Top Ten Tuesday | Summer 2018 Book Recommendations

 

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

Hey, friends! Okay, so the “real” topic this week is actually “Books to Read by the Pool/At the Beach” but I also thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about some summer (in the US) releases I’m hyped for! This week I’m going to talk about some books that I’ve already read, that will be released in Summer 2018, and then next week I will talk about some books that are releasing in Summer 2018 that I haven’t read yet, but really want to! And without further ado here are eight Summer 2018 books I’ve read, really enjoyed, and completely recommend:

(And click on each title for my full thoughts and full trigger and content warnings!)


A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman – ★★★★★
June 26th, 2018 by Greenwillow Books

“We fell in love with all those myths about powerful gods being vulnerable, about humans becoming heroes. Such stories taught us about mythology, about the beauty of folktales and legends, and about how stories of gods and goddesses are also stories about the human heart. But we never found similar compilations that were distinctly Asian.”


Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – ★★★★★
July 10th, 2018 by Del Rey

“The real story isn’t half as pretty as the one you’ve heard.”


All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover – ★★★
July 17th, 2018 by Atria Books

“The problem is, love and happiness are not concordant. One can exist without the other.”


Nyxia Unleashed (The Nyxia Triad #2) by Scott Reintgen – ★★★★★
July 17th, 2018 by Crown Books for Young Readers

“As the descent begins, I hold on to one truth: I am more than what they would make of me.”


Heart of Thorns (Heart of Thorns #1) by Bree Barton – ★★★
July 31st, 2018 by Katherine Tegen Books

“Once upon a time, in a castle carved of stone, a girl plotted murder.”


Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles – ★★★★★
August 14th, 2018 by Crown Books for Young Readers

“More often than not, if I ran across a character who shared my race and gender in a book he was a gross stereotype, comic relief, token sidekick, or, depending on genre (I’m looking at you, science fiction, fantasy, and horror), there to die so the real hero could fight another day.”


Toil & Trouble edited by Tess Sharpe & Jessica Spotswood – ★★★★★
August 28th, 2018 by Harlequin Teen

“Here’s how to fulfill a prophecy: you are a woman, you speak the truth, and the world makes you into a liar.”


Mirage (Mirage #1) by Somaiya Daud – ★★★★★
August 28th, 2018 by Flatiron Books

“On a small moon orbiting a large planet, in a small farmhouse in a small village, there was a box, and in this box was a feather.”


Okay, friends, those are the eight Summer 2018 releases I’ve read so far! And I know I’m totally biased, but I hope you all go out and buy A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh & Elsie Chapman on the 26th! I mean, what better way to start this summer than with an ownvoices anthology about Asian myths? The correct answer: there isn’t a better way, so go buy it! Also, I love you all and be sure to get hyped for my second favorite post of the year to make, which will be live on the official first day of summer, the 21st! ☀👙🍦

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All Your Perfects by Colleen Hoover

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ARC provided by Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.

“The problem is, love and happiness are not concordant. One can exist without the other.”

All Your Perfects is a book that made me feel every emotion in the world. It broke me, and it healed me, and it made me not feel so lonely. I wanted to hug my iPad, and throw my iPad. I wanted to give it five stars, and I wanted to give it one star. I swear, this book made me feel everything. And even though I had problems with some of the content, I still think this book is super important. And the subject matter of this book is something I’ve never read about before, and it’s a topic that we need to be normalizing and start discussing more.

I’m going to put the trigger and content warnings below this paragraph! But if you want to go into this book completely blind, like many of Colleen Hoover’s readers do, please do not read my review. Plus, honestly? If you don’t have any triggers, it probably is best to go into this book blind. I won’t post any spoilers about the events of this book, but the rest of my review will talk about what this book is centered around.

“Our marriage didn’t collapse. It didn’t suddenly fall apart. It’s been a much slower process. It’s been dwindling, if you will. I’m not even sure who is most at fault.”

Trigger and content warnings for: infertility, miscarrying, depression, grief, cheating, loss of a loved one in the past, abuse, a self-harm scene involving cutting with glass, and a really gross comment about how stay at home moms are looked at as bad because of “feminism and all that”, and another really questionable paragraph about how therapy/therapists aren’t helpful for the main character that I felt was done really poorly.

All Your Perfects is a hard-hitting book about a topic I’ve never read about before; infertility. And this book is told in alternating chapters, from past and present, where we see a couple fall in love, but we also get to see their marriage break apart because they cannot become parents. We get to see the guilt, the grief, the depression, and all the other dark things in between. This is a hard book to read, so please use caution going in.

