REVIEW #81 | CEMETERY BOYS by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys is a YA urban fantasy book about Yadriel, a trans Latinx boy who is trying to find a way to be his authentic self as a brujo, even when his family is struggling to understand. He has the chance to prove himself when cousin Miguel is killed — a brujo has the ability to summon spirits and, if need be, force them to cross from the living to the dead. Yadriel and his friend Maritza work to summon his cousin’s spirit, and it works! Sort of. Not really. Instead of Miguel, Yadriel summoned one of his classmates that was killed the same night as Miguel — Julian, the resident “bad boy.” Now not only does Yadriel have to figure out what happened to his cousin, but he also has to help Julian find out what happened to him. And…start to fall for him? Uh oh.

Has anyone recommend this to me? More like who hasn’t recommended Cemetery Boys, lol. This book has exploded over the past year — especially during lockdown last year, damn — and if I’m being honest? It is 100% deserved! My expectations going in were already pretty high, but they were blown out of the water. I think I’d go so far as to say that Aiden Thomas may be a new favorite author of mine. He just has an amazing way of writing characters, their complexities, and their relationships with one another. It’s simply amazing!

The writing is — how do you say? — *chef’s kiss*.

Seriously, though, I thought it’s was great. It was quick and tight, which helped the story move along. It never really seemed to drag on all that much, and even though it did seem to be a bit on the nose at times, I still thought it was strong overall.

Let me be clear, though: while it was fast-paced, it was not rushed. While there were some plot points that probably could’ve been developed more (the murder mystery aspect is stuck on the back burner for a good share of the last half, let’s be honest), I thought that it did a great job at giving time to develop the characters and the relationships between them all.

Very specifically, the party scene with Julian and Yadriel at the beach party? It was simply phenomenal. I could feel what they were feeling, thinking, doing. It gave me chills. I truly loved that scene, and I thought it really showcased Thomas’ skill.

And honestly? It made me cry (or at least, as close as I wanted to get to crying while at work, lol). And we all know any book that can make me cry has an A+ story in my book. So there’s that, lol.

Like I said before, Cemetery Boys is about Yadriel, a trans brujo trying to prove himself to his family, as he and his friend Maritza try to figure out how his cousin Miguel was killed…along with Julian, resident high school bad boy, because they accidentally summoned the wrong spirit.

I thought, overall, it was a wonderful story. It wasn’t super slow, but it wasn’t rushed, either. While it did seem to tip more towards Yadriel and Julian’s budding relationship, especially in the second half, I still thought the murder mystery aspect was still a lot of fun!

The murder mystery conflict — both for Miguel and Julian — was interesting in its own right. It seemed to have a bit of slow start and took a back seat for a bit to give Yadriel and Julian time to connect, but it was still intriguing, especially near the end.

Speaking of, that climax? Holy shit, y’all, it was freaking amazing. The twist in and of itself wasn’t surprising for me — I figured out pretty early on that a particular character was going to do something — but oof, the emotion that went into it? That’s what had me in tears near the end. It was so, so good, and I absolutely love Yadriel, Maritza, and Julian.

Overall, I thought the plot was a lot of fun. I loved the focus on Yadriel and Julian’s relationship (the shift from full names to nicknames in the narrative had me screaming, omg), but the mystery plot was nicely done, too.

Is it appropriate to just leave a screaming gif and leave it at that? Probably not, but that’s how I feel, lol. I loved everything about the characters (except for, well, maybe one, but I’ll get a bit into that later).

I’m going to start with my two sons, Yadriel and Julian. Can fictional characters be your children if they’re only six or seven years younger than you? My younger siblings, then. Or maybe we just forgo the weird “let’s make these fictional beings appear real” thing that we all seem to do in bookish spaces, and I’ll say I love their characters so, so much.

Yadriel is a young trans boy that wants his family to accept who he is and actively embrace him as a brujo. He’s driven to solve Miguel’s murder and, along the way, help Julian find out who his murderer was, too. I found his Mexican and Cuban culture(s) interwoven throughout the story refreshing, and though I probably missed some nuance, I thought it was wonderful to read about.

On top of that, I didn’t realize how anxious he was as a person until about halfway through, when he had to bring Julian with him to school. Can I just say that anxious Character A and off-the-walls Character B is one of my favorite pairings, so when I found it here, I did a lil happy dance as I was reading.

I also just…really love the complicated feelings he has towards his family. He loves them unconditionally, on the one hand, but on the other hand, he is So Tired of having to claw out any sort of validation or respect for him and his trans identity. It’s not that his family members are being purposely transphobic in trying to push him out of the duties of a brujo, but it stings just the same.

And then we have Julian. The literal ride-or-die friend, his dedication to and love for his friends — his found family — is immense and amazing. He is such a good friend to everyone he lets in close, and I loved seeing him trying to care for them even when he was a spirit.

This includes Yadriel, too. The little things Julian would do or say to truly support Yadriel when he was struggling with his family and being trans almost made me start crying with how genuine he is as a character. The way he urges Yadriel to inch outside his comfort zone and try things out while respecting who he is in his totality was amazing. And oh, I don’t want to spoil it (and I won’t!), but there’s a bit during the climax where he says something to Yadriel, and I just start crying in the club (library).

Let’s not forget his sillier side, too. This boy is off the walls goofy, and I absolutely love him for it. He has little to no impulse control, just does whatever he thinks of in the moment and goes from there. Pair this with Yadriel, who may or may not have some Anxiety Issues, and you get perfection.

I also just really enjoyed all the side characters, too. I thought Maritza was interesting, and I loved seeing her and Yadriel interact (wish I saw more of it!). Now that I think about it, I think she may be one of the few vegan characters I know, which is pretty cool. Julian’s whole friend group were a delight, and seeing them stick together no matter what was great. Yadriel’s family, though they made me wince now and again, were still a major part of Yadriel, and I liked seeing the complexities between him and them. Just, overall, I loved all the characters in Cemetery Boys — I think Aiden did a wonderful job in fleshing them out and developing them over the course of the story.

Cemetery Boys takes place in East Los Angeles, where Yadriel lives with his family in a family-owned cemetery. The magic system — and the commentary behind it — was pretty interesting, and I wished I could see more of it throughout the story. From what I understand, it’s a gender-based magic system, where brujos are able to summon spirits and send them to the other side (voluntarily or otherwise) and brujas are able to heal wounds. When each kid in the family comes of age, they partake in a special ceremony where Lady Death gives them their abilities. Yadriel wasn’t allowed to partake in the brujo ceremony because his family believed that Lady Death wouldn’t see him as his gender.

