"Rin had spent so long hating how she felt when she burned, hating her fire and her god. Not anymore."
The Poppy War trilogy is truly once in a lifetime and this conclusion was honestly a work of art all itself. This series is a military epic fantasy that is ownvoices and inspired from the authors family history and the stories she learned from them. Heavy themes of war, colonization, racism, colorism, genocide, cycles of abuse, and so many different types of trauma are never shied away from. I’ve read and reviewed many books these last six years of my life, and I’m not sure a series has impacted me more than this one. Every sentence has meaning, every chapter is so well planned, every event conveys layers and layers of thoughts and feelings. History is truly created by the victors mostly with the most blood on their hands, and the stories that get told are mostly through a white and colonized lens. R.F. Kuang has done so much with these three books and they mean so much to so many Asian readers.
Okay, okay, let me try to give you a review now! Also, please check out my dear friend Petrik's review, because he is the reason I requested an ARC of The Poppy War back in early 2018. He is also a Chinese reviewer and his voice means a lot to me! Next, this review is going to be spoiler free for The Burning God, but not for The Poppy War or The Dragon Republic! Please use caution reading this review if you have not read the previous two installments in this series!
"She was capable of such cruelties, even without the Phoenix’s power, and that both delighted and scared her."
Rin and Kitay have had everything in their world turned upside down again at the start of this book, but they are both desperate to reclaim a country that has been taken from them repeatedly. They’ve also both been playing for the winning side for so long, they soon learn that tactics and strategy feel vastly different when you are now the underdogs. Rin has only known destruction for so long, but now she gets to know what it feels like to be a liberator instead of only a tool because of her god.
We really get to see many different sides of shamanism in this book, and I adored that aspect with my whole heart. I feel like I really can’t say a lot here, but the trifecta and the additions were amazing. I will say my only complaint for this book comes from the trifecta, but I still couldn’t get enough of all of the different types of shamanism in this book! Especially with a few new characters who easily made me feel very many emotions while this story progressed!
Speaking of different types of gods, I will say with utmost confidence that The Burning God has the best fight scenes I have ever read. Like, ever, in my whole life. Rin and Nezha just… the imagery, the banter, the emotions, their complicated actions, everything is another tier. Like, the pouring rain and the breathing of fire alone had me burning and drowning in the very same moment. Utter perfection in every combat scene and it was some of the most beautiful words I’ve ever seen strung together. Truly one of my favorite parts of this book, and not to lessen any of the important themes and values, but I don’t think I knew yearning until I read Nezha and Rin on different sides of a war neither want. The buildup of every encounter, every battle, every conversation, I was truly quaking.
"Hate was its own kind of fire and if you had nothing else, it kept you warm."
This book very much centers around trauma and the many different cycles and forms. We get to see so many different kinds of trauma from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, but we also get to constantly see the trauma from xenophobia and the impact of racism and colonization. We also get to see the way that many different characters within the book attempt to heal, live, and cope with their different traumas. And even though it is very heartbreaking, it’s very real, and very honest, and very important. I feel like The Burning God especially puts an emphasis on how abuse and trauma can be more easily hidden because of love, duty, and maybe even vengeance, too.
"You don’t fix hurts by pretending they never happened. You treat them like infected wounds. You dig deep with a burning knife and gouge out the rotten flesh and then, maybe, you have a chance to heal."
And Rin’s trauma is so deep. She always remembers what it felt like the be a war orphan who was looked down upon from the very start. She knows what it feels like to be considered a lesser student because of her skin color and because of where she is from. She is haunted by the betrayal she has endured by the people who she thought she loved. She will never forget all the things she has seen and the price of war. She is realizing all the shit she has been forced to internalize because of the environments she has had to survive in. Rin harness her hate and anger and desire for revenge and keeps it close to her at all times in this book.
"They want to erase us. It’s their divine mandate. They want to make us better, to improve us, by turning us into a mirror of themselves."
I feel like I could write an entire review on the colonization in this book alone. The reader gets to see the threat of this more and more in each book, but when Rin visits “New City” for the first time, it was harrowing in every sense of the word. Yes, this book is about a horrible and terrible civil war, but the Hesperians are the greatest evil of this whole book. How the Hesperians took over this city, took over the name, took over the foundation, took over the imports and exports, took over the military, all the while trying to convince everyone that it’s for the greater good, that it’s the right and better way, that it’s the only way. This might be the Filipino coming out extra hard, but white people love to colonize everything, but especially the people of the land they try to take, while always reminding them they are and never will be truly equal to them. All of the scenes that truly disturbed me were with the Hesperians, and they so horrifically depicted what has happened to so many countries over and over again, and what is still going on unapologetically in 2020. I could feel Rin’s helplessness with everything I am, and I hope people really process who the villain of this story truly is. Magical gods disguised as dragons, power hungry men, and internalized racism are terrifying, but there aren't words for people trying to rip the identity of your culture from you.
"There are never any new stories, just old ones told again and again as this universe moves through its cycles of civilization and crumbles into despair."
This book also emphasizes how the victors get to decide how the history is written. They get to create their own villains, their own heroes, their own story. History books are written by the same colonizers who are still trying to take absolutely everything and make it westernized, hence the fact most people (myself included) were not educated on what was going on in China pre WWII, and what happened when Japan marched on Nanjing.
"When you conquered as a totally and completely as he had, you could alter the course of everything. You could determine the stories that people told about you for generations."
I’ve had so many people in my DMs on goodreads and on insta asking about my feelings on how this last book concluded, and I never really know how to answer it, but the answer is heartbreaking perfection. I honestly cannot think of a better conclusion, yet I do think that it won’t be for everyone. But as the events in The Burning God unfold, it becomes more and more clear. And I really do think it is a perfect parallel(s) to how things in our world felt then and how they very much still feel now. Also, war is unspeakably hard, but when you’ve lived your life for battle after battle, trying to live after a war is over can be just as hard, just in a different kind of way.
"Take what you want, it said. I’ll hate you for it. But I’ll love you forever. I can’t help but love you. Ruin me, ruin us, and I’ll let you."
Overall, I’m going to be really honest. I cried while writing this review, and I’m very teary eyed right now with my final thoughts. This series just means so much to Asian readers and reviewers. It was such an honor to read these books, to feel haunted but seen by these themes, to fall in love with Fang Runin over and over again. What a blessing it was to see all three of these characters, walk alongside them, see them change and grow, because of their environments, because of expectations, and because of their damn selves. I truly don’t have the words. From Sinegard, to every battlefield, to the very end. I am rendered speechless. Not only do I think Rebecca is going to redefine so many parts of the book world with her writing (both with this trilogy and all her other endeavors to come), but I think she will inspire and help pave the way for so many Asian authors to come. She truly ended this trilogy perfectly, I’m just not ready to say goodbye, but I am so eternally honored for this series existence, and I truly will sing it’s praises forever.
