Hello again!! We’re just really on a roll here, aren’t we? I’m really pleased not only because I’ve gotten this month’s spreads done early again, but because September’s inspiration is one of my favorite books of the year. In honor of the Bitch Queen herself, as well as the release of The Ikessar Falcon this month, I give you one of my most ambitious journal themes thus far.Read more
Title: We Are Not Free
Author: Traci Chee
Publication Date: September 1, 2020
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Range: YA/NA
Content warnings: some war and death, incarceration and violence
Special thank you to Kate @ Your Tita Kate and the publisher for organizing this blog tour and providing me a physical ARC of the book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All quotes are from an advance copy and are subject to change in final publication.
Title: The Bone Shard Daughter
Author: Andrea Stewart
Publication Date: September 8th, 2020
Source: Physical ARC via publisher
Age Range & Genre: Adult, fantasy, LGBTQ+
Content warnings: violence, death, blood, human/animal experimentation
Synopsis: The emperor’s reign has lasted for decades, his mastery of bone shard magic powering the animal-like constructs that maintain law and order. But now his rule is failing, and revolution is sweeping across the Empire’s many islands.
Lin is the emperor’s daughter and spends her days trapped in a palace of locked doors and dark secrets. When her father refuses to recognise her as heir to the throne, she vows to prove her worth by mastering the forbidden art of bone shard magic.
Yet such power carries a great cost, and when the revolution reaches the gates of the palace, Lin must decide how far she is willing to go to claim her birthright – and save her people.
Yeah, so, this series may or may not be my new obsession because good Lord am I invested. I’d heard from friends that The Bone Shard Daughter wouldn’t be quite how it seemed, but even then, I still had no idea what I was getting myself into – and it was all even more intriguing than I could have ever expected.
And I would show him that even broken daughters could wield power.Andrea Stewart, The Bone Shard Daughter
While The Bone Shard Daughter is indeed Lin’s story, it is also the story of Jovis, Phalue, Ranami, and Sand. All five of these characters provide their own perspectives throughout the book, with Lin and Jovis’s chapters being told in first person, and Phalue, Ranami, and Sand’s being told in third. The shift between first person narration and third can initially be jarring, but Andrea Stewart executes the transition in a way that seems seamless. Although it took me a good 10+ chapters or so to acclimate and familiarize myself with their names and voices, the differing perspectives were masterfully handled in order to craft a phenomenal mystery full of layered twists and turns.
Lin is possibly one of the most fascinating characters I’ve ever read about. She is simultaneously dealing with severe memory loss and competing with her father’s foster son to see who can unlock all of the keys to secret rooms in the palace and master bone shard magic first. Due to her memory loss and the fact that her father has clear expectations of who she should be, rather than who she is, Lin struggles to develop a sense of self. As she slowly discovers more about the palace and the secrets it holds, she learns more about herself, her father, and their fraught history.
If Lin is the character I found to be the most fascinating, I think Jovis would have to be my favorite. There’s something about the exhausted, reluctant hero who refuses to think of himself as a hero that I automatically love. Jovis’s chapters also had the perk of including Mephisolou (Mephi for short), an adorable talking creature that Jovis sort of accidentally rescues and subsequently bonds with. Their bond is so organic and strong, and I can’t wait to learn more about Mephi and his mysterious origins in the sequel.
Phalue and Ranami are interesting both individually and within their relationship to each other, and their dynamic has intricacies that make Stewart’s overall commentary on imperialism and classism hit even harder. I loved seeing an established sapphic relationship that is also blatantly flawed in a fantasy, where the people in the relationship obviously love each other deeply but have conflicting ideals and beliefs wrought by ignorance and privilege. All of the characters are easy to root for, but I might have been rooting for Phalue the hardest, hoping that she could unlearn her internalized biases and the lies that she wanted to believe about government.
Even though she had the fewest chapters in her perspective, Sand is absolutely crucial to the story. Stuck on an island without her memories of who she is or how she got there, Stewart lays the groundwork to help you guess at Sand’s true identity, and the reveal still knocked me off my feet.
