The Benefits of Not Having a Romantic Arc

For my stop of The Black Veins blog tour, I’m also doing a discussion post! For more information on the tour you can refer to this post!

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Romance is everywhere in literature. I don’t just mean the genre, which is entirely its own thing and unrelated to this specific discussion, but in everything else. When was the last time you picked a book off a shelf that didn’t have a romantic subplot? Probably a while right? But not having a romance in a book can be just as impactful, if not more, than pairing your characters up before the end of the final chapter.

Most notably in young adult, it seems like every book has romance, whether as the main storyline as a subplot and for some readers that’s fine, it’s what they want even, but some people are just as interested in reading books without romantic arcs, and sometimes that serves the story just as well as having one.

I think we’ve all read books where the romance feels unnecessary, tacked on for the sole purpose of having a romance, but what if we just had more books without romance? There’s a lot of reasons to skip out on adding a romantic arc to your books, and a lot of benefits to doing so.

The main benefit would be the ability to centre platonic relationships, something that’s lacking in a lot of YA, especially genre YA. Platonic and familial relationships can shape us just as much, if not more, than romantic ones. Especially for teen readers, this focus on romance as the most important bond of your life feels both disingenuous and harmful to a group that often has much more important relationships than romantic ones. 

Science fiction and fantasy is a big culprit of adding romance where it’s not necessary, even sometimes at the expense of plot. Think of The Hunger Games and how the love triangle within did absolutely nothing to service the plot. There’s plenty of other books just like that, where the romance is there to have a romance, rather than to actually help the story. These books suffer under ill-advised attempts to make their heroes or heroines fall in love when they’d be better off without.

Leaving romance out of a book that doesn’t really need it is not only giving friendships their time in the spotlight, it also can show aromantic readers that aren’t interested in romance that they’re not missing out on life’s “greatest bond”. Some aro readers are interested in reading romance, but some aren’t , and there’s not a lot of options for those who aren’t.

There’s been strides recently for more books with less romance, and Ithink we’re heading towards a future where there’s a variety of options for readers that don’t have interest in the kiss kiss fall in love aspect that’s pervasive in today’s market. I look forward to picking up more books that don’t shove romance in my face at the cost of plot or character development.

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The Urban Fantasy Road Trip We All Need in Our Lives

The Black Veins by Ashia Monet

the black veinsYoung adult, urban fantasy
Ebook, 428 pages
✭✭✭✭✭

In a world where magic thrives in secret city corners, a group of magicians embark on a road trip—and it’s the “no-love-interest”, found family adventure you’ve been searching for.

Sixteen-year-old Blythe is one of seven Guardians: magicians powerful enough to cause worldwide panic with a snap of their fingers. But Blythe spends her days pouring latte art at her family’s coffee shop, so why should she care about having apocalyptic abilities?

She’s given a reason when magician anarchists crash into said coffee shop and kidnap her family.

Heartbroken but determined, Blythe knows she can’t save them alone. A war is brewing between two magician governments and tensions are too high. So, she packs up her family’s bright yellow Volkswagen, puts on a playlist, and embarks on a road trip across the United States to enlist the help of six strangers whose abilities are unparalleled—the other Guardians.

Blog Tour Info

tbv tour banner

I was fortunate enough to get accept for The Black Veins blog tour hosted by CW @ The Quiet Pond, you can see her post here! Thank you to CW for including me in this tour!

My Review

Normally when I write a review I give myself a day or so to collect my thoughts, to stew over my feelings for the book. However, this wasn’t a “normal” reading experience and I have so many things I want to say that I’m saying screw it and shucking tradition.

Let’s get one thing straight: I absolutely loved this book.

If you’ve been here for a while you’ll know I actually had this on my list of 2019 Debuts I ‘m Most Excited For and it somehow managed to surpass all my expectations. This is genuinely the best book I have read this year, potentially ever. The Black Veins is everything I love about YA urban fantasy in one book.

There’s so much I want to say that I don’t even know what to talk about first, so I guess I’ll start with plot. It’s delightfully formulaic, the type of story you can fall into and enjoy easily. It’s immensely entertaining, and Monet’s writing keeps you hooked from the very beginning as they weave the plot together in a way that keeps you coming back for more.

