Unbroken: A Book Review

Given the trigger warnings and the fact that it is Erotica, I will be honest and say that I did not expect to enjoy Unbroken by Brooklyn Ray as much as the previous novel of this series. However, raw and real, this book is the sequel to Port Lewis Witches, Volume One that we all deserve.

Unbroken follows the story of Michael Gates, a travel blogger who is transplanted to Port Lewis by his parents’ collective insistence that he do something with his life. Tucking tail and escaping Arizona, he follows his sister Janice to Port Lewis, Washington where they find themselves renting a house with two other roommates; one human and one demon. That is not even the half of the strangeness that begins to infiltrate itself into their lives after arriving in Port Lewis.

Outside of Michael Gates, there is Victor Llewellyn, Michael’s sister Janice, and their roommate Corey, as well as the occasional appearance of other Port Lewis regulars introduced in book one. Those I felt were tastefully done, and did not feel shoe-horned in whatsoever. Regarding the new characters, I felt that each were well-written, with not a single one feeling hollow or incomplete.

Furthermore, I adored each of the characters that are added to this world with the addition of this book to the series, including the main character. Michael is by no means perfect, but his character arc of learning to accept himself and the love he deserves is poignant and harsh, but relatable. I connected with him in ways I was not sure I would upon first glance of the novel.

As for the world building in this book, given the genre, it did take a back seat. However, it was still woven in so that those who read the first book will learn more about the magic system and world that Ray has created. I did not feel like it was lacking in the slightest.

Overall, for those who enjoyed Unbroken’s predecessor, and can handle darker subject matter, I recommend this book. Though it may be heavier material, I believe it is tastefully done, and well worth the read.

I rate this book 5/5.

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this by NetGalley for free in exchange for an honest review.

Little Birds: A Book Review

Little Birds: A Book Review

Take flight to the peaks of your strongest emotions with this collection of short stories, aptly named Little Birds by Hannah Lee Kidder. Though only 48 pages in length, this book had me soaring to the height of joy,
as well as plummeting to the earth into the depths of despair, as I read through it in its entirety.

With that being said, I adored this book. Each story was its own little ecosystem that thrived on the word style choices of the author, who exhibited her skill with a deft hand. I found myself plunging into the carefully crafted worlds, only to be abruptly pulled into the next one as I read further. Lush vocabulary created imagery that would make any writer studying another’s work swoon. Likewise, with the descriptive prose, I felt as if I was a character in the book, rather than an outsider looking in.

Poignant and vivid in its presentation, Little Birds is one of my favorite reads of 2019. It is a stand out book that I will recommend consistently from here on out. While this collection is not at all meant to be light in terms of subject matter, it is impactful, and without a doubt worth the read.

I rate this book 5/5.

Port Lewis Witches, Volume One: A Book Review

Port Lewis Witches, Volume One: A Book Review

Magic, familiars, and love, oh my! I adore books that have a well written setting and plot that are accompanied by a fantastic love story, or two. Suffice it to say, I found all of these, and more, within Port Lewis Witches, Volume One by Brooklyn Ray. As this novel is a collection, I will be mentioning every story by itself, as well as how each ties into the narrative overall.

Reborn is the first story that kicks off the book, and it follows Thalia, the newly appointed Darbonne matriarch as she returns home to assume her position as such. In the wake of her mother’s death, she is no longer allowed to hide from her fate, or the small town she had run from three years before. While the second shortest in the whole novel, Reborn is a great way to introduce the world that is Port Lewis. Thalia and Jordan, which the narrative mainly focuses on here, outside of the aforementioned plot, are a unique couple who add life and passion to the pages.

Next up is Darkling, which follows Ryder Wolfe and his path of acceptance of himself, as well as the partner he ends up with throughout the course of this story. Full disclosure here – Ryder is my favorite character in the whole series. I adore every single one, but he is easily the one that outshines them all for me. His own narrative was placed well, and it furthered my knowledge of the magic system and world building as a whole.

After that, comes Undertow, which is Liam’s story that opens up not long after the events of Darkling conclude. While Ryder is my favorite character, this particular section was my favorite. I loved the dynamics of the characters and how the world building really shines through here. This story is Brooklyn Ray at their best.

Last, but not least, is Honey. This short story is the smallest in terms of length in the whole collection. Were it left out, the book would still endure the test of time for many, I believe, but it is an adorable addition that I thoroughly enjoyed after the heavier plots of the earlier stories. It follows Ryder and his significant other in a light-hearted romp that would touch even a ghost’s soul.