Trigger and Content Warnings: animal abuse, animal sacrifice, animal death, colonization, dark torture, dark murder, death, racism, genocide, colorism, sexism, assault, talk of rape, talk of sex trafficking, talk of being buried alive that I feel could be claustrophobia inducing, talk of suicide, abuse, talk of abuse in past, PTSD depiction, grief depiction, so many traumas depicted very hauntingly, talk of drug addiction, drug use, drugging against people’s wills, bombings, self-harm, forced captivity (also claustrophobia inducing, I feel), panic attacks, blood depiction, talk of genital mutilation (to people who committed bad acts), cannibalism, talk of kidnapping in the past, talk of a graveyard devoted to children, mention of miscarriages and abortions, mention of shock therapies, mention of unwanted medical experimentation, starvation and famine, and just overall very dark war themes. This book does not shy away from all aspects of war, and can be extremely hard to read at times, please use caution and make sure you’re in the right headspace! (Please credit me if you copy paste these trigger warnings! It takes a lot of time, energy, and labor for me to try my best to help ensure the people who read my reviews have the safest reading experience possible! You just read a review (and book) about colonization, don’t steal an Asian reviewer’s work! Thank you!)
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.
[image] ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
I think this was very much the perfect story for me right now at this time. Hopefully a longer revie[image] ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss
I think this was very much the perfect story for me right now at this time. Hopefully a longer review to come before release! <3
Content and Trigger Warnings for talk of loss of a loved one, the sharing of personal photos without consent, abandonment, homelessness, talk of abortion briefly, driving under the influence (the bad guy, and in a negative light), talk of trauma, talk and depiction of depression, talk of grooming (college teacher and student relationship) in the past, and mention of a low-level panic attack.
"I would destroy a thousand heart to find you, again and again."
Sapphic enemies to lovers ro[image] ARC provided by the author
"I would destroy a thousand heart to find you, again and again."
Sapphic enemies to lovers romance, queer bodyguard and royalty romance, dark fairytale setting! Magic, gender and sexual fluidity, yearning! Demons, dragons, unicorns, lots of cute tiny creatures to love! Atmospheric, lush, purple prose perfection! Are any of these keywords getting you? Because I’m still ready to sell my soul for Tessa’s deleted scenes and notes! Okay, how about the Howl's Moving Castle comparison that completely is 100% accurate? This book is the book of my heart and dreams. Easily the best book I’ve read in 2020, so far.
At the very start of this story, our main character realizes the prince is missing and chooses to set out on a quest with another to try to locate them. Meanwhile, there is a witch who lives in seclusion in the Fifth Mountain, except when she needs to kidnap beautiful girls to steal their hearts, never stopping until she finds the most beautiful girl of them all.
I feel like I should just make a mini paragraph about demons, because this book is very demon heavy! There are so many kinds of demons in this book (from little ones, to big ones, to part demons like one of our characters), but greater demons live in places of power in this world! There is one in the Fifth Mountain and one living in the palace too! Also, there are other mountains (Second, Third, etc) where other powerful sorcerers live! But let’s get into our actual cast of characters!
➽ Nothing – queer, orphan who can’t remember anything from her past, not even her name, and the only thing she has as a reminder is a scar on her chest. She lives in the royal palace, where she is best friends with the prince. ➽ Kirin – non-binary, queer, crown prince, recently kidnapped ➽ Sky – queer, bodyguard for the royal family, demon-kissed ➽ The Sorceress Who Eats Girls – queer witch who lives in a mountain and waits and won’t give up
"Everyone is capable of being bound. By duty or love or blood."
And Tessa is being very deliberate in naming our MC Nothing (and the love interest the Sorceress Who Eats Girls)! Words have power, names have power, reclaiming things has immense power, what you choose to give to people has power! We are all products of our surroundings and circumstances, but ultimately only you get to decide who you are, and you get to choose all the parts of you, every single part of you. Sometimes it’s easy to just be nothing or a wicked witch, sometimes picking your own name is the most powerful thing in this whole wide world.
"Everyone can be bigger than they seem, hold more than their bodies are capable of holding. You have always chosen to grow."
Tessa normally doesn’t use actual terms in their books, but always shows constant multiple gender attraction and a lot of non-binary feels throughout. Honestly, everyone always feels pan in their books to me, but it could be me completely projecting. But we have main sapphic relationship (that is truly to die for), and a male and non-binary / gender queer character relationship (which also made my heart very, very full). But truly everyone reads queer and/or gender fluid, and we all know that gender and sexuality can be so very fluid, and we just love it here a lot. Also, like in true Tessa fashion, there are hints of polyamory and a constant beautiful light of how romantic and platonic relationships can be equally as important and… Tessa’s worlds >>>
"You decide what you are. You."
Also, all of these characters are flawed and make mistakes and can look villainous! There is a lot of ownvoices rep between these pages, and I think that Tessa perfectly executes villains who just also happen to be queer, instead of… queer villains, if you feel me. There are a lot of questionable actions throughout this book, maybe even some villainous acts, but it’s just done in a very realistic way from these characters and their circumstances. (Okay, maybe not Sky, who is a perfect angel always, imo!
This book does very gently talk about abuse and toxic relationships and how those things can be very hard to see when the word love is involved. Codependency is also something felt in this book, and how that can also be something that is very unhealthy. We also get to see a lot of power dynamics and power imbalances and how those things are not okay and can easily also become dangerous. But people who really love you, unconditionally love you, will not only wait for you on your journeys, but they will support you and respect your boundaries, too.
"I love you," the sorceress said. "What you are now."
But seeing Nothing become the person she wants to be? Despite her past, despite her current situation, despite an unknown future? So very beautiful. And to have someone showing her that she is worth the wait, that she has always been worth the wait, that she never has to be alone, and that she has never and will never ever be nothing. Please, hold me. Forever preferably.
"How strange, how thrilling, to be told your heart is half of someone else’s. A gift from a woman who loved you once."
The romance in this book is out of this world. The perfect one-liners that Tessa has laced throughout this book? Makes me a bit speechless to even think about. All of you who constantly say you love enemies to lovers, who want to viscerally feel yearning, who want the characters to go through hell and back together, and you want it sapphic? Pick this up! I promise you, Tessa has some of the most gorgeous prose to every exist, and the way they weave these lines together is something of magic. Also, I’ll never eat a pear the same again, on all the higher powers.
My only complaint is that some characters in this world can change their appearance magically, and in the ARC I realized that in the past one character had lighter skin, and now her skin is dark because she altered it that way. I am a biracial person with white skin, but it for sure made me side-eye a bit. But every other aspect of this book was absolutely perfect for me.
