The Book Blogging Pressure to Review Books: A Discussion

At the very end of 2021, I published a post where I talked about 4 book-related resolutions that I had for the new year. One of those resolutions was to only write book reviews when I felt like it, and not force myself to review every or most books that I read. I ended up getting quite a few comments from people saying how they, too, felt pressured at times to review books, so I thought I’d write a discussion post about it!

So first of all, why do book bloggers, or people on other bookish media, feel pressured to review books? There’s quite a few different answers to this, and you can tell me your own reason below in the comments, but I think the answer is that we have the platform, and we feel like a lot of times, that’s what the platform should be used for. If we have book blogs, I mean that’s what the blog is for, right? So it feels like something that, as a book blogger, we’re obligated to do.
There are also times when we feel pressured because of how the platform is formatted. For example, on goodreads, as soon as you mark a book as read, it drops down a giant box asking you to review it, a box that takes up the whole page. It’s right there so it does make you feel pressured to review it.
And of course, there’s the idea of social media popularity. If you review a book (most specifically on goodreads in this case; I’m not very familiar with any other book platforms other than goodreads and blogging) you’re more likely to get likes on goodreads than if you simply rate a book. You’re putting your actual thoughts down, not just a simple out-of-five star rating.

For me, I used to feel pressured to review books because I thought I should show people what I actually think once I finished a book. It was definitely some of ‘you have a platform so use it’ and a little bit of the idea that I might get more likes if I review it. But here’s the thing: I did not like writing these long reviews on all the books. I just didn’t have that many thoughts on these books. Sure, I enjoyed them, but most of the books I read aren’t mind-bendingly good, in my opinion, or rant-ably bad. They’re just good books, but for books that are in the middle like that, I just don’t have enough things to say. And when I felt so pressured to write these reviews, I began to almost dread them. I would put off marking books as read on goodreads because I didn’t want to have to review them, and so my goodreads shelves just got all disorganized and stuff. And maybe that’s a small, silly thing – who cares what my goodreads shelves looked like? – it was also a small, silly reason to be putting off as simple a thing as marking a book as read.

So I want to ask you: why do you read? Do you read because of the popularity that comes from reviews? Do you read because you have a platform so you feel like you should be reading? First of all, if that’s the case, please try to find something that you actually enjoy reading and don’t read just for others. But my real point is, we read because we enjoy books. Because we love the stories that they provide, and the reason that we have book blogs, or other bookish media is so we can share that love with the world. But sharing what you love about a book should not come at the expense of your enjoyment of said books. Your blog is your own, and you should post what you want. Though book blogs have many uses, above all, they’re a place to show your love of books, not to advertise all the books you read because you think you’re obligated to. Reviewing a book is essentially free advertisement for an author (well, either that or you’re telling people to stay away if you didn’t like it) and no one’s making you do it! You are doing a favor by reviewing books and it is 100% your choice.

Now, what about ARCs? The main point of ARCs is, of course, to read and then review them, in order to get the news out about this new book, and get the hype up. And it is a privilege to be able to read a book before it is published and offer one of the very first glimpses into a book that anyone’s going to get. So I’m going to say a few things. First of all, obviously if you enjoy reviewing books and are just never tired of writing reviews, go ahead. I don’t know if I had to say that. But second of all, if writing reviews is sometimes a task for you, only request the ARCs that you are really, truly excited for. The anticipated releases that you’ve been following since they were first announced, the authors who you’ve loved since their debut. Often, we can get too swept up in the chance to read these totally new books and go on requesting sprees and end up with a whole bunch of books to read and review. So please – only request books that you really want to read and review. It’s a bit of a disservice to the author and publisher, when you are unable to review books.
The above being said – still put your mental wellbeing and reading enjoyment above anything else. If you are truly dreading reviewing an ARC, you just can’t get around to it and it’s putting you into a slump and making you unhappy…just don’t. While the point I made before this one was a preventative measure, this one is a more final measure. At the end of the day, it’s still your choice, and you should do what you really do think is best for yourself.

Personally, I’ve stopped requesting ARCs at all these days. It is true that at times I get jealous seeing people having read a book that I’m so excited for earlier than me, while I have to wait, but I find the pressure to review the ARC too be too much; in fact, I find it to be even more so than when reading a book that isn’t an ARC, because I just have this idea in my head that I have to review the book all through the time that I’m reading it, and that’s not fun.

All of this being said, am I telling you to stay away from reviewing books at all? Of course not. Even I still review most of the books on goodreads – but my reviews are just a sentence or two, simply my base thoughts on the book that I’m reading. When I really want to talk about a book, I’ll write a book review about it on my blog, because putting all my thoughts into goodreads is still exhausting and not something I enjoy (it’s true I don’t write many book reviews on my blog; I’m trying to get better about that, and writing a few more when I enjoy a book and want to talk about it).

I guess my final advice to you, and the main point I’m trying to get across with this post, is that it’s still your blog, and your goodreads account, no matter what, and you get to control how much or how little you put on there, what you put on there, etc. And overall, reading should be enjoyable for you. Reviewing books, while a big part of the book community, should feel like something you want to do to share your thoughts about the book you just enjoyed, and not ever a chore that you have to complete.

Do you enjoy reviewing books? Do you feel the pressure to review books because of your platform? How often do you write reviews?

