When I Cast Your Shadow, by Sarah Porter

❧ Title: When I Cast Your Shadow
❧ Author: Sarah Porter
❧ Publisher: Tor
❧ Publication date: 12th September 2017
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
Dashiell Bohnacker was hell on his family while he was alive. But it’s even worse now that he’s dead….

After her troubled older brother, Dashiell, dies of an overdose, sixteen-year-old Ruby is overcome by grief and longing. What she doesn’t know is that Dashiell’s ghost is using her nightly dreams of him as a way to possess her body and to persuade her twin brother, Everett, to submit to possession as well.

Dashiell tells Everett that he’s returned from the Land of the Dead to tie up loose ends, but he’s actually on the run from forces crueler and more powerful than anything the Bohnacker twins have ever imagined…
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❝In A Nutshell❞
when I cast your shadow✎ Dead brother appears to his sister in a dream and asks her for permission to possess her, although his method of both asking and opening the doorway leaves much to be desired and Ruby doesn’t realise quite what she’s let herself in for.

✎ Drug-addict brother who’d been clean for six months before his overdose, difficult to love and troubled deeply, and depending on how you read Dashiell he might have been bipolar or something similar. (I chose to read him this way, but it may or may not be canon or intentional!)

✎ Creepy ghosts wanting passage and a foothold in the world of the living, will do pretty much anything they need to make it happen.

✎ Ruby is grieving her brother, hard, and she’s trying her best to reconcile what happened to her brother with the hell Dashiell put his family through before he died. She doesn’t know how to grieve for a brother who was so emotionally unavailable, and Everett isn’t much better, struggling to both understand and quantify his own grief and desperate to convince himself he doesn’t care–about Dashiell or anything, perhaps even himself.

✎ Diverse 🚫 (no clear diversity on the page – I chose to read Dashiell as perhaps having been bipolar, but this isn’t explicit (or even really implicit, for that matter), and it feels ungenuine to say When I Cast Your Shadow represents the marginalisation of MH or NDV, if it actually doesn’t, clearly do so. For all it’s possible that Dashiell was struggling with mental health issues, the fact that he was an addict doesn’t necessarily equate with MH or NDV.)

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❝What I loved❞
✎ The prose is unique and engaging and makes for an engrossing, completely unputdownable read. Between Dashiell being (strangely) utterly enchanting to read and the weirdness of the Land of the Dead and its ghosts, When I Cast Your Shadow is one of the most compelling, different books of 2017. Parts of it are so terribly sad, while others are incredibly poignant and heartfelt, and as the reader, you are given a crash-course in Knowing Dashiell. It’s a pretty different experience to love a character who is already dead, one who has very evidently been hurtful towards his family and yet so charming and capable of so much unconditional love at the same time. We see Dashiell’s actions through several peoples’ points of view, often just anecdotal, and we are given a heartbreakingly wonderful and terrible picture of someone deeply troubled.

✎ I adored most things about this book, but the way it’s written is just so wonderful and so very lyrical and magical in places, whilst being utterly raw and hard in others, and both these styles really shouldn’t go together so well – and yet they do. Part of that makes this book so very, very delightful is the strangeness of it. This book is strange and unusual and I, myself, am strange and unusual – so we got along just fine.

✎ Honestly, I don’t even know what to tell you guys about this book. It’s so … *gestures vaguely yet expansively*. When I Cast Your Shadow is just so utterly yes, filled with heart and darkness and so much unyielding truth, that I couldn’t help but completely fall in love with it. It is like no book I have ever read before and the prose, guys, the prose just delighted and thrilled me and I adored Dashiellthe hurting, broken, wonderful thing that he is. I loved absolutely everything about this book and absolutely wish I could re-read books (I can’t), because this is one I want to read again and again and again.

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❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ No diversity on the page. Always a minus. (Usually I absolutely do not give out five-stars to books without even a lick of diversity in them, clearly stated, or by a marginalised author, buuuut I really did adore this book very, very much and a lot of important themes were handled devastatingly well, and eh, I have these Letting Stuff Slip cards that I get to hand out, and When I Cast Your Shadow was so enjoyable and wonderful, that I didn’t find myself alienated from the story by lack of being visible (in one shape or another), so it gets the card.