Overall, I truly believe this will be my favorite book of 2020, just like how Strange Grace was my favorite book of 2018. Tessa and their worlds, and their characters, and their writing just makes me feel so seen in a way that no other author does. This book means so much to me. Tessa truly gave me the romantic, sapphic, whimsical, love story of my dreams. This story is everything I’ve ever wanted, and I feel like I’ve wanted it for so very long. I also feel like Tessa maybe redefined the word “yearning” and their power is just unmatched. I just want to spend the rest of my life reading their stories over and over again and feeling seen, and happy, and in love. Forever.
"Everything poured into Nothing."
Trigger and Content Warnings: gore, violence, murder, death, blood depictions, self-harm, magical coercion, kidnapping, incorrect use of pronouns upon meetings someone (is immediately corrected and the character learns and corrects themselves) and war themes.
”You feel like you’ve lost your path. It’s natural to be sad… it’s alright to let those feelings wash over you, and give them time to soak into the earth. That’s when things start to grow again.”
This entire series is just so special to me, and this newest installment is probably my favorite thing by Katie O’Neill to date. The Tea Dragon Tapestry truly feels like a love letter to remember loving yourself through all your phases.
I think something we just don’t really talk about enough as readers and reviewers is that sometimes we truly read a book at the most perfect moment in our lives, almost like it was destiny for us to choose this particular story at this particular moment, and that was very much me with The Tea Dragon Tapestry.I honestly don’t think I can put into words how much this story means to me at this time in my life, but I suppose I should give it a try still.
”The sadness, the loss, the hurt, as well as the joy, the love, the friendship – it is all part of you tapestry.”
This is a series about a small little village, where some of the community members have tea dragons! Tea dragons are little dragons that sprout little tealeaves when they are being well taken care of. And even though tea dragons are very rare, we get to fall a little bit more and more in love with their caretakers each installment!
This is also one of the most inclusionary graphic novels, which has some of the most beautiful diversity. This story has sapphic characters, gay characters, characters of all different skin colors, disability representation, nonbinary/genderfluid representation, and one of the most beautiful found families of all time.
Like always with my graphic novel reviews, I’m going to try to do little breakdowns of each chapter so I can come back and recap when needed! I’m going to try to keep this relatively spoiler free because this beautiful volume isn’t out yet but use caution still if you’d like to go into this one not knowing anything!
➽ Chapter One: Brick is the cutest little coal sprite in the whole wide world. My heart's quadrants still belong to Ginseng & Greta and Chamomile and Minette! Hesekiel and Erik and their tea dragons and little tea house mean everything to me too. And in this chapter, we get to see how tea dragons have an extremely strong bond with their caregivers!
➽ Chapter Two: Minette starts to have magical dreams (that are drawn… so breathtakingly beautifully, oh my word, I’m still rendered absolutely speechless) and Greta is going to try for a blacksmithing apprenticeship!
➽ Chapter Three: A lot happens in this chapter, but this is where the graphic novel starts to talk about our life’s purpose, and how sometimes our lives do not go the way we thought they would (even if extremely planned and laid out for us), but that is okay. We all experience phases where we question things, even ourselves, but we are never alone with that experience. Also, being nostalgic is very human (and dragon) things, that we all love to feel, but we shouldn’t compare the happiness of the past to the sadness we could be possibly experience in the present.
”It sounds strange, but I feel homesick for the person I used to be…”
➽ Chapter Four: We get to see Rinn and Aedhan from The Tea Dragon Festival again and my heart felt like it had wings of it’s own! And how sometimes all our senses work together to remind us of happy or sad things and times.
”Taste has a strong association with memory”
➽ Chapter Five: This was my favorite chapter, and I kind of just wept while reading it. Life can be so hard, and so sad, and so unexpected, and so all of these things at the very same time, but you just have to remember that it will get better, it can get better, and that this is only part of where you are at in life right now. One of the most beautiful things about life is that it is a full journey, where we will change, and people will change, and that’s okay, an that can be beautiful, but we have to keep changing and keep growing and keep living.
”…Little one, you are the person you are meant to be”
➽ Chapter Six: And even if your journey might be a little unexpected, be happy that it is your journey. I truly know I sound like a bit of a self-help reviewer right now, but this chapter is just so beautiful, and hopefully, and left me so very excited to see where the rest of my journey will take me, no matter how many sad days are left and coming, because there will always be even more happy ones along the way, too.
”…Remember, that you are already whole.”
➽ Epilogue: This epilogue was so good because it shows you the history on tea dragons! And Hesekiel is too kind to us to show us these secrets and stories of the tea dragons. And to remind us that all our stories are so very important and worthy to be told. And it’s also important to go on your own path and make many more new stories to keep on telling your loved ones who make you feel safe.
”Everything that happens is part of your wholeness”
The Tea Dragon Series is just a gift to the whole world. It feels like a comforting hug from my very own family and friends who are too far away to give me one. Again, this series just means a lot to me, and if you’re looking for a little light in a world that feels easy to be dark, then I really just recommend this installment with my whole heart and soul. Words and stories really have healing power, and this one truly made me feel so much lighter. And I promise, you are right where you are supposed to be too, friends.
[image] ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.
"Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, po
[image] ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.
"Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books."
This is a book about a girl, a boy, a devil, and the stories that get told and repeated and remembered. This is a tale of power dynamics and imbalances and what humans are willing to do to not feel trapped and alone. This is all about a young girl who lives her life for herself, who lives her life in spite of the odds, who lives her life in hopes someone will recall her from memory.
Everything about Addie LaRue completely blew me away. This is the first book by V.E. Schwab that I’ve given five stars to, and I’m not sure a day has passed since reading that I haven’t thought about it. I will say that I think this book (and more importantly the ending) could be a bit polarizing, but this story, this main character, and the way everything was structured just really worked perfectly for me and my reading tastes.
How do I even begin to describe this book to you? There are truly so many layers woven together to make this story. Many of you know, this is something that V.E. Schwab has been working on for a decade and you can tell they really put their whole heart and soul into these complex characters:
➽ Addie - A girl with seven freckles, and she is told that there is one for every love she would ever have. She was born in a small town, and had small town expectations placed on her, but Addie had big dreams and desired to see as much of the world as she possibly could. And when she turns twenty-three, and everyone thinks her time is slowly running out, she quickly finds out that time is something she will never have to fear again.
"Spells are for the witches, and witches are too often burned."
➽ Henry - Works at a bookstore in New York while trying to live his life to the fullest. And he happens to be able to see a girl that has never been remembered before.
"I remember you."
➽ Luc - A god you should never pray to after dark, unless you are very desperate, and feel very helpless, and are willing to pay the unknown price.
