Reviews

Bloodleaf by Crystal Smith

*Spoiler free*

Aurelia is a princess, but they call her a witch. Surrounded by spirits and burdened with forbidden magic, she lives in constant fear of discovery by the witch-hunting Tribunal and their bloodthirsty mobs. When a devastating assassination attempt reveals her magical abilities, Aurelia is forced to flee her country with nothing but her life. Alone and adrift in an enemy kingdom, Aurelia plans her revenge against the Tribunal, desperate to bring down the dark organization that has wrought terror upon her people for hundreds of years. But there’s something deeply amiss in her new home, too, and soon she finds herself swept into a deadly new mystery with a secretive prince, the ghost of an ancient queen, and a poison vine called Bloodleaf. Aurelia is entangled in a centuries-long game of love, power, and war, and if she can’t break free before the Tribunal makes its last move, she may lose far more than her crown.

I’ve been wanting to read this book for awhile. It sounded intriguing, the cover pulled me in, and I had heard some pretty decent things about it! For some reason, I pushed it to the back burner. Though, I’ve recently seen so much love for this series online (I think because the second book was just released!), that my interest in finding out what this series is about shot up. A princess accused of being a witch, hiding out in an enemy kingdom, and trying to come into her powers while trying to untangle the turmoil surrounding her made this book sound like it would be right up my alley! Trigger warnings: graphic animal death, self-harm (for blood magic), ableism

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Reviews

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

*Spoiler free*

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Cynical twenty-three-year old August doesn’t believe in much. She doesn’t believe in psychics, or easily forged friendships, or finding the kind of love they make movies about. And she certainly doesn’t believe her ragtag band of new roommates, her night shifts at a 24-hour pancake diner, or her daily subway commute full of electrical outages are going to change that. But then, there’s Jane. Beautiful, impossible Jane. All hard edges with a soft smile and swoopy hair and saving August’s day when she needed it most. The person August looks forward to seeing on the train every day. The one who makes her forget about the cities she lived in that never seemed to fit, and her fear of what happens when she finally graduates, and even her cold-case obsessed mother who won’t quite let her go. And when August realizes her subway crush is impossible in more ways than one—namely, displaced in time from the 1970s—she thinks maybe it’s time to start believing.

My love for Red, White, And Royal Blue is no secret. I’ve been excited for McQuiston’s next book since I finished it. And finding out that it would be f/f only made me all the more excited. I was a bit nervous about the time travel aspect of the plot, only because I haven’t read a lot of books set in the real world with a slight magical aspect that I’ve liked. But a f/f book by Casey McQuiston was something I was willing to go out on a limb for. Thank you so much to St. Martins Griffin and Edelweiss for the e-ARC!

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Reviews

8 Reasons You Should Read Slay by Brittany Morris

*Spoiler free*

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By day, seventeen-year-old Kiera Johnson is an honors student, a math tutor, and one of the only Black kids at Jefferson Academy. But at home, she joins hundreds of thousands of Black gamers who duel worldwide as Nubian personas in the secret multiplayer online role-playing card game, SLAY. No one knows Kiera is the game developer, not her friends, her family, not even her boyfriend, Malcolm, who believes video games are partially responsible for the “downfall of the Black man.” But when a teen in Kansas City is murdered over a dispute in the SLAY world, news of the game reaches mainstream media, and SLAY is labeled a racist, exclusionist, violent hub for thugs and criminals. Even worse, an anonymous troll infiltrates the game, threatening to sue Kiera for “anti-white discrimination.” Driven to save the only world in which she can be herself, Kiera must preserve her secret identity and harness what it means to be unapologetically Black in a world intimidated by Blackness. But can she protect her game without losing herself in the process?

I’ve been eager to read this book before it even came out. A Black teen creates an incredible multiplayer online role playing card game where other Black people can come together and express themselves. She keeps it a secret, thinking the people in her life won’t be supportive. But, a teenager is killed over a dispute in the game and the game is labeled racist and exclusionary. It sounded like it would be a powerful, amazing book, and I very much wanted to read it.

