TBR

Short-A-Thon TBR

With my owned TBR out of control, I occasionally do this thing where I go on my owned Goodreads shelf, set it from shortest to longest, and start reading the short ones to at least tick some books off that list. And now Kathy and Destiny are doing a readathon about doing exactly this, so of course I’m participating!

shortathonbannerattempt1

I’ve actually cleared out everything under 50 pages already, so my easy ones are gone, but I still have quite a few under 100. For this readathon, the maximum page number I’d consider would be 150, maybe 200, but if I go in order from shortest to longest then I doubt I’ll get there. Still, here’s everything on my TBR under 150 pages – let’s see how far I get in 10 days? There were more of them than I thought, so maybe not too far. (I’ve put stars next to the ones that I might prioritise if I decide not to go in order, and also marked the holiday ones.)

In fact, with this many books, I am considering dedicating the entire month of December to reading books under 200 pages on my owned TBR.

General info
◊ All about reading the shortest books on your TBR.
◊ Starts at 12.00 AM, your own timezone, on December 21st.
◊ Ends at 11.59 PM, your own timezone, on December 31st.

50-100 pages:

  • 🎃 The Ghosts of Halloween by Ceillie Simkiss: Halloween is over, but I’m excited to read this short story collection in the world of Learning Curves.
  • 🎄Mending Noel by Charlie Cochet: This is a Christmas novella, so perfect timing!
  • Write Faster Today by Emma Fisher: Hah, my problem with writing isn’t exactly the speed as much as the lack of inspiration, but I’m still curious what this has to say.
  • Jack The Ripper: The Truth About The Whitechapel Murders by Tom King: No, I don’t know why I downloaded this either.
  • 🌟 Sleepwalking by Cara Malone: I think this is F/F? And has a pretty cover, so I’m actually excited.
  • She Died In My Arms by Ono Ekeh: This is a prequel novella that sounded intriguing. Maybe if I like it I’ll look into the full series.
  • Noticed Me Yet? by Anyta Sunday: M/M contemporary romance with an interesting premise.
  • Wounded Beacon by Leslie Lee Sanders: I have no memory of this, but it’s a M/M dystopia?
  • Rikki-Tikki-Tavi by Rudyard Kipling: I’ve never read anything by Kipling, but this is short enough to try and sounds cute?
  • Outworlder by Joe Vasicek: This is some kind of sci-fi with a mysterious girl…
  • Random Acts of Kindness Part 1 by Victoria Walters: This is supposed to be heartwarming AND has a Hungarian character? I’m always curious to see Hungarian characters so this should be fun.
  • Rainbow Rebel by Lina Langley: I barely read any M/M books and yet I own a bunch. I guess I should get on that.
  • Deep Space: Short Stories by Milo James Fowler: A collection of sci-fi stories that I know nothing more about.
  • His Grandfather’s Watch by N.R. Walker: Another M/M story! But this one is on my tentative 2019 ATY TBR so, I might skip it.
  • Written Stars by Magnolia Robbins: Finally another F/F story.
  • 🎄 Christmas at the Wellands by Liz Jacobs: M/M Christmas story, so again, at least it fits the season.
  • 🌟 A Little Familiar by R. Cooper: I’ve heard MUCH praise for this one so I’m excited to read it!
  • Still in Your Care by Josslyn Scott: This is a F/F story that I actually feel kind of uncomfortable about based on the blurb, but I guess I’ll give it a try. Eventually.
  • 🌟 Worth More Than Words by Michael Barnette: This is another story I’m excited about, so if I don’t get to it now, then I’m reading it for ATY next year.
  • Jealousy Survival Guide: How to Feel Safe, Happy and Secure in an Open Relationship by Kitty Chambliss: I’m pretty interested in open and polyrelationships for someone who doesn’t even want one relationship.
  • A Sprinkling of Lesbian Short Stories by Q. Kelly: What it says in the title.

Total: 21

101-150 pages:

