0/10 On a cold Sunday evening in early 1957, Sarah Dewhurst …
Title: Mayhem Author: Estelle Laure Publisher: Wednesday Books Genre(s): YA Historical Fiction, Paranormal, Magical Realism Subject(s): Multigenerational, Abuse Release Date: July 14th, 2020 Page Count: 304 (hardback) Rating: 4.0/10 It’s 1987 and unfortunately it’s not all Madonna and cherry lip balm. Mayhem Brayburn has always …
Hello everyone! I come out of hiding once again like an anxious little mole. The thing I learned about staying home during this darkest timeline is that “extra free time” comes with a HUGE disclaimer that’s deviously written in tiny scrawl, and in Papyrus to …
Title: They Went Left Author: Monica Hesse Publisher: Little Brown Books for Young Readers Genre(s): YA Historical Fiction Subject(s): WW2, Holocaust, Mental Health, Siblings Release Date: April 7th, 2020 Page Count: 384 (hardback) Rating: 6.0/10 I admit, I’m not exactly in …
Publisher: Agora Books
Genre(s): Historical Fiction, Crime
Release Date: February 21st, 2020
Page Count: 339 (hardback)
This is an odd one. One of those books that send your brain into a bit of a lull. And I enjoyed it (with a faint question mark attached). But I think I enjoyed it as I’d enjoy sitting on a boat in the middle of a lake for five hours, fishing line cast out, the sun dipping in and out, and catching a single minnow at the end of it all. I can’t decide whether it was meditative or just plain dull, but then I remember that it was a nice day and the birds were singing, so I decide on the former. I probably wouldn’t try it again, but I appreciate the one experience.
It’s an atmosphere-driven book first, character second, and plot third. Moreno-Garcia shows why she’s one of the best when it comes to immersive settings. Baja California is a slow and stifling shoreside town and you can practically feel the heat emanating through the pages as you read. It’s no big city offering glitzy displays of culture, but small places can have just as much character and magnetism, and this story shows that. And Viridiana is a realistic, if unlikable, product of such a place: a little impulsive, a little adventurous, and teeth-grindingly naive. The book definitely works better as her coming-of-age story than a thrilling crime novel because the latter aspects, with the American tourists and their secret troubles, rather underwhelming and a side attraction to the Viridiana Show.
Overall, it’s a lazy immersive sprawl of a story that was worth the read but nothing that really stayed with me afterwards. A brief, quiet fling.
Series: Big Bad Wolf 4
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre(s): Paranormal, LGBTQ Romance
Release Date: March 2nd, 2020
Page Count: 268 (paperback)
Two of my most pressing questions in the last few years (pre-COVIDapocalypse): 1) When will Blackpink get the respect they’re due from their company? and 2) When will Charlie Adhara release a mediocre book?
The answer is probably the same for both.
We are sitting at book 4 in the Big Bad Wolf series, and I continue to be impressed and delighted by Adhara’s ability to write consistently at the top of the game. She dives into the shapeshifter trope with fresh eyes, creating characters who feel like real people navigating traumas and insecurities, not cardboard cutouts doling out conflict for conflict’s sake, and each book adds new lines and shading to the image that is Park and Cooper. And that continues here. An undercover mission to a couples resort. Murder upon murders. Cooper figuring out that there are so many layers to a relationship, and huh, isn’t that a scary thing, but also a massively wonderful thing?
It wasn’t the strongest of the series in terms of plot and secondary characters, but “not my favourite” for a BBW story equals “really friggin good” for most other paranormal romances. Overall, a solid, solid entry to the next chapter of Cooper’s life.
Expect an overdue Why You Need to Read this Series post in the next week or so!
Title: Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights Author(s): Patrick Weekes, Sylvia Fektekuty, John Epler, Lukas Kristjanson, Brianne Battye, Caitlin Sullivan Kelly, Courtney Woods, Ryan Cormier, Arone LaBray Publisher: Tor Books Genre(s): Epic Fantasy, Game-to-Novel Subject(s): Gods, LGBTQ+ Release Date: March 10th, 2020 Page Count: 496 (paperback) Rating: …