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Reviews

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

*Spoiler free*

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Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes. But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either.

Siren stories are always intriguing to me, but it always seems to take me awhile to get to them. A Song Below Water was no different. I knew I wanted to read it because it sounded so good. Two best friends grapple with their world. A world that has mythical creatures like sirens. Effie has secrets to unravel and Tavia is trying to keep her voice under wraps. Trigger warnings: past suicide attempt, self-harm, anxiety

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Reviews

The Sound Of Stars by Alechia Dow

*Spoiler free*

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Two years ago, a misunderstanding between the leaders of Earth and the invading Ilori resulted in the deaths of one-third of the world’s population. Seventeen-year-old Janelle “Ellie” Baker survives in an Ilori-controlled center in New York City. Deemed dangerously volatile because of their initial reaction to the invasion, humanity’s emotional transgressions are now grounds for execution. All art, books and creative expression are illegal, but Ellie breaks the rules by keeping a secret library. When a book goes missing, Ellie is terrified that the Ilori will track it back to her and kill her. Born in a lab, M0Rr1S (Morris) was raised to be emotionless. When he finds Ellie’s illegal library, he’s duty-bound to deliver her for execution. The trouble is, he finds himself drawn to human music and in desperate need of more. They’re both breaking the rules for love of art—and Ellie inspires the same feelings in him that music does. Ellie’s—and humanity’s—fate rests in the hands of an alien she should fear. M0Rr1S has a lot of secrets, but also a potential solution—thousands of miles away. The two embark on a wild and dangerous road trip with a bag of books and their favorite albums, all the while making a story and a song of their own that just might save them both.

I wasn’t sure of this book at first. Books about books or music usually don’t mesh well with me. I’m not sure why, it’s weird. The cover drew me in, so it was on my radar somewhat. Though, I started hearing all kind of love about it online, so I thought I would give it more of a shot. Plus, an alien and a girl going on a dangerous road trip to try and save the world sounds incredibly intriguing. Trigger warnings: colonization, violence, execution, oppression, brainwashing and mind control, anxiety, panic attacks

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Reviews

8 Reasons You Should Read Kingdom Of Souls by Rena Barren

*Spoiler free*

Arrah is a young woman from a long line of the most powerful witch doctors in the land. But she fails at magic, fails to call upon the ancestors and can’t even cast the simplest curse. Shame and disappointment dog her. When strange premonitions befall her family and children in the kingdom begin to disappear, Arrah undergoes the dangerous and scorned process of selling years of her life for magic. This borrowed power reveals a nightmarish betrayal and a danger beyond what she could have imagined. Now Arrah must find a way to master magic, or at least buy it, in order to save herself and everything she holds dear.

I feel like this book came out of nowhere for me. I didn’t know about it and suddenly excitement for it was everywhere I looked online. Plus, once I found out what it’s about I was even more intrigued. A girl yearns for magic of her own in a family of powerful witchdoctors. Children are going missing and a Demon King is stirring. It sounded like something that would be right up my alley, so I was eager to read it! Trigger warnings: violence, sacrifice, blood magic, and parental abuse

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Reviews

We Free The Stars by Hafsah Faizal

*Spoiler free, but spoilers for We Hunt The Flame*

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Thank you so much to Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Edelweiss for the e-ARC!

The battle on Sharr is over. The dark forest has fallen. Altair may be captive, but Zafira, Nasir, and Kifah are bound for Sultan’s Keep, determined to finish the plan he set in motion: restoring the hearts of the Sisters of Old to the minarets of each caliphate, and finally returning magic to all of Arawiya. But they are low on resources and allies alike, and the kingdom teems with fear of the Lion of the Night’s return. As the zumra plots to overthrow the kingdom’s darkest threat, Nasir fights to command the magic in his blood. He must learn to hone his power into a weapon, to wield not only against the Lion but against his father, trapped under the Lion’s control. Zafira battles a very different darkness festering in her through her bond with the Jawarat—a darkness that hums with voices, pushing her to the brink of her sanity and to the edge of a chaos she dare not unleash. In spite of the darkness enclosing ever faster, Nasir and Zafira find themselves falling into a love they can’t stand to lose…but time is running out to achieve their ends, and if order is to be restored, drastic sacrifices will have to be made.