I’m a big big fan of urban fantasy, it’s what originally got me into young adult in the first place, and the world building in this is an example of exactly why that is. I really appreciated the range of powers a magician could have, and the way they weren’t all info dumped on you like you would if the main character was new to the world. I liked the bits of magical history scattered throughout too. It’s always interesting to me to learn the background of a world because I think it provides some nice context, and it was included in a way that was informative and interesting.

I could probably sit here and write a paragraph on why I love all of the Guardians, but I don’t think anyone wants to listen to me ramble for that long so I’ll be concise-ish. Going into this I expected my favourite to be Jay and I wasn’t really wrong, he just shares that spotlight with Caspian and Blythe. I really enjoyed Blythe’s tendency for recklessness. She doesn’t always think things through and sometimes that gets her into trouble, but the other Guardians are there to back her up. Caspian actually reminded me a lot of my real-life significant other, so I might be a bit biased on that one but I think he added a fun element to the story overall.

One of my favourite types is characters that hide the softer layers of themselves under an exaggerated facet of their personality, which is a category both Jay and Cordelia fit under. Storm’s arc was probably my favourite if I’m honest and I liked her personality as an addition to the group.

Now I get to regale you with just how much I love the dynamics in this book and boy should you buckle up.

I was aware going into this that there was no romance, and I’m not sure if that’s for the whole series or just for this one book, but honestly it was so refreshing. I wouldn’t be opposed to there being romance in future installments, but the platonic relationships are what really take the cake. The Guardian’s group dynamic is the best I’ve personally ever encountered in fiction. It’s like if you took the Avengers and then actually made them all interesting. Their banter was just as entertaining as their more heartfelt moments, and it was truly a pleasure to take this journey with them.

The smaller relationships were also absolutely fantastic. In particular the Storm and Daniel relationship really stood out to me as something you don’t see a lot of in YA, and I thought Blythe and Cordelia’s development was honestly just the arc of the century. The bits we got of Antonio and Jay were also very entertaining, and I hope we get more of them together in future installments. 

I briefly touched on the writing earlier, but I honestly feel like I need to go a little more in-depth. Monet’s style is electric and lively, it keeps you turning pages as fast as your fingers will allow. It’s not flowery or excessive, but it is exciting. It suits the story incredibly well, adding another layer of tension to an already tense situation. I’m going to read anything they write just for another taste of this writing.

I feel like I can’t end this review without talking about the representation. A majority of the Guardians are people of colour, and a good number of them are queer too. There’s also a non-binary side character, but the thing I really need to highlight as something I loved was how Monet specifically avoided revealing Caspian’s deadname. As a non-binary person, it was honestly so refreshing to see a character’s name just accepted without a fuss, and it’s something I wish more people would do when writing trans and enby characters.

Author Info

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Ashia Monet is a speculative fiction author whose work almost always includes found families, diverse ensemble casts, the power of friendship, and equal parts humor and drama. Some of her favorite things are The Adventure Zone, Ariana Grande, and the color pink. You can follow her on Twitter @ashiamonet and Instagram @ashiawrites.

You can find Ashia at any of the following places:

Twitter
Instagram
Dead Magic Twitter

Tour Schedule

11th July
CW @ The Quiet Pond 

12th July
Fran @ The Ramblebee
Fadwa @ Word Wonders 

13th July
Melanie @ Mel to the Any/BookTube
Sage @ sageshelves 

14th July
Kate @ Your Tita Kate
Vinny @ Artsy Draft 

15th July
Lili @ Utopia State of Mind
Noémie @ Tempest of Books 

16th July
Marie @ Drizzle and Hurricane Books
Surina @ Book Reviews by the Bloggisters 

17th July
Saoudia @ Recs From Ur Friend
Gretal @ Books and Breadcrumbs 

18th July
Kate @ Reading Through Infinity
Vanessa @ The Wolf & Books 

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Fun, Escapist Fantasy at it’s Finest

A Shifting of Stars by Kathy Kimbray

a shifting of starsYoung adult, fantasy
Ebook, 450 pages
This book was provided to me by Shealea @ Caffiene Tours free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
✭✭✭✭✫

A squandering emperor. A handsome stranger. A reluctant heroine. And the ancient magic that will capsize a kingdom.

Seventeen-year-old Meadow Sircha watched her mother die from the wilting sickness. Tormented by the knowledge that the emperor failed to import the medicine that would have saved her, she speaks out at a gathering of villagers, inciting them to boycott his prized gladiator tournament.

But doing so comes at a steep cost.

