"What she needs are stories. Stories are a way to preserve one's self. To be remembered. And to forget. Stories come in so many forms: in charcoal, and in song, in paintings, poems, films. And books. Books, she has found, are a way to live a thousand lives—or to find strength in a very long one.” The invisibile life of Addie LaRue
Thank you so much, NetGalley, Avon and Harper Voyager and Harper Voyager, for the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated reads this year in exchange of an honest review.
TW: abuse, peadophilia, violence, emotional manipulation, gaslightining, cannibalism, bulimia, self-harm, PTSD, gore and body horror
Marlinchen and her two sisters live with their wizard father in a city changing from magic to industry and they are the last true witches of Oblya, seen as little more as a tourist trap, with their remedies and charms. Marlinchen spends her days with her clients, but, mostly, taking care of her xenophobic and cruel father, cursed by a witch with an unquenchable appetite. Sequestered by their tyrannical father from the outside world, Undine and Rose manage to rebel, sneaking out to enjoy the city’s amenities, theater and so on and when Marlinchen joins them everything changes when she meets a dancer that captures her heart. As she keeps sneaking away, her father’s rage keeps growing and so a mysterious threat to the city, when people are found murdered and missing organs. Marlinchen finds herself battling between her loyalty to her father and her desire to discover her love and identity out her prison house.
Juniper & Thorn is a gothic retelling of The Juniper Tree, set in another time and place, but always within the world created of The wolf and the Woodsman. It’s a very dark and gruesome story and the themes explored are dealt with care and sensitivity by the author. Juniper & Thorn is a brilliant, eerie and intense standalone. The story is narrated in first person by Marlinchen, set in a claustrophic and tight setting and it explores traumas, abuse and violence and their consequences, and, through magic and fairytales, examines nationalism. Through Marlinchen’s voice the reader is captured right away and thrust into the story, following Marlinchen and her sister, dealing with their tyrannical and cruel father, with clients and mysteries and their deep desires to get away and to be free. The story setting is, mostly, the family manor and its garden, claustrophobic and restricted, with its monsters and peculiarities, but known and it violently contrast with the outside world, both coveted, but unknown and scary. This contrast is replayed by Marlinchen with her routines, taking care of her father, the house, the food and so on and by her new desire to see the world, to know Sevas, to be a bit like her sisters, more conscious of the outside world and its dangers.
Marlinchen is a very peculiar narrator, a truly unreliable one. Since the readers get know the story through her, it’s through her thoughts and actions they start to question themselves and to try to understand what is exactly happening. Marlinchen is different from her older sisters. She’s more quiet and introvert, more, at least apparently, scared and SEEMS more passive, if she’s seen in contrast with Undine’s energy and spite and Rose’ determination and calm, but she’s a very complex character. She has always had little power in her life and lived in fear and almost as a servant, taking care of her father and house, bending and hiding her own desires, or, almost refusing to having and beliving in them. When she gets out of the house and meets Sevas, when her father’s rage worsens, Marlinchen starts to see how her life could be and her growth is so impressive and moving to read. Marlinchen is a victim and she’s been through horrible things, narrated in intense and heartwrenching moments, letting the readers know what happened and her reactions, and she deals with her traumas and abuses in her own way, hiding from them, being angry and upset, reacting in certain ways. The author did an outstanding job in describing her and her own way to survive and giving us this brilliant and nuanced portrait of a victim and an empowering heroine, in a feminist retelling of The Juniper Tree. I loved reading this book, mostly thanks to Marlinchen’s voice and characterization and her growth, curiosity and desires are truly magnificent.
Ava Reid did a wonderful job not only with the setting, tight and claustrophobic, written in such a skillful way I felt prisoner too, but also with the characterization, from the main character to the side ones and I truly enjoyed how the author dealt with themes like traumas and abuse in different character in various way, depicting their being victims and their reactions and way of surviving, from Marlinchen, to Sevas, Undine and Rose, each of them abused and kept prisoners in their own way. Nationalism, xenophobia, paedophilia and traumas are only some of the themes dealt in this book and Ava Reid did a magnificent job writing about them.
Juniper & Thorn balances romance and horror, magic and modernity, fairytales and reality in a very compelling way, capturing the readers’ heart since the beginning, using a writing style evocative and lush, skillfully timed plot twists and revelations and complex and thrilling characters.
Benji is a sixteen year old trans boy, on the run from the cult that raised him, a religious extremist sect that unleashed Armageddon and decimated the world’s population and infected him with a bioweapon. Desperate to find a place where they can’t find, hurt and use him. Benji is rescued by a group of teens from the local Acheson LGBTQ+ Center, known as the ALC. Its leader is Nick, gorgeous and autistic and he knows Benji’s darkest’s secret, that the bioweapon is turning him into a deadly monster. Rescued and sheltered, Benji decides to learn how to control the monster and use its power to defend his new family. Even if that means confronting the cult’s hate and power and escaping from it alive and free.
Hell followed with us is a magnificent and furious queer debut, about embracing your monster and fighting back against your oppressors, to be alive and free. The story is set in a post-apocalyptic world, with destroyed cities, dead and/or mutated bodies, where the survivors are fighting to live, eat and be safe from the monsters, humans or not. Benji was raised by a fundamentalist cult, struggling with their hate and ideas, trying to get free and to live as a boy, when everyone in the cult wants him to be their savior girl, battling transphobia, deadnaming and violence from abusive parent and partner. When he’s rescued by the ALC, a ragtag group of queer teens, with different ideas, but who built a safe place for them, Benji starts to see another world, a chance to be himself and to find his own home, place and love.
