GLBTQ

The Gilded Wolves

The Gilded Wolves cover
Author: 
Chokshi, Roshani
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Severin’s legacy has been stolen. And he wants it back. As the sole heir to the House of Vanth, leading it should be his birthright. But folks from two of the other three houses stopped him from assuming the mantle of head of House Vanth. So when a secret society, the Order of Babel, approaches him and promises him his true inheritance in exchange for an artifact, he agrees to find the artifact along with his crew.

I enjoyed this one, though it isn’t without its flaws. Normally I end a review with my complaints, but in this case my main issue is also a positive so we’ll just start there! This book is quite similar to Six of Crows. Arguably a bit too similar. I mean, there are character analogs (Severin is fairly close to Kaz, Laila is like a Inej/Nina hybrid), and aspects of the plot are pretty similar as well. It felt like I was reading really incredible fanfiction on occasion. The thing is, though, I loved Six of Crows, so I really ended up enjoying this book too. Where Six of Crows is gorgeously bleak, The Gilded Wolves is exuberantly lavish. Set in late 19th century Paris, the trappings of this book are dazzling. Each scene is more lush than the last, and our characters’ surroundings are brought to life in the most whimsical of ways. Magical extravagance abounds, and I had the best time imagining the various rooms, secret chambers and tunnels. The world building was cool, although it occasionally felt convoluted. Overall, though, the author manages to blend religion and science and math, which is really no easy feat. The other thing that I really liked about this book is that the cast is very diverse in race, ethnicity and sexuality and that the author makes commentary about important, relevant issues such as colonialism, racism, and immigration.

I’ve read a few other books by this author, one that I hated (Star Touched Queen) and one that I enjoyed (Aru Shah). This one was much closer to an Aru read for me, although I do find that the rich prose reads as purple on occasion. There will obviously be a sequel, and I’ll definitely give that a go when it comes out in something like two years. I think a this book may also improve upon a reread. Some of the characters were a bit hard to keep track of - when the villain was ultimately revealed, I was like…who was that again? The end also felt super rushed and disjointed, and I think several of the plot points and character developments introduced might have made more sense at the top of the next book.

TLDR: A lavish heist and adventure fantasy for readers of Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows, Ryan Graudin’s Invictus or Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. I think most readers of YA fantasy will like this one – I did! 3.5 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and St. Martin’s Press for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Gilded Wolves will be available for purchase on 15 January 2019, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: The Paragon Hotel

The Paragon Hotel
Author: 
Faye, Lyndsay
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

1922. Alice James finds herself on a westbound train with two bullets in her stomach and $50,000 worth of counterfeit cash. On the run from the mob, she befriends a black porter who saves her life by taking her to his doctor friend in the only black hotel in Portland, Oregon. When a mixed race child goes missing from the hotel, the residents panic as KKK activity in Portland has been escalating. This excellent novel switches back and forth from the events leading up to Alice’s shooting and then her experiences at the hotel after arriving.

Alice James is one of my favorite characters in recent memory – she’s flawed, but self-aware, whip-smart and most importantly compassionate. Her empathy gets her into the trouble and she knows it, but she’s the sort who is willing to sacrifice herself for the greater cause. The supporting characters, especially Blossom, are equally flawed but lovable, especially as their truths slowly come to light. I’m a sucker for a 20s setting, and we get a lot of the good stuff here, especially linguistically. Our Alice has quite the endearing way of explaining herself in 20s style aphorisms.

In addition to being a charming read, the book covers some really important issues around race, gender and sexuality. The author has a deft enough hand at covering these issues that she manages to make the commentary work for the 20s as well as present day. If you decide to read this book, you’ll laught, cry and rage along with the characters at the injustices handed to them based on their gender, race or sexuality. My one complaint is that the middle sagged a bit – this is book that’s largely focused on character development and the mystery really just served to get Alice to learn things about her new friends.

I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but the promise of mob-excitement, mystery and racial commentary brought me to this book, and I’m so glad it did. Richly drawn characters and a fascinating setting pretty much guarantee that most fiction (historical or otherwise) readers will enjoy this one, and I’ll be pre-ordering a copy for my mother. 5 stars – I adored it.

Thanks to Netgalley and G.P. Putnam’s Sons for the advance copy, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Paragon Hotel goes on sale on 08 January, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Girls of Paper and Fire

Girls of Paper and Fire
Author: 
Natasha Ngan
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Every year one girl from the lowest caste in each of the 8 provinces is selected to be a Paper Girl - a concubine to the king. Usually, the girls choose to put themselves forth for the selection. But this year, there will be nine girls. Lei, the ninth, was ripped from her home by a General trying to curry favor with the King. And unlike the other paper girls, this was in no way a choice for her. As she learns more about her fellow Paper Girls and life in the palace, she becomes further disgusted with the caste systems and the concept of Paper Girls. And she'll do everything in her limited power to defy the king - even if it costs her her life.

