Reviews

Review: Down Among the Sticks and Bones

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

Review on Goodreads

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.

This is the story of what happened first…

It is difficult to rate a book when you are absolutely furious with one of the protagonists.

Every Heart a Doorway, possibly the best book I read this year, is about the children who found doors to unfamiliar worlds, found a home, and had to return to their original world for one reason or another. Down Among the Sticks and Bones is more of a prequel than a sequel – it tells the story of Jack and Jill from their birth up to the point where they have to leave their found home.

The Characters

Jack was one of my favourites in the first book, and she kept that title throughout this one. I’ve also grown attached to her chosen master. The bigger problem was with Jill: I didn’t care much for her in the first book, and her behaviour in this one (including a couple of fatphobic comments) certainly didn’t help matters. I tried to understand Jill, and maybe I do, somewhat, but understanding doesn’t mean sympathy or affection.

The Plot

Since this is a prequel and the girls already talked about being cast out in the first book, in a way I already knew what was going to happen, where it was all leading up to, but reading it was still different.

The first part of the book is about the girls’ childhood at home with their parents – their frankly horrible parents who are emotionally abusive and unfit to be parents, which is made clear enough in the book. This part was mostly neutral for me.

Once in the Moors, Jack’s and Jill’s POVs divide more. It’s no secret that I enjoyed Jack’s more, partly because of the included f/f romance, which doesn’t get much “screentime” but is still an important part of the story.

(Spoilery note/warning: It does not have a happy ending and ends with Jack’s girlfriend dying.)

Overall

I feel like this review comes off as more negative than I intended. It’s true that I enjoyed this book less than the first one, and there are some parts I’m angry at, but it still deserves the whole five stars and goes on the favourites shelf. I love the worldbuilding, even if it is somewhat cliché – but in this book, I think being cliché, being familiar is sort of the point.

My rating: ★★★★★💖

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Reviews

Review: The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake

Review on Goodreads

When the kingdom discovers that their crown princess doesn’t like cake, chaos ensues. How will the royal line ever continue? Cake is essential to a good marriage! (Not to mention, the rejection of his cake was deeply insulting to the baker-prince who proposed with it.)

Why I picked it up: I was expecting a cute fairy tale, but mostly I was really excited for a book about demisexuality. Asexuality (as in the umbrella term) in general is very rare in fiction, and demisexuality is even rarer.

The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake is a fairytale written to explain demisexuality, and using cake as a metaphor for sex. The fairytale, however, is only about 40% of the ebook itself. Other contents include an essay by the author that explicitly explains demisexuality, with many popular culture examples – and there is also a series of recommendations with demisexual characters towards the end.

Overall, I am conflicted about The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake, and by that I mean both the fairytale, and the entire book itself. As a fairytale, I did not find it very enjoyable – the cake metaphor was just painfully obvious, and in some places, downright uncomfortable when you replaced cake with sex (that is, the parts the princess is continuously pressured or even forced to try cake by various friends and family members). The essay about demisexuality also seemed unnecessarily lengthy to me at places, though that might be because I am already familiar with demisexuality – I am not sure what it would have been like to read that explanation if I’ve never heard of demisexuality before.

That being said, I still believe that this is an incredibly important book, and a recommended read for everyone who wants to understand demisexuality. Some parts of the metaphor/book also work for explaining asexuality, but the book makes it clear that the two are not exactly the same – I especially appreciated the part the princess felt like she had trouble explaining her feelings both to her cake-loving parents and her cake-rejecting friends.

I am sorry to say that The Princess Who Didn’t Eat Cake is not a particulary great fairy tale – but that wasn’t really the point anyway. The book (the tale, the essay and the recommendations together) do a great job of explaining demisexuality, and the recommendations on the end are especially appreciated.

Recommend: Yes. To everyone, basically. Despite my problems with it, I strongly believe this book is worth reading and an important take on demisexuality.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Reviews

Review: Chameleon Moon

The city of Parole is burning. Like Venice slips into the sea, Parole crumbles into fire.

