[Friday Flash Review] When The Moon Was Ours, by Anna-Marie McLemore

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❧ Title: When The Moon Was Ours
❧ Author: Anna-Marie McLemore
❧ Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press
❧ Publication date: 4th October 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
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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.
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when the moon was ours❝In A Nutshell❞

✎Absolutely gorgeous magic realism romance amazingness!

✎#ownvoices Latina MC, queer romance

✎Diverse ☒ (race, queerness (trans rep!!))

✎ 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.

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❝What I loved❞
✎I picked up this book on a whim–and maybe that’s the best way to pick up a book sometimes! It was utterly delightful and beautiful and unexpectedly full of heart and depth and power.

✎Positive trans rep that isn’t attached to the magic realism element but that stands on its own and understanding parent of a trans teen

✎ The prose is stunning and almost achingly beautiful. Not only is the story compelling and magical, there’s a sense of strange urgency that isn’t rushed, but keeps you turning the page again and again, desperate to reach the end, desperate to read another page, another word. wtmwo dedication

✎ Can I say “everything”? I couldn’t get enough of the romance or the imagery. This book was just so breathtakingly beautiful. I’ve never read any magic realism before and I wasn’t sure what to expect at all, but this book was just pure poetry and I adored every second of it. I think that this book taught me what magic realism is.

✎ Special mention for the dedication (above), which is beautiful and magical:
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❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: McLemore’s other books The Weight of Feathers and Wild Beauty as well as Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen and the accompanying sequel A Crown Of Wishes, both of which are resplendent with gorgeous imagery, magic and mythology, with prose that flirts a little with magic realism.

[Friday Flash Review] The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

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❧ Title: The Darkest Part of the Forest
❧ Author: Holly Black
❧ Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
❧ Publication date: 13th January 2015
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
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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

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20958632In A Nutshell

✎ Role reversal twins: soft guy princey type; warrior girl knight. Small town in rural America where the forest is full of dark secrets and danger. Having spent their childhoods in the woods, Ben and Hazel know that things aren’t always as they seem, even if the town of Fairfold is so used to its long history with faeries that the things that happen are simply just accepted as they are.
✎ Queer romance! Changelings! Cursed sleeping faerie princes!
✎ A mysterious faerie, loved by both twins but without much of a lasting, terrible sibling rivalry love triangle (where the straight ship is launched, because isn’t it always if this happens).
✎ A brilliant juxtaposition of contemporary fantasy and fairytale and folklore, with life in Fairfold every bit as normal as any other town in rural America. Except for the faeries, of course. And the occasionally missing tourist, but hey.
✎Diverse ☒ (queerness and secondary characters who are PoC)

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What I loved

✎ Everything. Absolutely everything. This book is enchanting and delightful and reads every bit the way a modern faerie tale should. Ben and Hazel are compelling, interesting characters and they are so well-written as siblings.
✎ Q u e e r  r o m a n c e. I can’t stress this enough, really. Any book that gives me queer romance is automatically going to get bonus points, let alone if its a m/m romance.
✎ Faeries! Anyone who knows me knows that faeries are my thing. I am an actual changeling so really that shouldn’t be a surprise. I eat up stories that involve the fae, whether they’re fantasy or urban fantasy or that grey area between. Basically, faeries.
✎ Black’s writing style is just meant tot write books like this: it’s very gently lyrical whilst being utterly engaging and even “mundane”, but in the best of ways. It’s as though she brings faerie completely to life in a modern setting without losing or compromising on any of the magic and wonder and even terror of what faeries can really be like.
✎ The point that Ben and Hazel’s parents are generally guilty of “benign neglect”. I am always eager to see the various ways in which parents can totally mess up with their kids being displayed: it’s important to demonstrate and explore the fact that violence and/or abuse aren’t the only ways in which parents can hurt or damage their kids. Not being there can be just as damaging and even if the parents themselves are great people that does not mean they’re great at being parents.
✎ Hazel’s strength and bravery and general kick-assness, matched with her brother’s artistic softness.

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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.

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[Friday Flash Review] The Girl From Everywhere, by Heidi Heilig

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❧ Title: The Girl From Everywhere (The Girl from Everywhere #1)
❧ Author: Heidi Heilig
❧ Publisher: Hot Key Books
❧ Publication date: February 16th 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦

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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

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25950053In 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.

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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.

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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.

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Battling my review backlog: a battle-plan

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I am ludicrously behind on reviewing what I read. I’ve tried to be good with at least the books I receive from NetGalley, but even so, due to a couple of years of lapsed blogging (not lapsed reading…) my backlog of reviews more closely resembles a mountain than a list. It’s gone from the ridiculous to the sublime, honestly. So here’s what I’m going to do about it.
1. Blog more.

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.

2. Break the backlog down

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.

3. Write shorter, more concise reviews

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.

So that’s how I’m going to attempt to battle my epic backlog of books to review. I’ll get there. Maybe.