Review: Sovereign Sacrifice (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #4) by Elise Kova

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Vi was supposed to be the perfect crown princess. Then, she abandoned her throne.
Vi was supposed to save the world as its Champion. Then, the world she loved vanished.

Now, all she knows is that she has deadly magic and brutal cunning and she’s ready to settle some scores.

Old loves and new allies tell her to play it safe. But Vi is done with caution. She has a chance to right ancient wrongs and this princess-turned-warrior isn’t turning back.

She’s ready to bring an end to the vortex of death the world is trapped in.

The magic, romance, and epic adventure continue in book four of Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles.

Out now!

Add on Goodreads

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★★★.5✩

I went into this book having some contrasting feelings about Failed Future‘s ending but I have to say I actually really liked how things worked out here.

Because this is the fourth book in a series and basically the very premise of this installment hangs on a twist that happens in the last few chapters of the previous one, it’s really hard to talk about the plot without giving anything away, so please only keep reading if you’ve finished Failed Future!!!

I freaking love time travel. I don’t always reach for books that have it in them though, because it can be tricky and I feel like many books leave to many questions open and disregard a lot of time travelling rules. I had some of these problems here as well, but I also found it easy to disregard and focus more on the plot and characters.

I was also glad there was less Taavin because I’m still not feeling the romance (and let’s be honest, at this point in the series I’m never going to get into it), and I like how the focus was more on the female friendships that Vi was able to make.

Overall, I enjoyed this for the plot and the characters and I can’t wait to see where the next (final??) book is going to take us!

Most Anticipated Releases (Oct-Dec 2019)

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Hey everyone and sorry for being late with my most anticipated books of the last trimester of this year! It feels so weird to say this because I can’t believe it’s going to be 2020 soon and my next post in this series will be about the months from January to March. Anyway, October is almost over but I still included October releases (I actually wrote this post weeks ago but I am somehow only writing this intro and posting it now, bear with me).

October

1st

Crier’s War by Nina Varela

8th

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

 

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November 

5th

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

12th

The Impossible Contract by K.A. Doore — read my review here

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December

3rd

Reverie by Ryan La Sala

This Will Kill That by Danielle K. Roux

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What are your most anticipated books for the next few months? Any upcoming books I don’t know about (I’ve been a little away from the book community lately)? Let me know!

So, You Want To Get Into MO DAO ZU SHI (MDZS)/The Untamed…

Hello and welcome back to an episode of Silvia Gets Everyone Into Her Latest Obsessions.

First of all, an introduction, because I don’t want to assume that everyone who finds this post has even heard of this. Or maybe they have but they’re still as confused as I was when I saw my friends on twitter get into it.

So, what is MDZS?

Mo Dao Zu Shi is the title of a Chinese novel by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu, and it translates to “Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation”, and it’s also the title of some of its adaptations (except for the live action, which I’m going to talk about later).

Here’s the synopsis from goodreads:

As the grandmaster who founded the Demonic Sect, Wei WuXian roamed the world in his wanton ways, hated by millions for the chaos he created. In the end, he was backstabbed by his dearest shidi and killed by powerful clans that combined to overpower him. He incarnates into the body of a lunatic who was abandoned by his clan and is later, unwillingly, taken away by a famous cultivator among the clans—Lan WangJi, his archenemy. This marks the start of a thrilling yet hilarious journey of attacking monsters, solving mysteries, and raising children. From the mutual flirtation along the way, Wei WuXian slowly realizes that Lan WangJi, a seemingly haughty and indifferent poker-face, holds more feelings for Wei WuXian than he is letting on.

I would say this description is not 100% spot-on, but it does mention a lot of its strong points.

Before we talk about the different adaptations, I’m going to tell you…

Why I love this series so much

(in bunny-points)

🐇 canon gay happy ending

🐰 non-linear storyline taking place over many (20) years

🐇 so many different plotlines and they all come together beautifully by the end (while realistically leaving a few things unsolved or bitter-sweetly solved)

🐰 music magic!!

🐇 great cast of characters

🐰 beautiful relationships & found families

🐇 fascinating world and magic

🐰 bunnies!!