 

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 ❝If you liked this…❞
…you might like: As I’ve said, this is a fairly unique book and the prose is what sets it apart, but there’s a somethingness to it that kept me turning the page in a very similar way to Laure Eve’s The Graces, which I absolutely adored but have yet to review, because I am a terrible adhd spoonie thing and my review backlog is longer than Dante’s Inferno.
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Daughter of the Burning City, by Amanda Foody

❧ Title: Daughter of the Burning City
❧ Author: Amanda Foody
❧ Publisher: Harlequin Teen
❧ Publication date: 27th July 2017
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.
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daughter of the burning city❝In A Nutshell❞
✎ A circusy freak show with a twist, instead of the crappy and pretty offensive kind that is generally overused and crap.
✎ A girl with no eyes who can see and also has anxiety who also is really amazing and relatable.
✎ A demisexual or grey ace (definitely one of the two) love interest who doesn’t change himself to fit with the notion of a “normal” (heavily sarcastic use of the word intended) YA bookish romance but who is allowed to be himself throughout and who is also soft and not macho and yes thank gods!
✎ Magic and secrets and betrayal – basically all the usual good stuff backed up and fleshed out with characters that are diverse and a world that, for all we get only a small glimpse into it, is rich and vivid and exciting to be in.
✎ Diverse ☒ (bisexual MC, queer side characters, a demisexual or grey ace character; not a cast of just whiter than white folks)

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❝What I loved❞
✎ Honestly, the answer is: everything. From a positive and absolutely not judgmental approach to “promiscuity” to a boy who is actually less strong than our female protagonist, this whole book just sang for me. I adored every part of it, from Foody’s writing to the setting to the characters – Daughter of the Burning City is just magical and wonderful and utterly absorbing. It was difficult to stop reading. As a bonus, it was beautifully narrated, which only added to the experience!
✎ I’m a sucker for circuses (not the animal kind) and performing acts and the theatre and all of that jazz, do Daughter of the Burning City was just like catnip for me. I’d been hyped about this book for ages and was so excited to finally read it. It did not disappoint. The pacing was delicious and the story was exactly everything I’d hoped it would be. There is nothing that I love more than magic and circuses and all the people that call the circus home. It was wonderful to see queer characters so starkly and brightly on the page and especially pleasing to read about Luca, who is highly relatable. It’s not often that I find guys in books to relate to, so when I do and they’re written so well… well, it’s nice, okay.
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❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ Minor, minor spoiler (so don’t finish the sentence if you haven’t read or mind spoilers!), but I wish that it hadn’t been the character who is very open with sex and sleeping casually around that got killed. It made it better that, in no way, was she killed because of her openness or was she made to seem promiscuous at any point, buuuuut she still dies and it still sucks.

[Friday Flash Review] Daughter of Smoke and Bone, by Laini Taylor

❧ Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
❧ Author: Laini Taylor
❧ Publisher: Little, Brown Books For Young Readers
❧ Publication date: 27th September 2011
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦.5
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Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.
In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.
And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”, she speaks many languages – not all of them human – and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.
When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?
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daughter of smoke and bone❝In A Nutshell❞
✎ Angels and demons (chimera)–and ne’er the twain shall meet! (Except they do and they hate one another and they fight.) A big, very old war between angels and demons that is about to get far worse and drag old wounds and memories to the surface.
✎ A blue-haired girl who has hamsas on her hands and trades in wishes and works for a monster in a shop. She draws monsters in her sketchbooks and speaks more languages than she should. She has a sense that there’s a secret within her, only she’s not sure she ever wants to know.
✎ The supply of wishes that the monster peddles is running dangerously low–a valued and valuable currency–and its up to the blue-haired Karou to do something about the dwindling supply. But as she sets out on what appears to be a normal errand, she has no idea that she’d about to find out more than she ever expected about who she truly is. Or, perhaps, who she was.
✎ An angel who once loved a chimera and who still loves her even after she was executed by her own people for their love.
✎ Diverse 🚫 (unfortunately, nope)
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❝What I loved❞
✎ The chimera and their differences; so many different races/species of chimera, some more monstrous than others.
✎ Wishes as currency and with different “value” and potency: not all wishes are equal or cost the same amount. Some are tiny wishes that cost practically nothing, whilst others are as valuable as gold or silver and are far harder to spend.
✎ The setting, the world, the everything. Taylor’s writing is perfect and poetic and wonderful. The audiobooks were beautifully narrated, too, which was a bonus.
✎ Zuzana!!
✎ Prague, Poison Kitchen, and Zuzana!
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❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ No diversity. Boo.

