Book Review | The Shadow of Kyoshi

Title: The Shadow of Kyoshi

Author: F.C. Yee

Publisher: Amulet Books

Published: 21 July 2020

Rating: 5 out of 5.

How does Yee make me fall more in love with both Kyoshi and Rangi? It’s a mystery but these two characters have my heart forever. Also, if I could ask the gods, spirits, the Avatar themselves to find someone to love me like Rangi loves Kyoshi, that would be great. Thanks!

The second book in Avatar Kyoshi’s series and I’m surprised that I enjoyed it just as much (if not more) as the first book. We first see Kyoshi in the Earth kingdom trying to handle the gangs that have infiltrated the lower ring of Ba Sing Se. There is also an introduction to a new character Jinpa, a monk from the Southern Air Temple, who has become Kyoshi’s secretary since she visited there.

Kyoshi receives a letter from the Fire Lord asking for the Avatar’s assistance with a national matter. She aquieces, mostly because she wants to reunite with Rangi (refresher: Rangi went to the North Pole with her mom, Hei-Ran, who needed to be healed from Jianzhu). Seeing them reunite was so stickin’ adorable, but it was also great to see the first interaction between Rangi and Jinpa play out like they were old friends. They both ganged up on Kyoshi for not taking care of herself.

Yet, the Fire Nation is not the pantheon of peace that most people think. There is a coming civil war in the land and Fire Lord Zoryu needs all the help he can get to keep his country intact. Not only that but it appears that Yun is not as dead as we thought.

The content of this book really begins to highlight Kyoshi coming into her own power and having to make those difficult decisions. We see her grow and mature, just like all the other characters in the book. And of course, we have some prime Kyoshi and Rangi romance moments that I can’t help but highlight:

  • Kyoshi had gone so long without her center she almost forgot what it felt like. Rangi made her human again, balanced and whole (pg. 74)
  • Rangi tells Kyoshi before the party with the Fire Lord that Kyoshi can’t touch or kiss anywhere above Rangi’s neck because it’s a sign of disrespect. To which we have this great line of narration: “But those were Kyoshi’s favorite parts.” And I definitely like to imagine Kyoshi’s face as someone who has kicked her puppy.
  • On a whim, she picked Rangi up by the waist and whirled her around. No one was there to schold them for inappropriate touching. Rangi laughed despite herself and tried to swat at her but couldn’t reach as far. “Stop it! You’re embarrassing me!” “That’s the point!” (pgs. 156-157)
  • The word echoed with bitterness and dread in Rangi’s throat, and through it Kyoshi saw deeper into the fire of her glowing girl than she ever had before. (They then go on to discuss Rangi taking Kyoshi to visit her home). (pg. 160)
  • I can’t tell you anything for certain about the future. Only that I’ll be there with you. (Rangi to Kyoshi, pg. 328

I cannot get enough of these two! But there was more to the story. This one had political intrigue and clans vying for power that developed more of the history of the Avatar world, specifically the Fire Nation. In the end, there is the hints of the clan system soon ending and the Fire Nation being only loyal to the Fire Lord (the seeds of the power-hungry Sozin and Ozai being planted).

This book was mostly a focus on not just power and the lengths we would go to achieve power, but also a focus on revenge and how corrupt we can become when we decide our self-regard is more important than the entire world. I’m super upset that this is the last book in this series, but I’m hoping that there are more books in the future that have more spin-offs of other characters or Avatars.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Friday Fives | Characters Coffee Orders

As per usual, I started Friday Fives back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to Friday Fives instead to have more room for topics. If anyone wants to join me, the list for future topics can be found here.

I was going to do books with coffee on the cover, but apparently I don’t read a lot of those (any). So, I’m changing this to what I think a character’s coffee order would be. Enjoy (with a cup of coffee or tea)!

  1. Hermione Granger: a hot, venti, americano, she needs something classy but that will still keep her up
  2. Harry Potter: I see Harry going for a drink that has some coffee but mainly contains sugar (and ignoring Hermione’s concerns about the sugar content and what will happen with his teeth) by getting a java chip frappuccino
  3. Luna Lovegood: She’ll get the vanilla sweet cream nitro cold brew but be very upset that they don’t have a lavender cold brew.
  4. Remus Lupin: venti, blonde roast coffee, he knows this provides the most caffeine
  5. Neville Longbottom: a dirty chai latte, the chai latte reminds him of the tea his grandma used to make and he needs the espresso to keep up with all the kids at Hogwarts.

Happy Reading Darlings!

TTT | Favorite Book Settings

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

Today’s topic is about favorite settings, so let’s see if I can keep this to only 10.

