What Once Was Mine – Liz Braswell
Rapunzel, retelling, young adult, fiction.
Rapunzel’s mother drank a potion to save her life and it was what they thought was the sundrop flower. When Rapunzel was born she had silver hair that was proven deadly. The King and Queen had to face a decision that all new parents would fear is giving up their child or sending their child away. The Queen made it her quest to find a caregiver for Rapunzel and found Mother Gothel who promised to care for Rapunzel. Mother Gothel had other plans that led to Rapunzel being afraid of her hair’s powers. Rapunzel asked Mother Gothel if she could leave the tower to see the floating lanterns that happen every year on a specific date that correlated to her birthday and was told a firm no. She can’t have Rapunzel kill another person like what she had done to her parents long ago. She asks her mother to go get her something and when the coast is clear Rapunzel leaves the tower out of curiosity of what this strange man left behind to find a crown of some sort. Rapunzel goes on a quest to find someone to take her to the floating lights and has a prize for whomever. She finds Flynn Rider and Gina, both outlaws in trouble, and agrees to help Rapunzel. Along the way Rapunzel finds out the truth about her origin and the reality of her origin.
I’m a huge fan of Tangled and this twisted tale was by far the best presentation of the story being twisted. Rapunzel has magical hair that destroys or rather takes the life of whoever touches it. This blew my mind because I wasn’t expecting Gina to be included into the mix. Overall I enjoyed the characters in this form too. The plot was intriguing and kept me always on my toes. What I loved a lot about this novel was the way that it felt like The Princess Bride storytelling of someone sitting down and telling this story to someone young and in need of a good story. This story was being told by a man named Brendan to his twin sister Daniella who loves Tangled a lot and often requested to rewatch the movie. I nearly cried throughout this novel as well as laughing and going ‘aw’ a lot. This was utterly sweet and I highly recommend that one go get this novel to read. I couldn’t help but to savor this novel so I finished it within a week. I didn’t want to rush reading it because of how well it was written.
Caraval – Stephanie Garber
Young adult, games, survival, fiction.
Scarlett writes to this Legend who is in charge of the infamous Caraval. It is a game where people compete for a prize at the end. Scarlett is about to be married off to a suitor her dad chose for her and doesn’t really want to do it other than take her sister away from their very abusive father. Scarlett was given tickets to go to the Caraval and at the same time her sister, Tella, went missing. Scarlett decides to go with Julian, a man who her sister was seeing, into the game to find her sister or else something bad will happen to her sister. This game makes everyone question if it is just a game or reality.
I saw this book on book tok, a part of tiktok that is dedicated to bibliophiles, and was intrigued by the plot. I didn’t put this book down because of how it kept me intrigued with the story of how Scarlett was trying to survive Caraval plus saving her sister. There was simplicity and yet complexities to this novel. I couldn’t help but to finish this book in one sitting. This is sort of like the Hunger Games meets circus minus the teenagers being thrown into a fight but rather fleshing out parts of people and sides of people that they themselves didn’t know existed. Overall this was a small book and easy to indulge.
Afterland – Lauren Beukes
There’s a virus that is only affecting men. It has killed off most if not nearly all the men in the world. Females aren’t affected but the last surviving men are taken to facilities to be watched over and used as means to continue populating the Earth. Cole and her son Miles are on the run from her son being taken away to become a sperm bank or a stand-in for a stranger’s family to pretend that they have a son. She wants to escape the horror. She dresses him as a young girl and their story is that they are mother and daughter traveling out of the country. Her son doesn’t like this but he saw what the government and certain people are willing to do just to have a male.
This was one wild book that was really different. The world building happened in breadcrumbs along the way and there were a lot of character introductions as well as a story within a story being told. I grabbed this book solely on the premise of the synopsis that caught my attention. The synopsis didn’t disappoint at all. I had found myself eager to read more and more of this speculative fiction. I hardly read speculative fiction these days and I found out why. It takes a lot of time and effort to carefully read to understand that the world is taking place within our world but in a distant future. This is different from dystopian because there are some realistic aspects. I enjoyed this novel and overall loved the writing style. I may find myself looking forward to reading more from this author.
The Infinity Courts – Akemi Dawn Bowman
Young adult, fantasy, death, afterlife, computers, science fiction, fiction.