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❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: Strange The Dreamer, also by Laini Taylor, or The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater. Taylor’s latest duology, of which Strange The Dreamer is the first, is as magical as the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, telling the story of a librarian and the leftover children of the gods. The Raven Cycle combines the same sometimes-whimsical strangeness with a story that has been taking place for centuries, with the search for the tomb of a dead Welsh king.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks, by Jason Arnopp

❧ Title: The Last Days of Jack Sparks
❧ Author: Jason Arnopp
❧ Publisher: Orbit
❧ Publication date: 3rd March 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days. In 2014, Jack Sparks – the controversial pop culture journalist – died in mysterious circumstances. To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone. It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy. Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed – until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack’s final hours

jack sparks❝In A Nutshell❞

✎ Jack Sparks is an asshole who is also a former journalist, who started writing books. Jack Sparks On The Supernatural is the book we’re reading, with (more or less insightful/biased/self-serving asshattery) frequent annotations by his brother, Alistar Sparks, and the occasional piece of additional material from additional sources. Since Jack always wrote his books as he was researching them, that’s why we have a more-or-less finished version of Jack Sparks On The Supernatural.

✎ Jack Sparks does not believe in the supernatural–and he’s about to prove that it’s all one big lie. That’s what this book is: Jack Sparks globetrotting to wave a big flag for Science and tell the world what’s what. Or, at least that’s what he thinks he’s going to do. Instead, Jack finds himself in the middle of the twisted game of a dark entity that wants to teach him a lesson, after Jack inflicts the greatest insult of all during an exorcism: he laughs.

✎ We read through a detailed account of the truth of what happened to Jack Sparks, and the book is literally written as the book Jack himself would have/did written/write. It works really well. Additionally, the audiobook is very effective because of this, especially with the first-person recounting of events.

✎ Diverse 🚫 (unfortunately not: the suggestion of a bi/lesbian character as a throwaway line half used for (I’m assuming??) comedic purposes, however ambiguous, doesn’t count; additionally, seeking out a medium in Hong Kong, who is then white with an Asian sidekick, isn’t really fab)

❝What I loved, aka Jack Sparks is an asshole❞

✎ This is a fact straight off the bat. But the thing is, he’s an entertaining asshole and he writes a pretty good book. But more than that, he’s the kind of asshole that was made and not born. I won’t go in to too much detail, since some of it is vaguely spoilery for later on in the book, but the fact remains: Jack’s a little bit complicated. He covers it all up beneath layers of self-confidence and bravado (fake it until you make it, that was the Jack Sparks’ motto) until there’s not much left of whoever he was before. And since the drugs… Well, he’s probably more of an asshole than he’s ever been before. I picked this book up after attending a panel at NineWorlds Geekfest 2016 and liked the sound of the book, and also thought Jason Arnopp was pretty entertaining and did a good job of selling Jack Sparks to me–and the convention panel sales pitch (so to speak) did not disappoint.