Arrested as punishment for her impulsive tongue, Meadow finds herself caught up in the kind of danger she’s always tried to avoid. After a chance meeting with an enigmatic boy, she’s propelled on a perilous trek across the outer lands. But she soon unearths a staggering secret: one that will shift her world—and the kingdom—forever.

Blog Tour Info

I was lucky enough to get accepted for Shealea @ Caffeine Tour’s blog tour for A Shifting of Stars! You can find more info about the tour here. Thank you to Shealea for letting me be part of this tour!

Tour Schedule

July 07
— Blog tour launch at Shut up, Shealea
Becky’s Book Blog
Bemused Bibliophile
Book Reviews from Canada
Polish & Paperbacks
SepiaReads

July 08
A Book Devourer
The Book Piles
The Inked In Book Blog
Tempest of Books

July 09
bewitchingwords
The Infernal Fangirl’s Heaven
Lost in Fiction
Provocatrix
Sage Shelves

July 10
Author interview from Shut up, Shealea
A Bronx Latina Reads
Annotated Paperbacks
Lori’s Bookshelf Reads
Sakhile Whispers
Starlight Reads

July 11
Belle’s Archive
The Bookish Mrs Harding
BookishOwl Reviews
Oro Plata Myta
Your Words My Ink

July 12
Creative post from Shut up, Shealea
& she Reads
A Few Chapters ’til Love
Bookish Kimberly
Celuna Maria
Read at Night

Twitter Chat

There will also be a Twitter chat on July 13th at 9am EST/9pm PHT hosted on the Caffeine Tours Twitter account. I unfortunately won’t be able to join, as that’s 6am in my timezone but I hope everyone that participates enjoys themselves!

My Review

I didn’t really have many expectations going into this book, aside from looking for a fast paced and exciting read. I do think that’s the best way to go into this book, because any expectations you have probably won’t end up the way you want them to.

Overall I enjoyed A Shifting of Stars. It won’t make my list of 2019 favourites, but it was a good experience. Kind of like trying out a new restaurant and knowing you’d go there again but it wouldn’t be the first place you suggest. For me, there were just a few small things that got on my nerves and prevented this from being a perfect book.

Let’s start off by talking about the world building which I actually loved a lot. There was a particular dedication to the history of Erraforge that I loved, and the magic element isn’t a huge focus. I appreciated that there was some interesting politics going on as I enjoy political-based fantasy but it wasn’t anything inventive. It was a pretty classic fantasy world, which isn’t inherently a bad thing, it’s just not necessarily a good thing either. I think it did what it was supposed to, but not much else.

There were quite a few characters in this book and as a side effect of that I think a lot of them were left pretty much undeveloped. I wasn’t a big fan of Meadow until about 75% of the way through the book, I just didn’t think she was all that interesting and it felt like things just kept happening to her as opposed to her being an active participant in the plot. The side characters were more interesting, particularly Casper and Vogel, both of whom I thoroughly enjoyed. I also really appreciated Malthe in that he was an absolutely horrendous person offered exactly no redemption. I really saw where the Red Queen comparison came in here, so if you were mad about the way Maven was handled you’ll probably like this quite a bit more.

Relationships in this book were pretty hit-or-miss for me, and by that I mean most were hits but there was one really big miss. Surprisingly that wasn’t the romance, which I thought was actually very well developed and had good chemistry. I also particularly enjoyed the relationship between Meadow and her father. We often see a lot of mothers in YA fantasy so I thought the fact that she had a good, strong relationship with her dad was a nice touch, especially after they’d been brought together over tragedy. The miss for me was Meadow and her so-called best friend. I say so-called because she didn’t really seem to care about Meadow like, at all? Or at least not as much as Meadow cared about her.

Plot-wise I think this book was pretty solid, although it took quite a while for the real action to kick off. I noticed other people saying the same when I looked at reviews on Goodreads, and I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s a flaw, rather just something to be aware of. I do have to admit that none of the plot twists really felt all that shocking to me, which is another thing that isn’t inherently bad. Really a lot of your opinion on this book is going to be based on whether you’re looking for an action-packed twisty fantasy novel or not.