Full disclosure, as I get older and older, I think about wanting to become a mother more and more. I know that our world and the society we live in also enforces that we should become “younger mothers” and gross things like that, but on top of this added pressure I also feel like my clock is ticking because many of my family members have had to have hysterectomies (most in their late twenties) as result of a hereditary health issue. And the older I get, the more and more I can almost hear that clock ticking. When I was younger, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to have kids, but more and more I think it is something I want in my life. So, needless to say, this book hit me very hard and had me really introspecting my thoughts and feelings after every page.

“It’s funny how you can be so happy with someone and love them so much, it creates an underlying sense of fear in you that you never knew before them. The fear of losing them. The fear of them getting hurt. I imagine that’s what it’s like when you have children. It’s probably the most incredible kind of love you’ll ever know, but it’s also the most terrifying.”

And the juxtaposition of seeing Quinn and Graham when they meet in the most fated meeting of all time, to their marriage completely falling apart because they both feel so much guilt, makes for a reading experience I don’t even have words for. Side note: CoHo writes the best first chapters in existence. Every one is a mini masterpiece that completely draws the reader in and enthralls and captures them, and All Your Perfects was no exception.

I easily and effortlessly fell in love with Quinn. Everything she was going through, and the way that CoHo wrote about it, felt like such an accurate depiction of depression. I felt for her constantly and my heart is still filled with so much empathy for this fictional character.

Graham, on the other hand, was much harder for me to fall for. And even though some of his actions were really beautiful and selfless, I never fully loved him because some of his other actions were so nasty and selfish. And I get it, we are all human, we all make mistakes and do bad things sometimes, but it his mistakes just prevented me from ever fully rooting for him. Graham does some really abusive stuff in this book that is never told like it’s abuse, too.

But seeing these two main characters stories weave and unweave together, apart, and sometimes a weird mixture of the two, made for a really unique reading experience, and one that I thoroughly enjoyed while reading. I know CoHo isn’t for everyone, but her writing always completely captivates me.

“I wish I could say I’m sorry for wanting a baby more than I want him. But that wouldn’t help, because it would be a lie. I’m not sorry.”

My favorite thing about this book is the discussion about how heavy of an emphasis we put on women to have children, especially women that are getting older, and women that are married, but still without kids. I mean, I’m not sure about you all but all the adds that pop up on my Facebook and Twitter? They are all for pregnancy and/or children things. Quinn literally deletes all social media in this book because of her mental health from the constant pressure it put on her. And that’s something we don’t talk about as a society either. Plus, how we perceive woman are inherently broken if they can’t, or choose not to, birth children. From sexualizing wide hips and big breasts, to a million other things that inherently mean “motherhood” is something so ingrained in our society, but so taboo to speak about. This book really made me step back and think, and feel, and reflect. And that’s something that normal romance books never do.

Overall, this was just like all of the rest of Colleen Hoover’s books, whether I love them or hate them, I can’t put them down. I read this in two sittings, mostly while crying my eyes out, but nothing could stop me from flipping the pages. And again, this topic was really close to my heart and something I think about a lot. I implore you all to use caution when picking this book up, but I also implore you all to do so.

“If you only shine light on your flaws, all your perfects will dim.”


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

The Abyss Surrounds Us by Emily Skrutskie

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“I don’t just raise monsters. I am one.”

One of the best book recommendations I’ve received to date is Elise recommending me The Abyss Surrounds Us. Friends, I fell totally in love with this story and it surpassed every high expectation I had for it. The writing is addicting, the story is so unique, and this book holds my now favorite enemies to lovers, angst-filled relationship of all time. Oh, and it’s between two girl pirates. Sold yet? You should be. This book was a gift.

First off, this book is set in a future version of United States where most of the country is underwater. And the few that can afford to live on land are very wealthy and very privileged. All over the world there are floating cities, and children being born that have never stepped foot on solid land. And with all of this being said, ships, boats, and other water vessels are the main mode of transportation.

Cassandra Leung is a seventeen-year-old, Chinese girl who has grown up outside of LA, where her family raises Reckoners! Reckoners are lab-created, monster-like, animals that can be a terrapoid (turtle-like), cephalopoid (octopus-like), serpentoid (snake-like), and probably even more! And they are very needed by the ships on the open seas, whether it be cruise ships, cargo ships, or any and all in-between, because they need protection from pirates that dangerously sail in the same waters. Cas and her family ensure that these different types of Reckoners bond with their buyer’s vessels to protect them at all costs. And on each vessel, a Reckoner trainer must also go to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Cas has never went on a mission by herself before, but her parents are finally allowing her to prove herself alongside her terrapoid, Durga, who she has bonded with since she was a young girl. But Cas quickly finds out that maybe Durga isn’t healthy enough for the journey, but it’s a little too late once pirates are sighted.

