I Read My “Top 12 Books I Must Read in 2018” List


Merry Christmas, to all my friends who celebrate! Today’s post is something I’ve looked forward to doing all year long, so it’s really a gift to myself! So, on January 6th of 2018, I made a blog post all about the twelve books that I *must* read during 2018! And I finally read the last one at the start of December! This was my first year doing this, but I loved it so much that I hope to continue to do it forever. It really helped me to read books that I already owned, and it gave me a much-needed break between ARCs when I was feeling rather burnt out. And even though I did predict these all being five stars (they weren’t), I still ended up loving so many of these titles! 🎄🎁❤


The Secret History by Donna Tartt – ★★★★★
This was the first book I read in 2018! And I still have never read anything like this book in my entire life. I laid in bed for over an hour last night upon finishing this book, just tossing and turning and thinking about everything I just consumed. I still don’t think I can put my feelings into words, but I can honestly say this book was a cathartic experience for me, and the irony of the word “catharsis” being a Greek rooted word is not lost on me, because if this book is anything it’s a modern-day Greek tragedy.


Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë – ★★★★★
I fell completely in love with this. This was so intelligently crafted and so expertly woven! And the dark feelings and vibes throughout really makes this such a unique and amazing reading experience. And I think this is a book that I will be able to read and reread over and over for the rest of my life. You also best believe that if I ever have children, this will be required reading once they get a bit older, because this book seriously has an immense amount of power. And I truly believe this is my favorite classic of all-time now. And I never want any woman to feel like a bird trapped in a cage.


Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye – ★★
Reader, I was so damn bored. I was a little intrigued at the start. I mean, it is hard to not get hyped about a serial killer who loves Jane Eyre. But as more and more time went on, I just cared less and less. Also, I really was leading myself to believe there was going to be a sapphic relationship in this, only to cry over what could have been, and that’s never a good feeling, even if I queer-baited myself.


The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller – ★★★★★
In high school I became really obsessed with Greek mythology. I couldn’t get enough of the adventures in The Iliad and The Odyssey. And the Trojan War is almost a decade worth of adventures that I fell completely in love with. And I always had a special soft spot for Achilles, son of a god and a king, being convinced to join the Greek army by the Greek commander, Odysseus, to become the greatest warrior in the world. But so much happens before that deadly battle between Hector and Achilles outside the gates of Troy. And The Song of Achilles is Madeline Miller’s love letter to Achilles complete story, and it is an actual masterpiece that is the best reimagining I’ve ever read in my entire life.


The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid – ★★★★★
This is one of the best books I’ve ever had the privilege to read. It is probably in the top five for best books I’ve ever read in my entire life. I have been looking for a book like this my entire life, and no combination of words I’m about to type, and you’re about to read, is going to do this masterpiece justice. If you all ever take a recommendation from me; please have it be The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo.


The Book of Etta (The Road to Nowhere #2) by Meg Elison – ★★★★
Meg Elison writes the queer, feminist, inclusionary literature of my heart. This book is important, and powerful, and empowering. It’s hard, and brutal, and heartbreaking, but I promise it is so rewarding. The reason I am giving it four stars is because the ending felt rushed to me. And even though I loved this entire ending with the soul of my being, it just happened in the blink of an eye. Yet, I am so excited to see where the next book picks up, because I am sort of obsessed with their location! But friends, if you are in the right headspace, please give The Book of the Unnamed Midwife a try. It’s truly a masterpiece, and this entire series means more to me than I have words for.


Now I Rise (The Conqueror’s Saga #2) by Kiersten White – ★★★
Friends, I’ll be honest with you, I have been dreading writing this review. I don’t know what’s wrong with me or my reading tastes, but this series just isn’t the series for me. So many of my friends love this series more than anything and you should check out their reviews: Chaima (Muslim ownvoices), Elise, and Emily! But, sadly, I’m calling it quits and I’m not reading the third book. And if you want my honest opinion? Read The Traitor Baru Cormorant, because it’s a better version of (Radu’s storyline especially) this story. I didn’t hate this book by any means, it’s just really a 2.5 star, middle of the road book for me. And I’m going to try to keep this review short, because I completely recognize that this series just doesn’t work for me! But this is a historical reimagining, starring two children during the fall of Constantinople, but one of those children is a genderbent Vlad the Impaler.


The Queen and the Cure (TBATS #2) by Amy Harmon – ★★
I loved The Bird and the Sword so much when I read it, so I was looking so forward to the indirect sequel, the Queen and the Cure. But, sadly, I was so let down by this next installment. I didn’t care about the character, the story, or any of the hardships that they were going through. Honestly? The only parts I really liked where when the characters from The Bird and the Sword made brief cameos. Kjell is the captain of Tiras‘s guard, and is on a mission to find any remaining Volgar. Not only is Kjell a strong warrior and leader, he is also a very gifted healer. But his healing comes at a price; for every life he saves, he gives up a day of his own life. But he stumbles upon a young woman named Sasha who is in desperate need of healing, and he doesn’t even hesitate to save her life.


