ARC Review: The Electric Heir by Victoria Lee

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

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In the sequel to The Fever King, Noam Álvaro seeks to end tyranny before he becomes a tyrant himself.

Six months after Noam Álvaro helped overthrow the despotic government of Carolinia, the Atlantians have gained citizenship, and Lehrer is chancellor. But despite Lehrer’s image as a progressive humanitarian leader, Noam has finally remembered the truth that Lehrer forced him to forget—that Lehrer is responsible for the deadly magic infection that ravaged Carolinia.

Now that Noam remembers the full extent of Lehrer’s crimes, he’s determined to use his influence with Lehrer to bring him down for good. If Lehrer realizes Noam has evaded his control—and that Noam is plotting against him—Noam’s dead. So he must keep playing the role of Lehrer’s protégé until he can steal enough vaccine to stop the virus.

Meanwhile Dara Shirazi returns to Carolinia, his magic stripped by the same vaccine that saved his life. But Dara’s attempts to ally himself with Noam prove that their methods for defeating Lehrer are violently misaligned. Dara fears Noam has only gotten himself more deeply entangled in Lehrer’s web. Sooner or later, playing double agent might cost Noam his life.

Release date: March, 17th

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★★★★

Finishing this book felt like being the “I lived bitch” meme

The Electric Heir messed with my emotions in a way that The Fever King didn’t. I want to make it clear before we start that I don’t consider myself a survivor of the type of abuse portrayed here, and this is a duology that’s especially written for survivors. So there will be things I don’t get and all I can do is listen to those who see themselves in this series.

What I can say is that this book is very hard to read and I don’t know if I recall many books that made me have to stop reading and take a breath because it was becoming too much. I had expectations and thoughts on how this book was going to play out, but even aware of the content warnings I was not prepared for how sudden everything was and how we were thrown in the middle of that whole emotional mess. Saying that I loved it would be inaccurate: this book gets ugly and you can’t help but hate it a little, but it makes its conclusion all the more satisfying.

There isn’t a lot I can talk about while reviewing a second and final book in a duology, but I loved finally getting Dara’s POV and I liked his voice maybe more than Noam’s. I was also under the impression that this series was going to be a trilogy but while I was reading I found out it’s a duology and I have to say, I need more series to be written in this format.

This is a short review because anything I say would be spoilery both for this book and the previous book, but watch out for Victoria Lee and her ability to create unforgettable characters. I’m looking forward to reading whatever she comes up with next.

TWs: inter-generational trauma, genocide, violence, abuse, attempted rape, mental health and suicide, slut-shaming, victim-blaming, emetophobia, drug and alcohol, abuse, parental death, ableist language.

Audiobook review: In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard

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In a ruined, devastated world, where the earth is poisoned and beings of nightmares roam the land…

A woman, betrayed, terrified, sold into indenture to pay her village’s debts and struggling to survive in a spirit world.

A dragon, among the last of her kind, cold and aloof but desperately trying to make a difference.

When failed scholar Yên is sold to Vu Côn, one of the last dragons walking the earth, she expects to be tortured or killed for Vu Côn’s amusement.

But Vu Côn, it turns out, has a use for Yên: she needs a scholar to tutor her two unruly children. She takes Yên back to her home, a vast, vertiginous palace-prison where every door can lead to death. Vu Côn seems stern and unbending, but as the days pass Yên comes to see her kinder and caring side. She finds herself dangerously attracted to the dragon who is her master and jailer. In the end, Yên will have to decide where her own happiness lies—and whether it will survive the revelation of Vu Côn’s dark, unspeakable secrets…

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★★.5✩✩

This book was eye-opening for me because I’ve had multiple realizations while listening to it, first and foremost the realization that not caring about a book is a much worse feeling than not liking it.

This book was… objectively fine. It had things I like in theory but didn’t care for here and things I actually liked. I just really didn’t care about any of it and I feel so bad but it is what it is.