The one thing I’m going to complain about here is the writing. It really was not my favourite. There was a lot of telling over showing, which can be fine if done sparingly but it felt like a majority of the emotions our main character felt were told to us, rather than shown. The word choice often felt stilted, like Kimbray had a thesaurus propped open next to her and would refer to that to use a ~special~ word when a plain one would suffice. A key example of this was a scene fairly early on in the book where the word “textile” is used and I’m still not sure if she was talking about a curtain or a blanket. It felt unnecessary a lot of the time, and it pulled me out of the story on more than one occasion.

I definitely think this book is worth checking out if you like slower, political-based fantasy with a dash of adventure and magic. It’s an enjoyable book made up of the best kind of easy escapism. Also, the name Ladislas? Cool as hell.

Author Info

Kathy Kimbray headshot

Kathy Kimbray is a YA author from Australia.

After graduating from the University of Technology, Sydney, with a degree in Media Arts and Production, she went on to complete postgraduate studies in education and spent many years as a primary school teacher.

Now a full-time novelist, Kathy is lucky to be able to tell stories every day.

Aside from writing, Kathy is an avid reader, dancer, language learner, musical theater enthusiast and fan of terrible reality TV. She lives with her husband in Sydney, and dreams of one day owning that elusive chateau in France.

You can find Kathy at any of the following places:
Twitter
FaceBook
Instagram
Goodreads
Website

Playlist

For my stop in the blog tour I’ve also made a playlist that you can list to here! You can also find the tracklist below.

a shifting of stars01. Coattails — Broods
02. I’d Love to Change the World — Jetta
03. Safe & Sound — Taylor Swift ft. The Civil Wars
04. Castle (Huntsman Winter’s War version) — Halsey
05. Breathe — Fleurie
06. Whose Side Are You on — Ruelle
07. No One’s Here to Sleep — Naughty Boy ft. Bastille
08. East of Eden — Zella Day
09. Higher (Stripped) — The Score
10. Shining — X Ambassadors

 

Giveaway Info

You could win 1 signed paperback copy of A Shifting of Stars or 1 Amazon gift card worth 10 USD. Open internationally! You can enter here.

 

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Books That Will Turn Your World Upside Down

Welcome back to the real world, bleary-eyed binge watchers! If you’re anything like me you’ve just watched all of season 3 of Stranger Things during what normal people would call “sleeping time” which is a dreadfully overrated concept. To help tide you over until news of season 4 drops, I’ve decided to write another addition to my Film Hangovers series!

If you’re new here and don’t know what the hell I’m talking about, Film Hangovers is a series I run here on my blog where I recommend you books inspired by a popular film/tv series. This time I have recommendations inspired by the Netflix show Stranger Things and I’ve decided to focus on the dark and creepy atmosphere that permeates the show and/or books that have similar elements. I haven’t read all of these, but I have trusted sources saying they fit. Let’s get into it!

the devouring grayThe Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

I feel like this is probably the most obvious book on this list, considering The Devouring Gray is compared to the show all the time, but because of how obvious it is I’d feel like a fraud if I didn’t include it. This book is the closest I’ve found in tone and concept to Stranger Things, albeit with more queer rep. It’s creepy and intense and you get really invested in the squad dynamic, or at least I have.

dark visionsDark Visions by L.J. Smith

Technically this is a series, but seeing as the omnibus bind-up has been floating around in the world for a decade and I haven’t seen individual copies literally ever, I’m just talking about the whole thing. There are issues with Dark Visions but it was one of the first YA books I ever really got into after Twilight and it holds a very special place in my heart. It has a lot of similar vibes to Stranger Things, partly because it takes place in the ’90s, but also because all 5 of the main characters have psychic powers.

an enchantment of ravensAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

This book is the heaviest on the fantasy aspects, seeing as it is actually a fantasy, but I still think it really fits for Stranger Things. It’s definitely got the dark and creepy vibes, and it’s got a protagonist with a unique ability, but An Enchantment of Ravens has more whimsy (I think I’m funny) and is much more adventure-based than the show.

the raven boysThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

One of the things I love most about the Stranger Things is how atmospheric it is. It permeates the whole show, and you can feel it in every scene. The only book I’ve ever read that manages to do that nearly as effectively is The Raven Boys. The eerie creepy feeling starts on page one and continues with you until you’re closing the book.

the hazel woodThe Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

This is the first of the books I have yet to read, but just from the description of this book, I can tell it’s dark and twisty. I know The Hazel Wood has a heavy focus on fairytales which obviously doesn’t translate to Stranger Things, but I definitely think this is worth checking out if you’re craving creepy/unsettling atmospheres to your media, or if you just like take no shit heroines à la Nancy Wheeler and Eleven.

