Book Review | Everything Under

Title: Everything Under

Author: Daisy Johnson

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Published Date: 12 July 2018

Pages: 264

Content Warnings: incest, suicide, and death (explicit); dementia and animal death (moderate); addiction, adult/child relationship, and rape (minor)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I go back and forth on if this is a 4 star or 5 star book. On one hand, I absolutely loved it. I thought it was gripping and intriguing, and I had to keep turning the page. On the other hand, there were moments were I was wondering if what Johnson was doing narratively (because she’s doing something interesting that is an uncommon narrative style) missed the mark.

I’m going to try to summarize the book, but I may miss the mark because this book is complicated. Also, throughout this review, I will be spoiling the book, which I think is okay with this book because you can figure out close to the beginning the frame of the story; spoiling this book doesn’t take away from the story, discussion, ideas that are presented here either. The book is mainly told through the point of view of Gretel, a young woman who works as a lexicographer updating dictionary entries for words. She spends her days alone and to herself, to the point where she actually states “No one but the postman knew I was here. I was protective of my solitude. I gave it space the way others gave space to their religion or politics” (10). This is due to the fact that Gretel grew up in a canal boat with her mom, Sarah, in the Oxford river areas. They had created their own language, community, and even monster: the bonak. The Bonak represents what they are afraid of, and the bonak could be small fears or even a big one.

The novel goes back and forth between the present and the past, as Gretel is trying to find her mom who left her alone at 16. It also goes to the past of a boy, Marcus, who stayed with Gretel and Sarah for a month in the winter and Gretel’s memories keep coming back to this moment and a creature who was stalking them.

To get one thing out of the way, this is a retelling of Oedipus Rex the Greek tragedy of Oedipus killing his dad and having sex with his mom. The chapters for Everything Under are divided into 3 time periods/sections: “The Cottage,” which is present day adult Gretel who is living with her mom who has dementia/Alzheimer’s; “The Hunt” is the section of Gretel looking back at her past as she is trying to find her mom; “The River” is Margot/Marcus experience of their life before they left home and after. There is another section titled “Sarah,” again Gretel’s mom, but there are only 2 (maybe 3) chapters labelled that.

So, you may be wondering why did I write Margot/Marcus that way. Well, because you find out pretty soon in the book (and it’s also kind of obvious when you start reading Margot’s section) that Marcus, the runaway teenager that Gretel and Sarah took in, is Margot. (Sidenote: I’m going to go back and forth between using he/she/they pronouns for Marcus, as there are no clear indications of how Marcus themselves identify). She was adopted by her parents, Roger and Laura, who decide not to tell her that she was adopted. Margot doesn’t have the easiest childhood as she pretty much spends her time alone, the limp they have doesn’t help this, but soon a next door neighbor, Fiona, becomes an important person to Margot and her parents. Fiona is a transgender woman and also a psychic. She tells Margot that Margot will grow up to kill her dad and have sex with her mom, just like the seers told Oedipus’ parents. Margot decides to leave in the middle of the night at 16.

From here, Marcus wanders the canal and finds a community before having to leave again, then finding Gretel and Margot. It’s funny because even though I said I’m going to spoil the book and the fact that you can probably figure out that Margot/Marcus is the Oedipus character, I’m still tiptoeing around the fact that Marcus kills his dad (another canal boat person) and has sex with his mom (Sarah).

As stated previously, the way Gretel grew up was very different from most people. There are many statements made throughout the book about how river people are different: “They have their own communities down there, their own rules. They don’t call the police or child services when something goes wrong. They have their own authority. It’s a different world” (85). Also this one: “We don’t call the fire engines or the ambulances. It’s always been that way. They don’t know anything about us and we know all we need to about them. But what happens when something goes wrong? We look after it, she replied” (194). I’ve heard similar things said in the real world about those who decide to live on boats (whether canal or another kind) as well. Gretel grew up with a community of her and her mom, but now looking back as an adult she sees that this did not set her up well, as she is a stranger to those around her, an alien. This quote from Gretel sums it up well and it’s probably my favorite from the book: “If – in any sense -language determined how we thought then I could never have been any other way than the way I am. And the language I grew up speaking was one no one else spoke. So I was always going to be isolated, lonely, uncomfortable in the presence of others. It was in my language. It was in the language you gave me” (136).

