On the romance blog Kat mentioned that the thing with enemies-to-lovers is that if it is not done well you end up hating both characters and Wild Is The Witch gets real close.
Wild is the Witch is set in a contemporary world where witches live out in the open. The story follows Iris , a young witch who has recently settled in the Pacific Northwest.…
Redemptor continues Tarisai story as she takes her place as Aritsar’s Empress. Before she can build a better country she will need to build her own Council of Eleven and survive her upcoming journey through the underworld.
Again I was taken in by Ifukeo’s imagination and her ability to build big elaborate mythologies. I usually believe in Death of The Author when I read a book, but I’ve watched a few of Ifueko’s TikToks about this book, so I knew going in that aspects of this book were metaphors for living with depression and mental illness. I think Ifeuko pull tshis off really well.
Unfortunately, this book has a few weaknesses that brought it down to me. The most glaring one is that this book really should have been a trilogy. There was way too much to cram into this one book.
To me, Tarisa’s journey through the underworld should have been its own book, instead of the last ~20% of this book. . This journey is built up as this big harrowing experience and I was shocked at how short this section was. That said, these were some of my favorite chapters. Ifeuko’s version of the underworld was bleak and haunting. She built out this very detailed realm that could have absolutely been explored in one book
A majority of the book is spent with Tarisai gathering her own Council of Eleven which means we are introduced to 11 new characters in addition to spending time with Tarisai’s original Council of Eleven. The original council gets a ton more page time and I think we are supposed to feel attached to them… but it’s hard because there were so many other people to meet.
Out of all the fifty-eleven characters we are introduced to my favorite was King Zuri, the lofty young royal who isn’t all he seems. I thought he was the breakout of all the side characters. *Slight spoiler* I think there was sequel bait hinted about this character. We shall see.
I listened to this on audio and there was a name mentioned in the acknowledgment that makes me think that there is a second narrator doing the singing?
If you enjoy the first book and want to live in the world of Raybearer again then I would recommend Redemptor, if you are more there for the characters and relationships this might not work for you.
Wrapping up 2021 with my last few reviews
Feminist AF : A Guide To Crushing Girlhood
Every now and then I will categorize a YA book as ‘a book I wish I had in high school’. I would categorize this non-fiction guide to modern-day feminism as ‘a book I wish I had freshman year of college’. I had a hard time understanding the concept of feminism back then.
This guide is an outstanding introduction to intersectional feminism for young people. It provides a ton of framework and gives readers room to make their own choices on how they want to apply the concepts. This guide is also careful to be gender-inclusive. I think my biggest criticism is that this pointedly inclusive book is subtitled ‘A Guide to Crushing Girlhood. I’m sure it has something to do with marketing but I feel like this will alienate part of the intended audience.
Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko
Let me start by saying Joniece Abbott-Pratt deserves all the flowers for the way she nailed the singing in this book. I have NEVER heard a narrator give so much authentic energy and rhythm to verse and poetry while performing. I wonder if she and Ifueko worked it out together.
Raybearer is YA fantasy set in the expansive and diverse Aritsar empire. The vast empire is ruled by the Emperor, who rules with his council of 11—all of whom are connected by the magic of the Ray.
It’s time for the Emperor’s son, Dayo, to find his council of 11 and among them is Tarisai, a girl who knows nothing of her past but is doing everything to fight her destiny—killing Dayo. Ifukeo creates a vast world that is easy to fall into. There are so many intricate details to this story populated by a full cast of characters with their own motivations and secrets. I’ve been following Ifueko on TikTok and I’m a little afraid of the second book because I can tell it’s going to be extremely emotional and she is going to put her characters through it. I don’t read a ton of YA fantasy, so I’m glad this was the one I picked up this year!
White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson
Tiffany Jackson masters horror and suspense in this terrifying twist on the haunting house tale. Mari’s newly blended family is ready for a fresh start in Cedarville, but the dilapidated community and looming prisons are a far cry from her alternative hippie West Coast lifestyle. Cedarville was a thriving Black neighborhood before until something dark worked its way in and now something wants Mari and her family out. Jackson’s ability to work systemic Black oppression into a haunted house tale gave me serious Joran Peele vibes. Black horror is having a renaissance right now and I feel like teens who are into it will enjoy this book
Mari is a California girl and audiobook narrator Marcella Cox truly embodied that vibe with her easy voice. Mari is one of those “unlikeable” and flawed characters– she’s had issues with anxiety and drugs, and often uses this as an excuse to make selfish decisions. I’m all for a flawed character. I did feel like the setting needed to be a bit more anchored. The history of Cedarville is pivotal to the plot but we don’t get enough of a timeline. I couldn’t tell what decade certain events happened in. This is my first Jackson book and I noticed the book ended abruptly leaving a few loose ends. Is this like a thing she does? Either way I’m more than ready to read more of her books. Jackson dreams up some truly eerie and frightening imagery that was too scary for me!