It was interesting to see him try and navigate this gendered system throughout the book, and it made me wonder what would happen with non-binary folks who were neither men/boys or women/girls. Would it just be whatever the non-binary person was “closest” to? If so, wouldn’t that be inherently antagonistic towards non-binary people who don’t coincide with either binary gender? I found myself thinking about it a bit throughout the story, and I don’t remember it ever being touched on. It’s an interesting thought exercise nonetheless.

I will say, though, the mythology surrounding Lady Death and other mythological figures within the story was really intriguing. I loved learning about them, and I thought they were a great addition to really round-out the world-building.

There was so much good stuff shoved in this delight of a book, I loved it. One of the themes that really popped out to me was this notion of proving oneself. Throughout the book, Yadriel struggles with proving he’s a man to his family, that he deserves the title of brujo, because being seen as a man by his family is one of the most important things to him. He doesn’t want to sacrifice his family or himself, he wants to confidently have both.

However, there are multiple times that Julian tries to push against this, against proving one’s own intrinsic worth. If I remember correctly, he asks Yadriel a variation of “prove yourself to whom and why?” and tries to get him to see that he doesn’t need external validation from his family, and he shouldn’t have to try so hard if there are certain people in his life who are unwilling to rise up to the plate.

It’s a conflicting spot to be in for Yadriel, though. On the one hand, he hates having to “prove” who he is, that his family can’t simply accept and support him. He hates having this doubt that Lady Death would reject him as a brujo. But on the other, he loves his family and his culture. He wants to create a space for himself and others like him, and he wants his family’s love and acceptance. It’s not as simple as “drop them and leave” when he truly wants a place within his family that he can be proud of. This conflict is threaded throughout the story, and I love the way it ends up. No spoilers, but it’s definitely not a “everything is happiness and rainbows and absolutely perfect” ending.

On top of that, I’m always down for a good ol’ found family theme, and Julian and his friends really make it good. The relationships between one another, looking out for each other, everything. I absolutely loved meeting them, and I wish that if, for whatever reason, Aiden Thomas decides to make a sequel, we can see more of them.

I was also pleasantly surprised at Julian’s brother — their relationship is complicated, but I was so happy to see him look out for Julian and his friends, no matter what. He’s just trying his best to be a dad to a bunch of teenagers, and I love it. He gets a 10/10 from me.

In short, I had an amazing reading experience with Cemetery Boys. While the plot was engaging enough, I think it really shines with the characters and their relationships with one another (especially Yadriel and Julian, but the entire cast was intriguing in their own way). If you want a fun slow-burn supernatural romance with a dash of murder mystery on the side, I would definitely recommend Cemetery Boys!

✨✨✨

Shoutout to CW and the Pond for their blog post full of different book review prompts — it was the basis for this here review structure! If you want, shoot over to their Ko-fi to give a tip!

  • Transphobia, including deadnaming (the act of it; the deadname itself isn’t used) and misgendering
  • Classism
  • Xenophobia
  • Blood
  • Violence
  • Character death
  • Mexican-Cuban gay trans boy MC
  • Colombian achillean LI
  • Trans and queer side characters
  • Side characters of color

Title: Cemetery Boys

Author: Aiden Thomas

Pub. Date: 1 September 2020

Genre: Paranormal; Urban Fantasy

About (via StoryGraph):

A trans boy determined to prove his gender to his traditional Latinx family summons a ghost who refuses to leave in Aiden Thomas’s New York Times-bestselling paranormal YA debut Cemetery Boys, described by Entertainment Weekly as groundbreaking.

“Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him. When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his true gender, 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 actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, 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.”

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REVIEW #80 | WHAT WE DEVOUR by Linsey Miller (ARC)

*I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

What We Devour is a YA dark fantasy standalone that follows Lorena, a young girl who holds a secret close to her heart. When she makes a deal with the Crown Prince to help him in researching a special Door that just barely holds back murderous gods known as Viles in exchange for human sacrifices, she will be stretched to her limits. Not only does she have to help with the Crown Prince Alistair’s research, but she is also tasked with finding information to prove Will’s (her partner Julian’s father) innocence when he is arrested for treason. However, the further Lorena goes with either task, the more she learns that neither is what they appear to be.

I’ve been following Linsey Miller ever since her first book, Mask of Shadows, came out, and I’ve been floored with her work every time. Requesting an ARC for her most recent book seemed the logical next step, and I was ecstatic when I saw it come in the mail. My whole time spent reading it was a thrill, and I was simultaneously heartbroken and blown away when I finished reading it. It’s been days, and I’m still in a bit of a bookish hangover.

I’d like to say that I try not to have any preconceived notions going in, but I’d be lying. What We Devour was one of my most anticipated reads for this year, and it absolutely destroyed the (admittedly, quite high) expectations I held for it. The commentary surrounding asexuality and capitalism was superb, and it truly was one of the book’s strengths. The characters? *chef’s kiss* I loved seeing everyone’s interactions with one another, especially Lorena and Alistair. Everything just clicked into place for me, and it was an absolutely amazing experience.

This is also coming from someone who doesn’t read a ton (if any?) dark fantasy! I didn’t think I was going to like that aspect so much just because the genre never seemed to be something that I would be interested in. I’m very glad that Linsey proved me wrong. ☺️

Just. This whole reading experience was me screaming about…basically everything? The writing really set the tone; the plot (while it seemed to be placed on the back burner at times) was exciting; the characters??? are everything I could ever ask for and more???; the world-building needed a bit of thought and was absolutely captivating; and the THEMES, oh my goodness. The themes (and the characters, tbh) is where this book really shines.

To put it simply, the writing was all around very good. It did a wonderful time setting (and keeping) the tone of the book — it was dark and tense and it had me flying through the pages as fast as possible. To me, the gore wasn’t all that bad (YMMV, however — it is a dark fantasy novel based partially around sacrifice, after all), but the writing really shines with character’s emotions, especially Lorena’s since we’re in her headspace for the whole novel.

I thought the 1st person POV did a great job of centering in on how Lorena starts off in the beginning of the book as a girl who already knows of the horrors the world and those in power can bring and then shifting to the morally grey protagonist we see at the end. Not only that, but the reader gets to see firsthand her dilemmas regarding her feelings toward both Alistair and Julian, as well as Will. Seeing her struggle with how she feels about the three of them was very intriguing to read through, and there are no easy answers.