A Daring Arrangement (The Four Hundred #1) by Joanna Shupe – ★★
I am not sure if this is because I just don’t read that much historical romance, or that I just couldn’t connect with these characters or story, but this just did not work for me. Honestly, I think I’m going to try a Tessa Dare book, and if that doesn’t work for me then I’m just going to swear off historical romances for a while. This was just so boring. Nothing happened what so ever. And I’ll admit, I picked this up because I was craving romance, so maybe the fact that the romance didn’t even start until 70% into the book made me really not enjoy it.


The Abyss Surrounds Us (TASU #1) by Emily Skrutskie – ★★★★★
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.


Hideaway (Devil’s Night #2) by Penelope Douglas – DNF @ 58%
I’m just going to DNF this and pretend that Corrupt is a standalone. You all, this is just awful. From the Japanese main character who constantly talks about dojos, to the constant grey area consent, to pedophilia and even incest. I can’t. I cannot do this. And I refuse to read a Damon redemption story for the next book. This is easily one of the worst things I’ve read all year.


Three Dark Crowns (Three Dark Crowns #1) by Kendare Blake – ★★★★
This world is gloriously feminist, and I loved each point of view from the different islands. And the writing? Beautiful, lyrical, genius. And I fell so very in love with each sister, easily, and happily. These characters are honestly a tier above almost every YA character I’ve ever read. And again, this was such an amazing journey and I hope more people give this book a shot, despite the mixed reviews.


Okay, my loves! I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did actually doing it! And I absolutely cannot wait to do this again for 2019, but with an even more exciting twist! And hopefully I have just as many five star reads ahead of me, and hopefully no DNFs! Let me know below if you all do something similar to this with your reading year! And I hope you’re all reading something that’s five star worthy! Merry Christmas! ❤️🎄🎁

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Evidence of the Affair by Taylor Jenkins Reid

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“Alone in the world and alone in my marriage. Alone in love, really.”

So, basically, I’m trying somewhat hard to hit 200 books this year. And last night I just couldn’t sleep, so in the late hours of the night, I decided to read this short little novella to help boost my number. Holy shit, friends, I went into this book not expecting much, but came out weeping over its beauty.

This is a very short read, that is told completely in the format of letters from the late seventies. Letters between two cheating individuals, but, more importantly, letters between the spouses of those cheating individuals, who are sharing the letters they find between each other. Taylor Jenkins Reid is kind of known for pulling off some powerful and emotional twists in her stories, but I am in awe of how flawless she was able to do it in such a short number of pages!

“Dear Mr. David Mayer, My name is Carrie Allsop.”

Carrie Allsop – A stay at home wife, who has always been happy with her dependable, yet boring, husband. Even though she is constantly questioning her worth because she is thirty and still hasn’t gotten pregnant in the decade she and her husband have been trying.

David Mayer – High school teacher, who loves his wife and four sons more than anything in this world. But he has also been questioning his self-worth because money has been getting tighter and tighter.

And I just loved the completely taboo and unconditional friendship that these two form over a horrible situation. I love how they were each other’s soundboards because no one else would even begin to understand what they are going through, the exact way that they understood it together. I don’t know, this was just a really beautiful story. And I really love the way TJR ended this book, too. Legit perfection.

I think this book really has a good discussion about love, and how it is not always that perfect, Hallmark picture that so much of the world will have you believe. Real love can be complicated, messy, hard, and something that you have to work for every single day. And sometimes it can be filled with forgiveness. And I think this book really does a great job at touching on how easy it is for people to judge other’s relationships, without having any empathy and without believe that something similar could ever happen to them.

“It is funny the crazy things our brains make up to save us from the truth.”

Overall, I really loved this. I was blown away and I will continue to read everything that TJR comes out with. She truly is becoming one of my favorite contemporary authors, and I think she is doing some really unique things with her writing. Also, as of today (December 14th, 2018) if you have Amazon Prime, this is FREE on Amazon US!

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Content and trigger warnings for infidelity and talk of infertility.

 

Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young

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ARC provided by St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.

“…the last time I saw my brother was five years ago. Lying dead in the snow.”

Sky in the Deep is a debut, standalone, young adult fantasy novel that stars two different Viking clans. But this is a story about betrayal, then survival, then a choice. You all, I really enjoyed this one. I thought it was unique, well written, and has some amazing characters.

Our main protagonist, Eelyn, has lived the last five years mourning her brother’s death. Every five years, the two rival Viking clans battle for no reason other than blind hatred. And five years ago, Eelyn had to watch him fall off a cliff and was forced to leave him dying below. But this book starts out five years later, with a brand new battle, yet Eelyn sees her brother, Iri, before her very eyes.

The two rival Viking clans:
Aska – Worship the god Sigr, water and the sea, and Eelyn’s clan where her father is the leader.
Riki – Worship the god Thora, mountains and fire, and the side that Iri is currently fighting for.

Eelyn doesn’t even know how to process what she is seeing, especially being on the opposite side of the battlefield with her presumed dead brother, who was once her fighting partner. And her hesitation costs her, because she ends up captured by a Riki, who spares her life for some unknown reason.

“I’d abandoned my clansmen on the battlefield to chase after the brother who didn’t even want me.”

Then we get to follow Eelyn becoming a slave for the people who she has vowed to always kill. But slowly, she starts to realize that maybe the Aska and Riki have more in common than anyone would ever think, including a common enemy, the Herja, that will eliminate them all the same way they killed Eelyn’s mother.

