Miscellaneous

Hungarian Covers of Popular Books

In many cases, Hungarian publishers (and many international publishers) simply borrow the US or UK cover of a popular book for their translations. However, I came across some Hungarian covers that don’t seem to match any other editions, and I decided to share these with you. Some are really pretty, others are… not so much. I’m curious what you all think.

 

Looking for Alaska & Paper Towns by John Green

Yikes – just, what is up with that first Looking For Alaska cover?! The second one is still… interesting, with what appears to be a reaper floating around. The minimalist style of the second Alaska cover and the Paper Towns cover seems to be a series – I found the Abundance of Catherines and The Fault in Our Stars in this style as well.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I actually like this cover at first glance, except… is it just me, or does that girl look much older than 16? Still, the black cover with the girl on it reminds me of the UK cover, and I like how the purple goes with the white.

Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi

Okay, so I actually adore this cover. Look at how beautiful it is! I actually love the original cover as well, and I didn’t recognise this one before I typed it into Goodreads, but the Hungarian cover made me want to read it even more.

The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage by Phillip Pullman

Another one I love. It’s very similar to the original, and yet different. I should really re-read the original trilogy before picking up this one, but I’m curious what else happens in the world of Lyra.

Rengeteg

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

You can’t see it on the picture, but I saw this in a bookstore, and the golden parts are actually from a different, shiny material. I absolutely love this cover, and I would have bought it on the spot if I didn’t already own a copy. (I can’t afford to buy double copies, unfortunately. Maybe one day, when I’m rich…)

What are some of your favourite covers that are not from the UK or the US? Or some of your least favourites?

~ Alexa

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Miscellaneous

The Hamlet Book Tag

I saw this tag on Jamishelves, but it was created by Allie on YouTube. (Is this the part where I admit that I never watch YouTube anymore because I don’t have the attention span for the videos? Anyway, so.)

Hamlet:
Name a book with an unlikeable main character.

The Poppy War

Now, you might ask: “Hey, Alexa, why are you putting The Poppy War here if you adore Rin?” And here’s the thing: Rin is unlikeable in the best way. She is a very complex character who can be ruthless, desperate and loyal all at once. She has many qualities that male characters are often forgiven for, but female characters rarely get away with. So, I would like to put The Poppy War here 100% out of love, and I hope to see more amazing unlikeable female protagonists like Rin.

Runner-up: Kaz from Six of Crows. He is a self-described monster who has many enemies, plenty of conflicts even with his friends/allies, and a ruthless attitude. I adore him as a character, but I’m not sure I’d like him as a person.

Gertrude:
Name a book with a living parent(s).

The Girl and the Grove

I think in most books are read, even if the parents are alive, they usually aren’t central to the plot (or if they are, it’s often in a negative way, with cruel or overbearing parents). The first exception I could think of is The Girl and the Grove, where Leila’s adoptive parents and her relationship with them are central to the story, and they are both amazing.

Runner-up: I loved the mother-daughter relationship in The Seafarer’s Kiss, which wasn’t the main focus but still very important to the plot.

Claudius:
Name a book with an unlikely villain.

Strong Female Protagonist: Book One

Okay, so I couldn’t really think of a villain that I didn’t expect, so let me talk about one of my favourite villain-hero relationships instead. It’s less an unlikely villain, and more an unlikely friend (who used to be a villain). Strong Female Protagonist is a very clever superhero story that addresses so many ethical concerns about superheroes, especially young superheroes, and saving the world.

Runner-up: While it’s often predictable, I loved the way Not Your Sidekick dealt with the concept of heroes and villains.

King Hamlet:
Name a book that has a ghost or any character from beyond the grave.

My first thought for this was The Blackwell series that I really miss ever since I finished it, but that’s a videogame series, not a book 😦 Oh well. I actually don’t think I read that many books with ghost, which is something I want to remedy. My book club read for this month is literally titled “Ghosts” but I don’t think it has any actual ghosts.

Into the Mystic, Volume Three

One story with ghosts that I really enjoyed was By Candlelight in the third volume of the Into the Mystic anthology. It’s a F/F story and I loved the softness of it, although it raised some unanswered questions.

Ophelia:
Name a book with a female character that deserved better.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)

Nina deserves better than getting with the guy who 1) tries to strangle her as his first in-book action, 2) fantasizes about murdering her for at least 100 pages after that, 3) is pretty deep into this “Grisha aren’t people” phase for most of the book. (Namely, she deserves Inej, but I’ll settle for better.) I just finished reading this book recently and I have Opinions.

Laertes:
Name a book with a strong sibling relationship.

Sky in the Deep

Sky in the Deep has great sibling relationships, both between blood siblings and adopted/found siblings. This book is one of my most pleasant surprises this year, and certainly one of my favourites.

Runner-up: In Baker Thief, both MCs have siblings who are central to the plot, and they are also their own unique and interesting people, with strong relationships to their respective siblings.