🐇 it’s dark but it’s balanced by a lot of funny and cute moments

🐰 good balance of shallow + deep villains

🐇 strictly-followed typical villain arc but SUBVERTED

🐰 zombies and ghosts (psst, they’re not all bad!)

🐇 blurred line between right and wrong, does the end justify the means, etc

🐰 adopting children along the way

🐇 lots of beautiful heartbreak

🐰 investigating a mystery while falling in love

🐇 oblivious bisexual main character

🐰 …and so much more!

If everything I mentioned above sounds like something you’d also like, read on to learn about the different adaptations!

The basics

There are a few rules I feel are best to follow if you want to get into this fandom and enjoy each adaptation at its fullest, but of course this is just my experience with it and you should do what you feel like. In any case, here’s my general advice:

Start with something visual, doesn’t matter if it’s the comic or the animated version or both. I’d advice against starting with the novel because there are a lot of characters and you’ll be able to better tell them apart if you remember how they look (also, the different sects/clans are color-coded, which is nice).

• You can probably binge all the available comic chapters in a couple of hours or less before you start the novel, and to be honest you should. However, I don’t think it matters how far you’ve reached into the animated version, but by now it’s pretty far and you will be spoiled for a lot of things that happen in the novel if you watch the full two seasons. This is up to you, my personal advice would be to either stop watching at a point you feel right for you, or stop after episode 15 (where the first season —and a huge flashback— ends).

• If you’re planning to read the novel, absolutely leave the live action for last. It is an adaptation I absolutely adore and it is in some aspects an improvement from the novel, but it does get pretty canon divergent. So if you don’t want to get confused about some plot points, read the novel first, and preferably finish watching the animated version too, so that the canon plot gets solidified in your head before you get to enjoy the more canon-divergent version.

Again, this is just based on my experience and how I got to enjoy this series of adaptations, but if you’re like, “You know, I really only care about the live action”, then go for it and watch it first! And it won’t come in the way of your enjoyment of the novel if you end up wanting to read it anyway.

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The novel

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The novel is the original version written by MXTX and it’s unfortunately not yet officially translated in English (although, as you can imagine, there are fan translations on the internet). You might be able to purchase it if you can read Chinese, but I’m not sure if that’s possible because I heard of issues with censorship due to the M/M content. I know the author has had to write many different versions to appease Chinese censorship before but I’m quite honestly lost as to where it stands now and can’t find the information I want. But chances are, if you can read Chinese you can find this information better than I can (and if you do or you know about it already, please let me know!).

Anyway, the novel is very long and very beautiful. If you want to know more about it you can DM me on twitter @ verelaurent and I’ll try to answer your questions.

The manhua

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The manhua (Chinese manga) is structured like a webtoon and there are currently around 80 chapters, as far as I know. It’s also not yet officially translated in English, but of course there are fan translations.

I think as far as I know this is the second-closest adaptation that follows the novel, only second to the audio drama (which is the only adaptation the author herself has any supervision on, afaik, but I’m not covering it in this post because I haven’t listened to it -but I know it’s beautifully acted from snippets I’ve heard online).

Explanation time: the novel has many flashbacks (I told you, non-linear storyline), alternated with chapters in the present. The past timeline follows Wei Wuxian’s life before his death, and the present chapters follow him after his resurrection (this is not a spoiler since it tells you in the literal prologue of any adaptation, and it’s also in the synopsis!) Because some things work differently in different formats, the flashbacks don’t always interrupt the present story at the same time throughout all adaptations, but the manhua is more or less closer to the novel in this regard.

Here’s some fun screencaps from it:

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Wei Wuxian getting flustered
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drunk!Lan Wangji

The donghua | watch here!

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The donghua (Chinese anime) is one of two adaptations you can consume legally because it’s been officially translated!

It currently has two seasons (or, one 23-episodes-long season) and it will be a while before the next one comes out, but now is a good point to start it. Since it’s literally on YouTube, you really have no excuse not to start watching it (…unless you don’t want to, but then why did you get so far into this post? eheh), and if you don’t like it you can always close the tab and no harm done!

I think this adaptation is very well done, it keeps things a little more superficial compared to the novel or the live action, but that’s to be expected. It changes some things slightly, too, but less than the live action does. And the animation itself is so good, you can clearly see how much thought the creators put into each scene.

The live action | watch here!

