❧ Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us ❧ Author: Emily Skrutskie ❧ Publisher: Flux ❧ Publication date: February 8th 2016 ❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦ Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?… More
To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.
❝In A Nutshell❞
✎ A Pakistani trans boy who makes moons and hangs them everywhere is best friends (and more!) with a girl who came from a water tower and grows roses from her wrist.
Children can have a cruel, absolute sense of justice. Children can kill a monster and feel quite proud of themselves. A girl can look at her brother and believe they’re destined to be a knight and a bard who battle evil. She can believe she’s found the thing she’s been made for.
Hazel lives with her brother, Ben, in the strange town of Fairfold where humans and fae exist side by side. The faeries’ seemingly harmless magic attracts tourists, but Hazel knows how dangerous they can be, and she knows how to stop them. Or she did, once.
At the center of it all, there is a glass coffin in the woods. It rests right on the ground and in it sleeps a boy with horns on his head and ears as pointed as knives. Hazel and Ben were both in love with him as children. The boy has slept there for generations, never waking.
Until one day, he does…
As the world turns upside down, Hazel tries to remember her years pretending to be a knight. But swept up in new love, shifting loyalties, and the fresh sting of betrayal, will it be enough
❝In A Nutshell❞
❝What I loved❞
❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: Holly Black’s other faerie tale books, particularly her Modern Faerie Tales books, Tithe, Valiant and Ironside, as well as the upcoming The Cruel Prince, which the first of a new series called The Folk of the Air and is also about faeries. This is slated for an early 2018 release.
I’m on the Autistic Spectrum, but was diagnosed late. Generally I was the kind of autistic kid that adults overlook, mostly due to the stereotyped and cliché (mis)conceptions of what autism both is and isn’t. For starters, Autism is a spectrum, meaning that it presents in a variety of different ways. Further, what used to be classed as Asperger’s Syndrome (what I was diagnosed with first) is now considered to simply be part of the spectrum of autism. The terms “high-” and “low-functioning” used to be applied, but this is no longer the case (for the most part) and instead we have the spectrum. The former “levels” of functioning on the spectrum were honestly pretty ableist.
Being on the Autistic spectrum can include other neurodiverse experiences or mental health conditions, including ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder), Anxiety, OCD (Obssessive Complusive Disorder) and many more besides. For my part, I experience ADD (Over-focused subtype), OCD and Generalised Anxiety Disorder (as well as Social Anxiety Disorder, but it’s difficult to tell how much of that ties in with my being on the spectrum).
So what does all this mean?
- It means that I’m a strange but generally amazing creature that worries excessively, has an anxiety gremlin rooming with me in my brain, I suffer from constant Intrusive Thoughts and have trouble switching my focus from one thing to another, but good luck getting me to quit once I am focused.
- It means that people and small talk and generally expected social interactions are tantamount to myth and wonder to me and I just do not entertain the notion of a casual conversation because what is this mythical thing of which you speak and how do I participate in it? and I’d really much rather never leave the house than have to say “hello” to a single person I don’t want to greet, ever again.
- It means that I have little-to-zero tone control 90% of the time and if I try to emulate or fake it, yeahhh, we’re both gonna know about it. (This is particularly hard when people do or say something I don’t like or disagree with, because I have no ability to remain civil or not activate You’re A Jerk face. Also awkward when receiving gifts I don’t dig, because my “Yes, thank you for the thought” face needs some work.
- It really needs work.) It means I stress out over even the slightest interaction with anyone who isn’t My People (I have two of those). Yes, even online. Yes, even if I’ve known the person for years. Yes, even if the people are lovely. Yes, no matter what.
- It means I get anxious if my set routine is disrupted and sometimes I will have to go through certain steps before I can happily settle into an activity; like arranging my space just-so at my desk, or making sure that the bed is made before I get in.
- It means that when I’m comfortable with someone and feel safe I can talk forever and ever and ever and sometimes I zone out to what others are saying if it doesn’t interest me and yes this makes me a jerk sometimes, sorry.
