Book Review: Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Fireheart Tiger was everything that I didn’t know I needed — it was a breath of fresh air. 

There is a saying I learned in film school: “there is no such thing as a good short film.” In essence, what this is trying to convey is that when you limit a broad concept like a narrative usually designed to be told over ninety minutes (or more) the results tend to be not-so-good. In my experience with novellas, I can’t help but feel that this applies. I’ve consumed a lot of novellas recently and while some of them are brilliantly written, all of them would have benefitted from being a longer prose novel. Just my opinion. However, Fireheart Tiger proves to be an exceptional exception. Aliette de Bodard chose to tell a compelling story that fits within these pages and doesn’t feel lacking in any form. It displays a keen skill and understanding of narrative form to tell a story in just over a hundred pages that packs as much punch as a full length novel. 

As much as this is a romance, it’s also about abuse and is set against a political landscape where a nation is actively trying to fight against colonialism. On both fronts, Bodard fills the book with a necessary urgency — an anxiety — that feels uncomfortable. I call this necessary because it makes this feel incredibly real. While reading I puzzled out why I felt so odd at points and it was because Bodard replicated the anxiety many of us feel — I feel — when faced with ongoing, very current and insidious colonialism. One of the first descriptors that jumped into my mind for this book was “warmth” and I’ve been trying to find a way to justify it when so much of the book is about tough subjects. I think I can narrow it down to two key causes; the first is Giang. Giang is the alternative to what Thanh experiences with her mother and Eldris. She’s unadulterated fire — a warmth and a comfort that Thanh only knows with her. It’s the example of a balanced relationship. The second is the worldbuilding and writing. I just fell into this world immediately. Again, it amazes me that Bodard brought so much life and depth to this tale — there was scarce a detail out of place.

My personal experience with abuse is limited so I feel that I can’t speak to the representation in a meaningful form. However, it’s clear that Bodard put a lot of thought into setting up the abusive relationships that Thanh is caught up in. With Eldris, even when they’re having an incredibly romantic and vulnerable moment, Thanh is chastised almost for not answering correctly. You can see it in the way that Eldris questions Thanh — in the way Thanh chooses her answers. It’s a careful dance, known to many. She isn’t truly given a chance to speak and that’s only one of the many red flags. (Vagueness enters the chat so that I can limit how spoilery this review turns out to be.) Personally, I also saw elements of PTSD woven into the narrative and while this wasn’t explored in depth it was stark enough to be substantive — which just further adds to the deftly built dynamics between the characters.

Speaking of the characters, they all felt well-rounded and fleshed out — their motivations, their emotions all made sense and didn’t feel two dimensional at all (again, another risk with novellas). Thanh as a character is wonderfully complex — she’s struggling with her self-worth due to being used by her mother as a mere pawn. Additionally, at least at the start, I felt like there were some issues of internalized colorism that Thanh was dealing with. As a dark-skinned character, it seemed like she was getting validation from Eldris — it makes Thanh a messy character and I’m a huge advocate for those. This sets the scene incredibly well not only for a conversation about esteem but also about healthy relationships. At the heart of it, this is an intimate and beautifully woven f/f tale of love and acceptance, elevated with rich layers of worldbuilding and a lush understanding of the human condition.

I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

You can find more information about the book on Goodreads or you can purchase the book from The Book Depository or your local indie bookstore!


20 Books You Might Have Missed in 2020

Last year was a tough year for authors with books coming out — it was a tough year all round — and I don’t know about you but I’m constantly behind on all the amazing books that are constantly coming out. The books on this list are all books that I think sound interesting and I haven’t heard many other people (at least in my own circle) talk about! Most, if not all of these books, have under 10,000 ratings on Goodreads so I think it’s fair to say they’re underrated! Unless I’ve expressly mentioned it below, I don’t have the capacity to recommend these personally as I haven’t read them (yet)!

Without further ado, here’s a list of twenty 2020 releases that you might have missed!

1. WE ARE NOT FROM HERE by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: i have no idea how i missed this one (i think it was published just before i started reading + blogging again so that’s probably why) but it follows three Guatemalan young people trying to cross the U.S. border. it’s inspired by and reflects current, real life struggles for asylum seekers. i’m including trigger warnings for this one: rape, sexual assault, death, dismemberment, violence against children, gang violence, racism

summary excerpt: Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña have no false illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Though their families–both biological and found–create a warm community for them, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the three teens know they have no choice but to run: for the border, for the hope of freedom, and for their very lives. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go. In this powerful story inspired by current events, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to painful, poignant, vivid life. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope.

2. MAD, BAD & DANGEROUS TO KNOW by Samira Ahmed

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: This is the only book on the list that I have read! Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know is a novel that has stuck with me long after finishing. Ahmed really captured me with her writing. I adored Khayyam as a character – her monologues, her way of looking at the world, the constant acknowledgment of her (our shared) culture. I really related to Khayyam’s struggles with being ‘othered’ a lot and the former part of the book dealt with that consistently. The heart of this story is a great feat. Overall, highly enjoyable!

summary excerpt: Two hundred years before Khayyam’s summer of discontent, Leila is struggling to survive and keep her true love hidden from the Pasha who has “gifted” her with favoured status in his harem. In the present day—and with the company of a descendant of Alexandre Dumas—Khayyam begins to connect allusions to an enigmatic 19th-century Muslim woman whose path may have intersected with Alexandre Dumas, Eugène Delacroix, and Lord Byron. Echoing across centuries, Leila and Khayyam’s lives intertwine, and as one woman’s long-forgotten life is uncovered, another’s is transformed.


Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: last year i discovered that i actually like romance [ok i LOVE it] and this one sounds so so good!! it follows two Black main characters who are both basketball players (more sport romances pls!!) but on top of the romance it deals with some tough topics like parental death, parental separation and cheating.

summary excerpt: From the moment Carli and Rex first locked eyes on a Texas high school basketball court, they both knew it was destiny. But can you truly love someone else if you don’t love yourself? A glance was all it took. That kind of connection, the immediate and raw understanding of another person, just doesn’t come along very often. And as rising stars on their Texas high schools’ respective basketball teams, destined for bright futures in college and beyond, it seems like a match made in heaven. But Carli and Rex have secrets. As do their families.