I will say that I thought this read a little older on the young adult scale. I mean, yeah, the main character is totally seventeen-years-old, but her brother is five years older and the story does star him, too, even if we don’t get his point of view. A lot of dark things happen in this book, and the author doesn’t shy away from the violence. And rape threats are used a lot during this story. Like, a lot a lot, so just know that going in. And content/trigger warnings for loss of a loved one, violence, murder, gore, sexual assault(s), physical abuse, slavery, talk of suicide, and war themes.

And even though this is a brutal book, the romance is so damn sweet. I mean, it’s a slow burn without question, but enemies to lovers will forever be my favorite. But seeing it happen to a nice guy, too? It was really sweet and I really enjoyed it. I might even go as far to say that the romance in this book was my favorite element of the entire story.

“I remembered the way he looked, lying with eyes staring into the sky that day I’d left him in the trench in Aurvanger. The broken boy bleeding in the snow beside my brother. I wondered if the gods had a plan then.”

I also love the sibling relationship between Eelyn and Iri. In general, I’m always a sucker for books about siblings who unconditionally love each other, but this story had such a unique twist and dynamic, I absolutely loved unfolding the mystery behind what happened five years ago.

My heart was also truly stolen by Halvard and his relationship with Eelyn in this book. Like, best character and the most amazing little cinnamon roll ever. There is such a strong emphasis on found family in this book, and I was so here for it. Truly, these 350 pages carry a beautiful and important message about how life is about surrounding yourself with people who love and accept you, regardless of what blood runs in your veins.

Overall, I really did enjoy this one. I wish the rape threats weren’t so abundant, but besides that I feel like this is a really solid story that is action packed and truly captivating. I never wanted to put this book down, and each time I picked it up I felt absolutely teleported into this world. Also, I kind of have a soft spot for girls that wield axes. I really enjoyed it, and I cannot wait to see what Adrienne Young does next!


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

Playlist of songs that inspired this story!

Buddy read with Jules, at JA Ironside, Lilly at Lair of Books, & Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤

 

LIFEL1K3 (Lifelike #1) by Jay Kristoff

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

“Metal or meat. Blood or current. Everyone deserves a choice.”

Gentle friends, I loved this. This was an absolute treat to read! Jay Kristoff’s writing and storytelling is so unique, but if you love it then you will love it with the sum of your being. This book was one of the best things I’ve ever read, and I instantly knew it would make my top books of 2018.

I recommend this with my whole heart for fans of Borderlands, Mad Max, and even Fallout, because that is this book’s aesthetic. Yet, this book also is very reminiscent of one of my favorite Disney Animation movies, but to say which would be such a big spoiler, so I will refrain, but it was so amazing! I was constantly reminded of all these stories constantly, and I loved each and every moment. LIFEL1K3 is such a different book, that I can only compare it to these video games and movies, but I truly think it’s going to completely win over the YA world upon release.

The prologue to this book is one of the most heart-filled, heart-pounding, heart-breaking things I’ve ever read. I was instantly captivated and instantly immersed, and even though I was crying, a hand over my mouth, I could never stop reading. The start of every chapter tells more and more (in true Jay Kristoff style), and my heart continued to break and break, but I promise you; this story is so well crafted. I have no combination of words to even weave together to express how smart and seamlessly this is woven together.

“They used to call it Kalifornya, but now they called it Dregs.”

This story starts out in an alternate post-apocalyptic future of The United States. Robots in this world are the equivalent to slaves, and robots that look like humans (androids) are completely outlawed. Our main protagonist is battling in the WarDome, against robots, in a mech she has built herself from scavenging. She does these battles so that she can afford her grandfather’s medication, and in the opening of the book, she is in desperate need to win. So desperate that something happens to put an X on her back, and she and her friends are forced to flee, because the battles are broadcasted all over Dregs.

Eve – A seventeen-year-old girl, who has been living with her grandpa in Tire Valley for two years now. Eve also only has one eye, and I loved that representation with my whole heart. Also, Eve soon realizes that the life she has always known, might not be the only life she has ever lived. So many secrets. So many twists. So many choices.

“Two lives, colliding like stars inside her mind. The life she knew—the life of Evie Carpenter. Domefighter. Top-tier botdoc. A skinny little scavvergirl eking out a living on the island of Dregs. And someone else. Another girl entirely.”

Lemon – Eve’s best friend, who lives with her. Also, the funniest character I’ve read about in a really long time. I’m talking about full on, have to put the book down, giggles. Like, this book has the best banter I may have ever read, and all of the amazingness came from Lemon Fresh. One of my new all-time favorite characters. But I will say that Lemon does have a scene that bothered me, when she tried to take a peak at what was under a lifelike’s pants. It didn’t happen, but still, things like that are never cute, and her being a girl and him being a boy doesn’t make it okay. But besides this one thing, Lemon Fresh was truly the star of this book for me, and I want to be her when I grow up.

“I don’t care who’s after you. Where you’re from or where you’re going. It’s you, me, Crick and Kaiser. No matter what. Rule Number One in the Scrap, remember? Stronger together, together forever.”