“So not only have I been captured by pirates—I’ve had the misfortune of being taken in by theatrical ones.”

Pirate Queen, Santa Elena, and her crew quickly board and just as quickly take Cas prisoner once they see that she was in charge of the Reckoner for the ship. And that’s because they are currently hiding their own little secret that needs someone with the experience and training that only Cas has. (Also, I am so in love with Bao, my little vicious bun!)

“Bao is, without a doubt, the most dangerous thing in the NeoPacific. And he answers to me.”

This book actually got pretty dark in parts, so please use caution! Trigger and content warnings for violence against animals, animal death, animal cruelty (behind the scenes), kidnapping, captivity, thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, talk of slavery, physical abuse, and violence.

And while Cas is forced to live on this new ship, she learns that maybe she isn’t so different than the people she’s been protected from her whole entire life. And, like I said above, this little book has one of the best w/w stories I’ve read in a long while. The angst, friends, the damn angst. It’s actual perfection! I was screaming, I was crying, I was living for it. And I totally get that this is a book about people doing stuff on ships, but like, I ship these two girls so much that it hurts. I need book two immediately. And obviously from what I said above, there is an uneven power dynamic, but that’s the beautiful thing about this relationship because it is always addressed, constantly.

“We’re two trapped girls with nothing but each other on a ship of people who’d be better off with us dead, and somehow on top of that we’ve managed to do the one thing we shouldn’t be able to do.”

And we get to see this beautiful journey, not only across the water, but inside of Cassandra’s heart and mind. She didn’t know the world before she finally got to see it. And now she’s seeing things that she is unsure that she can ignore. Cas becomes the very definition of a morally grey character, but seeing her walk the line, while also trying to do what is right, while also trying to balance her new feelings, it’s so good. So damn good! This is such a powerful little book that I loved reading from the very first to the very last page.

Emily Skrutskie has woven such an amazing story here. This was a complete joy to read. And I truly believe with my whole heart that this is one of the most underhyped books of all time. And I also believe that this is going to be the best book I’ll read all of 2018’s Pride! Friends, buy this, read this, love this, and come gush with me. Please, I’m begging you.

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Buddy read with May at Forever and Everly! ❤

I Spy Book Challenge

I was tagged by the amazing Kelly @ Just Another Book in the Wall to do this amazing tag, which was originally created by the wonderful Kristin @ Kristin Kraves Books!

How to do this tag: Find a book that contains (either on the cover or in the title) an example for each category. You must have a separate book for all 20, get as creative as you want and do it within five minutes!


1. Food

Sweet Surrender (Sweet #1) by Maya Banks


2. Transportation

The Last Mortal Bond (Chronicle of the Unhewn Throne #3) by Brian Staveley


3. Weapon

A Storm of Swords (A Song of Ice and Fire #3) by George R.R. Martin


4. Animal

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy #2) by Katherine Arden


5. Number

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid


6. Something You Read

The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black


7. Body of Water

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo


8. Product of Fire

Feversong (Fever #9) by Karen Marie Moning


9. Royalty

Paper Princess (The Royals #1) by Erin Watt


10. Architecture

Senlin Ascends (The Books of Babel #1) by Josiah Bancroft


11. Clothing Item

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer


12. Family Member

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi


13. Time of Day

Morning Star (Red Rising Saga #3) by Pierce Brown


14. Music

How to Kill a Rock Star by Tiffanie DeBartolo


15. Paranormal Being

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1) by Laini Taylor


16. Occupation

The Book of the Unnamed Midwife (The Road to Nowhere #1) by Meg Elison


17. Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin


18. Color

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan


19. Celestial Body

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore


20. Something That Grows

Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore


I Tag:
May| Lilly | Lily | Amy | Danielle | ShaiKristinKristi

 


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Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Decades of dead girls. Poor girls and rich girls. Black and brown and white girls. All of them Sawkill girls.”

Sawkill Girls is going to be such an amazing, atmospheric, spooky Halloween read for so many. The start of this book was phenomenal, and the first half was five star worthy in my opinion. I just, didn’t love the ending of this, but I think many of you will. And overall, I completely recommend this, and I had such an amazing time reading this creepy tale.