✎ This book feels like it’s written by a guy who is saying, “Hey, guys (to the reader), we know there’s a bit more to the supernatural than just black or white, right? Get a load of this guy–get a load of Jack Sparks. What an idiot. Guy’s a fool right? Let me show you how much of a fool.” The Last Days of Jack Sparks is the “found footage” equivalent of a book, with Jack having written the whole story down, even through (or especially, through) the really, really unbelievable parts of what happens to him, in his, aforementioned, last days. If you buy into to supernatural (I do: bite me) or if you’re even just an intermediate in horror, you’ll recognise all the mistakes Jack makes, even before he makes them, and you’ll see the freaky bits coming a mile away. There’s a sense of foreboding when following Jack around on the writing of his latest (and last) book and it goes deeper than just us knowing that he’s going to shuffle off this mortal coil; it’s almost as though we, the reader, are experiencing something a little bit meta, already knowing how things are going to go, whilst simultaneously wondering how we’re going to get there.

✎ But there’s more to this book than just an asshole amateur ghost-hunter trying to prove that ghosts, in fact, don’t exist. Jack has a lot of issues, and so many of them lead him to this place, right here, pissing off the big evil guy himself and ending up dead. His brother, Alistair, is a first-rate jackass (don’t be fooled by his calm, rational and sometimes over-saccharine footnotes–the guy’s a jerk) and Jack’s childhood was an elongated episode of Dad Left Because Of You and You Don’t Matter. Up grows Jack, issues in tow like a subscription to Vogue and with a desperation to make everything further in his life about him, him, him–about Jack, Jack, Jack. In a sad way, he gets exactly what he wants.

✎ Don’t get me wrong–Jack is an asshole. He’s that me, me, me kind of guy who is casually sexist and assumes he deserves all the space in a room–in a building. Why not the world? He is entirely a product of being ignored as a child and damn, if he ever lets that happen again: Jack Sparks is what he is and he thinks he’s happy with that. And perhaps he is, until Jack Sparks On Drugs and everything started to unravel. And maybe he could have even kept himself together, if not for what came next–if he’d not run away from everything and hidden himself down some dark rabbit hole under the pretence of writing another book.

✎ By the time he gets to even thinking of Jack Sparks On The Supernatual, the deal is already done and Jack is bound for complete failure. It’s almost as if it was inevitable, really. Maybe it was.

❝What I didn’t love❞

✎ Not a lick of diversity. Boo.

✎ White medium in Hong Kong with a Chinese sidekick dealing with a haunting. The other way around would have been more authentic and inclusive. Chinese combat sorcerer and a white sidekick, or, better still, two Chinese ladies to kick some ghost ass.

✎ Awkward dialogue scene between two female characters, with one obviously having asked the other if she’d be interesting in sexy time (jet lag makes her horny) and the other girl being a little confused by the question before saying she hasn’t and sounding perplexed by the question. It honestly felt a bit weird and so either should have been cut altogether, or handled in not so ham-fisted fashion. Since it only lasts literally two or three lines it did not need to be there.

❝If you liked this…❞
… you might like: the upcoming Jack Sparks movie? (Cop-out rec because I don’t read much horror and have no idea what else to suggest!)

Shattered Minds, by Laura Lam [Pacifica #2]

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❧ Title: Shattered Minds (Pacifica #2)
❧ Author: Laura Lam
❧ Publisher: Pan MacMillan/Tor UK
❧ Publication date: 15th June 2017
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
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She can uncover the truth, if she defeats her demons
Ex-neuroscientist Carina struggles with a drug problem, her conscience, and urges to kill. She satisfies her cravings in dreams, fuelled by the addictive drug ‘Zeal’. Now she’s heading for self-destruction – until she has a vision of a dead girl.
Sudice Inc. damaged Carina when she worked on their sinister brain-mapping project, causing her violent compulsions. And this girl was a similar experiment. When Carina realizes the vision was planted by her old colleague Mark, desperate for help to expose the company, she knows he’s probably dead. Her only hope is to unmask her nemesis – or she’s next.
To unlock the secrets Mark hid in her mind, she’ll need a group of specialist hackers. Dax is one of them, a doctor who can help Carina fight her addictions. If she holds on to her humanity, they might even have a future together. But first she must destroy her adversary – before it changes us and our society, forever.
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❝In A Nutshell❞
shattered minds✎ A female Dexter makes imaginary kills in a virtual world in order to quell the urges that tell her to spill blood outside of the Zealscapes and her dreams, whilst trying to both lose herself in a drug addiction and rewrite the code to take back control of her brain after she was programmed against her will and her life fell apart.
✎ A group of cyber hackers who are trying to bring down a corrupt corporation without getting caught or killed in the process.
✎ Brain-hacking scary funtimes and corrupt, evil scientists.