Cricket – AI that was made to protect Eve by her grandpa. And even though they are adorable, my only complaint is about this character. Cricket is with the girls when they find a lifelike, and when they find him, he is missing an arm since it was a really bad crash. Throughout the book Cricket calls Ezekiel “Stumpy” and “Braintrauma” and it just read really bad. It also kind of makes me not like Cricket as much as I’m sure many others will.

“If he wasn’t a real person, why does this hurt so badly?”

Ezekiel – I loved Ezekiel, so much, instantly, right off the bat. He is the lifelike that Eve and Lemon find, when they are rushing home after the events that happened at the WarDome. lifelikes are outlawed everywhere, because they somehow broke the Three Laws that are hard-coded into every single robot.

“He gave us life, but he intended us to live it on our knees.”

And many of these lifelikes resided in a place called Babel. Growing up, you guys might have learned about the story of Tower of Babel as a lesson about why we speak so many different languages. Basically, after the Great Flood happened, a bunch of people came together and agreed to build a tower that would touch Heaven itself. God, realizing what they are attempting, scatters them all around the world and makes them all speak different languages, hence our world today. And the irony was not missed on how perfect of a title for a residence this is. And all the lifelike’s names are also super biblical.

The soul of this novel is about oppression, and the sick things we are willing to tell ourselves to justify it. How people will treat other living being differently, and unjustly, because they feel like they are higher on the social hierarchy. This book may be about humans vs robots, but I think it mirrors a lot of issues going on in today’s world, and I think a lot of people could take away many things from this book.

“Look outside that door, and you will see a world built on metal backs. Held together by metal hands.”

The heart of this novel is about love, and how we are always deserving of it, even if we are searching for it our entire lives. The romance in this was exceptionally done, and I was swooning so hard at so many different scenes. But this book doesn’t just focus on the romantic love between two people, but also the importance of love between friends. Eve and Lemon’s friendship is honestly goals. And this book is for sure a love letter to found families everywhere.

“It’s simple to love someone on the days that are easy. But you find out what your love is made of on the days that are hard.”

And in true Jay Kristoff fashion, he ripped my heart out at the end of this book. I honestly am not sure how I’m going to be able to cope and deal with the wait for the next book. It will easily be one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and I am so curious what direction the story is going to go. I also believe, with my whole heart, that the second book will be even better than LIFEL1K3. Even though this was a five star read, it was setting the stage for something that’s going to be such a damn masterpiece.

Overall, I loved this. I loved seeing Eve discover who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be. I loved the beautiful, lyrical writing. I loved the important themes and discussions that were expertly woven in. I loved laughing and crying and feeling everything in-between for the characters. I loved this world and traveling it alongside these characters. I even loved all the twists and turns. Also, to say that this has a cliffhanger ending is a damn understatement. But this was such a fun read, and I think there is so much that so many will love, too! I hope you all pick this one up come May 29th!

“Your past doesn’t make calls on your future. It doesn’t matter who you were. Only who you are.”

Content/Trigger Warnings: murder, gore, violence, death, loss of a loved one, bullying, robotic animal cruelty, talk of suicide, talk of cancer, terminal illness, child abandonment, physical abuse, torture, bombings, and war themes.

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

Buddy read with Chelsea at The Suspense is Thrilling Me! ❤



Submit your proof of preorder HERE by May 29th, 2018 to receive a collectible print featuring an original illustration of a map of the Grande Ol’ Yousay by artist Virginia Allyn and four beautiful LIFEL1K3 bookmarks by artist Mona May! (US mailing address required. I’m sorry.)

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saundra Mitchell

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This was a blessing to read. This is a historical literature short story collection, showcasing LGBTQIAP+ characters. And all of the authors that contributed to this collection are LGBTQIAP+ and that is something that I don’t even have words for. I am forever thankful that Saundra Mitchell curated this, that Harlequin published this, and that kids and teens everywhere are going to be able to pick this up and know that they are never alone and that they have never been alone, throughout history.

These stories also are set all over the world, even though the majority of them do take place in The United States. I do personally wish that we had a little more variety, but the stories themselves are super important and I feel very privileged that I was able to read them. My only other minor complaint is that I also wish that there was a pansexual character. I get no titles were used in many of these stories, but I still wish there were bigger hints and/or possibilities that would have personally made my pan heart happy.

My personal favorite was The Inferno & the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson. It was so beautifully written, the messages were expertly woven in, and the characters are two that I won’t forget anytime soon. Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore and Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake were super close to also being my favorite. And both of these stories are ones I will carry in my heart forever. And I truly believe, without a doubt, that these three short stories are worth the entire price of this anthology alone!

I’m going to break down each short story with my thoughts, opinions, and individual star rating!

Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore – ★★★★★

“I wanted them to know that I was my abuela’s granddaughter, that carried the blood of poison girls.”

1870 Mexico – I wish every anthology that I will ever read for the rest of my life started with a story by Anna-Marie McLemore. The beauty, the power, the magic in her words. It is something I can’t find words for, but it makes me feel everything. Absolutely everything. This story centers around an ownvoices Latinx main character, who is trying to get her trans lover out of jail. This story discusses trans issues and does it so damn well, and even though I am cis, I was still blown away at what this author was able to accomplish with this masterpiece of a short story. And the w/w romance in this is so awe-inspiring and just damn heartwarming. I loved it. And I loved this so very much. There is also so much beautiful magical realism in this, that deals with poison, and it has me super hyped to read more about it in Blanca y Roja this fall!