Sawkill Island has never been safe for young girls. More and more frequently young girls have gone missing, without their bodies ever being found. There is a local legend about a paranormal beast called The Collector, who hunts and feasts on these young girls, while simultaneously growing stronger himself. But we also soon find out, there is no way that the Collector is capturing these girls on his own.

We are introduced to three girls, whose stories and fates interweave, regardless of what they have to say about it. And only these three girls have the power to save the island. That is, if they are willing to come together and try.

“A girl with incredible strength. A girl who can vanish. A girl who burns.”

Zoey – Black, bi (not on page but stated attraction to boys and girls), and asexual. Also, such a damn blessing. Recently lost her best friend to the tragedy of the island. Her father is the local sheriff.

Marion – Plus sized, likes girls, but I don’t believe Lesbian, pan, bi, or any other label is said or implied. But she does start a relationship with a girl in this book (and holy shit, it’s so good)! She is also dealing with the loss of her father, while trying to be the support system for her mother and her sister while they move to this island.

Val – Queen bee of the island and hiding a dark secret that she shares with her family. Also, her sexuality is never stated on page, but she talks about relationships with boys and has a relationship with a girl.

Honorable mention and honorary fourth member:
Grayson – Zoey’s best friend and ex. My favorite character in the entire book. I would honestly die for this boy.

“Tragedy had touched Sawkill, again and again and again, but after each girl’s disappearance, once a respectable amount of time had passed, everyone seemed to stop caring.”

These three girls come together and try to figure out what is killing these girls and if there is anyway to stop it from happening to them. At first, this book feels like you’re reading it through a fog, where you aren’t sure what exactly is going on. But mystery after mystery is eventually answered, and a beautiful tale of friendship, womanhood, and love is unfolded. I mean, it is unfolded after and during some really dark, gory, and violent scenes. This is for sure a horror book.

I really want to emphasize that this is a dark book. Please use caution and make sure you are in the right mindset while reading. Trigger and content warnings for loss of a loved one, somewhat detailed murders, violence, gore, a lot of talk of blood, grief, abuse, parental abuse, underage drinking, talk of miscarrying, sexual abuse (unwanted kissing, and maybe touching), animal death, scene with a girl purposely cutting open her palm, use of the word “fat’ negatively, and a really acephobic comment that is completely challenged and apologized for (but I know that it can still be really hurtful to read).

And just to talk a bit more about it, Sawkill Girls centers around grief, trauma, and loss. It also heavily talks about how we are not the mistakes or the problems of our parents, even though they could heavily impact our own lives. Each girl has their own heartache. Marion, being forced to keep her mother and sister safe after losing their father, while never allowing herself to grieve. Zoey, for learning how to live after pushing someone who loves you away and after losing your best friend. Val, for struggling to please her mother, while being abused by her mother, while never being able to leave her mother.

“There was a magnetism to the Mortimer women, and they knew it, and they used it. It was their right, this witchery; they’d given up their souls for it.”

And Claire Legrand is blessing us with sexual representation in this book. Not only do we have a swoon worthy f/f romance that I was so there for from the very start, but she also gives us the best asexuality representation I’ve read in a book to date! And the word asexuality is used on page, the stigmas and stereotypes are discussed very thoughtfully, and my heart is so full. Also, full disclosure: I do not ID on the ace spectrum, but I did at one point in my life.

This story also heavily discusses how girls are raised in a world that is constantly pitting us against one another. How this competitiveness is instilled in our blood, and bones, and very being by society. How men make gross jokes like “this is why girls can’t work together” and other disgusting comments along those lines, because it helps reinforce these stereotypes. How we are born to waste time trying to raise ourselves above other girls, when we could come together and raise each other up equally.

“Girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”

And this story is so very feminist, and Claire weaves the undertones, flawlessly, in every scene. I mean, this is a story about three girls, from very different backgrounds, all harboring their own individual pains and hurts, coming together to defeat a monster. But it is also about how we view girls as both the most vulnerable prey, but also the most sacrificable objects. And how if a problem doesn’t impact white, cis, dudes, the problem isn’t going to gain priority to get fixed.

I won’t lie, and I said it above, but I didn’t love the ending of this book, but (just like reading) I think it will be subjective. I was really hoping for a certain ending, and I was a little disappointed when it didn’t come to fruition. I also wasn’t in love with The Collector. I mean, you’re not supposed to be in love with him, but once we learned more about him, I just wasn’t impressed. Which, again, is why I think I fell so in love with the first half of this book, because the mystery surrounding him was so good!