- It means I talk in “parentheses”, literally pausing to add in a slightly related sentence before going back to the main topic, by which point I’ve usually moved way too fast and lost everyone because people can’t see parentheses Leo.
Honestly, I could be here all day. Half of the time I forget just what it means. And I could probably have stopped listing things five sentences ago, but I’m not good at not talking about the things that make me neuroatypical. These things are a big part of what makes me, me, and it’s all swings and roundabouts in what they are, do, and how they effect me on a daily basis. But when all is said? I love my neurodivergence. Sure, anxiety sucks and apparently I’m supposed to care that people are hard and socialness is important, but hey–I love my parentheses and how I skip topic five million times a minute and how I’m receptive to sounds and scents that other people might not be.
I intend to talk more openly about each of these things in detail, so look out for the related posts, all of which I will link to my drop down menu at the top of the navigation bar, for sake of convenience and ease. And also because it will be neat and pleasing.
❧ Title: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1)
❧ Author: Heidi Heilig
❧ Publisher: Hot Key Books
❧ Publication date: February 16th 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
Sixteen-year-old Nix Song is a time-traveller. She, her father and their crew of time refugees travel the world aboard The Temptation, a glorious pirate ship stuffed with treasures both typical and mythical. Old maps allow Nix and her father to navigate not just to distant lands, but distant times – although a map will only take you somewhere once. And Nix’s father is only interested in one time, and one place: Honolulu 1868. A time before Nix was born, and her mother was alive. Something that puts Nix’s existence rather dangerously in question…
Nix has grown used to her father’s obsession, but only because she’s convinced it can’t work. But then a map falls into her father’s lap that changes everything. And when Nix refuses to help, her father threatens to maroon Kashmir, her only friend (and perhaps, only love) in a time where Nix will never be able to find him. And if Nix has learned one thing, it’s that losing the person you love is a torment that no one can withstand. Nix must work out what she wants, who she is, and where she really belongs before time runs out on her forever
❝In A Nutshell❞
✎Time-travelling pirate ships, magical map Navigation and dysfunctional families visiting real and mythological worlds.
✎#ownvoices biracial (Asian American) teen
✎Diverse ☒ (race, queerness, secondary character with mental health issues)
✎ Nix and her family (her father and the crew of the Temptation ) travel through time and alternate realities by using maps that guide them to a specific place and time (one use per map), collecting treasures both real and mythological/magical, as they search for the one map they’ve been looking for: the one that might undo Nix’s entire existence. It might mean getting her mother back, but is it worth the risk? The captain of The Temptation seems to think so. And he’s willing to do anything to get his hands on the map he needs, no matter the cost.
❝What I loved❞
✎ Everything! The Girl From Everywhere is full of magic, heart and adventure. Between the often heartbreaking relationship between Nix and her father and the interpersonal relationships between the crew, this book takes a hold of you and makes you care. The characters are vivid and layered and the unique method of time travel is every bit as magical and thrilling as it sounds.
✎ Kash is an utter delight; half romantic rogue and half not-quite-gentleman thief.
✎ The seamless inclusion of so many fragments of mythology and magic, all of which come together to weave an intriguing tapestry against which the story of The Girl From Everywhere plays out. It’s almost Urban Fantasy, with the modern setting from which Nix and the ship come and go, passing through as they please, but the time-hopping and seafaring aspects transform the story into something else entirely. Something completely enchanting.
✎ The fact that Heilig goes there with the dysfunction of Nix’s family, including suggestions of mental health issues as well as drug abuse. It’s hard and it hurts but it’s real and it’s written like a pro.
✎The “political bits”!
✎ Everything. I loved everything. This book is so, so long overdue a stellar, praise-singing review (which was why I did it first when beginning to tackle the terrifying backlog!), because it is a genuinely amazing book. A clear five stars with glitter and tasteful sparkles.
✎ Heidi herself is so lovely it’s almost criminal, to be honest. I had the great pleasure of interviewing her for Fantasy Faction, where she was an utter delight.
❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: Into The Dim, by Janet B Taylor.