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Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

So…you guys know how I did on my last review (hint: not well, since it was a month since I read the book).

Okay fine it’s been exactly a month (as of the day this post is published) since I read Cemetery Boys, as well.
Yeah, I really need to write my reviews sooner.
But I HOPE that I can still write this review pretty well because I LOVED reading this book.

Cemetery Boys | Aiden Thomas

Published September 1st | Swoon Reads

352 pages | Hardcover

Content warnings: Misgendering, dead naming, blood magic, self harm (for ritualistic purposes)

Rep: Trans gay Latinx MC, gay LI

When Yadriel’s traditional Latinx family puts off the ceremony that would cement him as a brujo – indefinitely – due to the fact that he’s trans, Yadriel becomes determined to prove to them that he is a true brujo. With the help of his cousin Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, before deciding to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

And Yadriel does summon a ghost – but not the ghost he was looking for. Instead, he’s found the ghost of Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy and Julian most certainly does not want to go into death quietly. The cause of his death is uncertain and Julian needs to know what happened. Yadriel agrees to help him with the mystery as long as Julian will let Yadriel release him without a complaint afterwards. But the longer that Yadriel spends around Julian, the more uncertain he is that he really wants him to go.

All summaries are my own unless otherwise stated. Parts of the summary may be borrowed from goodreads

Let me tell you a little story.
I first heard about Cemetery Boys in…April? May? Anyways, I was just starting to get into the book community. And WOW it sounded SO GOOD. But it didn’t come out until September, which was quite disappointing to me (I was new, what can I say, I wasn’t used to waiting long times for releases!).
Then, September rolled around and it got released and I was SUPER excited. But September was this sort of awkward time because I wanted to own it and so I could ask for it for Christmas but Christmas was sooooooo far away. And I really wanted to read it right. then.
I decided to wait for Christmas. And in all this time, I was reading reviews, hearing people rave about this book, and that just built up all the hype in my mind. It was practically my favorite book before I’d even read it! I was recommending it to people, I even voted for it on the goodreads choice awards! I loved it before I even had my hands on it.
Aaaaaaaaaand…..

It totally lived up to the hype!

Yadriel was a great protagonist. Honestly, I think that he acted a lot like how an actual teen would act. He’s just a kid trying to make his family see who he really is. I’ve seen a review or two complaining that he can be a little whiny at times but honestly I feel like that’s pretty justified given his family situation.


Julian is pitched in the summary as ‘the school’s resident bad boy’. And I honestly think this is interesting and sort of gives insight as to how society labels us. The only bad things that Julian really did was skip school. He hung out places like under bridges with his group of friends because none of them had very good homes to go back to and just those two things were enough to make basically everyone have opinions about him. These kids at school didn’t even know him but were telling stories about how his brother took over the family drug trade and was selling it out of his mechanic shop. Don’t listen to everything you hear, kids. (tries to pretend she’s like 20 years older than everyone reading this even though she’s not).
But really, Julian is a super sweet person. He’s so loyal to his friends and worries about them so much even when he’s literally dead.


And last but certainly not least, there’s Maritza. I loved Maritza because she’s so close to Yadriel. I really enjoy reading strong family relationships and though Yadriel’s relationship with the rest of his family is not so great, Maritza’s always by his side, always supporting him.

Honestly, when I picked this up, I was expecting more plot than this. I mean really from the summary I wasn’t sure what kind of book to expect, aside from ghosts (spirit! Ghost is a derogatory term). But whatever it was, it was not this. I maybe expected some adventure, it’s talking about ‘agreeing to help Julian’ (goodreads summary) so for some reason that always makes me think of two people setting out on a quest to do blah and blah and blah
But, no matter what the plot actually was like, I enjoyed this a lot! It was a lot more…relaxed than I thought? I’m not entirely sure what that means since, like, there was a time limit and death and blood etc. but yep, that’s what I’m thinking about this right now. The mind of Phoenix works in mysterious ways, my friends.

And of course, we cannot discuss this book without discussing the awesome way that Aiden Thomas wove trans and LGBTQIAP+ issues into the plot. The way that these things were commented on in the book never slowed the plot down and yet it was still such an important part of the book. This was really awesome to see because I just don’t see many books that manage to do this so successfully.

Queer Folk are like wolves. We travel in packs

Quote from Julian. I just had to add this in here.

Characters: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Plot: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Romance: 🌟🌟🌟🌟

Find some other awesome Cemetery Boys book reviews at Never Not Reading and The Bookish Mutant! Also, The Quiet Pond did an interview with the author, Aiden Thomas!

Have you read Cemetery Boys? What do you think of this post? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion–just as long as it’s respectful!
As always, thank you so much for checking out this post–it means the world. Stay safe and keep on reading!

I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver

Hello, hello, hello and welcome to my first book review of 2021! I actually read “I Wish You All the Best” in December of 2020 but here we are in 2021

I Wish You All the Best | Mason Deaver

Published May 14, 2019 | Push

329 pages | ebook

Content Warnings: Accidental misgendering, purposeful misgendering, transphobia, being kicked out of the house, panic attacks, alcohol use.

