BOOK REVIEW: A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. Harrow

BOOK REVIEW: A Spindle Splintered, by Alix E. HarrowTitle: A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
Series: Fractured Fables #1
Published by Tordotcom
Published: October 5th 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 128
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher, Work
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow's A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story.

It's Zinnia Gray's twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it's the last birthday she'll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia's last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered has been touted as fairy tales meets Into the Spider-Verse, and I can’t agree more with the comps. For all its historical and narrative weirdness, Sleeping Beauty is one of my favorite fairy tales. I love the Disney animated version, I fell in love with Robin McKinley’s Spindle’s End, and I got my hands on as many retellings of Sleeping Beauty in any length and form.

The first of a novella duology, A Spindle Splintered follows Zinnia Gray, a young woman born with a fatal condition due to an industrial accident, who finds comfort in the stories of Sleeping Beauty. She, too, thinks of herself as cursed, and falling asleep, only to wake to true love, is just the sort of comfort she needs at a time where her own world is figuratively and literally breaking down

Charm, Zinnia’s best friend, throws a Sleeping Beauty-themed party on her twenty-first birthday, and Zinnia touches a spindle that sends her to a medieval fairy tale world in which she meets Briar Rose, the traditional titular character in a Sleeping Beauty story with which we’re all familiar. From there, the story takes off on its multiverse bent, exploring and shattering tropes and genre expectations that turns the entire concept of a multiverse fairy tale world into a page-turning read. I loved the nods to the fairy tale retelling writers I grew up with, and all of the nods to fairy tale tropes in general.

If you enjoy fairy tales and their retellings, A Spindle Splintered needs to be on your TBRs.

BOOK REVIEW: Malice, by Heather Walter

BOOK REVIEW: Malice, by Heather WalterTitle: Malice by Heather Walter
Series: Malice Duology #1
Published by Del Rey Books
Published: April 13th 2021
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 470
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

A princess isn’t supposed to fall for an evil sorceress. But in this darkly magical retelling of “Sleeping Beauty,” true love is more than a simple fairy tale.

Once upon a time, there was a wicked fairy who, in an act of vengeance, cursed a line of princesses to die. A curse that could only be broken by true love’s kiss.

You’ve heard this before, haven’t you? The handsome prince. The happily-ever-after.

Utter nonsense.

Let me tell you, no one in Briar actually cares about what happens to its princesses. Not the way they care about their jewels and elaborate parties and charm-granting elixirs. I thought I didn’t care, either.

Until I met her.

Princess Aurora. The last heir to Briar’s throne. Kind. Gracious. The future queen her realm needs. One who isn’t bothered that I am Alyce, the Dark Grace, abhorred and feared for the mysterious dark magic that runs in my veins. Humiliated and shamed by the same nobles who pay me to bottle hexes and then brand me a monster. Aurora says I should be proud of my gifts. That she . . . cares for me. Even though it was a power like mine that was responsible for her curse.

But with less than a year until that curse will kill her, any future I might see with Aurora is swiftly disintegrating—and she can’t stand to kiss yet another insipid prince. I want to help her. If my power began her curse, perhaps it’s what can lift it. Perhaps, together, we could forge a new world.

Nonsense again.

Because we all know how this story ends, don’t we? Aurora is the beautiful princess. And I—

I am the villain.

Sleeping Beauty is probably one of my favorite fairy tales, especially when the tropes are explored and subverted, and the second I heard about Malice I knew I needed to read this. It was everything I hoped for!

Malice deftly weaves the familiar and the new, setting up the familiar Sleeping Beauty tropes while fleshing out the fantasy world in which Alyce and Aurora live because the history, politics, and landscape add so much to the story. Alyce is a Dark Grace, assisting the palace and its courtiers with her skills, when she meets Aurora and her world begins to shift. Alyce’s struggle with her true self and wanting to fit in add so much depth, and I loved that her identity scared even herself. It ties in so much with the feeling of being queer, that society tends to tell us we’re wrong for being who we are or that it’s evil. This is the first half of a duology, so there’s a lot left to be discovered in Alyce’s true self and how much of a villain she becomes later on, but I hope that it’s explored more and that she learns more about her own history.