labyrinth lostLabyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Look, I know I really need to read this. It’s been on my TBR for so long that it’s almost ridiculous. However, in the meantime, you should definitely pick this up if you’re looking to cure your binge-watching hangover. It’s got witches and alternate dimensions and I’ve heard from good sources that it’s got the creepy vibe your heart is going to desire.

sawkill girlsSawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

Of the ones I haven’t read, this is the book I knew was going to make the cut. Just the synopsis alone gave me major Stranger Things vibes. I think this will match up really well with the monster element to the show, something most of the other books don’t really bring to the table. Plus this also has the “people are disappearing” plotline that, while not my favourite, is an integral part of the first season.

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Books to Take to the Beach

It’s summer and that means vacations in the sun! Or if you’re like me it means hiding under an umbrella with your nose stuck in a book. Either way, everyone needs some good summer book recs.

Beach reads are usually short, fast paced contemporary, but as y’all know I don’t really read contemp so these are basically just short, fast paced books or books that give me summer vibes!

red white & royal blueRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Yes, I know the irony in the first book on this list being a contemporary but look, Red, White & Royal Blue is the perfect beach book. It’s fun and quick to read. It’ll have you laughing aloud in no time flat, and you may just fall in love with a new character for your trouble. It’s also the longest book on this list at 428 pages so really, I’m not breaking my own rules.

1sosSummer of Salt by Katrina Leno

It is my personal opinion that this book was written with full intention for it to be read at the beach. It’s quiet, but it still has a steady pace to it that keeps you turning pages desperate to know what happens next. It’s also got a fantasic cast of characters, and it deals with a lot of heavy real world topics while also weaving in magic.

wild beautyWild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

McLemore’s lyrical writing style is something that is best experienced with the wind in your hair, and Wild Beauty is an excellent place to start. It’s a gorgeous book, full of dynamic characters and complex relationships. It’s also got a distinctly summery feel with it’s talk of sprawling gardens and warm nights. It’s another quiet book, but it suits the story and the narrative style so well you don’t even notice.

bloomBloom by Kevin Panetta & Savanna Ganucheau

I’m not a huge graphic novel person, mostly because I have an issue with slowing down to actually look at the art which makes no sense but I really do think Bloom is probably the best beach book option because it’s light and fun and the whole thing takes place over summer. It’s also got a really cute art style, which if you’re into graphic novels is probably a huge selling point.

every heart a doorwayEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This is the shortest book on this list, super easy to plop in a beach bag and go, but it also packs a punch. I absolutely fell in love with the characters in Every Heart a Doorway because they leap off the page. It’s one of two books on this list that have a murder mystery element, and this one kept me guessing all the way until the reveal.

wantWant by Cindy Pon

Action packed from start to finish, Want hits the fast paced description to a tee. It’s also one of my absolute favourite dystopias, featuring a very real look at what Earth might become with a group of heroes that don’t always work see eye to eye with each other but come together when it matters most. There’s also a lot of explosions, which every book could do with more of.

to kill a kingdomTo Kill a Kindom by Alexandra Christo

The most accurate way to describe Christo’s debut is a dark fairytale. It’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid so it has sirens and princes but it’s also got a deliciously lush atmosphere that reels you in. It’s enjoyable from the first page to the last, and by the time you’ve finished you’ll wish there was a sequel to dive into next but alas, there is not.

the raven boysThe Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

This is the only book on this list that doesn’t really make the “short and fast paced” column, but it does give me major summer-y vibes. It’s slower and quieter and at 408 pages it’s the second longest but I really think it’s a fantastic summer read and it’s a very binge-able series too. You’ll want to take all 4 books with you, or you’ll regret the decision not to.

1tceThe Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi

This is the only adult book on this list because adult SFF tends to be slower and/or longer, but The Collapsing Empire fits right in alongside the other actionpacked stories. It’s jampacked with characters you’re not sure you can trust, political intrigue and space travel. Plus, it’s got a myriad of narrators that means there’s a little something for everyone.

undead girl gangUndead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Undead Girl Gang is a perfect example of exactly what I meant when I said short and fast paced. A murder mystery with zombies, this book takes off from the first page and doesn’t slow down until you’re closing the book. It’s not the most shocking with it’s plot twists, but it keeps you engaged with the story nonetheless.