It only takes three words for Ben DeBacker to be kicked out of their house–I am non-binary. Pushed out on the street with nothing but the clothes on their back, they’re forced to move in with their older sister Hannah, who they haven’t seen in ten years, and her husband who they’ve never met. Struggling with anxiety and the worries of starting a new school, they decide to only come out to Hannah, her husband Thomas and their therapist.
But when Ben starts school, they meet Nathan Allen, a funny student determined to help Ben adjust to their new life. Things begin to look up as they become more friendly with Nathan and his friends. Suddenly, it seems like they may be able to start over in their last half of senior year after all.

Please note: All summaries are written by me, Phoenix @Books With Wings unless otherwise stated.

This book…well, I really enjoyed this book. It was a very sad but very sweet story and it was just nice to read. It was probably the first book I read in under 24 hours in a very long time.
Honestly I’m sort of regretting writing this review now, January 9 (yeah you can see how on top of blogging I am) when I read this book in mid December. I have a short term book memory! But alright, let’s go.

“I Wish You All The Best” follows Ben DeBacker, a high school senior who’s life was upturned when their parents kicked them out of the house and they’re forced to move in with their sister and her husband. Ben has never met their sister’s husband and hasn’t seen their sister in ten years. First of all, I can’t imagine how difficult and painful that would be. Ben didn’t even expect their parents to kick them out…they knew it could be a possibility but it just seemed very extreme to them. And the fact that it really did happen…wow.

UPDATE: okay I’m not entirely sure what the point of this entire above section was since it seems like I just paraphrased my summary of the book…which I paraphrased (partly) from goodreads. But hey I guess I’ll leave it so you can see ALL my thoughts and the things going through my head haha.

I think that my favorite character was proooobably Nathan. He just…well I liked that he took Ben under his wing. I feel like in books, the funny kid is sorta the popular one who doesn’t really interact with the misfit main character (yeah, that’s gotta be a trope) but Nathan is totally cool with showing Ben around the school on their first day and then sticking with them! I loved to see their friendship grow and also, well, Nathan was just super sweet.

I thought that Miriam was also an awesome character and I think that to have them in the story added a really interesting feature. Miriam lives in California, all the way across the country from Ben, and Ben found out about them through the videos they filmed. Throughout the book, though they’re not exactly present for it, Miriam is a huge role model for Ben and they’re actually friends online. I feel like this is a pretty important part of the book with the online aspect…that online is where Ben figures out who they are and really gets their first friend who understands them and can help them. Parents are very suspicious of all things online it feels like (at least for me) but sometimes it can really help to have online friends (not saying you should go around having video chats and meeting up irl with everyone you meet online, just saying that you can really find some close friends online who are super awesome).

Now onto the plot.
So, I’ve seen some people out there saying that there’s not really a plot to this book.
I can see…a plot? At least some of it. I mean basically the plot of the book is Ben readjusting after their life was completely turned upside down and trying to get through senior year. I can see how that’s not much of a plot…definitely nothing like any fantasy adventure books or anything…but I still liked it. I really enjoyed reading a non binary protagonist because that’s not something that you see very often. I feel like I’m amazed that authors are actually able to write entire books about people just…living (see this is why I always fail to write realistic fiction) but I find that most authors who write realistic fiction are good at making it interesting (they DID get published after all and while I know not all published things are perfect, mooooost of them are good? In my opinion?)

Well. I feel like this…wasn’t the most perfect review and really I should write my reviews sooner to the time that I actually, you know, read the books, but…here we go I’m super sorry how short this post is and hopefully I can get you a longer and more…detailed post next week, and a much better book review the week after that.
Thank you all so much for reading, it means the world! As always, stay safe and keep on reading!

Moxie by Jennifer Matheiu

…What! Phoenix is actually doing a book review???? What even is this? Ha, yes, I am back with my next book review! It’s certainly been a while for one of those. I’m sorry that it took me so long to get this next review out, but this is just the perfect book to do this post on! Moxie is such an important book and I’m not sure that I can do this justice but I’m going to try!
Also, I made a few changes to how my book reviews look, I hope you like it!

Moxie | Jennifer Mathieu

Published September 19, 2017 | Roaring Brook Press

330 pages| Hardcover

Content warnings: Sexism, harassment, attempted rape, sexual abuse,

Vivian Carter is tired.
She’s tired of the football team getting all the funds while the girl’s soccer team is left with uniforms from forever ago. She’s tired of the boys in the school saying whatever they want whereas the girls get busted in impromptu dress code checks for wearing too tight pants.
It’s gone on this way for years but when a new girl moves to Vivian’s school and speaks out against the boys, Viv realizes that it’s time to stand up.
Inspired by her mom, who was a punk rock Riot Grrrl in the 90’s, Viv creates a feminist zine to distribute around her school. She doesn’t expect it to do much–but then other girls actually begin to respond. Viv isn’t the only one who’s tired…and Moxie Girls Fight back.