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The live action is called Chén Qíng Lìng – The Untamed (usually people in the fandom just refer to it as cql), and sees Xiao Zhan as Wei Wuxian and Wang Yibo as Lan Wangji. The fandom loves them both and with good reason. I think they did their roles perfectly and truly became their characters and did them justice. Especially Yibo, who had the difficult task of portraying Lan Wangji, did such a masterful job (and keep in mind this was his first time acting!). The other actors were all amazing as well, and I love them all so much. I now see their faces when I reread the book or read fanfiction!

I like to see this adaptation as its own canon divergent universe. It did some things I preferred compared to the novel, especially how it gives more space to a few characters that in the novel have a smaller role, especially the female characters. Then there are things that I personally didn’t care about but I can sort of understand why they changed (especially in the past timeline, giving more scenes to the Wen clan, the yin iron…), and then there’s stuff I’m neutral about (the present plotline and what they did with the investigation plot).

There’s also the fact that because of Chinese censorship they had to formally no-homo the main relationship, but if you know me a bit you should at least trust me, lover of making things GAY, when I tell you that they did everything they could to convey how much the two main characters deeply love each other. Especially if you’ve read the novel, you’ll be able to tell exactly what’s going through their minds (especially Lan Wangji) at any given scene. I truly appreciate them giving them some of the most romantic, cheesy scenes I’ve ever seen in any live action ever (and, minor spoiler alert, they might not be able to show them as a couple, but the word “soulmate” might or might not have canonically used, so…)

I could honestly wax poetics about this adaptation for hours, but I promised myself this post wouldn’t be a review so I’m keeping this short(ish).

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The warnings

I would love to give y’all a full trigger warning list, but the fact is the novel is very very long and I wasn’t taking notes when I read it, so my list is going to be lacking. And as always, you should never count on only one person to spot all the triggers in any given work anyway.

This is a very dark story that sees major character deaths (although the most important one you know from the start, and you know he gets resurrected), grief, war, and so much more. If this was a western novel we’d label it Adult, and if you don’t normally read dark, adult fantasy, I would recommend you procede with caution.

A most definitely not complete list of content warnings (note: not all warnings may apply to all the adaptations, and not all warnings apply to the main characters/relationships and have the same importance throughout the story):

(highlight the paragraph to read): multiple major character deaths, loss of parents, grief, effects of trauma, self-sacrificing for others in more than one way, eye horror, betrayal, gore, walking corpses, monsters etc, war, mention of incest, murder, mention of torture, portrayal of work/death camp-like setting, mention of rape, mentions of extreme poverty and homelessness, dubious consent, child death, presumed child death, corporal punishment, mutilation, dismemberment, explicit sex scenes, alcohol consumption, mention of parental abuse.

Another no-context warning from the bottom of my heart: if you read the novel and you finish it, you will see there are extra chapters. They’re mostly good to very good, but don’t read the one that’s called Incense Burner (you will thank me).

The disclaimer

Like every piece of fiction, this is not perfect. If I were to review it like I do other books or shows, I would give it five stars because my ratings tend to focus more on my emotional response than anything, but that doesn’t mean I’m not aware of its flaws. But the fact is that this story has consumed my time and thoughts for more than a month, thanks to the different adaptations (and fanfiction), so much that I’ve been in a reading slump ever since and I don’t even care about forcing myself to get back to reading until I get it out of my system.

It’s a fantasy story set in a world and a culture I knew nothing about (and still can’t claim to understand beyond what MDZS showed me), but I couldn’t keep my eyes off the page although the novel is 113 chapters long (and something that would probably be around 1k+ pages of a print book), and I honestly can’t say that many of the books I read were able to do the same.

Also, all my friends who have spontaneously (after seeing me talk about it all day on twitter…….) started to watch/read it are now in hell and can’t stop talking and thinking about it, so I guess it’s one of those things that once you start you kind of get obsessed with. I take no responsibility for your book slumps, y’all.

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I hope this post was useful to those of you who have been wanting to get in on this fandom because I know it can be hard to understand where to start with. And if you didn’t know about it before, I really hope I have piqued your interest! If you need more information / links just shoot me a DM on twitter @ verelaurent (please mention you came from this post if I don’t know you, so I know why you’re writing me).