4. TIGERS, NOT DAUGHTERS by Samantha Mabry

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: this is a book about grief, which is always something i’m wary about because (and this is a very subjective thing) there are very specific portrayals of grief that hit a sweet spot for me and most others don’t really work for me (for specific personal reasons) — featuring Latinx main characters by a Latinx author, this magical realism novel has the potential to be incredibly powerful and poignant.

summary excerpt: The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

5. JUST BREATHE by Cammie McGovern

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: i’m always looking for more YA books with disability and mental illness rep to add to my shelves, the MC David has CF and is in need of new lungs – both MCs meet while Jamie is volunteering at the hospital. i’ve made no secret that i love and think we need more messy characters in YA — i think falling in love with people while you’re struggling/dealing with trauma and illness (mental and/or physical) is something that is inherently complex and messy and these discussions are important!

summary excerpt: David Sheinman is the popular president of his senior class, battling cystic fibrosis. Jamie Turner is a quiet sophomore, struggling with depression. The pair soon realizes that they can be their true selves with each other, and their unlikely friendship develops into something so much more. But neither Jamie nor David can bring themselves to reveal the secrets that weigh most heavily on their hearts—and their time for honesty may be running out.


Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: a book dealing with steroid abuse and male body image!! feat an OV Latinx (Mexican-American) MC!! confronting toxic masculinity!!

summary excerpt: David Espinoza is tired of being messed with. When a video of him getting knocked down by a bully’s slap goes viral at the end of junior year, David vows to use the summer to bulk up— do what it takes to become a man—and wow everyone when school starts again the fall. Soon David is spending all his time and money at Iron Life, a nearby gym that’s full of bodybuilders. Frustrated with his slow progress, his life eventually becomes all about his muscle gains. As it says on the Iron Life wall, What does not kill me makes me stronger. As David falls into the dark side of the bodybuilding world, pursuing his ideal body at all costs, he’ll have to grapple with the fact that it could actually cost him everything.

7. WHEN YOU WERE EVERYTHING by Ashley Woodfolk

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: you know how much i love enemies to lovers? well, this is friends to enemies which is a dynamic i love *almost* as much. (also there’s a side f/f relationship!)

summary excerpt: It’s been twenty-seven days since Cleo and Layla’s friendship imploded. Nearly a month since Cleo realized they’ll never be besties again. Now, Cleo wants to erase every memory, good or bad, that tethers her to her ex–best friend. But pretending Layla doesn’t exist isn’t as easy as Cleo hoped, especially after she’s assigned to be Layla’s tutor. Despite budding new friendships with other classmates—and a raging crush on a gorgeous boy named Dom—Cleo’s turbulent past with Layla comes back to haunt them both.

8. WHEN WE WERE MAGIC by Sarah Gailey

Goodreads | Amazon | Indiebound

notes: hello?? queer found family?? a queer found family of witches?? i need!!

summary excerpt: Alexis has always been able to rely on two things: her best friends, and the magic powers they all share. Their secret is what brought them together, and their love for each other is unshakeable—even when that love is complicated. Complicated by problems like jealousy, or insecurity, or lust. Or love. That unshakeable, complicated love is one of the only things that doesn’t change on prom night. When accidental magic goes sideways and a boy winds up dead, Alexis and her friends come together to try to right a terrible wrong.

9. ELYSIUM GIRLS by Kate Pentecost

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: this was 98.5% a cover add but also!! another gang of queer witches!! sure, dystopia kinda got oversaturated but like vampires, i am HERE for a renaissance, especially because of the mechanical horsies

summary excerpt: In this sweeping Dust Bowl-inspired fantasy, a game between Life and Death pits the walled Oklahoma city of Elysium-including a girl gang of witches and a demon who longs for humanity-against the supernatural in order to judge mankind. Face-to-face with a brutal, unforgiving landscape, Sal and Asa join a gang of girls headed by another Elysium exile-and young witch herself-Olivia Rosales. In order to atone for their mistake, they create a cavalry of magic powered, scrap metal horses to save Elysium from the coming apocalypse. But Sal, Asa, and Olivia must do more than simply tip the scales in Elysium’s favor-only by reinventing the rules can they beat the Life and Death at their own game.

10. I KISSED ALICE by Anna Birch
Illustrated by Victoria Ying

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: a sapphic YA rivals-to-lovers romance with fat representation [insert simp emoji here]

summary excerpt: Rhodes and Iliana couldn’t be more different, but that’s not why they hate each other. Hyper-gifted artist Rhodes has always excelled at Alabama’s Conservatory of the Arts despite a secret bout of creator’s block, while transfer student Iliana tries to outshine everyone with her intense, competitive work ethic. Since only one of them can get the coveted Capstone scholarship, the competition between them is fierce. They both escape the pressure on a fanfic site where they are unknowingly collaborating on a graphic novel. And despite being worst enemies in real life, their anonymous online identities I-Kissed-Alice and Curious-in-Cheshire are starting to like each other…a lot.

11. THE ARCHER AT DAWN by Swati Teerdhala

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: this is actually a sequel but wow i hadn’t heard of the first book either and they both sound amazing?? it’s a YA fantasy inspired by Indian history and Hindu mythology, there’s a hate to love romance (you know i love!!) and it just generally sounds like the combination of political intrigue, romance and action that i love

summary excerpt: The Sun Mela is many things: a call for peace, a cause for celebration, and, above all, a deadly competition. For Kunal and Esha, finally working together as rebel spies, it provides the perfect guise to infiltrate King Vardaan’s vicious court. A radical plan is underfoot to rescue Jansa’s long-lost Princess Reha—the key to the stolen throne. But amid the Mela games and glittering festivities, much more dangerous forces lie in wait. With the rebel Blades’ entry into Vardaan’s court, a match has been lit, and long-held secrets will force Kunal and Esha to reconsider their loyalties—to their country and to each other.

12. THE ORACLE CODE by Marieke Nijkamp
Illustrated by Manuel Preitano

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: ok so i know very little (nothing) about the history/canon that this graphic novel is based on but despite that i’ve really been enjoying superhero comics/graphic novels and this one has disability representation and has the v important discussion that disabled people don’t need to be fixed

summary excerpt: After a gunshot leaves her paralyzed, Barbara Gordon enters the Arkham Center for Independence, where Gotham’s teens undergo physical and mental rehabilitation. Now using a wheelchair, Barbara must adapt to a new normal, but she cannot shake the feeling that something is dangerously amiss. Within these walls, strange sounds escape at night; patients go missing; and Barbara begins to put together pieces of what she believes to be a larger puzzle. But is this suspicion simply a result of her trauma? Fellow patients try to connect with Barbara, but she pushes them away, and she’d rather spend time with ghost stories than participate in her daily exercises.