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Good Mental Health Rep in Fantasy Isn’t Just a Fever Dream Anymore

The Storm Crow by Kalyn Josephson

the storm crowYoung adult, fantasy
Paperback, 338 pages
✭✭✭✭✭

In the tropical kingdom of Rhodaire, magical, elemental Crows are part of every aspect of life…until the Illucian empire invades, destroying everything.

That terrible night has thrown Princess Anthia into a deep depression. Her sister Caliza is busy running the kingdom after their mother’s death, but all Thia can do is think of all she has lost.

But when Caliza is forced to agree to a marriage between Thia and the crown prince of Illucia, Thia is finally spurred into action. And after stumbling upon a hidden Crow egg in the rubble of a rookery, she and her sister devise a dangerous plan to hatch the egg in secret and get back what was taken from them.

My Review

Folks, I am enamoured with this book. I read a lot of fantasy, but it’s been a while since I was so captured by one that I just could not put it down. I don’t even know where to start with this review because I just want to discuss everything right now and that’s just not possible, so let’s start with the characters.

Our protagonist, Princess Anthia has already become one of my favourite YA protagonists I’ve ever read. There’s a lot I could say about her actually but the most important thing to me as a reader is to highlight how strong she is, not just physically but emotionally too. She’s gone through a lot (more on that later) but she keeps picking herself back up. Her best friend Kiva was a lot of fun, and I really liked the parts about her backstory. We often get sidekicks in YA that are poorly developed, but Kiva is not one of them.

There’s also 2 major male characters, but I wouldn’t call this a love triangle at all. Caylus wasn’t my favourite, but I was entertained by him. Ericen has been formally adopted as my son. No, I am not taking questions at this time. He broke my heart a lot, and I’m hoping we see some really great development in the next book from him. (Sidenote: Am I supposed to be pronouncing it eh-rye-sin or eh-ree-sin or heir-i-sin. I genuinely coudn’t make up my mind until like 30% of the way through where I settled on heir-i-sin.)

And of course there’s also a cast of side characters. Caliza, who I’m lukewarm on but leaning towards like. Auma, who I hope we see more of. Razel, who can burn in the fiery pits of hell. You know, the usual.

I’d figured the world building would be unique in this book because I mean, when was the last time you read about crows that are roughly the size of small horses with various magic powers? But I also really liked that it wasn’t too out there. Like, yeah people can ride on crows that can control the weather, but it’s also a standard fantasy world with kings and queens and warring nations.

I am a big big fan of the way Josephson blended the world building and the plot. I thought it was really well done and added a richness to the story that probably would have been lacking without it. I also like the way that both those elements combined to showcase what I personally think is the idea at the core of the story: that we can learn from past generation’s mistakes.

Another thing that I think was done really well and that I really appreciated was the mental health representation. Anthia is depressed, and both the way it’s handled and the way we get to watch her on her road to recovery is done so well. SFF is notorious for either ignoring the consequences of the plot and how it would affect the characters, or showing poor examples of various types of mental illness.

To me, as a person that’s struggled with depression for 5 years, Thia’s struggles were relatable and understandable. She wasn’t going very well, and she doesn’t just magically get better for the sake of the plot. We watch her learn to cope, to find things in her life worth marching on for, and it’s desperately needed in this genre.

Obviously I have to take a moment to talk about the main relationship because I actually really liked it. Thia and her love interest work really well together. I think they have a lot of chemistry together (*wink wink*) and they’re also good for each other. I’m excited to see their romance develop further in book 2.

Queer rep! And a lot of it! Kiva, Auma, and Caliza are all cannonically attracted to the same gender, as well as other characters that aren’t really important enough for me to bother mentioning. It wasn’t treated as taboo in this world, or any different from het couples, which I loved. I am a little peeved that there’s all these queer characters but 3 of our 4 mains all somehow managed to be, as far as we know currently, straight, but I digress. Things could of course be mentioned in the sequel, and I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth.

The only other thing that was anything less than 100% is the writing. It wasn’t bad! It just wasn’t necessarily anything special either. It was entertaining and informative, and really that’s all it needs to do.

I’ve already added The Storm Crow to my favourites shelf, and I hope if you pick it up you love it as much as I did!

Chat With Me

🌩 — Have you read The Storm Crow? If not, are you planning to?

🌩 — Do you have a favourite YA fantasy that you’ve read this year? What is it?