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Cover Reveal: Sovereign Sacrifice (Air Awakens: Vortex Chronicles #4) + Win 10 Signed Books

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Release Date:  October 15, 2019
Genres:  Young Adult, Epic Fantasy, Sword & Sorcery, Fantasy Romance, Coming of Age
Synopsis:
Vi was supposed to be the perfect crown princess. Then, she abandoned her throne.
Vi was supposed to save the world as its Champion. Then, the world she loved vanished.

Now, all she knows is that she has deadly magic and brutal cunning and she’s ready to settle some scores.

Old loves and new allies tell her to play it safe. But Vi is done with caution. She has a chance to right ancient wrongs and this princess-turned-warrior isn’t turning back.

She’s going to bring an end the vortex the world is trapped in.

Preorder Sovereign Sacrifice | Enter giveaway

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Release Blitz + Q&A and Giveaway: Happy For You by Anyta Sunday

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Series: Love & Family

Publisher: Anyta Sunday (self-published)

Release Date (Print & Ebook): September 10, 2019

Length (Print & Ebook): 60,000 words

Subgenre: Contemporary Gay Romance

Warnings: Depression (affecting a side character)

Order now: https://www.anytasunday.com/projects/happy-for-you/

Mort wants his de facto family back. . . .

He knows he doesn’t deserve them. Not yet, anyway. Not without making up for leaving them in their time of need.

But it’s not easy to make amends. Mort must show how much he wants the Rochester family back in his life. When his best friend’s younger brother, Felix, has his license suspended, Mort jumps at the chance to play chauffeur and to win back the family he desperately wants to call his own.

Repairing his broken relationships—with all five Rochester siblings—becomes Mort’s personal mission. Especially with Felix. Felix, who used to follow him everywhere. Felix, who idolized him. Felix, whom Mort has not stopped thinking about . . .

Felix is just trying to keep it together. . . .

With a perma-smile as his armor, he’s determined to make his family happy. Determined to be a positive role model to his three younger sisters, while their mum struggles with depression after her kidney transplant.

Unfortunately, no amount of smiling can save his license when he gets pulled over for the umpteenth time, and he still needs to get his sisters to school, soccer, and dance classes.

The solution to his problem emerges in the return of their prodigal neighbor, Mort. Mort, who left their lives without a word. Mort, who was in love with Felix’s older brother.

Mort, who is the last guy Felix wants charging back into their lives. . . .

Mort and Felix. Two guys bound by a rocky past—

—a past they must come to terms with to find true happiness in the here and now.

~-~-~

Set in New Zealand, Happy For You (Love & Family #3) is an MM gay romance featuring two guys pitted together in a blue 1988station wagon—and there’s no doubt about it, Mort is going to drive Felix crazy.

Can be read as a standalone.

Tropes: brother’s best friend, second chances, family drama, friends-to-lovers, slow burn, found family

Genre: New Adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance

Trigger warnings: Depression and generalized anxiety (of a side character)

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Teaser:

Felix eyes me sleepily. “That’s one wild frown.”

I readjust my cap. “Tailored just for you.”

His cheeks dimple. “What’s the matter?”

“Are you in the mood to talk?”

Felix pushes himself upright, leaving a smear of condensation on the glass. “About what?”

“Everything.”

He squints, hesitant. “Define everything.”

“How’s your mum doing?”

A whimper-laugh drizzles out of him. “I’d rather talk about the sorry state of my love life.”

“How sorry are we talking?”

He stares at me blankly. “You first.”

I laugh. “Remember when I dragged you for coffee at Zealandia Café and we bumped into my colleague Jack and—”

“And Ben McCormick. Trust me, a week is not long enough to erase the embarrassment of almost toppling into them.”

“Jack’s the guy I’ve been flirting with at work.”

Felix gives me a standard cardboard smile. Those smiles are pissing me off. His days are littered with them.

I fight back a growl. “I’m fairly sure he’s a lost cause.”

“Considering he wedged his hand into Ben’s back pocket, I’d say he is.” Felix stares at passing cars. “Are you gutted?”

“He’s a decent guy. Hot and charming but mostly just a distraction.”

Felix whips his head toward me. “From what?”

I give him a pointed look.

“From missing us,” he murmurs.

