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.

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Why Harry Potter Is No Longer Relevant To Me

There was a time period during my earlier youth when I was obsessed with Harry Potter, as were a large majority of children around my age at that point. It began around seven or eight, and lasted up until about 19 or so, for me. I fancied myself an aficionado on all things Harry Potter related, and indeed I was knowledgeable about it in a certain factual sense. However, until The Cursed Child came into existence, as well as the subsequent casting of an actress of color for Hermione, I did not realize how ignorant I had been up until then. After much thought and research, I will explain why this series does not stand the test of time for me.

At the time of inception of this seven book series, matters regarding the LGBTQIA+ community had only really became mainstream in recent years. The Stonewall Inn riots had been a turning point, but there was much ground to be made still in regard to national and international media in the U.S., and worldwide respectively. The Philosopher’s Stone, after all, was published by Bloomsbury in London just a scant three months after Ellen had announced that she was indeed gay, back in 1997. Harry Potter, at its core, is a children’s series that can be enjoyed by all ages. It is, however, a product of its time. One where those who were not what mainstream media expected them to be, would more than likely flop. Ellen’s show, after all, was cancelled shortly after her admission. While that seems a world away, as well as not that long ago, times have changed much since that pivotal year.

In recent years though, J.K. Rowling has been criticized for her lack of diversity in the books, which as an adult well into their 20s, is not lost on me. However, had it been brought up years beforehand, I would not have understood the condemnations properly for what they were, because as has been pointed out, it is not simply about lack of LGBTQIA+ diversity, but of all sorts of missing representation for a series that supposedly has people in it from all over the world.

Moving back to The Cursed Child – it opened in the same month, ironically, 19 years after the first book in the original series had been released. To long time fans, given the casting news it had been a shock to the system, as we all digested the newest lore and content that had been released, albeit knowing that it had not been Rowling who singlehandedly had penned it. While the actors and others who created the play, I have no qualms with, I do however, reserve a certain frustration with the original series author, Mrs. J.K. Rowling herself.

Why, you might ask? Well, it’s plain and simple. Her excuse of the political climate as a reason she did not create a single drop of LGBTQIA+ diversity in the series might have flown back then, but in this day, it is a lack luster one, bordering on insulting. The Cursed Child, which was released in 2016, easily could have been imbued with some of our community’s flair. Was it? Of course it wasn’t, because her ally ship only goes so far as her tweets.

Talk is cheap, they say, and she has done a hefty amount of that in recent years. Back when the series concluded, collectively, the fandom was heartbroken, as it had been a part of our lives for years. That, was understandable. However, if we had known then what we do now, I wish that we had bit the bullet, and thanked her, then moved on our merry way to other books that actually represent a larger portion of her reader base, rather than continuing to harp on the point of wanting more. I owe that time period in large part to what my favorite childhood author has done thus far publicly.

Bear in mind, that I do not believe an author must include LGBTQIA+ people or people of color, various religions, etc. in any work. However, I find it disturbing that given the diversity of the world, that one could wish to sideline or exclude these narratives all together, or add them in after the fact as an aside, rather than have canon text to back the claim up. In that same vein, professing that the only characters who are queer, happen to be a Nazi, and a deeply flawed man? It’s ludicrous, as well as a dangerous message to send to future questioning children, or those who are straight and viewing queer people through media, as well as their own lens. That is a topic for another day though.

So, where does that leave me, a parent, who wishes to pass on only the best of literature to my daughter, who is learning about the world around her, including history of those who came before us? While I have two choices, I can only condone one – shedding the attachments of my earlier years, in hope that I am able to find and boost works that show people of all kinds, rather than exclude them as so many other media forms have done before.

J.K. Rowling and the series of Harry Potter is not inherently bad, and I do still find value in it. Likewise, I did indeed learn from it, both what to do and what not to. However, given the lack of diversity across the board, it is one that I no longer care to uplift.

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.