I loved this book because I felt like it was so empowering. I think that one of the best things about this is that Vivian can be really anybody. Vivian could be that quiet kid at the back of the class or the most popular girl in the school. Or she could be you.
At the beginning of the book, Viv is just a high school junior who goes to a school in a town in Texas. She hears the remarks that the boys say, the things that they do, and she definitely dislikes it. But she’s never really thought of speaking out. The whole way the school is built is stacked against her. The principal is the father of one of the boys saying those things for goodness sake and he’s just as bad as his son.
But what changed?
Enter: the new kid trope.
Is that a trope? I do not know. But honestly, probably because there are a LOT of tropes out there. And if not, I’m making it one. 😁😁😁
Lucy Hernandez just moved from…oh darn I forgot, my brain is full of holes for anything I read more than one hour ago. Anyways. I think she moved from a city. It was Houston. I think. She’s interesting because she’s a new kid and Viv’s small town hasn’t had one of those since forever, but then she responds to a retort from one of the biggest jerks in the school. She stands up to him. And it’s really this that leads Viv to start making these zines.

I really liked both Vivian and Lucy. Vivian was really determined to fix things in her school and wouldn’t back down no matter the comments from other people or the threats of suspension or expulsion from the principal (yeah, you heard right. Their principal threatened to expel people standing up against sexist comments and more). But really, it was Lucy who I liked the best. She was the reason Viv did all this, she was the catalyst. And while Viv was staying anonymous and behind the scenes, still doing her perfect obedient girl act, Lucy was speaking out every which way, even taking the brunt for most of the actions caused from the zines.

Seth. Seth, Seth, Seth.
Well first of all let me say that I would have liked if the romance in this book was toned down a good bit. In general, I don’t like when romance is a big part of this book so it was just meh for me. I was reading this for the strong feminism, for the speaking up, not for the romance.
I also didn’t really like how Viv got a crush on him on sight (basically insta love, though possibly one sided? Since we don’t know Seth well at the beginning, I don’t know). If there is romance in a book (it’s hard to avoid usually), I like a slow burn (not too slow though) or at least not love at first sight. For me, it just doesn’t make a relationship very well developed and it feels more…based on looks than on personality.
It feels mean of me to say that I disliked Seth because of his cluelessness but…it’s kinda true. Seth was definitely a device character (I don’t know if that’s a thing or, if it is, if I’m using it right), used to teach people more about feminism and what not to ever ever ever say (for example, suggesting that an attempted rape was the girl’s fault).
I think the real reason I didn’t like Seth was his, ‘Not all guys…’ comments. Viv says more than once that she knows it’s not all guys but that doesn’t really matter in this situation, but he continues to say it. Dude, Vivian knows that you aren’t one of the football jerks, do you think she’d date you otherwise? But the fact that you aren’t is NOT the main point of what she’s trying to do! Because even though it’s true that not all guys are like the jerks, there are still jerks out there. Maybe not all guys are jerks but ALL GIRLS ARE STILL AFRAID OF BEING HARASSED/SEXUALLY ABUSED/RAPED
(on the topic, check out this post that Riddhi B. wrote about rape–it’s such an important and eye opening post to read).

I’ve talked so much about the characters and not the plot! I really enjoyed the plot, actually! I’m really impressed with the author’s ability to keep this book going–because I feel like there’s a lot of ways that this book could have kersplatted (that’s a word now, y’all). I mean, it’s mainly based in school, that can get boring real fast. I read when I’m done with school, so I don’t focus on my schoolwork, I don’t want to read about more school. But this book was still awesome! I especially liked the meeting/dance/market/whatever thing they hosted for the girl’s soccer team’s uniforms.

This book also…really had me thinking. I was wondering what I would do if I saw a zine appear in my school. If I would take action, if I would speak out. I like the first idea, with the hearts and stars, but wearing your bathrobe to school? I feel like I’m afraid of standing out at school, almost. I want to be known but I don’t want to be stared at as I walk down the hallway because I’m dressed differently or something. And would I do the walk out that was organized? I’d like to think that yes, that I would support a classmate, a cause especially as big as this one. But do I have the courage?
This, actually, makes me think of peer pressure (sorry for going off on a ramble here). Why would I be unwilling to do these things? It’s because I’m afraid of what other people will think of me, I don’t want to be different. Society pressures you to be one way and to be any other way makes you stand out. Can we stop this? Maybe. Hopefully. Whatever the case…Moxie girls fight back!

Characters: 🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Plot: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 | Romance: 🌟🌟 | Message: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟

Have you read Moxie? Do you want to read it? What do you think of this post? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion–just as long as it’s respectful!
Thank you so much for stopping by my little corner of the internet and checking out my blog–it means the world to me.
As always, stay safe and keep reading!

Forest of Souls by Lori M. Lee

We have reached the last week in my ‘Beyond the Story Challenge.’ I know that not many people participated in the challenge but I had a lot of fun reading new books that I probably wouldn’t have found time to read otherwise. I hope that everyone else has found my book reviews just as fun as I have writing them!

Summary:
Sirscha is nothing. An apprentice to the Shadow, the queen’s royal spy, her whole life depends on coming the kingdom’s next shadow. But her plan is derailed when shamans attack and kill her best friend, Saengo.
And then, somehow, Saengo is brought back to life and Sirscha is the first soulguide shaman found in centuries. She is summoned into the Dead Wood to appear in front of the Spider King, the keeper of peace in the kingdoms. But the Dead Wood, an ancient forest possessed by souls, are growing more wild and threaten to take over all the kingdoms. Only a soulguide can tame them and Sirscha must learn to control her power if she wants to save her world.