Girls of Paper and Fire was awesome. I've been burned by heavily hyped diverse YA fantasy lately (Children of Blood and Bone, Mirage), but luckily for me, this one did not disappoint. The premise sounded fairly...gross for lack of a better word - a girl stripped from her home against her will to become a concubine to the king. You know there's going to be some unconsensual sex happening. And there was, but it was handled really well by the author. She takes a very sensitive issue and does not sensationalize it. In fact, its presented in such a way that women who have had similar experiences might find some solace in the book, which, if you read the Afterword, was clearly the author's intention.

Unlike some YA fantasy, this was a slowly paced book that was mostly about developing our main character. Lei really grew as a woman and a person throughout the course of the book. She stands up for her beliefs, herself, her body, even though it almost gets her killed. There's also romance, and its a slowly developed, realistic story of love in the worst of times. The worldbuilding was stunning - the setting was Malaysia inspired, and the formation of the three different castes and their traditions was well thought out and presented in such as way as to be simultaneously creepy and gorgeous. My two complaints are fairly minor: there were a few very predictable plot elements, and the writing occasionally leaned into too flowery territory. Otherwise, though, I loved it.

If you are looking for a feminist fantasy read with excellent worldbuilding and character development, you won't go wrong with Girls of Paper and Fire. 5 stars.

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: 
Albertalli, Becky
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

"Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" is about a student named Simon who is 17 and is closeted. He emails his unknown friend that goes by the fake name Blue frequently and also goes the fake name Jacques. Everything is fine, until Martin sees Simon's email one day in the library. Martin uses the emails as a way to blackmail him. Simon is forced to do everything Martin asks in order to keep his sexual orientation a secret from the outside world. Martin does terrible things to get what he wants which is a chance with Simon's friend Abby. While this is happening Simon becomes closer with Blue and eventually develops a crush on the unknown boy who goes to the same school. Many things happen between Martin and Simon but everything ends when Martin takes things too far. As a result of Martin's extreme act, he is forced to come out to everyone. Simon becomes even closer with Blue and things escalate to them knowing each other's identity. Blue and Simon end up dating in real life and everything ends happily despite the many issues Simon had to face with coming out and Martin.

I read this book because I had heard good things about the movie Love, Simon and wanted to read the book it was based off of. "Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" was an amazing book. I loved the LGBT+ representation. Simon's feelings were very real and relatable. I finished the book in a day because I enjoyed it that much. I would definitely recommend to anyone and I would definitely classify it as one of the top three books I have read this year.

Reviewer's Name: 
Oriana O.

Book Review: The Brilliant Death

The Brilliant Death
Author: 
Capetta, Amy Rose
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Teodora DiSangro is the daughter of one of the heads of the five families. And, while most people wouldn’t expect this of a woman, she’s the heavy. That’s because she’s got a secret: she a streghe, a witch. She can turn people into inanimate objects. So, when her father is poisoned by the Capo, she heads to the capital. Not just to represent her family as the new head of the family: her ultimate goal is revenge. NO ONE crosses the DiSangros. No one.

I really enjoyed this one! YA fantasy is one of my preferred genres, but after a while, much of it can seem pat or a bit too similar, so it feels so refreshing when something new comes along. This was something new, at least to me. A mob story that features gender queer protagonists who also happen to be a witches? I loved everything about that, and the book delivered on the plot and character development as well. The worldbuilding is rich, the characters are likable with understandable and clear motivations, and there are a few twists and turns that will keep most readers guessing. I’m not sure if there’s a sequel planned, but the book was tied up nicely with enough loose threads to justify a sequel should the author choose to write one. I know I’d read it.

TLDR: Looking for a mob based fantasy with a strong, engaging gender queer protag? Not to worry – The Brilliant Death has you covered. For fans of The Godfather and/or The Brooklyn Brujas, or really for anyone who likes inventive and inclusive YA fantasy. 4 stars.

Thanks to Netgalley and Viking Books for Young Readers for the advance copy which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. The Brilliant Death will be available for purchase on 30 October 2018, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: 
Albertalli, Becky
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Have you ever felt out of place? Felt that you were hiding who you really were, or a big part of you? Incorporated with themes of self acceptance as well as humor, Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda is for you. This book tells the story of Simon, a junior growing up in a small, conservative town. He is gay, and has not shared it with anyone and is not ready to yet. Keeping up a relationship via email with a boy with the pen name Blue, he accidentally leaves his email logged on in the school they both go to. When a boy named Martin finds this email, he blackmails him. Help Martin win over his crush (one of Simon's closest friends), or get revealed on one of the most personal things a human can have, their identity and sexuality. Keeping up this correspondence with his crush, turning more flirtatious daily, while hiding from a close group of friends, is sure to cause all kinds of trouble.