Throughout the book, there’s a constant stream of darkness. It’s bleak, all the cards are stacked against Lorena and the others, nothing seems like it will work out. But through it all, there always seems to be this undercurrent of hope, no matter how weak. The characters are constantly up against roadblocks, but there’s always this feeling that at the end of it all, our dear protagonist and her friends will come out on top, even if it isn’t exactly the way we want them to. And this bit did a wonderful job at making me root for not only Lorena, but the side characters such as Basil and Mac (and yes, even Carlow). There is always this feeling of, “The world can be — and needs to be — different. And we’ll help get it there.” and it made the story not as dark as it could have been, which I personally enjoyed.

In terms of the more technical aspects, I found it very easy to read. While the world-building was a bit much at first — requiring me to sit with a few sections and think on them sometimes — it didn’t make for anything particularly rigorous, and in fact, I had a bit of fun with it. There are some time-jumps that, to me, seem to come out of nowhere and a few awkwardly-ending chapters, but that didn’t take away from my personal enjoyment whatsoever. I also wish we had more time with the world-building — it seemed a bit crunched in at times — but I’ll get to that later on in the review.

Overall, I thought that the writing made for a dark and tense reading experience, which I very much enjoyed. It drove the plot along, and it made me anxious to see what would happen next.

Like I said earlier, What We Devour follows Lorena when she, as a deal to prove her partner’s father’s innocence, agrees to help the Crown Prince Alistair with his research that involves the Door, the entry to the world beyond that holds powerful gods known as the Vile (those who destroy) and the Noble (those who create). However, she has her own secret: she is a dualwrought. Being dualwrought means having both a vilewright (the ability to destroy in exchange for sacrifices) and a noblewright (the ability to create in exchange for sacrifices). Dualwroughts are extremely rare — the only other known dualwrought is the queen of Cynlira, Alistair’s mother.

Not only does Lorena have to worry about the Door, as it needs an increasing amount of human sacrifices to stay closed recently, but she also has to find a way to prove Will’s innocence when he is charged with treason. Both of these, however, become more and more challenging because nothing is as it seems. Lorena will have to not only work with her newfound allies to find a solution, but also with Alistair, the symbol of everything Lorena hates in Cynlira.

I fucking loved this story, y’all. Like I said earlier, it seemed to take the back burner at times in order for us to connect with the characters, but it was still magnificent in the way that it circles back around to encompass said characters. Whether it’s the moral questions surrounding the Door or the questions surrounding Will, Lorena, and what family means, I thought the plot gives the reader a good foundation to explore the themes that pop up throughout the book. If you’re into stories about anti-capitalists attempting to take down the systems that oppress them, I think you’d really vibe with What We Devour.

I will say that it seems to take a bit for the ball to start rolling in the beginning, but when it does…be ready. When it picks up, it picks up quickly, but it didn’t feel rushed to me. The ending and resolution could seem a bit too open-ended for some, but I thought it was a perfect ending for the story: very rarely do things end with a neat bow on top, and it can be messy and complex — all you can do sometimes is weather it.

I have so many favorite scenes, but I’m adamant in keeping this review spoiler free. In the meantime, just know that I was on the edge of my seat for the last third or so of the book — there were so many memorable scenes and character development (regression?) that had me doing a lil excited dance in my chair (or bed, depending on where I was reading, lol).

I will say, though, that while I enjoyed the plot immensely, the characters are what really sold me on What We Devour. Let me tell you…Linsey Miller knows how to create some real interesting characters.

…Where do I even start with the characters, y’all? Lorena was simply amazing. Starting right out of the gate, she is a brave and outspoken girl who isn’t afraid to point out other characters’ bullshit. She is manipulative, and lying is her safeguard. Her relationships with the other characters were so interesting to get into (especially Alistair! omg!), but what really intrigued me was her relationship with her wrights. I don’t want to go into too much detail to avoid spoilers, but compared to other noblewrought and vilewrought, she treats her wrights in a much different way. I loved seeing the dichotomy between how Lorena communicates with her wrights and how Alistair does. It was very interesting to see, and I think it gives just a bit more depth to who they both are as people.

I really liked seeing Lorena’s development (regression?) throughout the novel. She isn’t afraid of doing what she thinks she must in order to protect Cynlira as a whole, which usually means doing some pretty gruesome things. At the end of the day, though, I still rooted for her. For years, the nobility class sat back and ignored the anguish and break-backing labor the lower class has put in for the hopes of scraps because, simply, they think they can have their cake and eat it. They force the masses into grueling work so they can reap the benefits for themselves and throw people away when they become just a bit too loud in their protests. I suppose Lorena isn’t a likable character in the traditional sense, but I loved her regardless.

And Alistair…just. My goodness. He respects Lorena and the other wroughts that are working with him, and he isn’t afraid of being corrected by them, which is miles better than how many of the noble people treat “regular” folks throughout Cynlira. It was charming to see.

However, it still had a bittersweet bite to it: he respects Lorena and the others as far as he sees their use and value. He likes them because they’re as invested in the research about the Door as he is, but beyond that…he is still the vilewrought Prince. If they were just regular joe blow on the street, he wouldn’t think twice about them. He is still a bloodthirsty person who won’t stop to get what he wants. To see Lorena struggle with this side-by-side with her budding feelings (platonic, romantic, or otherwise) had me eating this book up.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget the side characters! They were all delightful; I just wish we could see them more. Creek and Carlow — a noblewrought and a vilewrought who have also been cursed by a Noble and Vile respectively — were fun to read, especially when they were together. Basil was adorable, and I would protect them with my life, no questions asked. The three of them working for/with Alistair on the Door was an interesting dynamic I wish we got to see more of, honestly. Let’s be real, though, these characters could be reading the back of a cereal box, and I would lap it up because I simply love them that much.

Julian, Lorena’s friend, and his father Will were characters that I just loved to hate. They’re the kinds of people that we all know, the ones who make it seem like they care about everyone, when they truly only care about themselves and maybe closest to them. In truth, they would let the whole burn if they were able to live, even if they have to do exactly what their oppressors have done to them.

All of the characters really shined (yes, even the characters the reader is supposed to hate — they shined in being the most annoying characters ever), but I think what really intrigued me was the world-building.

What We Devour takes place in a country called Cynlira, where the rich thrive and everyone else is left to the wolves. Or, in this case, the Door, the gate between the mortal world and the world in which Vile and Noble exist. The Door must be given human sacrifices in order to satiate it. Otherwise, it risks opening and thrusting the Noble and Vile upon the nation. Recently, the Door has become increasingly insatiable, needing more and more sacrifices more frequently to stay closed.