  • 🎄 Magic, Murder and Mistletoe by Ellen Jane: Another Christmas story, so it’s going on the priority list.
  • First Flight by Sarah K.L. Wilson: Dragons!
  • Mary, Queen of Scots: White Queen, Red Queen by Michael W. Simmons: I have… no idea why I downloaded this.
  • 🎄 Second Chances by Kiska Gray: Another M/M holiday romance – I didn’t know I had this many of them! That being said, I’ll probably leave this one for 2019 because it fits a difficult prompt for the Popsugar Challenge.
  • Subtle Bodies: A Fantasia on Voice, History and Rene Crevel by Peter Dubé: This was in a bundle I think, so I know nothing about it.
  • 🎄 Snowbound with the Biker by Amy Lamont: M/F holiday romance with the bad boy trope.
  • Hunger by Perrin Briar: Yep, this has… zombies.
  • Starstuff by Kaylim: A fairytale-ish Sci-fi story apparently.
  • 🌟 My Heart is Ready by Chace Verity: I remember I pre-ordered this partly because it came out on my birthday, but all of Chace Verity’s stuff has wholesome queer characters, so I’m interested.
  • 🌟 A Walk Between Stars by Tyler R. Parsons: A sci-fi with an interesting premise.
  • Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Style > Substance by Kieron Gillen: Lots of LGBT superheroes!
  • Spare Dick by Sarina Wilde: Okay, don’t judge me… yes, this is mostly erotica, but it’s a polyamorous one so I’m curious.
  • The Reclusive Billionaire by Lucy McConnell: A M/F romance between two scientist that seemed intriguing.
  • Crazy For a Geek Girl by Nicolette Dane: F/F romance with geeks, I suppose? Honestly, this was free and had lesbians, so…
  • How ADHD Affects Home Organisation: Understanding the Role of the 8 Key Executive Functions of the Mind by Lisa Woodruff: God knows I need this. Maybe it has some useful tips.
  • 🌟 Write Good Sh*t by RoAnna Sylver: RoAnna’s books are all amazing, so of course I’m interested in writing advice from one of my favourites!
  • Only Human by Jenya Tilar: Another book I have no memory of getting, but it has werewolves I think? Or wolf shifters?
  • Star Wars: Poe Dameron, Vol. 3 by Charles Soule: Excited to continue with this series.
  • Spider-Man/Deadpool Vol. 1: Isn’t It Bromantic by Joe Kelly: I haven’t read any Deadpool comics and it’s a crime.
  • love, and you by Gretchen Gomez: A poetry collection that is also on Destiny’s TBR!
  • Play Me A Song by Jessica Kale: Another F/F romance, with music I guess?
  • Blood Bound by Idella Breen: Paranormal F/F romance!
  • Young Avengers, Vol. 1: Sidekicks by Allan Heinberg: Another Young Avengers volume from a different continuity? I don’t understand comics.
  • Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell: Okay, so clearly this has witches? It’s ridiculous how little I know about most of these books. My standards are low when something is free.
  • Fixer Upper by Cara Malone: F/F romance in the countryside.
  • One By One by Yawatta Hosby: This is a horror/thriller mystery that sounds pretty creepy.
  • Eat Your Heart Out by Dayna Ingram: Lesbian zombies?! Or… at least lesbians AND zombies?
  • A Hole in the World by Sophie Robbins: Lesbian fairytale!

Total: 28

Honorary mention:

  • 🌟 Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire: This is next in the Wayward Children series, which I love. Unfortunately it’s 157 pages, which is still pretty short, but I have SO MANY books that are shorter than it. Also, it fits several semi-difficult prompts on my 2019 challenges, so maybe I should just leave it for next year?

I actually have 50 more books that are between 150 and 200 pages, so yeah – definitely not listing all of them here (but if you’re curious, you can check them on my Goodreads shelf). The above list is more than enough! With this many short books, how is my TBR still so long? Please help.

~ Alexa

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Miscellaneous

My Favourite Visual Novels

Hey, visual novels are still reading! That’s why they’re called visual novels, duh. Only they also have beautiful art AND you can make choices that affect the story, so really, they are objectively the best things ever. I have played/read many visual novels that caught my interest, so in this post I would like to share my favourites with you.

All of these have a free version available, although some have paid extra content, or you can choose to pay for them if you can afford it. The itch.io ones all have an option to pay what you want and/or tip the creator, so consider doing that if you have enjoyed the game!

Get ready for magic, 1920s speakeasies, regency romances, androids, post-apocalyptic stories, and queer characters as well!

Note #1: these are not in order of my enjoyment. If they were, Your Dry Delight would be way higher.

Note #2: I am happy to give everyone extra specific recs on which stories/routes are my favourite. Just leave a comment about the game that interests you!

🏳️‍🌈 1. Lovestruck (multiple stories)

Protagonist: always bisexual female, looks not customizable, name customizable
Love interests: over 50 love interests in various stories, mostly male, at least one female/story, and a couple of nonbinary LIs
Genre: various genres, including paranormal, sci-fi, portal fantasy, Greek mythology, 1920s speakeasies, etc.
Updates: regular, 3 times a week
Paid content: yes, optional (can play daily games or occasional weekend events for currency)

I wrote an entire post on Lovestruck before – it is still one of my favourite visual novel apps, although lately I’ve been having some issues with the plotlines… Regardless, it has MANY stories all in one place with many love interests, so everyone is sure to find something they like. Unfortunately, the protagonist can only be female, but all protagonists are canonically bi and there are many queer love interests. Also, many queer side characters who are not romanceable, including nonbinary and aroace characters.

🏳️‍🌈 2. Choices: Stories You Play (multiple stories)

Protagonist: mostly female, but some stories have male options as well. looks and names are both customizable.
Love interests: both male and female options, although more male ones than female. all love interests can be pursued regardless of the MC’s gender. some stories can be played without choosing a romantic partner, but not all.
Genre: various genres, e.g. fantasy, mystery, horror, magical school, historical
Updates: regular, three times a week
Paid content: yes, optional (can watch ads or play new chapters for currency)

Choices has let me down many times, both with its storylines and its heavy reliance on paid content that is supposed to be extra – and yet, it keeps drawing me back in, because sometimes it’s just that good. My new favourite story takes place in a magical school, with both female and male protagonists, bi love interests, and an aroace side character! You can romance several characters at once, although usually you have to choose one towards the end. One of the stories, Perfect Match has a pretty solid polyamorous cluster though if you choose that way, so I’m hoping I won’t have to choose.

🏳️‍🌈 3. The Arcana

Protagonist: not visible, customizable name and pronouns (she, he or they)
Love interests: currently one male, one female and one nonbinary (he/him pronouns) love interest. two male and one female side character may become LIs in the future.
Genre: fantasy with magicians, Tarot cards, ghosts and mystery
Updates: regular, about once a month
Paid content: yes, optional (can play daily games for currency)

The art in this game is just wonderful, and I’m in love with all three love interests. I also loved how the story became more and more complicated and mysterious, and it’s as much of a mystery as a romance, really. Also, there are multiple nonbinary side characters with they/them pronouns, and two minigames that you can play every day to get coins and extra content. (Note: the fandom has such beautiful art, but also its fair share of discourse, so proceed with caution.)