Polonius:
Name a book with a controlling father or father figure.

Failure to Communicate (Xandri Corelel #1)

Failure to Communicate has a protagonist that used to have controlling parents, but she left them long ago, so I’m not sure how much it counts. I couldn’t come up with anything else though, not even after scrolling Goodreads for a while. The only ones I could think of had controlling mothers, not fathers. Not sure what that says about the books I read. (Also, I’m just grabbing every chance to recommend Failure to Communicate.)

Runner-up: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, which is a book I absolutely loved, and it probably fits this prompt better actually… But it’s also much more popular than Failure to Communicate, so I want to focus on the indie #ownvoices one.

Rosencrantz & Guildenstern:
Name a book with a strong friendship.

The Better to Kiss You With

I loved the nerdy friendship in The Better to Kiss You With, a paranormal werewolf romance book. I’m literally always looking for more books with great friendships, so feel free to recommend me some in the comments! I’m actually kind of tried of always reading books with central romantic relationships.

Horatio:
Name a book where you changed your opinion about a character or the book itself.

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)

Hush, Hush is a book that I adored when I was a teen, but I’ve been kind of afraid or re-reading it ever since because I’m afraid I’d hate it now. I loved Patch, but looking back, he seems more creepy than suave. I’d have to re-read to really make up my mind about it, but yeah, I’m worried.

~ Alexa

Reviews

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: Was This Book Written For Me?

The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings, #1)Title: The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
Author(s): Mackenzi Lee
Series: Montague Siblings #1
Genre: Historical Fiction, LGBTQAI+
Published: June 27th 2017 by Katherine Tegen Books
LGBTQAI+: bisexual protagonist, biracial + bisexual male love interest, a-spec side character (the latter is not detailed in this book, but there are hints)

Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.

But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.

Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.

“I flirted my way into this mess and I’m going to flirt my way out of it”
– Monty, probably

My rating: 5 stars

It was strange to read this book right after Six of Crows (a hyped book that ultimately disappointed me) because this one is just as hyped and I loved it exactly as much as everyone said I would.

The Gentleman’s Guide had everything I personally wanted or needed: a bisexual protagonist, a biracial love interest, an incredibly soft friends-to-lovers romance with some mutual pining and slow burn, a girl who just really wants to be a doctor in the 1700s, a complicated sibling relationship, and complex characters all around. Also, travelling, and specifically travelling while being chased because you accidentally uncovered a huge secret and now that you’re in this mess you just have to see it through.

I was in love from the first scene, which was a little strange, because I usually find it uncomfortable to read about characters being drunk or hungover. Still, Monty does it so endearingly and Mackenzi Lee writes so nicely that I only found the opening funny and captivating.

Perhaps I am trying to procreate with all these lads and I’m just very misinformed about the whole process. If only Eton hadn’t thrown me out.

At first glance, Monty is the epitome of the privileged rich, white, abled guy who – despite having good intentions and not being intentionally mean – has many flaws and misconceptions about disabled people and people of colour. He himself states at the beginning of the novel that he’s had an easy life, and nothing bad has ever happened to him. And yet, it doesn’t take too long to find out that it’s not true at all: he’s been emotionally and physically abused, he’s been made to feel inadequate and trapped, for more reasons than “just” for lying with men. There were many scenes in this book where I found myself mad at Monty, but in the end I loved how he had plenty of flaws and you could see him try to do better and improve when he clearly had a long way to go. He was very relatable, and I never thought I’d relate to a rich kid from the 1700s.

I don’t know how Felicity knows what bones are meant to feel like.
I’m also not clear how Felicity knows the best way to throw a punch.

Felicity is a teenage girl who longs for a proper education and medical school, and watches her brother throw away the opportunities that she’ll never have because of her gender. She is also an incredibly funny and headstrong girl who cares about both Percy and Monty, even if they don’t get along with the latter. I can’t wait to see a book from her POV in the sequel, because words cannot describe how amazing she is. She was also very relatable, mainly in her love of books and not being good at parties.

Lucky for me as well, or else we might never have met, and then what would have been the point of my life?

With Percy, I’m a little conflicted. I felt like he didn’t have much personality outside of being biracial and experiencing racism + his relationship with Monty + a spoiler-y disability that becomes an important plot point. Of course, these are all big things and part of his identity (and I loved how living as a dark-skinned man and as a disabled man in the 1700s was addressed), but I still felt like something was lacking.

The only complaint I really have that this book had two different jokes about slitting your wrists, which is both unnecessary and something I’m personally pretty sensitive about, so it wasn’t pleasant to read. (I know it’s a little contrary, because joking about being dead or even killing yourself is something depressed/suicidal people often do as coping, but here both of the wrists comments felt kind of careless and very different from the heavy scene where Monty says he wants to die.)

warnings: significant homophobia and racism because of the time period, physical and emotional abuse by a parent, the aforementioned suicide jokes

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous

Life In Books Tag

Do you ever get that feeling when you finish reading a book, but you just feel like you don’t have anything worthwhile to say about it in a review? Probably. Do you ever get this feeling 4-5 times in a row? Welcome the club. Maybe I’ll call it a reviewing slump.

