Lore by Alexandra Bracken

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Finished copy provided by Disney-Hyperion

“Nine gods have betrayed me and now demand cruel revenge.”

Nine gods have been abandoned by Zeus as punishment for a rebellion filled with betrayal. Since the banishment, these nine gods are forced to walk among humans like mortals, while carrying out their bloodline. Yet, every seven years, the Agon takes place in a city for seven days, where all the descendants from all of these ancient bloodlines can kill the god they descend from and take their powers (and immortality) for themselves. And the start of a new Agon is finally here, and is going to take place in New York City, yet our main character is haunted by the last Agon where her family was brutally murdered.

➽ Melora Perseous (Lore) – of House Perseus, underground fighter, trying to block out the loss of her family in the past, and the recent loss of another loved one. Lore is also last of her bloodline.

➽ Castor Achilleos – of House Achilles, Lore’s best friend and fighting partner growing up, who had leukemia.

➽ Miles – Korean, queer, Lore’s roommate and best friend.

➽ Van – Black, queer, Castor’s best friend.

➽ Gil – Recently passed away, but the one who became a family with Lore and Miles these last few years.

➽ Athena – Betrayed by her sister, Artemis, and one of the last original gods, yet is wounded so badly at the beginning of this book that she makes a deal with Lore so they can both try to get revenge.

“I will help you survive this week, and you will destroy the god once known as Aristos Kadmou, the enemy of my blood”

And so, Athena and Lore’s lives in this Agon are forever intertwined, while they try to survive in New York City, and try to get the vengeance they so desperately have wanted these last seven years against a new god called Wrath. But things change even more so when Lore realizes she is a lot closer to another god than she realizes, and she also is quickly realizing that things are a lot more personal than she ever imagined. Especially when Wrath wants to kill all the gods, regardless of bloodline and regardless of transferring magical abilities and artifacts attached to those bloodlines.

The premise and set up was truly amazing, and I was invested after the very first chapter! But I will say, this book felt a bit too info dumpy at times for me, and I imagine if you didn’t know much about Greek mythos this story could get extra confusing, but I really did overall enjoy it each time I picked it up. Truly, it made me realize how much I do miss reading urban fantasy, and I think the New York setting was very genius for the Agon. I loved learning about all the different types of magic and all the different artifacts, but I do wish they were woven into the story a little better, even though I was being all sidetracked like “wow I love this shield and I’m going to spiral about Dota AND the Iliad because of it and my nerdy ways!” And even though I did love the New York setting, I would forget that this was set in modern times, especially any scene with Wrath and any scene showing us Lore’s past. Then we should see Castor’s medical treatment in the past, or they’d mention New York bagel styles and I’d be reminded, but a bit of whiplash while reading.

I also want to briefly mention, and I do not want to be too personal, but childhood cancer is something that is very close to my heart and something that impacts every day of my life, so reading a book about a boy who had to go through multiple rounds of chemotherapy, radiation, and stem-cell transplants, for a cancer he had to fight twice, to get to see him be a modern-day Greek God… it was just very powerful. I can’t even think of another YA book where we get to see a young side character be impacted by cancer and see those around them be impacted by it too, and not have it be the focal point of a sad story starring it. I just wish we had more representation for this very real situation where people’s lives are so heavily influenced by this disease that impacts so many children every single day. (This is one of the few triggers I do personally have, but I thought it was very well done, and it made my heart very happy to read, and I wish more children and young adults living with cancer, or living in remission, could read stories that give happy and hopeful endings.)

“It’s okay to want good things […] and to believe that you deserve a good life.”

Overall, I really liked this unique spin on Greek mythos, and I really enjoyed how this author intertwined this story in a modern day setting. I think it was a solid standalone, and I was very impressed with the characters, so many of the themes, and the central discussions of found family and second chances, and the constant reminder that there is no “right way” to heal from trauma and grief. Also, I will always love a good reclaiming of Medusa and her whole entire monster story. Be still, my Circe loving heart. But I really enjoyed Lore and Castor’s relationship. I loved the Van and Miles and truly were amazing side characters.

“And now history remembers her as a villain who deserved to die.”

Content and Trigger Warnings: a lot of blood depiction, murder, loss of a loved one, graphic torture depictions (some to children), graphic violence, gore, sexual assault, grief depiction, ptsd, child abuse, threat of pedophilia,, threat of rape, implied pedophilia, slavery, talk of cancer (leukemia), child cancer (and mention of chemo, radiation, stem-cell transplants, etc.), mention of heart attack, mention of cancer coming back, bombings, explosions, brief mentions of suicide, and war themes. This is a pretty dark book, and it surprised me a lot with the constant learning of the torture that happened to Lore’s family in the past, so please use caution and make sure you are in the right headspace.