The entire population inside has been quarantined, cut off from the rest of the world, and left to die – directly over the open flame. Eye in the Sky, a deadly and merciless police force ensures no one escapes. Ever. All that’s keeping Parole alive is faith in the midst of horrors and death, trust in the face of desperation… and their fantastic, terrifying, and beautiful superhuman abilities.

“Words are important. They let you know it’s real, you’re fine, more people like you exist. They let you know you’re not alone.”

“Holy crap…” Regan whispered, awed and sick and proud at the same time. “She punched it in the face.”

Why I picked it up: I was told there was a f/f/f polyrelationship and also ace character(s)?

Let me tell you how absolutely wonderful this book is.

The Cast

Chameleon Moon’s strongest aspect is its characters. Wonderful, colourful, diverse cast of characters. There is indeed a polyamorous marriage between three women, a main character who is a trans woman, a character who uses ‘they’ pronouns through the entire novel, disabled characters, representation of anxiety, and lots and lots of validation for mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, or PTSD. And many more, that my tags on this book can’t even cover.

I am so incredibly excited about a certain relationship other than the polymarriage, but I feel like that would be a huge spoiler, so I’m just going to put this here for anyone who’s already read it: I LOVE THEM SO MUCH.

The Plot

I have to admit, it took me a while to get into this book. The prologue pulled me in, but then the first half of the book felt… slow. It was mostly about getting to know the characters for me, and hinting at the big mystery without any real answers. Not that getting to know the characters is bad – as I said, they are the greatest thing about this book -, but the first half often felt a little boring to me, and there were a lot of conversations that went on too long, or infodumps that were a little too much at once.

The second half, though? I read pretty much the entire second half in one sitting. The twists just kept coming and the secrets kept pouring out. And plenty of questions remaining for the sequel.

There are some things I don’t like about the ending that would be spoilery, but I understand how they are necessary. I was originally going to give this 4.5 stars, but as I typed this review out, I realised that it fully deserves all five.

Trigger warnings

I would like to put a warning for suicide (mention) here, and also, the descriptions of anxiety can be triggering to anyone who also experiences it.

My rating: ★★★★★

Next up

Next Up: TBR & Wishlist

I have plenty of unread books on my shelves, and I also have plenty of books that I don’t own yet on my wishlist. I figured I would make this post about the top 3 books on my TBR (that I already own) and the top 3 books on my wishlist (that I am looking forward to buy).

To Read

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

I have been looking forward to this book for months. F/f retelling with mermaids and Norse myths! I am incredibly excited to read this, and I hope I will get to it soon.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

Another f/f book that I have seen around frequently, though most people are already reading the sequel… 🙂 I am a little bit behind in that respect, but I am eager to start this one.

The Long Way to A Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers

Yes, you’re right to notice that most of the books on my immediate TBR are f/f books. This one apparently has an interspecies f/f romance with aliens? I don’t know too much about it because I wanted to avoid spoilers, but I am really excited to read this one. The cover is beautiful for sure.

Runner-ups:

  • Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour
  • Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan
  • The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
  • blueeyedboy by Joanne Harris

To Buy

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

I gave in. I heard some people say that it’s better to start with the Grisha trilogy, but Six of Crows is the one I keep seeing all these beautiful edits and fantastic quotes for, so I am starting with this one, and possibly reading the Grisha trilogy later.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

I am in love with the cover, and also the title! This can only be something great, especially since this is also a f/f book 🙂

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

I saw several of Patrick Ness’s books being recommended, and this is the one whose summary caught me the most. The story of the ordinary people in Chosen One stories? I am interested in where this goes.