So, since I don’t have any reviews lined up on this blog for now, and also I’m actually working for once so I don’t have time/energy to come up with super creative ideas, I decided book tags would be the perfect choice.

I saw this one on The Bibliophagist and I loved it, so I had to do it.

1. Find a book for each of your initials

All Systems Red (The Murderbot Diaries, #1)

Storm Season

For this, I picked one book from the books I read, and one from my TBR shelf. All Systems Red is one of my favourite novellas, and Storm Season sounds like a really good outdoorsy/nature F/F romance.

2. Count your age along your bookshelf – what book is it?

Run

I used my owned and unread bookshelf for this on Goodreads, and got the book that I received as a gift long ago from a friend. Run is a F/F romance with a blind protagonist and I’m planning to read it this year for the Lesbian Book Bingo. Idk if it’s any good.

3. A book set in your city/country

Odakint ​sötétebb

I can’t think of any books set in my city, but this sci-fi book with a beautiful cover is definitely set in my country. Odakint sötétebb (“It’s Darker Outside”) was 80% a cover buy for me, because wow, but also it sounds really badass. It’s about a new type of mysterious creature being discovered in Hungary that apparently cannot be taken out of the country.

4. A book that represents a destination you’d love to travel to

Highland Raven (The Celtic Blood Series, #1)

Because Scotland is neat, I guess? And I have an ebook of Highland Raven.

5. A book that’s your favorite color

Giant Days, Vol. 1

I literally have a separate book shelf for covers that are yellow or orange, which (along with purple) are my favourite colours. I wasn’t very impressed by Giant Days, but the cover is amazing. (The second volume is orange as well!)

6. Which book do you have the fondest memories of?

A birodalom visszavág (Csillagok háborúja, #5)

Yes, that is the Hungarian version of Empire Strikes Back. This book is instant nostalgia for me – Han and Leia were one of my first OTPs, and nothing will compare to the original Star Wars trio for me (although the Force Awakens came close).

7. Which book did you have the most difficulty reading?

I mean… Plenty? Especially the ones I didn’t finish. But really, there’s just too many and I’m not sure what to pick for this question.

8. Which book in your TBR pile will give you the biggest accomplishment when you finish it?

Elveszett próféciák

This fucker (otherwise known as Good Omens) is actually the very first book on my Goodreads TBR, that I added back in 2013. That’s now five years that I’ve owned a copy of it and haven’t read it. Maybe this year? It’s on my Around the Year in 52 Books challenge TBR, so I’d better read it.

Tagging: Avery, Aurora, Laura, Lia, Dorka

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous

Summer TBR Wipeout – Update Post #1

Other relevant posts:

Have two weeks really passed already? It’s time to post an update for the Summer TBR Wipeout! I’ve posted an update on my other challenges not too long ago, but those didn’t include my non-challenge books, plus I’ve finished some others since then. Here is everything I’ve read in July so far.

  • Up to 100 pages: 4
  • 101-200 pages: 3
  • 201-300 pages: 2
  • 301-400 pages: 2
  • 401-500 pages: 1
  • 500+ pages: 0
  • Graphic novels*: 18
  • Total: 30

*Usually between 110-150 pages, with some exceptions.

Out of these, 8 books have been science fiction for Sci-Fi July – which is less than I’d prefer. I love reading sci-fi, but somehow there’s not much of it on my immediate TBR.

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)RECENTLY FINISHED

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This is one of the most hyped books ever that I’ve been meaning to read, as I own a copy of both books. Ultimately, I enjoyed this book although I didn’t think it really lived up to the hype. I absolutely loved Kaz and Inej, who were both my favourite characters. I’m also looking forward to learning more about Wylan, since he didn’t have a POV in this book, but I think he has one in the second.

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

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

This is another super popular book that everyone has been telling me to read, but I’m enjoying it much more than Six of Crows. I’m about halfway through and I absolutely love it. It’s incredibly funny, but also with some serious topics and loveable characters. It has everything I want: a bisexual protagonist, a biracial love interest, a complex sibling relationship, a girl who just wants to study medicine, and lots of travel and secret plots and trickery.

NEXT ON TBR

There are several things I could read next: Not Your Villain for the OWLs challenge (where I only have two books left once I finish Gentleman’s Guide), Sakaei: Ghosts for the Sapphic Book Club, or Secondhand Origin Stories because it’s the oldest ARC I have and the book has been out for a while. Or maybe another graphic novel, to reduce my TBR and contribute to the Books and Tea readathon?