3

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Buddy read with Maëlys! ❤

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki & Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

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“For almost the past year I’ve been in love with a girl named Laura Dean.”

Freddy Riley is a 17-year-old lesbian Asian-American who is seeking the advice of an online romance dating column, because her girlfriend keeps breaking up with her over and over. And each time Laura Dean comes back into Freddy’s life, Freddy feels more and more shattered when she leaves, and she is unable to see what she can do to change the situation.

“What is it like to love this person who keeps breaking up with you and then presumably coming back to you? What does your love with this person offer you? Does it make you happy? Does it give you what you need to be a better person?”

This graphic-novel has so many layers, but this is truly a story about an abusive relationship, and how sometimes it can be so hard to see even when the lows feel so low, because the highs are so high. Laura gaslights, manipulates, and emotionally abuses Freddy in so many different ways, while also fetishizing having an Asian girlfriend.

This is also a story about friendship and how sometimes those can be hard to maintain, especially when you are going through a lot in your own life. And sometimes, especially when you are young and discovering who you are and want to be, it’s extra easy to lose yourself while only thinking about being someone’s favorite. Yet, it is never too late to try to be a good friend. And life is truly full of phases, and all friendships are different.

The prose is lyrical and oh so beautiful. I feel like I could have highlighted more quotes in this story than any other graphic novel to date. And the art? The most beautiful black, white, grey, and pink pallet, with details that are insane. This combination truly is a tier above and feels like something of magic.

This is a very diverse graphic-novel. Again, Freddy is an Asian-American lesbian, but the rest of the cast are also queer and/or poc, with a lot of body diversity too. And this story never shames these teens for getting into hard situations. It’s also incredibly realistic, and even when the discussions are difficult, they always feel hopeful to the reader. There is also a good mention of how different seventeen and eighteen are when it comes to where you are at in life and dating, especially when one is in high school and one is in college. (Give me Vi’s spinoff, I am begging!) And polyamory is even briefly discussed and the difference between consenting healthy dynamics compared to dynamics of polyamory uneven power where people are being taken advantage of.

“Love is hard. Breaking up is hard. Love is dramatic. Breaking up is dramatic.”

Overall, I really loved this, and I think it is such an important graphic-novel that truly can change people’s lives, especially queer poc in high-school feeling like they are doing something wrong in their abusive relationships. Relationships can be so hard and so messy, and breakups can be even harder and messier. I truly so wish that I had a graphic-novel about a queer biracial Asian girl when I was in high school, living through toxic breakups, but I’ll still keep Freddy Riley in my heart forever and recommend Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me constantly. (And I really loved… the part with the mom!)

Oh, and lastly, Lea gifted me this for my birthday and I thought it would be cute to read it and review it on her birthday! I am very thankful for her and this story that I really will cherish forever and always. 💕

Content and Trigger Warnings: underage drinking, abusive relationship, emotional abuse, cheating, manipulation, gaslighting, microaggressions, racism, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, and a relationship with a minor (17 + not sure how old but over 18).

4
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Mockingjay (The Hunger Games #3) by Suzanne Collins | Chapter Breakdown Review with Spoilers

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1.) The Hunger Games ★★★★★
2.) Catching Fire ★★★★

Hello, I am here to finish off my breakdown reviews of The Hunger Games Trilogy! And ironically enough, Mockingjay was the last book I read in 2020! I will say, I feel like the series does get a little less enjoyable as I progressed through the trilogy all these years later, but I still think it is a solid series and I truly do think The Hunger Games itself is a masterpiece. But please use caution, because this breakdown will be filled with spoilers for each and every chapter of this book!

“What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again.”

➽ Chapter One:
District 12 is gone, but Buttercup the cat is alive. Truly this opening chapter was so dark and really set the tone for this entire book, and Snow’s rose? Truly so scary and horrifying and a good reminder at how evil he actually is. Peeta is gone, and Katniss is officially with the previously thought dead District 13.

➽ Chapter Two:
Peeta is a guest being interviewed by Caesar for the world to see. And they are also showing the bombing of District 12 over and over to remind people what happens with you rebel against the capitol. We also get to see the hidden, unground District 13 base, and how they are very ready to rebel against the capitol and nothing will stop them. Katniss is going to officially be the Mockingjay to help rally as much support as they can get, while also trying to instill hope for a brighter future.

➽ Chapter Three:
We get to see what it is like to live in this new world that is the hidden District 13 and what is left of District 12, and we are easily seeing that things are very unfair here too.