Overall, I really enjoyed this standalone! Also, at this point, I think I’ll just preorder what Claire Legrand does next, because she’s an author that just keeps impressing me, and my queer self. Seriously, the sexuality representation in this book is such a blessing. Also, there is a moth that reminds me of Sarai, and I felt personally attacked in the best way possible. I love the entire vibe and aesthetic of this book, and I truly think it’s going to have such an impressive impact come October!


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

❤ Buddy Read with: AmyJulieJulesImogenEllieLauraNatashaWren, & Alexis

Pride Flag Book Tag 🌈

This amazing tag was created by Common Spence and it is honestly the very best tag on Booktube! And I knew I couldn’t resist doing this during Pride this year! Also, Spencer is quickly becoming my favorite Booktuber, and you should all check them out! 🌈



❤ 1. Red (Life) – A book with a spirited protagonist totally proud of who they are. Someone who gives you LIFE!

Without a doubt, I had to go with Evelyn from The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Evelyn has to overcome so much in her life, but she unapologetically loves herself and those around her. She is such a bi icon.


🧡 2. Orange (Healing) – A book that made you, as the reader, find a deeper meaning or catharsis in your own life.

Black Iris by Elliot Wake literally is the reason I discovered I was pansexual. Black Iris is still a catharsis for me to this day, and it will probably forever be. I have so much love for this book that completely changed my life and helped me understand sexual fluidity.


💛 3. Yellow (Sunshine) – A book that fills you with so much joy it could brighten even your darkest day.

This might be cheating, but I’m going to say the entire Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire, because just knowing a series like this exists brings me more joy than I have words to express. To everything queer representation, to all different types of bodies (shapes and abilities) representation, to mental health representation, to so much more, this series is a gift to the world. And I just received an ARC of book four and I am still in completely awe.


💚 4. Green (Nature) – A book that is set out of this world — a reality different to our own.

Inkmistress (Of Fire and Stars 0.5) by Audrey Coulthurst is set in a medieval-like world, that also happens to have lots of magic, people who can shapeshift, and even a dragon! It also features a beautiful bisexual main character.


💙 5. Blue (Peace) – A book where one of the characters finds peace with a difficult truth.

Without a doubt, I knew I had to pick We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson! Henry is a gay teenage boy, who is suffering with so much loss, while also trying to find peace with so many aspects of his life. And the journey was so beautiful to read.


💜 6. Purple (Spirit) – A book that deals with LGBT+ themes and religion.
I’m actually going to go with the short story “Love Spell” by Anna-Marie McLemore, that is in the Toil & Trouble anthology coming out this summer! It stars a trans boy who has devoted his life to God and the Catholic church, and a girl who the town thinks is a witch that doesn’t even deserve communion. And I promise you, it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever read. This is about community, and prejudices, and family, and knowing your worth, and knowing when love is worth it. This story truly has stuck with me and will stay with me forever.


And consider ALL of you tagged, because this is the book tag that we all deserve! It’s actually perfect, and I hope you all do it! Also, feel free to comment below and let me know one of your favorite LGBTQIAP+ reads! I’m always looking to add to my TBR! And happy Pride and happy reading, loves! ❤🧡💛💚💙💜


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Top Ten Tuesday | Books Set in Vegas

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018!

Hey, friends! Okay, so the “real” topic this week is actually “Books That Awaken the Travel Bug in Me” but I feel like I just did a T10T that was super similar with “Books That Take Place in Another Country” and I didn’t want to say the same answers! So, I completely changed it up and decided to just showcase ten books that take place in, or have a major scene set in, the city that I live in: Las Vegas!


Me, cheesin’ in Bellagio


➽ The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan

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➽ The Stand by Stephen King


➽ The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt


➽ Bad Things (Tristan & Danika #1) by R.K. Lilley


➽ In Flight (Up in the Air #1) by R.K. Lilley


➽ Lick (Stage Dive #1) by Kylie Scott 


➽ Sweet Filthy Boy (Wild Seasons #1) by Christina Lauren


➽ First Drop of Crimson (Night Huntress World #1) by Jeaniene Frost


➽ Spirit Bound (Vampire Academy #5) by Richelle Mead


➽ Even Money (All In Duet #1) by Alessandra Torre


And that’s it, my loves! Hopefully this post and a few of these books will motivate you all to come out and go book shopping with me! I mean, I know it’s technically nicknamed “The City of Sin” but we got some banging book stores, too! Okay, I love you and hope you’re all have the happiest of reading!