✎ Diverse ☒ (race, gender, queerness – not only there on the page with the main cast and surrounding, but literally normalised all over the page and everywhere)

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❝What I loved❞
✎ One of the things I love best about Lam’s Pacifica books is the technology. Sometimes sci-fi writers get stuck in our own century without thinking far enough or deep enough and the tech is completely wrong–it’s not been pushed far enough. Our tech is already pretty advanced; our sci-fi tech has to push that whilst still being something lived every day by the characters and cast and not tech that is solely relevant to the plot. Lam does this in her sleep and the effect is a world you can see and imagine existing in.
✎ Every character has a well-developed personality that shines through, even when Carina is involved. Someone like Carina could so easily have become the only character on the page, whilst those around her faded into the background. This absolutely does not happen. The Trust are richly-developed, diverse and readable. Carina’s changing relationship with them is expertly-rendered and not once does Lam bend Carina in one way or another to make her interactions with her companions less awkward and more “sociable”.
✎ Everything? Absolutely everything, from the diverse rep to the awkward-but-wonderful romance that builds throughout the book. If possible, I loved this book even more than False Hearts and that’s saying a lot. The writing is compelling, aided by the choice of narrative voice, and Shattered Minds is just impossible to put down. There are a thousand stories that could take place in Pacifica and I want to read them all. There’s so much potential in this setting and Lam has built a world in which she could spend her whole life exploring and still find a new story to tell, some new and terrifying technology or concept to twist and mess with. So far, each Pacifica book feels like a single episode to form part of an overarching saga, where some threads might weave and cross and tangle, but every story exists on its own page.
✎ I don’t read that much sci-fi–but it’s not for lack of trying/wanting to. I just find it very difficult to connect to a lot of sci-fi that I come across. If it’s YA it’s dystopia (which isn’t my thing) and if it’s regular SFF it usually feels like it’s trying to be Grimdark In Space (again, not my thing). Aside from that, sci-fi usually just seems to lack any of the things I look for in a book: relatable characters, diverse characters, character-driven plot. The Pacifica books are thrillers-dressed-as-scifi (or scifi-dressed-as-thrillers – whichever way you roll) and even in spite of how the plot is the driving force, they appear character driven.
✎ The prose of Shattered Minds was exciting and very fitting. It was my first outing with this tense of narrative–and it worked perfectly. It’s hard to imagine the book having been written any other way, fitting the book so easily and well that, even if I was a little surprised by it at first, since it read very differently to False Hearts, I’m excited to see if any further books in the Pacifica series will be similar. Shattered Minds is a clever and slick-as-hell novel that is every bit as thrilling as its predecessor.
✎ There was absolutely nothing to slow this book down; the pacing was on point, the characters were alive on the page and even the plot falls so close to something that could be in our own futures that we really feel the stakes.
✎ All in all, Shattered Minds is an absolutely stellar installment of the Pacific series, effortlessly blending sci-fi with thriller to deliver an unstoppable story that is every bit as gripping as it is awesome as hell (who doesn’t want to root for hackers against the cold-ass, evil scientists and the corporation they embody?). Absolutely one of my favourite books this year so far. Lam needs to write more of these books.

[Friday Flash Review] The Abyss Surrounds Us, by Emily Skrutskie

Untitled-1❧ Title: The Abyss Surrounds Us
❧ Author: Emily Skrutskie
❧ Publisher: Flux
❧ Publication date: February 8th 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦✦✦
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Cas has fought pirates her entire life. But can she survive living among them?