➽ Chapter Four:
And Katniss is even starting to see how President Coin might not be too much different than President Snow, just a different guise for their evil.

➽ Chapter Five:
Katniss is getting fed up with always being used as a tool for someone else, but she finally has her bow back and is hoping the make the best of what she has left, even with Coin making her say lines to instill hope for the new war that is beginning.

➽ Chapter Six:
But it is getting harder and harder for Katniss to rally the districts without Peeta, because she has never been the best speaker, especially compared to him, and especially because him being held captive is impacting her so greatly. But truly, the foreshadowing in this chapter is very insane.

➽ Chapter Seven:
A hovercraft takes Katniss to see the sick people at a hospital, and the capitol bombs them immediately after. Gale and Katniss fight, and we start to see that they are believing two different stories, but Katniss and her anger at the capitol is growing and growing and because its on public display it is automatically rallying more and more people.

➽ Chapter Eight:
The Cinna mentions truly rip my heart out every time. But Katniss also is sneaking watching Peeta’s clips that the capitol is showing and the more and more distrust of District 13 is building and building.

➽ Chapter Nine:
The infamous hanging tree song, that still makes me a bit uncomfortable, but we get to really meet Katniss’ camera crew and see the torture they have also endured. Katniss and Gale reminisce about when they were kids, but Katniss is truly proving to the reader this was never a love triangle more and more because she deadass is like “I like that Gale likes to hunt” and it makes me truly giggle. Also, Peeta is getting tortured for information. :[

➽ Chapter Ten:
But Peeta still is able to warn District 13 of an incoming attack. So much foreshadowing with Prim, but Gale helps her find Buttercup and they make it safely to the evacuation zone before the first bomb hits. Katniss and Prim finally have a moment just for them and just between them and it really broke my heart because I have read this book before, hahaha! And Katniss and her trauma and anxiety making her feel like she is having a heart attack? Heartbreak again.

➽ Chapter Eleven:
More bombings are happening, but this time it is just to ensure that Katniss stays off television so she and her message will stop giving other rebels hope! Katniss and Finnick finally get to talk and Gale is annoyed with Finnick for no reason other than Gale is truly stupid and the bane of my existence. But Katniss leaves the bunker and Snow has left her more roses and every time it gives me goosebumps in the most disgusting way. Truly harrowing each time. But the resistance has decided they are going to do a rescue mission for Peeta and Annie! Also, let me just note that Katniss is mean to Buttercup in this chapter and it annoyed me too, lmaoooo!

➽ Chapter Twelve:
Finnick goes on the broadcast and talks about how he was sex trafficked as a child alongside many of the victors of the hunger games, and how Snow would kill their loved ones if they did not “willingly” participate. After, they are able to rescues Annie, Johanna, and Peeta. But… Peeta, because of the torture and brainwashing he has endured, tries to kill Katniss.

➽ Chapter Thirteen:
We get to learn a bit more about Peeta’s torture and the tracker jacker venom they used to “highjack” his memories.

➽ Chapter Fourteen:
They send Katniss to District 2 and fake Gale love triangle angst ensues.

➽ Chapter Fifteen:
Rebels start fighting other rebels and Gale is just… stupid. And Katniss gets shot.

➽ Chapter Sixteen:
Katniss is healing up slowly after what happened in District 2, and she is helping Annie find a wedding dress with the things she still has of Cinna’s, so that she can get married to Finnick finally. Please, I am crying.

➽ Chapter Seventeen:
Katniss is getting stronger and stronger. This chapter really shows how different everyone lives and tries to heal after the hunger games they’ve been a part of. And Peeta just has so much anger in him still.

➽ Chapter Eighteen:
They are all fake practicing storming the capitol, with fake gas and everything. We get to learn how Johanna was tortured (with water) and how that has very much impacted every day of her life since. But they all realize that this will be their last arena ever, but it fills them with hope to storm the capitol for real.

➽ Chapter Nineteen:
Peeta’s memories are reconstructed and he goes with them to end this once and for all. But a bomb gets triggered once they are in the tunnel.

➽ Chapter Twenty:
An emergency broadcast announces to the world that Katniss, Peeta, Finnick, and everyone else are dead, and this could work in their advantage because Snow will not be expecting them, but they have to make it out of the tunnel with the mysterious black gel.

➽ Chapter Twenty-One:
They have their first death with Boggs :[ and they get to see this funeral for Katniss being broadcasted while they are all trapped and not trusting anyone.