"I am stronger than your god and older than your devil. I am the darkness between stars, and the roots beneath the earth. I am promise, and potential, and when it comes to playing games, I divine the rules, I set the pieces, and I choose when to play. And tonight, I say no."
And maybe, just maybe, Addie felt like she should be able to pay the price when she runs into the forest one night, willing to risk everything to have a life that is hers once and for all. We get to see Addie and her struggles and her growth over the course of three-hundred-years, starting in 1714 France and switching to 2014 America. We get to see so much of Addie’s hurt throughout the centuries, but we also get to see so much of her yearning. Yearning for love, yearning for knowledge, yearning for art, yearning for a life that is worthy of remembrance. Truly, this book was able to evoke such visceral reactions from me, and I could truly feel Addie’s yearning, and her hurt, on every page.
Now that I have used the word “yearning” one-hundred times, let’s talk about some of the rep in Addie LaRue, because there are lots of queer characters and characters who read queer! Addie is pan or bi, and we get to see her in relationships with different genders throughout this book, but the main relationship (and yearning) is m/f. I believe Henry is pan, but it is never said on page, but "he’s attracted to a person first and their gender second" had me and my pan heart ascending to new heights, I promise you that. Addie and Henry are both white, but there are POC side characters and other identities on the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum (gay, lesbian, maybe some polyamorous hints)! And this book, has some very serious depression representation!
"It’s just a storm, he tells himself, but he is tired of looking for shelter. It is just a storm, but there is always another waiting in its wake."
Being unsure what you want in life. Especially in your twenties. Feeling like something is wrong with you. Feeling like you’ll never be enough. Feeling like you’ll never be whole. Feeling like you are just disappointing everyone around you. Feeling like no one will ever take the time to see you, the real you, and choose to love you unconditionally anyways. Whew, it’s a lot, and V.E. Schwab really didn’t hold back while writing Henry and his mental health. I don’t want to make this too personal, but it means a lot to me, and I know Henry’s journey is going to mean a lot to so many people and impact a lot of lives.
(Also, friendly reminder that life is truly a vast range of up and down journeys! And you, and your journey, are valid, and I see you no matter how hard that journey feels at times. There will be lots of heavy days, but lots of light days too, I promise. And you are so worthy of love, and kindness, and respect, no matter where you are at on your journey. And feeling too much is not a curse, ever. And I’m proud of you, and you are never alone with what you are feeling, and sometimes we all need help with some storms: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org)
"His heart has a draft. It lets in light. It lets in storms. It lets in everything."
Plus, a key component of this story is the god who Addie makes a deal with. Addie and Luc’s three-hundred-year bargain is so very messy and has so very many different elements. But the key element is the unhealthy power dynamic. Over this course of time, we get to see their relationship change, and morph, and grow, and we get to see Addie desperately trying to gain some of the power for herself. But, it is a very unhealthy cycle of abuse and this story is told in a way where the reader gets to see these power imbalances come more and more into play and Luc and Addie set the stage of their game(s) more and more. I’ll be the first to say I always wanted more of Luc, and I loved every chapter he was in, and I constantly wanted to know more about him, but I will also say that I personally feel like V.E. Schwab was very deliberate with his character and with making him charming and intriguing and a character to be romanticized, because abusers can have all of those characteristics and still be abusers.
But we get to see Luc, and Henry, and Addie, and watch their intertangled stories unwind. I truly feel like I can’t say much more about the actual story, and I believe it’s probably best to not know much more than what I’ve said above, but seeing these characters, during all their different phases in life, both alone and together, is truly something like a work of art.
"Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one."
This entire story truly is a love letter to art and the beautiful, awe inspiring, mind-blowing way stories are held within art, therefore held in so many hearts forever. Maybe even creating and inspiring other art, to make the sweetest ripple effect of them all. Art and stories are so powerful because they have the power to heal wounds that are too deep to be touched by other things. From feeling love, to feeling not alone, to inspiring, to escape, to be thought provoking, to be educational, to make you realize things you have been forced to internalize and unlearn, to something as simple yet as hard as happiness.
"Because time is cruel to all, and crueler still to artists. Because vision weakens, and voices wither, and talent fades. " He leans close, twists a lock of her hair around one finger. "Because happiness is brief, and history is lasting, and in the end, " he says, "everyone wants to be remembered."
While I was reading this book, me and my best friend Lea watched a video that was reuploaded on V.E.’s YouTube. It was basically just an hour-long discussion that they had with Tessa Gratton, where they talk about many things, but one of the things they talked about that I especially haven’t been able to stop thinking about since finishing this book was that we never get to really pick what work we will be known for. Obviously, Victoria is very well-know from their series A Darker Shade of Magic, and it very well could be the greatest legacy that the world will know from them. Yet, they talk about how Addie LaRue is the book of their heart, and (I do not want to put any words in their mouth) it kind of felt like to me the book they may want the world to know them for. Yet, we never really get to choose what we are known for, do we? A very astounding concept to think about, truly, and one I couldn’t stop feeling deeply in my bones while I finished the last half of this book. Also, to think about how the human experiences could boil down to this hunger we all have to leave a mark on this world before we are forced to leave it all together? Very powerful stuff, truly. But I promise, V.E. Schwab and Addie Larue most definitely left their marks on me, and my heart, forever with this book.
"Humans are capable of such wondrous things. Of cruelty, and war, but also art and invention."
Overall, this book made me yearn for so many things while also constantly making me question what it is to hunger. To crave your freedom, to crave someone who will see all the parts of you, to crave remembrance. I just feel like this book really touched on the human experience, but in such a incredibly raw and indistinguishably beautiful way. I really loved The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and it will without a doubt make my best of 2020 list. Thank you for letting me be a part of your story, thank you for always reading this part of mine, and I promise you will never be invisible to me.
I loved so much about this book: the discussion on immigration, an asian-american main character, healthy talks of power imbalances, breaking stigmas I loved so much about this book: the discussion on immigration, an asian-american main character, healthy talks of power imbalances, breaking stigmas of poverty, the guy love interest having an eating disorder, and more!
But I just felt like… the love interest was hard to root for. I constantly kept asking myself “should I be feeling empathy?” and I don’t think that’s a very good sign, especially when such a baseline of the story is built off power dynamics.
Also, this entire story was just so unrealistic. Like, I truly did enjoy so many aspects, but I could never be fully immersed because I was just unable to suspend my disbelief in such a way every other chapter (but especially by the end)!
I still think this was a good read, just made a tad bit dated as well, but I am excited to carry on with book two for the book club! And again, there was a lot of good within these pages, I just felt unable to connect for many of them!
Content and Trigger Warnings for disordered eating, racism (challenged), talk of being cheating on in the past, loss of a loved one in the past, drug use, and heart attacks.