The Characters:
Sirscha: She has no life. Like actually, she admits it herself. Several times. Her only goal is to become the Shadow and she’s oftentimes like, ‘if I don’t get it…I don’t know what I’m going to do. I have to get it.’ She has exactly one friend and a whole lot of enemies because apparently not having parents or a home makes people hate you? And she’s very loyal to her friend but…she doesn’t have much else of a personality. She’s good with dual swords. And NOT good at following orders. That’s all I can really say about her.
Saengo: I liked Saengo much, much more than Sirscha. Unfortunately, with Saengo being sick most of the book and Sirscha going off and doing her own things…we didn’t get to see her much. But she is a very good friend and I hope that, if I read the next book, she’ll be in it more.
Ronin the Spider King: What a name, right? And imagine having a spider king basically controlling all the kingdoms in the world. He lives in the middle of a forest so dangerous that you can’t get through it without him controlling the trees to let you through…unless your name is Sirscha or Theyen, conveniently two pretty prominent characters in the book. All in all, I can’t describe much of Ronin’s personality but I will say that he reminds me a bit of the Darkling…just with less humor. And more mysterious or whatever…if that’s possible. But the similarities are definitely there.
Theyen: He’s the humor and the personality in the book. He’s really the only one with a defining characteristic: completely insufferable. But like, that’s part of the reason why he’s one of the best characters.

The plot:
I…really don’t don’t know to describe the plot. It was….a whole lot. There were a bunch of things that were mentioned once fifty pages ago that Sirscha was supposed to be doing so I didn’t actually know what she was doing most of the time? There were just so many things going on all at once. I also felt, despite the fact that the book is 400 pages long, that it was fairly short once it got going. I know I said there was so much happening at once but I’m going to contradict myself and say that not much happened. Sure, she usually has a goal and is doing something, which is why the plot is kind of confusing, but she spends like half the book in a giant building in the middle of this enchanted forest doing research on….something that was mentioned 50 pages ago, or trying to control her powers. Which she tried like once. The other times she just wandered around doing things. However, despite my harsh words on the plot of this book, I will say that it was still enjoyable to read, and the times that I did understand what was going on were really interesting.

The world building:
I think that part of the reason the plot was so confusing was because of the world building. There are so many places and things mentioned that it’s hard to keep track of everything. Sure, the world is extremely impressive. There’s a really complex magic system, there’s a bunch of kingdoms, there’s this cool-sounding and totally creepy forest…but if we’re not introduced to all these things gradually, it’s really really hard to keep track of everything. We get a few descriptions that border on info dumps at the beginning that describe the world and then we’re just…supposed to figure out what kingdom is what and where when they’re mentioned.

The magic system:
The magic system was info dumped and didn’t do an excellent job explaining it either? I get that there are five central different magics–or possibly six? Is shadows a magic? Sirscha said it wasn’t but then we met people who could magic shadows…anyways. But in those magics, you can do different things. So…Sirscha is a soulguide. She can guide souls to the underworld or back to life. But there’s also a soulrender, who can tear souls out of people and such. And both of those magics are light magics but when you develop powers you only get one specific power. And lots of different powers were mentioned throughout the book but I don’t know what they are or what magic they’re under or anything.

The romance:
Something I liked about this book was that…there was no romance! None. Nothing. Not even a, ‘he looks good in this shirt with his hair tousled,’ or anything like that. No, ‘a warm flutter starts in my stomach.’ It was completely focused on the characters which was a really nice change since I feel like some YA books really have a romance where…there doesn’t need to be one. Where it really changes the story because, ‘Oh, I love you *swoons*’ (no thank you).This was a very nice change.

The representation:
As far as race goes, I believe that all or at least almost all of the characters in this book are Asian. As far as sexuality and gender goes…well there was no romance and nothing about sexuality was mentioned and there are no characters whose pronouns were not she/her or he/him.

Final ratings: (out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟🌟🌟
Plot: 🌟🌟🌟
World building: 🌟🌟
Romance: N/A
Diversity: 🌟🌟🌟
I’m going to bump up the rating a bit because of the no-romance thing.
Final rating: 3 stars

Book info:
Title: Forest of Souls
Author: Lori M. Lee
Published by: Page Street Kids on June 23, 2020
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 400

Have you read ‘Forest of Souls’? What did you think about it? Do you want to read it? Did this review sway your opinion in any way? Have you read any of Lori M. Lee’s other books? What did you think of this review? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion as long as you are respectful! I’m always open to a bookish discussion in the comments–I don’t bite! And be sure to check out some of my other posts!
As always, thanks for stopping by. To take the time out of your busy lives to read this post means the world. Stay safe and keep reading!

Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Week number two of my “Beyond the Story” challenge! First I want to thank anyone who is participating in this challenge–though I know not many people are participating, I thank everyone who is. Please, put your reviews for this challenge in the comments if you want to!