4. Aloners

Protagonist: human female, not visible, name customizable
Love interests: one human male companion who can be either your friend or romantic partner
Genre: Post-apocalyptic
Updates: complete game
Paid content: base version is free, the paid version has new backgrounds and an extra chapter

“One day, the last man on Earth came home to find a girl sleeping in his bed.”

This is a post-apocalyptic story with one of my favourite male companions ever. His name is Trash, he is funny, sarcastic, loveable, and also incredibly tragic if you think more than two seconds about what he went through. The base version is free, while the Redux version is 5 USD and has an extra chapter that is absolutely worth it.

5. This My Soul

Protagonist: female, not customizable
Love interests: one male android companion who can become your friend, romantic companion or neither
Genre: sci-fi
Updates: complete game
Paid content: none

You are stuck on a spaceship with only an android to keep you company. Will you treat him as a servant like most people would, or will you form a relationship with him? (Please romance the android, I love him so much. Or at the very least be nice to him, or I’ll eat you.)

6. The Blind Griffin

Protagonist: Chinese female, not customizable
Love interests: three male love interests
Genre: 1920s, magicians
Updates: complete game
Paid content: none

This magical speakeasy with a Chinese girl protagonist, three awesome male love interests and a transgender side character stole my heart. I have a weakness for speakeasies and magicians, okay? Beware of the bad endings though, they are pretty tragic.

🏳️‍🌈 7. Your Dry Delight

Protagonist: male, not customizable
Love interests: two male love interests, polyamorous ending
Genre: 1920s, detectives and speakeasies
Updates: complete game
Paid content: none

This is one of the only exclusively M/M visual novels I’ve played, and it was SO GOOD. All three characters feel real, and they have amazingly snarky personalities. You play a detective, and your two love interets are your boss/partner and a totally-not-a-gangster. The interesting thing is that the two routes join together in a polyamorous ending, which was just amazing and more games should be like that.

8. Halloween Otome + Valentines Otome

Protagonist: female, non-customizable in both cases
Love interests: 3-3 male love interest
Genre: uhh, holiday romance, I guess? celebrities? fake marriage trope?
Updates: complete game
Paid content: none

I’m listing these together because the second one is a sequel, with cameos from the first one if you play them both. They are pretty standard dating sims, but still a lot of fun, with unique love interests. The first one takes place at a Halloween masquerade where you slowly get to know your love interests both in and out of a mask, and the second one has fake dating! Seriously, do you need more?! They also have some puzzles and stats that make the game more interesting, and sometimes a little difficult. (Okay, but… ouch, Erik. That sweater.) Unfortunately, the second game does have a group of annoying side characters that feel like walking advertisements for an upcoming game, and they kind of ruined the enjoyment for me – but Daire’s and Zane’s routes are still worth it. Just make sure to have a walkthrough nearby.

🏳️‍🌈 9. Loan Wolf

Protagonist: werewolf woman, non-customizable
Love interests: two female love interests, a nymph and a succubus
Genre: paranormal romance
Updates: complete game
Paid content: none

This is a kind of short, but adorable F/F paranormal romance with two love interests and beautiful art. Also, funny IT shenanigans. I definitely recommend it just for those.

10. The Lady’s Choice

Protagonist: female, not customizable
Love interests: three male love interests
Genre: Regency romance
Updates: complete game
Paid content: none

Scandal! Gossip! Proper introductions and matchmaking! Okay, so I kind of have a thing for Regency romances, and The Lady’s Choice is one that has three unique, interesting love interests, all with their own secrets and plot twists. I enjoyed all three routes, although Isaac Stanton is probably my favourite.

(Honorary mention to The Crossroads by the same artist.)

🏳️‍🌈 11. Love on the Peacock Express

Protagonist: female, not customizable
Love interests: three female love interests
Genre: mystery and romance
Updates: complete game
Paid content: none

You play a young detective woman on a train who meets three older women, each shrouded in their own mystery. I believe this game was made partly in response to Dream Daddy, or at least around that time, and all three of the love interests are indeed mothers. It is a fun game with mystery as well as romance elements.

🏳️‍🌈12. When The Night Comes

Protagonist: not visible, gender customizable (he, she or they pronouns)
Love interests: four male, one female and one nonbinary love interest. two polyamorous routes planned
Genre: fantasy/supernatural
Updates: only one chapter out yet
Paid content: none so far

Listen. This game had me at polyamorous routes. And also at the wonderful character designs. I was already in love with three characters when I started, but by the time I finished Chapter One, I loved all of them, so now I’m a little lost when it comes to choosing who to romance. You play a hunter about to investigate a murder mystery…

Képernyőkép🏳️‍🌈 13. Stellamore

Protagonist: not visible, gender customizable (she, he or they pronouns)
Love interests: both male and female love interests
Genre: fantasy
Updates: only the prologue is out yet
Paid content: none yet

In the prologue, you play as a person with visions who arrives at a multi-national talk with many cultures and species in one place. Since not much of the game is out yet, I can’t say much more, but so far I’m really intrigued by all the characters, and excited about being able to choose gender and pronouns.

 

Have you played any of these? What are some of your favourite visual novels (especially queer ones)? Feel free to recommend me new ones I should try!

~ Alexa

Reviews

The Prophetic Huntress and the Warrior Princess: Outrun the Wind

Outrun the WindTitle: Outrun the Wind
Author(s): Elizabeth Tammi
Series: 
Genre: Greek mythology, Fantasy
Published: November 27th 2018 by Flux
LGBTQAI+: bisexual female MC, lesbian MC, F/F ship
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

This review originally appeared on The Lesbrary on November 11th, 2018.