A made thing could grow and change beyond its original purposes.Andrea Stewart, The Bone Shard Daughter
Speaking of how Stewart lays the groundwork for guessing at plot twists – The Bone Shard Daughter is chock-full of twists that left my head spinning. Every time I thought I’d finally figured out what Stewart was hinting at, another layer was peeled back and I was completely taken by surprise all over again. The best twists are the ones that are satisfying, where you can clearly see several paths to reasonable conclusions and yet, no one but the author truly knows where the story is leading.
Stewart pulls absolutely no punches when it comes to imperialism and privilege. Two of our leading narratives are characters in positions of great power and privilege, who have to expand their perspectives beyond their own sheltered lives and recognize the hardships that nearly everyone else is facing. As a governor’s daughter, Phalue is infuriating even as you root for her to grow because yes, she is extremely ignorant, but her rhetoric is so utterly familiar. We’ve all heard people justify exploitation, injustice, inequality, by insisting that people choose that life, that they don’t have to remain stuck in their circumstances and can rise above them, that the world is fair and people have equal opportunities if only they just take advantage of them. It’s an exhausting mindset to encounter and try to undo, and I love that Stewart shows that process through Phalue and Ranami’s relationship.
I adored The Bone Shard Daughter much more than I expected, which can probably be credited to the book’s fairly slow start, but that’s also to be expected of adult fantasies. With a beautifully layered plot and the development of the main characters, I think Stewart set herself up for a truly stunning sequel that further explores the effects of imperialism and how nations are rebuilt in the aftermath – if they’re rebuilt at all. Considering what Stewart managed to do in the first book alone, I can’t wait to see what she does next.
About the Author
Andrea Stewart is the daughter of immigrants, and was raised in a number of places across the United States. Her parents always emphasized science and education, so she spent her childhood immersed in Star Trek and odd-smelling library books.
When her (admittedly ambitious) dreams of becoming a dragon slayer didn’t pan out, she instead turned to writing books. She now lives in sunny California, and in addition to writing, can be found herding cats, looking at birds, and falling down research rabbit holes.
Links for The Bone Shard Daughter
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Don’t forget to check out the rest of the tour!
Alright, bear with me folks, because I dove deep into critical race theory during my undergrad and I have a Lot to say.
I’m sure that almost 100% of the time, white bloggers look to support books by marginalized authors with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, due to the undeniable, incontestable truth that they are white, they wade into unknown waters, often without equipping themselves with basic knowledge through a little research. At first glance, this might seem harmless – after all, I truly don’t expect anyone to know everything there is to know about every diverse culture in the world – but how hard is it to put in a little effort? Or, even better, when you aren’t educated about something, why not defer to someone who does know what they’re talking about and share what they have to say instead?
And yet, despite the fact that white bloggers lack the range (truly no shade intended – this is just a matter of life experience) to fairly and accurately review and promote diverse books, they are praised for doing the bare minimum in advocating for marginalized voices. This is a pervasive problem that extends far beyond the book community, in which people insist on speaking up on behalf of marginalized voices, and end up speaking over them instead. This redirects the focus of the audience to white people instead of the people of color they claim they are trying to help, and as a result, we see the platforms of white bloggers grow rapidly while the platforms of people of color remain more or less stagnant.Read more
Thank you to Swoon Reads for sending me a physical ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.Read more
Thank you to NetGalley for the e-ARC. All opinions expressed are my own.
Title: Against the Loveless World
Author: Susan Abulhawa
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Atria Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Age Range: NA – Adult
Content Warning: sexual violence and rape, war/violence, miscarriage/abortion, death
Synopsis: As Nahr sits, locked away in solitary confinement, she spends her days reflecting on the dramatic events that landed her in prison in a country she barely knows. Born in Kuwait in the 70s to Palestinian refugees, she dreamed of falling in love with the perfect man, raising children, and possibly opening her own beauty salon. Instead, the man she thinks she loves jilts her after a brief marriage, her family teeters on the brink of poverty, she’s forced to prostitute herself, and the US invasion of Iraq makes her a refugee, as her parents had been. After trekking through another temporary home in Jordan, she lands in Palestine, where she finally makes a home, falls in love, and her destiny unfolds under Israeli occupation. Nahr’s subversive humor and moral ambiguity will resonate with fans of My Sister, The Serial Killer, and her dark, contemporary struggle places her as the perfect sister to Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties.