I love this book, because it is full of heavy topics, along with humor and adorable romance. This is recommended to anyone learning about such controversial themes, and to a lower reading level audience, because it is a very easy read. However, the more mature the better, because many cuss words and descriptions of romance are used in this book along with imagery on underage drinking and more. If you have ever felt like you don't fit the description of the normal human being, check out simon vs the homo sapiens agenda today.

Reviewer's Name: 
Anna C.

Book Review: Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: 
Albertalli, Becky
Rating: 
5 stars = Bohemian Rhapsody Awesome!
Review: 

Becky Albertalli's novel "Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" is a wonderful coming of age book that shows the hardships of being different in high school. Simon Spier is your average high school student. He has a close group of friends who he loves, he gets decent grades, loves participating in theater, but he keeps a secret about himself from all of those around him.
"Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda" is a great story for those who love love, drama, and just being a teenager. Truly a story for the ages.

Reviewer's Name: 
Maddie K.

Book Review: Black Wings Beating

Black Wings Beating Cover Image
Author: 
London, Alex
Rating: 
3 stars = Pretty Good
Review: 

In a world where dominion over birds of prey equals power, twins Brysen and Kylee have a love/hate relationship with falconry. Brysen longs to be good at the sport, but lacks the patience and ability. Kylee is a natural, and even has powers that allow her to speak with the birds, but she just wants to pay back their family’s debts and then leave their village forever. When Brysen compounds their debt and then agrees to hunt the ghost eagle – the very same eagle who killed their father – Kylee knows that she has to help, or lose her brother to the birds as well.

The world building in this book is phenomenal. London creates a rich world with opposing religions about to go to war, and creates an entirely new mythology built around falconry. Now, I know there are other fantasies based around falconry, but as I’ve not read them, this was all totally new and fascinating to me. Kylee and Brysen take turns narrating, and their perspectives were realistic and different enough that you had a great feel for them as characters quite early on in the book. They were so authentic as not to be entirely likable – Brysen in particular makes quite a few stupid and/or impulsive decisions and I found him to be a bit hard to root for. I really enjoyed Kylee, though, and I loved how the world was presented with equality in terms of sexuality and race. Several of our characters are people of color and/or LGBTQ+, and they don’t seem to be oppressed or seen any differently because of it, which was refreshing to read.

For this reader, the plot left something to be desired. The book starts off with a bang, but then quickly devolves into an adventure story in the woods as Kylee and Brysen search for the ghost eagle. The aforementioned “opposing religions about to go to war” parts show the most promise, but were unfortunately relegated to the background. That will likely change in the sequel, but it made this book a slow read for me. I actually put it down in the middle and read an entirely different book as it wasn’t really holding my interest. I felt like the book might have worked really well as a prequel novella, but as a full length novel, there was a lot of filler as Kylee and Brysen navigate the woods with only one important seeming development.

Black Wings Beating was an interesting dive into the world of falconry that sets up a sequel with a lot of promise. I’d recommend it to anyone who likes adventure stories with a touch of the fantastical. 3 stars – I liked it!
Thanks to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Netgalley for the eARC, which I received in exchange for an unbiased review. Black Wings Beating will be available for purchase on 25 September, but you can put your copy on hold today!

Reviewer's Name: 
Britt

Book Review: George

George
Author: 
Gino, Alex
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

Since it was so short, it was a really quick read, but by no means an easy one. I loved it because it was so eye opening, real, and heart breaking. I hated it for the same reasons. It was incredible! The only reason it doesn't get 5 stars is because it ended too quickly. "George" is about a 4th grader who knows she's a girl born into a boy's body. As she struggles to keep this concealed from her peers, she debates if she even should keep the truth a secret. I don't want to spoil it too much, but she receives support from some peers, and uncertainty and... almost disappointment?... from others. Please read it, it's amazing! I loved it so much.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.

Book Review: They Both Die at the End

They Both Die at the End
Author: 
Silver, Adam
Rating: 
4 stars = Really Good
Review: 

At some points this book was really slow, but all in all it was really good! Essentially it's about two teenage boys with completely different life styles. They're drawn together when they both receive the ominous Death Call, a government-issued alert that warns the recipient that they will die that day. Shaken, Mateo vows to stay inside his house, contemplating that he'll never see his dad wake up from his comma, never see his best friend's daughter grow up. Rufus is shaken as well, but, in a panic after getting chased by the police, wonders around downtown. Until, a mysterious app called Last Friend brings them together. They are strangers and totally different. But it doesn't stop them from hanging out on their last day, crossing things off their bucket list and saying their good byes.

Reviewer's Name: 
Jordan T.
Genres: 

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