Runner-ups:

  • The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
  • Girl Out of Water by Laura Silverman
  • Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
  • The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace
  • Illuminae by Jay Kristoff & Amie Kaufman

— Lex

Reviews

Review: We Awaken

Link on Goodreads

Why I picked it up: I was promised great asexual representation. (note: I am a biromantic asexual woman, so this was kind of personal for me.)

What I thought: It definitely delivered on the representation issue. It was refreshing to read about characters who outright said they were asexual, and it also included someone figuring out their sexuality by researching, and addressed several stereotypes. All in all, it handled asexuality, and exploring your sexuality very nicely.

I have to admit I had mixed feelings about the book as I read it, but I came out with mostly positive feelings in the end. The writing was clumsy at times – the phrasing sounded a little forced, or the timeline of the events felt rushed. There wasn’t really a story as such, but somewhere halfway I realised that there didn’t have to be. It was enough to get lost in the magical romance of these two asexual girls who love each other very much. Their relationship together made me a little jealous and left me wishing I could cuddle my own girlfriend. Thanks, Calista Lynne.

I kinda wish we had seen more of Reeves, and his ending didn’t go the way I expected it to go, but I think I like it? I think? A little conflicted, but I’m leaning towards positive.

Also, the cover is beautiful.

Do I recommend it: If you want a light read about girls in love, exploring your sexuality, and mending your relationship with your best friend, then definitely. If you’re looking for a quick-paced story, then no.

My rating: ★★★★☆

Reviews

Review: The Summer of Chasing Mermaids

Review on Goodreads

The youngest of six talented sisters, Elyse d’Abreau was destined for stardom—until a boating accident took everything from her. Now, the most beautiful singer in Tobago can’t sing. She can’t even speak.

Seeking quiet solitude, Elyse accepts a friend’s invitation to Atargatis Cove. Named for the mythical first mermaid, the Oregon seaside town is everything Elyse’s home in the Caribbean isn’t: an ocean too cold for swimming, parties too tame for singing, and people too polite to pry—except for one. – Goodreads

Why I picked it up: This book was recommended to be a friend, and basically all I knew is that it has mermaids and positive friendships.

What I thought: This is the absolute best book I have read this year, and definitely up there in the Top 10 best books I have read ever. Magical atmosphere, likeable characters, cute romance (I was a little worried because straight romances often bore me, but I was anything but bored while reading this), female friendships, and an adorable little brother.

A magical fairytale retelling

Before starting this book, all I knew was that it had mermaids, but it soon turned out that was an understatement – this is a modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, revealed by clues such as Elyse’s loss of voice, and some character names.

I was already hooked by the introduction, the very first few pages. The Summer of Chasing Mermaids has an absolutely magical aura, and it truly reads like you are experiencing a fairytale. The introduction also immediately grabs the reader’s attention with an element of mystery.

Likeable main cast and posivity

This book is proof that I am absolutely willing to ship straight couples if they aren’t lowkey toxic. Though Elyse’s and Christian’s romance has some cliché elements, it is ultimately a positive relationship based on friendship, and the two of them are nothing but supportive towards each other for the entire book.

There is also a big focus on Elyse’s relationship with her two female friends, and her relationship to her twin is also a central element that is constantly lurking in the background. It would have been so easily to have Vanessa and Elyse fight over a boy, but there is no catty jealousy or unnecessary drama between the girls.

Without giving away any spoilers, the book also has sex positive talk, calling out sexism, and (cis characters) changelling gender norms in a beautiful way.

A note on diversity

The main character of this book is a mute woman of colour. This is not an #ownvoices book – the author admits in a note that she is writing about a culture she’s not part of. As a white person, it is not my place to judge whether Elyse is good or accurate representation, but if there were any racist elements, I have not noticed.

There is sadly a complete lack of LGBT characters, but I enjoyed this book so much, and I was so happy to see a positive straight romantic relationship and positive friendships that I am personally willing to give it a pass. (This might or might not be because I, as a useless bi person, fell in love with both members of the main couple anyway…)

My rating:  ★★★★★ 💖