Nami was ready for her future until she was murdered. She died when the bank robber at the liquor store shot her. She finds herself in Infinity where the mind is alive but her body is dead. The people who greet her tell her about the war against Ophelia who has taken over the Infinity and hates humanity. Nami is the only one to help save them from disaster or their world from actually ending.
This young adult novel was one of the trendy books I saw and was instantly interested. However, the chosen one trope was what got to me but besides that everything else is really good. The storyline and plot goes smoothly. The characters and their interactions with each other were alright but the chosen one trope kept getting more annoying as the characters kept telling Nami she is the chosen one and that she should train for the ultimate fight. I was expecting better for this novel but then again the chosen one trope is heavily in most young adult novels as it is popular among that demographic. It sells right off the shelves.
Black Sun – Rebecca Roanhorse
Science fiction, fantasy, fiction.
Xiala is a disgraced captain that was about to get punished when she is given a task that guarantees her freedom and a stable job. Escort someone or rather a special passenger. Serapio was blinded by his mother in hopes of her son becoming one of the Gods. Unfortunately what she was doing was abusive to her son and cost her son’s eyesight. He needs to be taken back to his homeland and Xiala must take him there.
This was rather interesting and intriguing. The novel discusses disability as an empowerment for which Serapio has lost his sight and can’t see but his other senses are heightened due to that. Also this novel goes over and discusses a lot of how the indigenous peoples are mistreated and how they are viewed by others. These topics were presented as science fiction and fantasy which is great. There is a lot of lore explained as well as a diversity of different perspectives. The writing was phenomenal and the characters don’t feel artificial. They feel as if I know them personally. I enjoyed this novel a lot and think I might just get the sequel whenever it comes out.
Once There Were Wolves – Charlotte McConaghy
Wolves, contemporary, survival, fiction.
Inti and her sister Maggie go to Scotland to help bring back the wolf population. She knows that there will be a lot of opposing ideas towards it but this is to save the environment. As she is helping to integrate the wolves into the environment a farmer is found dead. All fingers are pointing at her. She has to come to terms with her trauma and deal with what’s going on around her.
This was sort of hard to read but really good. The main character has this condition that she doesn’t name throughout the novel other than she can see emotions through touch. There were scenes that were very interestingly graphic and vivid. I was slightly disappointed with the size of this novel. I had expected a bit more but that’s fine. This was a one sitting read and I do appreciate the one sitting type reads.
Paper Doll Lina – Robyn Lucas
Domestic violence, family, marriage, interpersonal relationships, domestic abuse, fiction.
Lina is a stay at home mother and housewife with two children and a husband that loves her. Their marriage at the beginning was rocky but they always found their way back to one and other. Recently her husband has been more distant and crueler with his words that belittle and make Lina feel absolutely terrible. He does things without asking her and expects her to be on board with the ideas. Her two children got an idea for a website and decided to go on television to get the website more seen; her husband isn’t supportive. He sees this as her bad idea and that the kids would get bored of their project. However, her two children are deeply invested as well as she is. He gets mad and says that he wasn’t included in the plans despite her informing him of said plans. She had run into Noah Attoh, a famous movie actor, who helps the website get more coverage as well as being her friend. The two of them spend more time together and she realizes slowly when she reconnects with an old best friend that her husband is toxic and that she needs to get out of the relationship fast and with her children as well.
Let me tell you I was crying when I was almost done reading this novel. It is not easy to read because domestic abuse is a very serious overseen issue. Lucas shares that aspect with this novel that sometimes domestic abuse isn’t physical but it is verbal and tends to be very nasty. What Lina’s husband was doing was a form of narcissism. People who are narcissists tend to manipulate others into believing their side rather than the victim’s side. They psychologically and emotionally abuse the victim as well as doing intentional things to ensure that the victim stays within reach by all means necessary. Sometimes victims of domestic violence do not get the happy ending or recognition that they are being abused when something terrible happens such as serious injury or even death. That is the reality that Robyn Lucas shares in this novel with these characters and sometimes it’s hard getting out of the toxicness of the relationship. I was so glad that Lina was able to get help that she really needed and the way that things happened was the right kind of justice that was needed. I highly recommend this novel as it goes over a serious topic that needs to be more addressed and there should be more education for domestic abuse of all kinds. This may be fiction but domestic violence and abuse is a very real issue that shouldn’t be taken lightly.
The Heart Principal – Helen Hoang
Romance, autism, cancer, survivors, comedy, fiction.