It might be that as soon as I started listening I realized that I actually really hate the idea of B&tB retellings, so I started off with a bad feeling in my gut. When I continued listening I could see that the aspects that make me uncomfortable about B&tB retellings were handled well here, but I still might stay away from such books in the future.

It might also be that while I love f/f romances (obviously) I just couldn’t see why Yên had to be so fucking horny for a dragon like, the moment she saw her. No, not even if she has a human form. Maybe I’m just not into monster romances and that’s another things this book made me realize. Generally speaking, I don’t mind insta-lust in most cases but I also didn’t really see an actual relationship development and I just couldn’t care about the romance at all.

I also didn’t really like any of the characters except for the twins, Vu Côn’s children, and actually found them and their relationship with Yên more well developed than the one with Vu Côn.

The world…this is another one of the realizations I’ve had with this book. I like Asian-inspired fantasy but I really don’t like fantasy dystopia. Or at least I didn’t care about this one. Oh, and speaking of the setting: I also don’t like magical buildings. I can’t see stuff in my head anyway so if things are constantly changing and just plain weird it just becomes a nightmare for me.

What I really liked was the diversity, there was an all Vietnamese cast and things about the language were also present in English (like specifying different kinds of pronouns for different form of address depending on relative age/social status etc). I bet that’s going to throw off a lot of monolinguals and I secretly rejoice at the thought of confused English monolinguals growing a big question mark on their faces.

There’s also two secondary characters who use they/them and, from what I could tell, personal pronouns were never assumed based on a person’s appearance. It was nice and effortless and this is how it should be.

I considered hard whether this was more of a 2.5 or a 3 stars for me, considering that what I felt was “meh” and that I do consider it an okay book. But I decided to go with 2.5 because it just doesn’t compare to books I rated 3 stars (which are normally books where I at least enjoy most elements). Regardless of my rating, please still know that this is an objectively good book probably, it just ticked off a lot of points I don’t like or care about.

Webcomic Review: No End by Erli and Kromi /// the zombie apocalypse has never been gayer

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Summary: No End is a webcomic about a group of people struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic country ravaged by an unyielding winter and hordes of undead. Living amid a world of horror doesn’t erase the cast’s day-to-day worries about identity, family, friendship and betrayal, as they seek people they can trust, as well a legendary place called “Haven” rumored to be free of the cold and horror.

Just as none of them are sure that it even exists, they aren’t sure what their place in their world is. But each step forward leads towards who they are, who they should become, and where they belong.

Due to it’s initial inspiration from an RP shared by the creators, No End has always strongly focused on its characters – their growth, their motivations, and the bonds woven between them. The post-apocalyptic setting is used to add suspense, and to put emphasis on the character’s internal struggles. This webcomic also features LGBTQA+ themes and characters – all the characters in the main cast are queer.

The comic updates every Sunday and Wednesday!

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★★★★

Ever watched The Walking Dead and then got fucking bored of it but you’re sort of missing those zombie vibes?

Look no further, this extremely queer webcomic is just the right thing for you.

The story follows a main cast of five: Modra, Benny, Wight, Jenn and Cotton, as they team up and travel to search for the mythical town of Haven.

It’s been decades since the zombies appeared so things are somewhat static (as opposed to those “the zombie apocalypse just started” plots), with towns run by the military and towns run by civilians, and spread out between them a wasteland that not many like to venture.

Of course, all of the main characters have some secrets, things they are running from and things they can’t outrun, and things that catch up with them as they visit new towns and meet old and new people.

The main squad that I mentioned above is supported by an amazing cast of secondary characters. There’s honestly not one that you won’t fall in love with, and best of all, they’re all diverse and the allocishet have never been heard of in that world ever. Yes, everybody is queer and there’s both sweet and endearing romances and frustratingly (in the best sense) angsty romances that will make you yell at your screen quite literally.