Yeah. From that tiny ache that’s ripping me open.

“Do you miss us all equally?” Felix claps his mouth shut. “Forget it. That’s like asking a parent who their favorite child is. No matter how untrue, they’ll swear they don’t have one.”

I peer at him through the rearview mirror. “I missed you all equally.”

“You’ll make a good parent.” He drops back in his seat, and catches my eye, mouth twisted toward a smile. A real one this time.

I want more of his smiles. I want Felix to see what we could have together. Want to graduate from “chauffeur” to Guy He Has Fun With.

Felix clears his throat and clicks his seatbelt open. “I should get inside.”

“Tiffany has an hour left.” I eye the arcade. “We can use it.”

Felix hums. “Yeah, okay. We’re out of parchment paper and detergent. The Warehouse is still open. We can swing by.”

Parchment paper and detergent? That’s how he wants to spend a free hour? Felix doesn’t know how much he needs me. “Out of the car, sunshine.”

“What?”

“Hop out, or I’m coming around and making a show of opening your door.”

 

Q&A with Anyta Sunday:

What is the significance of the title “Happy For You”?

AS: This book’s all about happiness – where to find it for ourselves, how to make others happy, and how to live with the fact that we can’t make everyone around us happy.  Mort and Felix have to learn it the hard way: if they’re both only trying to make others happy, they’ll lose sight of themselves. They have to find their own happiness first to finally be happy together.

What were the key challenges you faced when writing this book?

AS: While every book has its own challenges, this one was special because it features a large family that wanted to have ample space on the page. To give all of them their rightful place was not easy, but they all demanded to be heard ☺ This spring and summer, when I worked on “Happy For You”, was also a time of transitions for my family – from my son changing schools to me transitioning to a new diet, so finding time for the book wasn’t always easy.

Are you working on anything at the present you would like to share with your readers about?

AS: I am always working 😀 At the moment, I’m diving back into astrology and star signs, and tackling book 5 in the “Signs of Love” series. A Cancer and an Aquarius are the lucky couple in this one, and I’m already having so much fun with them. It’s quite emotional, but just like all the other SoL books, also full of banter and romantic comedy!

Where do you draw inspiration from?

AS: Inspiration is all around – walking the streets, seeing a couple interact at the café, getting a lovely message from my husband. So many things can spark an idea, like a smell that brings back a memory or a piece of music that becomes alive in my head. I try to soak it all in and scribble it down as soon as possible.

Do you have any new series planned?

AS: There are a few ideas currently swirling in my head, and I never know how they’ll finally arrive on the page. One series idea I just cannot stop thinking about is what I call the “Love Shack” in my head. A beachside house that brings different roommates together, always sparking new misadventures and love stories! Another idea is a cozy, super sweet and romantic mystery. But whatever series comes next, you can be sure it’ll be full of slow burn romance!

About Anyta Sunday:

I’m a big, BIG fan of slow-burn romances. I love to read and write stories with characters who slowly fall in love. Some of my favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries. I write a variety of stories, Contemporary MM Romances with a good dollop of angst, Contemporary lighthearted MM Romances, and even a splash of Fantasy. My books have been translated into German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Thai.

Connect with Anyta:

Author website | Author newsletter signup | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | BookBub

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Giveaway!

Enter to win one complete paperback set of the Love & Family series: Taboo for You, Made for You, and Happy for You, or, one of three e-books of Happy for You. Prizes are open internationally. Must be 18 to enter and win.

Guest Post: My Faith and my Queerness by Vanshika Prusty, author of Droplets of Starlight from KEEP FAITH (out now!)

Today I am happy to give this space to Vanshika Prusty, one of the authors in the Keep Faith anthology edited by Gabriela Martins, where they will talk about the relationship with their religion and their queerness. This is only one of the many personal stories that brought this anthology into existence. If you’re religious, faith is one of the many aspects of yourself that will intersect with your queerness, and this essay focuses on that.

Keep Faith is an anthology for everyone who has ever wanted to read a collection of diverse and queer stories with a focus on faith, in a broad sense. It’s out now and you can buy it on Gumroad!

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TW: Self-harm mention, depression mention and mention of non-acceptance from family for sexuality and gender.

I was sixteen when I figured out that I’m bisexual.

