Review: The Loveless Princess by Lilian Bodley

I received an ARC via netgalley but all thoughts are my own.

★★★★

The first thing you should know about this short book is that I kept reading it in the car (don’t worry I was only a passenger!) despite my motion sickness and despite the Pokémon GO event with the 4x candies for your Pokémon buddy, y’feel me?

So I guess what I’m saying is that I was hooked from the first sentence. It’s not that the story was particularly original but it was gripping and really well written and I really wanted to know how the whole aro/ace thing was going to be handled. As it turns out, I think it was done pretty well (I’m not aro/ace but I believe this book is #ownvoices so I have to trust the author on this. Also from previous reads and research I felt like everything was handled well).

The plot was pretty simple but effective and to the point: Princess Anette is forced to marry Prince Everett from another kingdom, her parents won’t hear her reasoning and they don’t believe and don’t understand her when she tries to explain that she’s never loved anyone that way and she truly doesn’t believe that she ever will, and her parents keep telling her that she’ll find happiness through marriage. She reluctantly accepts to be married off because she’s an actual rational person unlike many book MCs and realizes there’s not much she can do that wouldn’t put her and her fiance’s kingdom at risk.
After she’s been married for a couple of days she finds out that her husband actually only loves men (that’s what I was hoping would happen tbh) and has a lover. When she sees them together, she gets mad because she was still holding on to the hope that despite her feelings so far (or lack of romantic feeling) she could grow to love her husband the way people expected her to, but if he loves someone else she sees that tiny hope disappear (I thought that was a bit of a weak plot point, but I actually reread that passage and while it’s a bit sudden and she seems to act a bit OOC I think her reasons actually make some sort of sense). She says some things she doesn’t fully mean, and the prince disappears, so she decides to go on a quest to find him since it was her fault that he disappeared.
This quest is full of fairy tale elements (the whole book actually is. It mentions a lot of tales/myths -some of which I haven’t even been able to identify because I’m not the most knowledgeable person when it comes to those) and the book makes it a point to make you understand that this story is set in such a classic, traditional world.

Now, I think that is great because that means that even in a classic, fairy-tale-like world, where Prince Everett’s grandma is literally the Princess form the Princess and the Pea and his mom is the Princess from Sleeping Beauty, aro/asexual and gay people and all kinds of people can exist and find their own place and they can make this world theirs. I think that’s definitely empowering and important and one of the things that made me like this short story so freaking much.

Another thing that was stressed out almost too much (but I never found like it was repeated too often or in the same context twice) was the idea that love/marriage and happiness aren’t two things that go hand in hand. This is stated in the book because the heroine is aro/ace but I feel like it’s an universal message and too often in books (and in life) there’s this silent acceptance of the equation love=happiness but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Even if you’re not aro/ace, you should reflect on this message because it’s true, you don’t need to find love to be happy (and finding love is nice but it doesn’t automatically make you happy on all fronts).

I’d definitely recommend this book to anyone for all the reasons I stated above (plus if you feel like you don’t know much about aro/asexuality but would like to understand it I feel like this book is a good place to start researching).

TW: attempted rape (I kinda skimmed that part, it wasn’t very graphic I think but it’s still important to point it out)

#T5W: Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads

A quick note before we get into this post: I realize I haven’t written a review here in a bit! My last posts have all been Top Five Wednesdays and I feel so bad about it. The thing is, I guess I’m in a bit of a reading slump at the moment, so I don’t really have new things to review. I’ve been reading some mangas and stuff, but it’s nothing I’d be able to write a good review about, not for the blog at least. I still review everything I read on GR even if it’s just a few lines of text, but I want to keep my blog as a place where I post well-written reviews, so I won’t post one until I can provide some good content. Hopefully I’ll manage to get out of this weird slump and catch up with the latest releases and the ARCs I was sent! I still find T5W to be an interesting thing to do so I hope it doesn’t bother anyone that that’s the only type of post I’m putting out.


Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

April 19th: Favorite LGBTQ+ Reads
–Talk about your favorite books that feature LGBTQ+ characters or are by LGBTQ+ authors.

I tried to combine both things and only mention LGBTQ+ books by LGBTQ+ authors. I’ll try to point out the different labels that can be applied to characters within each book in case someone is interested in a specific kind of representation. (There are more books that I love but I’m not sure if the authors are in the LGBTQ+ community themselves.)