*Please note: I listened to this book as an audiobook so character names may not be spelled exactly correctly. If you see an incorrect spelling, please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments. Thank you.*

Summary: When Amaya saves a mysterious man from drowning, she is afraid that her sentence on the debtor ship, which is almost up, will be elongated. Eager to get home, she believes she has destroyed her future. Instead, the man who she saved strikes up a deal with her: he’ll help her get revenge on the man who ruined her life and she’ll help him get revenge on the person who ruined his. And so Amaya is tossed into a world of riches and finery in a plot to murder both of the men. But the more she explores this new world, the more she dregs up the past that she thought was gone forever–and the more she realizes that no one can be trusted.
On the other hand, Cayo’s life is looking up. It seems he’s finally gotten rid of his gambling problem and his sister is about to marry a wealthy man, giving his family a boost. However, his sister collapses on the night that his father hopes to finalize the marriage and it’s soon confirmed that she has the deadly sickness that’s spreading around Moray. Just to make matters worse, it seems that Cayo’s gambling has lead the family to bankruptcy and now they have nothing to pay with for the expensive medicine. When word gets around that a rich Countess has arrived in the city, Cayo’s father insists that he try to get close to her for a little extra money.

The characters
Amaya: The first character we are introduced to is Amaya. When we meet her, we find her on a debtor’s ship, working furiously. Conditions aren’t great. But don’t worry, Amaya’s leaving soon. This girl is hard-working, tough, strong and loyal. I liked what a strong female character she was but there were a few things I didn’t like about her (more on that later).
Cayo: Shockingly enough, I enjoyed reading the chapters that followed Cayo’s perspective much more than I enjoyed those following Amaya. I think it is because Cayo is more…realistic. He actually has problems. Sure, Amaya has problems as well–I mean she was stuck on a debtor ship, practically a slave, for seven years. But no offense to anyone that this has actually happened to, this doesn’t happen very frequently. Meanwhile, Cayo’s problems are shown throughout the book. His sister is sick. His family is broke. He’s constantly on the urge of getting back into gambling. You can really feel him more than Amaya, this distant character who’s sort of…good at everything.
Boon: Suspicious. The entire time, he was so suspicious. No one just has that much money when you’re out at sea. About his personality….he was sort of ambitious. And broody. Despite the fact that he’s sort of the inciting incident, he’s not in this book much at all.
There were actually so many amazing characters in this book and I cannot name them all. In fact, most were just there for bits and pieces of it, but important nonetheless. Here’s a few more really minor characters I liked:

  • Liesl
  • Saraiya
  • Sebastian

The plot:
So…I’ll admit. I went into this book expecting adventure. Maybe it was the cover, maybe it was the synopsis. Whatever it was, I didn’t think that the characters would be attending parties and tromping around the city.
Revenge. That is what this book is all about. Revenge on the man who ruined Amaya’s life. Revenge on the man who ruined Boon’s life. And it keeps spiraling from there–it seems like everyone who has wronged Amaya a little bit, she’s eager to get revenge on.
I think that that is my biggest problem with this book. She is so eager to kill these people who have wronged her. Now, I am in no way standing up for any of the things that Captain Zharo did. He was cruel and abusive to people, even children as young as eight or nine years old. But Amaya jumps straight to killing in several circumstances. She kills the debt collector who brought her to the ship seven years ago. So much death, much of it that probably didn’t absolutely have to happen.
Revenge, death and non-adventure aside, I did, in fact, enjoy this book very much. I will be forever shocked at how easily authors can fill a bunch of nothing with a bunch of something but I guess if you become an author you get lots of experience making things sound fascinating. I feel like half this book was about people wandering the city, there wasn’t even much action, and yet it wasn’t an uninteresting book. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was interesting! And yes, despite the fact that I didn’t adore this book, I will be reading the second one once it comes out.

The worldbuilding:
I absolutely loved the world building in this book! I never got an info dump explaining where places were and there were so many countries and kingdoms mentioned. We only got to see one city in this book, which I’m actually disappointed about. I would have loved to see more of this world. Hopefully, that’s what I’ll get in book two!

The romance:
So…I didn’t actually expect there to be romance in this book. I had heard, somewhere, that this book had an asexual/aromantic character and I just kind of assumed that it was Amaya, for some reason. My bad. So the fact that there was romance, even if it was a small amount, was a little surprising to me.
But…I actually liked the ship. I mean, I didn’t absolutely adore it, but it was bearable. That is definitely a shocker for me, who so rarely tolerates reading straight romance in books.

All in all, this book was a big barrel of surprises. It wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t awful, either. And I am, in fact, glad that I read this book.

Final rating: (out of five stars)
Characters: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
Plot: 🌟🌟🌟🌟
World building: 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟
Romance: 🌟🌟🌟
Diversity: 🌟🌟🌟
Final rating: 3.8 stars

Book info:
Title: Scavenge the Stars
Author: Tara Sim
Published by: Little Brown Books on January 4, 2020
Genres: YA, fiction, fantasy, LGBTQIAP+
Pages: 383 (depending on edition)

Have you read “Scavenge the Stars”? What did you think about it? Are you hoping to read the next book? What do you think will happen in “Ravage the Darkness”? What about this blog post? I’d love to hear your opinion on my opinion (just be respectful!) I’d be so excited to have a bookish discussion with you! Plus, make sure to check out some of the other posts I have to offer!
As always, thanks for reading. To take the time out of your day to read my rambles and half-baked posts means the world. Stay safe and keep reading!