The romance between Alyce and Aurora is so layered, and I hope there’s a lot more buildup and exploration of their romance in the second book. So much of this first one felt like an introduction to the world and these characters that the last third of the book felt rushed, so I hope the second one develops more specifically with the characters now that we have this world set up for us to explore. Aurora is nothing like what we often expect from Sleeping Beauty retellings – a quiet, almost simple girl who has one set of desires and nothing else – because this Aurora is feisty, willing to fight for what she believes in, and questions everything. She also surprises Alyce by saying that she wants to be just like her, something Alyce never thought she’d hear anyone say. The romance in this feels natural and right, never forced (though sometimes a little insta-love, but it is a fairy tale after all), and it’s all I want out of a sapphic romance – fantasy with both fluff and depth.

Overall, I enjoyed this so much, from the characters to the worldbuilding, and I’m looking forward to the sequel and anything else Walter releases in the future!

BOOK REVIEW: I’m Waiting For You and Other Stories, by Kim Bo-Young

BOOK REVIEW: I’m Waiting For You and Other Stories, by Kim Bo-YoungTitle: I'm Waiting for You and Other Stories by Kim Bo-young, Sophie Bowman, Sung Ryu
Published by Harper Voyager
Published: April 6th 2021
Genres: Science Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: ARC
Source: Publisher, Work
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

“Her fiction is a breath-taking piece of a cinematic art itself. Reminiscent of the world we experienced in Matrix, Inception, and Dark City, still it leads us to this entirely original structure, which is a ground-breaking, mystic literary and cinematic experience. Indeed, powerful and graceful.”—Bong Joon-ho, Oscar-winning director of Parasite

Two worlds, four stories, infinite possibilities 
In this mind-expanding work of speculative fiction, available in English for the first time, one of South Korea’s most treasured writers explores the driving forces of humanity—love, hope, creation, destruction, and the very meaning of existence—in two pairs of thematically interconnected stories.
In “I’m Waiting for You” and “On My Way,” an engaged couple coordinate their separate missions to distant corners of the galaxy to ensure—through relativity—they can arrive back on Earth simultaneously to make it down the aisle. But small incidents wreak havoc on space and time, driving their wedding date further away. As centuries on Earth pass and the land and climate change, one thing is constant: the desire of the lovers to be together. In two separate yet linked stories, Kim Bo-Young cleverly demonstrate the idea love that is timeless and hope springs eternal, despite seemingly insurmountable challenges and the deepest despair.

In “The Prophet of Corruption” and “That One Life,” humanity is viewed through the eyes of its creators: godlike beings for which everything on Earth—from the richest woman to a speck of dirt—is an extension of their will. When one of the creations questions the righteousness of this arrangement, it is deemed a perversion—a disease—that must be excised and cured. Yet the Prophet Naban, whose “child” is rebelling, isn’t sure the rebellion is bad. What if that which is considered criminal is instead the natural order—and those who condemn it corrupt? Exploring the dichotomy between the philosophical and the corporeal, Kim ponders the fate of free-will, as she considers the most basic of questions: who am I?

This collection of intertwined short stories is so meticulously well done that I need to read everything else by Bo-Young. It’s not apparent from the get-go that these stories are connected because it starts out small, goes to the outer limits of the universe, and comes back around, but the way in which these are connected are so human at times in a way that only science fiction seems to be able to do.

Kim Bo-Young’s collection is something I’d recommend to you if you read and enjoyed Ted Chiang’s or Ken Liu’s writing as it has the very human, philosophical quality found in their works because no matter how far we as humans remove ourselves from the planet Earth – physically, emotionally, or spatially – there is always something calling us back.

From the letters and communication between two lovers trying to coordinate their paths through space and time to the overwatch of celestial beings on humanity, each of these stories makes you believe in something considered both small and big in the grand scheme of the universe – love, life, and hope. And those three things are often what truly matter in the grand scheme of things. The day-to-day choices that bring us closer together, no matter what the universe has in store for us all.

This comes highly recommended from me, and it’s definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.

Many thanks to Harper Voyager for a review copy! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Cool for the Summer, by Dahlia Adler

BOOK REVIEW: Cool for the Summer, by Dahlia AdlerTitle: Cool for the Summer by Dahlia Adler
Published by Wednesday Books
Published: May 11th 2021
Genres: Young Adult, Romance
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Buy: Bookshop(afflilate link)
Goodreads

Lara's had eyes for exactly one person throughout her three years of high school: Chase Harding. He's tall, strong, sweet, a football star, and frankly, stupid hot. Oh, and he's talking to her now. On purpose and everything. Maybe...flirting, even? No, wait, he's definitely flirting, which is pretty much the sum of everything Lara's wanted out of life.