The Huntresses of Artemis must obey two rules: never disobey the goddess, and never fall in love. After being rescued from a harrowing life as an Oracle of Delphi, Kahina is glad to be a part of the Hunt; living among a group of female warriors gives her a chance to reclaim her strength, even while her prophetic powers linger. But when a routine mission goes awry, Kahina breaks the first rule in order to save the legendary huntress Atalanta.

To earn back Artemis’s favor, Kahina must complete a dangerous task in the kingdom of Arkadia— where the king’s daughter is revealed to be none other than Atalanta. Still reeling from her disastrous quest and her father’s insistence on marriage, Atalanta isn’t sure what to make of Kahina. As her connection to Atalanta deepens, Kahina finds herself in danger of breaking Artemis’ second rule.

She helps Atalanta devise a dangerous game to avoid marriage, and word spreads throughout Greece, attracting suitors willing to tempt fate to go up against Atalanta in a race for her hand. But when the men responsible for both the girls’ dark pasts arrive, the game turns deadly.

Outrun the Wind has been on my list of most anticipated releases ever since I saw that magical cover, and learned that it is a Greek mythology love story between two complicated young women. I love reading stories based on Greek mythology, but most of the ones I’ve read recently were modern retellings, so I was glad to read a more classical one.

This book did not disappoint. Outrun the Wind pulled me in from the beginning with the writing style, the story and the characters. The warrior-turned-princess, and the huntress with the prophetic gifts. And, of course, the gods, who somehow managed to be even bigger jerks than I expected. I wasn’t familiar with Atalanta’s myth before, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this book at all – while it has elements from the canon myths, it also adds several new characters and fills Atalanta’s life with people.

I loved that this story was about two young women who were both hurt by men, but they managed to stay strong, get revenge, and heal together. Of course, nothing comes easily – their relationship develops gradually from animosity to love, so if you’re into that kind of thing, you might love this book.

One thing that was really strange to me is Artemis’s behaviour at the very beginning of the book, that Atalanta herself points out. You would think that a maiden goddess who renounced men and has a group of female warriors helping her would respect female warriors more and wouldn’t see them as subordinate to their male companions. I had minor issues with Apollo’s character as well, but those are more subjective (and possibly due to me still being under the effect of The Trials of Apollo) – however, this bit with Artemis just simply didn’t make much sense to me. I also would have loved to see more gods or Greek mythical figures maybe.

All in all, I thought this book was great for a debut novel, and while it could have used some more polishing, I definitely recommend it to anyone who likes Greek myths, or just fantasy with sapphic characters. (Also, I squeed when the title of the book was mentioned.)

tw: attempted sexual assault

~ Alexa

Wrap-up

October 2018 Wrap-Up + State of the ARC

Do you ever feel like reading is more stressful than fun, and it’s more about ticking off boxes than actually enjoying the reading? It can’t just be me. That being said, there’s still two months of the year and I only have 4-5 books left for my yearly challenges, so once I finish those, I can take it as easy as I want! … No, don’t talk to me about ARCs and deadlines please.

I didn’t take part in any reading challenges in October, but in November I’m doing Mythoton (hopefully clearing out all my 2018 ARCs in the process), and also trying to finish up my yearly challenges for Remember November.

🏳️‍🌈 = book has a LGBTQAI+ main character [13]
🦄 = ARC or review copy [5]
📚 = books that qualify for the backlist challenge we’re doing with Avery [8]
🌍 = Around the World in 52 Books on Goodreads [1]
🌷 = Lesbian Book Bingo by Jae [5]
👭 = Sapphic Book Club monthly or bonus read [1]
🍬 = Candybook Land by Elaine Howlin [4]

As always, I’m linking up with Avalinah’s State of the ARC meme:

State of the ARC is a monthly meme at Avalinah’s Books meant to motivate you to finish up all your long overdue ARCs (Advanced or Early Reader Copies).

State of the ARC has a Goodreads groups ARCs Anonymous. Join it here.

Already finished the bingo for the year last month – yay!

arcoctober

Here’s all the books I read this month:

  • 🏳️‍🌈 Sunshine Girl: A Collection of Memories by marissa dahlson: 98 pages. 4 stars
  • 🦄 The Sicilian Woman’s Daughter by Linda Lo Scuro: unknown pages. 4 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈 The Gentleman’s Guide to Getting Lucky by Mackenzi Lee: 54 pages. 5 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈🦄  If I Loved You Less by Tamsen Parker: 222 pages. 4 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈📚🌷 My Writing Professor by Nicolette Dane: 128 pages. 2 stars
  • 📚 Partners in Crime [No. 16] by Agatha Christie: 187 pages. 4 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈🦄🍬 In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard: 145 pages. 4 stars
  • Crystalline by Mayara Barros: 32 pages. 3 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈 No Man Of Woman Born by Ana Mardoll: 174 pages. 5 stars
  • 📚 Ez egy ilyen nap by Ágnes Mészöly: 119 pages. 3 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈🦄  Birthing Orion by Dax Murray: 117 pages. 5 stars
  • 📚 The Cat Who Came In Off The Roof by Annie M.G. Schmidt: 160 pages. 5 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈🦄🍬 Life Within Parole Volume 2 by RoAnna Sylver: 262 pages. 5 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈📚🌷 Summer’s End by Harper Bliss: 128 pages. 4 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈📚🌷 The Plus One by Natasha West: 148 pages. 5 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈 Úriemberek kézikönyve a bujaságtól az erényekig [Gentleman’s Guide] by Mackenzi Lee: 560 pages. 4 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈📚🌷🍬 Drive by J.L. Gaynor: 133 pages. 2 stars
  • 📚🌍 The Nemesis Cell by Brian L. Porter: 223 pages. 1 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈👭🍬Chasing Stars by Alex K. Thorne: 224 pages. 5 stars
  • 🏳️‍🌈🌷 Skin | Deep by Michelle Hanson: 295 pages. 3 stars