For All Time by Shanna Miles
Tamar knows her illness is going to overtake her and end her newfound romance with the patient and charming Fayard. But their romance is far from over because Tamar and Fayard have fallen in love across multiple lives and universes.
And all those lives are about to collide.
This was one of those books with a strange but well-executed concept. I thought I knew where this book was going but it takes a hard left turn as we abandon the main plot and explore the couple’s previous lives from Pre-colonial Africa to the far reaches of outer space. I didn’t 100% understand the last few minutes but I liked how creative and experimental it was.
This is a book I think is being slept on because it defies categorization in a time when people seem to want that. This book gets marketed as timeless YA Romance, but I’d say don’t go in expecting a YA romance to take the forefront. Also, I’m sorry, but this is marketed as Outlander meets The Sun is Also A Star…I just don’t think that’s it. I don’t know how Miles came up with this concept but I’m excited to see what else she has in store.
CW (via author’s website) : inferred (and highly condemned) pedophilia.
Prim and proper Enne arrives in the sinful city of New Reynes to find for her missing mother, but the city has other plans. Enne is quickly pulled in by Levi Glaysier, an alluring young street lord who helps her navigate the city and uncover its darkest secrets.
It was okay.
New Reynes seems to be an homage to early 20th century Monaco. Amanda Foody infuses this setting with what started off as a pretty basic magical system and history that becomes harder to follow as more layers are added.…
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen was one of my favorite YA authors as a teen but I haven’t read much outside of my old faves. This is a quasi-reread because I started this book years ago but never finished it. l picked it up again because I noticed the audiobook had been re-recorded by Rebecca Soler, one of my faves. I’m not sure why this book and Someone Like You have new audiobooks but I’m not complaining because Soler is a great narrator!
I can see why this book is a fan favorite, it’s about a straight laced teen who learns it’s okay to have a little bit of chaos in life. I think there is a certain freedom in learning that if something goes wrong it’s not the end of the world. Plus there is the attractive, artsy, reformed bad boy with a heart of gold.
But I thought this book was a little twee and overly earnest at times, particularly the reveal of the birthday present. I mean….wouldn’t Wes have known about it? Speaking of Wes, he really wasn’t giving me much. I didn’t understand what exactly he saw in Macy.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
It’s been almost a decade (how???) since I read this and, for the most part, it holds up well to re-reading. I mean, there is definitely some phrasing around Romani people and disabilities we may not use today. Going into the book knowing how it ends was a fun experience, I noticed reveals in the text I hadn’t noticed the first time around. In the interview at the end Taylor says she didn’t see herself as a storyteller before this book and I literally don’t see how. The way she weaves this story together is incredible. I hadn’t remembered that the Akiva/Madrigal backstory is told completely out of order but it all comes together perfectly in the end.
This time around I found myself imagining Karou looking a little like Anna Taylor Joy because of her big doe-like eyes. I also sort of saw the chimera as being like the animals in Bojack Horseman, I had such a hard time imagining them and like, how their mouths moved when I first read it.
And look, at the end of the day this book is a colonizer romance and there is a bunch of Fantastical Racism but I think Taylor meets the challenge. There isn’t a lot of both side-ism and it’s clear in the text that the seraphim are colonizers and colonizers are always in the wrong.
I think this is the perfect series to binge, I am so amped to finish this series! I can’t believe I waited 3 years for the next one….it’s also occurring to me that I haven’t listened to another Hvam audiobook since this one. I need to change that….it looks like she recorded new versions of the Vampire Academy audiobooks
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This book has had one of the longest hype trains I’ve ever seen in modern YA. I read it 3 years after the initial hype and now, 3 years after that, it’s all over TikTok and social media thanks to the TV adaptation.
I think what draws readers to this book is Bardguo’s compelling character work. Kaz gets talked about a lot as a myth maker but all of our protagonists have had to mythmake themselves to survive their individual trauma. Bardugo creates stakes for each character (well, except Wylan) on how the mission is their chance at breaking free from what haunts them.
The audiobook holds up well to a re-listen, I could listen while working because I knew the contours of the character and plot. I don’t think I gave Fred Berman enough praise the first time around. When it came to voicing Kaz he understood the assignment. Kaz’s rough voice is such a predominant feature of his character and I think that’s why Freddy Carter’s Kaz felt like he was missing an edge in the television show. Speaking of Kaz, in my original review I said he was a Draco In Leather Pants, but he’s not. I read this before I’d read the original trilogy and the Darkling is the Draco In Leather Pants