13. THE GOOD FOR NOTHINGS by Danielle Banas

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: this has been described as Guardians of the Galaxy meets YA and ngl i fell asleep while watching GOTG but i loved what it was trying to do so this sounds super up my alley!! any kind of found family makes me soft

summary excerpt: Cora Saros is just trying her best to join the family business of theft and intergalactic smuggling. Unfortunately, she’s a total disaster. After landing herself in prison following an attempted heist gone very wrong, she strikes a bargain with the prison warden: He’ll expunge her record if she brings back a long-lost treasure rumored to grant immortality. Cora is skeptical, but with no other way out of prison (and back in her family’s good graces), she has no choice but to assemble a crew from her collection of misfit cellmates—a disgraced warrior from an alien planet; a cocky pirate who claims to have the largest ship in the galaxy; and a glitch-prone robot with a penchant for baking—and take off after the fabled prize.

14. YOU BROUGHT ME THE OCEAN by Alex Sanchez
Illustrated by Julie Maroh

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: another graphic novel!! this time its a v gay superhero story!!

summary excerpt: Jake Hyde doesn’t swim—not since his father drowned. Luckily, he lives in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, which is in the middle of the desert, yet he yearns for the ocean and is determined to leave his hometown for a college on the coast. But his best friend, Maria, wants nothing more than to make a home in the desert, and Jake’s mother encourages him to always play it safe. There’s nothing “safe” about Jake’s future—not when he’s attracted to Kenny Liu, swim team captain and rebel against conformity. And certainly not when he secretly applies to Miami University. Jake’s life begins to outpace his small town’s namesake, which doesn’t make it any easier to come out to his mom, or Maria, or the world.

15. THE FELL OF DARK by Caleb Roehrig

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: i mentioned last year that i feel like 2020 was a vampire renaissance year and i am NOT mad about it so what’s even better than fun vampire romps? fun QUEER vampire romps!!

summary excerpt: The only thing August Pfeiffer hates more than algebra is living in a vampire town. Located at a nexus of mystical energy fields, Fulton Heights is practically an electromagnet for supernatural drama. And when a mysterious (and annoyingly hot) vampire boy arrives with a cryptic warning, Auggie suddenly finds himself at the center of it. An ancient and terrible power is returning to the earthly realm, and somehow Auggie seems to be the only one who can stop it.

16. ROGUE PRINCESS by B.R. Myers

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: one of my favourite books from last year was Cinderella Is Dead and this book is basically sci-fi genderbent cinderella? i am HERE FOR IT.

summary excerpt: Princess Delia knows her duty: She must choose a prince to marry in order to secure an alliance and save her failing planet. Yet she secretly dreams of true love, and feels there must be a better way. Determined to chart her own course, she steals a spaceship to avoid the marriage, only to discover a handsome stowaway. All Aidan wanted was to “borrow” a few palace trinkets to help him get off the planet. Okay, so maybe escaping on a royal ship wasn’t the smartest plan, but he never expected to be kidnapped by a runaway princess! Sparks fly as this headstrong princess and clever thief battle wits, but everything changes when they inadvertently uncover a rebel conspiracy that could destroy their planet forever. 

17. RUNNING by Natalia Sylvester

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: finding a really good book that deals with politics, power and family dynamics is something that i consider a gem — it’s something that i think in a broad sense we can all relate to. this idea of growing up (esp. as a queer person) and having to confront who your parents are and the fact that your ideals might not align and what that means.

summary excerpt: Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was. But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

18. THE LUCKY ONES by Liz Lawson

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: good mental health representation is something i’m always looking for — this book deals with the aftermath of a school shooting which is a plot point that i don’t know how i feel about in all honesty! but PTSD rep and important discussions about school shootings and survivor’s guilt definitely need to be had!

summary excerpt: May is a survivor. But she doesn’t feel like one. She feels angry. And lost. And alone. Eleven months after the school shooting that killed her twin brother, May still doesn’t know why she was the only one to walk out of the band room that day. No one gets what she went through–no one saw and heard what she did. No one can possibly understand how it feels to be her. Zach lost his old life when his mother decided to defend the shooter. His girlfriend dumped him, his friends bailed, and now he spends his time hanging out with his little sister…and the one faithful friend who stuck around. His best friend is needy and demanding, but he won’t let Zach disappear into himself. Which is how Zach ends up at band practice that night. The same night May goes with her best friend to audition for a new band. Which is how May meets Zach. And how Zach meets May. And how both might figure out that surviving could be an option after all. 

19. YOU DON’T LIVE HERE by Robyn Schneider

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: bisexual rep!! i’ve heard this be described as rory gilmore if she liked photography and if jess was a girl and as a selling point, i am already in love (i was totally team jess so that’s may be 100% of the reason why)

summary excerpt: With her mother now dead and father out of the picture, Sasha moves in with her estranged grandparents. Living in her mom’s old bedroom, Sasha has no idea who she is anymore. Luckily, her grandparents are certain they know who she should be: A lawyer in the making. Ten pounds skinnier. In a socially advantageous relationship with a boy from a good family—a boy like Cole Edwards. And Cole has ideas for who Sasha should be, too. His plus one at lunch. His girlfriend. His. Sasha tries to make everything work, but that means folding away her love of photography, her grief for her mother, and her growing interest in the magnificently clever Lily Chen. Sasha wants to follow Lily off the beaten path, to discover hidden beaches, secret menus, and the truth about dinosaur pee.

20. THE TRUTH PROJECT by Dante Medema

Goodreads | Amazon | IndieBound

notes: written in verse!! queer side character!! multimedia storytelling!!

summary excerpt: Seventeen-year-old Cordelia Koenig was sure of many things going into her last year of high school. For one, she wasn’t going to stress over the senior project all her peers were dreading—she’d just use the same find-your-roots genealogy idea that her older sister used for hers. All she has to do is mail in her DNA sample, write about her ancestry results and breeze through the rest of senior year. Done, done and done. But when Cordelia’s GeneQuest results reveal that her father is not the man she thought he was but a stranger who lives thousands of miles away, Cordelia realizes she isn’t sure of anything anymore—not the mother who lied, the life she was born into or the girl staring back at her in the mirror.