Together, each of the stories mentioned above brought their own magic and whimsy to the narrative as a whole. The imagery that the author employed allowed for a great sense of setting. The characters are in distinct contrast to each other with their own personalities, which made them feel real, rather than card board cut out people made for the purpose of being placed in the novel. The relationships in this first volume also were fantastic, and real. Life is messy, and far from perfect. This novel conveyed that well.

Overall, I loved it with every piece of me. Everyone has their own taste, but I thoroughly could not have enjoyed this more if I tried. There was all sorts of representation for LGBT+ characters, there was magic, found family, and so much more within it, that made it a delight to read.

I rate it a 5/5.

Disclaimers:

(1/2) – This book is a darker NA fantasy and does have blood play during sex, graphic explanations of sex, etc. If those things bother you, tread with caution, or avoid this novel.

(2/2) I received no incentive or payment for this review. These thoughts are wholly my own.

The Diviners: A Book Review

The Diviners: A Book Review

Small-town hellcat turned New York City flapper, Evangeline O’Neill introduces each reader to her world in Libba Bray’s novel The Diviners with equal amounts of spunk and quick wit. However, though she leads us in, throughout the story, those who choose to pick up this treat of a novel are given insight into not only her life but those of a host of other characters introduced within its pages. In short, I took pauses in my reading of this book only when necessary. Were I not held back by time constraints, I would have completed this tome in one sitting.

To give a little back story, our main heroine has been sent to New York City by her parents to live with her Uncle Will who is a bachelor, museum owner and professor to boot. Not long after Evangeline’s, or Evie’s arrival, a brutal murder kicks off Evie’s involvement in aiding her uncle and the police solve an investigation into who could have done it. Delving further, it becomes apparent at separate points to most involved, that this case is not a typical whodunnit, and that Evie’s supernatural power could be the key that is necessary to close this case.

As mentioned above, Evangeline is the star of the show in every sense of the word. Her character, though brash and outspoken, has a certain flair to her that cannot help but leap off of the page. Throughout my reading of this book, though I enjoyed every single character, she was the one who stole my heart. Not only is she the take-charge sort, but she also has depth, despite her less than desirable attributes, such as her inability to see past the next party at certain times, or her narrow-minded view of what she should be concerned with. She is by no means perfect, but no one person or character ever is.

With regards to the rest of the cast of characters, no matter how small or large a part they may have played, each one had a fully fleshed out persona which made them feel as if they were real people being written about. Diversity was woven in with ease, with little fanfare. Inasmuch, each held a significance to the story in some way, and although they may not seem to at certain portions throughout the book, eventually each loose thread is tied up, and their importance revealed.

Speaking of loose ends, as far as the technical aspects of storytelling – such as plot, world-building, and pacing – I felt each was executed well. Given that Mrs. Bray wrote from the perspective of an array of various characters throughout the course of this novel, I was impressed at how well she weaved their lives, stories, and character arcs together. Likewise, the world-building and plot were each intriguing enough to keep this reader engaged until the very last word.

Overall, I could not have asked for more from a YA Fantasy book. All of the elements of this story combined made for a fantastic novel. It was, as Evie says, “The cat’s meow.”

I rate this novel 5/5 stars.

Little & Lion: A Book Review

Siblinghood and social stigmas are at the core of this novel, which was woven together with a deft hand by Brandy Colbert. From the synopsis alone, I was drawn in. The entire book itself, however, kept me hooked from start to finish.

Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert is the story of Suzette, or Little, who has returned home from boarding school for the summer. There, she reconnects with her friends, as well as the rest of her family. However, her brother Lionel, or Lion, is less than receptive upon her arrival, as well as struggling with his mental health. Through a series of events, she is hurtled back into the world of watching over her older brother, as well as spending time with others that she had been made to leave behind. Along the way, she begins to question her identity, as she finds herself feeling romantic intentions for not just a boy, but also a girl. A girl who Lionel just happens to be falling for too.

While this happened to be a last minute addition to my February TBR, I am thrilled that I chose to delve into it sooner rather than later. This book is not what I expected but in all of the right ways. Suzette is a wonderful MC, who is smart as well as compassionate. Her relationship with her brother is a foundational part of the book, which I found to be a well laid one. Along with the parents that these step-siblings share, this was a realistic depiction of family, and what it means to be a familial unit.

As for the story itself, I thought it ebbed and flowed well. Each scene added something to the story, including the flashbacks that are peppered throughout the book. Coupled with the concise writing, and well-portrayed discussions regarding various topics such as racism, mental health, and being bisexual, all made this a joy to read.