For Cassandra Leung, bossing around sea monsters is just the family business. She’s been a Reckoner trainer-in-training ever since she could walk, raising the genetically-engineered beasts to defend ships as they cross the pirate-infested NeoPacific. But when the pirate queen Santa Elena swoops in on Cas’s first solo mission and snatches her from the bloodstained decks, Cas’s dream of being a full-time trainer seems dead in the water.

There’s no time to mourn. Waiting for her on the pirate ship is an unhatched Reckoner pup. Santa Elena wants to take back the seas with a monster of her own, and she needs a proper trainer to do it. She orders Cas to raise the pup, make sure he imprints on her ship, and, when the time comes, teach him to fight for the pirates. If Cas fails, her blood will be the next to paint the sea

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the abyss surrounds us❝In A Nutshell❞

 

✎ Pirates! Sea monsters trained to defend against pirate attacks, bred for purpose and trained hands-on by a single person they bond with. Cas is taken captive by a pirate queen and told to raise the Reckoner pup she somehow managed to steal, or die. Cas is forced to choose between loyalty and her life.

✎ Broken social/political system across oceans and floating cities where the pirates so very obviously aren’t just The Bad Guys else why would this book have been written come on.

✎ Diverse ☒ (biracial MC, sexuality, f/f romance – not #ownvoices afaik)

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❝What I loved❞

✎ The Reckoners are amazing. Everyone says “Pacific Rim” when you mention sea monsters, but I didn’t like Pacific Rim but so this was much better. The relationship between Cas and the Reckoner pup is intriguing and also pretty fun to read. This book is fun in the best sense of the word. It is exciting and I’d have happily read another hundred or so pages, so it was a little disappointing that it was so short (under 300 pages for the ppb ed).

✎ The careful way the potential romance is handled, in the possibly-problematic situation of Swift and Cas definitely not being equals on the ship and Cas, in fact, being a prisoner. It makes it fairly difficult for the two to have a clear and easy romance, but they do manage and even though a lot is held back on both sides, there’s still enough romance on the page for it to not feel entirely frustrating. The romance is hate-to-love, which can be a little “oh my god get on with it; pick one!” but the initial attraction here really shows that the eventual romance doesn’t just spring out of nowhere: what holds them back more than anything else is the odd power dynamic (captor/captive) and their own views of one another.

✎ The Reckoners. They are everything. But so is a Chinese American MC who is also queer. The cover is also so good.

✎ The fact that it’s pretty clear there’s much more to the world than the black-and-white version we see through Cas’ narrative and the suggestion that we’ll get to see more of this develop in the second part The Edge Of The Abyss.
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❝What I didn’t love❞

✎ Cas’ absolute loyalty at first and her determination to take the pill and end her life instead of being taken by the pirates just… it doesn’t work for me. I’m never really a fan of the theme of people putting things like keeping what amounts to trade secrets higher than their own lives, and, whilst I get that it’s how Cas has been raised, I like people to call out BS like that internally and realise how brainwashing it is. Eh, maybe I just don’t like authority in situations like this, so the whole “if you’re captured, you must sacrifice yourself!” my first reaction is “why?” followed by “hell, no”. Maybe it comes from me being the kind of person to question absolutely everything ever, ever, ever who knows.

✎ Not really something I didn’t like, but I wish, wish, wish this book had been longer because I enjoyed it so much and wanted more.

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❝If you liked this…❞

…then you might also like: Zenn Scarlet, by Christian Schoon, which is kind of similar-ish with the theme of the “monsters” and a girl who’s really good at what she does. The sequel Under Nameless Stars is not recommended as highly, however, since it honestly bored me rigid and was so much worse than the first book I didn’t even buy it after reading and reviewing the ARC. But! Zenn Scarlett can definitely be enjoyed as a standalone, so go ahead!