A Brief Introduction to Publishing Monopolisation: The Greed, the Bad & the Ugly

If you, like me, hover around the sphere of professional publishing but aren’t fully “in-the-know” you might have been asking yourself; does it matter that Penguin Random House are buying Simon and Schuster? Here’s a bit of a crash course on the situation.

the facts

On the 25th November, it was announced that Penguin Random House is purchasing Simon & Schuster from ViacomCBS for a reported $2.175 billion in cash. Or more accurately, Bertelsmann who owns Penguin Random House is purchasing Simon & Schuster – for the sake of simplicity, I’ll be referring to Penguin Random House alone.

the fair wage issue

First of all, the news that Penguin Random House has a cool $2 billion in cash to spend on the acquisition of market dominance comes as a slap in the face to all the underpaid workers in publishing. The death of the book industry is often cited as an excuse for low salaries and the resultant poor working conditions – despite the fact that the book industry has actually seen growth over the past few years. With an increase in value of 1.4% in 2018 and almost 2% in 2019. While the trends and implications of COVID-19 are certainly a spanner in the works, there has still been an increase in book sales are readers rally to support bookshops and the book industry during this uncertain time – book sales are up around 20% from 2015 overall.

the mega-publisher issue

In the book industry, publishers are generally split in independent presses, small presses, mid-level presses and then large publishers – commonly referred to as the “Big Five” an umbrella under which Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group, Harper Collins, Simon & Schuster and Macmillan are currently housed. With the yet to be completed sale, the “Big Five” (the “Big Six” in 2013) would become the “Big Four.”

Penguin Random House’s acquisition of Simon & Schuster will create the world’s first “mega-publisher” that will control a majority percentage of the fiction market. The glaring sin her is that PRH isn’t just buying a publisher but is making a bid to take over the marker. It is by no means a done deal; the US Justice Department will need to approve the deal but understandably it has come up against immediate criticism. The Author’s Guild explained in a statement that the reduction of these mainstream publishing houses from five to four will mean less competition – less bidders – for an author’s work. In an industry that has been subject to increasing consolidation of publishing power, this impending merger will inevitable drive down the advances offered to authors. Inevitably, it will also mean fewer jobs in the industry and less leverage for anyone negotiating with publisher – whether that be agents, editors, authors or publishing staff. Additionally, existing employees (those that don’t lose their jobs in the merger…) will most likely find themselves with an increased workload and no added compensation. One of the biggest messages to takeaway here is that breaking into this industry will become even more difficult than it already is.

the antitrust issue

As I mentioned earlier, the consolidation of publishers from six in 2013 to a possible four brings us to a domain I am a little more familiar with, competition law. The merging of PRH and SS (PRHSS) becomes an antitrust issue. However, it is not being treated as such. Antitrust concerns in publishing became increasingly relevant in the early 2010s with the popularity of online retailers and the threat they posed to the profitability of traditional retailers such as publishers and bookstores.

Why? Because it generally costs traditional retails more to run their business than it does with online retailers. This has obviously made it difficult for traditional retailers to remain competitive, evidenced by the bankruptcy of the bookstore chain Borders in 2011. Considering this, it is feasible that publishers might want to implement measures that raise the cost of business for online retailers. A publisher could increase the costs of online retailers by establishing a minimum price at which an online retailer must sell to consumers. However, this is a form of price-fixing that could be illegal under antitrust law. While I’m not incredibly familiar with US law, from what I understand, vertical-price fixing has a mistakenly perceived legality – that is to say, PRHSS can argue the overall effect of said price fixing is pro-competitive and escape liability.

the ethics issue

The biggest threat to the publishing industry still and will continue to be Amazon. It is not a big leap to assume that the concern over this is partially what has prompted the merger of PRH and SS – it is an effort by publishers to increase their bargaining power. To put this into perspective, Amazon sells around 49% of the books bought years. This is just as concerning as a 33% monopoly on the publishing industry. You might still be asking, why is it necessarily bad that PRHSS controls 1/3 of the market? In the simplest terms, it prompts questions regarding ethics, diversification and influence.

Let’s put it into the context of trend controls – if PRHSS decides that dystopia books are back again then more than 30% of the books you see on shelves could be dystopias. This monopoly will mean that smaller and independent presses will find it harder to get shelf space. Proportionally, the amount of books you could see on shelves that were decided by one entity could be far more. Furthermore, as explained in the antitrust section – you’re looking at retailers (bookstores, libraries etc) being faced with added hurdles such a distribution difficulties and price-fixing. This also raises concerns regarding imprints – different imprints with different publishing ethos’ will be in conflict one another if they’re housed under the same roof. The end goal here is money; those at the top of the food chain don’t particularly care if books that they publish (let’s use a Trump biography as an example) go against the values of their imprints.

After a certain point, any company – any publisher – gets too big to be ethical.

to conclude

A monopolisation of anything in general is bad. It is a consolidation of power away from the largest amount of people most involved in the market. However, to play devil’s advocate for a second; this throws up the very stark reality that is the damaging effect of Amazon. While I do not support this deal nor do I think PRH is doing it in the interest of pro-competition, I can understand the path that led us here.

Disclaimer: I am by no means a publishing professional. Everything contained in this article is based on my own knowledge and understanding of the situation.

If You Liked These 2020 Releases, Here Are Twelve 2021 Releases to Add to Your TBR: Part One

A little while ago, I sent out a tweet asking for your favourite 2020 releases and/or reads of 2020 thus far so that I could recommend you some 2021 releases – that I think you’ll like! – to add to your TBR. A few caveats before the recommendations; first of all, I haven’t read the majority of these, so my recommendations are purely based on the information available about the book. Secondly, reading is so subjective – as you’ll see below there are specific elements from the 2020 releases that I chose to focus on.

The books I recommend may not be carbon copies or even all that similar to the 2020 titles but there’s a method to the madness, I promise! Similarly, instead of spending paragraphs explaining why I chose certain books (or dumping a synopsis into the post) I decided to simplify it a little bit – treat it a bit like a menu with ingredients. So, each title has a list of tags which may include: the genre, the representation and tropes.