~ Alexa

Reviews

The Unbinding of Mary Reade: I’m Pretty Sure That Title Is A Pun

The Unbinding of Mary ReadeTitle: The Unbinding of Mary Reade
Author(s): Miriam McNamara
Series: 
Genre: Historical Fiction, Pirates, LGBTQAI+
Published: June 19th 2018 by Sky Pony Press
LGBTQAI+: bisexual (MGA) protagonist who has both male and female love interests
I received an ARC through through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
This review was originally published on The Lesbrary.

There’s no place for a girl in Mary’s world. Not in the home of her mum, desperately drunk and poor. Not in the household of her wealthy granny, where no girl can be named an heir. And certainly not in the arms of Nat, her childhood love who never knew her for who she was. As a sailor aboard a Caribbean merchant ship, Mary’s livelihood—and her safety—depends on her ability to disguise her gender.

At least, that’s what she thinks is true. But then pirates attack the ship, and in the midst of the gang of cutthroats, Mary spots something she never could have imagined: a girl pirate.

The sight of a girl standing unafraid upon the deck, gun and sword in hand, changes everything. In a split-second decision, Mary turns her gun on her own captain, earning herself the chance to join the account and become a pirate alongside Calico Jack and Anne Bonny.

For the first time, Mary has a shot at freedom. But imagining living as her true self is easier, it seems, than actually doing it. And when Mary finds herself falling for the captain’s mistress, she risks everything—her childhood love, her place among the crew, and even her life.

Breathlessly romantic and brilliantly subversive, The Unbinding of Mary Reade is sure to sweep readers off their feet and make their hearts soar.

My rating: 3.5 stars

I’ve been obsessed with Mary Read ever since I played AC: Black Flag, and while nobody can live up to that interpretation of Mary for me, I was really excited to read a book about her and see a different take. I found that the title matches the book beautifully, because it is truly first and foremost a story of Mary, and her discovering herself and what she wants.

Mary and Anne are both bisexual women living among pirate men in different ways. They both have relationships with and long for men for most of the book, but at the same time, there is a budding attraction between the two of them that eventually wins. While I don’t think Mary is meant to be nonbinary, due to being forced to live her life as a man she had some “don’t belong to either gender” feelings that were personally relatable to me as a nonbinary person.

One thing that kind of ruined my enjoyment was that… every single men in this book is absolute trash (except for Paddy, who is golden, and Jack and Nat, who are mostly decent). But seriously, everyone other than them is a misogynistic, homophobic trash, and while this might have been realistic, it was not enjoyable to read about. Anne was abused by her husband in the past and spends the second half of the book trying to break free of him for good, while Mary experiences violence both as a woman, and as someone thought to be a gay man.

The ending dragged on a little for me. This book has very short chapters, and when I saw from the page number that I’m towards the end, I had six different chapter ends where I thought “oh, that would be a pretty cool ending sentence” and then it wasn’t. Everytime I thought this was the ending, the story just went on. In the end, I ended up really liking the /actual/ ending and how it all came full circle, but this was still a little strange.

One thing that might be interesting to people (especially people looking to fill a reading challenge prompt maybe… I’ve seen prompts like this before) is that this book has a dual timeline – there is a “present”, but there are also several flashback chapters that detail how Mary ended up where she was at the beginning of the book. Without spoiling much, I can say that I really liked how these two timelines “interacted” with each other and supported each other.

I had some mixed feelings about the book, but overall I liked it. It could have been heavier on pirate adventures, but I liked Mary’s character arc and discovering herself. Also, the cover is beautiful.

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous · Readathon/Bingo

July challenges update + Backlist challenge!

You might remember that I made several posts detailing my plans for July:

The first week of July has passed, so let’s check in and see how I’m doing with those plans!

Gale: A Sci-fi NovellaOne: I have read 8 science fiction books for Sci-Fi July so far: Courage is the Price by Lynn E. O’Connacht and Gale by Lyssa Chiavari were novellas, and all the others have been graphic novels or short stories.

Two: I have read 14 graphic novels so far for Books and Tea Club‘s readathon, including all three Lumberjanes volumes I owned, which was my main goal for this challenge.

Three: For Candybook Land, I got really lucky when I landed on the square 9 and took advantage of the biggest shortcut on the board. I have read 6 books for this challenge so far, and I am currently on square 60 out of 132. Since this is a blue square, I’m reading The Seafarer’s Kiss for it because it has a blue cover.

Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?Four: Thanks to the magic of short stories, graphic novels and novellas under 200 pages, I have actually finished half my OWLs so far! That means 6 books/subjects are left, and I’m already halfway through two of them. Still, there are some pretty challenging books left: The Gentleman’s Guide is over 500 pages, Six of Crows is around 500 as well, and The Dark Prophecy is over 400, so those will surely take longer to re

And finally, for the fifth: Avery @ RedRocketPanda and I are starting a new challenge for ourselves that is all about reading books that have been on our TBR for long. ARCs and new releases are great, but it’s easy to get caught up in them and ignore the books you bought long ago while that pile grows and grows.