The ALC is strongly opposed to the cult’s ideas and violence and there Benji starts to make friends, to find a new family and a place to survive and he will be willing to do anything to keep them all safe, even getting back to the lion’s den and destroy it from within. The worldbuilding created by the author is eerie and scary, filled with violence and surviving, monsters and mutations, virus and religious fanatism and religion used and abused to justify genocide and bigotry. the writing style, the prose is so vivid I could imagine everything so clearly and I absolutely loved how immersive and evocative the story was.
Benjii is a great main character, struggling with victim self-blaming, religious brainwashing and wanting to be free and himself. He’s stubborn, brilliant and filled with justified anger and the desire to destroy those who hurt and still threaten him. I loved his relationship with Nick and how they slowly start to understand, respect, protect and love one other in a very messy and violent situation. I’ve also loved the disability rep and how wonderfully written was Nick’s character. The extremism, the constant use of religion to justify hate and violence is strongly opposed by the ALC and by these wonderful queer kids, fighting back and resisting a world bent on destroying them, by loving and taking care of one other. The horror, grief, rage and hate are mixed with hope, found family and love in this awesome dystopian story.
The author wrote a book full of gore, fire and justified anger, about monsters who decide to fight back for themselves and their loved ones. A story about embracing yourself and the monster within and fighting against your oppressors, finding your own home and family.
Hell followed with us represent a cruel world and the amazing queer teens who fight to survive.
Set in a planet-sized sexist and matriarchal city, where magic and technology intertwined, Koré is a male courtesan and his quest for vengeance against his aristocratic father, who hurt and abandoned as a child, draws him into a complex plot of political schemes, necromancers, dragons and violence, in a war that could destroy everything and everyone Koré holds dear. When by accident he’s imbued by a dying god’s power, Koré finds himself not only as a political player, but as someone to use and hurt, a product to take advantage of. But the corruption doesn’t stop to only a man, it runs deeper and deeper and Koré will have to trust himself and the woman and man he loves to save everything and everyone.
I loved reading Silk Fire, it was definitely one of my most anticipated reads in 2022 and it didn’t disappointed me at all. The story is told by Koré, a male courtesan, an intricated and well rounded character, determined to undermine his aristocratic father, avoiding his climb to success. He’s sought-after and, at the same time, used and abused, for his “brightness”, his essence, in a complex matriarchal society where men are used for procreation or as objects. It was really interesting reading about a matriarchal society in a fantasy book, where usually the society is patriarchal, and the author was able to underline the sexism and injustice in this system, through Koré’s POV. It’s disheartening reading how the men in this book are mistreated, abused and hurt, almost like the women in our modern society. Silk Fire can be seen almost as a sociopolitical commentary, showing, in fantasy world with a matriarchal society, not only the deep divide between rich and poor, but also that some people would go to any length to get what they want, usually power (essence, brightness in Silk Fire), disregarding others’ lives or pain.
One of the things I loved the most in Silk Fire is the worldbuilding, where magic and technology blends, where hovercrafts and dinosaurs coexist, where gods and dragons are real and not only tales. The reader is right away thrust into a unknown world, where the author created everything anew, from traditions to rules, from past histories and traumas, clothes, weapons, political games and strifes, animals, powers, gods, dates, ages and languages. At first it can be a bit disorienting and confusing, but slowly the reader is able to settle into this new world and to understand its rules, with Koré as companion. As a violent and cruel society where being “bright” grants power, having “essence” that can be share, hoard, heal and so much more, Koré climbs the social ladder and tries to protect himself and his loved ones as a brothel owner, in a world where backstabbing and betrayals are ordinary.
If the worldbuilding is magnificent, lush and rich, the plot is no less engaging and full of twists, surprises and discoveries. The political games, the backstabbing and endorsements, the districts and allies, everything was intriguing and it was interesting reading how Koré moves, or tries to, among them all, forging alliances, using people, letting being used, hurting, betraying and trying to get what he wants, meeting captivating characters, like Ria, Faziz, Akizeké, with their own agendas and secrets. I have to admit I was left breathless by the characterization. Koré is wonderful and complex character, hurt and abused all his life and the reader was able to understand his feelings and actions through chapters swinging from present to past and viceversa, underlining Koré’s past, traumas and abuses and how, at the present, he struggles to love and see himself as someone worthy of love and respect, without strings attached. Even with characters as Dzaro and Ria, who showed him love and protection, Koré has trouble to see himself as worthy and to see the truth in front of him. Koré often dissociated himself from what happened or is happening to him, struggling to call the abuse he’s experiencing with its own name and he’s convinced to have everything under control, even when he’s hurt.
