May 31, 2020

Seanan McGuire: "Middlegame"

Title: Middlegame  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: Alchemical Journeys (1st of 5 books)
Author: Seanan McGuire [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural
Year: 2019
Age: 16+
Stars: 5/5
Pros: A story unlike any other (despite a few familiar references), with two main characters who'll latch onto your heart and nest into it.
Cons: The alternate timelines and alchemy workings may confuse some.
WARNING! Self-harm (on page). Some gruesome deaths.
Will appeal to: Those who love a character-driven sibling story that spans years. Those who are intrigued by time travel/what-if narratives but don't necessarily like sci-fi.

Blurb: Meet Roger. Skilled with words, languages come easily to him. He instinctively understands how the world works through the power of story.
Meet Dodger, his twin. Numbers are her world, her obsession, her everything. All she understands, she does so through the power of math.
Roger and Dodger aren’t exactly human, though they don’t realise it. They aren’t exactly gods, either. Not entirely. Not yet.
Meet Reed, skilled in the alchemical arts like his progenitor before him. Reed created Dodger and her brother. He’s not their father. Not quite. But he has a plan: to raise the twins to the highest power, to ascend with them and claim their authority as his own.
Godhood is attainable. Pray it isn’t attained. (Amazon)

Review: I expected the supernatural premise to swallow me whole. I didn't expect these characters to do the same 💚.


Let's start by getting it out of the way: Middlegame is a complex book. But I don't mean it's a complicated book. It's not like you need to solve a riddle - it's more like you have to gather lots of small and less small pieces along the way and fit them properly in the general scheme. And it's not like you have to WORK at that - you only need to pay attention. Which frankly is not a hard task, because there isn't any part or detail in this book that doesn't stand out or evoke a strong feeling/elicit a strong mental response. Look, here's the thing: an alchemist put together by his mentor like a supernatural Frankenstein, who tries to embody the Doctrine of Ethos by splitting it into couples of alchemically engineered kids (basically Language and Math, but also Chaos and Order, Earth and Air, etc.) and to perfect the results by trial and error, discarding and reassembling the defective outcomes of his experiments, in order to eventually remake the world in his image through them, but ultimately incapable to subdue their human component? Awesome. I mean, terrifying, but/and awesome. But Middlegame is so much more than a tale of an evil mastermind and the young heroes who stand against him, and a course in dark magic, and a labyrinth of alternate timelines (yep, we're treated to a few of those as well, and they're terrible and brilliant): it's, at its core, a story about sibling entanglements, and impossible choices, and endless attempts at making things right, and what defines our humanity - or lack thereof. [...]

May 22, 2020

Nova Ren Suma: "17 & Gone"

Title: 17 & Gone  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Nova Ren Suma [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary with a Twist
Year: 2013
Age: 14+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Atmospheric writing. Makes an impassioned plea for all the lost, or "simply" troubled, teen girls that the world leaves behind.
Cons: Blends two different narratives that kind of clash with each other.
WARNING! Self-inflicted harm, mental health issues.
Will appeal to: Those who love poetical novels who deal with some harsh truths, but offer a glimpse of hope.

Blurb: Seventeen-year-old Lauren is having visions of girls who have gone missing. And all these girls have just one thing in common - they are 17 and gone without a trace. As Lauren struggles to shake these visions, impossible questions demand urgent answers: Why are the girls speaking to Lauren? How can she help them? she next? Through Lauren’s search for clues, things begin to unravel, and when a brush with death lands her in the hospital, a shocking truth changes everything. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: I'm in love with Suma's novels. She's become an auto-buy author for me, and I only have a handful of those. Also, I'll do my best to avoid spoilers, but this will be a hard review to write, for that very reason...


Suma's novels are a love letter to girls: good or bad, hurting or causing other people to hurt, found or - most of the times - lost. She firmly believes that every one of them matters, and none deserves adults to give up on her. It should go without saying, except it's not as simple as it sounds, because sometimes they do their utmost to disappear, or they literally bite the hand that feeds (or at least caresses) them. Never was it the case more than in this particular book, where girls of all ethnicities and all ways of life get lost - some willingly, some not, but those who did run away all had their reasons, and a history of adults not being able to understand they pain or their sense of displacement. Or of authority figures shrugging - because, well, girls are bound to run away sometimes - and not even looking into the possibility that there's been some foul play involved. Suma looks at them, every one of them, through the eyes of one of their peers - a 17 y.o. girl named Lauren, who apparently can see them and visit a place in her dreams where they all live (so to speak) and wait for her to do something, because it's not too late for them...or for one of them at least. Bit by bit, we find out that Lauren is much more than a witness (or is she?), and there may be more girls to save than we thought. [...]