➽ Chapter Twenty-Two:
Peeta is whispering “Katniss” all creepy-like, but they are able to break through this tunnel that they were trapped in with lizard-like people monsters. But… Finnick dies protecting them and it truly is the most sad and unnecessary death in this book and him and Cinna just deserved so much better. But Katniss kisses Peeta and I’m still giggling that people think this series has a believable love-triangle.

➽ Chapter Twenty-Three:
Katniss gives Gale stitches, and then Gale and Peeta have some sort of weird heart to heart together. This story really doesn’t have the “who will Katniss pick in the end” vibe so many people lead you to believe it does. We also meet the “tiger woman” and I was side eying a little while reading about her ten years later. But they are ready to finally go head to head with the capitol once and for all.

➽ Chapter Twenty-Four:
Listen, I don’t mean to laugh, but Gale trying to get Katniss to shoot him and her being like “no, you’ll be fine” and lets the capitol take him sent me a little bit, I am sorry. But we get to see how Snow has tried to protect himself by barricading the capitol with children, because he is banking on no one being cruel enough to kill them while trying to get him. But, parachutes come and… when I say this is the most harrowing and fucked up thing in this book… I mean it. The way these parachutes have been seen as a symbol of hope and healing for the recipients who get them in the hunger games, so the kids are happy to see them…. Only to have them explode and kill them, like… truly I don’t even have words for how heartbreaking that is to read and think about. But then, to add more heartbreak, Katniss sees a braid and a duck tail and… I truly am crying typing this. All this, everything, Katniss being selfless, Katniss willing to do everything to protect her sister, Katniss proving over and over she will do anything, only for the resistance to kill her so heartlessly. I truly weep. Prim’s death truly will always stick with me, and it is why I was impacted so viscerally when rereading The Hunger Games earlier this year and seeing the foreshadowing in that very first chapter.

➽ Chapter Twenty-Five:
Katniss is told that she is “lucky” to be alive after the bombs detonated, but she truly feels lost and that everything feels a little hopeless even now at the end of this war. Snow is to be executed, but Katniss visits him and she realizes that he is not the one who killed the children and Prim.

➽ Chapter Twenty-Six:
Katniss is questioning everything, including who chose to put a 13-year-old in combat. She goes to talk to Haymitch, but he is drunk. Katniss is stuck with her own thoughts, thinking about what life would have been like without the games, and if her and Gale ran away from District 12. She is also very much questioning if it was Gale’s bomb that killed Prim, and she knows she will question that for the rest of her life. But once she thinks at least everything is over, Coin states that she wants one last hunger games, for revenge, and it will star the kids of the people who were for the capitol. Katniss is supposed to be the one to finally execute Snow, but when her arrow flies, it flies straight into Coin, killing her and her idea for a new plan for evil.

➽ Chapter Twenty-Seven:
Katniss is captured and thinking of suicide. She learns that the people “crushed” Snow to death, and maybe not ripped him apart like in the movie. But we get to see Katniss grieving and finally feeling like she can grieve unapologetically for everyone she has lost, Prim, Rue, Cinna, Finnick, everyone. We also learn that Annie and Finnick got pregnant before he passed away, and maybe that is a new symbol of hope.

➽ Epilogue:
Katniss and Peeta have two kids, and it took Katniss a very long time to actually have them, even though Peeta really wanted them from the start. The games are still over, but we see the grief and PTSD will always be in their lives. And even though they are trying to do the best for their kids, it haunts them that they are playing on a graveyard they will never fully understand.

Truly, this series is haunting and there are a lot of parallels that can easily and obviously be made to the world we are living in 2020. My heart does go out to Katniss and I do really like her as a character. I do feel like the series got a little less and less enjoyable as they went on, but the basic premise is just so unique and solid and really helped start the dystopian (and YA) surge. And Katniss and Prim’s relationship just really settles heavy in my heart, and it truly makes you think about a lot of things you’d be willing to do for the people you love. I do still giggle at the people who ship Katniss and Gale, because they must really like eating crumbs and my heart goes out to them too. But Finnick and Cinna are truly the brightest shining lights for me, and I’m so sad Suzanne Collins didn’t give us a proper spinoff of their past! But maybe one day.

3

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Trigger and Content Warnings: torture, death, murder, war themes, blood depiction, talk of (fake) miscarriage, bombings, anxiety depiction, ptsd depiction, loss of a loved one, forced drugging, thoughts of suicide, talk of alcoholism, talk of rape in the past, talk of pedophilia in the past, talk of sex trafficking in the past, and slavery.