Zabé Ellor did an outstanding job dealing with delicate and important themes, like abuse, rape, sexual assault, sexism and so much more with care and attention, involving the reader in the story and in Koré’s feelings and actions. During the book, as the reader slowly gets to know him, Koré struggles to let people in, convinced he’s unlovable and unworthy, almost basking himself in his revenge, bent and obsessed by his father and by what he lost. It was also interesting how, in the beginning, Koré sees his father’s defeat as his big achievement, like him losing could repair his losses and traumas, but slowly starts to see the big picture and learn to fight for the people he loves and to love himself first. Revenge, guilt, self-blame are deeply entrenched in Koré. Even when he meets Ria and Faziz and he starts to feel something for them, Koré fights against intrusive thoughts, past traumas and pain and he has to go through a painful, but necessary journey towards self love, respect and worth. If Koré stands out as main character in all his complexity, the others are no less and each of them is intricated and, let’s be honest, sometimes problematic, with their own agendas and, as Koré, they act out of duty, jealousy, bitterness, rage, guilt and selfishness. Faziz, Ria, Dzaro, are complex and intriguing characters and the reader is able to get to know them through Koré’s eyes and to understand their importance in his life.
I appreciated very much the polyamorous relationship in Silk Fire and how it was developed and written, without being weighed down by pettiness, jealousy and love triangles, but, instead, showing the deep love and respect Koré, Faziz and Ria feel for one other. Thanks to them, Koré starts a long and difficult journey of self love, starting to realize his abuse and trauma, to understand his worth and respect as his own person and not as what he can give to others. The relationship is well rounded and I also loved how they aren’t perfect, they make mistakes, they hurt one other out of fear, duty, selfishness, but, at the same time, they are willing to learn, to be better, to support, help and love one other.
The author wrote a brilliant and engaging story, with a captivating and intriguing worldbuilding, breathless plot twists, sweet and tender moments, heartwreching ones, but, mostly, an intense and amazing journey of self love and worth in Koré character. Three of my favourite quotes (taken from the earc, so they can be changed in the final draft) are:
“I carry so many cages within me. I’d grown used to them, until he pointed out the weight”.
“Love meant ripping out my own soul. But I’m sick of believing my abusers. I’m sick of thinking my own self wrong.”
“Love hasn’t blunted by edges. It’s casted me wicked sharp where it matters most.”
Overall, Silk Fire is one of my favourite books ever and I can’t wait to hold and hug a physical copy!
First of all a huge thank you to Jordon Greene for the amazing ARC and the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated books of 2022!
Skylar Gray is adopted, nonverbal and he feels most comfortable in skirts and dresses. His life wasn’t easy, he was bullied and abused, he doesn’t trust easily and he’s scared to be seen as defective, a burden, to be unable to find family and friends. Now, living with new parents, going in a new school and in a different state, Skylar is a bit more hopeful things will get better for him. His life and feelings are complicated when he meets Jacob, with his white hair and gorgeous eyes, who is as anxious and nervous as he is.
Jacob’s life isn’t easy, either, since he came out over the summer, receiving his homophobic father’s hate and disgust, struggling to live in his own family and trying to live his life as freely as possible, even though painting his nails and dyeing his hair mean getting grounded every time. When Skylar wearing skirts prompts his father to propose a sexist dress code, Jacob refuses to remain silent and decides to take a stand.
I LOVED reading Every word you never said. The story is absolutely fantastic, very sweet and with care and sensivity the author deals with many important themes, like homophobia, ableism, bullying, sexism, abuse and so much more. Told by two POVs, Skylar’s and Jacob’s, with wonderful drawings of the boys at the beginning of their chapters, it’s impossible not to be involved in this story, to love these characters, who are so realistic, relatable, brimming with feelings, so alive and complex. Skylar’s life wasn’t easy, he’s been through so much, he struggles to trust, to see himself as his new parents and new friends see him, to let himself go and trust he’s loved and cared for. His new friends, Imani and Seth are amazing, supportive and really brilliant. I loved reading their interactions, Imani’s loud voice and Seth’s quiet presence, their unconditional love and support. I also loved reading Skylar’s interactions with his new parents, who love him right away, supporting his decision to wear what he wants, to use makeup, to do whatever he’s comfortable with.
On the other side, Jacob is struggling with his coming out and the hate from his father, against his homophobic and sexist ideas, against his obsession for the church and the use of religion to support his ideas and hate speech. When he starts to feel something for the new student and when Skylar is threatened by the new dress code, Jacob is determined to take a stand and to fight for what is right.
I loved how the author talked about their relationship, between cute and sweet moments, sexual tension, romantic dates, but, also, doubts, anxiety problems, frustrations, it was really relatable and skillfully written. I also loved how the author addresses Skylar’s disability, how he, sometimes, struggles with it and with the difficulty of being understood through sign language, reading lips, or having to use his phone to communicate, but also with how, with Jacob, his friends and parents, Skylar uses other languages, the body’s, eyes’ expressions, movements and so on, to communicate. It was my first read with a nonverbal main character and I loved everything (mostly because I’m trying to learn sign language, so I was interested in that, too). I loved Skylar’s and Jacob’s relationship, how they help, support and love one other, between music and books, dates and friends.
I loved Jacob’s and Skylar’s friends, how they joke and are supportive, how they are willing to do the right things and support them. I loved how the author addresses important issues in this book and, through the new sexist dress code, how, even now, people struggle to understand that clothes, makeup and so on, have no gender, how is, basically, through and because of some culture that dresses or skirts are seen are feminine and associated to a certain sexual orientation, giving bullies their ammutions to attack and hurt people. This could open, and it should, a discussion about gender and clothes, but I think it’s better to finish my review, without writing a poem.