I’d just moved from India, where I’d known of only three sexualities: being straight, being gay or being a lesbian. And only one out of those three were okay in my conservative family. So, you can imagine how deeply I repressed my feelings towards people who weren’t cis-men.

It wasn’t so much that there wasn’t information accessible on Queerness and being part of the LGBTQIAP+ community, but more so that it wasn’t easily accessible to me. On top of that, I didn’t have the encouragement to seek out that information as a kid or a teenager when I was surrounded by people who were disgusted at even the thought of someone not conforming to straight, cis-centric views of romantic and sexual relationships. I would’ve been ridiculed at best, and I don’t even want to imagine what would’ve happened at worst.

After I moved to Canada, when I was fifteen, a friend (at the time) of mine and I discussed queerness. I was fascinated at the fact that I could so openly and freely discuss this with someone and moreover, on the fact that a community of people who loved so freely existed. When she told me that bisexual people, those who are attracted to two or more genders, existed, I knew that that was me. I remember my exact words being, “I’m bisexual, I’ve always been bisexual.”

That conversation didn’t resolve all my issues with sexuality and gender. But it was a start, and it put me on the right path to find the labels for myself that I was comfortable in. After the conversation, I also realized that I had a lot of unlearning to do. Unlearning of internalized misogyny, homophobia and transphobia that I’d eaten up from my parents’ friends, and from conservative Indian news that promoted these bigoted views as patriotic and as what ‘good Hindus’ did.

And in my unlearning, I distanced myself from my religion because the news we’d watched in India, and that my papa put on in Canada, too, framed hating people who are queer as something every Hindu should be proud to do. It was quite possibly the worst thing I did to myself.

In the years I denied myself the love I held for my religion, my depression got worse, I selfharmed more often, and suffered in school. I hated everything about myself that made me who I am. I hated that I was from India, that I was from a Hindu family, that I wasn’t born in an accepting family. It didn’t help that my sister tried outing me to my parents because she was angry with me. It was even worse that my parents called me to say they didn’t believe her because ‘no kid of theirs is going to be disgusting’. Yeah, 2015-2017 were absolute hell for me.

My parents aren’t violent people, that’s not what I want anyone to take away from my
reluctance to tell them. I don’t think they would hurt me physically if I told them that I’m a bisexual, non-binary woman. I think it was the fear that they may not love me anymore—that their love isn’t unequivocal or limitless; that it is conditional—that has kept me from telling them. So, I felt like I had nowhere to go. No one to ask for help, no one to understand me.

This loneliness—this fear that kept blooming in me. It sent me into a spiral. I felt suffocated every single day until I finally fell on my knees, quite literally, in front of my gods in the prayer room we have at home. I don’t even think that’s where I was going, but that’s where I ended up.

My parents are from Cuttack and Ranikhet in India, and they have different rituals and
basically different religions, if you really look into it, but they worship similar gods, and their most important god is the same: Jagannath, or RadheKrishna. Him and Radhe are the gods I grew up worshipping the most. I was attracted to them from a very young age as it is; to their story, to their morals and…just…them. In general. I don’t really know how else to explain it than that I felt at home if I knew they were with me, or near me.

I remember the night I cried my eyes out to Krishna and Radhe. I begged them for guidance. I screamed at them for the world they’d brought me into. I pleaded that they take me away. I was so angry with them, and so desperately craved their help. It was the night that began my understanding of intersectionality. Slowly, I grew to understand that, to be queer, I didn’t have to deny myself other parts of me. I understood that there’s no one way to be queer. I can be religious and I can be a bisexual, non-binary woman. I can worship my gods and love who I love, be who I am. I understood, not fully, but slowly, that the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

The next day, or so, I started writing what would become Droplets of Starlight. I knew it
wasn’t going to be a novel from the get-go, but I also knew that it was something I needed to write. Something I needed to do for myself, and myself only. I didn’t think I’d ever share it. In fact, I didn’t think I’d ever be able to share it because it came from such a personal place. Although, that’s not new. My writing has always comes from a personal place. Sometimes it’s from happiness, sometimes from a burden I’ve carried for far too long.