Buddy read with Lea! ❤

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories (The Folk of the Air #3.5) by Holly Black

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1.) The Cruel Prince ★★★★★
1.5) The Lost Sisters ★★★★★
2.) The Wicked King ★★★★★
3.) The Queen of Nothing ★★★★★

“Hate that was so bright and hot that it was the first thing that truly warmed him.”

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories is an illustrated novella following Cardan Greenbriar, during many different stages in his life, while we slowly see all the different things that shaped him cruelly. The sound that left me when I opened this book and realized we were going to get present day with Jude from Cardan’s POV… be still, my hopes and dreams and heart.

Rovina Cai’s art is truly so beautiful that it renders me speechless. I was already in love with her and her art because of her work with The Wayward Children series, but this entire book feels like am immersive work of art. From the perfect color palette, to the most perfect details, she executes the vibe of Cardan and his story in a way that I don’t think another artist could.

In this story, Cardan’s life is very much impacted by a troll named Aslong who was wronged by Cardan’s father. She tells a story about a boy with a heart of stone, who finds himself in a predicament with a monster girl who won’t scare him away, until his heart starts beating again. And then all throughout his life, she tells his alternate versions of this same story, each version with a new meaning for a new version of Cardan himself.

“She was the only real thing in a land of ghosts.”

We also get to see so much of Cardan’s perspective during The Cruel Prince, much like we did with Tarryn in The Lost Sisters, and it was everything. Nicasia and Locke have much wanted character development in this book, too, and I am literally on my knees begging for Holly to just give us the trilogy in Cardan’s complete point of view. But we see Nicasia being fostered on the land because her mother, Orlagh, Queen of the Undersea, wants to start putting pieces in motion. We get to see Locke, and his empty house and even emptier heart, teach Cardan the word “cruel” on every page. And these two, in addition to a prophecy looming over this young prince, are truly the first catalysts to this story and I was so in love seeing behind the scenes. And when Holly gives us Locke’s perspective one of these years…

“Playing the villain was the only thing he’d ever really excelled at.”

Each part, each mini story, we get to see Cardan questioning who he is and who he wants to be. Not to make this too deep, but Cardan very slowly realizes that he is not responsible for the terrible acts his family committed; both to him and to the people they ruled over. He struggles with his identity of a prince who should feel like he has everything, and a boy who feels like he has nothing. But seeing him finally understand that he deserves not only love but unconditional love? Him slowly appreciating that his heart can be warm and beat unapologetically? Truly some powerful stuff.

On a personal note, I think most of you know that Holly Black is an author who means a lot to me. Her fae stories are what first got me into YA when I was young, and it really changed me as a reader and probably a human as well. I know most of you know that 2020 has been a hard year for everyone and everything, very much including my reading, so being able to curl up and read about my emotional support fae, from my emotional support author, just meant a lot to me. I truly think reading this book a day before release (bless you Waterstones and my mail person) was the best reading experience I’ve had all year, and for that alone this book was probably the easiest five star I’ve given in a year of not a lot of five star reads.

“Feels as though she has to earn the crown on her head over and over again.”

Overall, this felt like the fairytale of my dreams. Cardan is my favorite character in The Cruel Prince series (or any of Holly’s books, I think) and this truly was such a magical, wonderous, unforgettable addition to this world. I am incredibly biased over this series because so much of my heart and nostalgia are wrapped up within this world, but I honestly think there is just so much to love on every page of this book. I feel blessed to read about each time Holly gives us a new book, and this will for sure be a favorite of mine for all of 2020. Lastly, I cannot believe we really got to read about Cardan going out for boba.

Content & Trigger Warnings: abandonment, bullying, abuse, mention of drug use, humiliation, talk of cheating, and a lot of drinking.

5

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Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera | Drumsofautumn ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley

“Reading will make you brilliant but writing will make you infinite.”

Juliet Takes a Breath is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel with the same title and unpacks so many different themes, from white feminism and intersectionality to finding your place in queer spaces, heartbreak and coming out.

At the center of this story is Juliet, who moves from the Bronx to Portland, Oregon, to start an internship with a feminist author called Harlowe Brisbane. During this internship she gets introduced to a super diverse group of queer people and finds a queer space to belong for the first time.

As time goes on, Juliet becomes more comfortable within queer spaces but also learns that Harlowe Brisbane is not everything that she had hoped she would be and represent for her.

“They didn’t even know me and it was like they loved me. I almost couldn’t accept it. Like the ache of Lainie had me numb way deep in my spirit too.”

There is truly so much to say about Juliet Takes a Breath because it unpacked so many different themes but I thought it was all done incredibly well. I haven’t read the original novel but this graphic novel had me so hooked and so in love, that it made me want to read it, even though I now obviously know the basic storyline.