  1. Boarding Schools: There is something fantastical about boarding schools that just gives me so many great vibes. They can be either magical and wonderous or creepy and terrifying.
  2. Victorian Gothic: I’m doing this term as an umbrella term to cover anything in this genre: houses, schools, the forest, the marsh, London, it doesn’t matter. The Victorian Gothic is just mwah, perfection!
  3. Libraries: I mean I have to have this on my list somewhere right? Why would I call myself The Nonbinary Librarian if I didn’t love libraries?
  4. Haunted Houses: Give me all the good spooky house stories like The Haunting of Hill House or Northanger Abbey any day of the week.
  5. Small Southern Towns: The ones that you think should die off but they hang on just because they can. Where football is religion and you’re in the church pew every Sunday, and time just seems to slow down or completely stop. Those kind of small, southern towns.
  6. Universities: Okay, I was trying to hold back from my love of dark academia but I just can’t! Can anyone say Gaudy Night?
  7. World War I & II: I cry like a baby anytime I read any of these, but I know I need to read them and their stories because they are so important to remember. Plus, the female friendships that were made during this time period where just mwah!
  8. Castles: They’re are just so many nooks and darkness and beauty with castles, that I just love them!
  9. Space/Ocean: Okay, there’s a reason that I’m pairing these two together and that’s for the feelings I have whenever I read (or see) these two ideas/things/universes. I just am overcome with so much awe, but also beauty and a sense of longing, as well as a sense of how small I am. There’s also the sense of contentment in realizing that while I am so small, I’m still here, living in this moment and in this place. I just have a lot of emotions when it comes to space and the ocean that I love when books are set on a spaceship or boat.
  10. Cemeteries (I’d include forests in this as well): The fact that you never know what you’re going to find or come across in either of these places gives me so much tension but also excitement for what’s going to happen.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Friday Fives | Something That Makes You Stop Reading a Book

As per usual, I started Friday Fives back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to Friday Fives instead to have more room for topics. If anyone wants to join me, the list for future topics can be found here.

  1. Alienating the audience – This goes for any form of political/social book and for either side. Any book that begins with the other side is “evil,” “destroying America,” “part of a satanic cult.” It doesn’t have to be something that negative either, but something small that paints the other side or sides of the argument as stupid, I’m automatically out.
  2. Slow Pacing – Of course, I’m not expecting an action scene every page! There needs to be a reason why I keep turning the page though.
  3. Overtly Religious – I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I cannot stand the Chronicles of Narnia. I get it Lewis it’s an allegory for Christians, but you don’t have to shove it down my throat on every page.
  4. Stereotypes – Yes, there are some stereotypes that are fun and harmless and well, true. Like how the British love their tea. But harmful stereotypes of the LGBTQ+, BIPOC, or other minority groups is where I draw the line.
  5. Convoluted story or world building – For fantasy books, the reader is supposed to be dropped in the middle and is figuring it out (sometimes with the main character). However, if I’m almost done and still confused, there’s a problem

Honorable mention: the whole token LGBTQ+ character in a group of friends. I mention this earlier this week, but if you’re a member of the alphabet mafia you know as well as I do that we travel in packs!

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Malice

Title: Malice

Author: Heather Walter

Publisher: Del Rey

Published: 13 April 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh my word!! Not only was this book such an amazing retelling of the fairy tale Sleeping Beauty, but the world building, the characters, and the LGBTQ+ representation was wonderful as well. I’m just completely blown away by how much this book exceeded my expectations.

In the kingdom of Briar, Graces live to dole out charms and elixirs to the wealthy and nobles of the land, while the common people strain to feed themselves day to day. It’s a land of greed and materialism. Long ago, before the Graces existed, the humans kept trying to obtain the Fae’s gifts, their power and magic. It wasn’t until Leythana came and retrieved Oryn’s crown that the Fae’s made a pact with humans, but only with Leythana’s line. The Vila, dark Fae’s for lack of a better term, cursed Leythana’s line. Of course, the Fae slightly mitigated the curse that the Vila cast on Leythanan’s line. Each daughter would have 21 years to find true love or die. Alyce doesn’t think much of this. She’s the only surviving Vila left forced into service by the Briar King and the ambassador of the Fae, Endliwild. Yet, by a twist of fate Alyce and Aurora, the last descendant of Leythana meet, and create a pact to try to break the curse without having Aurora kiss any other prince. Soon Alyce begins to fall in love. But it can never be that easy, can it? Because Aurora is the princess….and Alyce, Alyce is the villain.

I’m going to break this review down into 3 main categories that I want to talk about, to make it easier to follow: world-building, characters, and themes.

