Review | Color Outside the Lines

This modern, groundbreaking YA anthology explores the complexity and beauty of interracial and LGBTQ+ relationships where differences are front and center.

When people ask me what this anthology is about, I’m often tempted to give them the complicated answer: it’s about race, and about how being different from the person you love can matter but how it can also not matter, and it’s about Chinese pirate ghosts, black girl vigilantes, colonial India, a flower festival, a garden of poisons, and so, so much else. Honestly, though? I think the answer’s much simpler than that. Color outside the Lines is a collection of stories about young, fierce, brilliantly hopeful people in love. —Sangu Mandanna, editor of Color outside the Lines

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was so excited when I saw this anthology because as someone in an interracial relationship it’s sometimes hard to find representations or normalizing of it. It was far more than I expected because so many of the stories contained important conversations not just about interracial or LGTBQ+ relationships, but also conversations about the issues that are current when discussing those relationships, race and culture in general. I certainly enjoyed some stories more than others, but there weren’t any stories that I disliked.

Turn the Sky to Petals by Anna-Marie McLemore – 4 stars
Prom by Danielle Paige – 3 stars
What We Love by Lauren Gibaldi – 4 stars
Giving Up the Ghost by Tarun Shanker & Kelly Zekas – 4 stars
Your Life Matters by L.L. McKinney – 4 stars
Starlight and Moondust by Lori M. Lee – 5 stars
Five Times Shiva Met Harry by Sangu Mandanna – 3 stars
The Agony of a Heart’s Wish by Samira Ahmed – 3 stars
The Coward’s Guide to Falling in Love by Caroline Tung Richmond – 3 stars
Death & the Maiden by Tara Sim – 3 stars
Faithfull by Karuna Riazi – 3 stars
Gilman Street by Michelle Ruiz Keil – 3 stars
“The Boy Is” by Elsie Chapman – 4 stars
Sandwiched in Between by Eric Smith – 5 stars
Yuna & the Wall by Lydia Kang – 3 stars
Something Gay & Magical by Adam Silvera – 4 stars

Happy reading!

Review | The Gravity Inside Us by Chloe Frayne

Gathering inspiration from a life of travel, hope, long-distance relationships, healing, and adventure, Frayne invites readers into her world. The Gravity Inside Us is an ode to whatever it is we carry that pulls us in and out of place, and speaks so insistently of fate. Through writing about her own experiences, this book is a reach into that space.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this one, but the description I read had me thinking it would be the type of poetry that I usually enjoy, and I was right. Frayne uses beautiful language and imagery in each piece, some varying from a simple few lines to full prose. Most of the pieces were centered on love, both finding and losing love – with special emphasis on long distance relationships. I really enjoyed the flow and progression throughout the collection and how the themes shifted over time as the author discussed the wide range of emotions that are twisted into any relationship.

Happy reading!

Writing Update | 3/19

Hey everyone! I know I talked about the upcoming session of Camp NaNoWriMo not too long ago on here, but the closer we get the more excited I am about it. I guess I’m just in that space where I’m ready to write but haven’t really had the time to do it – so Camp will give me the push I need to do it.

I have been making minor edits and changes to some things, cleaning them up a bit – but my writing style is very fluid. While I often have an idea of specific scenes, plot movement and more, all of those things can actually change when I do dig into actually writing. If I feel the way I had originally plotted something doesn’t sit right, then I change it.

I guess all that is to say that I really want to dive into it again – but more and more I am pretty sure I am just going to work on something fresh and new that I don’t have a ton of notes or plotted scenes for. I feel like just doing spur of the moment writing will help get my muse settled back into its place. This may be seen as me avoiding the stories that are farther along, but to be honest I need to let them sit a bit since there is some writer’s block going on with some of them. Sometimes they just need to be by themselves for a little while and think about what they’ve done – haha.

Who else is planning on doing Camp? Happy writing!

Review | Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

There are no monsters anymore, or so the children in the city of Lucille are taught. Jam and her best friend, Redemption, have grown up with this lesson all their life. But when Jam meets Pet, a creature made of horns and colors and claws, who emerges from one of her mother’s paintings and a drop of Jam’s blood, she must reconsider what she’s been told. Pet has come to hunt a monster, and the shadow of something grim lurks in Redemption’s house. Jam must fight not only to protect her best friend, but also to uncover the truth, and the answer to the question–How do you save the world from monsters if no one will admit they exist?

Rating: 5 out of 5.

First and foremost, this book is not some light and happy story. It’s very heavy and impactful and like me, you will likely have to sit with it a bit after reading it. This is set in a futuristic world where all of the ‘monsters’ have been eliminated, and those who are now technically in power are known as the ‘angels.’

There was so much packed into this book. There was talk about what monsters looked like and how you may not be able to recognize them, talk about race, a ton of diversity and more. It’s really hard to put into words just all this book discusses because of how deep it is. We follow Jam as she meets Pet and the moral conflict that comes from their discussions.