Favourite books this month:

  • Chasing Stars 🌟
  • In The Vanishers’ Palace
  • No Man of Woman Born
  • Birthing Orion
  • The Cat Who Came In Off The Roof
  • Life Within Parole Vol. 2
  • The Plus One

Reviews on the blog this month:

Book tags:

Challenges:

Miscellanous:

Structured TBR scores:

structuredoctober.png

I think I did relatively well on this. Out of 25 books, I read 7, abandoned 3, and currently reading 3. Still, when I return to this structure in December (I’m skipping November because I’m doing Mythoton), I’ll likely pick only two books for each category instead of 3.

How was your October? Are you participating in Mythoton or Remember November next month? How are your really challenges going? 🙂

~Alexa

Reviews

Dear Transphobes, Destiny Says You Suck: No Man Of Woman Born

No Man of Woman Born (Rewoven Tales)Title: No Man Of Woman Born
Author(s): Ana Mardoll
Series: 
Number of stories: 7
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling
Published: July 10th 2018 by Acacia Moon Publishing
LGBTQAI+: nonbinary and binary transgender protagonists in every story(Note: I bought this book with my own money, and then downloaded it from NetGalley too because why not.)

Destiny sees what others don’t. 

A quiet fisher mourning the loss of xer sister to a cruel dragon. A clever hedge-witch gathering knowledge in a hostile land. A son seeking vengeance for his father’s death. A daughter claiming the legacy denied her. A princess laboring under an unbreakable curse. A young resistance fighter questioning everything he’s ever known. A little girl willing to battle a dragon for the sake of a wish. These heroes and heroines emerge from adversity into triumph, recognizing they can be more than they ever imagined: chosen ones of destiny. 

From the author of the Earthside series and the Rewoven Tales novels, No Man of Woman Born is a collection of seven fantasy stories in which transgender and nonbinary characters subvert and fulfill gendered prophecies. These prophecies recognize and acknowledge each character’s gender, even when others do not. Note: No trans or nonbinary characters were killed in the making of this book. Trigger warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides are provided for each story. 

Rating: 4.5 stars

This collection of seven stories has been one of my most anticipated releases ever since I found out about it. It’s a collection written by a nonbinary author, for trans readers, “with cis audiences welcomed but not centered”. I was already in tears by the end of the author’s note at the beginning.

No Man of Woman Born plays around with gendered prophecies by using transgender and/or nonbinary protagonists. I loved seeing how the different prophecies are worded, and I loved guessing while reading what the solution to the particular prophecy would be – as well as the ways people can misinterpret it, as in the case of King’s Favor.

I also loved that the book includes content warnings and neopronoun pronunciation guides as well.

Tangled Nets: 4/5 stars. Nonbinary protagonist, dragons, sacrifices. It wasn’t my favourite, but a nice warm-up.

King’s Favor: 4.5/5 stars. Nonbinary protagonist, witches, queens – and a very entertaining misinterpretation of the prophecy. Plus, a great side character, and an even better protagonist.

His Father’s Son: 5/5 stars. Trans guy protagonist on a revenge quest. I would have loved to see the villain’s face.

Daughter of Kings: 4/5 stars. Sapphic* trans girl protagonist with Arthurian sword-in-the-stone elements. (*There is no romance in the story, but it’s hinted that she likes girls.)

Early to Rise: 5/5 stars. Genderfluid, possibly aromantic Cinderella. This was one of my favourite stories, and the best curse-loophole. Also one of the only stories where the solution was completely different from what I expected.

No Man of Woman Born: 5/5 stars. One of the strongest stories – no wonder this one gave its name to the collection. Women, girls, nonbinary people and others who could be argued to fit the prophecy rally around to kill the evil king. Has a questioning protagonist, a parent who comes out in adulthood, and several trans or nonbinary side characters.

The Wish-Giver: 4/5 stars. Kind of simple compared to the others, but incredibly sweet, and overall a nice ending to the collection. Also, it has a female dragon, so kudos for that. (And some ironic commentary on binary colour-coding children.)

~ Alexa

 

Miscellaneous

Book Tag | Deep in the Ocean

I came across this book tag that was created by silverwolfreads (which is an amazing name tbh), and while I haven’t read To Kill The Kingdom, the book the tag is based on, it’s definitely on my TBR. I rarely read dark stories, but I make an exception for dark fantasy and fairytales, especially with mermaids.

You’re going on a vacation on a cruise boat for a week. Which book(s) would you pack to keep you entertained as you explore the seven seas?

A week? I pack one or two physical books and my entire Kindle library for a 2-hour train trip because I’m so indecisive. I love physical books, but honestly, nothing beats the convenience of carrying around hundreds of books on your phone/tablet.

Still, if I had to pick – The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue and The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy would both be great for a cruise trip, but also they are quite heavy. Maybe the Murderbot Diaries? It’s four short novellas that are easier to carry. Those are all old favourites I’d love to re-read, which are safer than picking up new books.

You’re on the boat, and you start to hear your favourite song being played out from a nearby island. Which song would this be? What book do you associate with this song?

