Author: Black Sun
Title: Rebecca Roanhorse
Performer: Cara Gee, Nicole Lewis, Kaipo Schwab, & Shaun Taylor-Corbett
Length: 12 hr 47 min
Series: Between Earth and Sky, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 13, 2020
Review: I was intrigued by the synopsis of this book, and it really lived up to my expectations. Set in a lush world inspired by the early civilizations of the Americas, this is a story rich in mythology, culture, and magic. All of the characters were mostly interesting, but I was quite taken by Xiala and Serapio, especially once their stories intersected. In my opinion the story was really about them. The rest of the POVs felt more like periphery characters, particularly Okoa. He had relatively little page time, and I think his perspective could have been removed without damaging the story. Naranpa, the Sun Priestess, had more depth and her importance to the plot was more clearly defined, but I still did not connect with her the same way that I did with Xiala and Serapio. She became infinitely more interesting once more of her backstory was revealed, but by then the book was almost finished.
Although the journeys leading to the story’s climax were fascinating, the climax itself was rather…anticlimactic. As a reader, it became apparent to me a little too early on how things would go down when Serapio made his prophesied return to his mother’s homeland on the day of convergence. The actual ending was rather abrupt and wasn’t really the cliffhanger I was expecting. When I read the synopsis for the next book in the series, I was confused, because it contains the revelations I would have expected to read at the end of the first book. That aside, I think the stage has been set for some great character arcs and I look forward to jumping back in where the story left off.
Rating: 4 Stars
Title: The Bone Spindle
Author: Leslie Vedder
Page Count: 416
Series: The Bone Spindle, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 11, 2022 by Razorbill
Review: This book fits comfortably in the category of “liked it but didn’t love it.” Things I liked: genderbent retelling, treasure hunting, a ghostly prince who isn’t really a ghost. Things I didn’t like: Fi never really grew on me as a character, the relationships between characters just didn’t vibe for me, the “villain” was easy to identify.
Rating: 3 Stars
Title: Little Thieves
Author: Margaret Owen
Page Count: 512
Series: Little Thieves, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: October 19, 2021 by Henry Holt & Company
Review: This is another ARC I am shamefully behind in reviewing, as it was already published 3 months ago. I am not going to lie, I almost cut my losses and DNF’ed this book because I was not enjoying it in the beginning. Sometimes books have slow starts, so I generally read about 25% before making a decision about whether or not I am going to finish it. I passed the 25% mark of this book and just couldn’t get into it, but I decided to persevere and continued plugging forward. I’m glad I did, because about halfway through was a turning point for me. I enjoy fantasy books with a healthy dose of romance, but the romance is generally not the draw for me. This is a rare case where the central romance is what redeemed the story in my eyes. It just felt so real and the sizzling tension that develops between the characters gave me actual butterflies. Something that sets this story apart is that the main characters are “normal” in the sense that there is nothing physically remarkable that sets them apart. They are not beautiful and there is never an illusion that their appearances are anything but plain. The attraction between them grows organically through their interactions, which made it feel all the more real. There is no instalove or mooning over each other’s physical attributes, just pure magnetic chemistry between two people who are equally matched in intellect and wit. For this reason alone, I finally made it to the end of this book and gave it a higher rating than I would have otherwise.
Rating: 3 Stars
Title: A Sitting in St. James
Author: Rita Williams-Garcia
Performer: Machelle Williams
Length: 13 hr, 21 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 25, 2021 by HarperAudio
Review: I admit, when I started this book I was unenthused about it. I would never have picked it up based on it’s description or cover, but it was on a reading list for a committee I am on, so I checked it out anyway. Let me tell you, this book impressed me more than any historical fiction novel I have read in years. It achieved a perfect balance of light tone with dark subject matter that left you feeling the whole gambit of emotion…horror, anxiety, hope, anticipation, shock, and mirth. One minute I would be experiencing stomach churning disgust and the next I would be laughing out loud. This author truly has a gift for writing complex characters. Sometimes you want to root for them, and sometimes you despise them. Be prepared for depictions of abuse (physical, emotional, and sexual) and brutal violence. These are not themes to be glossed over during this era of slavery. Cruelty is so intrinsic to the culture that the character’s appear to operate by an entirely different moral compass. Relationships are twisted and shaped by atrocities committed, both large and small.