Are we ready for another review breakdown in The Hunger Games trilogy? If you haven’t read my review summary for The Hunger 1.) The Hunger Games ★★★★★
Are we ready for another review breakdown in The Hunger Games trilogy? If you haven’t read my review summary for The Hunger Games, then I suggest you do so! Unless you just want a little fresher up in this second installment! I personally do not think that Catching Fire holds up as well as book one, but I still loved it a lot, and I’m very impressed with it, even in 2020. For some strange reason, I didn’t love the parts of the game in this book, but I loved the buildup, and the capitol, and the meeting of new characters (be still, my Finnick Odair heart). Ah, lets get into it before I start to gush! Also, again, this review will have spoilers, so use caution if you don’t want me to tell you what happens in each chapter of this book!
➽ Chapter One: I love it when a tale starts out with the sipping of tea. Katniss and Peeta are both home and they both are remembering everything that they were forced to endure during the games. It has been a year already, and they are getting ready for (gosh this feels like a bad word, but…) celebration. We also get to see Gale, who is incredibly stubborn and works in the mines most of the time now and refuses to take any of Katniss’s winning fortune. Yet, this is the real start of the Gale versus Peeta love triangle for me. And I’m not the only one who notices, because President Snow soon comes and lets Katniss know he is brewing is own pot of tea.
➽ Chapter Two: Snow proceeds to threaten Gale’s life and tells Katniss that she needs to make everyone (including himself) believe in the love between Peeta and her. And he also lets her know that they have a whole tour of all the districts, filled with opportunities to prove themselves and their love for one another.
➽ Chapter Three: This year will be the 75th games, and that is especially important because it means it is a Quarter Quell! Which essentially means they have an even more wild game every 25 years. And during the last one? Haymitch was the winner. Katniss is suffering from extreme PTSD from everything she was forced to endure, and she keeps seeing Rue and it’s haunting her. She is also quickly realizing that she is going to be forced to keep convincing the world of her love for Peeta forever, because they will always be in the spotlight for the rest of their lives. Oh, and Peeta has an artificial leg now, and it makes me wish so desperately that they included that representation into the movies!
➽ Chapter Four: Katniss feels like she is going to have to eventually marry Peeta, and again it is just giving her added pressure and stress on top of everything else that is to come. This is also the iconic favorite colors (green and orange) scene and I love it a lot, honestly. But Peeta and Katniss make their way to district 11 and they make their speeches to the people. And during Peeta’s speech he promises to give Rue’s family part of their earnings forever. After that grand gesture, an old man makes the whistle sound that Rue and Katniss made in the games, and he is promptly killed.
➽ Chapter Five: After the heartbreaking end of that visit, Katniss promises to always keep Peeta in the loop with everything, and she lets him know about what Snow has said to her. Katniss and Peeta cuddle each night and try to protect themselves from the nightmares, while they go on their full tour to all the districts while being engaged.
➽ Chapter Six: I’ll be honest, I had forgotten about the throw up drinks that the Capitol uses to take bites of all the food that they can’t possibly eat with their normal digesting stomach alone! I really liked this chapter, because it felt like Katniss and Peeta are able to slip into this world of winning for mere moments, when they are just abruptly forced to see these privileged people who don’t have a care in the world, while they remember how hungry and cold they had to grow up in district 12. Speaking of district 12, that is where they are going to end their tour, but Katniss finds her way into the mayor’s house where she secretly finds out that district 8 is uprising.
➽ Chapter Seven: Katniss was going to run away with Gale, and he was all like “I love you” and Katniss was just like *microwave noises* a bit and it sent me, truly. But after that, Gale gets whipped and I felt really bad.
➽ Chapter Eight: Katniss gets hit in the face while trying to get to Gale, but he gets medicine and stiches and is healing up as best as he can. Yet, they obviously are not going to run away any longer.
➽ Chapter Nine: Peeta and Katniss’s marriage is going to be soon. And Katniss starts to really believe that maybe an uprising can spark a revolution.
➽ Chapter Ten: In this chapter we get to learn about district 13, and how it was supposedly bombed and completely taken out. But we also learn about a conspiracy theory that they people are somewhere safe and waiting.
➽ Chapter Eleven: Katniss is trapped by an electric fence and hurts herself returning home. She also learns that they are hiding something in district 8 and showing the same television clip over and over.
➽ Chapter Twelve: Many districts start rebelling, and then the truly shocking twist of the special 75th games is announced: the victors of previous years will go back in to fight. Reminder that Katniss is the only girl who can go back, and Peeta and Haymitch are the only two boys.
➽ Chapter Thirteen: Katniss and Haymitch get very drunk together. And then Haymitch is picked, and Peeta volunteers to take his place like the good boy he always is.
“The odds are never in our favour”
➽ Chapter Fourteen: Peeta and Katniss watch Haymitch’s competition and see how he outsmarted the game with the force field that held them inside.
“He offered me sugar and wanted to know all my secrets”
➽ Chapter Fifteen: Finnick Odair!!! We get to really start to begin to see the sad truth of what it means to be a victor in the games. Finnick and Katniss meet for the first time, and its so heartbreaking and heartwarming in the same exact instant.
➽ Chapter Sixteen: We get to see a tiny bit more of Snow’s cruelty with the servant who is assigned to Katniss at a dinner. But Katniss and Peeta are meeting people and practicing their skills and abilities. Peeta, as always, is such a people person, who everyone loves, but Katniss just cannot bear getting close to anyone again. Even though her and Peeta put on very heartbreaking and memorable acts at the end of this chapter.
“I have to kill them all to save Peeta”
➽ Chapter Seventeen: Peeta tells Katniss about his painting for Rue (I didn’t talk about this earlier, but I love how Peeta paints to heal some of his pain and trauma, while also remembering the story of what happened to them). Then Katniss and Peeta have a rooftop picnic where they just spend the whole entire day together. This is truly one of my favorite chapters, and just the calm before the storm. Or the calm before Katniss puts on the mockingjay outfit that Cinna has made for her.
➽ Chapter Eighteen: We get to see Caesar again, and Katniss and Peeta have an interview with him. Then… the most heartbreaking part of this entire book happens, and while Katniss is in the tube to go up to the game, she is forced to watch Cinna be beat and killed before her. I truly wonder if Cinna knew what would be his fate, when he made that dress and when he unapologetically believed in Katniss with a love so strong that it was his end.
“Remember, girl on fire […] I'm still betting on you.”
➽ Chapter Nineteen: It is the start of the games and Katniss is supposed to be pretending like she is pregnant, but she can hardly even see what is going on after the events that she was just forced to witness.