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The Queen of Crows (The Sacred Throne, #2) by Myke Cole

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ARC provided by Tor in exchange for an honest review.

1.) The Armored Saint ★★★★★

“I want to live in a world where everyone, no matter who they are, dies from growing old, and not because someone else killed them for their own good.”

The Armored Saint was my second favorite ARC that I read in 2017. It will still, without a doubt, make my best of 2018 list come December. But for some reason this second book just didn’t captivate me and wow me the way that book one did. I still really enjoyed this, and Myke Cole’s writing is so damn good that I could highlight half of this large novella, but I just didn’t love The Queen of Crows the same way I did The Armored Saint.

Me and Petrik were discussing this book after our buddy read, and we both feel like maybe it is because we let six+ months pass in-between picking this next installment up. The Queen of Crows starts off with quite the bang. Actually, the bangs just keep coming. So much happens at the start of this book that it somehow makes it hard to connect with Heloise. If the things that happened to her in this book happened at the end of The Armored Saint, I know I would have been crying and been an emotional wreck in general. But I just felt such a disconnect because they happened right off the bat in this book. Which again, could totally be my fault for not rereading the first book before jumping into this one.

But as I said above, this book immediately starts out right after the events of The Armored Saint. Heloise is now the face of a budding rebellion, even though not everyone wants to follow her. The Order is a group of religious tyrants that do horrible things to the wizards in this world, and to the people that are protecting and/or harboring the wizards in this world. But the Order also just does cruel and heartless things to do cruel and heartless things, you know, like most dictatorships. And in the first book, Heloise not only befriends a wizard, but does something so incredible that she is now very wanted by The Order.

“When they’d beaten the Order before, they’d had a wizard with them. Now, there was only Heloise, her machine, and the supposed favor of the divine Emperor.”

This action-packed novella centers around Heloise, her family, and what is left of her village, trying to get some sense of stability and safety back in their lives. But they meet a lot of new people while fleeing from the only home most of them have only ever know. I loved the introduction of the new people that Heloise meets in this book. The Traveling People were amazing, and I loved every single scene with them in it, especially Mother Leahlabel. Also, Myke weaves in such an important conversation about the prejudices and the stereotypes that we put on people from cultures we are ignorant about.

Heloise and her people spend the majority of this book prepping for a siege. Most people think the most difficult part of a siege is fortification and keeping your people unharmed. But Heloise realizes quickly the other important elements of a siege: clean water, food, clothes, medications, wood, and everything else you need to live a normal life. Oh, and loyalty. You need a whole lot of trust and loyalty.

And even though I didn’t love this installment as much as The Armored Saint, both of these books just feel empowering, especially reading as a young woman in today’s world. How so many people are unwilling to follow Heloise just because she’s a young adult girl. How people will come up with every excuse in the world to not believe a young adult girl. How sometimes people fear nothing more in this world than a young adult girl.

“I don’t want to lose anyone else. Not to the Order, not to the road, and not because you stand on pride because it’s not a man grown leading the way for once.”

Heloise’s sexuality is brought up a bit in this book, but you all know my queer heart wanted more. But I am totally ready for what I think Myke is crafting. Heloise completely acknowledges that she likes only girls in this book but seeing her realize that she may be able to love again is something so beautiful I don’t even have words for it. Heloise is such an easy character to root for, and if I’m being completely honest here, Heloise Factor deserves the damn universe and every single star in it.

This series has a very dark tone and feel, which is one of the things I absolutely love about it. But I know that it won’t be for everyone. So, please use caution. Trigger and content warnings for heavy war themes, violence, blood depiction, gore, torture, a somewhat graphic animal death, death in general, and loss of a loved one.

“She was in a war-machine and he was just a man.”

Overall, I still really enjoyed this. I swear, it’s such a high three star rating. Hell, even just writing this review, I am tempted to boost it up to four just because the writing and themes in this series are so good, so important, and so needed. I will eagerly await to see how Myke Cole wraps this all up. Also, I’m so excited to see a lot more of Xilyka


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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Buddy read with Petrik, Lilly, Elise, & Dani! ❤

These Rebel Waves (Stream Raiders, #1) by Sara Raasch

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

Friends, this just was not the book for me. And you know I hate writing “negative” reviews, so I’m going to try to keep this on the shorter side. But this book and the writing was just equal parts boring and daunting for me. Plus, the magic system was not explained, the characters were hard to like or believe, and I never cared enough to root for any of them. But I think what ultimately made me not love this book was because I went in thinking that we were going to see a crew of queer pirates, on the open sea, fighting battles, slaying monsters, and doing pirate things. This is not the type of book These Rebel Waves is. But on a positive note, this is a book filled with colonization, oppression, magical medical experimentation, religious hierarchies, political intrigue, betrayals, and what people are willing to do in the name of their God(s). And, it sort of has pirates.