There are many ideas that Johnson brings up in this book. The obvious ones are the debate between fate and free will, gender fluidity, and fractured family relationships. There are also the ideas of monsters and what constitutes the monsters or something monstrous, along with the idea of language and communication (which is being tied to the debate between free will and fate). But something Gretel brings up quite a lot during her present day and past self is this idea of memory and how are memories are formed: “I’ve been thinking about the trace of our memories, whether the trace stays the same or changes as we rewrite them over time. If they are stable as houses and cliffs or decay fast and are replaced, overlaid. Everything we remember is passed down, thought over, is never the way that it was in reality” (8). This is stated in the first chapter and then we are brought into the story and I think at the end this is the point, is trying to figure out what was true and what isn’t true and what is past and what is present.

I know this review was rambling and kind of all over the place but so was this book. I definitely, definitely recommend it because one, it is a great story with lush and gorgeous language, and two because I still need to talk about this book with someone.

Happy Reading Darlings

Book Review | The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Publisher: Atria Books

Date: 13 June 2017

Pages: 389

Content Warnings: domestic abuse, homophobia, death, biphobia, alcoholism, suicide

I feel like I’m alone in that most of Taylor Jenkins Reid’s books I’m not a fan of. I think the author was trying to make a diverse book with a diverse cast of characters and it fell flat.

The main character of the story is of course in the title, Evelyn Hugo. A story of her rags to riches life and how she became Hollywood’s It Girl actress. It’s about her husbands in the sense that people find it crazy she’s been married 7 times, but the reveal is about Evelyn and her own psyche.

The set-up for the book is about a young, up-and-coming journalist, Monique, being offered to interview Evelyn Hugo for the magazine she works at. We find out by the end of the book, and yes I’m saying it now because this book as been out for a while and the reveal is underwhelming, that Monique’s dad was killed in an accident that was caused by Harry. Harry and Monique’s dad had been having an affair but Monique’s dad had decided to stay with Monique and her mom. That night was the night he was killed. Evelyn hid it all to save Harry, which yes I get you know him and not the other man, but you make up for it by inviting her to interview you, like….what?

The book is divided into sections based off of which husband Evelyn is telling Monique about. Here are the list of husbands, what I think about them, and Evelyn’s relationship with them :

  1. Poor Ernie Diaz: I feel really bad for Ernie. He gets married and then the woman leaves him once she finds something better. I’m not saying Ernie was perfect but using someone like that is gross. Evelyn does admit at the beginning to Monique that she is the most selfish and self-absorbed so what can we expect.
  2. Goddamn Don Adler: I mean abusive jackass, do I need to say anymore? Obviously, Evelyn (nor anyone) deserves this in their life.
  3. Gullible Mick Riva: This time period was not the easiest time for people who were gay or lesbian (let alone transgender) so the fact that she used Mick to keep her and Celia’s relationship a secret. And of course, Mick uses Evelyn to continually run away from his problems, wife, and children.
  4. Clever Rex North: I mean this seems on par for much of Hollywood and life of people marrying for stunts or because it’s a good career move. I didn’t feel much for Evelyn or Rex in these chapters (truthfully, I barely remember these chapters).
  5. Brilliant, Kind-Hearted, Tortured Harry Cameron: I love Harry! I think he’s probably my favorite character. The relationship between him and Evelyn is so precious and adorable that it makes my heart happy. I still don’t understand the need/want for people to have children but whatever.
  6. Disappointing Max Girard: I was a little surprised that Evelyn expected something different with Max to happen. Like of course, he wants her to be the perfect Evelyn Hugo, he didn’t care about the real Evelyn when they first met why would he now?
  7. Agreeable Robert Jamison: I have nothing good or bad to say, he’s you know, meh. He’s there to provide Evelyn safety and so her and Celia can be together.

Celia St. James, the love of Evelyn’s life, the only question I have is why? Celia is not a nice person. There’s a feeling I had when reading where Celia could do no wrong while Evelyn was always messing up. Even though yes Evelyn did make mistakes, she always owned up to them. Celia feels the opposite where she never acknowledges her own issues in their relationship. I’m especially pissed about the bierasure and biphobia that we don’t see Celia deal with and understand.

The ending of the book was majorly disappointing! The hype around why Evelyn had Monique write this all comes down to a car accident, like it felt like there was supposed to be a greater set up that didn’t happen.