This is very much a character-based webcomic (just how I like my webcomics tbh), but it has some truly heart-stopping moments and some seriously scary characters and plot lines. I wouldn’t say this is horror but there is some gore sometimes and personally one storyline creeped the hell out of me.

Meet the characters:

prof_modra

 

Modra, actual cinnamon roll, blue aesthetic gay, comes from a privileged family and needed a change of air. Wouldn’t know how to survive on his own but is trying to learn.

prof_benny

 

 

Benny, angry bisexual, biracial white/Korean, a disaster at romance, needs to work on communication.

prof_wight

 

Wight, tragic gay, will make you want to kill everyone in the room and then yourself if something happens to him, doesn’t always smile or laugh but when he does you can see it in his eyes, actually makes you want to cry.

 

prof_jenn

 

Jenn, asexual queen of not trusting anybody, actually a mom friend, level-headed, Cotton’s best friend, relatable because of her love for her brother Wight.

 
prof_cotton

Cotton, fingergun bisexual, Iranian, bad puns and double-entendres, can read people except when it directly affects him, I actually yelled at him?? needs to learn coping mechanisms, always puts the others first.

 

prof_ramona

 

Ramona, Black lesbian, accidentally adopted a son at 15, backbone of our society really, looks like a cinnamon roll but might kill you.

 

prof_mav

 

Maverick, puts the “foul language” in “pansexuality”, looks like he might watch you die without raising a finger but is actually always ready to help, loves his mom and cats.

prof_jerry

 

 

Jerry, charming pansexual, steals the scene whenever he’s there, smoothest flirting game, needs to quit smoking tbh.

 

 

The comic is already really long with 9 full chapters but it’s also ongoing and I know there’s still a lot of characters we’re gonna meet and I can’t wait, but this is already in my top 3 “webcomics with the best characters” list. Seriously, it’s been weeks and I can’t stop thinking about them, and while I was reading it and had to pause to like, go to uni or shower I kept finding myself thinking about them as if they were real people.

Also, I love the art so much?? I don’t know how to describe art but I love the colors used and how the artist draws expressions. Even in Wight it’s always so clear when he smiles (please make him smile more) or his expression changes because it’s all in the eyes.

GSHGSHSGHSLGSLHLFSHG I just love this so much, please don’t even waste time adding it to your TBR and go read it immediately (and then come back and talk to me about my children).

Review: Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi

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Summary:Juliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

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★★★★.5✩

I loved this book and I’m so happy that I decided to give the second part of this series a chance.

Right from the beginning, the worldbuilding is finally tackled, which I think is was one of the problems that people had with the first three books. I personally didn’t find it a big problem in the books because Juliette was the only POV character and what she didn’t know wasn’t for the reader to know. This is made very clear right from the start of Restore Me, and her ignorance about the world and everything she got herself into is a big catalyst to the story.

However, the fact that there’s a lot more worldbuilding doesn’t take away from the very romance-y feel of the first three books. This book is literally packed with romance and it’s the kind of romance (with its ups and downs) that you can expect from an established relationship. It’s about two people who love each other but have gotten together under extreme circumstances and don’t actually know that much about each other, and they need to work towards this.

Despite me not really having reread the first three books recently, I think both Juliette and Warner felt like the same characters, especially Warner. This was great to see because it would have been too easy (and crappy) to have them both be different people just because they’re in a relationship. Also, the book starts only two weeks after the events of Ignite Me, so it’s not like they could have changed that much in that time anyway.

One of things I was most looking forward to in the book was Warner’s POV. After falling in love with him after like, two pages of the novella Destroy Me, his POV was literally what made me want to continue reading the series despite not being sure whether I would still like it. And I’m so happy to say that his POV was probably the best part of this book. His pain and grief as an abuse survivor was something I deeply related to. I can’t comment on the anxiety rep but it felt much-needed and real.