➽ Chapter Twenty: Katniss, Finnick, Mags (who I said I would pay better attention too, because of the prequel, but honestly I didn’t and I feel a bit bad), and Peeta try to get away. Katniss believes Peeta to be dead. And then she believes Finnick to be kissing him, until she realizes he is saving him. Yet, that doesn’t stop the other tributes from dying all around them.
➽ Chapter Twenty-One: They are still running away, but they soon realize that this game is unlike any other. Katniss and Finnick are forced to carry the other two, until the weight is too much to bear, and the deadly fog is creeping closer and closer. Mags understands the severity of the situation and throws herself into it, in hopes that the others will get away, safely.
➽ Chapter Twenty-Two: Oh! And killer monkeys were in the last chapter too, because again, this year’s games is wild as all hell! But the three of them are still retreating when they stumble across another small group of Johanna, Beetee, and Wiress. You know, I haven’t talked about Johanna Mason in this review yet, but oh my word do I love her character and how she always keeps you guessing. But they are all somewhat injured (some worse than others), but Wiress keeps saying the famous like "Tick, tock. Tick, tock" which they have no idea what that means… yet.
➽ Chapter Twenty-Three: Okay, it is “yet” and Katniss figured out it’s a clock all on her own. Basically, the map is one big clock and each hour some deadly force happens. And Katniss now believes she is hearing Prim.
➽ Chapter Twenty-Four: She soon realizes it is a jabberjay, and she also learned seven of the hours so far! Also…. This is really sad foreshadowing of what is to come in Mockingjay and I gasped a little bit, truly. Oh, and Peeta is being really sweet and romantic to Katniss, because he refuses to let her sacrifice herself for him.
“You're my whole life.”
➽ Chapter Twenty-Five: They are trying to survive the best that they can, and Peeta gives her a pearl for luck, and Katniss is just so sure that she is going to die.
➽ Chapter Twenty-Six: That is, until she makes the connection with this mysterious lightning tree, where she is able to also hit the game dome and break everything she knows and doesn’t know yet. And this time Katniss is positive that she is going to die.
➽ Chapter Twenty-Seven: Yet, she wakes up in a hospital, not understand anything. She heartbreakingly finds out that people knew and were part of a rebellion plan the whole game and used her without her consent or knowledge. And they chose to save Katniss, and not Peeta, because she is a symbol, even though she never asked to be one. Katniss feels so betrayed and helpless. And then the book ends with her finding out that district 12 has been firebombed and is gone.
Trigger and Content Warnings for talk of loss of a parent, animal death(s), abandonment, depression, PTSD depiction, blood depiction, alcoholism, gore, violence, murder, talk of suicidal thoughts, talk of death in the past.
"She knew better now. The world was bigger now. She was bigger now, and that made all the difference."
In this story, we get to grow up alongside Regan Lewis! We are introduced to Regan at seven years old, where she is quickly already learning the expectations that society puts on girls, especially girls who are different. Regan comes from a good family, who love and care about her, and she has a big space in her heart for horses! She also has two best friends, and they do everything together! That is, until she really learns the consequences of what it means to be different, and what happens to girls who don’t play by the rules that society place on them.
"They thought children, especially girl children, were all sugar and lace, and that when those children fought, they would do so cleanly and in the open, where adult observers could intervene."
We get to see Regan at 11, becoming worried that her body isn’t developing the way other girls’ bodies are. She doesn’t need to wear a bra yet, she doesn’t need deodorant yet, and she hasn’t started her period yet. And once the pressure gets too great to bear, she asks her parents who (very kindly, knowledgeably, and empathetically) explain to her that her body hasn’t started developing these things (or maybe won’t start developing these things on their own without some help) because she is intersex.
This book really made me realize how much I am slacking as a reader and reviewer with reading books with intersex main characters. Off the top of my head, I can think of only two others, and that makes me feel very bad and I hope to change that soon. But, regardless of chromosomes or androgen insensitivity, Regan is a girl and has always been a girl. And I really loved how her parents constantly reminded her that she was exactly as she was meant to be. Truly, I had so many happy tears over her parents, truly a tier above.
Regan is still very unsure of herself and this new information, and after confiding in someone who she probably should not have, and after they say some incredibly hurtful things to her, she runs away into the woods to try to get home, yet a magical door appears and she steps into a world filled with horses, and kelpies, and centaurs, and unicorns!
I loved this world, like, I loved this world so much. Also, I have never been and will never be a horse girl, and this hooved world was still everything to me. And once Regan is discovered in this world by a pack of centaurs who herd unicorns, we find out about a prophecy that states all humans must be given to the queen, because whenever a human shows up in this magical land that means that something bad is about to happen! But it is not stated anywhere when the human must be given to the queen, therefore Regan gets to spend a lot of time with her centaur family.
The heart of this book is about destiny, and what it means to be destined for something. Whether it’s about your gender, your childhood, your family, or even maybe saving a whole magical world filled with horse-like creatures! All these expectations can be so very heavy, but they do become lighter when you have a found family to help with them. They also become pretty light when you are able to realize that you and your journey and your life are worth so much more than the expectations placed on you from society, from friends, and from any kind of destiny that you did not ask for.
"She still didn’t believe in destiny. Clay shaped into a cup was not always destined to become a drinking vessel’ it was simply shaped by someone too large to be resisted. She was not clay, but she had been shaped by her circumstances all the same, not directed by any destiny."
This entire story has a really beautiful message about found family, and finding your people, and how unconditional love is all about unapologetically choosing the people you love over and over again. Blood will only ever be blood, but choosing the people who are your home is another level of love. We also get to see Regan at 15, when it is time for her to fulfill her destiny after spending four years being unconditionally loved. Side note: I would die for Gristle and Zephyr.
The reason I am giving this four stars is because I didn’t love the end of this one. I truly enjoyed the reveal, and the symbolism about destiny was not lost on me, but I just truly wanted a more concrete ending. I am scared to wish for another book in this world, since I didn’t love the revisit to the Moors, but (without going into spoiler territory here) I just really wanted to see things that I didn’t get to see! Also, in part one, I feel like this author may not spend a lot of time with children in 2020, but that is a very minor critique that I have.
Overall, I really enjoyed this one and I truly felt so much happiness flipping these pages. I love seeing all the different ways you can belong in the Wayward Children series, and I think these stories contain a lot of hope, and healing, and light. And, how I close off every review of each book in this series, I’m going to keep praying that we get Kade’s story next.
Trigger and Content Warnings: blood descriptions, bullying, intersexphobia, abduction, and brief captivity.
I have adored everything Alyssa Cole has written, so when I heard about this new mystery thriller I knew it would make my most anticipated releases of the year list! I enjoyed this immensely and I hope people read this and fall in love with this thriller, but I hope they also realize how deeply rooted racism and systems built on racism are still thriving because of racism.