I’m bad at picking favourites, and the song I listen to the most change a lot. But I quite like Jet Pack Blues by Fall Out Boy and Don’t Threaten Me With a Good Time by Panic! at the Disco. I can’t say I really associate books with them, although… I feel like the second one would definitely fit Monty from The Gentleman’s Guide.

Tone of Voice (Xandri Corelel Book 2)You go to the side of the boat and notice a mermaid sat on the rocks. She seems pretty bored. And you know of loads of awesome books. Which one book do you always recommend to people without fail?

I’d be really boring if I said The Gentleman’s Guide again, and I already mentioned The Murderbot Diaries as well. The other books I always recommend would be Chameleon Moon by RoAnna Sylver, The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin, and Failure to Communicate by Kaia Sonderby! The sequel, Tone of Voice involves aquatic creatures as well, so maybe a mermaid would appreciate them.

The mermaid seems pretty happy with your suggestion, and swims off. You hear the song from a moment ago has stopped. And there doesn’t seem to many people about. Creepy, huh? What book gave you the chills whilst you were reading it?

I always have trouble with these questions because I rarely read creepy books… Although I just finished In The Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard and there was a part that definitely gave me the creeps.

Oooh, and Penpal by Dathan Auerbach. Technically, I haven’t read it in book form, but I remember reading it when it was only online creepypasta, and wow. I kind of got scared sitting in my own home in the dark yesterday when I remembered it.

My Real Name Is HannaThe song picks up again. But this time, it doesn’t sound like the normal version you’re used to. It sounds eery, and you can feel yourself walking towards the sound. You’re in a trance. Which book hooked you in from the very first page?

Okay, I totally love how this book tag is telling a story, but I’m kind of afraid of where it is going.

I feel like the most boring person in the universe if I say The Gentleman’s Guide again, so I’m forcing myself to pick something else. My Real Name is Hanna by Tara Lynn Masih fits this question perfectly, I think. The title, the cover and the very first few sentences absolutely hooked me. In the end, I struggled with finishing the book, but it was an eery and important read. And it definitely gave me the chills, so it could work for the previous question as well.

You’re climbing over the rails of the ocean, moving towards the sound of the singing. You jump into the ocean and a rush of cold hits you. What book has the biggest plot twist that you weren’t expecting?

Hm… this isn’t really a plot twist, and I hate when orientations are treated as plot twists, but I remember being pleasantly shocked when it turned out that the infamous leaked chapters about Nico di Angelo being gay were actually real. That was the beginning, and since then, Riordan has included genderfluid characters and bi protagonists in his work as well.

You begin swimming on instinct, nothing has come to get you yet. You feel like you’ve been swimming for hours. What’s the biggest book you’ve ever read? (Or the one that’s taken you the longest time to read).

I made an entire post about this recently. The funny thing is that the top 10-15 are mostly from the same 3 authors: Rick Riordan, J.K. Rowling and Cassandra Clare. (I only really like one of them lately though, so it’s double ironic.)

Chameleon Moon (Chameleon Moon, #1)Something grabs your leg. You start kicking. Which book deals with heavy/underdiscussed that always makes you want to put up a fight for righteousness?

I’m not sure how to interpret this question and I think there might be a word missing? Hm. I’m going to say Chameleon Moon because damn if I can’t relate to “hey, the world sucks and it’s literally on fire, but we’re still here, and we’re together, and we’ll protect each other”. Or at least, I want to relate to it.

They’re pulling you under the water. Which book had you on the edge of your seat, unable to breathe as you turned to the next page?

I’ve gotta say this one has to be The Gent— Okay, okay, I’ll pick something else!

I really don’t want to repeat the same 2-3 books all the time, but also no wonder that they are my favourite books when they fit all these questions. Hm, I’m going to say Sadie by Courtney Summers. It was a quick and action-packed read, but also heavy and kind of messed up in a real way.

You notice a glimpse of red. You notice a fish-like tail. It’s a siren. Which book would you recommend for people who love the ocean’s mythical creatures?

Let’s see…

Darker fantasy with mermaids: The Seafarer’s Kiss / The Navigator’s Touch by Julia Ember (F/F), Still Waters by Alex Gabriel (M/M), Ice Massacre by Tiana Warner (F/F), The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist by S.L. Huang (F/NB)

Selkies: The Witch Sea by Sarah Diemer (F/F)

Less dark, with mermaids: Out of Her Depth by Pike Martell (F/F), The Summer of Chasing Mermaids by Sarah Ockler (F/M), Moon-Bright Tides by RoAnna Sylver (F/F)

On my TBR: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo (duh), The Mermaid’s Daughter by Ann Claycomb (F/F), Into The Drowning Deep by Mira Grant

There is an enormous screeching sound. The siren lets go. You float to the top of the ocean surface, gasping for air. You’re alive. You get onboard the boat, dry off and clutch your books to your chest.

Which bookish-friends would you call to share your experience with? Who would you believe you? Who should do this tag?

I’m going to tag Avery and also everyone who wants to do this!

~ Alexa

Reviews

Beauty and the Beast with Dragons: In The Vanishers’ Palace

In the Vanishers’ PalaceTitle: In the Vanishers’ Palace
Author(s): Aliette de Bodard
Series: 
Genre: Fantasy, Retelling
Published: October 16th 2018 by JABberwocky Literary Agency
LGBTQAI+: main F/F ship, nonbinary side characters
I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

My rating: 4 stars

I had to read this entire book before I realised it’s written by the author of The Tea Master and the Detective, the Sherlock retelling I’ve been meaning to read.