Because: It’s slightly similar in theme, e.g. unorthodox methods of time travel and a vividly-realised cast. Into The Dim isn’t as diverse (though it features a MC with Anxiety and phobias that aren’t exploited or there for ~drama~ and ~tension~, as well as non-white* secondary characters (a black teen in the modern day and a Jewish teen in the past)) with regards to the main characters, but the mental health and anxiety issues are handled sensitively and accurately. Unsure if it is #ownvoices in this regard.
* Written as “non-white” instead of PoC because whilst many Jewish people consider themselves White, many do not.
Revolutionary, I know. I’m going to get through the backlog with the least amount of pressure possible, and to this end, I’m going to start Friday Flash reviews. (Hopefully) weekly I will post a review of a book that I read anywhere between 2014 to present. So I don’t drown in yet more reviews, anything from now (May 2017) onwards will get reviewed as normal with the intention of blogging more frequently.
Alongside the Friday Flash reviews, I’ll be going through the massive backlog and seeing which books I bought but then didn’t read for months. These will be my Tsundoku Sundays and they’ll add a little variety, as well as being a pretty cool way of seeing which books I jumped on within a month or so of their release and which I–for whatever reason–left to gather a little dust on the shelves first.
I’m not good at writing short reviews, not gonna lie. But given my ever-limited number of spoons for both mental and physical exertion, posting reviews of 1.5k+ for each review very quickly gets tiring: in fact, that’s why, during the rough period that was 2014-2015, I barely managed to keep on top of anything at all. Things in my life were out of control and the first thing to slip was my blog. I want to fix that.
Title: Flame In The Mist
Author: Renée Ahdieh
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 16th May 2017
The first of a new trilogy by The Wrath and the Dawn author, Renée Adieh, Flame In The Mist is an exciting mash-up of Mulan and 47 Ronin. It isn’t a retelling of The Ballad Of Mulan, but rather a faint echo of Mulan’s spirit (and, you know, the passing oneself as a boy, thing), giving us Mariko, a girl who is bright and brave and unafraid to enter into a world reserved almost exclusively for men. We switch out the concept of a girl replacing her father in the army (with her family’s blessing, unlike in the Disney retelling of the Ballad) for a girl bound for an arranged marriage, who finds herself cast out into the world with little reason to head for her betrothed and all the reason in the world to choose her own path. But what begins as a quest for answers and for revenge, turns into a complex series of events that will change Markio’s life–and her heart–forever.
When Hattori Mariko is told she must marry into the Imperial family, she accepts this duty as any good daughter might: she wishes to honour her family and do what is best for their reputation, in spite of marriage being the last thing from her mind. Especially since she has far better things to do than play at being a doll in which to dress prettily in silks. Things such as continue tinkering with her many inventions, however small. She has a bright mind and wants nothing more than to prove her worth beyond her station and gender. Yet things are as they must be, and Mariko accepts her fate with grace and honour.
Except that inside she is slowly dying at the notion of what her life will become. Hattori Mariko was never meant for the dull security of marriage. She was always meant for more.
When tragedy strikes on her way to the Imperial palace and she is betrayed, Mariko seizes her chance and flees into the night; it’s that, or die. Though she could make herself and the fact that she survived known, she has no idea who it was who betrayed her and if, should she finish her journey to meet her betrothed, she would be again only travelling to meet her doom. With only the knowledge that the infamous Black Clan is responsible for the attempt on her life and the blood spilled in the Jukai forest that night, Mariko takes on the appearance of a boy and thrusts herself into the hidden world of mercenaries and dark power. Soon she finds herself in the midst of the very people she believes tried to murder her, taken into their fold and privy to their secrets.
Only nothing is ever as it seems, and soon Mariko learns that the Black Clan is not what they appear. As she grows closer to the members of the clan, Mariko realises that the world has never been black and white, but is cast in infinite shades of grey. The only constants are power and honour and she begins to rethink everything she ever thought she knew about both.
