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.

Part of a Day in “Little Norway”: A Travel Blog

Part of a Day in “Little Norway”: A Travel Blog

Poulsbo, Washington, or “Little Norway”, as it has been dubbed due to its past, is a destination sought out by various sorts of people. Whether that be for the Scandinavian history or the shopping offered down town with picturesque views, there seems to be something for everyone in this quaint town. A few weeks ago, on a brilliant Saturday morning filled with sunshine and a light breeze, my family and I took a stroll down Finn Hill Rd. where the majority of locally owned businesses in Poulsbo reside.

A sign at the back of the shop.

Our first stop was Sluys’ Poulsbo Bakery, which was packed with people and pastries the duration of our stay, which made picture taking a bit hard to do. Still, I managed a few. Spoiler alert: The donuts are fantastic. However, besides donuts, I must note that there is much more to be found in this beautiful bakery, including Scandinavian specific items, bread, and various other sorts of treats. In short, you do not want to miss this.

The top of the building above Sluys’.
My glazed donut, which I split between myself and my 5 year old.

From there, I broke away for a bit to make my rounds of the book stores, while my spouse and daughter ventured elsewhere.

My first stop was Away With Words. This store, if you have not heard of it, is a gem. Not only does it offer novels, but hand mixed tea and various bath works that correspond to a certain book or genre as well, which are sprinkled throughout the store amongst the literary stock. Here I purchased a book, and awkwardly spoke with the store associate. Overall, I would definitely recommend stopping in if you have a moment or two to browse. It has been open less than a year, but definitely has the means to go far!

Next up, I stopped into Liberty Bay Books, which is a must if you’re searching for any sort of book whilst in Poulsbo. This indie book store has not only books, but also toys and a coffee café in the back. The arrangement of the store, coupled with the sitting area provided to peruse possible purchases or drink caffeine, gave it a cozy vibrancy that was hard to ignore.

Can I just say that finding these two side by side made me laugh, and love this book store even more? That’s a story for another day though.

After time well spent amongst the stacks, we strolled around, and enjoyed the beautiful day that was before us.


While I didn’t get a tattoo, I thought this building was an ideal location to mention, as it is the oldest building in Poulsbo, as stated above.
Sadly, that bakery advertised in this picture is no longer in business, but there are various others just a hop skip and a jump away. Plus, beautiful mural, right?
Another gorgeous painting on the outside of a building.
History is ripe in this town. If one chooses to look, it would not be hard to find it.

Our next stop was Poulsbohemian Coffeeshop, where we tried a few lemonades, which were both delicious until the very last drop. Mine was lavender and honey flavored. If you enjoy strong flavors of both, then check it out! Also, the shop has ample work space and enough room to accommodate a sizable amount of people, if need be. The best part of it all though, besides the beverages, have to be the views that can be found while glancing out of the windows in the back of the shop. Overall, it is definitely worth the trip, if any of what was mentioned before appeals to you!

A bit further down from the shop spoken of above, an entrance to the board walk can be found.

Our last stop, before we called it a day, was to the Sea Discovery Center. This little building held a small aquarium complete with educational classrooms, a theatre, and much more. If you have little ones of your own, this is an excellent place to visit.

If you’ve ever thought about stopping in Poulsbo, and you’re in the area, then rest assured there is much to see and do.

Until next time, Little Norway.

Blackathon Recap

I suppose I’ve learned my lesson regarding overzealous TBRs. To be honest, I set myself up for failure, because there were multiple books I had begun before the inception of that list. To say that I fell short of my expectations for this month is accurate. However, I did manage to pick up new titles that I genuinely enjoyed and still completed each of the challenges.

What I Did Read:

  1. Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert – You can find my review for this novel here. It’s safe to say though, I will be sure to read more of her work in the future.
  2. Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #1 – I thoroughly adored this comic. When I reached the end of the first issue, I wanted more. I will definitely be purchasing more of this series in the future.
  3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo – I had been anticipating this book since it was published. Despite the fact that the style is different from what I usually read, I still could not put it down until I completed it.
  4. On The Come Up by Angie Thomas – I tore through this book so quickly. As with The Hate U Give, I could not think or breathe properly until I read this book to the very last page. Another amazing novel by Angie Thomas! I’m eager to read her 3rd!
  5. Solo by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess – This book was a last minute addition to my TBR for the month, but I really liked it. The story touches on some tough subject matter, but it is still unlike most I’ve read before. It was a surprise read, for sure!

What I Listened To:

  1.  “Cuz He’s Black” by Javon Johnson
  2. “Waiting” by Jasmine Mans, Alysia Harris, Jennah Bell
  3. What I’ve Learned by Aja Monet
  4. “Balaenoptera” by Joshua Bennett

Each poem was poignant and beautiful. I enjoyed my listening experience with each piece. I highly recommend picking up the aforementioned titles, as well as listening to all of these poems.