In The Vanishers’ Palace is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast where Beauty is a scholar and the Beast is a spirit dragon that lives in a Palace impossible to understand. Also, they’re both women.

This was a brilliantly written novel with fantastically visual descriptions, although it made my head spin sometimes. The world and the culture whose mythology its based on was very unfamiliar and sometimes I felt like I was lacking some basic knowledge to really understand, but I still enjoyed becoming familiar.

My favourite part was that while – other than the names – this book is written entirely in English, it was obvious that it is translated from a language other than English. I found the references to the many pronouns the characters use very interesting: they all refer to each other as family members in some way, even strangers (which was a little at odds with the complicated, antagonistic relationships sometimes).

The book has two major nonbinary side characters, but that is not the only reason why it’s nonbinary-friendly. Nobody’s gender in this book is assumed by their appearance, and they are only referred to with gendered terms once they established it with the language they use for themselves.

I think in a way the story is secondary to the worldbuilding and characterisation in this book, so I can’t say much about the story. As for the characters, I loved the development they all go through, and the “Beast” having children to care for was something I didn’t expect (because clearly I didn’t read the full blurb before heading in – I’m sorry!).

I’m going to be honest, the “dark, unspeakable secrets” mentioned in the blurb were a little anticlimatic for me, but I’m sure Yên didn’t feel the same way.

All in all, I have very positive feelings about this book, even if the descriptions were a little difficult to wrap my head around sometimes.

~ Alexa

Readathon/Bingo · TBR

Remember November TBR 2018

Have I mentioned I love Kathy’s challenges? Earlier, I participated in Sci-Fi July, and managed to read a total of one book for Sequel September. I skipped the October challenge, so if I join in November, then that’s every two months since I started following Books and Munches!

Remember November is all about finishing goals that you set for yourself at the beginning of the year. I don’t make yearly resolutions, but I do have a few yearly goals/challenges that I haven’t completed. I’ll try my best to finish them in November, and if I don’t… well, there’s always December?

(Note: I’m also doing #mythoton in November, so I’ll try to be clever and pick books that fit several challenges.)

Rules
◊ Post a blogpost saying you’ll be joining me trying to reach all those goals and challenges we committed ourselves to throughout the year.
◊ Share your list of challenges, goals and whatnot and state what you’re going to try and reach / tick off during this month’s read-a-thon.
◊ If you’re sharing your updates on social media, use #RemNovember so we can follow up on each other!

Around the World in 52 Books

Remaining: 6 out of 52 prompts

  • A book from the first 10 books added to your TBR (Good Omens)
  • A gothic novel (Jane Eyre?)
  • A book with a location in the title (Leányrablás Budapesten, or Keeping Long Island)
  • A book nominated for the Edgar award, or by a Grand master author (Lisey’s Story, or something by Agatha Christie)
  • A medical or legal thriller (The Nemesis Cell, or something by Robin Cook if I’m desperate)
  • A Women’s Prize for Fiction Winner or Nominee (The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet)

Lesbian Book Bingo by Jae – HAS to be a book with a queer female character, preferably F/F. doesn’t have to be a lesbian!

Remaining: 5 out of 25 prompts

  • Women in uniform (Skin | Deep)
  • Romantic comedy (I have no idea, and I didn’t think this prompt would be hard. recs please? I’m looking for F/F books.)
  • Second Chance romance (Drive by J.L. Gaynor)
  • Summer reads (Summer Swim)
  • Age difference (My Writing Professor)

Goodreads yearly challenge

Remaining: 10 out of 250 books

I think I started with 100 or 150 books, but kept raising the stakes, and now I’m here. I don’t think I’ll raise it again, but I do want to reach 250.

Candybook Land game

I’m on square 76 out of 132, and how many books it will take to reach the goal depends on my dice rolls… and also on finding a book to fit the given prompts. I actually don’t think I’ll finish this game this year, but hope dies last.

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous

Book Tag | Halloween Creatures 2.0

I saw this tag over on Avery’s blog, and hey, it’s October, so why not? Like Avery, I don’t really read horror (or scary books in general) either, so I feel like I can’t really participate in most spooky October activities. This book tag seemed like a good compromise, because I love supernatural characters.

RULES:

  • Answer all prompts.
  • Answer honestly.
  • Tag 1-13 people.
  • Link back to this post.
  • Remember to credit the creator. (Anthony @ Keep Reading Forward)
  • Have fun!

WITCH — a magical character or book:

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)

Akata Witch is one of the best fantasy worlds I’ve read, and I can’t wait to wait the sequel, which is already on the way here I hope.

WEREWOLF — the perfect book to read at night:

I always have trouble with “the perfect book to read when X” questions, because I just… read whatever I want regardless of time or season? I’m not sure what other people base their picks on.

Always Be You

I’m going to pick Always Be You, because even though it’s a short story, it’s incredibly cozy and must be great to read while curled up in bed.

FRANKENSTEIN — a book that truly shocked you:

The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist

Hm… I made the mistake of forgetting the original ending of The Little Mermaid before I went into this retelling, and let me tell you, it was darker than I expected. But damn, The Little Homo Sapiens Scientist is amazing (and queer!).

THE DEVIL — a dark, evil character:

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2)

I don’t think most stories I read have truly evil characters… But Major Turret would definitely count. As would Sharpe.

GRIM REAPER — a character that never should have died:

Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2)

This is difficult… I know that the character death in this book was necessary for the plot, but I still think those characters deserved better.

Two characters die in the entire Chameleon Moon universe ever, and I’m still not over them.

Shout out to Raphael Santiago, because I’m down with that fandom and that universe but he is still special to me – although he is fading in my heart.