I wanted to leave and love and live something else.
This book was beautiful and haunting and raw, all at the same time. I could stop there, and I could write a whole essay on it, and there still wouldn’t be enough words, much less accurate ones that quite sum up what Against the Loveless World made me feel. The writing itself can make you hate the world, and fall in love with it, all in the same breath. Telling the story of Nahr as she relives her life through memories, Susan Abulhawa has easily become one of my favorites and I can’t wait to read her other stories.
Nahr goes back and forth from life in what she calls The Cube, and the many different lives of Nahr before The Cube. Following the history of Israeli occupation of Palestine, Nahr’s life is a combination of both individual and collective resistance against the multiple oppressive parties in her life; Israel and its military, the patriarchy, and colonialism being the main few. On the larger scale, I love this novel because of its storytelling and overall shock that came with the experience of reading it. From someone who will never quite understand this particular experience, and understanding that reading about it will never suffice, discomfort is a very small price to pay. Horrible people are everywhere. This is for the people who don’t read books they can’t relate to – you do not have to relate to it to understand and become a better person. I think reading this absolutely heightened my sense of empathy and the greater need for it, and for that reason, I highly recommend for the writing itself; Abulhawa’s genius lies in creating a world that resonates with a select few, but is still able to permeate the worlds around it because she understands the significance of interconnection.
Along with the larger, overall experience of the book, I was deeply taken by Nahr herself. Nahr refuses to be a victim of a world that tries to paint her otherwise. Between older Nahr in The Cube and the young Nahr from lifetimes ago, she is funny and clever and honest and I couldn’t help but love her. While her story follows the events that got her to The Cube in the first place, we also meet the people that added to her journey, both the good and the bad, and it becomes crystal clear that Nahr knows that life involves both, as well as the in between. She develops a complicated relationship with sex and intimacy, with dance and the country that her mom and grandma call home, and with the people who have played their parts in a system that hurt her. And with her wit and sharp tongue, Nahr bares it all. Israeli-occupied Palestine is a cruel place for her, even when she’s not physically in Palestine, and from what it sounds like at the end, I’d say that Nahr embraces it all. There’s something extremely contagious about the passion with which Nahr and her peers speak about the world; it’s not just about the big things, but little resistances, little victories, and little joys, too, no matter how they turn out.
When I first started reading, I didn’t know what I would call it. I was leaning towards calling it an historical fiction/nonfiction-inspired, but now as I’m looking back and writing this review, it becomes a love story, though a very twisted, cruel one at times. As the title suggests, Nahr is literally fighting against a loveless world, and as much as she has every right to recount only the loveless moments in her life, she doesn’t. She also tells stories of hope and the tiny slivers of love she does find – in her country, in her family, in her people, and the pain and complication that has always followed. Nahr understands what it means to love her country and its people, as well as to love others individually (including herself). Against the Loveless World is stunning. I’m not confident that this review does it justice at all, but I hope to read it again soon and further develop some of my own thoughts that I haven’t been able to phrase for you here.
If you wanna experience Against the Loveless World for yourself, you can find links here:
With all the love I can muster in an occasionally loveless world,
Thank you to Kristina for sending me an ARC via twitter! All opinions expressed are my own.
Title: Now That I’ve Found You
Author: Kristina Forest
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Age Range: YA
Synopsis: Following in the footsteps of her überfamous grandma, eighteen-year-old Evie Jones is poised to be Hollywood’s next big star. That is until a close friend’s betrayal leads to her being blacklisted . . .