I also liked that Warnette’s relationship wasn’t the only one addressed here. Some of the other old characters aren’t completely forgotten, even though most of them are in the background, with the exception of Kenji, Adam, James and Castle.

I don’t remember much about Castle in the original trilogy to be completely honest but here he was kind of a central character and he acted as sort of an advisor to both Warner and Juliette. He felt like the archetypical mentor figure of YA that I feel has kind of been lost in the past years’ new releases. I liked that he also tried to not completely overstep his boundaries, even though I found he could have tried to help more.

Adam wasn’t very central to the plot at all but I actually loved the few scenes he had (me, loving Adam scenes? Doesn’t seem possible, yet here I am). Some of the shitty things he did in the original trilogy were addressed and I liked how he and Warner finally started to tentatively form a relationship. Also, James keeps being adorable and precious.

I left Kenji for last because he’s just the best supporting character ever. All I remembered from him is that I loved him, and now my love for him has only grown stronger. I love how supportive of Juliette he was, and he finally got some much needed bonding time with Warner. I had to laugh so much at their interactions, even when things were overall dramatic, but he’s just too fun not to love.

There are obviously also a few new side characters, and one of them I loved most of all: Nazeera is my Wife™ and I’m so happy that Juliette finally has a much needed female friendship. Nazeera is just too iconic and I can’t wait to see more of her in the next book.

This is a very character-driven book but it doesn’t lack amazing plot twists. I have to admit I had guessed the ending’s reveal at around the halfway point of the book, but I was still super invested and there was obviously more to the ending than the *reveal*, and I had to jump up and down while reading the last few chapters because y’alL WHAT WAS THAT.

There’s also the fact that I finished this in just a handful of hours on release date despite this being almost 500 pages long and that hasn’t happened in ages. So it’s safe to say that this totally kept me glued to the page and it felt so nice to have that experience again.

I wish I could end my review here but I can’t in good conscience not mention the one problem I had with this book. The next part will be more of a discussion and it got a bit long so you’re free to consider this review finished. Full list of trigger warnings at the end.

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*discussion part* 

Trigger warning for mention of transphobia in the next paragraphs:

Towards the 90% mark of the ebook (idk what page that is) a trans character is introduced. That’s great, but I found the way the character was introduced super problematic.

I will say I am a cis person and I don’t want to overstep my boundaries, but this book is just too new at the point in which I’m reviewing it and I haven’t been able to find an ownvoices trans reviewer talk about this. If you find one please send it my way.

Anyway, the trans character literally only gets one or two lines of dialogue, and we wouldn’t know that she’s trans unless another side character pointed it out in a transphobic way, saying the trans character, whose name is Valentina, is “playing pretend”. The chapter where this happens is from Warner’s POV, who already knew about the character being a trans woman, but he doesn’t really do anything to defend her. Instead, Valentina has to defend herself, and then the matter is simply pushed aside to continue with the plot.

I personally found this scene very bad for a few reasons:

• the trans character is essentially outed while her twin brother is introducing her to Juliette, who hasn’t met her before
• she’s not only outed, but also all the comments that are made about her are transphobic ones
• Kenji, who has grown up in the world before the Reestablishment took control, acts confused as if he doesn’t understand what’s going on, AKA even after the character is outed he doesn’t seem to understand that she’s a trans woman. I don’t understand the purpose of his line at all.
• I think this is a weird case of “queer people used for furthering a non-queer person’s narrative”, in the sense that the transphobic comments are used in order to convince the reader that the character who’s speaking, who has previously in the book already been coded as being a generally bad person, is, in fact, a bad person. Even in the best case scenario, this is just poor writing, because there were certainly other and better ways to indicate without a doubt that this character is an asshole.

The thing is, this scene isn’t necessarily unrealistic, but I think when writing any kind of queer representation you have to ask yourself, who are you writing this for? The answer should always be that you are writing this for queer people to see themselves represented. This scene didn’t feel at all like it was written for trans people. Especially since the comments weren’t challenged at all, and it was all so sudden and unexpected that there is no way a trans reader would have time to prepare themselves to see the transphobia coming.