As for the novels which I did not get to, they are all books I have wanted to read, and I do plan to finish them all at some point this year, possibly even in March.

Thank you to our hosts for putting this together! It was a really enjoyable month, and I hope to do it again next year!

Interview With The Editor Of The Upcoming Nonbinary Anthology ‘X Marks The Spot’

‘X Marks The Spot’ is an anthology being put together by fellow enby, India Kiely. The collection will include various works, such as art, personal essays, and poetry, all from Nonbinary content creators. Each creation will be focused on what the individual creator’s experience with gender means to them. The deadline to monetarily support this project is March 3rd.

Though they are busy with this project and more, India was gracious enough to give me the time of day, as well as the interview below.

Question #1. What sparked the initial idea that led to the creation of this upcoming anthology?

I’ve always been very passionate about representation in the media, and through my own coming out as nonbinary it became very apparent that there is almost none for us. I started my YouTube in part because that was the only place I had ever seen anyone like me – but in the mainstream media, it’s almost nonexistent. So I knew I wanted to do something to change that. And then one night at about 3 am I had the sudden realisation that ‘X Marks The Spot’ would make an excellent pun title for a nonbinary anthology. Everything that’s happened since has come from that one random brainwave.

Question #2. So far, what has the process been like for you as you’ve worked to put this title together?

It’s been an incredible process. At times a little overwhelming – like when my tweet asking for essay submissions went semi-viral and I ended up with over 400 pitches in 48 hours. But overwhelming in the best way possible. When I first started, the submission deadline was a month earlier and I only ended up getting two responses. At that point, I thought maybe the project wouldn’t happen after all and I was prepared for disappointment. That tweet was kind of a last-ditch attempt to save it – I could only dream of getting this kind of response and yet it happened. The best part by far is the number of people who have told me how needed this anthology is, how much it means to them. That alone makes all the work going into it more than worth it.

Question #3. As you looked through the submissions, how did you end up narrowing it down to the ones that will be incorporated into ‘X Marks The Spot’?

Narrowing down the submissions was by far the hardest thing. Every story sent to me was so incredibly personal and moving and I would have included so many more if I could have. Ultimately though, it was so important to me that I be able to pay everyone fairly for their work so I knew I had to get it down to around 30. I cut them down in rounds and in the final round, I made a rough plan of the topics I want to include in the anthology and how each of the essays I had left covered those topics. When some of them covered very similar things, I was left with the really tough choice of trying to pick one of them. At times preference was given to more diverse voices – if we had five coming out stories and only one of them was about coming out in a non-Western cultural background, then I would make sure to include that one and one of the other five, rather than two Western narratives for example.

Question #4. For those Nonbinary content creators who did miss the cutoff, given the overwhelmingly positive reaction you’ve received so far, would you consider creating a Volume 2 in the future so that more may be involved?

I would love to be able to do something like that. I think I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, particularly with managing the Kickstarter and it would be great to have the chance to try again and to be able to learn from those mistakes. Or perhaps when I’ve finished my Creative Writing degree, I could pursue traditional publishing and see if I could put together another anthology with the backing of a publisher to get us an even wider audience. That would be the dream!

Question #5. Is there anything you’d like to say for those considering picking up this title?

If you’ve ever been curious about nonbinary people but don’t want to Google it in case you get the wrong info and don’t want to ask in case you say something rude – this is the book for you. You can get all the information right from us, in a way that we are happy to share it. And if you think maybe you or someone you love is somewhere outside the binary – I hope this will help. There’s an amazing community of us and you’re more than welcome to be a part of it.

Question #6. At this point in time, the goal has been exceeded with the help of 326 donors on Kickstarter, as well as the countless number of those who reblogged on social media. For those who already have, or for those still wishing to help this project gain traction and renown, is there anything you’d like to say to them?

I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for helping us to hit that goal. It means so much to me and to all the voices included in the anthology and to all the nonbinary people who have been sitting watching this happen. To have our stories respected and wanted in this way is incredible. I cannot put into words how much it means and I hope it lives up to the expectation.

Question #7. What do you hope readers across the board, no matter who they are, take away from this book?

That it’s okay to be different. That we don’t have to be frightened of something just because we haven’t heard of it before. And that it’s best to listen, to learn and to love with an open heart. Because I promise you we’re not so different. We just have a different experience of gender than you. We still laugh at the same jokes, enjoy the same foods, say aww at a cute dog. We’re your friends and your family and your colleagues. I think this book will show our differences and our similarities, both inside and outside the community. There’s no one way to be human.