And I don’t think that this was a bad book. I mean, obviously many of those topics are super important, but I went into this book just expecting something completely different. And I will totally take responsibility for that. But this book was also super boring, and it felt like a chore to pick up each and every time. I had to constantly reward myself with treats while reading. If this wasn’t an ARC, and if I wasn’t buddy reading this with two of my friends, I would have 100% DNFed this story. And that has nothing to do with the expectations of gay pirates.

And, full disclosure, one of the first books I ever DNFed was Sara Raasch’s Ice Life Fire, so maybe this author’s writing just isn’t for me. So, if you pick this one up, I hope you enjoy it more than I did. But I should probably give you some bare bones about the actual story and the three characters we follow!

Adeluna / Lu – Soldier. Loyal to her family. Experiencing so much loss, and so much trauma, from childhood to present day.
Devereux / Vex – Pirate. Master of disguise. Hinted that he’s queer, maybe even pan, but never stated.
Benat / Ben – Heretic. Crown Prince. Obsessed with the magic that is forbidden. Queer, in a hidden m/m relationship. Also, I don’t know how I feel about the way Ben’s relationship developed, but I kind of don’t want to think about it or this book any longer.

And these characters are all on the same island and their three stories intertwine to maybe change the fate of the world as they know it. And each of these characters have to make choices that will truly decide what type of person they want to be.

In this world, magic is plant based and outlawed. But the thing is, the magic system is never explained. You just have to suspend your disbelief that it works some magical way for some people with the right reagents. I mean, I guess I’d say it’s like magic herbology. I guess? I don’t even know, because it’s so not explained. But anyone who uses this magic will be punished in the name of the Pious God.

Trigger and content warnings for death, murder, loss of a loved one, torture, colonization, physical abuse, child abuse, captivity, medical experimentation, and violence.

And there is also a disease that is killing people rapidly, that needs to be addressed. It’s called the Shaking Sickness, and Lu has felt the heartbreak from it many times. There is no treatment for it, it has no known cause, and it doesn’t spread from person to person. Some people die from it instantly, and other suffer with it for a long while.

So, we have magical plants, and a disease that is killing a lot of people. We have a pirate who is a smooth talker. We have a soldier who has been a soldier all her life, even when forced as a child. And we have a prince, who is dealing with the ghosts from his past. All these things come into play and send Lu and Vex on an adventure, and leaves Ben discovering the hypocrisy of the religion on the island.

My favorite thing about this book was a plot twist. Obviously, I’m not going to give any spoilers, but a certain plot twist in this book was so well done. The author expertly wove it into the entire story, and it is the reason I’m giving this book two stars instead of one. Seriously, it was amazingly done. And the next favorite thing was a beautiful f/f relationship involving two main side characters.

I know that the copy I read was an ARC version, but this book ends so abruptly. I felt like after the amazing plot twist, and finally seeing all the action form and start to take place, we are just cut off. Curtains drawn, lights out. I just sat with my iPad in my lap, blinking a few times, because I thought maybe I got an unfinished ARC. So, here is your warning that the ending is a little brutal.

Overall, this just wasn’t for me. I went in expecting so much and was given so little. And even with so little, it was so different than what I was expecting. I do predict that the next book in this series will be better. I just don’t think I’ll be picking it up. And if you go into this expecting gay pirates, sailing the seas and fighting for injustice, like I did, you’re going to be disappointed. Again, I hate feeling so negative, so I hope that if you give this one a try that you will enjoy it much more than me! Happy reading, loves.

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Buddy read with Hamad & Jules! ❤

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

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“We may not get to choose how we die, but we can choose how we live. The universe may forget us, but it doesn’t matter. Because we are the ants, and we’ll keep marching on.”

We Are the Ants is a really beautiful story about being a teenager, being gay, and not being accepted. This is a story about heartbreak, loss, grief, and trying to figure out who you are in the midst of it all. I’ll be honest, I didn’t love the start of this book, but I completely fell in love with the middle and end. And I totally understand why so many of my friends hail this as their favorite book of all time.