Also, there’s a character death in Exit Strategy that broke me as well.

ZOMBIE — a book that made you “hungry” for more:

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

Any book in the Murderbot Diaries series. Please just give me the full-length novel right now.

GARGOYLE — a character that you would protect at all cost:

I’d protect Murderbot, but I doubt they need me – more like, I’d let them protect me. I’d also protect any character in Every Heart a Doorway, but they definitely don’t need it either, especially Jack, who is my favourite. This is difficult!

The House of Hades (The Heroes of Olympus, #4)

Can I just, protect Nico from anything that makes him sad? Thanks. Including that awful outing scene.

VAMPIRE — a book that sucked the life out of you:

Orlando

I’m sorry, but Virginia Woolf’s writing and I just really aren’t getting along. I’m having trouble with A Room of One’s Own as well.

GHOST — a book that still haunts you:

City of Bones (The Mortal Instruments, #1)

Let’s just not.

DEMON — a book that really scared you:

The Better to Kiss You With

I don’t really read scary books, but I suppose The Better to Kiss You With had a part towards the end that scared me?

SKELETON — a character you have a bone to pick with:

If I Loved You Less

I have so many bones to pick with Theo. But also, other people in the book pick bones with her too, and I actually love how they call her out and make it clear that they do it out of love because they know she could be better? This book was an ugly look in a mirror in a way.

MUMMY — a book you would preserve throughout time:

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1)

I didn’t expect to like this book so much, but damn, the hype was right.

CREEPY DOLL — a cover too scary to look at:

6...5...4 (Rémálom könyvek, #2)

I never undertood what they were thinking with these covers for a YA book.

~

So… while none of these are really horror (maybe except the last one), I think I managed to get some darker reads in. Have you read any of these?

~ Alexa

Reviews

If I Loved You Less: Queer Island Shenanigans

If I Loved You LessTitle: If I Loved You Less
Author(s): Tamsen Parker
Series: Classics Queered
Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Retelling
Published: September 20th 2018
LGBTQAI+: queer wlw MC, unspecified wlw love interest, other wlw side characters
I received an ARC from the author through The Lesbrary in exchange for an honest review.

This review originally appeared on The Lesbrary on October 14th, 2018.

Matchmaking? Check. Surfing? Check. Falling in love? As if. 

Sunny, striking, and satisfied with her life in paradise, Theodosia Sullivan sees no need for marriage. She does, however, relish serving as matchmaker for everyone who crosses her path. As the manager of her family’s surf shop in Hanalei Bay, that includes locals and tourists alike.

One person she won’t be playing Cupid for is the equally happy bachelorette down the street. Baker Kini ʻŌpūnui has been the owner of Queen’s Sweet Shop since her parents passed away and her younger brother married Theo’s older sister and moved to Oahu. Kini’s ready smile, haupia shortbread, and lilikoi malasadas are staples of Hanalei’s main street.

However, Theo’s matchmaking machinations and social scheming soon become less charming—even hazardous—to everyone involved. And when she fails to heed Kini’s warnings about her meddling, she may be more successful than she ever intended. Theo has to face the prospect of Kini ending up with someone else, just as she realizes she’s loved Kini all along.

A modern retelling of Jane Austen’s Emma.

Rating: 4 stars (3.5 stars)

Theo Sullivan lives on an island like paradise with her slightly overprotective father, content with how things are. The community in Hanalei is tight-knit: everyone knows everyone, outsiders rarely stay for long, and nothing can really remain a secret. Personally, the island setting and its descriptions were my favourite part of the novel, as well as the descriptions of food and sweets. I could really feel the freedom and the sense of paradise, the lazy, slow way of life, that might seem boring to some, but it’s perfectly enough for Theo. And yet, this book really wasn’t what I expected based on the blurb.

First, let me talk about our protagonist, Theo. I loved that she defined herself as queer because her identity is complicated – she mostly likes women, but she’s not against maybe being with men, and she keeps a metaphorical little gate open for one man in particular, which is eventually explored in the book.

Despite this, I found Theo an incredibly unlikeable character at first. Her personality seemed to consist of butting into everyone else’s business, and trying to influence their lives in a very invasive way. Now, an unlikeable protagonist in itself is not a problem, but in a romance, it makes it pretty difficult to root for her. Since the blurb mentioned that Theo’s meddling will eventually get her in trouble, I was waiting for the inevitable character development. I also liked that her behaviour was continously called out, mostly by Kini but also sometimes by other characters. Although after a certain event Theo realises she messed up and genuinely tries to make up for it, I still caught her saying or doing things that made me cringe even towards the end. There was definitely some character development, but sometimes it felt like as soon as she took a step forward, she took at least a half back.

Still, what really surprised and even frustrated me wasn’t Theo’s character. It’s the fact that the whole “Theo realises she’s in love with someone just as that someone is about to get together with someone else” only happens towards the very end of the book, and it felt like it was solved really quickly. More than that, the last section of the book feels like a series of plot twists and revelations thrown together without time to really resolve any of them. When I finished the book, there were several plots with side characters that either came out of nowhere, or weren’t resolved properly, and just left me with many questions.

In the end, I enjoyed this book (or at least most of it, before the rushed ending) but not for the reasons I expected. I loved the interactions between the side characters, Theo’s friendships, her character development even if I felt it was lacking, the plot twists that surprised me (the one that made sense, at least), and the island scenery. But this wasn’t the book I expected based on the blurb, and what I expected to be the central conflict was pretty much one confession resolved in one chapter, so I couldn’t help but feel a little cheated.

~ Alexa