Mini-review: Mermaid’s Voice and By Your Side

Mini-review: Mermaid’s Voice and By Your Side

*I receive e-copies of these books via NetGalley in return for an honest review*

the mermaid’s voice returns in this one – amanda lovelace

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5)

A powerful and empowering conclusion to the Women Are Some Kind of Magic trilogy. I wasn’t too sure about this reading especially since I didn’t particularly enjoy the second book that much, but I knew it would bug me to not complete a series that is short like this one. The one thing I liked the most about Lovelace’s work is how she uses the concepts of fairy tales, subverting traditionally submissive stories about women and reinventing them in her own way. I guess, and it isn’t Lovelace’s fault, the style really doesn’t do much for me anymore. I can’t really fault her on this structure being so overused in popular poetry books.  

Rilakkuma: By Your Side – Aki Kondo

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Two words: Cute and simple. By Your Side is a series of different everyday scenes of Rilakkuma and his friends. It’s pretty sweet, a simple quote book filled with adorable art of the well-loved cartoon characters. It’s a book I would keep at my shelf and look through if I’m feeling down.

Don’t expect a lot from this book, it’s mainly pictures with some inspiring quotes alongside it. But it’s delightful and optimistic. I believe this was released in anticipation of Rilakkuma’s upcoming Netflix series, which I did not know what happening. And now I’m pretty excited to watch it.

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Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Review: Gates of Thread and Stone

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

The Labyrinth has been humanity’s home for a long as Kai could remember. Despite the damp and discomfort, it is home. That is until her adopted brother, Reev, disappears and keeping her head down isn’t an option anymore. Kai must come to terms with her ability to manipulate time and unravel her past before she loses her future.  

I really enjoyed this a lot more than I expected! I had some initial shortcomings maybe because the title put me off a lot, but I genuinely had a good time reading this.

The fantasy world was substantial. I guess I would’ve liked more on the creation of gargoyles, but the world is rather exciting and inventive. Humanity lives inside this walled off city now named Ninurta, with fractions of communities of differing wealth. We slowly learn throughout the book about the use of magic, how it destroyed the world we once knew, and how it manifests in different beings.  It’s sort of post-apocalyptic with a magical twist. I really enjoyed that fact that it’s given to us in paces because the amount that is needed to create this world, it just wouldn’t have been right to info-dump it all.

I really enjoyed Kai as a protagonist. She’s very headstrong, and I liked that she was very sure about what she wanted from the get-go and was very adamant that nothing was going to get in her way. I really loved Avan as well. Maybe not as a love interest but as a friend to Kai, who you can clearly see these two cared for each other and were willing to anything to keep each other safe. Their friendship was delightful, and I was expecting it to be held more platonic, but the romance wasn’t as bad as it could’ve gone nor did it dominate and overtake the actual plot.

The twist that comes towards the end had me thoroughly shocked. I was initially confused because I genuinely was not expecting the way the plot just shifts so suddenly into something we weren’t necessarily informed about. The ending was a complete 360 from the original set up. But the twist did introduce some new characters that I am indeed very interested in and brought some of the secondary characters to the forefront again. I’m reading the sequel as I’m writing this and I enjoy how the story is progressing from here.  

I listened to the audiobook, though I did swap to the e-book on chapters where it wasn’t available, I think the audiobook made the reading experience more enjoyable. I really loved the voice actor for the book who did an outstanding job at not only bring Kai’s story to life but gave a real warmth to the secondary characters.

Overall, Gates of Thread and Stone was pretty solid and fun to read. It isn’t jumping to the top of my favourites list, but it is a contender. The world and story were amusing and exciting that I do have high hopes for how this series will play out in the end.


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Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Review: A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

A Large Expanse of Sea follows Shirin, a young teen, coming of age, in the year after 9/11. It’s 2002, and Shirin has learned to deal with the rude stares and degrading sneers from her peers. She builds her walls to protect her from a world that threatens to harm her because of her race and the hijab she chooses to wear. Rather than interact, she delves into her love for break-dancing with her brother. Until she meets Ocean James, and for once someone wants to know her for her. But Shirin’s not too sure if she’s ready to break down the walls she set up.

Shirin and her family are experts at moving. City to city, school to school. The cycle repeats itself for Shirin all her life. Her parents striving for better jobs, thus a better life for their children. But they don’t see how Shirin is suffering. So Shirin find a new form of happiness in breakdancing and music, which helps Shirin in her isolation.

I’m honestly blown out the water by this book. I didn’t expect to be so wholly enchanted by Shirin. There is so much longing and pain in this story, and I love how Shirin never back down. She stood by her belief where the most comfortable option would’ve been to back down. You see how hurt she is from all that she’s experienced that you can’t fault her for shutting people out. And slowly,  she opens up to others around. We watch her grow, in dancing and herself.

This story is so precious and so important to me. Everything was so real from the emotions, the characters, and then the ending. The characters were so relatable and hilarious. Even the romance cracked me for once. Shirin and Ocean have my heart. A slow burn that was so tender and sweet. The drama behind Ocean was borderline generic but it was interesting to see how Ocean’s history affected him and I think Tahereh Mafi did the best she could’ve done with the story concerning his part.