When No One Is Watching switches back and forth between Sydney and Theo's POV. Sydney is Black, recently divorced, and recently moved back to NY to help her mother who is ill. They have a brownstone in Brooklyn and the neighborhood and the neighbors mean a lot to her. Theo is white and recently moved into Sydney's neighborhood and is currently living with his abusive ex-girlfriend while they try to renovate this home Sydney is trying to put together a more extensive compilation of the Black history from her neighborhood so she can do a tour, and Theo volunteers to help her. Meanwhile, more and more Black people in the community are going missing, and more and more white people are moving in acting as if they have always owned the neighborhood.
It is never a Black authors job to educate you, but Alyssa Cole truly and unapologetically talks about the privilege that white and non BIPOCs have. From gentrification and the many systems that are stealing land, and buildings, and lives still in 2020, to police brutality and who they are willing to protect and who they are willing take everything from, to the vast different microaggressions they are forced to endure every single day. This book does not shy away from anything, and I hope it makes a lot of people uncomfortable, and I hope they sit in that uncomfortably and begin to check their privileges.
This book has a lot of scary parts, but the scariest part of all is how this country really is still running on racism and slavery, just a different (more well hidden) kind of racism and slavery. From prison systems, to the police forces, to huge corporations and all their different investments. It's not even well hidden, people just don't want to see, because they don't want to be uncomfortable, and they don't want to change a system that is working in their favor too. But friendly reminder that you can't be compliant with racism and racist systems and not be racist. :]
Overall, I really loved 80% of this book, but the ending was way too rushed for me. I just felt a bit unsatisfied with how a few storylines and character's stories went (and I wanted to know so much more)! But I still think this was such a powerful read, and a shining star in 2020 literature. Alyssa Cole is a gift to this world (and all the genres) and I hope you all pick this one up!
Trigger and Content Warnings: gentrification, racism, so many microaggressions, talk of slavery, loss of a loved one, a lot of talk of financial debt, (medical) debt harassment, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, talk of cheating in the past (not the main characters), talk of domestic abuse in the past, themes of abuse and cycles of abuse, talk of institutionalization, murder, attempted abduction, brief mention of animal abuse, brief mention of suicide, forced medical experimentation, talk of drug addiction, threats of calling ICE and the police, and police brutality.
I really enjoyed this one, and I enjoyed the important topic of grooming and how difficult it can be to realize you are in an abusive and unsafe relatI really enjoyed this one, and I enjoyed the important topic of grooming and how difficult it can be to realize you are in an abusive and unsafe relationship until you are out of it. Sadly, this made the story a bit unpredictable for me, which also led to it feeling a little boring. I still really appreciate everything that was in here, and I completely recommend! Also, there were some very beautiful quotes in this book that I won't soon forget! Also, Seanan writing about the fae? A dream come true, even if I'm very late to this party!
[image] (Thank you, William Morrow, for a finished copy!)
This was one of the hardest books I've ever read. I hope to be able to write a full review so[image] (Thank you, William Morrow, for a finished copy!)
This was one of the hardest books I've ever read. I hope to be able to write a full review soon, but I will say that the ending might feel really heartbreaking and disappointing, but that is because we live in a heartbreaking and disappointing reality. There is no wrong way to heal and live through horrible things that were done to you, and there is no time limit either.
Content and Trigger Warnings: rape, pedophilia, gaslighting, sexual assault, physical abuse, grieving, child pornography mention/acts, talk of suicide, suicide, fatphobic comments, disordered eating, brief but very horrible mention at other child abuse things, blood depiction, and overall this is just a very dark book that will most likely make you very uncomfortable to read so please use caution. ...more
"Three little girls all eating things they weren’t supposed to eat. Three little girls all eating things in or
ARC provided by The Novl
"Three little girls all eating things they weren’t supposed to eat. Three little girls all eating things in order to fill their bodies with something other than the anger, the rage, that would otherwise consume them."
I have loved Katrina’s books for so long and each of them are equal parts whimsically beautiful and intensely raw. From Summer of Salt and You Must Not Miss are still my favorites by her, but if you are looking for something very spooky, very introspective, and very profound this fall season, then I really recommend Horrid with my full heart. And this Agatha Christie vibe check will make so many of you happy, I just know it.
Jane has recently lost her father to a heart attack, and her and her mother are forced to leave their California home and move back to her mother’s childhood home in a very small town in Maine. Not only is the shift from west coast to east coast big, because LA and New England are so very different, but it is also the extra hurt from leaving everything she has ever known, and the mystery surrounding her family and the big house that she now has to call home.
Her mother made it a point for them to never travel out east to see where she grew up, and she is very secretive about her upbringing and the reason she left so quickly to the west coast. Yet, after people in town treat Jane a little differently when they realize who her family is (and where she is living), curiosity starts to be peaked. Oh, and especially because the house seems very haunted. From Jane seeing lights turn on upstairs by themselves, to hearing music being played by no one, to having mysterious object interacting with her, to the roses in the garden growing back regardless of how hard her mother tries to kill them.
"I think you’ve had a tremendous loss. And grief manifests itself in unpredictable ways."
We get to see so much grieving in this book. People grieving their pasts, people grieving loved ones, people grieving the unknown, people grieving so loudly it feels palpable. It is very intense, and it feels very real, and very harrowing. There are truly so many ways to grieve, and so many ways to cope with that grief, and this book very much explores that. And this book very much talks about how the weight of grief can be all consuming and the most heaviest of all things to carry. And sometimes grieving isn’t only sadness and weeping, but it can be anger and violence.
"She felt like her hands didn’t belong to her, like her skin didn’t belong to her. Like the only thing real and true in her body was the anger."
We also get to see Jane (and other characters) show their anger in very not okay ways. Jane does not handle her triggers in a healthy way, and we also get to see many flashbacks from the past that she has blocked out even. Jane has present day moments of blacking out that really makes her a bit of an unreliable narrator. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of books I’ve read where the main character is dealing (and suffering) from their anger management issues.
Ever since Jane was a young girl, and her feelings and anger were overwhelming to her, she sought comfort by eating pages out her books and then replacing those hollowed out books with fresh pages that she could journal in. Pica is disorder where a human will eat things with no nutritional value for a number of reasons, and there are so many components of this disorder and such levels (from ice to sharp objects to poisonous things!), and sometimes this overlaps with other health conditions (like OCD or anemia), but this is a main component of this book, and I have never experienced this before so I’m not sure how people will feel about how it was represented.
"She imagined the paper re-forming in her belly. She imagined the words dissolving off the paper and sinking into her bloodstream. She imagined her body filled with words. Made up of them. Words instead of blood, words instead of organs."