But the reason I’m giving this four stars is because the first part of this book felt just so vulgar. Like, maybe it’s because I’m a grown woman and I don’t want to read about teenage boners, but like the first part of this book just reads crude and bad. I was honestly scared I was going to end up hating this book. Which would have really surprised me, because Shaun David Hutchinson’s short story in the All Out Anthology was my favorite in the entire collection. It was so beautifully written, so lyrical, so immersive, so empowering. And luckily for me, I didn’t give up hope, because We Are the Ants ended up being all of those things, too.

“That’s the problem with memories: you can visit them, but you can’t live in them.”

This book stars a young boy named Henry who is grieving the loss of his boyfriend who recently committed suicide. His home situation isn’t great either, from a mom that is also unhappy, a brother that is abusive and making some big life changes, and a grandmother who can hardly remember his name. Also, Henry is the joke of his high school and has been dubbed “Space Boy” because he frequently gets abducted by aliens, regardless of who believes him or not.

We get to witness some of Henry’s alien abductions, but on one particular visit, he is given a choice to save the world or to leave it for impending destruction. Henry has 144 days to decide if the world is worth saving.

“If you knew the world was going to end, and you could press a button to prevent it, would you?”

This book does deal with so many heavy topics, so please use caution and make sure you are in the right mindset. Trigger and content warnings for attempted rape, sexual assault, outing, suicide, a lot of physical abuse, extreme bullying, homophobia, homophobic slurs, drug addiction, alcoholism, grief, depression, abandonment, loss of a loved one, talk of self-harm/cutting, and having a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.

Another important aspect I love in this book was the depictions of adults. First off, Henry’s mother is dealing with so many things, and so much heartache of her own, and she doesn’t hide it. I’m not saying everything she did was healthy, but it’s realistic and I think it’s something really important for more teens to read and see that they aren’t alone. High key, Ms. Faraci was my favorite character. I seriously loved that teacher and her honest advice that sometimes awful people do indeed succeed in the world, but it doesn’t mean that they will always be in your life. I also just loved seeing a teacher care about a student the way that she did with Henry. It was truly heartwarming and meant a lot to me.

Another really real and raw theme of the book is how we use other people to fill a void left by someone else. And how we will make excuses and justifications for the only person who is making us feel something, even if they are abusive and manipulative. This just really spoke to my soul, honestly.

I wouldn’t say that this book is about romance, but there is a romance element and let me climb up on the rooftops and scream that the love interest in this book is a Latinx Pansexual boy! You all, I was not expecting pan rep in this book, and even though the actual word is not on the page, my heart was so damn happy.

Overall, Shaun David Hutchinson has now impressed me twice in 2018 and I’m no longer going to sleep on his work. I think he’s so immensely talented, and all the elements that are a part of his stories are honestly life changing and saving. And I hope you all might consider picking up We Are the Ants and get blown away, too.

“Depression isn’t a war you win. It’s a battle you fight every day. You never stop, never get to rest. It’s one bloody fray after another.”

This story is truly holds such an important discussion about mental illness and how it is something that you have to always manage and keep up with, because it never goes away, no matter how many alien abductions happen. And I’m going to leave some numbers here:

SUICIDE PREVENTION:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org
In a crisis, call their free and 24/ 7 U.S. hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
Contact their Crisis Text Line: text TALK to 741-741
National Hopeline Network: http://hopeline.com / 1-800-442-HOPE (4673)
American Association of Suicidology: http://suicidology.org
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: http://afsp.org
Suicide Prevention Resource Center: http://sprc.org

FOR SUICIDE LOSS SURVIVORS:
Alliance of Hope for Suicide Survivors: http://allianceofhope.org
American Association of Suicidology survivors page: http://suicidology.org/suicide-survivors/suicide-loss-survivors
Friends for Survival: http://friendsforsurvival.org
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline survivors page: http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/loss-survivors/
Suicide Awareness Voices of Education: http://save.org

UNDERSTANDING MENTAL ILLNESS:
Mental Health America: http://mentalhealthamerica.net
National Alliance on Mental Illness: http://nami.org
National Institute of Mental Health: http://nimh.nih.gov

Also, I found all of these resources from The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan, which is another amazing book that I completely recommend for anyone looking for more books that center around mental illness. And I’m obvious not a therapist, but my DMs will always be open for anyone who just needs a friend to talk to. You are deserving of love and happiness, sometimes it just takes a little while to find those things, but I promise you are worthy of them. And I promise that you matter.


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Buddy read with Alexis and Lily! ❤