Rarely do we get to see a Muslim Hijabi teen in a story that revolves around her own coming of age and experiences with romance, but Expanse gives us just that. And I have to thank Tahereh Mafi for that.


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Content warnings: TBA

 

Review: Empress of All Seasons

Review: Empress of All Seasons

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

“The rules were simple: Survive the Rooms. Conquer the Seasons. Win the prince.”

Becoming the next Empress of Honoku is anything but simple. Survive the palace’s magical but deadly seasonal rooms and marry the emperor. Everyone is eligible unless you’re Yokai, magical beings with the ability to transform. Mari’s one goal is to steal the Emperor’s wealth. But her life is on the line as she struggles to keep her identity hidden and learning that everything isn’t as it seems.

Empress of All Seasons is an ownvoices Japanese fantasy that was damn near perfect to read. I was obsessed entirely within the very first pages.

The characters were brilliant. Rarely do I find a book where the entire cast was absolutely excellent. Mari, our main Yokai, has been raised by beautiful women whose primary goal is to seduce wealthy men and steal their wealth. Mari doesn’t inherit the skills and looks, so her mother prepares her to train differently. Skilling fighting she competes in the competition to pull off a steal that would make her the greatest of Animal Wives. Taro, our cold Emperor to be, suffers from the hands of his terrible father and is a quick-thinking inventor that regrets his invention which enslaves all of the yokai. Akira, perhaps my favourite, is half human, half yokai. Mari’s closest friend and helps her in more ways than she knows. Hanako, the leader of the resistance, that really deserves her own novel.

The worldbuilding is where Empress shines. It’s set in such a magical rich world that is really beautiful. The Imperial Palace with its seasonal rooms, the interlude with the lives of the gods’, it’s all so magical but dangerous which really made it compelling to read.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but Empress is a standalone, I believe. Which is what made this a little disappointing, especially in the end. The final chapter leads to something more, something even more significant than what we get in the first book. But it’s all very quickly wrapped up in a couple of paragraphs which suggest there will be no more novels. The world Emiko Jean has created is detailed and gorgeous, and I really hope it isn’t just confined to just this one novel because that would be the biggest shame.

For a way of conclusion, Empress almost ticked all the boxes but, nonetheless, I really loved it. A tale of family, honour and love, Empress is a compelling story that I genuinely didn’t want to put down. I really hope Emiko Jean will return to these characters later, or at least this world.


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Content warning: major character death, bury your gay trope, violence and bloodshed. MORE TO BE ADDED.

Review: Sadie

Review: Sadie

Rating: ★★★★★

“And Sadie, if you’re out there, please let me know.

Because I can’t take another dead girl. “

After her little sister was murdered, Sadie goes in search for revenge. West McCray is a radio personality who stumbles across her story and begins his own podcast to track her down. Slowly, he starts to trace Sadie’s journey, trying to figure out what happened before it’s too late.

Sadie hits hard. Words like perfect and amazing does not do this book justice.  Sadie is basically half book/half podcast. We follow Sadie as she leaves her dead-end town in search of the man who hurt her sister. Sadie having raised her sister, Claire, from a young age, she loved her sister fiercely. When she’s gone, she’s thrown in a path to find her sister’s murderer and kill him. Radio star West McCray follows a bit after, filling in the gaps that Sadie doesn’t mention and reveals all new information that she wouldn’t have known.

Sadie was a haunting read, a story of loss and betrayal, anger and grief. These two sisters relied on each other to handle the ugliness of the world around them, the world that failed to protect them. The sense of urgency you get and the feeling of rush, especially in the audiobook, is honestly exhilarating.

The podcast portions were so great and worked well, especially when you alternate from the messiness of Sadie’s mind as she’s coming to terms with the fact that her journey must end with a dead man. West McCray’s voice is soothing, and his podcast provides a different insight into Sadie’s life.

Overall, this story is uncomfortable and powerful. It’s cast of characters genuine and believable. I would recommend listening to the audiobook because it honestly was an experience.


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Content warning: pedophilia, child sexual abuse, parental neglect, mentions and descriptions of substance abuse.

Review: The Poet X

Review: The Poet X

Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)

Xiomara is the titular The Poet X who learns to find her voice in the pages of her journal, hidden from the world. Her passion and frustration grows in the pages of her notebook, reciting stories that must never leave the pages the ink drys on. But when she’s invited to her school’s slam poetry club, Xiomara decides to speak up in a world that doesn’t want to hear from her.

The Poet X follows Xiomara’s life as she tackles a world that works not in her favour. A world that doesn’t want to hear from her. The story tackles and addresses so many important topics. One of the main issues is sexual harassment and how victims of it are affected, especially from a young age like Xiomara. Another is how Xiomara grapples with living in a conservative household with religious parents. We follow Xiomara as she handles the shame, fear and confusion as she tries to fit in the boxes life had already decided for her.

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