The last points I want to make are the ways the diversity is presented in the book. There are few POC characters in the book and each time they’re introduced their skin color or ethnicity is one of the first, if not the first, thing mentioned about them, which was odd (and definitely showed that a white person wrote it). I’m also super uncomfortable with a scene where Monique is noticing herself after she’s ready to go meet with Evelyn. She is thinking about how she’s lost a bit of weight since David left and that she’s a bit slimmer. Okay, that’s fine to notice, but then she says “looking at myself now pulled together and slimmer, I feel a rush of confidence. I look good. I feel good.” And this made me super uncomfortable because why can’t a fat person be confident? It feels like the author is saying that fat people aren’t allowed to feel confident, which is crazy! There were moments with how the author described POC people, to the subtle fat-shaming instances, and even the slight caricatures of the LGBTQ+ characters that left a bad taste in my mouth by the end.

Overall, it was an okay book. I personally don’t understand the obsession with this (or most of her books). And I know some people will probably say at least she’s trying by having POC & LGBTQ+ characters in her book, but I’ll counterpoint that argument now by saying if they aren’t represented well/accurately then what’s the point?

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | The Rise of Kyoshi

Title: The Rise of Kyoshi

Author: F.C. Yee

Publisher: Amulet Books

Published: 16 July 2019

Pages: 442

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Gah! I absolutely LOVE Kyoshi! And Rangi! And I will hold back as much as my gushing as possible…actually, that’s a lie, I probably won’t!

Okay, so on to the actual story, I guess. After Avatar Kuruk died, there was a power vacuum left open and many places devolved into chaos. The people closest to Kuruk, Jianzhu and Kelsang, went around the world to try to find the next Avatar, which took quite a few years. On their travels, they did find Kyoshi, as a young girl barely surviving on the island.

Nine years after that initial meeting, Jianzhu and Kelsang, along with another companion of Kuruk’s Hei-Ran, are training the new Avatar Yun. Kyoshi was taken in by Kelsang and she soon became friends with both Yun and Rangi (Hei-Ran’s daughter).

But then Jianzhu finds out that Yun is not actually the next Avatar but Kyoshi is, obviously for those who’ve watched Avatar: The Last Airbender, we already knew this. Kyoshi decides the best course of action is to run away as she can no longer trust Jianzhu after he kills Yun and Kelsang (this happens pretty close to the beginning, so it’s not really a spoiler).

Rangi joins Kyoshi on this escape trip and soon they fall in with her parents’ old criminal gang to help her eventually face down Jianzhu.

Again, I absolutely love Kyoshi, but probably my favorite parts were with Rangi and Kyoshi. This f/f romance is definitely in my top ships from now on, it’s especially awesome with the fact that Kyoshi is bisexual (she used to have feelings for Yun). Bisexuals for the win!! Anyway, to let you know how amazing the relationship between Rangi and Kyoshi, here are some quotes for your enjoyment (and mine):

  • “You don’t think you deserve peace and happiness and good things, but you do!” Rangi yelled. “You, Kyoshi! Not the Avatar, but you!?
  • “Where you go, I go.” (Which I absolutely love because it’s a callback to the bible verse from Ruth “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.” Apparently, this is one of the most quoted bible verses after 1 Corinthians 13).
  • “Kyoshi realized that comforting [Rangi] throughout the night was both an honor and a torture she wouldn’t have traded for anything in the world.
  • “With their eyes on each other, it was easy to be brave. Maybe that’s the only way we get through this, Kyoshi thought. Just never look away.”
  • Also, there’s a scene where Rangi is training Kyoshi and Rangi makes her hold the horse stance for 10 minutes. To test Kyoshi’s strength and focus, Rangi drapes herself over Kyoshi and kisses her throughout the 10 minutes.

I just, I just can’t with these two adorable humans!!

Kyoshi is such an amazing character on her own as well though. Not only an amazing character but her development throughout the book was beautiful to watch and read. I can definitely see where her desire for justice was born in this book. Kyoshi was a young girl who was never viewed with any respect or importance in her life, aside from Kelsang, Yun, and Rangi. Her background from an abandoned, impoverished background, along with her being identified as the Avatar so late in life means she had to fight for everything in her life. Seeing her grow from that little girl who had to fight for every scrap to the Avatar, knowing how her story ends and knowing that the Kyoshi warriors are formed in her name, was an absolutely lovely. I would definitely like to see more about why her parents abandoned her and maybe see a short story from their point of view. But other than that, gosh I just cannot wait to read the next book and to see more of Kyoshi and Rangi.

