five brilliant reads of 2020 ft. queer magical books (part two)

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it’s good to be back ~ ft. the house in the cerulean sea

I’ve been thinking this a lot lately since flying home over a month ago. Even now, we’re all finding peace and joy and anything else we need to keep going wherever we can. And I realized that is exactly why it’s time to return to this blog – to this small home I created online years ago.

To start off, I’m sharing my thoughts on a book that made my heart ache…

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book review: when the moon was ours by anna-marie mclemore


Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books
Release date: October 4, 2016
Genres: YA, Magical Realism, Fantasy

Pages: 288
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads Blurb:

When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town.

But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses || In Which I Am Disappointed By My Favorite Author


Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens

Release Date: May 5th 2015

Genre: High Fantasy, NA

Rating: 4 stars

Goodreads Blurb:

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she’s been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

My Review

Warning: This review contains minor spoilers!

There has been a lot of hype about this book and for the most part it’s pretty on par. ACOTAR is quite amazing and is brimming with gorgeous prose and imagery. But after reading the Throne of Glass series…I was kind-of disappointed.

The book starts off with Feyre hunting in the forest near her home. She promises her mother on her deathbed that she’ll look after her family and in order to feed her ungrateful sisters, Feyre has to hunt for animals that she can skin and sell. But after the drama of Tamlin coming for her because she kills his friend, everything just kind of settles down. For the first half of the book, there was almost no plot. Nothing much happens except that chemistry (slowly..super slowly) develops between Feyre and Tamlin.

By this time I was starting to consider ditching the book for a while. Despite the fact that Feyre is swimming in starlight and experiencing all kinds of weird and wonderful things…nothing is actually happening. There’s not much in the terms of action and I was beginning to grow disinterested in this “plague.” THEN FINALLY shit hit the fan and stuff started happening. The last 30% of the book is therefore super intense and really exciting. The ending is probably the best part of the book because there is so much pain/angst/action that it’s overwhelming after all the inaction of the first 70%.

Once again the author crafts brilliant characters. I love how Feyre was a lot more relatable and human than most heroines. She was not at all perfect and she was actually illiterate but the fact that she did her best to work with what she had impressed me. Tamlin is also one of those really hot male characters and I just couldn’t get enough of him. The romance between Tamlin and Feyre is probably what makes this book NA but there aren’t that many steamy scenes (and you can always skim or skip them altogether if you don’t want to read them).

Lucien was one of my favorite characters because he played the best friend role but (surprisingly) never decided to fall in love with Feyre and propose. He was basically the loyal sidekick who occasionally dished up snarky comments. Rhysand was the character I couldn’t make up my mind about because he seemed to be evil but helped Feyre when it mattered (then again, that help came with a price).

So basically I did enjoy this book (but just not as much as I expected to). BUT I’m definitely going to read the second book!

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir || A Book That Felt Cliché


Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: April 28 2015

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Rating: 3.5 stars

Goodreads Blurb:

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

My Review

Make no mistake, I was pretty damn excited about this book. But then I started reading it…


Before you decide that you’ve had enough and leave, let me explain! I was disappointed because I felt like I’d already read so many fantasy books that are quite similar. I mean there are slaves, and soldiers, and a bunch of rebels who are planning some kind-of revolution. You really haven’t read this type of book before? REALLY? It also reminded me a lot of The Winner’s Curse (even though the male character is the slave in that book) because of the romance between Laia and Elias. I was getting such a “been there, done that” vibe but I didn’t ditch it because of all the hype surrounding this book. (But maybe it’s just me feeling like it’s not 100% original? Please tell me it’s not just me…)

To some extent, it does live up to it’s hype. After all it’s beautifully written with great world-building and an unpredictable storyline. The characters are also pretty interesting but not as complex as I had hoped. Their actions aren’t unexpected though because most of the character’s motives are clear from the start (or at-least enough hints are dropped that we can guess them).

For example, Elias is a student at Blackcliff, a Mask academy…and doesn’t want to be a Mask. Laia is a scholar slave who wants to rescue her brother and is forced to join the Scholar Rebels to do so. The book is told from their dual perspectives and somewhere along the way, they end up meeting and their lives and stories become entangled. I think the changes in POV made the story richer but Laia frustrated me because of her incompetency. The worst part was that Laia herself is obsessed with her incompetency and cowardice! And while she was brave and determined to save her brother, I also found her stupidity and naivety very annoying. Elias, on the other hand, was far more interesting and I was very curious to see how his relationship with his mother would play out.

I would have said that the romance was perfect except it wasn’t because of the double love triangles. 


(Ok so I would never toss my Kindle out the window get the idea!) The love triangles annoyed me a lot because they felt so very unnecessary. I felt like it would have been so much better if there were more platonic relationships in this book.

But when it’s all said and done, I did enjoy this book, and I’m probably going to read the sequel.

Book Review: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab


Publisher: Hyperion

Release Date: January 28th 2014

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Rating: 3.5 stars

Goodreads Blurb:

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books. Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Last summer, Mackenzie Bishop, a Keeper tasked with stopping violent Histories from escaping the Archive, almost lost her life to one. Now, as she starts her junior year at Hyde School, she’s struggling to get her life back. But moving on isn’t easy — not when her dreams are haunted by what happened. She knows the past is past, knows it cannot hurt her, but it feels so real, and when her nightmares begin to creep into her waking hours, she starts to wonder if she’s really safe.

