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)

ARC review: Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

I was provided an early copy of this by Netgalley but all opinions are my own.

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★★✩✩

I really liked some parts but other ones either didn’t make any sense or they were just boring. The only reason I hurried to finish this was so I could be free to read something else and because being in a BR I felt motivated to keep up with my BR partner, but most of the time all I wanted to do was…basically anything that wasn’t reading this.

It was a story with so much potential that I can’t help but feel really sad and disappointed because some things were very poorly executed in my opinion.

Let’s start with Mariko’s character. We’re told she is really smart and clever, and within the book she “invents” shuriken, grenades (?) and possibly other things that I was too confused to really get, but we actually aren’t shown how intelligent she is. Ahdieh deliberately decides to have Mariko invent those things but as a reader that didn’t affect my perception of her as a rather bland character, and not a particularly smart at that.

From her reasons to stay with the Black Clan (so that she could…somehow save her name from “shame” in her family’s eyes…by camping with a group of men…mmh okaaay?) to her acceptance of things that she should probably have questioned (the animal in the forest?), she did not read like a very smart character.

She only shines with a couple of important quotes, but those aren’t enough to make me love the book (or her character as a whole). Still, it’s important for younger readers to see these messages in a book.

I will not be bandied about by men any longer. I am not a prize to be bought or sold.

Was is always necessary for boys to prove they knew more than anyone else around them?

She remembered Chiyo telling her that finding one’s match was like finding one’s other half. Mariko had never understood the notion. She was not a half. She was wholly her own.

Something else I liked was how the other few female characters were portrayed.

Mariko nudged the handle of her spoon with a bound fingertip. “Are you ever angry you were born a woman?”
Yumi sat back on her heels and studied Mariko for a spell. “I’ve never been angry to have been born a woman. There have been times I’ve been angry at how the world treats us, but I see being a woman as a challenge I must fight. Like being born under a stormy sky. Some people are lucky enough to be born on a bright summer’s day. Maybe we were born under clouds. No wind. No rain. Just a mountain of clouds we must climb each morning so that we may see the sun.”

Among the many things I would have liked to see, was Mariko and Kenshin’s relationship. Siblings’ relationships are one of the things I most enjoy reading about since I’m an only child, and since Mariko and Kenshin are twins I was hoping to get a lot of their relationship. Even though they don’t really interact in the book since they are separated, we get a few hints of how their relationship and their differences might be, but not enough to make me feel whether or not they have a strong bond or not. So this is another reason why I’m disappointed in this book. I’m sure it will be explored more in the second book, but I wish it had been built earlier on.

Another thing that completely failed in my eyes (and it was probably the worst aspect of this book for me) is the romance. At first, I didn’t see who the romance was going to be about. I had some ideas and I was wrong about my first thoughts (don’t worry though, there’s no love triangle). I was actually hoping that for once there would be no romance (even though I’m a sucker for it), because I didn’t really ship anyone. Well,that’s not entirely true, since I did ship a couple that ended up being just a brotp.

(I haven’t seen anyone complain about Ahdieh’s lack of LGBT+ portrayal even though there was none in this or, as far as I remember, in TWATD. I’d be interested to know why we only “attack” certain authors but not others for this, but that’s a discussion that I don’t feel like having in a review)

Anyway, there was no romance for most part of this book, and then it just…was there. And I didn’t feel it. Not only was I not given time to ship it, it also felt boring and I didn’t like how it suddenly happened.

The romance and the discovery of Mariko’s gender are two things that go hand in hand in the book, and it’s something that bothered me endlessly. The way Mariko was finally found out was so over-used and unimaginative that I just couldn’t believe my eyes. There was a lot of potential there and it just vanished within half a scene. I’m so disappointed and pissed. I’d say more but without the option to hide spoilers I don’t want to, though you can read this review on goodreads if you want to open that spoiler tag.

Reading the rest of the romantic plot I felt like I had to turn a blind eye to the fact that I hated the way it developed. Again, there were a couple more nice quotes,

“You are first and foremost a person. A reckless, foolish person, but a person nonetheless. If I ever say you are not permitted to do something, rest assured that the last reason I would ever say so would be because you are a girl.”

but I never loved it.

The world building felt quite genuine (although many Japanese terms were used without an explanation – at least not in the ARC version. I think the published book will have some sort of summary at the end like TWATD) but I didn’t get the use of the magic. It was very similar in this to TWATD but it bothered me more. We’re shown a glimpse of magic that is never explained and just confused me. I’m sure it will be explored more in the next book but I don’t like this approach.

I think it’s still worth to give this book a try if you loved TWATD. I might request the ARC of the next book whenever it’s on Netgalley but I don’t think I’ll be purchasing it with my money.

