ARC Review: WHEN WE WERE MAGIC by Sarah Gailey (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: March 2020
Source: Edelweiss ARC

Read an ARC acquired via Edelweiss

Sarah Gailey has such a knack for capturing the feeling of hopeless effort. In this young adult novel, Alexis accidentally kills a boy at prom and it is up to her and five magic friends to figure out what to do with the body. Strange things start happening around them, all while senior year winds down to a close and the feelings Alexis has for one of her friends stir stronger than ever.

I don’t think I’ve seen such accurate representation of the petulance, uncertainty, and stress that comes with being a teenager. Adding stresses like keeping your magic secret from those outside your circle and concealing that terrible thing you did definitely heightens the ante. What also really stood out to me was the fantastic balance between Alexis’s found family and true family. Because I read a lot of fantasy young adult, parents tend to be absent, either dead or evil. Here, Dad and Pop are so supportive and definitely are trying their best in terms of being parents.

This book is very light on the world-building, but that’s because it is so character-driven. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter where the magic came from or how it shifts as the coven tries to solve its big problem. The story is tightly woven in its emotional arcs that ultimately, the real magic was also the friends we had along the way.

We have been blessed in these last twelve months of works by Sarah Gailey. While I hope they get some rest, I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

 

Author to Author with K.M. Szpara (#Docile)

AtoA_Kellan

In an alternate future of the United States, debtors sell their debts to the wealthy and becomes Dociles. Harrowing and seductive, Docile takes its time depicting complexities of power and consent against a glittering, sexy back-drop of the ultra-wealthy. On this release day, author K.M. Szpara stops by to talk a bit about the process of crafting this phenomenal debut. Continue reading

Author to Author with Nino Cipri (#FINNA)

AtoA_Cipri

IKEA can be a scary, overwhelming place. Between too many customers and all that modular furniture, it feels like a different dimension. Now add wormholes and having to work with your ex. FINNA dropped on February 25th and author Nino Cipri returns to the blog to tell us more about how they weaved together this tale of multiverses, queer love, and retail hell.
Continue reading

ARC Review: FINNA by Nino Cipri (2020)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: February 25, 2020
Source: The author

Received an eARC from the author

The nightmare of IKEA—I’m sorry, LitenVäld—is made so much worse when it turns out that there are multiple versions of each one scattered throughout a multiverse. It doesn’t help when you have to navigate it with your ex who is also your co-worker.

The relationship between Ava and Jules is so completely. Both of them are bona fide disasters. Cipri expertly sets up the conflicts and that ended their relationships as the kinds of arguments which help them survive being lost at sea and cannibal sales associates. It’s another one of those books where you’re rooting for the main characters to both be brave enough to be cowards and cowardly enough to be brave. Did I cry at the end? Yes. Retail is a hellscape, but can be survivable with the right people at your side.

Wormholes, retail hell, and a queer love story. What more can you want?

ARC Review: INK IN THE BLOOD by Kim Smejkal (2020)

Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Year Release: February 2020
Source: Edelweiss eARC

Read an ARC acquired via Edelweiss

Not to sound like SNL’s Stefon, but this book had everything: queernorm, a four-faced god with six eyes, blood magic, art as propoganda, a traveling theater troupe, Italian-esque city- and country-design, disaster bisexuals, killing gods.

Celia and Anya are best friends who are inklings, devotees of the religion of Profeta, which worships a Divine who can only communicate via tattoos. Fed up with their church’s abuses, the two see a chance to escape when they audition for the Rabble Mob of Minos. But their performance proves more subversive than Profeta would like and it turns out that the Divine isn’t just a religious figment of mythology.

There was so much to like here. The highlight for me was the friendship between Celia and Anya. They are very close, both queer, and love each other, but that does not mean they are together. Overall, the queerness in this novel is so casual. Celia has two moms, multiple characters use “they” pronouns, the tenors which indicate a person’s gender identity aren’t binary. I crave this kind of queernorm world-building. It made me squee with each new detail.

In addition, I really enjoyed that Profeta itself proved a character in the novel. The religion takes on a life of its own throughout the novel. Smejkal deftly drops details both about Celia’s past and the machinations of the religion throughout the narrative in ways that feel like they add context instead of an information dump. Keeping the novel structured in three acts with interludes really fits the theater aesthetic as well.

After all, this dark fantasy is about the performance and interpretation of art, just with some disaster queers, and I want to throw it at everyone I know.