After reading We Hunt The Flame, I was incredibly eager for We Free The Stars. The way that the previous book ended left me wanting more, wanting to know what was going to happen to the zumra, with magic, and with Arawiya. I knew this book would probably thrust many feelings upon my heart, but I wanted to see what those feelings were going to be. Trigger warnings: mentions of abuse (physical and emotional), blood, gore

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Reviews

Raybearer by Jordan Ifeuko

*Spoiler free*

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Nothing is more important than loyalty. But what if you’ve sworn to protect the one you were born to destroy? Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself? With extraordinary world-building and breathtaking prose, Raybearer is the story of loyalty, fate, and the lengths we’re willing to go for the ones we love.

The cover of this one was what initially drew me in. With a cover like that, it’s hard not to be intrigued. Some of my friends read and adored this book, which of course shot it straight up on my list of books to pick up. There was also tons of love for this one online. Plus, the fact that this book is about a love starved girl going to compete for spot on the prince’s council made me even more eager to read this book. Trigger Warnings: parental emotional abuse, blood magic, death of children, rape

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Crier’s War by Nina Varela

*Spoiler free*

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After the War of Kinds ravaged the kingdom of Rabu, the Automae, Designed to be the playthings of royals, took over the estates of their owners and bent the human race to their will. Now, Ayla, a human servant rising the ranks at the House of the Sovereign, dreams of avenging the death of her family… by killing the Sovereign’s daughter, Lady Crier. Crier, who was Made to be beautiful, to be flawless. And to take over the work of her father. Crier had been preparing to do just that—to inherit her father’s rule over the land. But that was before she was betrothed to Scyre Kinok, who seems to have a thousand secrets. That was before she discovered her father isn’t as benevolent as she thought. That was before she met Ayla. Set in a richly-imagined fantasy world, Nina Varela’s debut novel is a sweepingly romantic tale of love, loss and revenge, that challenges what it really means to be human.

In a very me way, it was the second I found out this book was queer was the second I knew I wanted to read it. (Yes, it might have taken me a little bit to get to it, but I wanted to read it the whole time.) This was a queer fantasy book. A queer fantasy with the enemies-to-lovers trope and a very intriguing world, a world with Automae ruling over humans. It sounded amazing.

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Wicked Fox by Kat Cho

*Spoiler free*

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Eighteen-year-old Gu Miyoung has a secret–she’s a gumiho, a nine-tailed fox who must devour the energy of men in order to survive. Because so few believe in the old tales anymore, and with so many evil men no one will miss, the modern city of Seoul is the perfect place to hide and hunt. But after feeding one full moon, Miyoung crosses paths with Jihoon, a human boy, being attacked by a goblin deep in the forest. Against her better judgment, she violates the rules of survival to rescue the boy, losing her fox bead–her gumiho soul–in the process. Jihoon knows Miyoung is more than just a beautiful girl–he saw her nine tails the night she saved his life. His grandmother used to tell him stories of the gumiho, of their power and the danger they pose to humans. He’s drawn to her anyway. With murderous forces lurking in the background, Miyoung and Jihoon develop a tenuous friendship that blossoms into something more. But when a young shaman tries to reunite Miyoung with her bead, the consequences are disastrous . . . forcing Miyoung to choose between her immortal life and Jihoon’s.

A seemingly doomed friendship, maybe something more. Miyoung, a gumiho must feed on the energy of men to survive. Jihoon, a boy who sees her nine tails and who Miyoung leaves alive. I have seen so much love for this book online, since before it even came out (which is when I started to want to read it). I sounded like such a fascinating, alluring story, and I was very eager to see what I thought about it. Trigger warnings: death of a family member, grief, blood

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