  • The Captive Prince series by C.S. Pacat: although labels aren’t used in this world, the MCs are respectively bisexual and gay. Plus, this is a homonormative world.
  • Peter Darling by Austin Chant: the main character, Peter, is a trans man and has a relationship with another man (though we don’t know if Peter is gay or bi or pan).
  • The Shades of Magic series by V.E. Schwab: there are many main characters, and within the book (although, here too, no labels are used), one character is canonically bisexual and another one is probably bisexual (either that or gay or pan). However, the author herself has stated that no character (well except one minor one lol) is straight. Plus, one of the main characters is gender fluid (again, no labels are used within the world in this sense either, but the author confirmed this).
  • All for the Game by Nora Sakavic: two characters (male) are gay, one character (the main one) is demisexual (portrayed later in a relationship with another man).
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (I actually am not 100% sure if she’s part of the LGBTQ+ community; my brain tells me I’ve read somewhere that she is but I don’t know): one character is canonically gay, another one is bisexual. Another one (a girl) is bisexual (confirmed by the author but not shown within canon).

Review: The Search for Aveline by Stephanie Rabig and Angie Bee

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

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★★★★✩

This book is really hard for me to rate. I’ve settled on the rating I feel represents my feelings the most, but I’m going to try and rate things separately because I feel like it’s necessary:

Enjoyment: 10/10
Characters: 8/10
Plot what plot?: 4/10
Technical stuff: 3/10
Writing: 7/10
Romance: 7/10
Diversity: FIVE BILLIONS/10

(Note that not all points have the same weight in my eyes)
As you see, I was able to completely enjoy this book even though I was aware that some things could have been done better.

Let’s get the bad/average stuff out of the way first:
What I called “technical stuff” basically comes down to one major thing: the PoVs in this book were all over the place. The thing is, they’re so many (I’ll talk about this in the characters section of this review), but that’s not the problem at all, at least for me. The problem is that while each chapter focuses on one/two or a handful of characters at most, it’s never really clear whose PoV it is. Very rarely I got a sense that the narrative was third person omniscient, it seemed more of a case of third person limited where the PoVs switch a lot within the chapter, without a clear separation, and, what’s worse, sometimes that even happened within the same sentence.
Look, not everybody will care about this, but the way my brain works, once I learn about these things (I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t even know about this stuff not too long ago) I just can’t unsee them, you know? There’s just something reassuring in knowing that the whole chapter will be from X’s PoV.

Despite this, I managed not to get too distracted by it and I was able to focus on the characters. I say characters because the plot was pretty much non-existent, but if you know me, you’ll know that I usually love character-driven stories, and this was certainly one of those.

The thing is, the characters in this book were so many and sometimes so random that in theory, this book shouldn’t work. But in reality? It works. At least for me. I wasn’t bored once, I was never confused despite the endless amounts of point of views, even when it wasn’t entirely clear at first how some new characters fit into the story. It was also not always plainly clear whether something was a flashback or not, but it was overall understandable given the context.
This is also a rather short book, and because of that I felt like there was no time to make each character more well-rounded and layered, but what was shown on-page was still a decent exploration of each character’s background, experience and feelings.

This bring me to my next and favorite point, and where I personally think this books shines, and another reason why in theory it shouldn’t work but incredibly it does: the diversity was a.m.a.z.i.n.g., and as I was reading I tried to write down a list of diverse rep within it because it was all too much to keep in mind:

Sexuality/gender:
✓Asexuality
✓Aromanticism (?)*
✓Demisexuality
✓Bisexuality
✓Homosexuality (male and female)
✓Heterosexuality (very little tbh)
✓Pansexuality (?)*
✓Polyamory (?)*
✓Gender fluid character

Faith/beliefs:
✓in God (Catholic)
✓in science and evolution
✓no faith (atheism) [and let me just add that the number of times I, as an atheist, have felt represented in a book were very, very few, and I was so happy to see an atheist character here]
✓not sure (agnosticism)

Mental illness:
✓Bipolar disorder (?)*
✓Depression

As well as various types of disability and all kinds of skin color/ethnicity.