2020 Favourite from Léa: The Space Between Worlds by Micaiah Johnson

tags: science fiction, LGBT (wlw), fantasy, adult, romance, dystopian, gay yearning, slow burn, morally questionable, jerk with a heart of gold

The Darkness Outside Us by Eliot Schrefer
tags: LGBT (mlm), science fiction, young adult, fantasy, romance, space gays, enemies to lovers

The Infinity Courts by Akemi Dawn Bowman
tags: science fiction, young adult, fantasy, period drama but robots, AI, humanity

Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta
tags: LGBT (wlw), science fiction, young adult, fantasy, cyberpunk sapphics, found family, renegade girls, tattoos, leather jackets, mecha takedowns

Rise of the Red Hand by Olivia Chadha
tags: science fiction, young adult, climate change, technocratic government, cyberpunk

2020 Favourite from Umairah: Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

tags: fantasy, young adult, romance, retellings, mystery, love triangle, magicians, magic competition

The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore
tags: young adult, magical realism, fantasy, retellings, LGBT (pan), contemporary, sexual assault, this will wreck you, tragic

Lost in the Never Woods by Aiden Thomas
tags: fantasy, retellings, young adult, mystery, grief, missing children, scary woods

Wings of Ebony by J. Elle
tags: young adult, fantasy, science fiction, mythology, badass mc, breakneck speed, this will wreck you, a must read

A Chorus Rises by Bethany C. Morrow
tags: young adult, fantasy, magical realism, contemporary, mythology, siren powers

2020 Favourite from Eleanor: If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio

tags: adult, mystery/thriller, LGBT (mlm), slow burn, gay yearning, antiheros, theatre nuance, morally grey, dark academia, gothic

Down Comes the Night by Allison Saft
tags: fantasy, young adult, romance, gothic, horror, LGBT (bi mc), dark, Guillermo del toro

Don’t Tell A Soul by Kirsten Miller
tags: young adult, horror, thriller/mystery, gothic, dark, haunting, retellings

What Big Teeth by Rose Szabo
tags: gothic, horror, fantasy, retellings, young adult, body horror, dark, suspenseful

Lakesedge by Lyndall Clipstone
tags: fantasy, young adult, gothic, horror, romance, haunted estates, tortured boys

There are so many excellent releases coming out in 2021 – especially by marginalised authors! I got so many responses to my initial tweet that this is only part one of a new series where I recommend you 2021 releases based on books you loved this year! Over the next two months and even into 2021, I’ll be putting together more posts like these to help you find new books in 2021 that you’ll hopefully love.

Don’t forget if you find an unreleased book that you’re really excited about, one of the best things you can do to support the author is pre-order it!

Book Review: Flying Over Water by Shannon Hitchcock and N.H. Senzai

I had the absolutely wonderful opportunity to read this book as part of the blog tour run by Qamar Blog Tours – a relatively new tour company dedicated to tours for books by Muslim authors! Flying Over Water published only yesterday and I highly recommend you get yourself a copy to add to your Muslim Shelf Space. Also, keep up with the rest of the tour participants and their content by checking out the schedule!

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

This book is a short and sweet but equally moving look at the trials faced by a family of Syrian refugees when they move to the United States. I feel like the first thing I need to say about this book is that despite some of its tough subject matter, it was so much more wholesome than I had expected – there was even a moment or two that drew some moisture to my eyes. What I hadn’t expected and what I’m endlessly grateful for is the incredibly accurate mental health representation.

Both main characters suffer from anxiety to different degrees throughout the novel and as an anxiety sufferer myself, it’s rare that I can read anxiety representation in a book and come away feeling so understood. Not only that but the authors did an excellent job casting anxiety in a positive way – both characters receive help from professionals and unfettered support from their family, friends and community. This is a theme throughout the book, there is so much support and positivity seeped into these pages. While the book indeed discusses hate and incorporates real life terrorist events into it’s narrative, it never truly feels sombre or hopeless.

When I finished this book, despite having all the thoughts I’m about to discuss below, I was going to give the book four stars – because I endeavour to positively support and uplift Muslim titles and authors. That’s not say that Muslim representation can’t be critiqued, it can and should be. But my opinion that lowered the rating of the book isn’t linked to anything wrong in the book and I didn’t want to penalise the book for that. In compromise, I want to dedicate some time at this point to addressing why I rated this book lower than I had intended.

I think it’s an important discussion to be had. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this book. It is a Middle Grade novel and by that very nature, I think, it is somewhat limited in its ability to deal with the complexity of addressing issues such as Islamophobia and xenophobia. That isn’t an awful thing at all and that’s not say Middle Grade and younger readers can’t deal with these complexities – when the authors do often talk about these issues, it is compelling and faultless. However, I read this book not only as an adult but as Muslim and as someone with in depth knowledge of the refugee crisis, Islamophobia and xenophobia. I have read or seen much of the story in Flying Over Water before, I have lived some of those experiences.

What sets apart a good book with Muslim representation is if I feel seen rather than taught. I hesitate to put the burden of education on any authors shoulders, especially authors of colour. But the crux of the matter is this; much of the significant content of Flying Over Water felt like material that was being presented to me. Which for other readers, could prove to be a great learning experience – an eye-opening book, if you will. It was not that for me. To be clear, I don’t think the characters or the culture and insight that Senzai brought to the novel lacks depth – the mentions of maamoul, mahshi, fattat (even lentil soup) delighted me. Noura’s family feels so authentic, it was a pleasure to read her chapters. Similarly, Jordyn’s homelife and as mentioned above the intricacies of how well mental health has been portrayed in this book makes it a gem.

I can’t claim to know the authors’ intentions, but they’ve created a story about trauma, internal and external adversity, and friendship – and they didn’t have to do anymore than that. While the story does feel like it stops short, per my own preferences, it’s still a must-read book in my opinion. Flying Over Water has a solid foundation of a story and truly captivating writing that brings its characters to life. As a partially ownvoices reviewer, I think that the Muslim representation in this book is beyond great. There is never any question of faith, the characters are Muslim, and they practice Islam and it is just as normal a part of the book as is Jordyn attending her swim meets. I call attention to this because oftentimes books with Muslim representation call that faith into question in some way or another. It’s always refreshing to read a book where the characters just are Muslim and that’s it. Additionally, the Alwan’s were surrounded by such a fantastic community – it was really lovely to see that support and to allow Islamic representation to exist in such a positive light.

I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

You can find more information about the book on Goodreads or you can purchase the book from The Book Depository or your local independent bookstore!