The Sweet Trade by Natalie C. Parker – ★★★

“Clara Elizabeth Byrd had been married twice by the age of sixteen and she had decided she had no taste for it.”

1717 USA, Virginia – I enjoyed this one, I just didn’t love this one. Clara is a runaway bride, who is sailing away for a getaway, when she comes across another girl that is running from the same future that neither one of them envision for themselves. Obviously a really cute w/w relationship blooms, and both girls have hopes and dreams of ruling the seas together as pirate queens disguised as kings. And this makes me excited to read this author’s LGBTQIAP+ pirate story, Seafire, this summer!

And They Don’t Kiss At the End by Nilah Magruder – ★★★★

“I like what I like and I don’t like what I don’t. I have nothing to apologize for.”

1976 USA, Maryland – This was so smartly created for this anthology. From the title, to Pride & Prejudice, to skating, to the music, to the amazing rep; this was nothing but a joy to read. This was a gift sent from above. This story features an ownvoices black main character, who is trying to figure out her sexual orientation, but she knows she’s on the ace spectrum. Hell, it’s hard enough for aro and ace kids to figure out their sexual ID even in 2018, and in the 70s there isn’t even a name for it. But this was the sweetest story, that even made me shed a few tears. Also, there was the Filipino boy in this who was a confirmed cinnamon roll. But, please, I want a full-length story of Dee!

Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee – ★★★★

“I am the boy most accomplished at not becoming distracted by the first naked woman we draw. Which is something, I suppose.”

1638 Netherlands, Amsterdam – Okay, this one was actually super funny. I was having a dang giggle while reading this one. And I felt like the main character talked a lot like I would in his situation, and, Lord, help me, I loved it. This one stars a boy in a prestigious painting class and, from the quote above, you can probably tell what they’re painting next. There is minor bullying in this, and an important discussion on how dangerous coming out was back then (and still can be). But the story really gets started when the main characters crush is the next subject they are about to draw.

The Dresser & The Chambermaid by Robin Talley – ★★★

“Susanna was accustomed to creeping about the palace in the dark.”

1726 England, London, Kensington Palace – This wasn’t my favorite story in the anthology, but I loved the setting so much. At this point, I think Robin Talley is the queen of atmosphere, and she proves it again in this short story. This is about two girls who are both servants to a very demanding young princess. One has lived her entire life in the castle, and the other is brand new and needs the assistance of the other to know how the princess likes her hair. This is a cute w/w romance, and I’d love to read more. Also, this was super sex positive, and I always appreciate that!

New Year by Malinda Lo – ★★★★

“Tommy Andrews, the male impersonator, brings something different in nightclub entertainment…”

1955 USA, California, San Francisco– This is a story about a (ownvoices) Chinese-American girl discovering who she is, and what her sexuality is, growing up in Chinatown. It also happens to be the Chinese New Year, and someone catches her eye when they walk into her friend’s restaurant. And I need this full story now! Ahhh, especially with that ending! But this was a great read, even though it was romance free, and it discussed so many important topics about immigration, and deportation, and how badly we treat immigrants, even in 2018. It also was a very feminist and empowering short story, and I loved the author’s note at the end of this one. I desperately need to read more by Malinda Lo.

Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler – ★★

“She’ll never love me like she loves a man she’ll never meet.”

1994 USA, Washington, Seattle – This had everything that I should have loved. I love everything 90s, especially grunge music, and the entire aesthetic just seemed like something I’d enjoy, as morbid as that probably sounds. This is a story about two girls grieving the death of Kurt Cobain, in the place where grunge music was born. And I loved the writing style, I just thought the story left a lot to be desired. I love me a good w/w best friends to lovers story, and I love the message that music truly has healing powers, but this one was just a bit boring for me. Which kind of breaks my heart, because I do really love Nirvana.

The Coven by Kate Scelsa – ★★

“It was Gertrude Stein who first introduced us to the coven.”

1920s France, Paris – This is about a girl grieving the loss of her brother and dealing with the depression that no doctor is able to diagnose. She then finds a coven with her girlfriend, that helps young girls like her. And I guess the w/w romance was cute, but this one just read so very boring for me personally.

Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake – ★★★★★

“If I must lie to the world to be true to my heart, then I’ll lie. I’ll cheat, I’ll steal and I’ll do it with a smile. Love is the only higher power I answer to, and my love is no less for being chaste.”

1300s England | – I thought this was going to be good, but it ended up being perfect. This is an awesome Robin Hood retelling. And Robin in this story is a trans boy, who is in love with our main protagonist, who ran away from a father that didn’t accept him. And this m/m romance had me swooning. Also, our main protagonist is hearing impaired and seeing him sign on page was something so magical to me. And the ending? I still feel absolutely gutted. But the heart of this story is about love; the love we have for others, but also the love that we must find in accepting ourselves for who we are. This was so brilliantly done and was honestly perfection in every way, and I loved it more than any combination of words I can come up with.

Willows by Scott Tracey – ★★

“That is the secret to survival. Teach fear to those who taught you to be afraid.”