I’ll Give you the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Two posts in one day! And finally, my next book review! I haven’t reviewed a book on here in a while and I’m excited to get back to it! Now, I wrote a short summary for the beginning of the book, but in my opinion neither this summary nor the official one does the book justice so get ready to dive very deep into this masterpiece in order to teach yourself that you need to get this book right away.

Noah is quiet and keeps to himself. He hides in the pictures he loves to draw and lets his twin sister do all the talking for him. No one notices that he’s falling in love with the boy next door. Meanwhile, Jude does more than enough speaking to make up for her brother’s silence. She’s a daredevil, a surfer and a sky diver who wears lipstick and kisses boys just to spite her mother. However, three years later their worlds have flipped upside down and their personalities have changed drastically. Now, both are each other. Jude is the quiet one, hanging out with no one and obsessed with art. Noah has immersed himself in the world that Jude had been in, with friends and late night parties. Each of them are dealing with the gap that has emerged between them in wildly different ways and each of them only hold half the reason that the gap is even there. Only if they can piece together the story can they find their way back to each other.

I loved both of the characters in this book. “I’ll Give You the Sun” is an extremely character driven novel and throughout the story both Noah and Jude absolutely shone.

The book starts with the introduction of thirteen-year-old Noah. At this age, he’s shy, quiet, keeps to himself. He loves to draw and is constantly coming up with what pictures should look like in his head. In this same chapter we get to meet his sister, Jude. It’s immediately obvious that Jude does not have a good relationship with their mother and does everything she can to spite her. Jude is loud, a risk-taker, basically everything Noah isn’t and I think this is why they fit so well together–it’s as if they were one person who was just split in half. They need each other.

Which is why reading the next chapter is so very jarring. Suddenly it’s three years later and the story is being told from Jude’s point of view. The twins have practically switched places in life; suddenly Noah is the one going to all the parties and Jude is estranged from everyone. And both are estranged from each other. And yet through Jude’s point of view you can tell that they still need each other. That they need to find each other again in this mess we call the world.

And thus goes the book, weaving through the lives’ of thirteen-year-old Noah and sixteen-year-old Jude, piecing together what happened in between those years that made them break apart so shockingly. There are many layers to the time between and it takes time to unearth them all.

I think that the next thing we should focus on is the writing. Oh, the writing. Jandy Nelson makes a book come to life in your head. I have never read a book that was so full of color and images, I could perfectly picture every single scene in my head–it was like watching a movie that only I could see but it was so much better. Movies have the pictures, they can show things, but when you are reading a book and you are inside someone’s head like you are when you read a story told in first person, you get a whole other level of feelings and this is magnified tenfold by Jandy Nelson. Reading this book, I felt like I was Noah, I was Jude. I felt like I was living their lives, the happiness, the hurt, all the emotions. “I’ll Give You the Sun” is, quite possibly, the best written book that I have ever read.

Let me say one thing: this review does not do this novel justice. It is very hard to do this story justice because it is so unlike anything and it is so much more than any book I have ever read before. It is impossible to describe this book to someone else without shoving said book into their hands and sitting them down on a comfy chair, standing guard over them as they read for the next three or more hours. So if my review didn’t convince you to go get this book and read it, go get it and read it anyways because let me tell you, it is worth it.

More information on IGYTS:

Title: I’ll Give You the Sun
Author: Jandy Nelson
Genres: Young Adult, Realistic Fiction, Amazingness
Publication date: September 16, 2014
Representation: Gay main character, strong female main character
Page Number: 371

What did you think of this review? Did you like it? Have you read “I’ll Give You the Sun”? What did you think? Do you want to read it? Post in the comments and be sure to give this post a like if you enjoyed this book review!

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

I am going to do this review slightly differently than my first review and hopefully it’s just as good! I will focus on four different elements of the story: basic plot, characters, setting and writing, as well as adding a few notes to the bottom.

Plot:

Orisha used to be a land of magic, but everything changed several years ago, when magic vanished and maji all over the country were killed by the ruthless King Saran. Now, Zelie is without a mother and the country is without magic. However, a chance to return the powers to the country arises and she must embark on a dangerous journey to bring it back to her people. But she has a time limit, which is closing in fast. And with the crown prince on her trail, the stakes are higher than ever. If Prince Inan catches her and her companions, she will die and magic will be gone for good. But if she can finish her quest before the end of the month, the maji will have hope once again.

Characters:

Zelie is the first character introduced. She’s amazing at using a staff and is extremely loyal to those she loves. Above all, she wants to protect her brother and father and live a life not in fear. However, as a diviner, someone who carries magic in their blood (but is unable to use it since magic vanished years ago) this is difficult. The king and his men despise diviners and with diviner taxes and constant attention on the white hair that marks diviners for who they are, it’s hard for Zelie to fade into the background. Zelie is the fierce, driven, strong female character who everyone wants to root for the whole way.
Amari is the catalyst. As the Princess of Orisha, she lives in the palace with her father, King Saran, as well as the rest of the royal family. For years she has been fairly clueless to the cruelty her father inflicts on the diviners. However, when she witnesses her father kill her diviner best friend, Binta, after there are hints that magic could return, she escapes the palace. Holding the only thing that could ever bring Orisha to it’s former glory, she meets Zelie and begs for help.
Tzain is Zelie’s older brother who follows Zelie anywhere, no matter how reckless what she does is. Originally furious at Zelie’s choice to help Amari, he still follows the two as they leave on a quest to return magic. However,
Inan is Amari’s older brother and captain of the army. After his sister escapes, he is tasked with tracking down the trio to stop magic from returning and to kill Zelie. Can he reach them in time or will he see what he most despises rise again?