Blog Tour: This Is All Your Fault by Aminah Mae Safi

I had the absolutely wonderful opportunity to read this book as part of the blog tour run by Turn the Page Tours, do check out the rest of the tour participants and their content for this diverse YA novel about saving an independent bookstore! There is also a giveaway running until October 19th for US-based readers to win a finished copy!


There Is No Sinner Like A Young Saint

10:00P.M., Tuesday


Eli had never been certain of much. His most defining belief so far was that he could get through life with a wink on hand, a smile at the ready, and a lighter in his pocket. But here was one thing – a suddenly new thing – he believed without question: Wild Nights Bookstore and Emporium was going under.

Eli had seen the signs. The dwindling customer base. The fewer and fewer repeat booklovers coming to the sell counter. The way their online reviews had stagnated. The fact that the number of authors who came to do signings anymore was next to none.

What Eli didn’t understand was why.

Bookstores were supposed to be making a comeback. Actual paper books were, according to all those experts on the internet, crushing digital sales.

But for some reason none of those trends had touched Wild Nights. It was as though the store had been left behind to rot among the ashes of the book resurgence. It didn’t make sense. The store had the right vibes and the right location and somehow it was still floundering. Still sinking under the weight of its inventory.

There were really only three things left for Eli to do.

  1. Root through the store’s records to find the proof their imminent demise.
  2. See if there was a way to save Wild Nights Bookstore and Emporium.
  3. Kick back and smoke a disposable pen from Jo’s bag of vapes, because there probably wasn’t a way to save the store and doom was almost always inevitable, as far as Eli was concerned.

Eli should have done the first thing first and saved the smoking for last, but Eli had never been much for rules, even if they were of his own invention. He embraced his doom as he sat at the desk in the back office of the bookstore, typing the store’s daily totals with his left hand, because his right was occupied with one of the disposable vapes Jo had stashed away in her bottom desk drawer. Jo was the manager at Wild Nights, and she bought the variety packs of vapes from the local corner store because they were cheaper and she suspected her employees dug into her stash while she wasn’t looking.

She was correct.

Besides, Eli would have to be a saint to keep his hands off them as he closed the store alone and did math.

Eli was not a saint.

He was just a sucker for that heady buzz that came from smoking one of these. It was bad for him. But Eli was, in general, into things that were bad for him. He’d figured this out years ago, and, contrary to what all the adults around him said, he hadn’t grown out of it. Everything Eli touched turned to shit no matter what he did. He might as well go for the king of stuff that would destroy him, rather than the other way around.

Eli took another puff. He didn’t like counting inventory on the old tape calculator. He had tried to do it the way Danny had shown him, but he was no natural at math, the way she was. It was slow going and would have been so much faster if he could have tallied the daily totals on the laptop, with a proper keyboard. And a spreadsheet.

Instead, he was using a calculator the size of a book. Not only was it enormous, the ancient machine actually printed out the numbers onto a roll of paper like the old-school register they kept up front. Every time Eli typed, the calculator made a scratching chut chut against the paper and spat out even more numbers. And then he was supposed to tally these numbers in a black, leather-bound notebook that held all the records of Wild Nights since the beginning of time. Danny usually close and was the one typically entrusted with this job. But she’d been given the night off, and, despite his reputation, Eli didn’t want to mess up this job if he didn’t have to. He was going to tally the day’s totals and then get to the bottom of Wild Nights’ financial records.

But the more Eli totalled numbers, the more he thought about the process – it was super strange that the store’s owner, Archer Hunt Junior, hadn’t switched to any king of digital records. Eli didn’t typically care about answers to impossible questions. But he couldn’t stop asking himself what was going on here. His mind couldn’t stop whirling with possibilities.

Where were the records, anyway? Why hadn’t Hunt Junior invested any energy into brining new customers into the store? Why didn’t Hunt Junior even come down to the store anymore at all?

A pulsing blue glow caught the corner of Eli’s eye.

Jo had left her laptop in the office.

Eli hesitated for a fraction of a second. He really shouldn’t go rooting through other people’s laptops. Especially not people he respected. It was just, laptops could doublecheck Eli’s math. Laptops could be used to make a digital archive of what was currently only ink and paper. Without anyone else onsite, all of Eli’s suspicions were really only guesses. A feeling that had grown unavoidable to Eli. A truth he knew but couldn’t quite prove.

Eli had been blindsided enough in his life to know when it was happening, and he knew it was happening now. He just had to figure out how. And he had to figure out how without getting caught.

Besides, if Jo hadn’t wanted Eli to use the old black brick of a laptop, she ought to have made her password more secure than thebatman in all lowercase. She was always going off that “the Batman: was the least interesting part of any of the comics. It wasn’t hard to guess that she used the phrase as a catchall key to all her digital castles. She used it for the Wi-Fi password, too. And Eli had seen Hackers enough on TV to know that people reused their passwords. It didn’t matter how many times people were warned that they shouldn’t. They just did. Jo hadn’t even bothered to add a number combination at the back end to throw off the average, prank-level hack.

Thought, to be honest, Eli probably could have guessed the number combination at the back end of Jo’s passwords, too. She was predictable, and Eli knew her well enough after working under her at the bookstore for the last couple of years. He knew her birthday and the date that her mom had died. If you paid attention, you could really see people when they weren’t taking notice of themselves.

The login screen accepted Eli’s password and, in an instant, he was in.

Except Jo’s desktop was pristine.

Nothing but her hard drive and a shortcut to her email.

Eli knew that, next to going through someone’s search history or many looking through their messages, clicking on another person’s email was one of the most invasive things that he could do. But Eli wanted answers, and adults, even adults like Jo, were never going to give straight answers. Adults were always saying they were protecting you, but Eli knew that was just a fancy was of saying lying.

So Eli clicked the lone desktop shortcut and into Jo’s email he went.

Wild Nights property sale: PENDING

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Title: This Is All Your Fault | Author: Aminah Mae Safi | Publisher: Feiwel and Friends | Release Date: October 13, 2020 | Genres: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT

Set over the course of one day, Aminah Mae Safi’s This Is All Your Fault is a smart and voice-driven YA novel that follows three young women determined to save their indie bookstore. Rinn Olivera is finally going to tell her longtime crush AJ that she’s in love with him. Daniella Korres writes poetry for her own account, but nobody knows it’s her.Imogen Azar is just trying to make it through the day. When Rinn, Daniella, and Imogen clock into work at Wild Nights Bookstore on the first day of summer, they’re expecting the hours to drift by the way they always do. Instead, they have to deal with the news that the bookstore is closing. Before the day is out, there’ll be shaved heads, a diva author, and a very large shipment of Air Jordans to contend with. And it will take all three of them working together if they have any chance to save Wild Nights Bookstore.