1732 USA, Massachusetts | – This just didn’t work for me in the slightest. Maybe it was me and my reading comprehension, but this felt so incohesive to me and was super hard to follow. But it had witches in it? And being scared because of the way witches were dealt with back in the 1700s Massachusetts. But it was sort of like an exploration of a person that has been different people in different lives, while exploring gender, too. And in the end, they are in a relationship with a guy, and they run away together. But this just was so not for me in any way.

The Girl with the Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe – ★★★★★

“And I am yours […] always.”

1839 USA, Northern California | – This was everything I wanted. This was whimsical, this was lyrical, and this was perfect. I would buy and read anything, and everything set in this world, and in those woods. Also, this is one of the few stories in the anthology that felt like a full story. This was beyond words good, and I had full body goosebumps at the very end of the story. This story centers around a young girl, with an abusive father, that lives in a town that fears going into the woods. Well, one day, after her dog escapes into said woods, the girl ventures in to find him and meets a girl who is not human (and there is no confirmation, but I want to yell at you all “FAE GIRL!”) And I was so damn invested in this tale. And I was so into the friendship, turned into something more between these very different girls, who both bond over feeling alone. This is easily one of my favorites in this entire collection.

The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy by Alex Sanchez – ★★★★

“…Ready to tell Mom and Dad the thing they already know.”

1969 USA, Virginia | – This is about a boy who loves his family dearly but doesn’t know how to let them know that he is not straight. Him and his sister are really close, which I love, because my brother has always and will always be my best friend. And one day, a car breaks down outside their home, and our main character spends time with the young driver, while waiting for someone to repair the vehicle. Okay, I really liked this one, because even though this was set twenty years before I was born, I still remember a lot of the homophobia that went on in this story. Like, growing up, boys that only had one ear pierced were always considered gay, which makes me feel gross even to type. And just seeing this boy finally seeing someone that is happy and confident with their sexuality, and wanting to run away and be that too? That evoked some emotion from me. And this just felt like such accurate representation of all the thoughts you have when you’re young and discovering your sexuality (at least for me, personally) and I really enjoyed this one.

Walking After Midnight by Kody Keplinger – ★★★

“I’m never gonna see the world or do anything people will remember.”

1952 USA, New York | – This one was super adorable, I just didn’t fall in love with it the same way I did some of the other stories in this collection. This is about an actress, that is starting to feel past her prime, and she misses her train connection in a small town. A girl who is closing up a nearby diner see’s the girl and offers her somewhere to stay. This is a cute story about knowing your worth, and knowing what you want from life, and not letting anyone tell you differently. Also, I believe the main character could possibly be on the ace spectrum, so that’s awesome too! But I wish we could have seen both of these characters a year from when they first met.

The End of the World As We Know It by Sara Farizan – ★★★★★

“It’s kind of shitty to think that on the eve of the apocalypse, I’m wasting my last hours watching Carson Daly in Times Square awkwardly burgeoning pop star Mandy Moore the most banal of questions.”

1999 USA, Massachusetts, Boston | – You all, this one made me feel so… old… but so seen. Holy shit, so seen. Okay, I was a lot younger than the main protagonist in 1999, but I remember it. I was still in elementary school, but everyone was freaking out and I remember my parents being freaked out about the banks and them stocking up on bottled water and things like that! Also, me and my friends thought we were the absolute coolest, and we would always rush home after school to watch TRL, because we had to know if Blink 182 would actually beat Britney or Christina to number 1 that day. Also, this story mentions Aaliyah, who me and my best friend were obsessed with. Like, so obsessed with that she made it her daughter’s middle name when she was born a few years ago. And I also remember Matthew Shepard and what happened to him, and it being one of the first tragedies I actually remember happening. And it shook me, even as a little kid, to my very core. This is about a girl who is a senior in high school, and she is home on New Year’s Eve with her parents. Well, until her best friend who she hasn’t spoken to recently comes over. And a cute w/w romance brews. TL;DR – I’m giving this five stars because 1.) I loved it with my whole heart, but 2.) this was my very early adolescence, and around the time I started to realize that I wasn’t straight, so this story just really spoke to me.

Three Witches by Tessa Gratton – ★★★★★

“The ease with which s beautiful girl can seduce Violante has been the core of her troubles all her life.”

1519 Spain, Burgos, Castile | – Tessa Gratton is such a talented writer, and when I read her writing it feels truly like I’m reading art. This story is a bit of a darker one, because it’s about a girl in conversion therapy that is being administered by the Catholic church. And we get to see a relationship with our main character, Violante, and one of the nuns. This was powerful, this was haunting, and it truly is something I won’t be able to get out of my head. And I will always choose love, and I hope you all do too.

The Inferno & the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson – ★★★★★

“And it was in that moment that I understood what it meant to be loved.”

1839 London | – The last sentence of this story. God, I’m still weeping. This was such a masterpiece. I loved this with the sum of my entire being. This was the first thing I’ve ever read by Shaun David Hutchinson, and I promise it won’t be the last. This is a short story about two rivaling magician assistances, both learning to live with the pain from their pasts. Their paths cross, and they start to see that life doesn’t have to be all pain, and that everyone is worthy of love. I want more. No, I need more. I feel so in love with this world, this magic, and these two boys who completely captivated me and stole my heart. This was my favorite in the entire collection. This story alone makes the entire collection worth the purchase.

Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia – ★★★★★

“Rose was a summer girl, and I was a winter girl, but that fall we made magic.”

1933 USA, New Mexico | – This one was very powerful! This is an ownvoices latinx short story about a girl, whose grandmother was believed to be a bruja, and another girl who she can’t help but show her feelings for, regardless of what the girl’s father thinks, and regardless of what the demon inside her feels. And the magical realism in this was a blessing to my eyes and my soul. Beautiful, so beautiful. And this just was so unapologetically queer, and it just raised me up, and made me feel so happy, and reminded me to never feel shame. God, I just loved this one so much. And these two girls were my favorite couple in the entire anthology.

Overall, I loved this. And representation always matters, but it especially matters to kids that feel alone and feel like what they are feeling, or who they are, is wrong. LGBTQIAP+ isn’t a trend, or a theme, and it sure and the hell isn’t anything new. And no matter how much history books want to pretend we didn’t exist back then, they will always be wrong. I gave All Out four stars overall, because out of a possible 85 stars (5 stars possible for each of the 17 stories) this collection accumulated 66 stars (~77%).


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This is the group read for the biannual Prideathon that ran from April 2nd to April 8th! ❤🌈

Renegades (Renegades #1) by Marissa Meyer

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“Hero or villain, all prodigies were powerful. All prodigies were dangerous.”

Me and Marissa Meyer have an all over the place relationship. I wasn’t the biggest fan of The Lunar Chronicles, but I love Scarlet and Wolf! But my favorite thing she’s ever created was Heartless, which I five starred and it made it onto my best of list the year it came out. So, I didn’t know what to expect going into Renegades. I wasn’t even going to pick it up originally, but I did solely because I saw a Goodreads review being disgusting about there being two gay dads that raised one of the main protagonists. TL;DR – I loved the gay dads, but I only ended up liking Renegades.

Renegades is set in a world where people rely on superheroes. The superheroes come with a vast array of powers and abilities, but with superheroes, there are always supervillains, too! Yet, the supervillains are more of rebels with superpowers, and they call themselves the Anarchists!

Our main protagonist, Nova, was raised to believe in the Renegades and to trust in the hope that they provide. But that all changed the night she was orphaned, and no one came to save her or her family. Since then she has had only one mission: to get vengeance for her family.

“One cannot be brave who has no fear.”

Also, I couldn’t write this review without mentioning that Nova (AKA: Nightmare and Insomnia) is Italian-Filipina, and this made my little Filipina heart so very full of happiness. Also, Nova’s super power is sleep manipulation, which was totally unique and super badass, in my opinion. Also, I’m forever living for morally grey characters that are constantly questioning the motives all around them, so Nova was a damn treat to read about.

The other main protagonist is Adrian (AKA: the Sentinal and Sketch), who happens to have the two kickass, gay, famous, superhero dads! His power is pretty OP; as long as he believes something is plausible, he can draw it and give it the desired effect. Like, it’s kind of complicated, but he can pretty much draw things and make them a reality.

And obviously Nova and Adrian’s lives intertwine and a lot of events ensue. And, if you’ve ever read a book by Marissa Meyer before, you can probably guess that a romance happens as well. Now, forbidden romance is kind of my favorite, and I was here for it, but I will say that it was a little cliché at times.

But this is a story about secrets, filled with characters that are playing both sides for the Renegades and for the Anarchists. This story is filled with twists and turns, and you’ll never really know who to root for, which is pretty amazing.

Yet, this is also a story about questioning what is good and bad. And how things that present themselves as good aren’t always the way they seem. I think it’s important for kids and teens to be reading about questioning the world around them right now, and I really liked the discussion that could be had here from these themes that were presented.

“If people wanted to stand up for themselves or protect their loved ones or do what they believe in their hearts is the right thing to do, then they would do it. If they wanted to be heroic, they would find ways to be heroic, even without supernatural powers.”

Now, let me also say that I read this via audiobook, and I am the worst audiobook reader ever. I just have a really hard time focusing, and I’ll try to listen while I play League of Legends, and then I’ll end up not retaining anything, and I’ll have to go relisten. This book took me a month to read, which is unheard of for me. I strongly believe that if I read this book physically that I would have enjoyed it even more. And I completely plan to do so with the next book!

Overall, if you like superhero books then you will probably really enjoy this one. Sometimes I did feel like maybe a few elements were pulled too strongly from X-Men (*cough ROGUE cough*), but Marissa Meyer’s writing is always easy to read and fun to follow. The story had a bit of racial diversity, sexual diversity, and a disabled side-character that I really appreciated. Also, please give me an entire book of just Max, thanks. But I think most people that have enjoyed previous things by this author will also really enjoy this one! I’m excited to see what happens next, especially with that ending.

“There are many dangerous people in this world. But there are also many good people. Brave people. No matter how bad things get, we have to remember that.”

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Buddy Read with Sarah & Rachel! ❤

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

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

“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.”