There are people throughout Cynlira known as noblewrought and vilewrought — people who can do certain types of magic thanks to having parts of the Noble and Vile gods. Some folks also have the ability to be both, a dualwrought. However, many of them do not have the freedom they wish for — most wrought are found and forced over to the Crown in order to be bound to some nobleman so they can do their dirty work magic and nothing else.

I will be straightforward in saying that the world-building can be A Lot when first starting out. It can be confusing, and I had to re-read passages sometimes in order to fully understand what was being conveyed. However, I will also say that this may be the first book where I was excited to learn more about the world. I was actively looking forward to when the characters discuss more about the Door and the Vile/Noble. The noblewrights, vilewrights, noblewroughts, and vilewroughts. Dualwroughts.

Outside of the characters, this is why I wish there was a sequel planned. Or, better yet, that it was going to be part of a 12-book series where I could get lost in the world and characters. I always had this craving for more. If someone had to twist my arm and ask what I thought the weakest part of the book is, it probably would be the world-building simply because I never felt like I got the full picture. Functionally, yes, I did get enough that I understood what was going on, but damn, I wish I could’ve gotten a whole encyclopedia to pick through. A whole Cynlira: A History to read. That would’ve really topped the cake and make this book a step above the “absolutely phenomenal” it already was.

In all honesty, even though I just said the world-building is probably the weakest thing about What We Devour, it was still plenty enjoyable for me, and it kept me captivated throughout my whole reading experience. And ya know what? You wanna know what really made this book shoot up to my top 3 favs of the year? Ya ready for this? It’s the themes. The themes, oh my goodness, y’all. You’re not ready for the themes.

Let me just say that if I still have any brain cells left after I’m finished with grad school, the first thing I’m doing is writing an academic-level essay on the themes in this here book, y’all. I just. What We Devour has it all: the harsh realities of capitalism! asexuality and how many ace folks constantly have to “prove” ourselves! the moral dilemma of how far is too far if you’re trying to tear down the existing system and build something new! and more!

Excuse me as I scream because the way these were all executed throughout the book was…so good. The anti-capitalism themes were immediately apparent throughout every strand of the story. The exploration of asexuality and acephobia through Lorena and her relationship with Julian was very validating to read and absorb. Seeing an ace character so damn confident in their identity right off the bat was something I didn’t know I needed until I saw it in action, and it was amazing to see.

The discussion surrounding how far is “too far” when creating a new society was interesting for me because I’m constantly thinking about what we could do in our current society, how we could tear shit down to create something better. Is there a limit to what we should or should not do in order to create a just world? Are there needed sacrifices, or are all sacrifices unjustified? Who gets to choose these things? It was compelling to think about, at the very least.

So, yeah, if you couldn’t tell already, I really enjoyed What We Devour. If you’re into dark fantasy, anti-capitalist themes, ace girls who will stop at nothing to save the proletariat and watch the rich suffer, monster gods….well, you’re in for a treat with this one. While the plot can be subtle and the world-building a bit confusing, I feel like the characters and themes definitely make up for it. I just can’t put into words how much I love this book, y’all.

I can’t exactly end this review by saying “be ace, do crimes, eat the rich”….except I totally can, it’s my review.

Be ace, do crimes, eat the rich.

✨✨✨

SO. This is set up a lot different than my previous reviews, huh? I have CW and the Quiet Pond to blame for that (except not really blame because it helped a lot!). They have a blog post chock-full of review prompts that have really helped me flesh this review out! Here is the post in question, and this is their Ko-fi page if, like me, you’ve found this post super, super helpful. I just wanted to give credit where credit is due!

(Also, lemme know how you like the new set-up, please? I think I’m gonna tweak a few things going forward, but I’m always open to hearing new ideas!)

  • Death
  • Mention of cannibalism
  • Blood and gore
  • Self-harm for magical purposes
  • Human sacrifice
  • Acephobia (moderate amount)
  • Ace girl MC
  • Wlw SCs
  • Non-binary SC
  • Side characters of color

Title: What We Devour

Author: Linsey Miller

Pub. Date: 6 July 2021

Genre: Dark Fantasy

About (via StoryGraph):

“Undertaker Lorena is comfortable in her quiet life. She knows what her future holds, anonymity and a marriage to her best friend Julian. But when the notorious Crown Prince Alistair arrives at her doorstep with an arrest warrant for Julian’s father, her life changes in an instant.

“The Prince immediately recognizes that Lorena is powerful and whisks her away to the capital in exchange for Julian’s father’s freedom. With Alistair she learns more about her power, as well as the danger facing the entire country.

“As a rebellion between the rich and powerful and the poor and downtrodden erupts, Lorena becomes less sure of her loyalties. Should she trust the boy she thought she loved and the world she thought she knew? Or should her faith lie with the boy she barely knows who has everything to lose?”

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REVIEW #77 | ERAGON by Christopher Paolini (The Inheritance Cycle #1)

Review for "Eragon" by Christopher Paolini
Review for “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini
Eragon by Christopher Paolini
Eragon — Christopher Paolini

Title: Eragon

Author: Christopher Paolini

Series or Standalone?: The Inheritance Cycle #1

Pub. Date: April 2005

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

One boy…
One dragon…
A world of adventure.

When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon soon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself.

Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and tge advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds.

Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • fantasy violence
  • gore
  • character death
  • fatphobia
  • torture
  • massacre
  • imprisonment
  • beheading
  • attempted rape (inferred)
  • ableism
  • grief

Representation:

  • N/A


1/5 stars

I don’t even know where to start. My god.

For those of you that don’t know, Eragon is a YA fantasy novel that follows a 15-year-old boy Eragon and the dragon Saphira whose egg he finds in the forest near his house. When mysterious creatures called the Ra’zac destroy his home and kill his uncle, Eragon and Saphira go on a quest with storyteller Brom to hunt them down.

Let me be blunt: this books is one of the worst I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a lot. For starters, the writing is almost impossible to read through. Yes, I understand Paolini was a teen when he wrote it, but I’m quite certain his editor wasn’t (assuming he had one). So like. They could’ve made it so much better. The reader doesn’t need an adjective or adverb every three words to understand what is going on in the story, and they definitely don’t need every single detail spelled out for them. On top of that, I had the feeling that Paolini was trying to write like some sort of pretentious classic literary author, but it did not work whatsoever. Instead of wanting to submerge myself into the story, the writing pulled me out of it so many times, I just started to skim for most of it.

