Synopsis:Abandoned by a single mother she never knew, 16-year-old Raya—obsessed with ancient myths—lives with her grandmother in a small conservative Texas town. For years Raya has been forced to hide her feelings for her best friend and true love, Sarah. When the two are outed, they are sent to Friendly Saviors: a re-education camp meant to “fix” them and make them heterosexual. Upon arrival, Raya vows to assume the mythic role of Orpheus to escape Friendly Saviors, and to return to the world of the living with her love—only becoming more determined after she, Sarah, and Friendly Saviors’ other teen residents are subjected to abusive “treatments” by the staff.
In a haunting voice reminiscent of Sylvia Plath, with the contemporary lyricism of David Levithan, Brynne Rebele-Henry weaves a powerful inversion of the Orpheus myth informed by the real-world truths of conversion therapy. Orpheus Girl is a mythic story of dysfunctional families, trauma, first love, heartbreak, and ultimately, the fierce adolescent resilience that has the power to triumph over darkness and ignorance.
CW: There are scenes in this book that depict self-harm, homophobia, transphobia, and violence against LGBTQ characters.
Review:It is officially Reading Rush time, which means I typically am reading books that I never would have picked up 100% on my own. I knew that my first task for the week should be tackling the “read a book from a genre that you don’t usually read” prompt. I do not read a ton outside of fantasy, with the occasional romance book. I took to my Libby app to see what was available. I won’t lie, this cover was absolutely the reason that I picked up this YA contemporary. I did not even realize how short it was when I hit “borrow”.
With this book being so short, there is not much that I can say about it. This is a YA contemporary story about the struggles of growing up in a conservative town and religion, while also being queer. This was a very difficult and dark story, but I think it is an important one. I do not want to get into the plot because I think with short books it is easy to give it all away.
My biggest “complaint” is that it WAS so short. The author did a great job of developing these characters and their relationships with each other, but I wanted more. I think that this is a purely personal preference, and I think I am learning that short fiction just isn’t for me.
Overall I think this is a story that everyone should read, not just those on the LGBTQIA+ spectrum, but everyone. It was very eye-opening about the harsh reality that a lot of queer kids face growing up. This was HARD to read at times, but I know that this is something that needs to be talked about more.
Ashes of the Sun
Synopsis:Long ago, a magical war destroyed an empire, and a new one was built in its ashes. But still the old grudges simmer, and two siblings will fight on opposite sides to save their world, in the start of Django Wexler’s new epic fantasy trilogy
Gyre hasn’t seen his beloved sister since their parents sold her to the mysterious Twilight Order. Now, twelve years after her disappearance, Gyre’s sole focus is revenge, and he’s willing to risk anything and anyone to claim enough power to destroy the Order.
Chasing rumors of a fabled city protecting a powerful artifact, Gyre comes face-to-face with his lost sister. But she isn’t who she once was. Trained to be a warrior, Maya wields magic for the Twilight Order’s cause. Standing on opposite sides of a looming civil war, the two siblings will learn that not even the ties of blood will keep them from splitting the world in two.
Review:When Ashes of the Sun by Django Wexler showed up on my doorstep I was SO EXCITED. A huge shoutout to Orbit for sending a beautiful finished copy my way!
This book really hooked me from the very beginning. We are thrown into a unique almost sci-fi/apocalyptic fantasy world. This book felt like a very new and fresh entry into the fantasy genre the whole way through. One thing that Wexler did so well, in my opinion, was making you feel that you knew what was going to happen next and then completely surprise you.
I really loved every single one of the characters crafted within this story. I felt like I really understood all of their motivations and why they were acting the way that they were. By the end, it was very apparent how emotionally invested in the characters that I had become.
This world that Django created was SO FUN. It was a great backdrop to this story and was developed very well. The lore is rich and there is so much that can be expanded upon in the sequels.
The LGBTQ+ representation in this book was a welcome surprise. Within this world, we see many people with different sexualities just living their lives. It is just people living their lives and being attracted to whoever they are attracted to and I think that we need more of that within all types of stories. I love seeing queer characters just living their lives and loving who they love.
Overall I really enjoyed this read and I would recommend it to anyone who reads Adult SFF. I also believe that this would be a great book for those that read a lot of Young Adult Fantasy and would like to get more into the adult genre. It is very approachable!
Thank you to the author and publisher for providing a copy for review!
The House in the Cerulean Sea
Synopsis:A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.
Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.
When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.
But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.
An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.
Review:Oh boy, here we go. I am ready to fumble my way through this review, trying to find the words to describe my feeling for this book. This book moved into my list of all time favorites.
From the jump the tone of The House in the Cerulean Sea wrapped me in a hug. It was full of childish wonder and whimsy and created a story that I was completely immersed and enamored with.
When you meet our main character Linus he is a middle aged lonely man who is filled with self-esteem problems. He works all day and goes home to his cat to listen to records. I loved Linus as a character. His character growth is one of my favorites that I have ever read. He has a rough exterior, but is truly the most precious cinnamon roll.
THE CHILDREN. We follow 6 magical “outcast” children. They were all developed incredibly. They each had their own voice and personalities and I fell completely in love with every single one of them.
The ROMANCE! I did not go into this book with high expectations for a romance, but this certainly delivered. It was a heartfelt slow burn that made my heart absolutely explode.