This challenge has two main rules. The books we read have to be:

  • published in a year before 2018
  • acquired before the current month

E.g. in the month of July 2018, I’d have to read something that was published in 2017 or earlier, and I did not buy or receive it in July. In fact, I’d have to read 3 things like this, since that’s the number Avery and I agreed on!

For Whom the Roses GrowI also decided to add two extra rules for myself:

  • no graphic novels
  • no books under 100 pages

I love to use graphic novels and short stories for challenges with many different prompts, but since 3 is a pretty low number, it would be really to easy to fill it with those books, and that just wouldn’t be a challenge at all.

Truthfully, I have already completed this challenge for this month (I have read 4 books that meet the requirements) and I doubt I’ll have any trouble with it in August – but from September, I am going back to university and also will most likely have a student job, which means I’ll have much less time to read, and even 3 backlist books over 100 pages will be a challenge.

That’s all for now! I hope your July is going great, and don’t forget to check out Avery’s blog and awesome posts as well!

~ Alexa

Reviews

Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Three: A Collection of LGBTQAI+ Fairytales

Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume ThreeTitle: Once Upon a Rainbow, Volume Three
Author(s): W.M. Fawkes, Valentine Wheeler, Mark Lesney,  Sam Burns, A.E. Ross, Elna Holst, N.J. Romaine
Series: Once Upon a Rainbow #3
Genre: LGBTQAI+, Fantasy, Retelling
Published: July 2nd 2018 by NineStar Press
LGBTQAI+: mostly gay and lesbian main characters, including a couple that are asexual, bi or transgender
I received an ARC through through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Your favorite stories from childhood have a new twist. Seven fairy tales of old with characters across the LGBTQIA+ spectrum.

Green Things Grow from Cinders by A.E. Ross – Glass slippers aren’t for everyone.

Gretel on Her Own by Elna Holst – This time around, Gretel Kindermann is on her own. Or is she?

Bremen Town Musicians by Mark Lesney – Loss and love on the road to Bremen Town.

The Scent of Magic by N.J. Romaine – Who can win a hunt against the Big Bad Wolf?

The Rescue by Sam Burns – Saving princesses is hard work. Getting out of marrying them is harder.

Loose in the Heel, Tight in the Toe by Valentine Wheeler – The shoe fits, the prince is won: now what?

Baile de la Marioneta by W.M. Fawkes – No one else can pull his strings.

Average rating: 4 stars

Overall thoughts: This was a bit of a mixed bag. There were some stories I really loved, and others I really didn’t. I did appreciate that it wasn’t only cis LG retellings, and there were ace and trans characters in some of the stories as well. (Well, one of each, really.)

baile de marioneta by w.m. fawkes: cis M/M. A guy carves a naked guy from wood for his class and the wood guy comes to life. The moment where I realised this was a Pinocchio retelling (for an older age group, certainly) was during the sex scene where the wooden guy started lying and well, it wasn’t his nose that grew. I was going to give it 3 stars on its own, but compared to some of the others it’s 2.5 at best for me.

loose in the hell, tight in the toe by valentine wheeler: This story doesn’t center romance – it’s about a lesbian Cinderella and an asexual prince getting married for their mutual benefit, and also about Cinderella helping her stepsisters and other young girls who are being forced into marriages get away from their abusive family. I also loved that the Fairy Godmother couldn’t magically solve everything, so Cinderella stepped up and did it herself. 5 stars.

green things grow from cinders by a.e.ross: trans M/cis M. Another Cinderella retelling, this time in a modern setting and with a trans guy Cinderella and a cis guy “prince”, which is certainly a first for me. I absolutely loved this story, and I loved how Roman never really commented on Ash being trans, and also how Roman was explicitly bi. Also, I love the title. tw: unintentional misgendering (Ash isn’t out to his friends at first). 5 stars.

the scent of magic by n.j. romaine: cis F/F. This story had everything. It’s a Little Red Riding Hood retelling where the Red/Wolf/Hunter trio isn’t what you’d expect, but it also has a Sleeping Beauty sideplot with a nonbinary Sleeping Beauty (kudos for introducing me to the word “princet”), and also lots of faeries and fae court politics. My only complaint is that it wasn’t a full-length novel: I would have loved to see the rescue of the prince itself. 5 stars.

the rescue by sam burns: cis M/M. “Saving princesses is hard work. Getting out of marrying them is harder.” This was a little funny because I was /so sure/ that I knew the twist but then the twist ended up being something completely different. It’s a M/M romance between a knight and… the friend of a princess. I’m giving 4.5 stars in comparison to the others, because it didn’t quite measure up to the ones I rated 5 stars, but it was still great.