(You should keep in mind though, no sexuality label was actually used within the book, since it takes place in the late 1800s -I’m not exactly sure when, and I might have caught at least one historical inaccuracy, but what can you do-. Still, the various sexualities and genders were pretty much understandable and I tried to narrow them down to labels because I think it’s useful if someone reads this review and wants to know whether they’ll feel represented.)

*(The (?) are because I’m not exactly sure about those.)

As you can see, that’s really a lot. If someone had told me that all those things, especially all the different sexualities, would have fit in a short book like this one, I would have thought it couldn’t possibly work. While you won’t find an extensive study on all of those (though I think quite decent explanations were given about asexuality, demisexuality, gender fluidity and depression), it’s still amazing how the authors managed to squeeze all of that in this tiny book. Sure, there wasn’t space for much else, like an actual plot, but it was refreshing to read about such different point of views, and at the same time I never felt like this book was used as a dump to “show off” how diverse you could make it. The different stories and backgrounds fit together quite well and to me this should be the selling point of this book.

All in all, this was pretty much a whole lot of romance (there’s so many pairings I can’t even count them all off the top of my head to be honest), but they all felt different from each other and I was never bored or felt like things got repetitive.

To wrap this up, here’s another brief list of things that I loved:
• predominantly-female pirate crew;
• Healthy! Communication! Between! The characters!
• everybody respected each other’s boundaries;
• the women were such role models;
• the men/males too;
• basically everyone was amazing for different reasons tbh;
• the different fantastical creatures were interesting and fit well within this otherwise-historical world.

All in all I would say that if you usually love character-driven plots there’s a high chance that you’ll be able to love this book as much as I did!

Review: How to Be Happy: A Memoir of Love, Sex and Teenage Confusion by David Burton

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

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★★★★★ 

(maybe more like 4,5 stars)

Goodreads synopsis:

A funny, sad and serious memoir, ‘How to Be Happy’ is David Burton’s story of his turbulent life at high school and beyond. Feeling out of place and convinced that he is not normal, David has a rocky start. He longs to have a girlfriend, but his first ‘date’ is a disaster. There’s the catastrophe of the school swimming carnival – David is not sporty – and friendships that take devastating turns. Then he finds some solace in drama classes with the creation of ‘Crazy Dave’, and he builds a life where everything is fine. But everything is not fine.

And, at the centre of it all, trying desperately to work it all out, is the real David.

‘How to Be Happy’ tackles depression, friendship, sexual identity, suicide, academic pressure, love and adolescent confusion. It’s a brave and honest account of one young man’s search for a happy, true and meaningful life that will resonate with readers young and old.

First off, let me start by saying that if this had been fiction instead of a memoir, probably my rating and my feelings towards this would be slightly different. But because the events in this are real, I don’t feel like it’s my place to judge or even comment on the author’s actions and thoughts, especially when he was a teen.

I really liked the way this was written. It was very straightforward and easy to read, even when the themes it featured were all but light and easy.
I’m not the best person to write a complete list of trigger warnings for this, but I feel like if one’s going to read this, it should be clear that self harm and suicidal thoughts/attempts are mentioned in this book.

The reason why this is not a full 5 stars for me is that the title might be a bit misleading. I never expected this to be a guide on how to be happy, but I feel like, given the title, the part that actually talked about happiness (or not) should have been slightly longer. Instead, it felt a little bit rushed, but it was certainly informative and it made for a good epilogue and offered valid pieces of advice.

Something that could bother someone is the lack of a definite label on the author’s sexuality. I don’t know if he now has found a label he can identify with, but all attempts of labelling himself in the book resulted in actually mislabelling. By the end of the book, he didn’t mention any sexuality-related terms anymore, and I feel like this could be confusing for someone reading this and expecting to find a set definition of the author/character’s sexuality. I understand if that’s how others feel, but as someone who believes that sexuality is (or can be, for some people) fluid, it actually felt refreshing to me to see how one can decide not to stick to any set rule or label if they feel like those don’t apply for them.

Keeping everything I said in mind, I’d certain recommend reading this book. It might surprise you just as much as it surprised me.

 

 

Webcomic review: Check, Please! by Ngozi Ukazu

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★★★★

Some of my favorite stories feature a good amount of angst, moral greyness and Bad Things, and I honestly don’t think I could ever give that up.
But sometimes you need to immerse yourself in a world that’s positive and that shows you that good things can exist, and not everything has to be complicated (irl and in literature) to be good.