I loved Every Word You Never Said. The characterization is brilliant, the writing style was immersive and evocative, I loved reading about Skylar and Jacob, their struggles and ideas, their pains and traumas, but, also, their love and friendships and how they learn to fight to be themselves and to be together. I loved everything.
First of all, I wanted to thank the publisher and Edelweiss, for the chance to read and review this book in exchange of an honest review.
Dark Rise is the first book of the new epic fantasy series by C.S. Pacat and it was one of my most anticipated read in 2021. I loved reading Captive Prince and Fence and I was so happy when the publisher sent me the earc!
Once upon a time there was an ancient and magical world, but not its heroes are dead, the great battles between Light and Dark are forgotten and only the Stewards remember the ancient time, protecting their memories, keeping their vigil and swearing to protect humanity if the Dark King ever returns. In London, Will Kempen is sixteen years old, he’s on the run and he’s escaping the men who killed his mother, without knowing why and who are they, when an old servant finds him and tells him his destiny is to find the Stewards and fight beside them. Finding himself involved in a battle against Light and Dark, magic and power, with a peculiar ally in the almost stranger Violet, Will has to train and play the role of the Chosen One against villains, violence and death. In a complex world made of reborn heroes and villains, past and present intertwined, magic and pawns, Will and Violet are the main characters in a fight between light and darkness, for themselves, their world and future, between love and hate, destiny and reality.
I loved reading Dark Rise! The worldbuilding is fascinating and complex, set in the Victorian London mixing knights, magic, powers, loves, deaths, allies and enemies, in a battle between light and darkness, good and bad. The Hall, the Stewards, the magic…everything was so intriguing and captivating, the plot full of twists, characters and amazing descriptions it felt like I was there with them.
The story is told by Will and Violet’s POVs and they are wonderfully complex characters, in their intricacies, with their traumas, doubts, fears and desires. Both of them find themselves in a strange and ancient world, in a battle fought in the past and that still threatens their future and everything they love. Will and Violet find each other by chance, fitting right away allies and then as friends, helping and supporting each other in a beautiful relationship, supporting one other in their battles, intrigues and discoveries.
One thing I noticed is how every character fits the role in the epic fantasy. The Chosen one, the villain, the helper, the love, the interest, some right away, others struggling with it and I loved them all. Even though we just get few glimpses of James, his character is complex and intriguing and I loved how he and Will face each other, feeling attraction, desire and curiosity, in their roles and fight of light and darkness. At first I didn’t like how they fit their roles, because I was scared they would have been to stereotypical, but I was impressed by how wrong I was. Nothing is how it appears at first glance, nothing is fixed and the story and its characters are evolving, changing, twisting, with new secrets, plot twists and so many surprises I was left breahtless. Nothing is like it appears and I had so many theories, some good, some outlandish and the story is incredible, because it keeps me on my toes. The pacing is good and it feels like it’s the first book, since the author is laying down the beginning of the story, with the history and descriptions, so some part appears more slower than the others, but in the end the book is brilliant, captivating and I can’t wait to know more.
I totally recommend this book! It’s impossible not to love and cheer on Will and Violet, to be intrigued by James and their fight, to be fascinated by the ancient world and magic!
The author of The Gravity of Us crafts another heartfelt coming-of-age story about finding the people who become your home–perfect for fans of Becky Albertalli
Marty arrives in London with nothing but his oboe and some savings from his summer job, but he’s excited to start his new life–where he’s no longer the closeted, shy kid who slips under the radar and is free to explore his sexuality without his parents’ disapproval.
From the outside, Marty’s life looks like a perfect fantasy: in the span of a few weeks, he’s made new friends, he’s getting closer with his first ever boyfriend, and he’s even traveling around Europe. But Marty knows he can’t keep up the facade. He hasn’t spoken to his parents since he arrived, he’s tearing through his meager savings, his homesickness and anxiety are getting worse and worse, and he hasn’t even come close to landing the job of his dreams. Will Marty be able to find a place that feels like home?
Thank you so much, Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books and Bloomsbury YA, for the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated reads of 2021.
Marty is seventeen, when he decides to leave his own home in Kentucky, where he feels unwelcomed and trapped as a gay young man and to move to London. With his meager savings, his oboe and the support of his cousin Shane, Marty is determined to live his life, not longer closeted, exploring his sexuality, without his parents’ disapproval, making new friends and finding new opportunities. But even though in a few weeks he’s made new friends, travelled around Europe and, maybe, he’s also gotten his first boyfriend, he hasn’t spoken with his parents in a long time, his anxiety and homesickness are becoming worse and worse and he doesn’t know how to financially support himself, without managing to find a job, his dream job. Will Marty be able to find his own home?
As far as you’ll take me is the kind of book that makes you cry, laugh and clap your hands at the same time. It’s a wonderful story about finding your own home and family, your own people, becoming stronger and more confident, an intense coming-of-age story, with a main character so relatable it’s impossible not to love him. There are so many things I loved about this book. The writing style is brilliant and it made me feel so connected with Marty, the characterization is so good and the way Phil Stamper wrote the story it felt like I was there with them.
The author dealt skillfully with important themes such anxiety, panic attacks, eating disorder (the beginning of one), abusive relationships and the strength in realizing the truth about them and self-preservating oneself. With sensivity and care, Phil Stamper talks difficult relationships, between sibling, parents and son, friends and boyfriends, in a very realistic way, with their fights and misunderstanding, but also withthe hope of changing something for the better. This is the kind of book that, in the end, leaves you drained, but in a very good way.