Goodreads | Purchase

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Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer. Safi was the winner of the We NeedDiverse Books short story contest, and that story appeared in the anthology Fresh Ink.She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner and cat.This Is All Your Fault is her third novel, followingNot the Girls You’re Looking For and Tell Me How You Really Feel.

Website | Instagram | Twitter

I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

Book Review: Each of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro

I had the absolutely wonderful opportunity to read this book as part of the book tour run by Colored Pages, while the tour is coming to an end do check out the rest of the tour participants and their content for this gorgeous book!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Each of Us A Desert pulls you in two directions when reading; it urges you to devour it – to follow this enigmatic character and tale without interruption. While in a much more quiet, earnest fashion each page almost drowns you in its prose. A prose that at times duels the plot to rapture attention. I consumed this book in one go and it was magnificent but in hindsight, on second reading and I recommend for your first reading; take your time. Pour over these pages as they deserve to be poured over. Oshiro has crafted something evocative and poignant and very nearly perfect. Its literary merit is not to be dismissed.

Oshiro paints words with such veracity and vividness – creating landscapes, emotions, relationships that live and breathe on the page. There wasn’t a moment that I didn’t believe any of the interactions happening, everything felt grounded and authentic. The almost balletic combination of English and Spanish adds so much, you cannot divorce it from the story or the book. It is an ingrained part of what makes this so incredible.

Each of Us A Desert is about faith. About faith in something, in oneself, in others. The whole book is a prayer. I can’t help but imagine that the exploration of Xochitl’s relationship with Solís has a universal quality to it. It’s something I devoured eagerly because it latched onto thoughts and feelings I’ve had. It was desperately easy to understand Xochitl as a character. I don’t think this is a story about Xochitl’s struggle with identity so much as it’s about her outgrowing who she is told to be, how she is told to be. As a result, the book rides several themes; it addresses loss, family, love, responsibility – community responsibility. I particularly loved the way Xochitl and her beliefs were constantly being challenged.

Every time Oshiro introduces a new element into the tapestry of this almost elusive magical world, it seems as though it is just right – just meant to be – and to do so with such apparent ease is an accomplishment not to be understated. The wider environment and storylines in this book indicate such a wealth of knowledge and craft about this story. In my opinion, it’s often hard to make plot in a fantasy world appear organic but Oshiro does this to great effect. You really feel the character’s struggle, you feel the length of their journey. Oshiro knocks it out of the park with the humanity of their characters. On the topic of the romance, however, what I have to say is not even a critique so much as it’s my own personal desires overriding what I recognise is a fantastic story, a very well-paced story, and a story of quiet love and support – I would have adored a little bit more yearning on the page. In something that is so internal at times, slow moving and thematic, it would have been nice to see more exploration of Xochitl contemplating the idea of someone coming to her not because of what she could give them but because they already share a story – las poemas.

It’s rare that I come away from a book wanting to immediately dive back into it, this was one of those books. I wanted to flip back to page one and peruse every line again. Each of Us A Desert is a beautiful reflection of what it means to tell our stories.

Publisher: Tor Teen | Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, LGBTQ+

From award-winning author Mark Oshiro comes a powerful coming-of-age fantasy novel about finding home and falling in love amidst the dangers of a desert where stories come to life. Xochitl is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enigmatic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes. Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit. One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous conqueror. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository | Barnes & Noble | IndieBound | Kobo | Indigo | Google Play | Apple Books

Mark Oshiro is the author of Anger is a Gift (Tor Teen), winner of the 2019 Schneider Family Book Award and nominated for a 2019 Lammy Award (in the LGBTQ Children’s/Young Adult category). Upcoming novels include Each of Us a Desert (Tor Teen), a YA Fantasy novel out September 15, 2020, and The Insiders (Harper Collins), an MG Contemporary with magical elements out Fall 2021. When they are not writing, crying on camera about fictional characters for their online Mark Does Stuff universe, or traveling, Mark is busy trying to fulfil their lifelong goal: to pet every dog in the world.

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter

I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

Book Review: Punching the Air by Ibi Zoboi and Yusef Salaam

I had the absolute pleasure of reading Punching the Air pre-publication to take part in the book tour hosted by Karina from Afire Pages, to promote this title during publication week. My post was supposed to go up yesterday but c’est la vie, here we are! In collaboration with the tour, there is also an international giveaway of the book that you can enter! You can find my thoughts on this stunning, devastating book below.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I often find that the hardest reviews to write are for the great books. The books that sit on your chest and make you aware – so incredibly present. This is one of those books. Punching the Air uses language to fill its pages with hurt, desperation and hope that is impossible to ignore. Each page feels alive. Now, I haven’t had the opportunity to see the final copy with its illustrations but as the words alone soar, I can only imagine that the final book is a singular reading experience.

Umi said English requires two mouths to speak
and four ears to understand

Punching the Air is the story about a young Black Muslim who is wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit. Make no mistake, while the chronology of the story follows Amal’s journey from conviction to entering the detention centre – it’s not really about the literal imprisonment, I think. It’s about cause and effect. It’s about the destruction bigotry, racism and complicit institutions cause to lives – to generations of people.

Punching the Air does exactly as its namesake suggests; in the mere reading space of an hour, it punches. Again and again.

Keep my name out your mouth, lady, I say
But she don’t hear me, though
No one hears me
My lips are sealed
but my words have a life of their own

It’s so much more than just a story about a boy going to jail. The multitudes of life that exist between these pages are endless and the skill of achieving so much with arguably few words, it’s incredible. Indelible. I’m wary with the words I use to describe this story and how many of them I use because I don’t want to tell you what to think of it – the book itself prompts so much thought that I feel you need to experience it for yourself. I will, however, talk about Amal. A boy who is never treated as a boy. A boy who doesn’t allow himself to be changed – who knows his truth and finds ways to tell it.