The same can be said for the dialogue. It was written as if the author was trying to pull off Tolkien’s or some other “classic” high fantasy author’s style of dialogue, but at the end of the day, it just sounded like a rip-off. I just couldn’t get behind the writing whatsoever.

Second of all, the world-building. I just…what the fuck was that? Having Brom (or any other character, for that matter) monologue to Eragon about any world-building of importance — dragons, Riders, Galbatorix, etc. — is. not. world-building. It was boring and tedious, and it makes the reader want to skim. Two or three or four pages of a character talking to the ~naive protagonist~ is definitely not needed, and if the reader actually needed the content of the monologue, the author should have figured out some other way to include it that wasn’t info-dumping. Taking a five minute break to tell the reader the entire history of the world through Eragon’s perspective isn’t world-building, either! Please, I beg, find another way.

And now…the characters. The characters, the characters, the characters. I cannot put into words how utterly underdeveloped and boring these characters are. Let’s start with Eragon, the most Gary Stu protagonist ever to Gary Stu. Learns sword fighting quickly, learns magic even quicker (and is then somehow able to manipulate it to do basically whatever he wants). The other characters around him are practically there only to give him Important Life Lessons. He’s the perfect protagonist with the perfect morals because all he wants to do is avenge his uncle and go home…or something. Let’s ignore how his morals make no sense — “why would you kill a slaver who sells human beings for a living? He wasn’t armed!” — and that he totally crushes over a random elf girl he saved from prison even though she’s in a coma with no clue where she is or who he is. Oh! And on top of that, he later questions said elf girl why she is on the battlefield with everyone instead of fleeing with the women and children when she beat him in a sword fight twenty pages earlier. I think this was yet another way for Paolini to show that Eragon ~cares about her~, but it was….pretty sexist and ridiculous, lol.

And speaking of Arya… Y’all. If there’s one thing I hate more than the “I went through traumatic things, and ✨ it made me stronger ✨” trope with woman/girl characters, it’s mixing it with the fact that there are no solid, re-occurring woman/girl characters until three quarters of the way through the novel. On top of that (…as if this book wasn’t bad enough), Arya doesn’t even count until about 90% of the way through the book because she was comatose for the majority of the time the reader knows her. And Eragon’s out here getting a crush on her without even knowing her name or if she’d even live.

Going on to the other characters… Brom was the “wise old teacher with a mysterious past” trope, and that was it. Saphira starts out interesting, but turns into the “wise old dragon” trope real fast for ~plot purposes~ so that got boring quick. Murtagh was somewhat intriguing, but Paolini doesn’t understand subtle foreshadowing, which kinda ruined his character. Angela and Solembum were actually pretty interesting characters, and I hope they stay around. They made this whole ordeal…somewhat tolerable, I guess.

But I think what gets me the most about the characters…well, there’s a couple things. One, specifically regarding Eragon, but it could pertain to basically everyone else: there’s little to no character development. Sure, Eragon (…pretty effortlessly…) learns magic and fighting and all, but he never seems to learn from his mistakes throughout the book. The other characters are constantly left to pick up after him. Even with a certain character’s death, I…didn’t feel like it really changed Eragon as a character. Sure, he says that he’s sad about said death, but because the connection didn’t seem to be there to begin with, his thoughts/feelings/actions read as extremely shallow.

I think most of it boils down to the fact that, at the end of the day, the characters are so incredibly flat. They don’t inspire any positive connection or emotions within me, and because of that I didn’t see any connections between the characters. Even between Eragon, Brom, and Saphira, the relationship/connection just seemed…fake? manufactured? The reader is told that they care about one another (at the most — sometimes, not even that), but they aren’t often given any evidence that such a deep connection exists at any meaningful level. The fact that these three major characters have such little connection with one another was extremely frustrating to read, and I really wanted to DNF.

But yeah, this book was…horrible, lmao. The writing was bad, the world-building was dry, and the character development was non-existent. And yet I am forcing myself to read the rest of the series because I own them…y’all better thank me for this, and keep your eyes out for the rant reviews for the rest of the series in the coming months ✨

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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REVIEW #76 | WHO DO YOU SERVE, WHO DO YOU PROTECT? ed. by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? edited by Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States by Joe Macaré, Alana Yu-Lan Price, Alicia Garza, Maya Schenwar
Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? — Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Title: Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? Police Violence and Resistance in the United States

Editors: Maya Schenwar, Joe Macaré, and Alana Yu-lan Price

Pub. Date: 10 May 2016

Synopsis (via StoryGraph):

What is the reality of policing in the United States? Do the police keep anyone safe and secure other than the very wealthy? How do recent police killings of young black people in the United States fit into the historical and global context of anti-blackness?

This collection of reports and essays (the first collaboration between Truthout and Haymarket Books) explores police violence against black, brown, indigenous and other marginalized communities, miscarriages of justice, and failures of token accountability and reform measures. It also makes a compelling and provocative argument against calling the police.

Contributions cover a broad range of issues including the killing by police of black men and women, police violence against Latino and indigenous communities, law enforcement’s treatment of pregnant people and those with mental illness, and the impact of racist police violence on parenting, as well as specific stories such as a Detroit police conspiracy to slap murder convictions on young black men using police informant and the failure of Chicago’s much-touted Independent Police Review Authority, the body supposedly responsible for investigating police misconduct. The title Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?is no mere provocation: the book also explores alternatives for keeping communities safe.

Contributors include William C. Anderson, Candice Bernd, Aaron Cantú, Thandi Chimurenga, Ejeris Dixon, Adam Hudson, Victoria Law, Mike Ludwig, Sarah Macaraeg, and Roberto Rodriguez.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • police brutality
  • mentions of torture/torture devices (both historically and currently)
  • racism (anti-Black, anti-Brown, and anti-Indigenous)
  • medical abuse/neglect

Representation:

  • a collection of essays about police brutality that centers Black women, LGBTQ+ folks, pregnant folks, indigenous folks, and migrants

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

I was able to get an e-copy for free through the publisher Haymarket Books because they offered it for no charge sometime last May. As of the day this review is being written (7 January 2021), the eBook is still free! Here is the link to snag it (even if it isn’t free, I would still recommend buying it regardless!). Anyway, it was something I was interested in, and who doesn’t like free books? So here I am.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? is a collection of essays surrounding police brutality, its impact against marginalized communities (especially Black folks), its connections to imperialism, and how to combat it and be less dependent upon police. While most of what was written I already knew about or wasn’t a surprise to me personally, I know that it’ll help educate and inform many other readers who may be in a different place in their learning. I could tell, throughout every single essay, how angry these writers were about police brutality and the system it upholds. But I could also tell how much these contributors love and care for their communities and wish to see them thrive. I can only hope that this book can motivate and/or radicalize folks in order to make that happen.