Check, Please! is the book comic that has reminded me of this.

There is only one key word here: healthy.
This is by no means set in a fictional world where Bad Things don’t happen, but they (have) happen(ed) off-screen and the relationships portrayed are actual goals.

The story follows Bittle, ex figure skater (can you hear my heartbeat?) turned hockey player, as he joins his new university team. Everyone on the team is all kinds of ‘swawsome (that’s a word) and they make him feel welcome.
Later on, love blooms between the protagonist and one of his teammates and the way their relationship is shown could be renamed “Healthy relationship 101”. It shows all kinds of different situation that normally (in most media) would be the origin of some drama, and instead turns them into a teaching moment (without being patronizing). Because, guess what, most situations are easily dealt with through communication!

That’s basically what this whole story is, it’s obviously very character driven (I live for those) and it can fill your whole day with positivity, which is only a good thing until you’re forced to face reality again.

Other things I loved were both the art (it’s just so adorable and colorful and every drawing has a ton of tiny details – I’m sure it takes a lot of time to draw each one!) and the humor (even though sometimes it references something of American culture -I suppose?- that I’m not familiar with, so I don’t get every single joke, but it didn’t bother me).

Oh, have I mentioned the story is completely free on Tumblr?? It’s also not over yet (this review is written after the episode “Dinner at Marty’s?”) and I absolutely can’t wait to read the next update!
If this ever goes into printing I’m also definitely buying it because this artist deserves to be supported.

(Also I first found out about this comic thanks to Jess @ beaucoupbooks so I want to publicly thank her for bringing it to my attention ♥)

Review: Peter Darling by Austin Chant

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

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★★★★

Release date: today! (Feb. 15th, 2017)

Goodreads synopsis:

Ten years ago, Peter Pan left Neverland to grow up, leaving behind his adolescent dreams of boyhood and resigning himself to life as Wendy Darling. Growing up, however, has only made him realize how inescapable his identity as a man is.

But when he returns to Neverland, everything has changed: the Lost Boys have become men, and the war games they once played are now real and deadly. Even more shocking is the attraction Peter never knew he could feel for his old rival, Captain Hook—and the realization that he no longer knows which of them is the real villain.

TW: suicide attempt, improper use of personal pronouns (I don’t know if the latter counts as triggering but better safe than sorry?).

Let me get something out of my system first of all:
W
O
W
Okay, now that that’s out of the way: wow. I was completely blown away by this short book, which was a couple of firsts for me: mainly first trans story and first Peter Pan retelling.

Actually, I have to admit I didn’t know the first thing about Peter Pan, that is, if you don’t count the Disney cartoon, which I’m going to assume is not a very accurate representation (and even though I loved that cartoon as a kid, I kind of grew to hate it and its story over time).
Despite this, the premise of this book sounded like something right up my alley, and I’m glad to confirm that it was indeed a perfect book for me.

I just love retellings that turn the stories upside down and make them new with refreshing ideas, and the fact that in this book Peter’s assigned identity was Wendy made me click that request button on Netgalley so freaking fast.

As always when I’m feeling so hyped about a book, I’m also really scared once I do get to sit down and read it. What were my particular fears for this one?

– since it’s such a short book, I was really afraid that the romance (or the whole story) would have felt rushed (I was really dreading the much-hated insta-love);
– I thought that not knowing the original story would make me like this book less.

Well, I’m glad to say that both fears had no ground to exist.

First of all I want to address the pacing of this book: it’s only 140 pages short, so I really thought there would no room for things like subtlety and introspection, but it managed to give me both of those, together with everything I look for in both a fantasy and a romantic book.

The fantasy: while the essence of Neverland’s magic itself wasn’t explained, there was a very satisfying explanation for at least part of the things that happened there (it’s kind of a plot twist so I won’t go into detail)
I also loved how the fairies were described as having different shapes and colors and the role they played in the story (they mainly served to move the plot forward but they were also interesting enough that I was genuinely curious to find out more about them), and the other mythical creatures like the merpeople and the kraken were such good additions to this story.

