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read in 2018

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Muse of Nightmares by Laini TaylorMuse of Nightmares (Strange the Dreamer, #2) by Laini Taylor
on October 2, 2018
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 528
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads

In the wake of tragedy, neither Lazlo nor Sarai are who they were before. One a god, the other a ghost, they struggle to grasp the new boundaries of their selves as dark-minded Minya holds them hostage, intent on vengeance against Weep.

Lazlo faces an unthinkable choice—save the woman he loves, or everyone else?—while Sarai feels more helpless than ever. But is she? Sometimes, only the direst need can teach us our own depths, and Sarai, the muse of nightmares, has not yet discovered what she's capable of.

As humans and godspawn reel in the aftermath of the citadel's near fall, a new foe shatters their fragile hopes, and the mysteries of the Mesarthim are resurrected: Where did the gods come from, and why? What was done with thousands of children born in the citadel nursery? And most important of all, as forgotten doors are opened and new worlds revealed: Must heroes always slay monsters, or is it possible to save them instead?


Strange the Dreamer (#1): ★★★

Always and forever: the children. Each face was seared into her mind, two versions of them, side by side: alive and terrified next to dead and glassy-eyed, because she had failed to save them.

They were all I could carry.

If Strange the Dreamer was a story about clutching to hope while searching for yourself and a place of belonging, Muse of Nightmares is about trauma: attempts to bury it, the horrible fear and rage and emotional damage it causes, and the slow and difficult process of healing from it. Yeah, it’s also about magical young blue people and colonialism and Tizerkane warriors and a city named Weep which is itself traumatized from brutal oppression. But as I said, to me, while the other elements are all vital to it, the overarching story is ultimately about trauma and healing.

The Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner: A Beautiful, Magical TaleThe Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Published by Redhook on September 25, 2018
Genres: fantasy, young adult
Pages: 464
Format: ARC, eBook
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads

Captivating and boldly imaginative, with a tale of sisterhood at its heart, Rena Rossner's debut fantasy invites you to enter a world filled with magic, folklore, and the dangers of the woods.
Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life - even if they've heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods.
Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods...
The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be - and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

Friends, I love this book. I think some readers who aren’t fans of verse in their novels may not enjoy it, but for anyone else, I highly recommend it. I want to say that before anything else because I went into reading this novel knowing very little other than that I loved its cover and found the synopsis enticing. I’m so glad I did. It captured my heart and my imagination right from its opening pages.

Although I love Tati’s stories and his answers, I wonder why a small voice is a daughter’s voice. Sometimes I wish my voice could be loud–like a roar. But that is not a modest way to think. The older I get, the more immodest my thoughts become.

Also, here’s some recommended listening for this review/this book before I really dive into things:

WWW Wednesday posts are something I’d like to start doing in addition to Top Ten Tuesdays. Hosted by the blog Taking on a World of Words, WWW Wednesdays challenge bloggers to answer three questions:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

While school continues to make a dent in the amount of time I have to read for pleasure, that doesn’t mean it’s stopped me completely! I’ve actually managed to make it through a fair number of books in the past week, thanks to reading a few novellas and shorter works. Let’s get into breaking down what I’ve read and what I plan to read next.

Drawn to Sex by Erika Moen and Matthew NolanDrawn to Sex: The Basics by Erika Moen, Matthew Nolan
Published by Limerence Press on November 6, 2018
Genres: sequential art
Pages: 160
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

The first volume in a planned, 3-volume, sex-education series.

Have you ever had a question about sex, but didn't know who to ask? Well, Erika and Matthew have spent years learning, talking, and creating informative comics about all aspects of sex. Using comics, jokes, and frank communication, they're here to demystify the world of sex and answer your questions—including ones you might not even know you had!

In this first book of the Drawn to Sex series, they explore the practical side of sex, from the basics of what defines sex, to barriers and testing, masturbation, and the ins-and-outs of having sex with other people.

Pick up this fun book if you’re looking to learn something new, understand sexuality better, or know someone (maybe you!) who might benefit from some judgment-free education. Erika and Matthew are here to help you out!


My tl;dr review of this: A joyful, approachable, gloriously inclusive volume on the basics of sex. It welcomes and celebrates consenting adults who are comfortable doing any and all kinds of sex, as well as those who are uncomfortable with some or all sex. Informative, well-researched, friendly, and well worth a read, even if you know plenty about these topics already.

Also, just an aside: while this review won’t show any NSFW images or anything like that, it’s going to be discussing sex and things relating to it, because of, y’know, the nature of this book. If that’s not your jam, maybe give this review a pass.

The Leading Edge of Now by Marci Lyn CurtisThe Leading Edge of Now by Marci Lyn Curtis
Published by Kids Can Press on September 4, 2018
Genres: young adult
Pages: 336
Format: eBook, ARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads

Just when Grace is beginning to get used to being an orphan, her estranged uncle suddenly comes forward to claim her. That might have been okay if he'd spoken to her even once since her father died. Or if moving in with Uncle Rusty didn't mean returning to New Harbor.

Grace once spent the best summers of her life in New Harbor. Now the place just reminds her of all she's lost: her best friend, her boyfriend and any memory of the night that changed her forever.

People say the truth will set you free, but Grace isn't sure about that. Once she starts looking for it, the truth about that night is hard to find --- and what happens when her healing hurts the people she cares about the most?


I knew that coming here would unearth all sorts of nasty memories. And just standing here, I’m hit with a multilayered emotion that’s heartache and shame and panic, my past so close I can sense it brushing against the fine hairs on the back of my neck.

I think I originally requested this title to read and review because of a few things: a) that gorgeous cover, b) I want to stretch myself out of my reading comfort zone a bit and read more contemporaries, and c) this part of its blurb: “an honest and emotional story that will resonate with the wide range of readers impacted by sexual assault.”

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).

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.