I also think there is a discussion to be had about mental health and how genetics can very much pass down mental health issues. Also, how important it is for parents to recognize these signs and be in check with their own mental health, so that they can help their children get help if they need it. This isn’t an easy book to read at times, and I think people are going to feel a vast range of emotions for Jane and her mom, but I think their situation is very real and something that needs to be talked about a whole lots more. Depression, and anger issues, and unhealthy spiral grieving is a hell of a combination, but one that is a big reality for so many.
I have loved Katrina’s writing forever now. I feel like she just has such a gift, and her prose is some of the most beautiful in the whole entire world, truly. Yet, her words are so very raw and so very sharp every book. The combination is quite jarring, and the impact is felt very deeply, and her writing is very unforgettable. In addition to the imagery of this small town, or this extremely spooky house, of all these characters dealing with grief so very differently, the entire atmosphere of this story is perfectly done in my opinion.
The reason this isn’t a five star for me (even though it is so close) is because of the ending. Katrina is notorious for ending books in a way that makes the reader think for themselves and kind of pick the ending they want to see most. Which I do adore so much, but this was one I just wanted a tiny bit more from, because I feel like the ending was actually pretty straightforward for the most part. Like, I truly can’t say anything without completely ruining this spooky tale, and maybe it was the perfect ending for a thrilling tale! But I do know I will be thinking a lot about a teddy bear for many moons to come.
"She leaned into it gratefully, letting it fill her, letting it wash over her in a warm embrace. With it, she was not alone. She was never alone. She let it carry her into darkness."
Overall, this is just the perfect read for this autumn season if you’re looking for something a little spooky, very beautifully written, with very important themes that I don’t see talked about as much as I wish they were. All of Katrina’s books are just bright lights in the YA genre, even when they are spooky thrillers with a maybe unreliable narrator! I never wanted to stop reading this, and when I wasn’t reading this I was thinking about it nonstop. I really recommend this one with my whole heart, and I can’t wait to see what will come next from one of my favorite authors of all time.
Trigger and Content Warnings: pica (mostly xylophagia/paper, but mention of hair and flowers, too!), loss of a parent, loss of a sibling, loss of a child, talk of hospitalization, intense grief depictions, intense depictions of anger issues, blood depictions, panic attacks, depictions of situations that could make one feel claustrophobic, underage drinking, brief mention of animal abuse in past, child abuse in the past.
When I tell you that Ren Fest romances are maybe a kink of mine, I am being completely truthful. I grew up going to a renaissance faire in Michigan every summer for my whole life. It was always such a magical experience walking through the gate and feeling like I entered a completely new world, filled with magic and music and fae and I truly looked forward to it every summer! Now I’m much older, and I live in a very warm place, and you know… we have this whole pandemic going on, so Well Played was just the perfect romance escape for me.
The second book stars Stacey, who was the other tavern wench with Emily in book one! This book starts out at the end of the faire, and we quickly learn about Stacey’s friends with benefits situation she has going on with Dex, one of the brother in The Dueling Kilts band!
But with faire season coming to and end, and Dex and his band going to the next one, Stacey is thrust back into her life where she is a receptionist living in a studio apartment over her parents’ garage. After college, she had big dreams to move away from her childhood small town, and going to New York to pursue her passion for all things fashion, but her mother started having health complications and she felt like she was much more needed at home with her family.
Emily has a lot of exciting things going on after everything that happened in Well Met, and Stacey is helping her and her sister, April, plan many things! She is also taking part in both of their separate book clubs which are vastly different, and it just really warmed my heart, because we love a good bookstore setting too, am I right?
Stacey is very much feeling the pressure of society’s expectations because she is approaching her later twenties, and she is still very much single, and very much aware because of social media that her friends (who did move away form Willow Creek) are starting their lives and even their own families. So one night, after missing her summer fling a little too much, and maybe drinking a little too much wine as well, she writes to Dex via the band’s facebook DMs. And after waking up slightly mortified, she realizes that she received a very nice message back.
"A watched pot never boils, and a watched phone never… lights up with a text. Something like that."
After this, we get to see Stacey live this year of her life corresponding with maybe the love of her life, while also prepping so much for the next summer’s Ren Fest! But as the dates go by, and the anticipations builds and builds, she starts questioning a lot of things. (Somewhat spoiler alert and warning: do not be like me, get too curious for your own good, and look at the cover of this book to see the dude’s hair color!)
That’s pretty much all I can say without giving anything else away! I will say that I didn’t like how Stacey had to do almost everything, even though she is valid, I just wish the love interest would have proven himself (and his sincerity with his mistakes) a lot more in every situation. Truly, Stacey was a bit too good for him, in my humble opinion. Also, I feel like at times Stacey would feel a bit dated, or not like she was twenty-seven. No one that age is #PSLs in 2020, I’m so sorry baby.
But if you’re looking for a cute romance, with some amazing settings, and some really swoon-worthy banter, then I really suggest picking this one up! Also, Stacey is plus-sized and talks about her body image and her journey with her confidence a lot and I really loved that as well. Also, this has a really great subplot about family expectations and how hard it can be to leave your family, especially when you feel like they need you! Yet, how it is also really important to chase your own dreams and live the life you want to live, regardless of how unconventional it may seem to others!
Overall, this was just such a fun read! And I truly believe Jen’s settings are a tier above. Also, the next book, Well Matched, is Mitch and April’s book and when I tell you the thought of them together makes me banshee scream with love, whew.
Trigger and Content Warnings: talk of loss of a loved one in the past (to cancer), talk of difficulty conceiving children in the past, talk of heart attacks in the past, a lot of talk and thoughts of body image, anxiety depiction, and catfishing.
Full disclosure: I do consider this author my friend, so there could be subconscious biases here, but this rating, this review, and these thoughts are honest and my own!
[image] (This was such a thoughtful gift from Bethany!)
“We thought we were separate satellites, but we aren’t. We’re stars, and though we might
[image] (This was such a thoughtful gift from Bethany!)
“We thought we were separate satellites, but we aren’t. We’re stars, and though we might burn separately, we’ll always be in one another’s orbit.”
I really loved this a lot! I especially loved all the different kinds of reclaiming in this story! Maybe all it took for me to fall in love with a historical romance was sapphics in STEM (and art)! Who would have guessed? :]
This was so feminist, so queer, so healing, and so beautiful. And I loved hearing these girls talk unapologetically about how so many other women's ideas have been taken all throughout history by men who then take the credit, too.
Trigger and Content Warnings: domestic abuse in the past, sexism, misogyny, talk of colonization, and talk of loss of a loved one in past.
truly some of the best writing i've ever read in my life. the found family? the unconditional love and the journey of feeling that for others b[image]
truly some of the best writing i've ever read in my life. the found family? the unconditional love and the journey of feeling that for others but also yourself? the story, the messages, the way they were perfectly woven together? a masterpiece. and love me some on page pan rep. rtc! <3