But it just made me so intriguied to see how the novel unpacks all of these issues because if the graphic novel already did it so well in such a small amount of pages, then surely the novel will be doing an ever greater job at it!

I also just adored all the characters in this novel so much and I would want to read more about them. This novel features an incredibly diverse cast of characters! Most of them are queer and/or genderqueer, we have Black characters, Latinx characters and a biracial (White & Korean) love interest.
Juliet herself is Puerto Rican, fat and a lesbian. She also has asthma and is shown using her inhaler on page.

“And you get to decide what you believe and how you worship yourself.”

Even though Juliet has known for a long time that she is gay and feels quite comfortable and confident in that identity, and even has been in a relationship for a year, she hasn’t really been part of any queer community and she really finds a wonderful support system with these people.

The story actually starts with Juliet coming out as a lesbian to her family and while a lot of the members of her family are dismissive at first, most of them are accepting. But Juliet’s mother does not accept her sexuality and calls it “just a phase” and thinks that Juliet just needs to find the right guy. It was a storyline that obviously many queer people can relate to and that I thought was well done overall.

I really loved Juliet’s relationship with her brother, even though we only got to read about it briefly and later on in the novel we meet Juliet’s cousin and aunt who live in Miami, who were also such wonderful characters to read about and had a big impact on Juliet’s journey too.

“Juliet Milagro Palante. I love you like the seas love the moon. Whatever you are, whoever you love, I’m here.”

One of the biggest themes of this graphic novel was white feminism and the saviour complex that white people have. This is definitely a story that is not always a fun and happy read, it can be quite uncomfortable at times. But it shows a reality of our world and I really appreciated that the author was so blunt about it.

This graphic novel talks about casual racism, it talks about how reverse racism doesn’t exist, it’s about how white people will so often overstep and speak over people of colour when they are trying to help. And it’s also about holding people accountable.
All those aspects, while brief, due to the nature of this format, were so well done and surely very eye-opening for many people.

On top of all that, Juliet Takes a Breath also has themes of different kinds of romantic relationships and how self-love plays an important role in that. We see that the relationship that Juliet is in in the beginning of the story does not seem very healthy and it shows just how important communication is in a relationship.

But within the course of this novel, Juliet starts dating someone else and it is a really beautiful development. There is also a great f/f sex scene with a big emphasis on consent and masturbation is also explored in this graphcic novel. Neither of thoses scenes are explicit but make it very clear what’s happening.

“Kira felt like home. Like a million street bikes zipping down the bronx river parkway and popping endos under the elevated trains. Dinosaur-sized butterflies fluttered in my stomach.”

And of course there is the beautiful art style, that I truly loved and that only added so much love for this graphic novel for me. I loved the line art and how much very clear body diversity there was with these characters. It also has a very warm and pleasant colour palette, that just made it a very pleasing reading experience.

“Gender is a trip. Limitless like the universe.”

Overall, as you might be able to tell from this review, I truly loved this graphic novel and cannot wait to dive into the novel soon because I am just that in love with the characters and themes in this story!

Trigger and Content Warnings for homophobia, racism, fatshaming, sexual harassment, smoking (weed), use of d-slur (in a reclaiming nature).

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨

Ruinsong by Julia Ember | Drumsofautumn ARC Review

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss

“These mages put too much stock in their songs. They never notice how much you can say in silence. ”

Ruinsong is a novel that really draws you in with its intriguing magic system and having a really refreshing take on some familiar YA Fantasy themes.

Ruinsong is set in a world with mages whose most powerful tool is their voice. Singing is their way of casting spells. One of our main characters, Cadence, is such a mage. She is employed by the queen to torture the noble people and make them compliant.

The other POV we follow is Remi, a noblewoman and old childhood friend of Cadence’s. She is one of the few nobles who really sees through the queen’s scheme and starts rebelling against the sytsem.

When Remi suddenly becomes the queen’s prisoner because her family is suspected to be involved in the rebellion, her and Cadence get reunited and Cadence starts questioning her upbringing and loyalty to the queen.

“Others around us begin to chant their thanks as well. Praise be to our most gracious, merciful queen, who has healed us, who has reminded us once again of our place, who keeps our country safe. How can they thank her? The queen is a monster, with a menagerie of torturers at her beck and call.”

I absolutely loved the magic system and it was for sure the stand-out element of this novel for me. Just the idea itself, of the magic being cast by singing, is something that I found so very intriguing. I loved reading Cadence’s chapters and seeing how the magic works and how you are attuned to certain things as a corporeal singer. It really seemed like the author put a lot of thought into the magic system, as it was describe very detailed.