#T5W: Favorite SFF Cover Art

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:

May 3rd: Favorite SFF Cover Art *Booktube SFF Awards Crossover Topic*
— Show off some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy cover art!

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There are many more covers that I love but these were some of my favorite off the top of my head. It’s too bad I don’t own any of them in physical form (they’re all on my kindle and Daughter of Smoke and Bone doesn’t even have that cover but I love that edition). Although I did see The Darkest Part of the Forest in a bookstore the other day and I almost bought it even though it was in Italian and I can’t guarantee I won’t go back and actually buy it since it was one of the best surprises I’ve had this year reading-wise.

Fortunately they’re also all books I loved, except for Flame in the Mist, which was just okay and I’ll review soon.

What are some of your favorite Science Fiction or Fantasy covers? And does the actual content live up to the cover?

#T5W: Top SFF books on my TBR

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 5th: Top SFF Books on Your TBR *Booktube SFF Awards Babble Crossover Topic!*

–Talk about the science fiction and fantasy books you want to read ASAP!

I’ll only list books that are already out, so here they are:

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Look, I own the hardcover of this and I read Illuminae as my first book of 2017 and I absolutely adored it. It also caused me so much pain that I still don’t think I’m fully recovered, and that’s why I haven’t started Gemina yet. But hopefully I can read it this month since I’m feeling ready.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

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I own the e-books of this whole series but I haven’t felt like starting a high fantasy lately, especially not such a long one! I mean, each book is extremely long and it’s four books in the series, and I know I need to binge read fantasy to fully enjoy and not forget all the little details of the world. So I’m just waiting for the right time I guess.

Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

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I can’t get over the fact that the person on the cover is dabbing tbh

See what I said above, plus the fact that I’m pretty sure the last book so far ends with a cliffhanger and there’s still too many months before the last book comes out. My friends who have read it loved this series so much but they’re suffering now so since I’m not in the mood for such a long series I’ll just wait a bit, but I’m really curious about it.

The School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

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I haven’t read middle-grade books in a while, but what I’ve heard of this series honestly sounds amazing. I don’t know how soon I’ll get to it since I seem to be drowning in my TBR but I’m still very excited about it.

Every single book by Victoria/V.E. Schwab

Because Shades of Magic was amazing and I need more.

#T5W: Favorite Angsty Romances

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:

March 22nd- Favorite Angsty Romances
–This topic has been much requested! Talk about your favorite ships that have a healthy side of angst. (definition: adj.: describes a situation or literary piece which contains dark, depressing, angry, and/or brooding emotions from the participating characters.)

I know for some of us seeing the names of the couples in a book/series might classify as a spoiler, so if you don’t want to know about those don’t read this post (I’m going against my interest here but hey, I’d never want to spoil anyone).

So, POTENTIAL SPOILERS BELOW!!!


If you’re still reading, I managed to round up five series where I feel like the romance plays an important role, but they’re not strictly classified as romance. I’ve just never found an actual romance book to be as angsty as some of the romances that are built in books that classify as fantasy.

Damen and Laurent (Captive Prince)

If you know me a bit, you’ll know this is my favorite series. It features a lot of political intrigue, but it’s extremely romance-heavy, and let me tell you, it’s so angsty and slow-burning it almost physically hurts.

Neil and Andrew (All for the Game)

Okay, this is the only series in this post that is not actually fantasy, but it’s not classified as romance either. And it should’t, because the romance is so slow-burning you don’t see it happen until…well, until it happens (unless you’re re-reading and then you see all the signs). As for the angst, boy, it’s there alright.

Kaz and Inej (Six of Crows)

Many of you have read this duology, so you probably know why the way the romance between Kaz and Inej develops is extremely angsty. To say more would be really spoilery for those of you who haven’t read this, so I’ll just say your heart will break a little bit every time you find out some new piece of information about both characters.

Arin and Kestrel (The Winner’s Trilogy)

One of the easiest way to achieve angst in a romance is make it a tale about forbidden love. This is exactly what happens in this series, and the romance between the MCs is constantly hindered throughout the series for different reasons (none of those are the cliched-miscommunication that often happens in contemporary romances). This is another romance that really hurts.

Karou and Akiva (Daughter of Smoke and Bone

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This is another case of forbidden love, for different reasons and on a completely different level than TWT. The romance starts out pretty heavy in the first book, but as the characters grow and worlds expand, and the series becomes so much more.


I have a question: do you prefer an angsty romance or a “smooth” one? I think for me the most memorable ones are the angsty ones, but once in a while I need something easily shippable and that doesn’t hurt me in the process of reading it.

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.

 

 

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:
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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.