Peter’s backstory: having read the blurb, one already knows who Peter used to be, but it’s something that gets gradually revealed in the first part of the book, and in a very delicate way, at least in my opinion. I know the author is trans himself so I trust him to have done a good job in this particular aspect. Not having experienced the struggle of a trans person, I still found myself crying in certain parts of the book and I felt real pain whenever Peter’s brothers or parents called him with his birth name and used the female pronouns to talk to/about him.
As per author’s decision, there is no big reveal/coming out between Peter and Hook, and I think that worked out amazingly.

Peter realized he was waiting for some kind of probing curiosity in return-some remark on what Peter sounded like, or worse on his body-but James’s only encroachment on the subject was to say, “Your shirt has seen better days. Would you like one of mine? Assuming all my clothes haven’t been eaten by moths.”
All at once it became easier to breathe. “Yes,” Peter said. “Please.”

The romance: let me demonstrate in .gif form my feelings about the romance:
description
You can’t expect me to be rational about my absolute favorite romantic trope (enemies to lovers). Plus we all know I have a thing for pirates, right? Right.

“I win,” he panted, grinning. He slowely lowered his sword to aim at Hook’s heart. One thrust, and it would be over. Peter wet his lips with his tongue. “This is it. You’re mine.”
“Am I?” Hook asked, as Peter drew back his sword. “Or are you mine?”

This romance was perfect and healthy. It wasn’t too sudden or rushed, I genuinely felt like it had reason to exist and I loved everything about it.
For example, I love how Hook seems to understand Peter in that way that sometimes only your enemies tend to do.

“I find that enemies are the most satisfying people to share secrets with,” Hook said. “If you must tell someone, tell someone who’s sensitive to all your vulnerabilities, on account of trying to exploit them.”
“That doesn’t make sense.”
“I’m making excuses for you,” Hook said impatiently. “You seem like the type to bottle up without an excuse.”

Both my BR partner and I were squealing so hard and honestly I’m glad I wasn’t reading this alone because I was in serious need to vent my feels™ about these two.

“Obsession?”
“Is that not what they call it,” Hook said, “when two men can think of nothing but each other?”

Other things I enjoyed:

The pacing: it was mostly consistent throughout the book and, while I noticed that things were kept as brief and as necessary as possible, it didn’t impact my reading experience (I’m one who usually prefers a slower pace). There was even some room for exploring a little bit of a secondary character (Ernest) and I quite enjoyed that.

The (eventual) dual PoV: if we don’t count the prologue, we get some chapters from Hook’s PoV only after The Twist happens, and I think that decision was spot-on. I really think his PoV allowed us to enjoy the romance a lot more and to see Peter under a different light.

The last thing I want to say is that this was a perfect story to read on Valentine’s Day ♥

As you can see I loved loved  l o v e d  this book and I’ll make sure to keep an eye on the author’s next works.

#T5W: Favorite Underrated Books

Top Five Wednesday is a book meme that Lainey started and I discovered through the lovely Samantha‘s videos. If you’re interested you can join the goodreads group to get the topics for each week.

This week’s topic:

January 25th: Favorite Underrated Books 
–Give some love to those books that aren’t as widely talked about. Those hidden gems. Those books that maybe used to be popular but people have forgotten about and they still deserve some love.

In no particular order (links bring to my reviews):

How to Repair a Mechanical Heart, by J.C. Lillis

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Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it. 

Truth in the Dark, by Amy Lane

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Adhhsdhjds read this one too please. 

The Darkest Part of the Forest, by Holly Black

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And then read this while you’re at it. 

Air Awakens, (series) by Elise Kova

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This is the only one of these books that I have not reviewed (I will do it whenever I reread it, because I will rearead it) but I absolutely adore this series! It has such a classic fantasy feel to it and yet it feels completely fresh and it has so many different themes. The characters are spectacular and I love every single one of them (that’s not always something to be glad about, because people in this series get hurt for real. All I’m saying is: guard your hearts.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, (series) by Laini Taylor

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I feel like this trilogy is more popular than the other books I mentioned, but I still think it’s not as wildly popular as it should be. I’ve barely seen any booktuber mention it and I don’t really know why, because it deserves to hang out with the popular  books.

I understand why and how some books become more popular than others. That doesn’t take away from their value in my opinion, but I think we bloggers should try to do our best to review what we genuinely want to and try to keep in mind that while reviews for popular books will attract more blog views, it is important to also review books that aren’t as well-known, so that more people can have a chance to find out about them.