Fortunately, Evie knows just the thing to save her floundering career: a public appearance with America’s most beloved actress—her grandma Gigi, aka the Evelyn Conaway. The only problem? Gigi is a recluse who’s been out of the limelight for almost twenty years. Days before Evie plans to present her grandma with an honorary award in front of Hollywood’s elite, Gigi does the unthinkable: she disappears.
With time running out and her comeback on the line, Evie reluctantly enlists the help of the last person to see Gigi before she vanished: Milo Williams, a cute musician Evie isn’t sure she can trust. As Evie and Milo conduct a wild manhunt across New York City, romance and adventure abound while Evie makes some surprising discoveries about her grandma—and herself.
I first heard about Kristina through my cousin, who absolutely loved Kristina’s first novel, I Wanna Be Where You Are. Needless to say, when I saw that Kristina was doing a giveaway of Now That I’ve Found You through Twitter, I was super excited to receive this ARC and definitely wasn’t disappointed!
At first glance, Evie is exactly what she seems to be: a successful young actress who books beauty campaigns and movie roles for the biggest names in the business. Her life seems perfect and scripted. At that point, I felt a little meh just because I couldn’t find anything to relate to at all (which is fair considering I am, in fact, not a famous teen actress), but I was determined to stick it out because I just had that feeling that things were gonna get better. And once everything went down hill, I found what I was looking for: Evie’s journey in finding something bigger than herself.
While Now That I’ve Found You is definitely a cutesy contemporary novel, it’s also about how Evie finds things that keep her grounded, something that she lost when she found fame. I don’t know if it’s my earth rising or my general disposition in life, but I love all the small things that remind MC’s who they are/were before some huge thing. There’s something so freakin’ beautifully ironic about finding things that keep you grounded and that being growth. *Ahem* sorry for that rant, but as you can see, we’re very passionate about character development here at Love Yo Shelf. While the larger events of the novel surround Evie and Milo, which automatically primed me for contemporary teenage romance, it was so much more than that!!! The reason she initially doesn’t trust him isn’t because of some past experience with a romantic interest, but because of her personal knowledge on how friendship with famous people doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Evie finds a friend in him after a heartbreaking betrayal with another friend, and in doing so, finds herself learning what friendship looks like by watching Milo with his own close friends, who are nothing but welcoming to her in every way she isn’t used to.
On top of Evie finding a family in Milo and his world, she reconnects with her own. Evie’s relationship with her also-famous grandmother holds its own despite the fact that GiGi is absent for a good chunk of the novel. Evie faces this inner conflict of wanting to live up to GiGi’s name, as well as making her proud off-screen, but as of right now, it seems like one comes at the cost of the other. Watching Evie search for her changing relationship with her grandmother, albeit through some unprecedented sources like Milo, resulted in not only Evie finding what it’s like to be a teenager, but also reclaiming who she wants to become both on and off-screen. I mean, come on! Navigating changing relationships with the adults in our lives is never easy, much less navigating a new relationship with ourselves, and Now That I’ve Found You highlights the messy, fulfilling beauty of both.
Overall, I think the time that I read this was very relevant to how much I liked it; being a recent college grad during quarantine in my multi-generational home definitely gave me a lot to consider while I was reading. While it wasn’t originally on my reading radar, I’m grateful to have found Now That I’ve Found You.
If you’d like a cute contemporary story that makes you wanna go hug your grandma, you can find Now That I’ve Found You at the links below!
Add it on Goodreads!
If I suddenly go MIA, check the lost and found. As always,
It’s been a while since I’ve liked any of my bullet journal spreads (or done enough of them to actually post), so I was extremely pleased with myself when I not only made spreads for the whole month, but I made them early. It helps that this month was inspired by one of Love Yo Shelf’s all time faves and one of my current reads, Unravel the Dusk (going amazing btw, lots of ouch (: ). This month’s inspiration was none other than Elizabeth Lim’s Spin the Dawn. Scroll on to see my spin (ahahahahhaha) on this amazing story.Read more