The story is divided in two, swinging between Marty during this summer in London and a diary assignment he had to do for his school, set in the last summer. Chapters after chapters the reader is able to know what happened last summer, what pushed Marty to lie to this parents and move to London, what gave him the last push and strength and to follow Marty in his time in London, between music, art and new friends.
Marty is an incredible main character and I felt so connected with him, with his anxiety, fears and attacks and his mental health. He’s strong, stubborn and it was amazing reading how much he changed and grew and realized things during this book. I loved seeing him pushing himself, finding new friends, trying new things, being more confident and sure of himself and his talent. I followed him falling, making mistakes, realizing them, growing up and I’m so incredibly proud of him.
The characterization is brilliant. Not only the main character is relatable and so lifelike, but all the characters, main and side ones, are amazingly written and their relationships so true and realistic, with their feelings of envy, jealousy, resentment, love, affection and so on. Exactly what you would find in a group of teenagers. I really enjoyed reading the parts about music and art and their importance. Above all I loved reading about the relationships and their complexities, like Marty’s bond with Shane, who is a wonderful and supportive cousin, his friendship with Sophie, Dani and the others. Marty is surrounded by great friends, with their own intricacies and problems, tensions, hopes and dreams. I absolutely love Shane and his relationship with Marty, he’s such an amazing character.
The trope of found family is one of my favourite ever. I love the idea of finding your own people and home, a place where you can be accepted and loved, even though your biological family doesn’t get you. I loved the way Marty was able to find his place and people, his home and the courage and strength of cutting away those who were hurting him.. It takes great strength and the way the author wrote this part was heartwrenching and so true.
I was really impressed by this book and I saw myself so much in this story, about abusive friendship, the struggle with anxiety and his lists and being able to function every day and the importance of support, help and healing.
I totally recommend this book to…basically everyone! It’s such a wonderful and intense story, with friendships, love, found family, the courage of being oneself and to find your own home and people. It filled me with so much warmth and joy!
The author was so amazing to create a blogger interview form, so here’s my Q&A!!!!
Where did you get the inspiration for As far as you’ll take me?
I took a lot of inspiration from my own life while writing As Far As You’ll Take Me, which is why it’s such a personal story to me. As a queer teen, I always felt like I needed to escape my conservative rural village, and I was able to do that in college, studying music, falling into a group of wonderful and accepting friends who became family.
But even though I could finally be myself for the first time, I really had to come to terms with my anxiety, I fell in love with the wrong guys, and I struggled with a ton of body image issues. I lived in London for a while, which is what inspired the setting. So, putting all of that together, I was able to fictionalize a lot of my own experiences and bring them into the dazzling environment in London and across various European travels.
What advices would you give to aspirant writers?
I’d say my main advice is to keep trying. Focus more on the process of writing than on one specific book. The market’s always moving, and things are so subjective. I know every time I write a book, I get the feeling that that is my best work. But as soon as I put my soul into another piece, I realize it’s not true. So keep improving your craft. Keep trying out new stories. Write what comes naturally to you, even write what doesn’t. Try a bit of everything, really.
I received 92 total rejections from agents between two books, and 84 rejections from editors between three books. (And I’ll likely have plenty more rejections in my future!) This industry is not kind to its artists—even the nicest rejections hurt, bad. But I think you grow so much with each rejection and with each new story, that as long as you keep trying, one day it will turn around. Just know that for every supposed “overnight success” there’s usually years of frustration leading up to it that we never hear much about. Know you’re not alone, and stick with your writer friends—they’ll get you through the worst of it!
Could you tell me five random things about you?
Whew, I’m always bad at this, but let’s try: 1) I’m a classical pianist and studied music in college, 2) After I graduated from college, I moved into my friend’s walk-in closet in D.C. while trying to find my first job, 3) I used to have a blue truck named “Rio”—this is a character name in As Far As You’ll Take Me, but there’s no relation other than that I like the name, 4) I don’t collect cassettes, like Cal does in The Gravity of Us, but I do collect a lot of retro stuff: old magazines, retro video game systems, and records. I really got to explore my own feelings about nostalgia while writing that book, and 5) I put Frank’s Red Hot sauce on pretty much everything.
Phil Stamper grew up in a rural village near Dayton, Ohio. While it could be seen as a boring lifestyle to some, he kept himself entertained through playing the piano and writing stories that stretched his imagination. He has a B.A. in Music from the University of Dayton and an M.A. in Publishing with Creative Writing from Kingston University. And, unsurprisingly, a lot of student debt.
When he first left his home state, he landed in Washington, DC with no job prospects, $800 in graduation money, and the promise of a walk-in closet to live in. Not long after—and he’s not totally sure how—he was jumping headfirst into a career in non-profit PR and sleeping in a real bed. He loved writing for a living, even if he was writing press releases and news stories… and hundreds of emails to annoyed journalists. But after a while, the dry writing started to get to him, so he thought he’d finally work on that book he always wanted to write…
Years later, with a new degree and two new cities under his belt, he works in publishing development for a major book publisher in New York City. He lives in Brooklyn with his husband and their dog. That book he always wanted to write never sold, and neither did the second or third. But at the intersection of hard work, talent, and luck, his bestselling debut novel, The Gravity of Us, was first published by Bloomsbury YA in February 2020. His sophomore novel, As Far As You’ll Take Me, comes out February 2021.