World Building:

Wow! One of the most impressive parts of Walter’s book is that it wasn’t a strict retelling of the Sleeping Beauty Maleficent storyline. IN actuality, the name Maleficent is not actually named in the book. The closest the author comes to it is the cruel nickname that one of Alyce’s “sisters” (one of the other Graces) bestows on her “Malyce.” Walter truly did take the Sleeping Beauty story and created her own version, while still remaining loyal to the themes and ideas we know. There is still the spindle that curses Aurora at the end. There is still the ostracization of Alyce (Maleficent) in the book. Of course, in the story we actually know the princess and the fae do not fall in love. Disney’s live-action Sleeping Beauty did give us a new version as well by showing the love a mother has for her daughter. In this one, we see the romantic love bloom between Alyce and Aurora.

The world-building for the rest was so well-detailed and expansive. The storyline of the war between the Fae and Vila that started everything and would eventually lead to Alyce’s downfall. How Briar is ruled by Queens who over the years gave more and more of their power over to their husbands, becoming nothing more than figureheads. The Grace system that was put into place when the Fae and Humans created their alliance. The Fae give certain humans their power, in turn they are able to create elixirs and potions for patrons. Of course, over the years this system too has become corrupted and twisted. As I was reading, I could definitely see that great time and effort was taken to fully flesh out the world that Walter built.

Characters:

I love, love, love Alyce!! I do. I saw so much of myself in Alyce, from the way she is treated by society to her anger and rage by the end. There are many times when I just want to burn it all down because they do not deserve anything. Alyce was such a complicated and wonderful character. There were many characters throughout the story who were complicated and again, it shows the strength of Walter’s writing that none of these characters were flat (except maybe the King but eh, you can’t win them all). With Aurora, she’s so young and naïve in her viewpoint of how to rule and what will happen when she takes the crown. Mariel is someone who deeply loves her daughter but when I was reading the parts with her in it, you can feel frustration leaking off of her in waves. It felt like she didn’t even know how she got to this point of being married to a man who broke her curse one day and took all of her power now. Laurel the only Grace who was kind to Alyce had layers to her as well, and definitely has me considering some ethical conversations about right, wrong, and the greater good. Even the Graces you don’t like, Rose and Marigold, are more than what they seem through trying so hard to hold on to this fleeting power because it’s all that matters.

These characters were not lovable at all times nor were they supposed to be because people aren’t lovable at all times. They’re complicated and ugly and gray and so, so beautiful.

Themes:

The last part to bring up is themes which I did start touching on in the characters section. There are many themes a reader can pick out of this book. From the idea of good vs. evil, to ostracization and otherness, to the question of is it okay to hurt the one to save the many. There is no shortage of themes in this book to choose from. I particularly want to focus on the ostracization of the other because that was obviously a big one that the author focused on.

As someone who lives in a world that ostracizes people who are not white, straight, cis-gendered, I completely felt much of the pain that Alyce felt throughout the book. The horror inflicted on me was not nearly to the extent that Alyce had to go through as a child, but the psychological and emotional pain is still there and one I struggle with. It’s also telling how much Alyce does grow throughout the book, how much she changes and reconsiders her viewpoints once Aurora comes into her life.

Before Aurora, Alyce was ready to cast Briar away. To leave the place that had tortured her and never look back. But then Aurora changes it all. Call it love or foolishness but Alyce does see that burning everything to the ground out of vengeance does not always solve our problems. She just needed one person, someone, anyone to truly see her. Not as Vila or a monster or mongrel or abomination or any of the cruel words they threw at her her whole life. She just wanted someone to see Alyce, just Alyce and love her anyway. Yet, even in the end they couldn’t do that. They couldn’t listen to what really happened and take her word for it. Alyce is the monster. That’s what they’ve been told. That’s what they believe, so that’s what she becomes, because what’s the point anymore. They’re not going to change their minds, so she might as well burn it to the ground.

Happy Reading Darlings!

TTT | Bookish Pet Peeves

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

  1. Stickers on summary – why place a sticker over the summary, when you can place it on the reviews from a random person from some random news company? I care what the book is about, not necessarily the review(s).
  2. No identification on series – Books that don’t let readers know if it’s part of a series or not drive me up the wall, especially when I accidentally read a spoiler from book one in the summary of book two without knowing it’s book two in a series. A number on the spine or “book one of the Mortal Instruments” on the cover will suffice.
  3. Fantasy books without maps – If you have a fantasy novel, and you don’t have a map (especially if the characters travel throughout the story) I’m just not as interested as usual. Mostly because I can’t follow the story as well.
  4. Maps that don’t fold out – I saw a while ago a book that had a map that folded out, so you could keep it open while reading, and I now demand this for all my fantasy/sci-fi books.
  5. When people interrupt me while reading – No, I’m not free. Reading is doing something. No, I don’t want to talk. The book I’m reading? Harry Potter and the Death of the Person not letting me read.
  6. Book series that are different sizes – Why do you do this to me? It bother me to no end, and I cannot look at it!!
  7. Token Queer and BIPOC characters – one, the way white authors add in BIPOC characters in just to show they are diverse makes for bad characters (at least, the books I’ve read, the authors don’t do this well) and two, they usually end up killing the BIPOC characters to further a white person’s (male usually) storyline. STAHHPPP!! For Queer characters, it cracks me up when authors have ONLY ONE LGBTQIA+ character in a group full of straight people. It proves to me that they usually know no queer characters because we travel in packs. My group of friends have token straight people, not token queer people!
  8. When people who borrow your books don’t return them – I have pretty much stopped letting people borrow ANY of my books (unless I know them super well or we see each other enough that I can bother them about it until they return the book).
  9. When research isn’t done – okay, I’m not wanting to be mean, but just research something before putting it in a book. A quick google search can tell you that there are not mountains in West Texas and that it’ll take you hours to ride a Greyhound in the state.
  10. Men writing women – I don’t think I need to explain this one. Just no!