Some more quotes to show how much I love this woman:

  • “They’re all the same, Kyoshi thought. Every single one. Whether they clothe themselves in business or brotherhood or a higher calling only they can see, it doesn’t matter. They’re one and the same. They look at themselves like forces of nature, as inevitable ends, but they’re not. Their depth is as false as the shoals at low tide. They twist the meaning of justice to absolve themselves of conscience. They’re humans like us, made of skin and guts and pain. They need to be reminded of that fact.”
  • “Kyoshi gently nudged Rangi’s chin upward. She could no more prevent herself from doing this than she could keep from breathing, living, fearing. “I do feel loved,” she declared. Rangi’s beautiful face shone in reflection. Kyoshi leaned in and kissed her. A warm glow mapped Kyoshi’s veins. Eternity distilled in a single brush of skin. She thought she would never be more alive than now.”
  • “It was said that each Avatar was born in fitting times, to an era that needed them. Judging by its start, the era of Kyoshi would be marred by uncertainty, fear, and death, the only gifts she seemed capable of producing for the world. The people would never revere her like they did Yangchen or smile at her like they did Kuruk. Then let it be so, she thought. She would fight her ill fortune, her bad stars, and protect those who might despise her to the very end of her days.”
  • To Kyoshi that had been the easiest lesson to take in. She was nothing special. She had never been anything special. That was a mantra she believed in.”

This book did a fantastic job of exploring ethics, justice, and corruption, as well as the usual destiny and responsibility mantle that the Avatar takes up. At the beginning, Kyoshi has to decided whether to stay with Jianzhu, who was actually been pretty beneficial to the stability of the Earth Kingdom, but who did murder two people Kyoshi cared deeply for in cold blood. Or she can join up with the daofei, the criminal group her parents started in order to seek revenge against Jianzhu. It’ll definitely be interesting to see who Kyoshi will become in the next book? What she will be known for? And what she is willing to fight for?

Of course, for anyone who loves Avatar: the Last Airbender, this is definitely something you’ll want to check out. Especially, if you are a fan of the Kyoshi Warriors like I am or a fan of strong, independent women. With The Rise of Kyoshi, it expands the ATLA universe while also introducing the readers to new customs, cultures, and politics in the universe as well.

So, a request? When can I get a sky bison of my own? Pretty please, I’ve been very good!

Happy Reading Darlings

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!

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!

Book Review | Written in the Stars

Title: Written in the Stars

Author: Alexandria Bellefleur

Publisher: Avon

Published: 20 November 2020

Pages: 384

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love, love, love the fake dating trope. I don’t care how unrealistic it is, I’ll always love it!

Darcy Lowell is a no-nonsense, analytical, skeptical, actuarial analyst is done with trying to find someone. She doesn’t believe in “the one” or “soulmates,” but trying to get her well-meaning brother to stop playing matchmaking is a herculean task.

Elle Jones is a free-spirited, head in the clouds, astrologer behind the popular Twitter account, Oh My Stars. She dreams of finding her soulmate. Yet, she knows, without a doubt, that it is NOT Darcy Lowell.

Darcy’s brother and now Elle’s business partner, set them up on a blind date, both came in with different expectations but by the end of the night, it was disastrous for both parties. Yet, Darcy doesn’t want to be set-up by her brother anymore, so she lies and tells him the date with Elle was great and they’re testing the waters together. She does make him promise to keep it a secret, but he blabs to Elle when she’s out with her mom at brunch.

Elle is pissed because now she’s locked into lying to her new business partner, since she does agree to continue this fake dating for the rest of the year. This gets Darcy’s brother off her back about dating and Elle can take Darcy home to her parents to show them that she is a well-off adult and can take care of herself.

Yet, as with most fake dating tropes, feelings between Darcy and Elle start showing. For Elle, this seems perfect as she realizes that there is more to Darcy than her no-nonsense attitude. Elle finally stands up for herself at family dinner and tells them how she actually feels about how they treat her. We later find out that Elle was on her way to receive a PhD in astronomy, but she found that she was unhappy in the Academy (I understand this, as someone who used to be on that same track, I stopped after a masters). So, she decided to work on what she loved about astronomy and astrology, which upset her parents that she didn’t take the typical, normal path of a regular 9-to-5 job, house with a white picket fence, etc., etc.

Darcy grew up in a house where her parents divorced when she was a child, and her mother was never really responsible, first from depression, and then going from husband to husband. She never believed in true love, as she never saw it in real life. It didn’t help that she was engaged to someone and they completely broke her heart by cheating on her with one of their friends. So, it’s understandable why she thinks that the one and soulmates don’t exist.

Thankfully, it all comes together in the end and it’s so stickin’ adorable that I cannot handle these two. All of the characters are adorable but real.

