ARC Review: Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells

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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Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

Release date: July 30th

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★★★✩

An interesting worldbuilding and a perfect story for fans of The Dragon Prince, which was ultimately just a little too forgettable for me.

This book starts with a really great premise, a QPOC girl who decides to go save her girlfriend and undertakes a journey in a very interesting fantasy world with dragons that can bond to humans.

I thought the execution was okay for a debut, but if you’ve read a lot of fantasy books this will read a little too generic. The protagonist, Maren, is on a deadline to save her girlfriend, and yet we conveniently forget about the time issue for the time that it takes Maren to learn useful skills and important bits of worldbuilding and forge new friendships and relationships. Then time is suddenly relevant again and everything has to move forward rather fast. So, overall the pacing doesn’t usually bother me and it didn’t here, but it was definitely something I noticed. Some things were also very predictable, and all the foreshadowing was very obviously foreshadowing from the moment you read it and not 100 pages later when it actually became relevant. This is all just nitpicking and it’s just something you notice if you’ve read a lot of books, like I said.

Probably my favorite part of the whole book was the dragon egg that reminded me so much of The Dragon Prince, one of my favorite shows. It was really cute.

Maren is a bi girl in an already established relationship with a girl, that will be the reason for her whole quest. And here comes the part of this review that I dread to write, because it’s impossible for me not to mention it but as a bi girl I am aware of all the nuance in this. Of course, there’s a boy and Maren is like, immediately attracted to him. While still in a relationship with Kaia, her girlfriend. Think of it as you like, I personally was annoyed at this aspect of the story. There are other ways to show bisexual attraction without involving actual emotional cheating (and I use this term because it was more than just, “oh he’s so hot.”). Does it happen IRL? Of course. But maybe it’s not great in general and especially when the bisexual character is the one doing it. In any case I was mostly able to overlook it and pin it to the writer’s inexperience, I just want to warn other bisexual readers that this is something that happens.

So, would I recommend this book? I think the worldbuilding was interesting and it has a lot of potential for the rest of the series, if you can overlook some of the more debut-y aspects. I’m going to keep an eye out for the next installment if I remember, but even just a few weeks after reading it I don’t remember enough about this to really crave the sequel.

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ARC Review: The Queen of Rhodia (Tales of Inthya #3) by Effie Calvin

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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It has been sixteen months since Princess Esofi arrived in Ieflaria, and eight since her marriage to Crown Princess Adale. The princesses have a peaceful life together, preparing to become co-regents and raising their baby dragon, Carinth.

Their peace is shattered when Esofi’s mother, Queen Gaelle of Rhodia, arrives in Birsgen. She has heard about Carinth and believes that she deserves custody of him due to her greater devotion to Talcia, Goddess of Magic.

Adale and Esofi have no intention of giving up their son, but Gaelle is impossible to reason with—and there’s no telling what lengths she’ll go to in order to get what she wants.

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★★★★.5✩

I was so proud to see that the few minor issues I had with the first installment of this series were completely absent here. Not to brag but I KNEW IT and I love seeing that I was right about the writer’s potential.

So, our main characters Esofi and Adale got married and are now in an established relationship and dealing with their dragon son and with the political repercussions of The Things That Happened in book one. Of course Esofi’s mother, who is a fucking abusive bitch, enters the picture and stirs trouble. Plot happens, they’re still gay, the MCs from book two have cameos and they’re also gay, everything’s good, the end.

In all seriousness, I loved how this book dealt with pretty much everything. I knew it was going to be tough to read because of the abuse that Esofi went through her whole life and because she was forced to deal with her mother again. I wouldn’t say that any of that particular plot line was, strictly speaking, pleasant to read, and it didn’t offer me personallyany sort of closure because of the particular abuse dynamics here, but I know it will help another victim of abuse out there, and I’m so glad.

I don’t usually care for established relationship conflict in most cases, but here I thought it was done so well and so delicately. I’m really grateful to Effie Calvin for giving this couple their well-deserved sequel and exploring things we usually don’t get to see in get-together romances.

I don’t know what else to say except that I loved this and that I’m going to pick up book two as soon as I can (yes, I know, I suck, but in my defense this was perfectly understandable without having read book 2 since it followed the couple from book one, okay).

ARC Mini-review: Pomegranate Seeds by Melissa Jennings

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

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Summary: A collection of 6 poems about finding out how much the heart can take and where it truly belongs. The poetry collection also explores the author’s personal journey towards realising that they are polyamorous.

This micro-chapbook discusses polyamphobia, internalised polyamphobia, sexual imagery, and emotional self-harm.

Release date: June 21st

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★★★★.5✩

This short poetry book features poems about the author’s experience being polyamorous.

Like with all personal poems, it’s not easy to talk about them if you don’t share the same life experiences or identity, but even without being able to relate to them on a personal level, and even as someone who doesn’t read much poetry lately (and generally doesn’t have much experience reading poetry in English), I loved the imagery used and I could really feel the author’s feelings coming to life on page.

Short review for a short book, but I think polyam people will be able to find a piece of themselves here more than I could, and everyone else will be able to enjoy (and discover, if this is your first work by Melissa Jennings) the author’s vivid style.