Ancillary Justice meets Red, White & Royal Blue in Everina Maxwell’s exciting debut.
While the Iskat Empire has long dominated the system through treaties and political alliances, several planets, including Thea, have begun to chafe under Iskat’s rule. When tragedy befalls Imperial Prince Taam, his Thean widower, Jainan, is rushed into an arranged marriage with Taam’s cousin, the disreputable Kiem, in a bid to keep the rising hostilities between the two worlds under control.
But when it comes to light that Prince Taam’s death may not have been an accident, and that Jainan himself may be a suspect, the unlikely pair must overcome their misgivings and learn to trust one another as they navigate the perils of the Iskat court, try to solve a murder, and prevent an interplanetary war… all while dealing with their growing feelings for each other.
Thank you so much, NetGalley, Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Tor Books, for the chance to read and review one of my most anticipated 2021 releases!
Prince Kiem is the Emperor’s least favourite grandchild, boisterous, cheeky, known for his attitude and adventures and his life is turned upside down when it’s decided he will marry Count Jainan, the recent widower of another royal prince and to assure the empire’s bonds with its vassals planet. But Jainan’s last partner’s death wasn’t an accident and somenthing is very wrong with a military operation. Between a war threatening the empire, a treaty hanging in the balance, lies, omissions and their own feelings and marriage at stake, Jainan and Kiem will have to prove their union and save everything from a possible conspiracy.
I LOVED reading Winter’s Orbit! Everina Maxwell’s romantic debut is absolutely fantastic. Sci-fi, so set in space, with a magnificent worldbuilding, space ships, mysterious powers and weapons, multiple planets with their own traditions and abilities, an arranged marriage between two very different characters, conspiracies, lies, lots of plot twists…everything is perfect! Really interesting is the choice of using ornaments and accessories to express or not the gender and the choice of not using binary in titles, but gender neutral ones, like the Emperor, who is Kiem’s grandmother. It was really refreshing, something I’ve never read before! Told by Kiem’s and Jainan’s POVs, while they navigate their new status as married couple, trying to know and understand each other, the story is intriguing and well written. The conspiracy is really interesting and I was really captivated, because I needed to know what was happening and happened. Most of all, I loved the characterization. Bel, Gairad, Audel, the Emperor…the side characters are really interesting, but Kiem and Jainan stand out in the story, with their building relationship, their marriage and bond.
Kiem and Jainan are amazing main characters, I really love them, even though sometimes I wish I could just yell at them because they struggled to talk about them and their feelings! They are very different from one other. Kiem is more cheerful, he’s able to get along with everyone and persuade even a rock, while Jainan is more quiet and reserved, but slowly they learn to know each other, to understand each other’s moods and feelings. It was really incredible reading how slowly they strengthen their bond, how they support, help and get to love one other, solving problems and saving everyone and everything. How they go from strangers, to cautious allies, to friends to lovers, to husbands! The slow burn, the trope of marriage couple, one bed and so on is great!
I recommend this story to those who are looking for an intriguing plot, two idiots in love, slow burn, arranged marriage, one bed and love in space!
OUT 2 FEBRUARY 2021! (Probably the January Illumicrate box book *fingers crossed*)
So, what are you waiting for? Preorder this book! You won’t regret it!
Everina Maxwell is the author of Winter’s Orbit, a queer romantic space opera about a diplomat who enters into an arranged marriage to save his planet.
She grew up in Sussex, UK, which has come a long way from the days of Cold Comfort Farm and now has things like running water and Brighton Pier. She was lucky enough to live near a library that stocked Lois McMaster Bujold, Anne McCaffrey and Terry Pratchett, so spent all her spare time devouring science fiction and doorstopper fantasy, with her family’s Georgette Heyer collection always a reliable friend when the library books ran out.
She first took part in NaNoWriMo in 2004 and continues to precariously balance writing, a day job, and watching Let’s Plays of video games she claims she doesn’t have time to play. She lives and works in Yorkshire.
HELLO AND WELCOME TO MY STOP FOR THE CAMELOT BETRAYAL BOOK TOUR!
A huge thanks to Tbrandbeyond tour for this chance!
The Camelot Betrayal (Camelot Rising #2) by Kiersten White
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Publishing Date: November 10, 2020
The second book in a new fantasy trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Kiersten White, exploring the nature of self, the inevitable cost of progress, and, of course, magic and romance and betrayal so epic Queen Guinevere remains the most famous queen who never lived.
EVERYTHING IS AS IT SHOULD BE IN CAMELOT: King Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence with Queen Guinevere at his side. Yet every night, dreams of darkness and unknowable power plague her.
Guinevere might have accepted her role, but she still cannot find a place for herself in all of it. The closer she gets to Brangien, pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight, and Arthur, everything to everyone and thus never quite enough for Guinevere–the more she realizes how empty she is. She has no sense of who she truly was before she was Guinevere. The more she tries to claim herself as queen, the more she wonders if Mordred was right: she doesn’t belong. She never will.