As I said, everything I mentioned above are things I think of as bad because if something similar (outing etc) had happened for a rep I’m ownvoices for I would be livid. Since there are no trigger warnings in the book, in this case I’m choosing not to stay in my lane in the hope to spare a trans person some hurt. I will be happy to link to trans reviewers once more people have read the book, but so far I haven’t really seen anything about this.

End of TW for transphobia

Something else I saw on twitter from an Argentinean reader is that the Spanish that Valentina and her brother speak is not actually the kind of Spanish they speak in Argentina.

Both of these issues make it clear that nobody bothered hiring sensitivity readers for both trans and Argentinean representation, and that’s something that especially big publishers keep doing. I think that’s something that more readers should demand because there’s nothing that hurts more than seeing bad rep.

TWs: mention of paste abuse, mention of alcoholism, alcohol abuse, meds abuse, anxiety, panic attack on page, unchallenged transphobic comments

ARC review: Your One & Only by Adrianne Finlay

I was sent this book as an advanced copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own. 

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Summary: Jack is a walking fossil. The only human among a sea of clones. It’s been hundreds of years since humanity died off in the slow plague, leaving the clones behind to carry on human existence. Over time they’ve perfected their genes, moving further away from the imperfections of humanity. But if they really are perfect, why did they create Jack?

While Jack longs for acceptance, Althea-310 struggles with the feeling that she’s different from her sisters. Her fascination with Jack doesn’t help. As Althea and Jack’s connection grows stronger, so does the threat to their lives. What will happen if they do the unthinkable and fall in love?

Release date: February 6th, 2018

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★★★★

Althea-310 is one of ten Altheas of her generation (and one of the hundred Alteas from ten different generations, all simultaneously living at the time the book takes place). Her species calls themselves Homo Factus as opposed to Homo Sapiens, which went extinct three hundred years ago. Homo Factus started as a last hope for humans to continue their species when it was clear that the Slow Plague would wipe out every single one of them. A group of scientists modified human genes to be immune to this disease and started making clones out of the “better” DNA. When all the humans died, these clones took over and kept improving their species and created a society in which everything is strictly regulated in order to maintain a peaceful status quo.

However, things are changing during Althea-310’s late teen years, and a sign of it is the presence of Jack, a human boy (as in, a cloned Homo Sapiens, with no DNA modification). He’s literally a walking fossil and the differences between him and the “better” clones are many. He’s been brought up as closely as possible to how a human boy from three hundred years before might have been brought up, save for the fact that he’s had a very closely guarded childhood. However, in his teens he’s introduced to Althea-310’s generation and all sorts of problems start, mainly due to how different he is from everyone else in this society of perfected clones.

How foolish we were, to act as gods.

What might seem at first like a very good premise for a typical romance-heavy YA novel turns out to be a character and worldbuilding driven story. The romance is definitely atypical for your usual YA and it’s definitely not the main point of the story, and that only further improves my overall opinion of the book.

The story is, as I was saying, definitely character driven. The two point of views (Althea’s and Jack’s) work extremely well here since they’re technically two separate species (I’m not 100% sure of the scientific accuracy of my statement, but the clones do call themselves a different species than Homo Sapiens) with very different mindsets. That allows for an interesting study of what makes humans human, but it’s also not done in a cheesy way. It’s not a pretext for the idealization and idolization of humans and human society. The goods and bads of both sides are acknowledged and the ending brings enough answers for this to still be a standalone (which I believe it is, at least at the time I’m reviewing this) but with enough of a sort-of-open ending to allow for the reader’s curiosity to wander to these characters and world long after the book is over (and I have to say that if this ever turns out to have a sequel I will be happy).

This book is now one of my favorite dystopians ever and I’m so excited for more people to start reading it.