This is the pièce de résistance I’ve been searching for my entire life. Not only did I fall in love with this story, I predict that this will be the best book I’ll read all year. This book is about healing and doing what it takes to come into your own. This book is about love; the love between lovers, the love of a mother, and the love you must find in yourself. This book proves why family of choice will always be greater than family of origin. This book is about magic, and how we can find it in ourselves if we look hard enough. This is a book about becoming the witch you’ve always buried deep inside you.

“They do not care if you are good. They barely care if you are wicked. The only thing that makes them listen is power.”

Okay, maybe I should start this review off with a somewhat personal story. I was very privileged to go a very good high school where I was able to study The Iliad and The Odyssey for a class my freshman year. And fourteen-year-old Melanie fell in love. To say I was obsessed was an understatement, and more and more my heart was filled with love for Odysseus, Athena, and a certain love affair with the witch-goddess Circe.

(Beautiful art by Kevin Nichols)

Even upon finishing that class, I still couldn’t get enough of Homer’s words. And to this day, The Iliad and The Odyssey are the only books that I collect many editions of. All my loved ones and family correlate these epic poems with me, and always bring me new editions from their travels, and give me gifts for special events and holidays the same way they do with Harry Potter. One of the most prized possession I own is an edition of The Odyssey that was given to me by someone who meant a lot to me, at a very important time in my life. And these two tomes will always be a big part of my identity, and I will always recognize that they not only shaped me as a reader, but they shaped me as a human being, too.

So, when I found out that that Greek mythology retelling queen, Madeline Miller, was writing a book centered around Circe, I knew it was going to end up being one of my favorite books of all time. And it ended up being everything I wanted and more. I hate to throw around the word masterpiece, but if I had to pick a book to give that title to, I’d pick Circe.

“Odysseus, son of Laertes, the great traveler, prince of wiles and tricks and a thousand ways. He showed me his scars, and in return he let me pretend that I had none.”

And even though Odysseus plays a huge role in this story, this book is Circe’s and Circe’s alone. We get to see her growing up in Oceanus, with her Titan sun god father Helios, and loveless nymph mother Perse, and her three more ambitious siblings, Aeëtes, Pasiphaë, and Perses. We get to see her living her life of solitude, exiled on the island of Aiaia. We also get to see her make a few very important trips, that are very monumental in Greek mythos. But we get to see all of Circe, the broken parts, the healing parts, and the complete parts. We get to see her love, her loss, her discovery, her resolve, and her determination. We get to see her question what it means to be immortal, what it means to be a nymph in a world ruled by gods, and what it means to just live. Her journey is unlike anything I’ve ever read before, and probably unlike anything I will ever read again. I have no combination of words to express how much her life and her story means to me. But I promise, I’m not the same person I was before reading this book.

“…All my life had been murk and depths, but I was not a part of that dark water. I was a creature within it.”

This is ultimately a story about how different the tales will always be told for a man. And how the ballads will always be sung for heroes, not heroines, even if a woman was truly behind all the success the man greedily reaped. How the light will always fall to vilify the woman and showcase her as a witch that needs to be tamed, a sorceress that needs to be subdued, or an enchantress that needs to be defeated. Women, no matter how much agency they carve out in any male dominated world, will always be a means to an end to further the achievements of man. Always. And Circe displays that at the forefront of this story.

Circe is most well known for turning Odysseus’s men into pigs when they come to her island in The Odyssey, but Madeline Miller does such a wonderful job weaving all this Greek mythology into a fully fleshed out, brand-new tale. She has created something so unique, yet so breathtakingly good, I think so many readers will find it impossible to put this new-spin of a story down. I was completely captivated and enthralled from the very first line to the very last line. This book just feels so authentic, I felt like I was in the ocean, on the island, and traveling right beside Circe throughout. And I never wanted to leave her side.

“It was their favorite bitter joke: those who fight against prophecy only draw it more tightly around their throats.”

Overall, I understand that this is a book that is very targeted to me and my likes. Not only is this a character driven story, with a main protagonist being a character I’ve been in love with for over a decade, but the writing was lyrical perfection. I’m such a quote reader, and I swear I would have highlighted this entire book. This book is also so beautifully feminist that it makes me weep just thinking about the things Circe had to endure. And it showcases the unconditional love of found families, yet also between a mother and her child, while simultaneously abolishing the notion that blood is worth more than anything else in any world. This book heavily emphasizes that you will never be the mistakes that your parents have committed. The entire story is a love letter to love itself and reveals all the things we are willing to do in the name of it. And most importantly, this is a book about how we are truly only ever in charge of our own stories, even though our actions may change the fate for others around us. Please, pick this masterpiece up, and I hope it changes your life, too.

Thank you, Madeline Miller, I will carry your Circe in my heart for the rest of my life.

“That is one thing gods and mortals share: when we are young, we think ourselves the first to have each feeling in the world.”

Trigger/Content Warnings: Violence, gore, murder, torture, physical abuse, child abuse, thoughts of suicide, brief scene with cutting, graphic childbirth scenes, mention of bestiality, mention of incest, animal sacrifice, death of a sibling, death of a child, death of a loved one, death of an animal, rape, adultery, and war themes.

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


✨ Signed and personalized copies are available through Main Point Books! (They can ship anywhere in the US, anywhere in the UK, and also to some other international locations!)