Happy Reading Darlings!

Friday Fives | YA Covers with Heads Cut Off

As per usual, I started Friday Fives back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to #FridayFives instead to have more room for topics. If anyone wants to join me, the list for future topics can be found here.

In the 20teens, there was a proliferation of book covers with headless women. It became a running joke, so here are some that middle-school and high-school me absolutely loved (I’ve grown since then).

Happy Reading Darlings!

TTT | Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

As most book people are aware of The Storygraph, I’m going to take this Top Ten Tuesday to discuss books that were recommended to me through the Plus feature (this is in no way sponsored by The Storygraph). The books on the left side are the ones I’ve read, and the books on the right are the ones suggested by the Storygraph Plus feature for the book on the left.

Happy Reading Darlings!

eARC Review | Summer Sons

Title: Summer Sons

Author: Lee Mandelo

Publisher: Tor

Publication Date: 28 September 2021

Trigger Warnings: Cutting, self-harm, homophobia, death, torture

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I received an advanced copy of this book through Netgalley and Macmillan-Tor in exchange for an honest review.

Andrew and Eddie were best friends, bonded more deeply than brothers. But Eddie left Andrew behind to start his graduate program at Vanderbilt. Six months later, a few days before Andrew will join Eddie in Nashville, Eddie dies of an apparent suicide. He leaves Andrew not only his entire family’s inheritance and estate, but also a roommate he doesn’t want, friends he never asked for, and a gruesome phantom with bleeding wrists that mutters of revenge.

Andrew decides to search for the truth of Eddie’s death, and he uncovers the lies and secrets left behind by the person he trust most, discovering a family history soaked in blood.

First off, for a debut novel, it was a great and fascinating read. The way Lee Mandelo cleverly weaved together this modern-day, gothic story was creepy and satisfying. It was so great to have it set in the South, and I kept thinking of the painting American Gothic by Grant Wood while reading this. I thought the journey that Andrew had to go on to confront the relationship between him and Eddie, along with his own self-discovery was what kept me reading. However, the story itself was okay.

I’m still not sure if I understand what the curse was for Eddie and his ancestors (the curse was passed down to Andrew when him and Eddie were children). The reveal at the end was kind of a let down as well, I was hoping for something a bit more juicy than what we were left with.

I truly appreciated the wide variety of characters! Andrew and Eddie had this interesting friendship (romantic feelings that were never acknowledged when Eddie was alive), along with many other LGBTQIA+ representations! There was Andrew’s new roommate who is in a throuple with a man and a woman, and then there’s the roommate’s cousin who is also on a journey of his own sexuality it seems.

Overall, it was a fun book to read, and I’m definitely looking forward to what Mandelo writes next!

Happy Reading Darlings!

Friday Fives | Wow! Endings

As per usual, I started #FridayFavorites back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to #FridayFives instead to have more room for topics. If anyone wants to join me, the list for future topics can be found here.

Today’s topic is on books that had amazing endings that completely blew me away!

I was literally dead after finishing this! I was not expecting that ending or how much it ripped my heart out and stomped on it!


I pre-ordered this book. I did not know this book was a series. I threw the book when I read that ending! I’m so excited that the second book is out.


A fascinating, twisty book with such an interesting ending, and something that made me truly think of justice and our (United States) justice system.


I’m not going to lie, I think Hank wrote a better book than John. Come at me, bro! I thought this book was fascinating exploration of humanity, privacy, and infamy. That ending left me so mad though! But it was soooo good!!


In the poem The Hollow Man, by T.S. Eliot, he ends the poem “This is the way the world ends/Not with a bang but a whimper.” This book relates to that line so much that I can’t even! It was a beautiful book with such a wow ending but one that was subtle and haunting and stayed with you for days later.

Happy Reading Darlings!