Except she’s haunted by a memory. A memory of a confusing, romantic, strangely perfect summer spent with a girl named Jasmine. A memory that becomes a confusing, disorienting present when Jasmine herself walks through the front doors of the school to see Lara and Chase chatting it up in front of the lockers.

Lara has everything she ever wanted: a tight-knit group of friends, a job that borders on cool, and Chase, the boy of her literal dreams. But if she's finally got the guy, why can't she stop thinking about the girl?

Cool for the Summer is a story of self-discovery and new love. It’s about the things we want and the things we need. And it’s about the people who will let us be who we are.

 I don’t read many contemporary YA romances, but the fact that this is a BI YA romance is what caught my attention. Cool for the Summer is utterly adorable, deftly handling what it means to be a teenage girl navigating the confusion surrounding her bisexuality. This is the kind of book I probably needed as a teenager, and I’m glad to have read it now.

The title comes from Demi Lovato’s song which makes an appearance in the book, and I think it suits the theme of the book so well. I am also just a sucker for song title books. Cool for the Summer also felt a little like a classic summer teen movie, with a lot of nods to Grease. The connections Lara had with both Chase and Jasmine were real and believable, and as a reader, I didn’t know which one she’d end up choosing in the end. Lara’s forever crush Chase finally notices here the summer after Jasmine, and I loved the reflection Lara has when making her decision in the end. It felt so true, heartbreaking, and exhilarating all at once. I think the only thing that stuck out to me was the one who wasn’t chosen’s reaction once Lara made her decision. It felt like an easy acceptance, but in reality, I don’t know if Lara would be let off the hook that easily or without more indepth explanation. Not that the person needed the explanation because it’s ultimately Lara’s choice, but for the reader it might have brought more closure and understanding.

Overall, this is a super cute book and one I wished I had when I was younger. If you’re looking for a cute summery YA romance to read, definitely look into this one.

Thank you, Wednesday Books for the ARC! All opinions are my own.

BOOK REVIEW: Siri, Who Am I?, by Sam Tschida

BOOK REVIEW: Siri, Who Am I?, by Sam TschidaTitle: Siri, Who Am I? by Sam Tschida
Published by Quirk Books
Published: January 12th 2021
Genres: Fiction
Pages: 343
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley, Publisher
Goodreads

Mia might look like a Millennial but she was born yesterday. Emerging from a coma with short-term amnesia after an accident, Mia can't remember her own name until the Siri assistant on her iPhone provides it. Based on her cool hairstyle (undercut with glamorous waves), dress (Prada), and signature lipstick (Chanel), she senses she's wealthy, but the only way to know for sure is to retrace her steps once she leaves the hospital. Using Instagram and Uber, she arrives at the pink duplex she calls home in posts but finds Max, a cute, off-duty postdoc supplementing his income with a house-sitting gig. He tells her the house belongs to JP, a billionaire with a chocolate empire. A few texts later, JP confirms her wildest dreams: they're in love, Mia is living the good life, and he'll be back that weekend.

But as Mia and Max work backward through her Instagram and across Los Angeles to learn more about her, they discover a surprising truth behind her perfect Instagram feed, and evidence that her head wound was no accident. Who was Mia before she woke up in that hospital? And is it too late for her to rewrite her story?

The description of this book sounded really interesting to me, so I requested it and got approved for it via Netgalley, and then it took forever for me to start reading and continue reading. It wasn’t what I expected it to be. The writing is bright and quippy, and I’ll be interested to see what Tschida does next, but the execution of the concept seemed to fall apart in the second half of the book because the concept is #ambitious to say the least.

What I liked most about it is that it is a commentary and satire of modern millennial culture and the social media use within famous/rich circles. It pokes fun at food bloggers, influencers, and high society in Los Angeles, and that glimpse into the glossy pages of a gossip magazine is what kept me reading through til the end. However, the characterizations started off strong but by the middle of the book seemed too contrived and so much felt contrived and convoluted to fill the space created by the concept. Ultimately though, I think this story would work better in a visual medium and would make a super cute movie! I just don’t think it worked for me in written form because it took almost a month for me to finish this, mostly because I was dragging my feet every time I thought about reading it. The best part about it for me was Mia’s self-discovery once she figured out that her behavior before the accident was nothing like she was once she woke back up and the reconciliations she had to do with herself and the people around her once she decided to take her life in a different direction.

This might be for you if you really enjoy Instagram culture and celebrity gossip magazines! Thank you to Quirk Books for a review copy! All opinions are my own.