There was an essay that did bring up some new ideas for me, and that was the one that focused on pregnant people in prison/under arrest: “Your Pregnancy May Subject You to Even More Law Enforcement Violence” by Victoria Law. While none of what was written was particularly surprising — I’m not shocked that prison guards often ignore pregnant people’s concerns until it’s too late, for instance — it brought a new lens to my understanding of police brutality. While theoretically, it makes sense that pregnant people would be at risk of violence, I didn’t consciously think about it until I read that essay. And it isn’t only pregnant folks — anyone who needs regular medical attention or medicine is often looked over by guards and cops. It just adds another layer to one’s understanding of how heinous police brutality and the prison system are.

On top of that, I really appreciated the second half of the book, which focuses on helping one’s community without police input. I thought many of those essays were enlightening, especially one that delved into how community members and EMS could serve the community better without the police butting in and escalating things like they often do. I found myself feeling hopeful for the future, knowing that there is a history of becoming less dependent upon police. I’ll be excited to see what community organizers can do on this front in the future.

Overall, I thought Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect? is a wonderful, knowledgeable book and everyone should pick it up if they’re at all interested in learning about police brutality and what we can do to minimize our dependence on the cops. Again, here is the link so you can get a free e-copy (if they still offer it for free by the time you get around to reading this review, lol).

To end this review, here is something new I want to try with reviews from now on: a few quotes that I like from the book! I know a lot of reviewers splash them throughout the review, but I’m way too indecisive for that, so y’all get a block at the end, lol. Enjoy, and I hope you liked this review! Let me know your thoughts by commenting below 😊

(also, quick note, there’s only three quotes because this new thing was a split-second decision made right before I scheduled this post, lmao. but expect more in other reviews in the future!)

Fav Quotes ✨

When cops bully them, scare them, fuck with them, it’s because our children aren’t seen as part of the future. Our children are disposable.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

If we seek to dismantle the police state, we must also dismantle the military.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?

Self-preservation of the state is the primary priority.

Who Do You Serve, Who Do You Protect?
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REVIEW #75 | THE SILVERED SERPENTS by Roshani Chokshi (The Gilded Wolves #2) (eARC)

Review: "Silvered Serpents" by Roshani Chokshi
Review: “The Silvered Serpents” by Roshani Chokshi
The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)
The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi

Title: The Silvered Serpents

Author: Roshani Chokshi

Series or Standalone?: The Gilded Wolves #2

Pub. Date: 22 September 2020

Synopsis:

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with another riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever in The Silvered Serpents.

They are each other’s fiercest love, greatest danger, and only hope.

Séverin and his team members might have successfully thwarted the Fallen House, but victory came at a terrible cost — one that still haunts all of them. Desperate to make amends, Séverin pursues a dangerous lead to find a long lost artifact rumored to grant its possessor the power of God.

Their hunt lures them far from Paris, and into the icy heart of Russia where crystalline ice animals stalk forgotten mansions, broken goddesses carry deadly secrets, and a string of unsolved murders makes the crew question whether an ancient myth is a myth after all.

As hidden secrets come to the light and the ghosts of the past catch up to them, the crew will discover new dimensions of themselves. But what they find out may lead them down paths they never imagined.

A tale of love and betrayal as the crew risks their lives for one last job.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • blood and gore
  • character death
  • racism
  • xenophobia
  • anti-semitism
  • violence
  • dismemberment

Representation:

  • Jewish autistic girl MC
  • Indian girl MC
  • bi/pan Filipino Spanish MC
  • queer boy MC
  • Algerian French MC

⭐⭐⭐⭐ .5

4.5/5 stars

*I obtained an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

So after The Gilded Wolves, why did Roshani have to go so hard in The Silvered Serpents? Is wanting the gang to have a happy ending too much to ask for?

The Silvered Serpents begins a few months after The Gilded Wolves ends, with Séverin and the others making their way to Russia in order to look for The Divine Lyrics, a book that is told to have unimaginable power. However, they all have to deal with their own demons and insecurities on top of the possibly absolutely dangerous mission they’ve partaken on.

I loved seeing all the characters again, especially their interactions with one another! They all (mostly) still love and trust one another, except for Séverin. This book was 400-some pages of everyone side-eyeing him, and (not gonna lie) I kinda lived for it. And his character development! I absolutely cannot wait to see what comes of him in the third book. As for everyone else, I absolutely adored them all and their angst. Let me tell you, there was a lot of angst. But it was refreshing to see in a published book and not just in fanfic!

The plot itself was super interesting, too. I don’t want to say too much about it in fear of revealing too much (and also because I can’t remember much due to my goldfish memory), but it kept me entranced the whole time I was reading. Though that might be because I’m not very smart with figuring things out in books, so I could just be easily entertained with heist books, but still. I am a simple person: is it a heist book? Automatic four star minimum.

Seriously, though, if you haven’t picked up this book or The Gilded Wolves, I seriously recommend it! There is rich world-building, lovely (morally grey) characters, and a few relationships you’d die for.

Kait | sixcrowsbooks

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REVIEW #74 | SETTLING THE WORLD by M. John Harrison (eARC)

Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020 by M. John Harrison, Jennifer Hodgson

Title: Settling the World: Selected Stories 1970-2020

Author: M. John Harrison

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: 20 August 2020

Synopsis:

Throughout his career, M. John Harrison’s writing has defied categorisation, building worlds both unreal and all-too real, overlapping and interlocking with each other. His stories are replete with fissures and portals into parallel dimensions, unidentified countries and lost lands. But more important than the places they point to are the obsessions that drive the people who so believe in them, characters who spend their lives hunting for, and haunted by, clues and maps that speak to the possibility of somewhere else.

This selection of stories, drawn from over 50 years of writing, bears witness to that desire for difference: whether following backstreet occultists, amateur philosophers, down-and-outs or refugees, we see our relationship with ‘the other’ in microscopic detail, and share in Harrison’s rejection of the idea that the world, or our understanding of it, could ever be settled.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • character death
  • blood and gore

Representation:

  • N/A

⭐⭐⭐ .5

3.5/5 stars

*I received an eARC via the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

This anthology has such a variety of stories that nearly everyone will find at least one that they like and/or connect with! Myself included.