Setting:

The setting, too, is absolutely beautiful. I can just imagine all of Orisha in my mind, it is so vivid. The book starts out in a seaside town, but we get to see the capital city, a forest temple, a desert and even more!

Writing:

The writing, however, is what makes this book truly special. Adeyemi’s writing jumps off the page. Everything is described in rich detail and it is easy to see the entire story in your mind’s eye. I love how Adeyemi uses words to craft a masterpiece.

The things I did not like about this book were few and far in between. WARNING: spoilers up ahead. I advise you skip this section of the review if you do not want to read spoilers. I think that the romance was not written as well as it could have been. Inan absolutely despised Zelie for a good part of the book. He literally imagined killing her! Then, they begin working together for a short while and suddenly the two of them are in love! And suddenly he’s promising he’ll do whatever he can to help get magic back. It just seems so sudden. He has been educated by his father his entire life, he looks up to his father, so how does this one person jump into his life and change his mind so suddenly? Then, when he meets his father again, he immediately begins thinking about how awful magic is. But this is a small part in the story and there are many more important things about it.

The most important part of this book is not the story, not the setting, not the writing. It is why Adeyemi wrote this book. This may not even be obvious until you read the author’s note – it is certainly subtle – but it brings the story into so much more being. The author wrote this book to spread the awareness, the pain, the hurt of the lives of black people lost to the police. She wanted to do something, to say something about the black people – men, women and children – who were killed, who will continue to lose their lives at the hands of police officers who never looked past the color of their skin. So when you are reading this book, when you read about the death of a beloved character in this fiction book, think about the deaths of so many more who were real people and could not protect themselves.

All in all, this is a 5/5 star book. There are strong female characters and the entire cast are POC.

One more thing: I buddy-read this book with Katie from The Storybook Sisters’ blog! Check out her review as well to see her thoughts on Children of Blood and Bone. Plus, you can view all of her other posts as well, to find even more fascinating books to read! Here is the link!

Tarnished are the Stars by Rosiee Thor

“There was nothing quite like the first tick of a new heart.”

Anna has a secret – two. A mechanical heart beats inside her chest. And she is the Technician, disregarding the Commissioner’s laws against tech to provide technology to those who need it.

“If he could find the Technician, hunt him down, and turn him in…”

Nathaniel is always looking for ways to prove himself to his father, the Commissioner. When a new opportunity arises he jumps at it, planning to capture the Technician – who he believes is an old man – to show his father that he is the heir that the Commissioner wants.

“Perhaps all pretty things had thorns. The best things, at least, most certainly did.”

Meanwhile, the Queen is suspicious of the Commissioner’s motives. She sends her spy, Eliza, to Earth Adjacent to discover what secrets the Commissioner has been keeping.

When the three meet up, they join in an uneasy alliance, fueled by their desire to learn what, exactly, the Commissioner is up to. And as they unveil more and more about the Commissioner and the Queen herself, Eliza starts to doubt who she really trusts. When a dangerous secret is revealed, however, they must all put their doubts aside and work together before they get caught – and now, getting caught is equal to death.

~~~

So we have three main characters. Anna is the tech-y one. She is fiercely loyal, slightly rash, and is terrified of doing the surgeries that her grandfather does, as a Physician. She lives in a small town named Mechan that is hidden from The Settlement by a cliff and if the Commissioner ever finds out about Mechan he will destroy it. I liked Anna for many reasons – her protectiveness, her mechanical smarts and the fact that she runs a secret business right under the nose of those who are looking for her. Also there’s the fact that her entire town is hidden from The Settlement, not that far away, either.

Then there’s Nathaniel. Nathaniel is the one that everyone feels bad about. His father’s only heir, but a disappointment to his family because he also has a metal heart in his chest – the very technology that his father has banished. For his entire life, whatever he does is never enough for his abusive father and this drives him to try to capture the Technician to prove himself.

Finally, we have Eliza who, at first glance, doesn’t seem to belong in the story. She doesn’t live on the same world as Anna and Nathaniel, instead residing in The Tower, the space station where the queen and many others – called ‘Orbitals’ by those in Earth Adjacent – live while waiting for Earth Adjacent to be fully terra-formed. But it is really Eliza who brings all three of them together.

The world, too, is unlike anything I’ve read. It’s such an interesting setting and idea for the world which just makes the entire book more interesting to read. I’m still amazed that Anna’s entire town was able to hide from the Commissioner. I’m curious to know what the rest of the island, besides the Settlement and Mechan is like.

There was only one problem I had with this book and it was a small one. I felt like the relationship between two characters developed too quickly. I understand that there was not much time in the book for it to develop but it just seemed very hurried.

This is a book I would recommend to anyone age 12 or older. I would give it a rating of four out of five stars and there is a f/f relationship and a character unsure of their sexuality at the end of the book (though this person is beginning to think that they are asexual/aromantic).

What do you think about this book? Have you read it? Do you want to read it? What did you think about this review? Tell me what you think!