the bremen town musicians by mark lesney: cis M/M. Ehhhhhhh. So like, this is a retelling of a tale with animals, where the characters are actually humans this time but they’re still kind of treated as animals. Also, you know that thing in fairytales when there’s some really fucked up abuse or violence going on but you never really question it as a kid, especially with animal characters? Well, this story has that too, but either because of my age or the human characters it’s more difficult to overlook. tldr; I didn’t enjoy reading this. There is a m/m romance sideplot but it’s not really central. tw: abuse, casual discussion of rape, gy*psy slur used several times. 2.5 stars

gretel on her own by elna holst: This is a cis F/F story where I couldn’t decide whether it’s supposed to be a mystery/horror or a romance, and for most of the story I wondered if there was going to be a positive ending at all. Constant suspicion of the love interest isn’t really what I want in a romance, but I suppose the constant suspicion/questioning was the point. 3.5 stars.

~ Alexa

Reviews

Akata Witch: A Nigerian-American Girl’s Magical Adventure

Akata Witch (Akata Witch, #1)Title: Akata Witch
Author(s): Nnedi Okorafor
Series: Akata Witch #1
Genre: Young Adult/Middle Grade, Fantasy
Published: July 11th 2017 by Speak
LGBTQAI+: None
Other representation: Black Albino character with Nigerian parents, Black Nigerian sidecharacters

Sunny Nwazue lives in Nigeria, but she was born in New York City. Her features are West African, but she’s albino. She’s a terrific athlete, but can’t go out into the sun to play soccer. There seems to be no place where she fits in. And then she discovers something amazing—she is a “free agent” with latent magical power. And she has a lot of catching up to do.

Soon she’s part of a quartet of magic students, studying the visible and invisible, learning to change reality. But just as she’s finding her footing, Sunny and her friends are asked by the magical authorities to help track down a career criminal who knows magic, too. Will their training be enough to help them against a threat whose powers greatly outnumber theirs?

My rating: 5 stars

This was a wonderful, magical adventure in Nigeria with a protagonist that I loved, and a friend group that anyone would envy.

Sunny is an albino twelve-year-old whose parents are from Nigeria, but she was born in the United States, but now they live in Nigeria again. In this book, she finds out she’s one of the Leopard people (people with magical abilities) – what’s more, she is a free agent, which means that neither of her parents have similar abilities.

I loved how imaginative this book was: all the places, creatures and people encountered, and the culture of the Leopard people was great to read about it. The concept of money being earned by knowledge (yes, money literally falls from the sky when you learn something new) was something that I simply adored. I loved the description of the spirit faces, especially Sunny’s spirit face, and I can’t wait to see how it will become more significant in the second book.

Sunny was a loveable protagonist who stood up for herself against the racism and the sexism and the world, and those who mocked her for her albinism. I loved how she called out all the messed up stuff that was happening. There was only one line that disappointed me where Sunny claimed to be ashamed of being female after she saw some other girls crowd around a boy – it was unnecessarily judgmental and didn’t fit in well with Sunny’s other comments.

I also loved their friendship group, where Sunny makes friends with two other Nigerian kids, and an African American boy who was sent to Nigeria after he got in trouble at his old school. I loved how they worked together, how protective Sasha in particular was of Sunny at the soccer match, and I loved how the differences between Nigerian and African American people were addressed.

‘Akata Witch’ also addressed several events from the real world, from the Nigerian prince scam to witch children (which was a concept entirely new to me, so don’t tell me this book wasn’t educational).

The last thing I expected in this book was a plot about a ritualistic serial killer, but I still got it – and let me tell you, the final showdown between the kids and the antagonist was scary to read, and I feel like the sequel will only get more intense.

All in all, I loved this book, and also: what do you mean the paperback of Akata Warrior isn’t out until October?!

~ Alexa

Miscellaneous

The Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag (That You’re Probably Sick of By Now)

In the last two weeks, I watched at least fifteen different people on my dash do this tag. I sat down to write my own post at least three times, then abandoned it halfway because it was way too long and I just didn’t feel like doing it. And yet, after seeing Lia do it, I finally caved.

If you’ve been following my life on some kind of social media, then you already know that I took a year off uni and didn’t manage to find a job (long story full of regrets, please don’t ask about it), so I’ve been at home doing basically nothing since last June – but hey, it left me plenty of time to read! As of writing this post, I have read 143 book-like things this year according to Goodreads (including plenty of short stories and graphic novels). Out of these books, I rated 47 a full 5 stars (or 4.5… since Goodreads doesn’t have half stars), and 21 made it to my favourites shelf.

That’s enough for the intro, so let’s get to the questions! Most questions have several answers and I refuse to narrow them down, don’t judge me.

The best book you’ve read so far in 2018

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor

This book was introduced to me as the “Nigerian Harry Potter”, and as much as I’m bitter about Harry Potter, it’s an accurate description. Only it’s better. It’s about a 12-year-old albino Nigerian kid who learns magic with her friends and it’s amazing. It’s also part of a duology, which is a bonus because the duology is my favourite series-length.