Meanwhile, Mariko’s twin brother, Hattori Kenshin, refuses to believe that Mariko is dead. He is a skilled tracker and he finds evidence that leads him to believe that she escaped the slaughter that befell her party in the forest. He can’t fathom where she went, but he trusts that his cunning sister has a reason for having vanished. But with the betrothal to the prince being such an important step in their family’s ascension, Kenshin knows he must tread carefully so as not to draw suspicion and shame. Mariko is now by herself in the wild and with unknown persons possibly still eager for her death–the last thing he can do is draw attention to the fact that she survived at the same time as not wishing to jeopardise the marriage by news of his sister’s death. Kenshin, the Dragon of Kai (the moniker bestowed for his prowess in battle and his skill as a samurai), must navigate carefully if he is to bring Mariko home and keep her both safe and leave their family’s honour–and his own–intact.
But a force moves in the shadows, with its own agenda and with eyes where those it watches least expect. The only question is when it will move.
During all this, two boys are bound together by more than blood and through a bond that runs deeper than the honour their parents chose to throw to the wayside before them. One has designs on revenge and reclaiming his rightful title and position, whilst the other wishes only to quell the anger and shame at their pasts and live in anonymity. Yet when all these paths finally converge and become entangled with one another, everything is set to change.
Flame In The Mist is the first of what is set to be a trilogy that is equal parts political intrigue and adventure, with a lost legacy to reclaim, a powerful betrothal at stake and the true meaning of both honour and friendship on full display within the vivid and exciting world that Adieh has presented. Easily one of the best books I’ve read so far in 2017, Flame In The Mist blends an rebellion against gender roles and conformity seamlessly with an exhilarating story of exiled warriors and old magic, all whilst delivering a page-turner of a book that left me eagerly awaiting the next.
One thing I will mention is how disappointed I am by the fact that Ahdieh chose not to include any queer rep. Especially given how much the historical context of Japan lends itself to the acceptance and even celebration of queer relationships, especially between men in the context of samurai etc. It’s actually a little lazy and generally demonstrates that most authors won’t even consider even a hint of queer rep. It’s alienating and unfair, not to mention, very unrealistic–especially in the context of the Black Clan and their interpersonal relationships with one another.
(P.S. Not sure whether this next applies more to the writer or the publisher, since italicising foreign words is a Thing in publishing, or if it was an inconsistency of the eArc I received from NetGalley by the publisher, but there seemed to be little to no reason or rhyme regarding which Japanese words were typed in italics and which weren’t. Arguably the words that are more “familiar” and less “foreign” were left un-italicised (e.g. kimono, samurai, sake, etc), and yet words such as ‘tabi’, ‘hakama’, ‘tantō’ and ‘rōnin’ were presented in italics, even though it’s also arguable that these words are just as familiar. To further illustrate the seemingly random choices regarding italics, words such as ‘kata’ were left without italics, when in fact this is a word related specifically to martial arts and form and therefore would be less familiar than perhaps ‘rōnin’. Generally the italics seemed a little confusing regarding where they were used, with little consistency. But then I’m of the opinion that no italics to designate foreign words is better.
Further, it would have been amazing for, in the glossary of terms, perhaps, for the kanji used to write all of the character’s names to be included. As someone studying Japanese (including kanji), it would have been a nice little touch and also I am a nerd so there’s that, too.)
Title: Masquerade (Micah Grey #3)
Author: Laura Lam
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Publication date: 9th March 2017
It’s been a long wait between Shadowplay and Masquerade, and there were times when it seemed it would never come, short of Laura Lam electing to self-pub and/or kickstart the third and final Micah Grey novel. Thankfully, Lam’s publisher, also responsible for publishing the fantastic futuristic sci-fi thriller False Hearts swooped in and seized the entire trilogy, meaning that Micah was coming home.
And what a homecoming. Masquerade is a fast-paced and exciting story, full of mystery and heart, from the second we’re taken back to Ellada.
I was worried about the amount of time that had passed, having expected to forget absolutely everything, and since I do not have the ability to re-read books, it was a genuine concern that part of my enjoyment might be diminished by “what is happening? Who are these people?” and “I have no memory of this place!”. There were things I’d partially forgotten, but the way Lam both opened Masquerade and weaved the story, any of those gaps were very easily filled, with my memory being jogged where relevant and not once did I feel I was reading something I only half connected with, in spite of the huge gap and subsequent gaps in what I remembered. It felt every bit the same as having waited a year or so between books, with no clumsy dumps of exposition or info.