Happy Reading Lovelies!

eARC Review | Tools of a Thief

Title: Tools of a Thief

Author: D. Hale Rambo

Publisher: Fiercewood Press

Publication: 25 May 2021

Pages: 170

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I received an ARC ebook copy from Books Forward in exchange for an honest reivew.

I’m not even sure where to start on this. I read this in one sitting not out of interest really but out of complete boredom (and the fact that I had to write a review). To start off, Zizy assumed quitting her job, stealing from her boss/aunt, and magically crossing across the continent was a way to stop being a thief and get away from her insane aunt. Not so much because Zizy’s aunt catches up to her and wants Zizzy to steal something else for her to repay what Zizy stole. On the way, Zizy befriends Laysa (romance soon blooms between them) and Pace, and Zizy will either have to finish the job or loses the people she loves.

First, I don’t even know what’s going on in this world. I felt mildly confused most of the time as I was reading by the world that Rambo created. It didn’t feel well explained or planned out. It felt like I was starting in the middle of a series or even on a side story, instead of the first book in a series. I’m not even sure if it is a series.

As for the characters, they were fine. Nothing to really complain or hype about. Zizy was probably the most fleshed out of the three main characters, but the story was also so short I didn’t even feel like I had a chance to get to know or connect with any of the characters. Not to mention the fact that the three main characters all became a team and friends quickly with no real strife.

The story itself was interesting and so was the set-up. But then it just all kind of fell apart for me. Each time there was a problem, something magically saved them. I didn’t even feel any suspense or terror with Emba, Zizy’s aunt, or Carmela, the woman who Zizy is supposed to steal from (and as a sidenote Emba and Carmela know each other).

All in all, the whole thing just felt off. The pacing was weird and the characters felt too much like cardboard cut outs. I can’t even say that the romance between Zizy and Layla made up for it. Again, the story line sounded interesting which is why I wanted to read it, but I do think it needs a lot more work.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Hazel’s Theory of Evolution

Title: Hazel’s Theory of Evolution

Author: Lisa Jenn Bigelow

Published: 20 October 2020

Publisher: HarperCollins

Trigger Warnings: bullying, miscarriage, still birth, medical trauma, pregnancy, pregnancy after loss

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Oh my word!! I cried buckets of tears as I read this book and after I finished it. But gosh, it was amazing! I absolutely love Hazel and her family and this whole book.

Hazel is pretty much your typical teenager. She’s trying to figure out how to survive her 8th grade year at a different school from her best friend (due to redistricting) without anyone noticing her. Hazel loves animals, all kinds of animals, even the ones that most people find gross, like skunks, cockroaches, and worms. She’s read through many animal encyclopedias when she’s not hanging out with her best friend, helping out with the goats on her family’s farm, or taking care of her dog.

But there are some things that can’t be answered by reading dusty old encyclopedias like what if she experiences the same bullying at her new school that she had at her old one? What will happen to one of her moms, who is pregnant again after having two miscarriages? Why do things have to change?

Oh my Hazel! I just want to wrap her up in my arms and give her a hug. Truthfully, she reminds me of myself, holding all the emotions and feelings in until they explode out. Hazel is excited for the new baby, but she’s also deathly afraid of what may happen to the baby and her mom. She tries to act happy, yet her moms can tell she’s lying.

At Hazel’s new school, she does start keeping her head down and remaining unnoticed, but she soon finds herself two friends, Yoshi (a cis-gendered Japanese-American boy) and Carina (a Mexican American trans girl) who accept Hazel, along with all of her quirks. Yet, as she finds these two friends, she finds she is slowly drifting apart from her best friend, Becca. Becca now is friends with Hazel’s bully and has joined the cheer squad. Hazel’s unhappiness about all the change is understandable during these formidable years.

There’s so much beauty and heartbreak and love in this book, that it overflowed and made me feel all the emotions that the characters themselves were feeling. I also loved the fact that there were such diversity in the book, not only with Hazel’s two new friends, but also one of her moms (the one who is pregnant) is Black. Becca and her family are practicing Jews as well. It was so great to see that in this book, as well as the foundational ideas of an asexual character in the book. Bigelow never came out and actually used the word asexual to describe Hazel. It is hinted at throughout the book that Hazel is asexual and the author spells it out at the end with her author’s note.

Even though this is listed as a book for those between the ages of 8 and 12, I definitely would recommend it to anyone of any age.