I feel that art cannot exist in separation from its creator. So, everything I write, in one way or another, is deeply personal. Droplets of Starlight is no exception to that. It was, perhaps, the first time I understood not to force myself to be separate from my art, something I’d been trying so hard to do with all my previous manuscripts. I think my art is better for it. I think I am better for it.

Writing Droplets of Starlight has been an honour. To write a story about a girl finding her
way to a place of happiness in her community is an honour. To write about her love for her gods, about her love for her family and the girl of her dreams…it has all been an honour.

Find Vanshika:

Website | Insta | Twitter

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Keep faith, in the broad sense of the word. It doesn’t have to be a religion, unless you want it to be. It doesn’t have to speak about the universe, unless you want it to. It doesn’t have to be about anyone but yourself. Keep faith, in other planets and other houses; be it in the face of danger, grief, or while you spread your arms and laugh. Keep faith the same way you keep hope, bright and shiny, ever present. Keep faith in all your queer, beautiful self. Because you deserve it.

This is an anthology of 14 short stories, by 14 queer authors, where faith and queerness intersect. Incidental, purposeful, we-exist-and-that’s-why queerness. And faith meaning whatever you want it to mean.

An anthology edited by Gabriela Martins, with cover art by Kess Costales, and short stories by Adiba Jaigirdar, Bogi Takács, C.T. Callahan, Elly Ha, Gabriela Martins, Julia Rios, Kate Brauning, Kess Costales, Mary Fan, Mayara Barros, Megan Manzano, Shenwei Chang, Sofia Soter, and Vanshika Prusty.

ARC Review: Work For It by Talia Hibbert // the author’s first M/M romance doesn’t disappoint, and nobody is surprised

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the author for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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“He’s burning me down to the bone. They’ll find the scar of him on my remains.”

In this village, I’m an outcast: Griffin Everett, the scowling giant who prefers plants to people. Then I meet Keynes, a stranger from the city who’s everything I’m not: sharp-tongued, sophisticated, beautiful. Free. For a few precious moments in a dark alleyway, he’s also mine, hot and sweet under the stars… until he crushes me like dirt beneath his designer boot.

When the prettiest man I’ve ever hated shows up at my job the next day, I’m not sure if I want to strangle him or drag him into bed. Actually—I think I want both. But Keynes isn’t here for the likes of me: he makes that painfully clear. With everyone else at work, he’s all gorgeous, glittering charm—but when I get too close, he turns vicious.

And yet, I can’t stay away. Because there’s something about this ice king that sets me on fire, a secret vulnerability that makes my chest ache. I’ll do whatever it takes to sneak past his walls and see the real man again.

The last thing I expect is for that man to ruin me.

Work for It is 80,000 words of hot, angst-filled, M/M romance featuring a cynical city boy, a gruff, soft-hearted farmer, and a guaranteed happy-ever-after. No cheating, no cliff-hangers, just love. (Eventually.)

Release date: September 3rd

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★★★★

Talia Hibbert quickly became one of my go-to romance authors for M/F romance last year, so I was very curious to see her write her first M/M romance. I had this feeling of calm about it that only comes with trusting an author without fear that your expectations will be disappointed, and in fact they weren’t.

The first thing that I noticed is how unique each main character is. Talia Hibbert doesn’t shy away from taking some risks in her choice of characters either, which here was especially evident in Griffin, a queer gentle giant that most people would at first glance describe as, frankly, a little ugly. Seeing how not only Olu’s first impression of him changes, but also how Griffin eventually finds himself good looking, was one of the highlights of the novel for me (among so, so many).

I’m so impressed by how many things were packed into this book. There’s class difference (handled, in my opinion, so well), small village culture, various aspects of mental health, friendship and family, and of course the romance itself, which I loved and I don’t really want to spoil for anyone. Despite some of these themes being a little on the heavy side, this is mostly a light-hearted and steamy romance that can be read very quickly.

As it happened with the other two novels I read from the author, the “drama moment” was a little overdramatic for my tastes, but even if there was miscommunication it was very understandable and not too frustrating, because you could see where the characters were coming from. It was by the end very satisfying and it reminded me that I need to read the first two books in this series (whose characters make cameos here — but the book stands perfectly on its own too).

TWs (taken from the author’s review): depression, anxiety, references to past sexual trauma and forced outing, references to a parent who died by suicide