When a rescue goes awry and results in the death of something precious, a devastated Guinevere returns to Camelot to find the greatest threat yet has arrived. Not in the form of the Dark Queen or an invading army, but in the form of the real Guinevere’s younger sister. Is her deception at an end? And who is she really deceiving–Camelot, or herself?
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange of an honest review. Thank you so much, Random House Children’s and Delacorte Press, for the chance to read and review this book.
In Camelot king Arthur is expanding his kingdom’s influence and queen Guinevere is at his side, but even though she accepted this new role, Guinevere fights against the feeling of not belonging. Plagued by nightmares and lost memories, Guinevere isn’t able to find her place in Camelot, not with her friends, each of them occupied with their own problems and troubles: Brangien pining for her lost love Isolde, Lancelot, fighting to prove her worth as Queen’s knight and Arthur, with his kingdom to deal with and less time for her. When the younger sister of the real Guinevere comes to Camelot, Guinevere has to struggle with more and more deceptions.
The Camelot Betrayal is the second book in this new fantasy series and it explores magic and its consequences, romance, betrayals, memories and loss. Like the first installment, The Camelot Betrayal is full of plot twists, magic and questions, with an intense main character who is struggling to understand who she is, what memories are real, what really happened and is happening around her and Camelot. Hurt and betrayed by Mordred, fascinated and scared by him and by the Lady of the Lake, Guinevere tries to fit into a role made for someone else, wondering what and who she should be. Wife? Sister? Queen? Witch?
While Arthur is busy with politics and the Dark Queen, Guinevere has to deal with missing memories, intrigues, romances and more and more questions about everything. Her character is really complex and relatable in her wondering, in her trying to do the right thing, protecting her loved ones and her city. Interesting her thoughts about magic and its aftermath, about her own intricate feelings about Arthur and Mordred and Merlin. The Camelot Betrayal is full of strong female characters, both old and new, characters determined to protect, fight and save and do the right thing.
In a world mixing politics and magic, roles and romance, enemies and allies, The Camelot Betrayal is an intriguing sequel, full of plot twists, sweet and intense moments, magic, love and friendships.
Here there are my top 5 reason to read The Camelot betrayal.
Like in the first book, the magic used by Guinevere is peculiar and intriguing, made of knot, intricate knots, casting spells to protect her city and the people she loves. Her magic, her art is subtle, but intense and powerful and even though it costs her physically, Guinevere is ready to do anything to save and protect.
In a world of knights and people obsessed over king Arthur and his strength, women are the real protagonists. The Camelot betrayal is feminist, studded with women able to make their own choices, to fight, to love and protect, refusing to be in men’s shadows.
All the women in this book are fierce and determined, brave and stubborn, with their own plans and agency, their own strength and who refuse to stand still and wait for some man to save them.
I loved the presence, more prominent in this second book, of Brangien and Isolde and their love, so sweet and full of understanding and support.
Mordred is a very captivating, complex and deceptive character, his intentions unclear and his plans unknown to anyone.
Merlin. Like many other characters in this series, Merlin’s intentions are unclear and mysterious. It feels like his hands are everywhere, controlling and steering many characters’ fate, their opinions about him complex and not always positive.
Kiersten White is the New York Times bestselling and Bram Stoker award-winning author of the And I Darken trilogy, the Paranormalcy trilogy, The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein, Slayer, The Guinevere Deception, and many other novels. Kiersten lives with her family in sunny San Diego, California, where she perpetually lurks in the shadows.
Expected publication: October 6th 2020 by Tor Books
Thank you, thank you so much, Macmillan-Tor/Forge and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.
Victoria Schwab is one of my favourite author and this book is one of my most anticipated reads!
I remember you The invisible life of Addie La Rue is an unforgettable (sorry for the pun!) book! It’s everything I’ve never thought I needed in a story.
In 1714 young Adeline La Rue lives in Villon-Sur-Sarthe and she feels trapped in this small city, forced to be a wife, a mother, to live and die in the same place, like so many others like her. Desperate to escape a forced marriage, she makes a Faustian deal. She will live forever, but she’s cursed to be forgotten by everyone she meets. So starts her extraordinary life, than spanned through centuries, across music, art, wars, love, friendship and with the darkness, the devil, the god, as the only one who could remember.
Until, in 2014, after almost 300 years, she meets Henry in a bookstore in New York. And he remembers her. The invisibile life of Addie La Rue is phenomenal, intense and heartbreaking. The story swings between past and present, following Adeline becoming the cursed Addie from 1714 to 2014 and the present Addie and her life in 2014.
Through memories and flashbacks, through stories and people met, war seen, art inspired, the reader gets to know the stubborn, defiant and free Addie, the limits of her curse, her deal, her relationship with the god that cursed her, in a battle of wills, traps, deals and love and hate.
At the same time the reader knows Henry Strauss, his restlessness, his secrets, his being bottled lightning, his past and the uncertain future. Addie and Henry meet, they become friends, lovers, they connect, finding in one other exactly what are they looking for, love, friendship, being seen. Being remembered.
I felt really connected to Henry, because I could totally understand his fear of time, his restlessness, his uncertainty about what to do in life, what the future could and would bring. I won’t say anything more about this book, even though I wanted to ramble about every single page, because it’s the kind of book that is able to stay with you for so long.
I cried, I laughed, I marvelled reading about love and humanity and the messiness of being human, the need to have more time, to find reason in living, to find one’s place and be loved and happy with it. Wonderful, intense and heartbreaking.