🌩 — What’s a book (fantasy or contemporary) that you think has good mental health rep?

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Triple Feature TBR

A fundamental fact about me is that I love themed readathons. Something about them just gets me excited in a way I can’t explain. That is how I ended up doing 3 month-long readathons in July.

The three I’m participating in are the DND Readathon hosted by my friend Sam, the Iron Tome-A-Thon hosted by Aimal, and the Book Junkie Trials hosted by Racheal!

I decided to let some of the challenges overlap, so I was struggling to figure out how to format this in a way where I wasn’t listing the same book multiple times. This is what I came up with so hopefully it’s clear enough.

First, let’s talk about the actual readathons!

DND Readathon

The DND Readathon doesn’t have teams, instead you are aiming to complete challenges to acquire various fantasy races and each race has 3 challenges. I’m going for 4 races, which makes a total of 12 challenges! The ones I’m going for are as follows:

Dragonborn

  • Read a book that involves dragons
  • Read a book that was recommended by a parent/guardian/mentor
  • Buddy-read a book

Dwarf

  • Read a book with foil on the cover
  • Read a classic
  • Read a book you acquired because of the cover

Half-elf

  • Read a translated book
  • Read a book with only one POV
  • Read a book set in a country you’ve never been to

Tiefling

  • Read a banned book
  • Read a book that follows a humanoid (but not fully human) character
  • Read a book recommended to you by someone you trust

Iron Tome-A-Thon

For this bad boy we have a total of 7 challenges (including a group book). This readathon is based on Game of Thrones so instead of teams we have houses, which really are just for fun as opposed to for competition.

I’m personally choosing House Baratheon because my favourite character is Renly and we have the coolest house words! They’re my blog title on Tumblr for a reason.

CASTLE BLACK: Read the group book

WINTERFELL: Read a book set in a cold climate

KING’S LANDING: Read a book about or involving royalty, politics or government

SUNSPEAR: Read a book by an author of color or an indigenous author

OLDTOWN: Read a book about or involving an institution of knowledge or training

VALYRIA: Read a book about or involving dragons

ASSHAI: Read a dark/grimdark fantasy or read an urban fantasy.

The Book Junkie Trials

The most competitive of my July readathons, this one is also the one where your team actually plays a part in your challenges, as well as gives you an ability and a weakness! I am Team Bard, which means I get the ability to DNF one book, and count it as read, and the weakness that one book has to include music/poetry.

I can tell you from the get-go that I’ll be using my ability on the group book, because I just really have no interest in reading it, and I really don’t just DNF books anyway.

THE ELVEN GUARD: Read a book with War, Military or Political Themes.

HALLOW ISLE: Read an atmospheric or horror book.

EMPTY BARREL INN: Enjoy an indulgent read.

GIANT SQUID: Read a book that intimidates you.

THE BOOKIE GRAIL: Read the group book.

The Books

the dragon republicThe Dragon Republic by R.F. Kuang

Challenges: Castle Black, The Elven Guard

Technically the group book for the Iron Tome-A-Thon is The Poppy War. However, I’ve already read that and I’m not a huge reread person as of late. So I decided to read The Dragon Republic instead since it’s the sequel! Plus it fits perfectly with the Elven Guard challenge, since it focuses heavily on war and the military.

1sotSorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Challenges: Dwarf, Hallow Isle

All the reviews of this book that I’ve seen have described it as atmospheric, and Rogerson’s debut novel An Enchantment of Ravensmost definitely also falls into that category. I also just got my preorder in the mail yesterday as of writing this post and the foil on it is very pretty, so it fit well with the Dwarf challenge.

hamletHamlet by William Shakespeare

Challenges: Dwarf, Empty Barrel Inn

I’m not a classics reader by any means. I tried a copy of A Tale of Two Cities 3 years ago and my bookmark is still sitting in it at 69 pages. I do love Shakespeare though, and I’ve been meaning to read Hamlet for a while. Since I won’t be writing a review for it, and I know it’ll be fun to read, I decided to also count it for my Empty Barrel Inn challenge. I’m also counting this as my poetry/music book, since verse is a type of poetry.

the way of kingsThe Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

Challenges: King’s Landing, Giant Squid

My copy of The Way of Kings weighs in at a hefty 1258 pages so to say I’m intimidated is the understatement of the century. I have the mass market paperback edition which is a mistake and I need to buy the hardcover because it only accentuates how long it is and I don’t need to be reminded that I’m about to sell my soul to a 1.2k beast of a book.