ARC Review | The Dead and the Dark

Title: The Dead and the Dark

Author: Courtney Gould

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Publication Date: 3 August 2021

Pages: 352

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Content Warnings: Homophobia, hate crime, death, murder, child death, biphobia

I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Wow! I am blown away by how this all came together. The Dead and the Dark is about the things that lurk in dark corners, the past that cannot remain hidden, and about finding home in places you least expected.

Logan Ortiz-Woodley wants to live a normal life. She wants one place to call home instead of the many, many hotels she’s lived in, and she’d really like to make her own path. Her dads are the stars of TV’s most popular ghost hunters show ParaSpectors, so she’s spent most of her childhood going from one haunted place to another for her dad’s show.

Snakebite, Oregon is a typical small-town that everybody’s forgotten about. But something lurks there and teenagers are disappearing, some turning up dead, the whether is acting up and people point a finger at Logan’s dads, Alejo and Brandon.

Ashley Barton is a native of Snakebite, Oregon and her boyfriend is the first teen to go missing. She’s felt his presence ever since and refuses to believe he’s dead. With the Ortiz-Woodleys in town, his ghost following Ashley, the only person she can trust is the mysterious Logan. Ashley and Logan team up to figure out who is haunting Snakebite, their investigations reveals truths about the town, their families, and themselves that they may not be ready for.

Alejo and Brandon are so completely adorable that I cannot handle it. It does break my heart that Logan thinks Brandon hates her since she doesn’t know what actually happened. The enemies to friendship then to blossoming relationship between Ashley and Logan is so wonderful and heartwarming to see. I’m also a sucker for the enemies to love trope!

This was unique and mind-blowing book with twists and turns. I was actually shocked about what was going on in Snakebite and it was fascinating to see every couple of chapters these inside thoughts from this dark, terrifying thing that is haunting the town.

Truly, there is something that haunts the town but the beauty of Gould’s book is that it’s really the town itself, the people, the hatred, the prejudices. The more people hate and judge and discriminate the more the darkness grows and becomes more powerful. In our day and age, the message that comes across in this story is more important than ever to listen to and understand. We cannot let our own hatred become toxic, to sink so far into the soil that there is no escape.

Happy Reading Lovelies!

Book Review | The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Title: The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet

Author: Becky Chambers

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Published: 5 July 2016

Pages: 443

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Oh! My! Goodness! I had not really heard about this book but kept seeing it on people’s 2020 year end reviews. The library I work at recently acquired it, so I over the Christmas holiday break, I decided why not read something fun. And, I made such a great decision!

This book follows a motley crew on an exciting journey through space that brings me serious Firefly feelings! And yes, be prepared for Firefly gifs!

Rosemary Harper doesn’t expect much when she joins the crew of the Wayfarer. The patched up ship has seen better days, but it offers her a bed, a chance to explore the far-off corners of the universe, and most importantly, distance from her past. Also, sounds to me like Serenity!

Rosemary is an introspective woman who learned to keep most things close to the chest, but she’s never met anyone remotely like the ship’s diverse crew, including Sissix, the exotic reptilian pilot, chatty engineers Kissy and Jenks who keep the ship running, and Ashby, their noble captain. I’m just saying if you cannot see the similarities between this crew and the Serenity’s crew, then I don’t know what to say.

Life aboard the Wayfarer is chaotic and crazy, which is exactly what Rosemary wants. It’s also about to get dangerous when the crew is offered the job of a lifetime. The Wayfarer tunnels wormholes through space and tunneling wormholes through space through to a distant planet is definitely lucrative. Risking her life wasn’t part of Rosemary’s plan, but she’ll soon have to learn how to rely on others on this adventure in the far reaches of deep space.

Okay, if you couldn’t tell, I absolutely loved this book and totally understand why so many others had it on their favorite reads list of 2020! I definitely think this book was so much fun to read and one of my favorite aspects was the relationship between Rosemary and Sissix that soon developed into a romantic relationship. They were adorable and so loving, along with respecting each other and I just cannot with these two adorable people….uhh person and…non-person…??

I will say that this book wasn’t really plot driven. Yes, they were going to create wormholes for a new planet being added to the larger galactic legal system thing (I don’t remember what it was called, sorry). But it takes a while to get there, so most of the book was about the characters and was definitely character-driven. Thankfully, Chambers does such an amazing job of making these characters so lovable and enjoyable to learn about and see interact. There is some action at the end, as the one of the people from the planet doesn’t want it to be included and sabotages the whole thing. So, there is some action. Obviously, it’s not the important part and as you can see it didn’t leave that much of a mark on me. I definitely recommend this book to everyone, especially to those who are Firefly fans!

Happy Reading Darlings!