A truly illuminating read and one that will make you think deeply about the dark corners of our past. Also, do yourself a favor and listen to it in audiobook format. The reader was phenomenal.
Rating: 5 Stars
Title: Hang the Moon
Author: Alexandria Bellefleur
Page Count: 384
Series: Written in the Stars
Publishing Date/Publisher: May 25, 2021/ Avon
Once again, Bellefleur has gifted us a magnificent comfort read. A follow-up/companion novel to her Written in The Stars, Hang The Moon follows Darcy’s brother and her best friend and their…dynamic. She’s packed the novel full of tropes, as is her MO (oh my god, there’s only one bed?) and the human golden retriever that is Brendon is impossible not to love.
While the relationship is between a man and a woman, it is in no way ‘straight’. As with Written in the Stars, there is a bisexual main character and while that isn’t in the forefront of every conversation or scene, it is mentioned or implied a few times. It is also great bi representation simply because not every bisexual will end up with the same sex, and vice versa. It’s important to show that, and she has in both her books.
This series is an absolute delight that I return to time and time again when I need a break from the real world or just because I feel like it. The fact that I have to wait until February for Count Your Lucky Stars to come out to finish the trilogy is causing me distress.
Title: She Who Became the Sun
Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
Page Count: 416
Series: The Radiant Emperor
Publishing Date/Publisher: July 20, 2021/Tor Books
This was a highly anticipated book for a lot of readers and reviewers, and it did not disappoint. It is advertised as Mulan meets Song of Achilles, and even knowing that did nothing to prepare me for exactly what this book contains.
Full of morally grey characters whose fates and desires are interwoven, this book had me hooked form the start. I was thinking about it any time I had to put it down and found myself reading slowly so I could savor it.
Title: Written in the Stars
Author: Alexandria Bellefleur
Page Count: 384
Series: Written in the Stars
Publishing Date/Publisher: November 10, 2020/Avon
Review: I loved this book- it was just so much fun and the characters were well flushed out with realistic arcs. The book is somewhat Pride and Prejudice but it takes a life of its own with pop culture references and fake dating (best romance trope, let’s be honest. Tied with ‘oh no, there’s only one bed’). And the fact that they did not have a ‘meet cute’ whatsoever. It was a disaster, and I loved every second of it.
It was so, so easy to fall in love with the characters, with Elle and Darcy both being so well-rounded and flawed but perfect. I also greatly appreciated the fact that there was both no homophobia in it, so it felt like a very safe place to just get lost in.
I absolutely cannot wait for the follow up Hang the Moon, starring Darcy’s adorable brother and best friend. Seriously. I need that book.
Title: The Priory of the Orange Tree
Author: Samantha Shannon
Page Count: 830
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019/ Bloomsbury Publishing
Review: Going to start this one off with just ‘wow’. I love fantasy but sometimes high fantasy can be dull and take ages to get anywhere (both in reference to the plot but also they always have to walk everywhere, which annoys me- buy/steal a horse) but this one starts off strong and that carries throughout the whole 800+ pages. Even following the one character I wasn’t super invested in, it was fast and interesting.
The writing was superb, the plot was so engaging, the characters were so well thought out and developed, the magic system was unique, and the relationships? Chef kiss. And dragons. Come on. I would give this book seven stars out of five if I could. Ten maybe. I just really loved it, plain and simple. It was one where I wanted to stay within its pages and world for as long as possible, and since it’s a mammoth book, that was pretty easy.
BRB, I’ve just convinced myself to go re-read it while writing this.
Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Page Count: 401
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 13, 2017/Atria Books
This book completely broke me. I was crying at two in the morning while I finished the book, it was just so good and beautiful and well written.
It addresses some very important issues: racial prejudice, domestic abuse, homophobia, and what it was like to be an LGBTQ+ person in a historical setting. And from my own perspective, I think it was handled very well.
I typically don’t like books with multiple first person POVs, I think it gets complicated and messy and rarely works well (multiple third person POVs are great, though), however I think this worked really well in The Seven Husbands because it is as if we are reading Monique’s book in the chapters that we are in Evelyn’s perspective, or even just listening to her through the tapes or sitting down to the interview and hearing her story.
It was compelling, heartbreaking, and profound. So when I say ‘it broke me’, I mean that in the best possible way. I highly recommend it, but be sure to have some tissues handy.