The Poppy WarThe Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

I simultaneously feel like this book is on everyone’s lists and still not enough people talk about it? It’s a brutal alternate history/fantasy novel based on a real historical event, The Rape of Nanjing, and it’s full of triggers but also very important topics. Be aware that despite the protagonist’s age, this is very much an adult novel and not YA by any means. It is also apparently first in a series, and there is at least one question I really want to get answered in the sequel.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells (link is to my own review)

Be prepared, because this series will be mentioned in this tag at least five times. Are you ready? Good. The Murderbot Diaries are one of my favourite sci-fi series I ever read, with a relatable, wonderful AI/android protagonist with anxiety who cares about its humans so much but would probably not admit it outright. Its also incredibly sassy and just wants to watch Netflix in peace. Me too, Murderbot.

The Queen of Ieflaria by Effie Calvin (link is to my own review)

The Queen of IeflariaI will literally never stop screaming about this book because it’s the F/F fantasy series with magic and princesses that we all deserve. (Note: the second book, coming out later this year, will not have the same characters but it will still be the F/F fantasy we all deserve.) The Queen of Ieflaria has pansexual princesses, talking unicorns, dragons, princesses fighting duels in pretty dresses, and all kinds of awesomeness.

Your favourite sequel of the year

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

I fully admit that I’m not into Norse mythology as much as Greek mythology and thus this series fell a little flat for me, but also nobody can ever be better than Alex Fierro and this is fact. This book had lots of Alex and also queer romo things that I loved.

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (link is to my own review)

Here’s the second mention of this lovely series, are you counting? The second book of the Murderbot series has a different cast of characters than the first, but of course it still stars Murderbot, my favourite anxious android who tries its best to blend in as a human and also find out secrets about its past and also befriend other bots.

The Lifeline Signal (Chameleon Moon, #2)The Lifeline Signal by RoAnna Sylver (link is to my own review)

You should already know by now that no list of mine can be complete without RoAnna. The Lifeline Signal was just as queer, disabled, hopeful and beautifully chaotic (in a good way!) as the first one. I do recommend reading Life Within Parole between the two books if you actually want to understand who is who, but man, this sequel was great. And gradually identifying all the characters on the cover is fun.

A new release that you haven’t read but really want to

Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers edited by Sarena Ulibarri

I discovered solarpunk earlier this year and was lucky enough to get a review copy of the Sunvault anthology, which I absolutely loved. So when I saw this book was coming out, I pre-ordered it immediately… and still haven’t read it. I should, though. Solarpunk is a type of optimistic science fiction that imagines a future founded on renewable energies. It is also essentially a rebellion against the capitalistic, hateful, environment-destroying hell we’re currently living in. Yay.

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

I wasn’t sure what else to put in this category, but a Little Mermaid retelling with murderous mermaids? Sign me up. Little Mermaid retellings have always been my jam, so I’m really excited for this one.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Quick shout out to other two novellas in the Murderbot series, Rogue Protocol and Exit Strategy, because I’m looking forward to them both but this post is long enough already.

An Assassin's Guide to Love and TreasonAn Assassin’s Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boecker

No, this has nothing to do with Mackenzi Lee (seriously, what’s with all the X’s Guide to Y and Z titles?) but it IS a historical fiction Shakespeare retelling with assassins and spies so honestly just give it to me right now immediately please.

Outrun the Wind by Elizabeth Tammi

I literally cannot describe how excited I am to have an eARC of this (that I haven’t read because I want to read it closer to the release date), but I’ll most likely get a paperback copy as well when I can afford it because it’s beautiful. It’s also a Greek mythology F/F book with huntresses of Artemis, so really, what else do you need?

Daughter of the Sun by Effie Calvin

This is the second book in the Tales of Inthya series (first book is The Queen of Ieflaria), and it doesn’t have a cover or a Goodreads blurb yet, but I know I’m going to love it anyway because 1) I adore the author’s writing and characters, 2) it’s F/F and fantasy. I can’t wait to meet the brand new characters Effie will make me fall in love with.

Your biggest disappointment

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Listen. This book wasn’t bad. And it’s an incredibly important book with a Black biromantic ace protagonist and a beautiful dark-skinned, happy Black girl on the cover. The only reason it’s a disappointment is that I expected it to be an easy 5-star read and it ended up being more 3.5 stars instead.

Biggest surprise of the year

Sky in the DeepSky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (link is to my own review)

I wasn’t expecting this book to live up to the hype because it kind of looked like a generic, gritty fantasy without any LGBTQAI+ characters and lots of violence and cold and whatever, but it surprised me with how much I ended up loving it. I was right about it having no LGBTQAI+ content, but it did have wonderful family dynamics (both blood and found), discussion about honor and forgiveness, communities working together, and treating your enemy with mercy. Despite the cold and the violence, it ended up being a much gentler and hopeful book than I expected.

