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August 2018

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Sometimes the world don’t give you what you need, no matter how hard you look. Sometimes it withholds.

There’s likely not much that I could say about Sing, Unburied, Sing that hasn’t already been eloquently said by others. Jesmyn Ward’s elegiac and lyrical novel sings back and forth across narrators, across time, across the blood- and history-soaked soil of Mississippi. It’s beautiful, and sad on a bone-deep level.

My best feature, ruined.
“I don’t think you can claim your entire face as your best feature,” Felicity tells me. “You’re meant to be a bit more discerning.”

So. I went into A Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue expecting some High Quality young adult LGBT historical fiction content. It’s got that in spades, but it also has stomach-achingly funny bits, warmth and heart for its flawed characters, and a delightful bright tone that contrasted the heavier portions of the book without making them seem trivialized.

As I said in a pre-review for this, my bi ass loves this book. This is the kind of LGBT+ historical fantasy I wish I’d had as a questioning and confused teen, so this review is going to be 100% unabashedly biased in favor of it. I’m going to structure this almost as a response to some criticisms of TGGTVAV which I’ve either seen or could imagine seeing, simply because I feel that will allow me to best mention the novel’s strengths.

Before I get on with the bulk of the review, I want to note some content warnings for this book: homophobia, alcoholism, PTSD, ableism, parental abuse (verbal and physical).

Surviving isn’t just about cutting out your heart and burning every feeling into ash. Sometimes it means taking what ever is thrown at you, beautiful or grotesque, poisonous or blissful, and carving out your life with the pieces you’re given.

Gorgeous quote image above from iceybooks!

A Crown of Wishes was a beautiful, multilayered surprise to me. After reading The Star-Touched Queen and being less than enamored with it, I was a bit wary of giving this, its companion novel, a try. I’m so glad that I did. Coming into this novel with an open mind was the best way to approach it, I think; everything about it was an improvement upon its predecessor. The characters, the plot, the setting, and were all better and more fully-formed. And on a prose level, I felt that Chokshi had honed her craft as a writer, taking an already lyrical, imagery-rich authorial voice and tuning it to just the right pitch.

This review’s going to be long and winding and very extra. This book made my dessicated husk of a heart feel things, okay?

If you just want the tl;dr version of my opinions, here you go:

Strange the Dreamer is an intricate novel that I both loved and was annoyed by. Some of its greatest strengths, the prose and the characters, are fundamentally tied to what I viewed as its weaknesses: the uneven, often meandering pacing; and the plot, especially the plot developments at the end.

If you’re still interested, though, I have more thoughts (maybe too many?) on this beautiful, messy beast of a book.

If I told you in this moment that I’m the enemy—I will not save the day, I will not change the world for the better, that this is not what will happen—will you believe me?
Try to.

I’ve already read about 50 books in 2018, and even with some amazing books among that number, The Raging Ones is one of the most unique young adult novels I’ve read so far this year. It’s got a combination of elements that might not seem like they’d add up to a book that really stands out: a central cast of scrappy characters in their late teens (two boys and one girl, in this case), a dystopian setting that incorporates a lifespan-based caste system, and a healthy dose of romance. What made it all special as a whole was in the how the authors used those things in engaging and expectation-defying ways.

was afraid. He wore spurs on his heels and jewels on his fingers like enormous chips of ice, and the voices of all the lost souls in blizzards howled behind him. Of course I was afraid.

 

But I had learned to fear other things more: being despised, whittled down to one small piece of myself at a time, smirked at and taken advantage of.

Spinning Silver is an absolute wonder. It’s a tale that manages to weave the perspectives of a Jewish moneylender’s daughter (and moneylender in her own right), a poor serf seeking escape from her abusive father, and an unlikely tsarina, all while making their points of view distinct, relevant, and poignant. It’s a Rumpelstiltskin retelling that manages to stay faithful to a timeless fairytale tone while spinning out the tale into something both refreshing and nuanced. Meanwhile, it features fantastic elements both subtle and intense, ruminations on what makes a family, and great character development.