I did feel like we didn’t learn too much about the world itself but it was easy enough to understand. And because the magic system was so intricate, it didn’t really bother me that we didn’t find out too much about the world building in general.

What we do find out about the world was that it had been a queendom for hundreds of years. It was also very interesting to read about the differences between the nobles, the commoners and mages. The nobels represent a more conservative society, who resist change, especially when it comes to views of gender and sexuality and they still engage in arranged marriages for political reasons.
Their views are seen as outdated, especially compared to the mages, who freely get to love and marry whoever they want to and the commoners are starting to adapt that same thinking too.

“If I had been born a mage, I would be free to flirt with pretty girls, and no one would judge me for it. I’ve imagined myself sometimes: strolling through the market with a mage’s badge pinned to my collar, winking at the shopgirls or seducing a fire-haired tavern wench over a mug of ale.”

One of my favourite elements of this story is Cadence starting to understand that she grew up in a very controlled environment and that her magical education was always very selective. I love elements like that in a story, where a characters eyes get opened to an aspect of their own magic that had been hidden from them before and I thought that this aspect was very well executed in this story.

In general I absolutely loved reading from Cadence’s point of view and finding out her story. Even with being loyal to the queen, she questions her ways and doesn’t want to be a singer that tortures the people. She sees herself in a position where her magic is still the best option for the folk because her healing powers are so strong too.
I thought that Cadence was a very nuanced, complex and interesting character to read about.

“Madam Guillard didn’t once mention that there were spells I could learn, even when I ran to her sobbing after Ren had hexed me. She always told me it was impossible to block. Has my tutor, my mentor, left me vulnerable by choice?”

There is a romantic storyline between Remi and Cadence and it is basically a childhood friends to enemies to lovers romance. I will say that their relationship didn’t really stand out to me much. Maybe it was because they already knew each other as children and so I felt like I missed out on their development and didn’t feel attached to their friendship or romantic relationship.
Their chemistry was very well written though.

Apart from the queer representation, Remi is described as chubby. There is one fatshaming incident in the book but it is challenged and Remi states that she generally does not mind being called fat, as long as it is said as a fact and not an insult.

“I wonder what it would be like to undo them one by one, to trace my fingers down the hollow of her spine, to follow the touch with my lips. What would her skin taste like? Would her back, so supple and firm, quiver when I kissed it? Would she arch up into my touch?”

Overall, I enjoyed reading Ruinsong a lot, even though I wasn’t super invested in all the elements of the story and found the ending to be anti-climatic.
But this novel’s magic system was one of the most intricate and intriguing ones that I have read about in a while and I would absolutely recommend it.

Trigger and Content Warnings for mentions of cancer, animal death (the death itself is not on page but the scene of the main character discovering the animal is very graphic), blood, torture, vomiting.

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨

The Dark Tide by Alicia Jasinska | Drumsofautumn Review

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“A queen should answer to no one. Not the heavens, not the earth, not the sea. Especially not to something so temperamental as the tide.”

The Dark Tide is a novel that drew me in with its incredible world building and intriguing magic system but ultimately lost me when it comes to the plot.

This novel is about Lina, who fears that her brother will be the boy chosen to be the witch queen’s sacrifice to save the island this year. In order to protect him, she gets help from the boy she loves, Thomas, but then he ends up being chosen as the sacrifice.
Lina feels like it is her fault that Thomas got chosen and offers herself as a sacrifice in exchange for Thomas’s freedom, thinking she can find another way to appease the island.

And so we follow Lina on her journey of finding out more about the sacrifices and we also get to see the point of view of Eva, the current witch queen, mourning her sister, the witch queen before her, who sacrificed herself in the year prior in order to save the boy she loved.

“I’m not going to be made to feel bad for saving someone’s life. No matter how afraid I am now, I would still make the same choice. I’d rather die knowing I saved the person I loved than live knowing I abandoned them to save myself. But that doesn’t mean that I want to die.”

The atmosphere of this book is so amazing. I truly feel like it has been a really long time since I have last read a book with an atmosphere that I truly felt so captivated by. I very much found myself being able to envision all the places that I read about so very well and constantly wanting to know more about the history of the island and sacrifices.

The magic system was something that I was very much fascinated by, especially the fact that there is magic that the islanders can buy in the form of potions from the witches. Because this was an aspect that I enjoyed so much, I really wish this would’ve been explored even more because I truly couldn’t get enough of the possibilities of the magic that both the witches themselves were able to cast, but also the islanders through them.

“People claimed witches were nightmares, dreams, but Eva felt they were closer to plants; wild magic grew inside of each of them, waiting to be harvested in the strands of their hair, their salt tears, their spit and blood.”