the girl in the towerThe Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

Challenges: Winterfell, Half-elf

I’ve been meaning to read this book for over a year. In fact, I’ve had my personal copy for a year as of July 29th so hopefully I read this before then. This book is set in 14th century Russia, and I haven’t quite made it there during my travels yet so it counts for the “country I haven’t been to” challenge.

nevernightNevernight by Jay Kristoff

Challenges: Oldtown, Dragonborn

Nevernight is set (at least partly) at an assassin school, which sounds badass. I’m also probably stretching the rules just a little when I use it for the parent/mentor recommendation challenge, since my mother only reads romance books which aren’t my cup of tea. For the purposes of that prompt I’m counting Victoria Schwab as my mentor, which sorta works because she is one of the authors I look up to the most, she just doesn’t know she’s my mentor.

the priory of the orange treeThe Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Challenges: Valyria, Dragonborn

Both of these are “read a book with a dragon in it” challenges and, well… Is there a more hot ticket dragon book on the market right now? I actually got this 800+ page behemoth on sale at a whopping 39% off. Seriously, why am I determined to read so many big books this month.

upon a burning throneUpon a Burning Throne by Ashok K. Banker

Challenge: Sunspear

I marked this as reading over a month ago and then promptly did not pick up my ereader once. I’m honestly very excited for this, it sounds like it’s going to be dark and twisted, a politically complex novel that’s been compared to stuff like A Game of Thrones. Once again it’s not exactly a small book, but it’s by no means the largest on this list.

jade cityJade City by Fonda Lee

Challenge: Asshai

The sequel to this comes out soon-ish, so I want to be on the train when it hits that station. To be honest, I had no idea what this was about until I saw people talking about it on Twitter (mostly CW from The Quiet Pond but it really seems like something that is right up my alley.

Challenge: Dwarf

Half this list is just Books Sage Should Have Read Sooner and this one is no exception. This challenge is actually supposed to be “read a book you bought for the cover” but I don’t do that, so instead I decided to pick a book with a cover I really love. I adore both the art style and the cover palette of the Descendant of the Crane cover, so I picked it for this one!

the beast playerThe Beast Player by Nahoko Uehashi

Challenge: Half-elf

If you’ve been around for a while you might recognize this from my Asian Readathon TBR. Unfortunately I didn’t get to read all that much during May, and by that I mean I only read 4 books which is a staggeringly low number for me. However, it’s back, because I really want to read this book.

the darkest mindsThe Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Challenge: Half-elf

I bought the tie-in paperback edition of The Darkest Minds from Wal-Mart shortly before the movie came out, intending to read it before I watched the film in theatres. It’s a year later almost and I have not read the book nor seen the movie. Thankfully someone suggested it to me as a book with only 1 POV, so I got to use it for this challenge and hopefully read it before I have to blow off the dust like Slughorn handing Harry his potions textbook in The Half-Blood Prince.

girls with sharp sticksGirls with Sharp Sticks by Suzanne Young

Challenge: Dragonborn

I’m a big fan of buddy reads so I was super excited about this challenge, despite the fact that I had no idea who I was going to do aforementioned buddy read with. I ended up piggybacking on two of my friends pre-planned buddy read. We decided to go with this book because it was one we were all interested in, but I have absolutely no idea what to expect.

the giverThe Giver by Lois Lowry

Challenge: Tiefling

I read this book once when I was 12 years old as part of my 7th grade english curriculum. I remember exactly 1 thing from this book and it’s something about an apple. I knew it had been banned, and I’d been thinking about rereading it anyway. Plus it’s short which is a rare thing on this TBR.

the iron daughterThe Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa

Challenge: Tiefling

Kagawa has actually been in the YA community for a very long time, and this was her first series. I read the first of these books back in /*mumbles behind hand/* January 2018, so I’m not sure how much I actually remember. I also have the first book in her *Talon* series and her most recent release, *Shadow of the Fox* so hopefully I can get to those soon.

the dreadful tale of prosper reddingThe Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken

Challenge: Tiefling

We’re coming to the end of this terribly long TBR and we’re finishing off with the one book I didn’t pick myself. This challenge is to have someone you trust rec a book and I asked a few people but I really wasn’t feeling what they were giving me, so I went to the one person I knew would absolutely give me a book I felt like reading, and they gave me this.

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