May 13, 2020

Bethany C. Morrow: "A Song Below Water" (ARC Review)

Title: A Song Below Water  [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: A Song Below Water (1st of 2 books - I'm editing this post after publication because now there's a companion book coming out in 2021)
Author: Bethany C. Morrow [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Supernatural, Urban Fantasy, Contemporary
Year: 2020
Age: 14+
Stars: 3.5/5
Pros: Vividly depicts the Black women experience and how their voices keep getting silenced. Makes a strong case for found family in the form of sisterhood. 
Cons: The supernatural aspect, if engaging, gets confusing, with lots of different creatures thrown in with not enough context. The kids/parents dynamics are off.
Will appeal to: Those who crave for a magical adventure on the backdrop of the Black (female) reality - or the reverse.

Blurb: Tavia is forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she's also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. (Goodreads excerpt)

Review: First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Macmillan-Tor/Forge for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.
Note: this started as a buddy-read with my friend Lindsi from Do You Dog-ear? A little more than a third into the story, she realised she wasn't feeling it, while I - despite a few qualms - was engaged enough to read the whole thing, so we amicably parted ways 🙂.


B.C. Morrow's YA debut has got a cool, engaging premise, in the form of Black sirens - which not only is a unique one as far as supernatural bookish tropes are concerned (though the TV show Siren does have Black merfolks), but also lends itself to a powerful social commentary about how Black women's voices are feared and/or silenced. And here's the thing: as a book about the Black female experience, ASBW hits the mark - which comes as no surprise, since it's an #ownvoices novel. The story touches upon a series of situations/themes such as the Black Lives Matter movement, being stopped by the police for no apparent reason, having to fly under the radar - more so because of a secret siren identity - or having one's hair touched without consent. By the way, there's also a hair-related plot point that I can't talk about - because it would be a giant spoiler - which ties in with Effie's typical Black hairdo, as much as being a siren ties in with Tavia's Black female voice.
Additionally, it was refreshing to read a book that centers on the friendship/sisterhood between two girls, though at first it sounds like Tavia is jealous of Effie (who has, for all purposes, being adopted into her family) and though she calls Effie her "play-sister", which sounds standoffish at best. But as the story progresses, we can see the love between these two girls, and how they support (and even complement) each other. These are the things that ASBW does best. [...]

May 05, 2020

Tell Me Something Tuesday: Goodreads Reviews: Do Your Round Your Ratings Up or Down? Do You Think It Matters?

Tell Me Something Tuesday is a weekly discussion post on Rainy Day Ramblings, where the blog's owner Heidi discusses a wide range of topics from books to blogging. Weigh in and join the conversation by adding your thoughts in the comments. If you want to do your own post, grab the question and answer it on your blog.
Here is what is on deck this week:


First off, as you may be aware of by now, I'm team half stars, so I hate that GR doesn't have that option. And when on GR, I always state it in my review when a book gets the additional half star from me. Yes, because...I always round my ratings down. My reasoning is, if a book gets 5 stars from me, it's because I love it with a vengeance, while if I rate a book 4.5 stars, it lacks that extra oomph (as small as it can be) that makes an absolute favourite out of it. Consequentially, I can't bring myself to click on the fifth GR star, and that affects all my lower ratings (I can't give a fourth star to my 3.5 star books, etc.). I mean, all those half-star books lacked something for me - and yep, they were slightly better than they 4, 3, 2, even 1 star counterparts, but the most important thing for me is, they weren't good enough to earn that higher rating.

May 03, 2020

Tooting Your Trumpet #11

Some people toot their own trumpet. I mean to toot yours. On the first Sunday of every month, I'm sharing your posts, your sites, anything interesting I stumble upon during my internet vagrancies. This month on TYT...
  • THINGS WE’VE BEEN DOING TO KEEP OURSELVES CALM AND OCCUPIED DURING ISOLATION (a list on Veronika, Ruzaika and Sabrina's blog Wordy and Whimsical)
  • LEAVING BOOKS UNRATED (a discussion post by Sabrina on the same blog)
  • THINGS I LEARNED WRITING MY FIRST BOOK – MY WRITING MISTAKES (AND SOME SUCCESSES!) (a tips post on Rivka's blog The Orangutan Librarian)
  • FANTASY WORLDS (a discussion post on Greg's blog Book Haven)
Please note: all the graphics featured in these posts are property of the blog/site owners, and are only used in association with their blog/site links.