Meanwhile, people are vanishing without a trace, and the only thing they seem to have in common is Mackenzie. She’s sure the Archive knows more than they are letting on, but before she can prove it, she becomes the prime suspect. And unless Mac can track down the real culprit, she’ll lose everything, not only her role as Keeper, but her memories, and even her life. Can Mackenzie untangle the mystery before she herself unravels?

With stunning prose and a captivating mixture of action, romance, and horror, The Unbound delves into a richly imagined world where no choice is easy and love and loss feel like two sides of the same coin.

My Review

I really enjoyed The Archived so when I started reading The Unbound, I was disappointed. While The Archived was fresh and original, The Unbound seemed to drag and lacked the plot and action that made the first book an addictive enjoyable read. Mackenzie, in the first book, is obsessed with her dead brother and she makes some bad decisions because of this nostalgia. And I had hoped that Mackenzie’s character would finally become a force to be reckoned with in this second book. But she doesn’t, instead she’s obsessed with Owen – the history that she pushes into a void at the end of The Archived. She has nightmares about him, she hallucinates about him, and she keeps rehashing everything that happened with him in the first book.

Then there’s the fact that Mackenzie barely has any “real” relationships with anyone. She becomes even more closed-off because she doesn’t want to tell anyone about what she’s going through. I understood that she didn’t want to involve anyone – especially not Wesley, but this whole “lying to protect the ones I love” thing gets old pretty fast. To be honest, at some parts of this book, I was just skim-reading through all her monologues.

So I didn’t really like Mackenzie. But I did love Wesley. I loved getting to see “prep school Wesley” and I feel like I just fell in love with him even more as we learned more about him. It was frustrating because he and Mackenzie had so much potential for an amazing boyfriend-girlfriend relationship…but at the same time Mackenzie didn’t give him the attention he deserved. She’s pretty selfish and doesn’t often take time to learn more about him – which is disappointing because I just wanted to know everything. 

Overall, the book lacked action and sometimes there isn’t much of a plot. There are some action scenes dispersed throughout the book but 80% of it is rather dull – especially because the characters aren’t all that great (well except for Wesley). I’m afraid I won’t recommend this book but I loved The Archived and you might too!

Book Review: The Girl At Midnight by Melissa Grey


Publisher: Random House Children’s

Release Date: April 28 2015

Genre: Fantasy, YA

Rating: 5 stars

Goodreads Blurb:

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, though if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants . . . and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

My Review

Disclaimer: This book was provided by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

Warning: This review contains some spoilers!

Two different worlds are layered on the mortal world and they coexist because of the magic that hides the truth from mortals. But Echo, an honorable pickpocket, know of the Avicen’s and the Drakharin’s existence. The Avicen have feathers instead of hair and the ability to use/command magic. The Drakharin are kind-of a cross between human and dragons. Their fierce and brutal and at war with the Avicen. When the Ala, Echo’s Avicen guardian, discovers proof of the existence of a mythical creature named the Firebird – Echo is thrust deeper into the world of the Avicen and Drakharin. With so many lives at stake, Echo agrees to find the Firebird which will end the war between the Drakharin and Avicen. But soon Echo is forced to confront the all-to-real possibility that the only way to survive is to make allies with people she doesn’t even know if she can trust.

Echo is officially one of my favorite main characters. She is playful, laidback, and a honorable thief but her unwavering loyalty and bravery in the face of danger are some of her most commendable qualities. She is everything that I didn’t expect and I was so impressed by her ability to adapt to any circumstance she’s placed in.

Rowan, Echo’s original love interest proved to be disappointing. I felt like he was a very two-dimensional character in that there didn’t seem to be a lot to him. His only purpose for existing seemed to be to incite some angst. I also didn’t really understand why he helped Echo but then decided to come after. In the end, he was never really that loyal to her.

Ivy, Echo’s friend isn’t that interesting either. She seemed to be more of a plot device than anything else. She didn’t really have much of a role and I didn’t understand why it was truly necessary for her to be there. I suppose like Rowan, she was part of the cast of friends.

Caius is another of my favorite characters. Although he initially seems like an unfeeling brute, other sides of him are revealed as the story progresses. The romance between him and Echo unfurled painfully slowly and at times it was driving me crazy because I just wanted them to get together already! However, the love triangle between him, Rowan and Echo is never the main focus which is great considering how everyone is at war.

The romance between Dorian and Jasper is truly beautiful too so kudos to the author for pulling it off so well. For one thing, it initially seems like the most unlikely thing that could happen but through the course of the book they end up falling for each other. The author doesn’t just force an insta-love between them and it takes them time to overcome the prejudices surrounding their races (Dorian is Drakharin but Jasper is Avicen). Jasper is also one of those cocky, funny characters that I love seeing in books so the dialogue exchanged between him and Dorian is hilarious and flirtatious.

Overall I loved this book so much and I’m so glad it’s part of a series!