With regard to the pansexual representation displayed in this book, despite what I have read in other reviews to the contrary, I as a pansexual individual enjoyed it. Art truly does imitate life. Therefore, not every LGBT+ person in a book has to be a decent human being. Does that represent every single person of that group? Hell no. So, with that being said, it stands to reason that there will be characters who are LGBT+ that are not the greatest as well. That does not necessarily mean a writer is villainizing that subset of sexual preference, but more so just being accurate to the world as a whole.

On a different note, as far as the mental health representation goes, I cannot wholly speak for it, because I do not have any form of bipolar. However, as I have anxiety, certain points really stuck with me, and I felt that they were conversations that need to be heard.

In that same vein, I am neither Jewish, as Suzette and her family are, nor African American, as the main character is. However, it was interesting to see this intersection. I loved reading about this character’s experience with it, as it was enlightening.

Concerning the “emotional” love triangle that develops, though I am not usually a fan of these, I felt this one was well placed. Suzette is at a point where she is figuring out who she is, and in life, these types of situations can happen as a result. As someone who is attracted to “everyone”, I understood her misgivings as she wonders whether or not it is even possible, and if so, how does one choose between one or another? The end result of this plotline of the book as a whole, in my humble opinion, was also a feasible possibility that was not meant to denigrate any single sexual orientation, but rather emulate one life path choice.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I think the author did an excellent job with this one, and I do plan to pick up more titles written by her.

I give this book 5/5 stars.

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets: A Book Review

The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out in the Streets by Gayle Pitman is a necessary book, in that it compiles information that may be lesser known, or otherwise not as often discussed past the actual Stonewall Riots that occurred from June 28th, 1969 to July 1st, 1969. However, LGBTQ+ history is so much more than that, and this book exemplifies that through the additional information it presents which set the stage for the when, what, how and why for one of the major riots that ignited the LGBTQ+ movement into action.

I found this book to be informative in all aspects, including the snippets of interviews from first-hand witnesses and pictures that were incorporated to enhance the reader’s experience. From what images that did load on my personal reading device, I felt that these strengthened the narrative overall. With each of these elements combined, they both made this a book worth reading. For those who enjoy history, particularly LGBTQ+ history, I would recommend this title.

With that being said, while I value this book for what it contains and the data that it doles out, I also found it to be lacking in other areas. For one, the book as a whole felt like a patchwork quilt sewn together; each piece did fit with the other, but it was never in the place it should have been. The whole time I read, I felt mental whiplash at the way the narrative went from speaking of events within the 1960s to ones within the earlier 1970s, and then back to the those in the 60s. The information was scattered in such a way that following along took more effort than it should have for a middle-grade novel. Secondly, certain portions are quite repetitive. I understand that when information is recounted, there will be a modicum of reiteration. However, at multiple points throughout the book, I felt that it was present more often than not.

Overall, though I have my own qualms about the novel, I still believe that this is an important one to read. History must be studied, lest we should forget, and therefore enable it to be replicated. To permit visions of the future to cloud our knowledge of the past is to disregard what those before us have endured so that we may enjoy our present and future. That is why I believe everyone should read through this title at least once, as it allows for a window into the past, which is necessary so that we may all proceed into the future, armed with the knowledge that if those before us can handle what life threw their way, then we can too.

I gave this book 3.5 – 4/5 stars on Goodreads.

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Nonbinary – Memoirs of Gender and Identity: A Book Review

On a stroke of luck, or perhaps owing to the fact that I have taken a more vocal approach to my gender identity on this blog, I was approved within hours of my request to read and review an ARC of Nonbinary – Memoirs of Gender and Identity, edited by Micah Rajunov and Scott Duane. A PDF version of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review.

This particular memoir includes pieces written by various genderqueer voices that highlight their experiences as gender-nonconforming individuals. The book’s compilations cover a wide range of enbies who hail from various races, ethnicities, backgrounds, and age groups. Separated into four sections, their individual experiences are presented to the reader in this format.

Reading through this book, I was overjoyed to find multiple other people who have experienced the highs and lows of being who we are. I was humbled as well to read the strife that other enbies had been through to reach the points where they are today. Though we are all bound together under the large umbrella that is non-binary, each of us has a journey all our own. I love the ways in which this collection effectively showcases that.

Each day, new conversations begin regarding gender identity, especially now in 2019. With the visibility of those like us becoming more prominent, I believe this is a book that everyone should read if they are seeking to begin their education on who we are. Though there is much ground to be made, this memoir collection is a testament to how far we’ve all come. I personally plan to recommend this non-fiction title to other non-binary individuals and cis-gendered people alike. As a genderqueer person myself, I love that this book allowed people like me to speak for themselves. I can only hope that those who do not understand will listen.

I rated this book a 5/5 stars on Goodreads.