In the cold, treacherous land of Vesimaa, children are stolen from their families by a cruel emperor, forced to undergo a horrific transformative procedure, and serve in the army as magical fire-wielding soldiers. Pran and Oksana―both taken from their homeland at a young age―only have each other to hold onto in this heartless place. Pran dreams of one day rebelling against their oppressors and destroying the empire; Oksana only dreams of returning home and creating a peaceful life for them both. When they discover the emperor has a new, more terrible mission than ever for their kind, Pran and Oksana vow to escape his tyranny once and for all. But their methods and ideals differ drastically, driving a wedge between them. Worse still, they both soon find that the only way to defeat the monsters that subjugated them may be to become monsters themselves.
I came across this book because the cover knocked me off my feet. My friend is friends with the author, so when she showed me the cover, I was enthralled. It’s gorgeous and a little bit frightening and a kind of powerful. Plus, it sounded amazing too. Armies of children forced to undergo transformations to fight for a cruel king. It definitely sounded like something I would like to try out. Trigger warnings: grief, torture
When Nishat comes out to her parents, they say she can be anyone she wants—as long as she isn’t herself. Because Muslim girls aren’t lesbians. Nishat doesn’t want to hide who she is, but she also doesn’t want to lose her relationship with her family. And her life only gets harder once a childhood friend walks back into her life. Flávia is beautiful and charismatic and Nishat falls for her instantly. But when a school competition invites students to create their own businesses, both Flávia and Nishat choose to do henna, even though Flávia is appropriating Nishat’s culture. Amidst sabotage and school stress, their lives get more tangled—but Nishat can’t quite get rid of her crush on Flávia, and realizes there might be more to her than she realized.
I’ve wanted to read The Henna Wars since before it came out. It was a f/f enemies-to-lovers book and that was enough to seal the deal for me. Then, my friend (hi Tay!) read this book and absolutely loved it. Since we have very similar taste, it shot right up to the top of the list of books I wanted to try out. Trigger warnings: racism, a character being outed, homophobia
Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask. To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well. Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.
Historical fiction and I don’t always mesh that well. That’s why when I read The Silence Of Bones and absolutely fell in love, I was eager to read anything else that June Hur wrote. Two sisters found unconscious next to a crime scene, and years later, 13 girls and the sister’s father’s have gone missing. Hwani is determined to solve the mystery, no matter what secrets she uncovers. It was so ready to see what June Hur was going to do with this story. Trigger warnings: mentions of rape, suicide, grief, parental abuse
Let’s see if I can get through this without throwing my laptop down a well (my neighbors actually have a well, so this really is an option for me. I dunno how deep it is, but this would be a good way to find out, right?). I’m not sure how I want to start this. I know what I want to talk about, but how do I dive into it. Well, I guess let’s just say I’m going to be talking about gender. *jazz hands* There, that should work.
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme. On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?
I knew this book was queer (f/f to be exact), so it was already on my list of books that I want read. Though, the absolute adoration and love I’ve seen from some of my friends about this book shot it right to the top of books to read. Marriage to rise above, secrets that need to be kept, and a resistance group needing Dani’s help made it sound like this book was going to be incredible and I couldn’t wait to read it!
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
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!
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.
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