Anna, a violinist, became famous over a video of her art. Now everyone expects her to be the same level of expertise. She seeks therapy to help understand herself. What hits her is that her boyfriend Julian wants to have an open relationship. She agrees to the terms and decides to download and sign up for dating apps. Quan is recovering from surgery for testicular cancer and his brother tells him that he should go back into the dating world. He reopens his old account and finds Anna. Both want just a one night stand. However, fate had something else planned as Anna’s world began to fall apart and Quan wanted to be there for her in every aspect possible. Love can be unexpected and scary as they both learn.
I’m hooked onto this author’s writing style. This novel I consumed like there was no tomorrow. I absolutely loved this one. Anna finding out that she has autism is a genuine reaction that most women experience since autism in females is very different than in males. It is important to know that finding out as an adult is very tough because coming to the terms of the diagnosis was not easy for Anna but that is a reaction a lot of folks have, especially women. I love that this author addresses these issues with novels and that they are realistic. I love the characters’ interactions, mostly Anna and Quan. I didn’t like her sister who was not being accepting and that’s a very real issue too. Some family members especially within the Asian community aren’t as accepting. They see it as excuses as to not being one’s best that they can be according to their definition. It is with their lifestyle to always be achieving the best and doing the best without complaining. Anna’s sister was like this. Overall, this book or rather this author emotionally destroyed me throughout. I cried and laughed while reading this. I would recommend any of Helen Hoang novels.
Isn’t It Bromantic? – Lyssa Kay Adams
Romance, book clubs, comedy, men, fiction.
Vlad always watches his friends in the Bromance Book Club get their happy endings and yet his own love life is incomplete. He hasn’t told them yet that his marriage with a woman of six years was a marriage of convenience. Something completely straight out of the many books that they have read. When he gets seriously injured they call his wife to come care for him. Elena is shocked beyond belief and rushes over to help. Only to be discouraged and she is torn from staying in America or going to Russia to find her father. This would mean her and Vlad divorcing since she is leaving to go back and she didn’t want to be a burden. Vlad wants to save the marriage despite its rocky beginnings. Elena knows it’s a lost cause but Vlad doesn’t seem to think so when he tells her everything.
This book made me cry and laugh at the same time. I even underlined three passage selections that were completely and utterly relatable. I won’t spoil it but they were really eye openers that were completely unexpected to be inside a novel that a fictional character says. I binge read this novel and I absolutely love the fact that Lyssa Kay Adams gave the Russian Vlad his own book with his own romance. I was absolutely surprised with how she wrote the plot that made more sense as to the creation of the book club he hosts. There are many plot twists that were unexpected and I absolutely loved every single page of this novel. This was absolutely perfect and I definitely couldn’t have wished for a better moment for Vlad and his wife Elena. This was so sweet that his ending was absolutely perfect. Lyssa Kay Adams did it again with her writing and I would have to say she is my favorite romance novelist. She is absolutely the best and I recommend this author with all her works to give a read.
Crazy Stupid Bromance – Lyssa Kay Adams
Comedy, romance, book clubs, men, fiction.
Alexis is successful with her cafe called ToeBeans and running a yoga class for sexual assault survivors such as herself. She had faced the infamous famous chef who had sexually assaulted her with the help of a lawyer. Everything is good except when a woman comes into her cafe with information that flips her world upside down. She finds out that her father needs a kidney and that the woman is her half sister. Noah, her best friend, wants to be there for her but fears pushing his limits with her. He doesn’t want her involved with her supposed family. The Bromance Book Club intervenes when he confesses that he is in love with his best friend but fears of ruining something good. Alexis has feelings for Noah too and tries to deny it because her relationship with him was the healthiest she ever had. The group and their wives intervene on every level ensuring that the couple are together in the end despite the circumstances.
I cried and laughed but mostly cried because this was the most beautiful love story I ever had read. I hardly ever read romances and I now read them more often than I should admit. This really melted my heart. The whole best friends falling in love becoming lovers trope was just so sweet. I couldn’t help but smile throughout while reading. I somehow knew that the whole friendzone that Noah had set wasn’t going to last long. Especially after that first kiss that they shared. I loved the plot and how it moved along perfectly and at a great pace. I couldn’t help but not want to put this book down despite needing to put it down. All of Lyssa Kay Adams’ books have that effect. She is excellent at story writing and creating these characters that really make one remember them for certain. I recommend this series and I heard that her first book will become a movie so I will be looking forward to that.