The Art of Escaping by Erin Callahan (link is to my own review)

This book was a surprise because I kind of really hated the first 30-40%, but once it picked up, I ended up loving it. It’s about a teen girl who wants to be an escape artist so she seeks out the daughter of a famous escape artist and begs her to teach her, while also acquiring an assistant in the form of a gay boy from her school. It has multiple perspectives, and I loved how Mattie and Will sometimes told the same events very differently. I also loved the little diary entries at the beginning of every chapter, and all the hints to the relationship between Miyu and her famous mother. Extra shout out to the little shit 14-year-old whose every sentence was golden.

Favourite new to you or debut author

The Radical Element edited by Jessica Spotswood (link is to my own review)

I’m going to grab this chance to talk about The Radical Element here because it was one of my favourite reads of the year but I couldn’t really fit it into the other categories. It’s a historical fiction anthology with all-female leads, with 12 authors who both wrote very strong, compelling stories. I rated most of the stories 4 or 5 stars and I definitely found several authors whose other works I’ll be checking out after this. Special shout out to Marieke Nijkamp, whose story, Better For All The World was one of my favourites.

Your new fictional crush

Tone of Voice (Xandri Corelel Book 2)Xandri, Diver and Kiki from Failure to Communicate + Tone of Voice (links are to my own reviews)

So, I don’t really do book crushes, especially because I mostly read YA and the characters are mainly teenagers. But I adore Xandri, and there’s just something about seeing both Diver and Kiki through her eyes that makes it impossible (for me, at least) to not have a crush on all three of them. (I cheated and put the sequel’s cover because I just love the big not-whale and Xandri floating in front.)

New favourite character

Xandri from Failure to Communicate

I just can’t /not/ put Xandri here. She is such a strong, complex, incredibly powerful protagonist – a bisexual, autistic polyamorous woman who is the best at her job and her way of saving the world puts her above AIs specifically designed for this task. I am also told by many #ownvoices reviewers that she is great representation for both autism and people with synesthesia.

Murderbot from The Murderbot Diaries

I already explained this several times above, so let me just repeat myself: wonderful, relatable android with anxiety who just wants to watch Netflix in peace, but also has a great sense of responsibility towards its humans.

Rin from The Poppy War

Rin was such a wonderfully complex protagonist – not always likeable, not always good, far from perfect, often desperate, sometimes ruthless and maybe even cruel. And yet, her determined mind was honestly the best thing about this book.

The Freeze-Frame RevolutionA book that made you cry

The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts (link is to my own review)

So, this book somehow made its way to this list after all. It’s difficult to really talk about why it made me cry without spoiling it, but to anyone who’s already read it: the keyword is dancing. As well as this little exchange: “I’ll kill you if I can.” “I’ll save you, if you let me.” This is a sci-fi novella about artificial intelligence – or maybe artificial stupidity? – that takes place over sixty million years. Yes, you read that right.

A book that made you happy

The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

Yes, this is a repeat, but listen. Best slowburn romance with a bi/pan protagonist and a kickass genderfluid love interest, with extra cute sibling interactions and Norse mythology. (What do you mean there was a plot besides my favourite characters being awesome? I didn’t notice.) Also, the ending and the direction Magnus chose to take his inheritance couldn’t have made me happier.

Your favourite book to movie adaptation that you’ve seen this year

Black Panther

Okay, look, comic books are books and this absolutely counts. I watched it with my Dad and even he liked it. The story, the characters, the real African culture and the almost all-Black cast was all beautiful – but most of all, I adored the colours. Superhero movies are so often gritty and dark, not just in story, but also visually. Black Panther was vibrant with colour, in every scene, every dream sequence, every marketplace.

Favourite book post you’ve done this year

I actually only started being active on my blog in the last few months, but I still managed to a few posts that I’m really proud of, so here are my favourite non-review posts:

Baker ThiefThe most beautiful book you’ve bought/received this year

Baker Thief by Claudie Arseneault

So much purple, and fat protagonist with a cape, and just overall such a beautifully drawn cover okay.

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

This book gets a spot here despite me not enjoying it that much, because the ace colours, the dark-skinned happy Black girl and the ace pun on the cover is just too good.

What are some books you need to read by the end of the year

This tag is incredibly long and it’s almost midnight when I’m writing this so I’m just going to list some of the oldest books on my TBR that I have been meaning to read since forever but keep putting off. Please don’t yell at me. Yes, I know they are great, yes, I promise I’ll read them. Eventually. (I actually own physical copies of all of these, which is rare because I mostly read ebooks.)

  • Six of Crows
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue
  • The Long Way To a Small Angry Planet
  • Good Omens
  • How To Make a Wish

Huh! That was long. What was your favourite book this year so far?

~ Alexa