And the wait was worth it.
After the circus and then the magic contest with the Masque of Magic, things seem to be looking up for Micah. Except that at the close of Shadowplay, to sour the success, Micah fell suddenly ill and it seemed related to his burgeoning abilities as a chimera. Luckily, soon Micah is well (but for how long?), but at the cost of trusting someone he never wanted to see again. The Royal Physician is someone Micah would rather steer clear from, and with good reason, following the man’s employment of a Shadow to report their actions and whereabouts during the magic contest, even sending someone to get close to Masque in order to glean all the info he could. Yet Micah doesn’t have much choice and his treatment at the hands of the Royal Physician becomes regular affair–one he remains deeply mistrustful of.
Yet ridiculously, allowing Pozzi to treat him is soon the lesser of Micah’s worries, as tension grows within the city due to both the rumours of chimera and the politicking of the Foresters. The problem is: they have a point. For too many centuries, the noble families and the royal family have had much of the power and all of the privilege, whilst many in the country go hungry or find themselves in poverty. This dissent will not be eased without change, and yet when a particularly violent arm of the Foresters, calling themselves the Kashura in reference to the old histories and tales of the chimera and the Elder race, rises up and makes themselves known, the people of Ellada are caught between the need for change and the dislike for violence and bloodshed.
Things will come to a head eventually and civil war may well be on the cards.
Meanwhile, Micah’s abilities seem to strengthen thanks to the treatment rendered by Pozzi and soon he is experiencing strange dreams that seem to show him the actions of another person as they go about their business in shadow. That business is body snatching. But without any notion of who is behind the actions or why, Micah and his friends are working blind. They’re not in this alone, aided by the mysterious Anisa, the Damselfly apparition from the Aleph who knows more than she says and who sometimes appears only to help them when it suits her best. None of them are entirely willing to trust her, but with their secrets held tightly to their chests, there are few around them who know the full truth and they must take whatever help they can get.
Matters become more complicated when hands behind the scenes begin to play their cards and Micah, Drystan and Cyan are pulled into things far more complicated and delicate than they could have imagined–and with the Foresters poised for action and change (one way or another) it looks as though things may come to a head sooner than anyone hoped.
One of the things that I’d been hoping for most with Masquerade was Micah’s confrontation with his parents, one way or another. I felt that given the storyline that led him from the noble house in the first place, there needed to be some manner of resolution given that Micah had returned to Imachara with a mind to stay and settle into his new life. This happened, in a way, and although there were elements of what I wanted to see, I felt disappointed in how Micah ultimately handled the situation. Which, really, is to say, I was disappointed in how easily Micah was able to set aside his anger and hurt regarding what his parents wanted for the daughter they believed they had. I think that any narrative from Micah suggesting that he understands what his parents were trying to do, and that he knew it came from a place of love, possibly suggests that Lam maybe hasn’t experienced strained relations with parents regarding queerness and acceptance. Micah loses his anger at his mother, understanding her “reasons” for wanting to fixing (or at least this was how it read to me) and I wasn’t entirely comfortable with that. Micah’s mother does not really, really, truly admit fault and she does not truly accept Micah–and therefore she deserved no quarter, no acknowledgement and no further consideration from Micah. It felt like Micah gave too much for the sake of resolution and that just didn’t sit well with me, considering how his mother both was and wasn’t–and how she’d been earlier in the trilogy.
Overall, Masquerade was just as wonderful as I’d hoped it would be, jumping effortlessly back into the same world we’d been forced to leave behind for so long. Every bit as exciting and compelling as its predecessors, Masquerade was a delight and being given such diverse characters with a q u e e r r o m a n c e as casually as any other never, ever, ever, ever gets old and it means every bit as much as it ever did. I very desperately want more of Micah and Drystan and still hold out hope for further Micah Grey novels that see him older, wiser and more established with his place in the world.
A wonderful end to the trilogy and almost everything I’d anticipated it would be.