Overall this novel is PERFECT. There is not a single thing that I would change about it. It came to me at a really tough spot and it felt like the hug I needed. It is taking all of my self control to not go back and reread it already.
Barnes and Noble
Synopsis:Some people are extraordinary. Some are just extra. TJ Klune’s YA debut, The Extraordinaries, is a queer coming-of-age story about a fanboy with ADHD and the heroes he loves.
Nick Bell? Not extraordinary. But being the most popular fanfiction writer in the Extraordinaries fandom is a superpower, right?
After a chance encounter with Shadow Star, Nova City’s mightiest hero (and Nick’s biggest crush), Nick sets out to make himself extraordinary. And he’ll do it with or without the reluctant help of Seth Gray, Nick’s best friend (and maybe the love of his life).
Review:The Extraordinaries kicks off with a chapter from our main character Nick’s fan fiction that he writes about his favorite superhero Shadow Star. Right from the beginning I absolutely fell in love with Nick as a character. He is the perfect quirky and lovable character. Klune successfully created a main character that was quirky, relatable, and sometimes completely clueless without it coming across as cringey.
At the surface this book is a fun fast-paced LGBTQ+ superhero story about a teenage boy who just wants to be something bigger and better than he is, and that was something I think my teenage self could really relate to. When you look past the sheer entertainment factor of this story you will find it digs much deeper. What really stands out to me with this story was the relationships. I found myself SO invested in these characters and their relationships with each other. A book hasn’t made me truly weep in a long time, and this one got me.
The stand out for me was the relationship between Nick and his father. We see them go through unimaginable heartache, as well as normal teenage-parent arguments. They have a loving and playful relationship that hit me hard. We have a relationship between Nick and Owen that was such a relatable high school “lust” relationship. You have an incredibly strong “best friends since childhood” relationship in Nick and Seth that gave me goosebumps at times. Their love for each other was so raw and real and left me wanting more. We also have Gibby and Jazz. I am a sucker for a good lesbian couple involving the rich cheerleading captain.
The only hold back for me on giving this book 5 stars is that the pacing felt slightly off. It wasn’t SUPER off putting, but looking back I felt like not much happened in the first 50% and then the last half everything happened almost too quickly. I also found a lot of the story predictable. By the halfway point I had a pretty good idea of what was going on and I would say that I was about 75% correct.
Overall it was a great story and I cannot wait for more of you to get your hands on it and hear your thoughts! Let me know your feelings on superhero stories. I always thought I wasn’t a fan, however I enjoyed this story as well as Renegades by Marissa Meyer. Maybe it is a genre I need to look into more.
I received a review copy of The Extraordinaries from Netgalley and Tor Teen in exchange for an honest review.
Barnes and Noble
Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis:SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA meets CLUELESS in this boy-meets-boy spin on Grease
Summer love…gone so fast.
Will Tavares is the dream summer fling―he’s fun, affectionate, kind―but just when Ollie thinks he’s found his Happily Ever After, summer vacation ends and Will stops texting Ollie back. Now Ollie is one prince short of his fairy tale ending, and to complicate the fairy tale further, a family emergency sees Ollie uprooted and enrolled at a new school across the country. Which he minds a little less when he realizes it’s the same school Will goes to…except Ollie finds that the sweet, comfortably queer guy he knew from summer isn’t the same one attending Collinswood High. This Will is a class clown, closeted―and, to be honest, a bit of a jerk.
Ollie has no intention of pining after a guy who clearly isn’t ready for a relationship, especially since this new, bro-y jock version of Will seems to go from hot to cold every other week. But then Will starts “coincidentally” popping up in every area of Ollie’s life, from music class to the lunch table, and Ollie finds his resolve weakening.
The last time he gave Will his heart, Will handed it back to him trampled and battered. Ollie would have to be an idiot to trust him with it again.
Review:Only Mostly Devastated is a book that I picked up on a whim as I was scrolling my library’s collection of ebooks. I saw that it was a modern take on Grease and it sounded like a quick read to sit down and read in a day. I did just that. I read this book over the span of a few hours and couldn’t get myself to put it down. I ignored my husband all through lunch AND dinner because I was just so into these characters and their lives. Young Adult has been something I have been struggling with recently, especially young adult contemporary, however that was not an issue with this book. This reminded me what I love about the genre and what it can achieve if done correctly. Simply put, books like Only Mostly Devastated need to be in the hands of younger readers.
There was so many themes explored in this book, as well as so much representation. Many different sexualities, as well as cultural backgrounds were present and that is something I really really appreciated about this book. We even have a plus size model who is dealing with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, which I think is INCREDIBLE representation to find in a young adult novel. The topic of grief is a big one in here, as out main character loses a family member who is very close to him. I feel like the depiction of grief within this novel is the most realistic that I have found in a young adult novel. We see the unexplainable emotions and reactions when dealing with grief in different stages and levels and it was beautifully done.
Of course this novel is a fun male/male romance that gets you hooked, but to me the shining parts of this book were the themes and watching these teenagers come to terms with themselves and figure themselves out while dealing with all of the other outside pressures. At times it got messy and the characters hurt each other, but this book left me really happy to see such a TRUE depiction of what being a teenager is like. This was an easy 5/5 stars for me and it is definitely going to be a young adult book that I recommend over and over again.