Settling the World is an anthology of short stories the author, Harrison, has written between the years 1970 and 2020. At first, I thought it was primarily a science fiction anthology — especially with the first few stories — but as I read more and more, I realized that the anthology doesn’t fit one specific genre. Yes, many of them stories would be considered science fiction (and they flow between “hard” sci-fi and “soft” sci-fi), but many more are contemporary with a flash of fantasy/science fiction, or even a bit of thriller/horror. I was put off by the focus on aliens and the like in the first few stories, but there were quite a few later on that I could not read fast enough.

Harrison has a way of writing that reminds me of older books (pre-1990, let’s say), which makes sense, considering the stories have been written anywhere as early as 1970. It wasn’t bad by any means, and for a few stories, I quite enjoyed it. It just caught me off guard, is all. Also, I felt like I couldn’t really connect with many of the protagonists, and as someone who prefers character-focused stories, this was something that was hard for me to get over. That doesn’t mean the writing itself was “bad” in an objective way, it just wasn’t my personal cup of tea.

However, like I said earlier, there is so much variety in the stories that I think everyone will find at least one story that they love. I have my fair share, for sure! The tone of each story is distinct, and it’s interesting to see that, even though Harrison usually uses first person, the narrator sounds so different. In my experience, first person POV usually blends together, but each seemed to have their own voice. A pleasant surprise!

Overall, while I didn’t love every short story in the collection, I thought Settling the World‘s variety in genres was a breath of fresh air, and I’m glad the publisher reached out to me to read and review it!

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REVIEW #73 | NON-BINARY LIVES by Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, & Kat Gupta

Title: Non-Binary Lives: An Anthology of Intersecting Identities

Editors: Jos Twist, Ben Vincent, Meg-John Barker, & Kat Gupta

Pub. Date: 21 April 2020

Synopsis:

What does it mean to be non-binary in the 21st Century?

Our gender identity is impacted by our personal histories; the cultures, communities and countries we are born into; and the places we go and the people we meet. But the representation of contemporary non-binary identities has been limited, until now.

Pushing the narrative around non-binary identities further than ever before, this powerful collection of essays represents the breadth of non-binary lives, across the boundaries of race, class, age, sexuality, faith and more.

Leading non-binary people share stories of their intersecting lives; how it feels to be non-binary and neurodiverse, the challenges of being a non-binary pregnant person, what it means to be non-binary within the Quaker community, the joy of reaching gender euphoria.

This thought-provoking anthology shows that there is no right or wrong way to be non-binary.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • misgendering
  • ableism
  • transphobia

Representation:

  • an anthology that explores being non-binary and how it interacts with other parts of the authors’ identities (religion, ethnicity, race, disability, etc.)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

*I received an eARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

I have been staring at my screen trying to figure out how to put my feelings into words, and. I don’t think I can do them justice. But I’ll try my best.

Non-Binary Lives is a collection of essays from various non-binary folks from mostly the UK, but other parts of the world as well. In these essays, they describe their experiences with being non-binary, especially with how it interacts with other parts of their identity and culture. While there could be some overlap between themes, each essay had a distinct feel to it as each author discussed their own lived experiences.

I truly do not know where to start with this essay collection. This book made me feel seen in a way no other book has. There were so many authors whose experiences did not match up perfectly to mine (basically all of them, let’s be honest), but they still felt and thought things about their non-binary gender that I have, and I have such a softness in my heart right now. For transparency’s sake, I just finished the book an hour ago, and I’m trying to write the review now because if I don’t, I don’t think I ever will. If I can’t write anything down now, I don’t think there will ever be an opportunity for me to write about how this book settled into my heart, into my being, like very few books have before.

And that’s what Non-Binary Lives has done: taken up space in my heart and settled in for the long haul. To read an entire anthology about people who share an identity with you is incredibly freeing and validating, and reading it made me incredibly soft. Just thinking about buying a physical copy (…whilst on a spending ban, lmao) is making me tear up.

If that weren’t enough, I just learned so much about different things? There was an essay with two twins who were born and raised in Malta, and I learned a little bit about the country and its politics. I learned about being a Quaker from another essay, whose author is a Quaker. I learned from a number of the contributors about how, in different ways, their counseling practice is affected by their gender.

That last point — about counseling? — yeah, I want to expand on that. Not only do I feel validated because of my gender, but I also feel validated because of the surprisingly large number of counselors that contributed to the anthology. For those of you that don’t know, I am a graduate student studying clinical mental health counseling. I want to become a counselor, and I eventually want to work with the LGBTQ+ community specifically. However, before this, I wasn’t really sure what I would do or how I would go about doing it to begin with. I was worried it was too niche, and that I would have to “settle” on doing something else that would still be fulfilling, just not as much.

Those counselors that spoke about their practices? They helped with that. Even though they work in England, I felt validated and that there is space in the mental health profession for my passion and work. It has motivated me to reach out to a faculty member at my school that does similar work and ask about resources and tips. And at the end of the day? It made me feel seen as a genderqueer future counselor. It has given me hope about what my future will bring.

I literally have nothing else of substance to add to this review unless y’all want incoherent screaming, so to end this, I want to give you a few quotes that have struck a cord with me.

What does it mean to “pass”? To “pass” places the burden of intelligibility on the person who seeks to “pass”: if we are not interpreted correctly, it is because we have failed to make our meaning clear. I reject that. I reject that there is one meaning that we can make of our bodies. I reject that we have such a degree of control over the ways in which people interpret us. I reject the implication that failure to be read — failure to be seen — is our fault. Instead, all we can offer is ourselves.

Non-Binary Lives

It is both terrifying and exciting, like plunging into a swirling galaxy of other lives, an array of lives not your own but which you temporarily inhabit. Like trying on new clothes, like acting a part, like conducting some kind of grand social experiment in perception. Which “I” am I today? It is both freedom and recklessness and danger and love, love, love for every life you could have led.

Non-Binary Lives

We cannot think of gender as a linear concept with masculinity and femininity as opposing poles. Instead, I think we can conceive of gender as a galaxy, with each person determining their own location at any given time. This galaxy is home to planets and comets and shuttles and stations. Some of us will never leave our home planets, some of us will never be home, and some of us will take off and go into orbit for a while and then land again.

