Tag Archives: lgbtq

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Book Review: Coven, by Jennifer Dugan

Sooo, funny story about how you can think you remember something and be completely wrong. I knew I signed up to read and review Coven, by Jenifer Dugan and Kit Seaton. So, I wasn’t surprised when it showed up in the mail. Usually when I receive a graphic novel, it’s from Rockstar Book Tours. So, I set the book aside, waiting for the email to tell me my assigned tour date. And I waited and waited and waited.

Finally, it had been so long I went to the website searching for the tour dates and was confounded to not be able to find anything listed. That is until a few days later, when I received the polite email from Bookish First reminding me not to forget to post my review. Oooooh, that’s where I signed up! Bookish First has no assigned dates; I could have reviewed Coven the day it arrived. So, I dived right in.

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Emsy has always lived in sunny California, and she’d much rather spend her days surfing with her friends or hanging out with her girlfriend than honing her powers as a fire elemental. But when members of her family’s coven back east are murdered under mysterious circumstances that can only be the result of powerful witchcraft, her family must suddenly return to dreary upstate New York. There, Emsy will have to master her neglected craft in order to find the killer . . . before her family becomes their next target.

my review

I generally really enjoyed this. I thought the art was gorgeous and the book portrayed the volatile, hyper-focused, but not always very logical mindset of teens well. It handled the grief aspect equally as well.

I liked the plot (though I figured out who the villain was very early on). There was a little humor, a lot of diversity, and I thought Emsy coming to accept her coven as family counted as personal growth. I can imagine her, Ben, and Ash as the power trio of the up-and-coming generation of the coven.

I did think the pacing a bit off; the beginning dragged bit more than needed and most of the action is packed into the last third. Plus, I feel like we could have been given more resolution between Emsy and her California friends. But all in all, I’ll call this a win. I’d be happy to read another contribution from Jennifer Dugan and/or Kit Seaton.

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Other Reviews:

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Book Review: Youngblood, by Sasha Laurens

I received an ARC copy of Youngblood, by Sasha Laurens as part of a book tour for the book. However, that tour was canceled on somewhat short notice. However, I’d already read the book. So, here’s a review.
Youngblood cover

High school sucks. Especially for the undead.

Kat Finn and her mother can barely make ends meet living among humans. Like all vampires, they must drink Hema, an expensive synthetic blood substitute, to survive, as nearly all of humanity has been infected by a virus that’s fatal to vampires. Kat isn’t looking forward to an immortal life of barely scraping by, but when she learns she’s been accepted to the Harcote School, a prestigious prep school that’s secretly vampires-only, she knows her fortune is about to change.

Taylor Sanger has grown up in the wealthy vampire world, but she’s tired of its backward, conservative values—especially when it comes to sexuality, since she’s an out-and-proud lesbian. She only has to suffer through a two more years of Harcote before she’s free. But when she discovers her new roommate is Kat Finn, she’s horrified. Because she and Kat used to be best friends, a long time ago, and it didn’t end well.

When Taylor stumbles upon the dead body of a vampire, and Kat makes a shocking discovery in the school’s archives, the two realize that there are deep secrets at Harcote—secrets that link them to the most powerful figures in Vampirdom and to the synthetic blood they all rely on.

my review

I think maybe—like Kat and Galen—I wanted to like this more than I did. The writing it quite readable. (I had an ARC, so I can’t comment on editing.) The idea is interesting, the self-discovery aspect seemed well done, and the characters had potential. But, in the end, neither was particularly likeable, the romance is put off too long to feel satisfying, and there’s just a whole subtle sense of ick to the story.

Part of the discomfort is in the blatant -isms of the vampires. And I’ll accept that people raised in eras past might carry some of the attitudes of that past with them. But a lot of it is just baked into the narrative and apparent in the way Kat is such a fair-weather ally. Sure, she notices how few BIPOC students there are, asks Taylor their pronouns, acknowledges various forms of privileged, throws the use of ‘boys and girls’ at the headmaster derisively, ‘as if non-binary people don’t exist.’ She says all the right things. But she’s perfectly happy to overlook it all for her own social advancement. In a very real sense, that’s the whole point of the plot (if looked at from a different angle than the author presents it to us).

And honestly, the author could have done SO much with that set up. What a chance to show self-reflection and growth in the main character…not to mention commentary on a lot of real-youngblood photoworld allyship. But she doesn’t take the opportunity. The end result is a book that feels like corporate allyship…you know, where they say the right things during June and purchase the right optics (or try to publish the right books), but don’t actually change their policies to protect anyone or improve lives and drop it all come July. So, ick. And bonus ick in a book with two baby-lesbians as the main characters and, one would presume, the primary audience.

All and all, this wasn’t a big winner for me. But I do love the art on the cover. That’s why I picked the book up in the first place.


Other Reviews:

ARC Review: Youngblood by Sasha Laurens

 

 

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Book Review: We All Fall Down, by Rose Szabo

I received a copy of Rose Szabo‘s We All Fall Down through Bookish First.

we all fall down cover

In River City, where magic used to thrive and is now fading, the witches who once ruled the city along with their powerful King have become all but obsolete. The city’s crumbling government is now controlled primarily by the new university and teaching hospital, which has grown to take over half of the city.

Moving between the decaying Old City and the ruthless New, four young queer people struggle with the daily hazards of life―work, school, dodging ruthless cops and unscrupulous scientists―not realizing that they have been selected to play in an age-old drama that revives the flow of magic through their world. When a mysterious death rocks their fragile peace, the four are brought into each other’s orbits as they uncover a deeper magical conspiracy.

my review

I had a really strange experience reading this book. Whenever I was reading it, I enjoyed it. But as soon as I set it down, I was reluctant to pick it back up again. As a result, it took me an inordinately long time to finish it. And I ended up feeling so-so about it in the same way.

I love the cover; think it’s absolutely stunning. And I had so much fun reading the beginning and picking out who each character is. I thought the writing was really good, easy to follow. I thought Szabo played with the idea and ideals of gender in interesting ways and I think they tried to do the same with race (both with actual characters of color and metaphorically with the idea of ‘monsters.’) I’m just not sure they were as successful in this latter aspect.

However, I also thought the plot slow and ending too vague to be satisfying. So, all in all, not bad, but not an all-out winner either.

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Other Reviews:

ARC Review: We All Fall Down by Rose Szabo

Early Review – We All Fall Down (River City Duology, Book 1) by Rose Szabo (4/5 stars)