Here, we’re not even paint
We’re a box of cheap markers

that don’t even blend well
The shit that forces you

to stay in the lines or else
the colors will bleed

The colors will bleed

Amal feels so tangible in these pages. Like he’s sitting right there, in front of you. The way he views the world – the way he views his peers – is raw and honest. There’s moment when this book forces you to look at it – to see it as more than words on a page – to be held responsible. The inclusion of rap and the constant references to music production is something I personally haven’t seen done with such consistency and accuracy. It’s evidently such an ingrained part of Amal. It’s a small idea with such a big effect. Rap is poetry – it’s art. And yet, it’s viewer through the white lens as wrong. This alone is such a wide-reaching allegory for everything this book does.

everything about us
our skin, our faces, our hair, our words, our music

will break things
will ruin things
will make things ugly

just by us being there

Anything that I could say about this book is inadequate, in two distinct forms. It’s inadequate because I don’t think I have the words that will ever be enough. It’s inadequate because it’s not my story – I can only say so much. This book hurts me, makes me angry – it exacerbates a lens that looks at the world and wonders “how the fuck has this been allowed to happen?” But that’s not a space I can dominate here. That’s a space for the Black community. This book doesn’t deserve your support – it demands it.

This story – and stories like it need to be shared – to be known.

All quotations are from an advanced review copy and may not reflect the final version.

I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

You can find more information about the book on Goodreads or you can purchase the book from The Book Depository or your local independent bookstore!

Book Review: I, Ada by Julia Gray

In the midst of veritable hundreds of books publishing today, I bring you yet another. I, Ada publishes today and as part of the blog tour organised by it’s publisher, Andersen Press, I’ve been given the wonderful opportunity to share my thoughts with you.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Julia Gray’s latest novel falls into an interesting gap between a biographical account and fiction; that which is known is brought to light and given life by way of imagination. Only recently has the contribution of Countess Lovelace, as with many people deemed unsuitable to be remembered, to the world of programming been recognised. This book manages to be both excellent in its own right and a vehicle to education about its subject.

While alight with curiosity inducing deference to arithmetic and ideas of equations that I long left behind, this novel remains at its heart a tale about wanting to know oneself. It is very much about a daughter seeking out a relationship with her father – to seek to build a relationship not only with an absent figure, but with one who dies is something that Gray frames with eloquence and a great deal of emotional intelligence. Gray propels this biographical adjacent book by exploring the need to define our identity, and those who influence it and the subsequent quandaries that arise because of that questioning.

In an oddly accurate sense, Ada both knows who she is entirely at times – she is the child who tears her clothes running through nature and needs to have her wild throes tames by education. Yet, as is often the paradox of growing up, she doesn’t really know at all. I really admire how Gray characterises Ada in this way – not only does it make her incredibly accessible as a ‘historical figure’ but it goes a long way to creating an authentic narrator.

In this book and perhaps just as in life, Ada and her relationship to Lord Byron is best described in a formula; what happens when an unstoppable force meets and immovable object? For all the dalliance that Ada has into various pursuits, her conviction – her need to create – remains. Her desire to see the world as is natural to her and carve out her own path is constantly in battle with this need to know her father and his unspoken (by her mother) legacy. On that note, Ada’s relationship to her mother is equally if not more important. It prevails throughout the majority of the book and is genuine; the frustrations and the desire to be more than a child – more than a responsibility but someone deserving of information, of conversation and not dictation – is incredibly relatable.

Gray structures the novel to follow Ada throughout her formative years, from age five to age nineteen/twenty and it takes on a familiar but effective pattern. Much like Ada’s thesis of multiple Ada’s existing, like conjoined newspaper dolls, with each passing year – with each new experience – Ada learns something that leads to her perhaps understanding her father more and by extension, ultimately, herself. It’s truly a fabulous way of telling a story whose ending can’t be concealed, whose details may already be intimately known by the reader.  I particularly liked the presentation of Ada’s struggles, not only of being in the shadow of her father’s legacy (both as a child of someone renown but as a woman of the time period) but also the scrutiny of being in the public eye.

Gray has left nothing out, in my opinion. The revisited discussion about education – moreover, its availability to the poor – was a well-placed backbone to the patchwork of this book. I have no doubt as the author expresses in a note at the end of the novel that if any of the events that occur in this book have real life counterparts, that they did not happen as such – but that doesn’t really matter. Gray has woven a story that works despite that. To conclude, I, Ada is pleasant to read and oftentimes a surprisingly witty and heartfelt exercise in shedding light on the life and brilliance of Ada Lovelace.

I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

You can find more information about the book on Goodreads or you can purchase the book from The Book Depository or your local independent bookstore!

Book Review: Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For the longest time, I found myself struggling to write this review. I couldn’t find enough words to tell you why you should read this book. I didn’t want to be stuck giving you the one-liners that publishers roll out but some of it is so incredibly appropriate. It’s bold and original and filled to the brim with character.

It’s brilliant. Read it, please.

In terms of the story itself, Bayron takes the bones of the Cinderella fairy-tale and gives it not only a whole new life but weight, she stitches together muscle and skin to craft a story that works so incredibly well. The entire diegesis of the main plot is never sacrificed because of the story it takes its inspiration from, it’s enhanced by it. The author effortlessly marriages these two stories of women rebelling against a tyrannical patriarchy, two hundred years apart. Sophia is such a wonderful character because of how outspoken and stubborn she is – it’s never out of a misplaced sense of duty. It’s just her wanting to be allowed to live the way she wants.

Let me tell you why I adore the sapphic representation in this book. Sophia is so unapologetically herself, despite trying not to be at times. Her identity is never truly invalidated or in question, especially by her, and I love that. There is no journey to discover her queerness, from the beginning of the book it’s evident and acted on. There is no forced angst or drama because of the fact that Sophia likes women. As a character, her narration is never concerned about the gender of her romantic feelings, they just are. This may be one of the shortest reviews I’ve written to date but it’s still valid; there was literally nothing that I didn’t like in this book. I could share a few further thoughts on other things I loved but I want this review to be spoiler free so it can reach as many people as possible – just know, any thoughts not written here contain the same sentiment: I love this book, I flew through it in a couple of hours.

It was a pleasure to read.

I was provided a copy of this book for review by the publisher.

You can find more information about the book on Goodreads or you can purchase the book from The Book Depository or your local independent bookstore!

This review was written in conjunction with a blog tour, all thoughts remain my own.