The inclusion and diversity of the book was wonderful to read as such things should become more normalized. These weren’t things added in just to be there, they were integral facets and parts of different characters.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were the conversations Jam would have with Pet and the want they would work through those conversations. Those talks were full of metaphor and morality and really propelled the story towards the end.

Happy reading!

Can’t Wait Wednesday | 3/17

Can’t Wait Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings based on the meme Waiting on Wednesday by Breaking the Spine. In this weekly post people share a book that they’re excited about being released.

I’ve loved Helen Hoang’s first two books in this series, so I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Heart Principle. It’s coming out in August and it simply can’t come soon enough.

To most people, Quan Diep is nothing but a surly-looking, underachieving playboy. The problem is he’s not any of those things. And now that he’s the CEO of an up-and-coming retail business, he’s suddenly a “catch,” and the rich girls who never used to pay any attention to him are looking at him in a new way—especially Camilla, the girl who brushed him off many years ago.

Anna Sun dislikes Quan Diep almost as much as germy bathroom door handles. Or so she tells herself. She will never admit that she has a secret crush on him, especially because he only has eyes for her charismatic and newly engaged younger sister Camilla. Over the years, Anna has worked hard to overcome her OCD, but she’ll still need to find a way to bury her anxieties and seduce Quan so he doesn’t ruin her sister’s engagement, and with it, a crucial real estate development deal.

Slowly, Anna breaks down Quan’s dangerous and careless exterior while peeling off her own tough, protective shell. But when Quan discovers Anna’s true intentions, he’s forced to confront his own hurtful past and learn to forgive, while Anna must face her greatest challenge: truly opening herself up to love. 

Happy reading!

Review | Fairy Godmothers, Inc. by Saranna DeWylde

First in a magical new series full of edgy and hilarious antics, this is the read you need to finally give your year the fairy-tale ending it deserves! An enchanting story of love, dreams, and second chances—a delightful read for cold winter nights that fans of Christina Lauren, Tessa Bailey, and Kerry Winfrey can’t miss…

If love is the source of all the magic in the universe, and the town of Ever After, Missouri, is the epicenter of enchantment, then the locals are in dire need of a reboot. At least according to resident fairy godmothers Petunia, Jonquil, and Bluebonnet. Their solution? Blow a bit of fairy dust in the direction of those in need of romance…what could possibly go wrong?

SOME KIND OF AWFUL…
Lucky Fujiki’s first name is a cosmic joke. Her luck is so bad, even the number seven steers clear of her. But when her adorable godmothers ask for a favor, Lucky can’t say no–even if she can already feel the bad juju waiting to strike. And her mission is even worse than she imagined: to promote Ever After as a wedding destination by faking a marriage to her first love and long-time ex, Ransom Payne–he of the Embarrassing Incident that neither of them will ever live down…

OR ALL KINDS OF WONDERFUL?
Ransom Payne has spent years building an impressive new reputation for himself, and now his godmothers want him to pretend to wed the one girl he’d like most to forget? Sure, weddings in Ever After could be a huge boon for his chocolate business, but risking more up-close-and-personal time with Lucky? Considering the stakes, it’s a curse he’ll have to bear, at the risk of being humiliated–or perhaps, bewitched… 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I’m so glad I got the chance to pick this one up as it was exactly what I needed. It’s a fun rom com with a dash of magic and fantasy thrown in. We do get both the fake relationship trope and the second chance trope in this one, which aren’t always my favorites, but they perfectly worked in this one.

I was really pleasantly surprised at the characters themselves. Both Ransom and Lucky have their own obstacles and journeys they have to go on before they can really work on their relationship – and seeing the work being done on both of their parts was nice to see. The humor kept a lot of it light and there were moments that were very serious, so I felt there was a good balance.

I definitely feel like this is a great start to a new series and look forward to further books in the series as well as further work from Saranna DeWylde.

Thanks so much to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book! Happy reading!

Kindle Deals | 3/15

Hey everyone! I figured it was time for some Kindle deals, especially since I was already browsing for some! As always please make sure to double check the prices as they may have changed or be different in your region.

City of Ghosts ($1.99)Ever since Cass almost drowned (okay, she did drown, but she doesn’t like to think about it), she can pull back the Veil that separates the living from the dead . . . and enter the world of spirits. Her best friend is even a ghost.

So things are already pretty strange. But they’re about to get much stranger.

When Cass’s parents start hosting a TV show about the world’s most haunted places, the family heads off to Edinburgh, Scotland. Here, graveyards, castles, and secret passageways teem with restless phantoms. And when Cass meets a girl who shares her “gift,” she realizes how much she still has to learn about the Veil — and herself.

And she’ll have to learn fast. The city of ghosts is more dangerous than she ever imagined.

Cemetary Boys ($2.99)Bestowed by the ancient goddess of death, Yadriel and the gifted members of his Latinx community can see spirits: women have the power to heal bodies and souls, while men can release lost spirits to the afterlife. But Yadriel, a trans boy, has never been able to perform the tasks of the brujas – because he is a brujo.

When his cousin suddenly dies, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. 

However, the ghost he summons is not his cousin. It’s Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie off some loose ends before he leaves.

Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Fable ($2.99)Welcome to a world made dangerous by the sea and by those who wish to profit from it. Where a young girl must find her place and her family while trying to survive in a world built for men.

As the daughter of the most powerful trader in the Narrows, the sea is the only home seventeen-year-old Fable has ever known. It’s been four years since the night she watched her mother drown during an unforgiving storm. The next day her father abandoned her on a legendary island filled with thieves and little food. To survive she must keep to herself, learn to trust no one and rely on the unique skills her mother taught her. The only thing that keeps her going is the goal of getting off the island, finding her father and demanding her rightful place beside him and his crew. To do so Fable enlists the help of a young trader named West to get her off the island and across the Narrows to her father.

But her father’s rivalries and the dangers of his trading enterprise have only multiplied since she last saw him and Fable soon finds that West isn’t who he seems. Together, they will have to survive more than the treacherous storms that haunt the Narrows if they’re going to stay alive.

Happy reading!

Review | Pax Sampson Vol 1: The Cookout by Rashad Doucet & Jason Reeves

Pax Samson: The Cookout is the first volume in a new action-packed, fantasy trilogy that depicts a world struggling to find peace in the midst of threats, and a young superhero chef torn between following his passion and following in his family’s footsteps. 

When it comes to the kitchen, no one knows cooking better than twelve-year-old Pax Samson. He’s a hero when it comes to testing recipes and supplying copious amounts of Dragon Noodle Soup at his family’s cookouts. It’s tough being a master chef, though, when the rest of his family are world-famous superheroes, and they expect Pax to take up the beacon to keep the world safe with his telekinetic powers. 

Pax’s home planet of Soltellus is home to all walks of life, including humans, gods, as well as elves, orcs, dragons, sprites and other fantasy races known as the “Enchanted” all living in a modern society similar to our own. Among them is the Samson family, led by the fearless and mighty Grandma Samson, the greatest superhero to ever live and the person responsible for always saving Soltellus when trouble strikes. She’s been doing it for hundreds of years, but she’s ready for the younger generation of Samsons, including Pax, to step up. 

When the mad god Odin, long-time enemy to the Enchanted race and arch-rival to Grandma, resurfaces in another attempt to regain power, Pax will attempt to put his training into practice, but ends up just making things worse. Tempted to hang up the superhero cape and stick to the kitchen, Pax faces the toughest decision yet when a legendary savior of the Enchanted people arrives, along with a startling discovery that there might be parts of the Soltellus history that are wrong. Pax, determined to protect his family and friends, will do everything he can to stop the new threats set on disrupting the peace between humans and the Enchanted. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Just the premise and cover had me wanting to pick this one up and I was not disappointed. While many may look at this like a fun, superhero story with mystical races and situations – it is far deeper than that. It hints to many real world issues that are prevalent today and the personal journey that Pax goes through is also a very real situation that many people have to work through. Deciding on your path and journey is something that pretty much everyone deals with and the conversations that Pax had with his family were real and refreshing. The color palette and art style went perfectly with the setting and scenes and were fun and dynamic. I definitely look forward to reading the future volumes and finding out what else happens with Pax, his family and friends.

Happy reading!

Review | Clarity and Connection by Yung Pueblo

In Clarity and Connection, Yung Pueblo explores how intense emotions accumulate in our subconscious and condition us to act and react the ways we do. With his distinctive voice, at once spare and evocative, the author guides us through the excavation and release of the past that is required for growth. On the topic of intimate relationships, he reflects:

find a partner who accepts you as you are but also inspires you to evolve because they take their own growth seriously. love will not seek to change you. it will embrace you so unconditionally that you will feel safe enough to heal the old and put effort into the new. the courage you both have to stay committed to the inner journey will reflect brightly on your relationship.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This is a poetry collection that you will have to take your time with and sit with. A lot of it is discussing rising from trauma, healthy and toxic friendships/relationships and being able to grow from your past. Many of the messages do seem to be the same sentiments repeated, so many of the shorter passages could easily be used as mantras. There’s a good mix of prose like writing as well as modern poetry. The overall messages in this collection are useful and beneficial.

Happy reading!

Review | Vampire: The Masquerade Vol 1

Immerse yourself in the hit comic series based in the world of the international best-selling tabletop role playing game, Vampire: The Masquerade!

When Cecily Bain, an enforcer for the Twin Cities’ vampiric elite, takes a mysterious new vampire under her wing, she’s dragged into an insidious conspiracy.

Will she be able to escape with her unlife and protect her aging, Alzheimer’s-afflicted sister, or will she be yet another pawn sacrificed to maintain the age-old secret: that vampires exist among the living.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I was intrigued when I found that there was a new graphic novel series coming out of Vampire: The Masquerade, being someone who was familiar with the role playing game. While I did enjoy the storyline as it came together, I feel like this would be hard to get into for someone who didn’t have some base knowledge of the world. There isn’t a ton of backstory, but some clan information and world information is revealed throughout the story. I would be interested to see where the story goes and did like that there were game sheets in the back.

Happy reading!