[Friday Flash Review] The Blazing Star, by Imani Josey

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❧ Title: The Blazing Star
❧ Author: Imani Josey
❧ Publisher: Wise Ink
❧ Publication date: 6th December 2016
❧ Rating: ✦✦✦.5  (3.5)
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Sixteen-year-old Portia White is used to being overlooked—after all, her twin sister Alex is a literal genius.

But when Portia holds an Egyptian scarab beetle during history class, she takes center stage in a way she never expected: she faints. Upon waking, she is stronger, faster, and braver than before. And when she accidentally touches the scarab again?

She wakes up in ancient Egypt—her sister and an unwitting freshman in tow.

Great.

Mysterious and beautiful, Egypt is more than they could have ever imagined from their days in the classroom. History comes alive as the three teens realize that getting back to the present will be the most difficult thing they’ve ever done. Stalked by vicious monsters called Scorpions, every step in the right direction means a step closer to danger.

As Portia and the girls discover that they’re linked to the past by more than just chance, they have to decide what it truly means to be yourself, to love your sister, and to find your way home.

blazing star❝In A Nutshell❞

 

✎ Time-travel back to Ancient Egypt with magical powers and twins, one of which is very selfish (she is!) and the other constantly pressured into “twinning”. Though the tables are a little flipped/evened out when they are both sent back in time and Portia discovers she has magic. Basically the less “special” twin is cast into the spotlight where she gets to discover more about herself.
✎ Black teenage girls in Ancient Egypt, generally being pretty awesome.
✎ Diverse ☒ (race #ownvoices)
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❝What I loved❞
✎ The setting! Ancient Egypt is one of those settings that is woefully underused, and often when it is visited, it’s usually in movies and ends up being pretty terrible.
✎ The characters. Well, Portia and Selene were my favourites. Seeing Portia claim her own identity and strike out for who she wants to be was one of the best parts of the book. She needs that independence from the twinning and through the events of the book, she begins to realise the courage to go it solo when she wants to.
✎ The plot was engaging and full of intrigue that kept me turning the page. It was fast-paced (for the most part–more on this below) and fun.
✎ Three black girls taking absolute centre stage and owning it and a cast full of women.
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❝What I didn’t love❞
✎ The pacing was great, and then slow and saggy, then great, and then slow and saggy again. There seemed to be whole swathes of the book where nothing happened, then everything happened at once. There was no urgency overall and it made the book less exciting to read than it first started.
✎ The old theme of person gets taken back in time (to Ancient Egypt of all places!) and still keeps up the insistence that there’s some kind of “misunderstanding” or prank going on, instead of actually accepting the rational explanation of, when it looks like you’re in Ancient Egypt, maaaaybe you’re in Ancient Egypt! It didn’t last that long, but long enough to be a little irritating and unrealistic. It felt like a series of scenes from a cliché movie which didn’t work for me.
✎ We’re in Ancient Egypt, but… we could honestly be anywhere else in the world, because I didn’t really feel that we were in Ancient Egypt at all. There seemed to be no descriptions, no depth to the setting. Just costume and occasional set-dressing. I feel that with the short length of the book, we could have really been invited to see more of the setting, especially as that’s what I was looking forward to the most.
✎ The potential love interest/relationship was just… it felt tacked on because, oh, look, gotta have that romance! It didn’t work for me. Not every story needs a romance and this was definitely one of those.
✎ I was inexplicably irked by the constant use of “the freshman” instead of Selene’s name. You don’t just go around referring to someone as the freshman when you know their name. It stuck out in the narrative and was just irritating as heck. You’d say the lieutenant” or “the captain” or even “the priest” etc, but not “the sophomore” or “the freshman” every other word when talking about the character. It happened a lot (or seemed to) which is what made it noteworthy for me. I think it was most annoying because it felt as though a strange distance was being put between Selene and Portia, when that wasn’t expressed in the story itself, so it stood out even more. I mean, it’s a tiny thing, but hey ho.
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❝If you liked this…❞
…then you might also like: Heidi Heilig’s The Girl From Everywhere and The Ship Beyond Time. More historical time-travel with great diverse characters, lots of myth and history and so much heart.