ARC Mini-review: Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman // western f/f + trans heist comic

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: In this rollicking queer western adventure, acclaimed cartoonist Melanie Gillman (Stonewall Award Honor Book As the Crow Flies) puts readers in the saddle alongside Flor and Grace, a Latinx outlaw and a trans runaway, as they team up to thwart a Confederate plot in the New Mexico Territory. When Flor–also known as the notorious Ghost Hawk–robs the stagecoach that Grace has used to escape her Georgia home, the first thing on her mind is ransom. But when the two get to talking about Flor’s plan to crash a Confederate gala and steal some crucial documents, Grace convinces Flor to let her join the heist.

Release date: September 3rd

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★★★

This comic is set in the Wild West and it’s a fun, heisty story about a trans woman who gets kidnapped and ends up working together with her kidnapper, who is a queer Latinx.

The style of the comic is cute although maybe not a personal favorite, but I love the color scheme and how it fits the scenery, and the facial expressions are so good!

This first volume is divided in a few chapters and I assume it’s going to be the first in a series, because the story is by no means done. There’s no cliffhanger though, and it’s satisfying as a standalone too, until the next one comes out.

So! Heist, Wild West, badass women falling in love while having adventures! Get on it!

ARC Mini Review: Honeybee by Trista Mateer

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:

You will meet people in your lifetime who demand to have poems written about them. It’s not something they say. It’s something about their hands, the shape of their mouths, the way they look walking away from you. Honeybee is an honest take on walking away and still feeling like you were walked away from. It’s about cutting love loose like a kite string and praying the wind has the decency to carry it away from you. It’s an ode to the back and forth, the process of letting something go but not knowing where to put it down. Honeybee is putting it down. It’s small town girls and plane tickets, a taste of tenderness and honey, the bandage on the bee sting. It’s a reminder that you are not defined by the people you walk away from or the people who walk away from you. Consider Honeybee a memoir in verse, or at the very least, a story written by one of today’s most confessional poets.

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★★★✩

This poetry collection is essentially about the author’s life after letting go of the woman she loved. It’s always hard to judge the content of such personal poems so I’m trying not to go there, I’ll just say that what kept me reading was the style of the poems more than the concepts. It’s just, the author’s feelings either will resonate with you or they won’t, and for me they mostly didn’t, but that’s something I need to have in order to really love poetry.

My favorite poems were the ones that talked about bisexuality (even if this book is not for you, you must read the poem called “A Brief Note on Biphobia”). They meant a lot to me.

I think this is an important book for queer women regardless of your own feelings while reading it, but definitely be aware that it’s very heavy on breakup and heartbreak themes as well as homophobia and biphobia.

ARC Mini-Review: Birth of Chaos by Elise Kova and Lynn Larsh

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

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Summary: A WISH FOR DESTRUCTION…
HAS JOSEPHINA UNRAVELING

A new wish is pushing the weary members of the Society to their breaking points. But as Jo’s complex relationship with their leader reveals dangerous truths about who she truly is, and was, her priorities quickly change. Now, she seeks to expose the enemy lurking in their midst, but it may already be too late to thwart an ancient goddess bent on stealing Jo’s power and destroying everything she loves.

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★★★✩

Birth of Chaos is in some ways better and in some others worse than the previous installments of this series. Some of the problems I had with the first two books (read the reviews here and here) are still there, other problems are somewhat solved, but I just can’t help but feel that the whole series feels extremely rushed and that it would benefit immensely from a little more editing.

What I continue liking about the series is the whole concept of worlds that can be destroyed and rebuilt, and the many missing pieces of worldbuilding that we finally got to discover in this third book make everything more interesting. Granted some things were kind of predictable if you’ve been paying attention during book two, some things still managed to surprise me.

There’s not much I can add to what I’ve already said in my previous reviews for this series without spoiling the plot, so this is just a short review. I want to read the next and final book because now I’m invested in the story and the characters. One thing I will say is that the ending (as in, the few final chapters) had me even more curious about what’s going to happen, so I guess that regardless of my problems with the execution, the concept still keeps dragging me into the story.

ARC Mini-Review: A Tiny Piece of Something Greater by Jude Sierra // a healthy M/M romance with important #ownvoices mental illness rep

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: Reid Watsford has a lot of secrets and a past he can’t quite escape. While staying at his grandmother’s condo in Key Largo, he signs up for introductory dive classes, where he meets Joaquim Oliveira, a Brazilian dive instructor with wanderlust. Driven by an instant, magnetic pull, what could have been just a hookup quickly deepens. As their relationship evolves, they must learn to navigate the challenges of Reid’s mental illness—on their own and with each other.

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★★★★

This was exactly the kind of book I was in the mood for! A healthy and sexy M/M romance that’s never too smutty and never fetishized, with important ownvoices mental illness representation.

Reid and Joaquim come from different backgrounds. Most of the novel focuses on them learning to know each other and especially learning how to be together. Reid has cyclothymia and while Joaquim learns to be with him and be respectful of him when he’s cycling and needs space, Reid also needs to learn to let go of some of the behavior and negative expectations he’s still carrying from a past unhealthy relationship.

I think this is an important book because of the mental illness representation and how openly it’s talked about. It’s also definitely not a “love fixes mental illness” novel, far from it in fact, and I wish more novels were this honest when it comes to building healthy relationships not in spite of but alongside a mental illness.

Rep: Brazilian gay MC, cyclothymic gay MC, M/M relationship

TW (taken from the publisher’s website):
• Discussion of mental illness, therapy and recovery
• A portrayal of a cyclothymic character who experiences rapid mood cycles and anxiety
• Non-graphic discussion of past self-harm and off-page relapse
• Non-graphic reference of a past suicide attempt