I thought that the relationship between the witches and the islanders in general was a really intriguing and unique aspect. The Witch Queen is obviously not immensely popular with the islanders because she sacrifices a boy every year but they are grateful too cause they know they share the same interest too, which is to protect the island. While the main focus of this story is the conflict of the sacrifice, it was interesting to see that the witches and islanders actually live in peace, having a common enemy in the mainlanders.

“A witch’s house reflected those who dwelled within it. It was a mirror held up to their souls. Eva decided her soul must be a very black and twisted thing, because she missed the cold silence, the dark and its merciful shadows.

I also loved reading about Lina being a dancer, especially with her being injured and how that affects her. I have read a couple of Contemporary books focused on dance but it was really special to read about a dancer in a Fantasy setting and I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience before.

I very much related to Lina’s experience and could recognize myself in her thoughts and feelings about dance itself and about how it is so hard to recover from an injury when you have learned for years and years to constantly push yourself and you barely know what it is like to take a break. This was an aspect of this book that stood out to me specifically and that I feel very fond of.

“How strangely good it had felt, though. To leap. To spin. To sway. To dance as death stared her down. How alive she had felt in that moment. She’d held a monster captive with the turn of her body, the stamp of her heel on deck. A different kind of magic than the one Eva wielded, maybe, but magic all the same.”

I enjoyed reading from both the characters perspectives very much and I thought that it was very smart to include both POVs.
But I wanted so much more from the relationship between the two, especially as they had some really, really strong scenes. Their chemistry was through the roof and I loved the banter between them but ultimately I still didn’t really find myself invested in their relationship whatsoever, which was honestly the aspect that let me down the most.

And maybe I could blame this on my expectations too. I think I just went into this novel, thinking it would focus much more on the romantic relationship, when it actually more so focused on both main character’s family relationships. And that is an aspect that I do really love reading about but I just feel like the romantic storyline fell a little bit flat in comparison to that.
Now, I am not sure if there is going to be a sequel to this book but I read it thinking it was going to be a standalone and with that in mind, I just wanted more of Lina and Eva’s relationship.

I did love the casual queerness of this book, with obviously both of the main characters being queer (with Lina stating multiple gender attraction), but also Lina having two mums and there being a trans side-character.

“And something inside of her broke free, the lock wrenched off a door she hadn’t known existed, endless possibilities spilling over. Why hadn’t she ever thought of this? She was the rain—transformed. Floating and burning and falling, falling, falling.”

But in general I felt that, especially because I had been so intrigued by so many of the aspects in this story, I was extra disappointed by the overall plot of the book but especially the last 30% of it, as the ending felt quite rushed too.
As we were finally getting to a point in the last third that I felt like the plot was truly picking up, the scene was very abruptly cut off and we basically hit the epilogue section of this book. It just all felt almost anticlimactic to me.

And then there is Lina’s relationship with her brother, which needed so much more exploration on page. This is truly an aspect that I do not even know where to start unpacking because it is really complex but I just feel like this was not talked about enough at the end of this book. Lina has several conflicts with her brother and he is always described as someone with a temper, to the point where him getting mad was the reason that Lina’s ankle got injured. And Lina often describes being scared of her brother or how he might react to certain things.

“Every muscle in her body had braced instinctively at the first sign of his temper rising. She wondered if it would always be this way between them now. As if it wasn’t just her ankle that had broken, but something else, something irreparable.”

This relationship very much reads like an abusive one and I do not think that this aspect was explored enough in detail. It is one thing for Lina, as a character, to think that her brother’s behaviour is okay, because she knows that he loves her and she loves him and that he means no harm and it’s “just the way he is”. That is definitely behaviour that would be absolutely normal to obverse in a victim of abuse.

But it is never made clear to the reader, that this is very much not okay behaviour. And while many readers will still be able to see those aspects, I do not think abuse like this (especially in YA) should be something to be left so openly and to be interpreted by the reader.
I just really wish there had been some repercussions for the way Lina’s brother behaves.

“Lina liked to imagine she would be like that: fearless when it mattered most, unbreakable when it came to protecting the person she loved.”

Overall, I just wanted so much more from this novel. There are lots of aspects that I enjoyed and appreciated but ultimately I felt more so disappointed by this book because I felt like it couldn’t live up to its potential and tried to unpack too many aspects at once.

Trigger and Content Warnings for self-harm (for magical purposes), blood, violence and domestic abuse.

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✨ Lea posts a review on Meltotheany every Friday! Read more of her reviews HERE! ✨