Non-Binary Lives

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REVIEW #71 | LAIR OF DREAMS by Libba Bray (The Diviners #2) (Mini Review)

Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)

Title: Lair of Dreams

Author: Libba Bray

Series or Standalone?: The Diviners #2

Pub. Date: 5 September 2017

Synopsis:

After a supernatural showdown with a serial killer, Evie O’Neill has outed herself as a Diviner. Now that the world knows of her ability to “read” objects, and therefore, read the past, she has become a media darling, earning the title, “America’s Sweetheart Seer.” But not everyone is so accepting of the Diviners’ abilities…

Meanwhile, mysterious deaths have been turning up in the city, victims of an unknown sleeping sickness. Can the Diviners descend into the dreamworld and catch a killer?

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • homophobia
  • xenophobia
  • racism
  • ableism
  • character death
  • sex trafficking

Representation:

  • gay MC
  • Black MCs
  • mixed (Chinese and Irish) disabled (childhood paralysis; uses crutches) ace lesbian MC
  • (Note: it isn’t declared on-page that the MC is an ace lesbian until the next book, Before the Devil Breaks You)
  • Jewish MCs

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
5/5 stars

  • after the events of The Diviners, New York has something else to fend against: a mysterious “sleeping sickness” that’s killing citizens; Evie and the other Diviners have to figure it out before it’s too late
  • I don’t really know what to say outside of….it was great!
  • Ling! Ling! Ling! Ling! I love her so much, and I’m so glad she’s a Diviner
  • her relationship with Henry is amazing, and I enjoyed seeing it develop throughout the novel. I love seeing platonic m/f relationships!
  • Evie was getting on my nerves at times, but her behavior is understandable when you think about what she’s been through
  • I thought the ending was a bit anti-climatic, but overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book; it really starts to set things up for the later books while also being interesting in its own right

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REVIEW #70 | THE SUN DOWN MOTEL by Simone St. James (Mini Review)

The Sun Down Motel

Title: The Sun Down Motel

Author: Simone St. James

Series or Standalone?: Standalone

Pub. Date: 18 February 2020

Synopsis:

The secrets lurking in a rundown roadside motel ensnare a young woman, just as they did her aunt thirty-five years before, in this new atmospheric suspense novel from the national bestselling and award-winning author of The Broken Girls.

Upstate NY, 1982. Every small town like Fell, New York, has a place like the Sun Down Motel. Some customers are from out of town, passing through on their way to someplace better. Some are locals, trying to hide their secrets. Viv Delaney works as the night clerk to pay for her move to New York City. But something isn’t right at the Sun Down, and before long she’s determined to uncover all of the secrets hidden…

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • death
  • murder
  • blood and gore
  • rape/sexual assault (not graphic)

Representation:

  • Black woman side character

⭐⭐⭐⭐ .5
4.5/5 stars

  • when Carly’s mother passes away, she decides to move to New York to figure out her aunt’s murder/disappearance. She ends up working at the same motel her aunt did right before she went missing; cue the haunted motel vibes
  • it was more mystery than horror, but I didn’t mind all that much (and I usually don’t read mysteries)
  • but dear lord, the romance was….not needed. I didn’t care for it one bit and thought that there wasn’t a huge connection between the MC and the LI
  • I really liked the ending, though! I thought it was a great twist, and I didn’t see it coming (but I like to think I’m pretty easy to please when it comes to plot twists, lol)
  • I don’t remember a ton about the characters (the horror of writing a review a month after reading the book), but I remember being invested in Viv (Carly’s aunt) and Carly’s stories and how they ended; I wasn’t let down in that regard
  • do keep in mind that there’s some anti-ace sentiment near the end of the book, where a character mentions that girls “have to have” sex at some point, which…nah. They don’t. Not everyone needs or wants to have sex
  • anyway, overall, I was pretty happy with this book, and I may look into the author’s other works

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REVIEW #69 | THE STRAIN by Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan (The Strain Trilogy #1) (Mini Review) (Audiobook)

The Strain (The Strain Trilogy, #1)

Title: The Strain

Authors: Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan

Series or Standalone?: The Strain Trilogy #1

Pub. Date: 2 June 2009

Synopsis:

A Boeing 777 arrives at JFK and is on its way across the tarmac, when it suddenly stops dead. All window shades are pulled down. All lights are out. All communication channels have gone quiet. Crews on the ground are lost for answers, but an alert goes out to the CDC. Dr. Ephraim “Eph” Goodweather, head of their Canary project, a rapid-response team that investigates biological threats, gets the call and boards the plane. What he finds makes his blood run cold.

In a pawnshop in Spanish Harlem, a former professor and survivor of the Holocaust named Abraham Setrakian knows something is happening. And he knows the time has come, that a war is brewing.

So begins a battle of mammoth proportions as the vampiric virus that has infected New York begins to spill out into the streets. Eph, who is joined by Setrakian and a motley crew of fighters, must now find a way to stop the contagion and save his city – a city that includes his wife and son – before it is too late.

Trigger/Content warnings:

  • blood and gore
  • brief POV from an abusive parent
  • fat antagonism
  • animal death (pet dog)
  • racism and xenophobia
  • abuse
  • animal abuse
  • character death
  • infant and child death
  • suicide

Representation:

  • Mexican-American Latinx man
  • Jewish Romanian man
  • Haitian woman (small role, not a major character)

⭐⭐⭐ .5
3.5/5 stars

  • when a deadly virus breaks out in the United States, CDC scientist Eph has to figure out how to stop it. Problem is, it’s not just a simple virus — it’s something older, something darker
  • it was entertaining for the most part: it didn’t blow me away, but it wasn’t atrocious. It kept me mostly engaged, and I do want to see where the rest of the trilogy goes
  • the characters were kinda boring, though, and I didn’t particularly connect with anyone. They were all pretty dry, to me, though there were a few that popped out
  • speaking of characters, though, can we talk about how Nora’s (Eph’s co-worker/maybe partner in the future, who knows) only role throughout the entire book was to be the damsel in distress love interest for Eph? Because thanks, I hate it. Literally, before the big ol’ boss fight or whatever, she said she just had to stay with Eph’s kid to take care of him. Excuse me, but why couldn’t his actual father stay with him instead? Oh I get it, it’s because we can’t have any characters in this book get shit done if they’re women. For the record, Nora is the only major character in this book who’s a woman. So. That’s cool. I guess
  • anyway, I thought the vampires themselves were pretty cool, and they’re basically the only reason I plan on continuing the series. Everything else is kinda meh

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