Victoria Schwab did it again. This book is unforgettable.
There are so many amazing editions of this book! It will be in the next month Illumicrate box, Owlcrate does a special books and Forbidden Planet, Barnes and nobles and Waterstones have amazing editions, with extra, wonderful covers! Here’s the links:
An huge thank you to Edelweiss for the chance to read this amazing book. It is one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it didn’t disappointed me! It was unbelievably amazing.
Wesley Hudson is a comic book geek, he loves his job at the bookstore Once upon a page, chilling with his friends, above all with his best friend Nico, his secret crush. But articles about dating or online suggestions aren’t able to help him tell Nico the truth, too scared to lose his friendship with him and ruin everything. To top it off, the bookstore is threatened by a coffeeshop franchise that wants to buy it and his brother wants help organizing his wedding and his parents are pressuring him to choose what he wants to do in college. Wes is, so, forced to confront the reality, while trying to save his childhood heaven, the bookstore, navigating a strained relationship with his older brother and trying to conquer his crush’s heart.
I loved so many things about The Summer of Everything. I need to do a list.
The characterization is amazing. The story is told by Wes’s point of view and he’s such a relatable, complex and realistic character. His fears, his lists (I basically him, to be honest), his paranoias, his being uncertain about the future, what it means to be adult, what do to, everything was very realistic. I was really involved and able to identify in his feelings and thoughts. Wes is a wonderful comic book geek, I love his passions, his geekiness, his being so wonderfully complex, with his lists, his books and crush. He loves reading, he found in the bookstore a piece of heaven, a haven and when it threatened his world falls apart and he tries everything to save it, helped by his friend. Wes is burdened by the fear of the future, so relatable, because he doesn’t know what to do,what to choose in college and he feels pressured by his parents, above all his dad. He fears the changes and that’s so understandable.
Nico is an amazing and complex character, he’s funny, supportive, talented and his relationship with Wes is so pure, made of jokes, understanding, love, games, books. The way they get one other, how they help, support, understand and cuddle each other is beautiful. The way they act as boyfriends even before they are is so cute. There are so many fluffy and cute moments between them and I was constantly saying “AWWWWWWWW!” Nico is also burdened by his father’s death and his need to do something, to become a doctor to help people. He’s a loving friend and brother and an amazing skater. Seeing everything through Wes’s eyes it’s impossible not to love Nico too.
Ella is Wes’s other best friend and she’s a whirlwind, stubborn, boisterous, supportive. She also, as Wes, has complex and outiright difficult relationship with her parents, above all her mother, battling with her about her physical appereance, to be what she wants to be.
Besides Nico and Ella, Wes’s best friends, he’s surrounded by a group of miscellaneous characters. Cooper, boisterous, funny and obsessed with social media, Anna, described as a wood nymph, but with an amazing brain, Kyra with her energy and colorful sneakers, Zay with his friendship and music taste. I love their friendships, made of jokes, shared or not, discussions about music and foods, their bickering, their being so close to one other.
The rep in this book is absolutely fantastic. Wes is gay and biracial, Nico is Mexican-American and attracted to multiple gender, there’s a fat rep with Ella, Cooper is aroace, Anna is bisexual, Kyra is a Black lesbian, Manu is a queer Hawaiian and Lucas, a customer that bond with Wes and the others are non-binary.
The way the author deals with themes like responsiblity, being anxious and indecisive about one’s future, the uncertainty of the future itself is really realistic and relatable. Wes’s anxiety is absolutely understandable, above all if he compares himself to his friends and brother who know what to do.
His relationship with Leo, his older brother, is complex, strained because in time they grew apart from one other and now they are struggling to be again brothers. Wes has problems talking with his father and brother, but I love how this book is hopeful about reconnections and to try again to listen and understand one other.
The relationships in this books are sweet, cute and intense. Wes is surrounded by supportive, funny and amazing friends, he loves Leeann, his brother’s future bride and their connection is beautiful, full of understanding. Leeann is a strong character, ready to face the Hudson boys and to push them to talk and understand one other.
I loved the importance of books in The summer of everything, how books were and are for Wes an escape, a haven, a world where he belongs, how books can change someone’s life and how the bookstore was for Wes a piece of his childhood, a piece he wasn’t willing to let go, a constant in his changing life. Books and friends can change someone’s life.
I love the setting, in a bookstore, because I love books and I was really invested in this book. Wes is a captivating and realistic character and it was funny and heartbreaking seeing him pining after Nico, trying to confess his feelings for him, following unrealiable lists on Internet about dating.
The writing was really good and I could almost see Wes in the bookstore, admiring Nico skaterboarding, taking pictures of the sunset, smell the ocean’s salt, hear the music. It was really atmospheric and I love the way his characters jumped out of the book, because they were alive, relatable, Wes above all.
Wes and Nico relationship is wonderfully fluffy, made of jokes, games, food, understanding, love, pining and while reading this book I was constantly facepalming myself because they were two idiots too afraid to talk to one other, who clearly were pining for one other and love each other. The romance, the pining, the angst and the sweet and hopeful, heartwarming ending.
The summer of everything is a book about growing up, facing reality and at the same time, fighting to keep something from your past and childhood, some memories you will treasure forever. It’s about family, loss, friendship, adulthood, about adapting to changes and learning to move on and grow.