School for Extraterrestrial Girls: Girl on Fire by Jeremy Whitley and Jamie Noguchi

[Image ID: A panel of Tara, a 15 year old Black girl, adjusting a bracelet on her wrist. The text boxes of internal monologue read: "I eve have this bracelet. I'm not really sure how it works, but my parents say it's vital to my health to keep it on. So, I do. It's important to do as you're told." The Snapchat caption reads "That's not sus at all." End ID]

To start with a quick summary: Tara Smith was raised with her identity as a an alien hidden from her, a tall task considering she is a species of lizard that catches on fire. A morning of missed “allergy” meds and a cracked “health” bracelet leads to her powers emerging and The Government getting involved. All is not lost, however, as aliens are normal apparently, they just stay hidden from the every day human for reasons. Tara can just go to a school, where she will learn how to control her powers, simple right? Wrong. This is high school, nothing is simple or easy about high school.

There are some overarching Big Plot things going on, but they happen mostly in the background of the story, though that’s not to say they aren’t important or don’t impact it. This is primarily a story about acceptance, finding friends, and learning to love yourself, and also everyone is an alien. It’s pretty great. It takes a step beyond your traditional high school story, grappling with difficult topics and loss in various forms and allowing the characters to be messy. It is absolutely a funny and heartfelt story, but mistakes are make and their repercussions born out. This messiness feels important in an age where I’ve been seeing increasingly black-and-white takes about media.

Image ID: A comic panel of Agent Stone, an older butch woman in a suit, leading Tara, who is now green skinned and lizard like in appearance, through a hallway. Agent Stone's first speech bubble reads: "And as silly as this part is, our treaties with other worlds mandate that in a closed environment like this, we're not allowed to have co-ed housing, so..." Tara interrupts with: "Wait, alien races also freak out about the gender binary?" To which Stone replies, "Binary? There's one very conservative race out there with seven different genders. But that is a headache for another time. Now, let me introduce you to--" The Snapchat caption reads: "I'm wheezing. This is so fantastic. I was not expecting anything like this to be touched on at all." End ID.}

Furthermore, there is something very queer about loving the monstrous and learning to love yourself when your perception of yourself is monstrous. As a queer person I found it very appealing as a coming of age story because of how the story dealt with perceptions of monstrosity and the self as monstrous. I don’t know if the intention was there to use aliens as a queer allegory, but the story as a whole certainly doesn’t shy away from queerness.

For example, our lead agent, Agent Stone, is very classically butch, and we also learn from Agent Stone that the reason the schools are split into boys and girls schools isn’t because of some gender binary hang up on the part of aliens, it’s because of the treaties they have with various governments, on Earth and elsewhere, which makes so much sense it’s hilarious. To cap it all off, one girl who Tara makes friends with, soap opera obsessed Kat, is very much rooting for Tara to fall in love with another friend Misako.

Image ID: Tara, Kat and Summer are standing in a hallway, all wearing simple grey and white school uniforms. Kat, an orange cat-like alien is saying: "Next weel on interstellar BFFs. Will Tara finally be reunited with her one true love?" Tara interjects with: "I told you, Kat. We're just friends." Kat replies, "This is my fan fiction, you stay out of it!" Summer, a dark skinned girl with long pink hair and an undercut, is laughing next to them with a speech bubble that says "Ha ha ha ha." The Snapchat caption reads, "There's nothing wrong with a bit of friend fiction XD." End ID.

“Girl on Fire” manages to do so many things in such a limited amount of space and it does all of those things well. I am eagerly awaiting volume two, which is slated to come out in October 2023.

Right now, you can order volume one here and pre-order volume two here.

If you enjoy what I do and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon

Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero, written by E. Lockhart

[Image ID. The cover of Whistle: A New Gotham City Hero. A young girl with curly brown hair stands next to a white great dane in front of the Gotham skyline in blue and orange. Up the left side of the book in large lettering is the title "Whistle" and above that sits the subtitle "A New Gotham City Hero" To the right of the subtitle the author's name is listed as "New York Times Bestselling Author, E. Lockhart." Below the title is "Illustrated by Manuel Preitano." The snapchat caption reads "The first explicitly Jewish superhero in 44 years LET'S GO." End ID]

“Whistle” is a fantastic introduction for a fantastic new superhero. It is at once a classic origin story and a breath of fresh air. Willow Zimmerman and her mother have struggled to makes ends meet as her mother’s (presumably adjunct) job as a professor doesn’t give them health insurance and she hasn’t been able to work as much because she is battling cancer. At the very beginning the mother mentions stopping treatments because of medical debt and I almost had a heart attack that she was going to hold the same narrative place as Uncle Ben. She doesn’t, but that is ultimately the catalyst for what eventually lands Willow in the annals of superherodom. 

In my personal opinion, Willow was activist minded enough that I think she would have found her way into the superhero conversation eventually. I think there’s a lot to be said for those superheroes who really do stand for community, activism and change even before they get their powers, and that’s Willow in a nutshell. She’s fighting for her community from page one. 

[Image ID: In the first panel, Willow, a teenage girl with long curly brown hair, approaches a deli counter with a friend, Garfield, a Black teenage boy. Willow says to the man behind the counter "This is my new friend Garfield. We desperately need Reubens." Transition to the second panel, Willow and Garfield are sitting at a table biting into their sandwiches. Mouths full Willow intones "Grhmmm?" and Garfield replies "Umm hmmm!" The caption reads "Show interest in a girl's activism and you've got a friend for life."

What takes her from activist to superhero, however, is one Edward Nigma, former friend of her mother’s, who offers Willow financial help when he hears that her mother is ill. Whether this was truly altruistic or if there was an ulterior motive there from the beginning isn’t entirely clear, but, regardless, Willow winds up working for Nigma as a runner for his less than legal poker games, which leads to a whole lot of guilt when she finds out who Nigma is and when Willow realizes that he and Poison Ivy are targeting her community with intent to buy up all the local property to gentrify the area. 

[Image ID: A comic panel of Willow's hands working open a puzzle box with the onomatopoeia "Twist!" The narration box reads "My mom's best childhood friend, Eddie Nachtberger, renamed himself E. Nigma in high school." The snapchat caption at the bottom of the image reads, in all caps, "Welp." End ID]

However, it was none of this that first drew me to “Whistle.” I picked it up because Willow Zimmerman is the first explicitly Jewish superhero to be created by DC in 44 years and her Judaism is important in a way that clearly impacts her worldview, something we don’t always see even with the existing Jewish heroes—I’m thinking specifically of Kitty Pryde of the X-Men whose Jewishness only recently started to play a larger role in her character again. 

The only thing that gave me a very brief moment of pause was when it was stated that Willow wasn’t particularly observant, which is a trope that is frequently used as a cop out to not have to deal with any actual aspect of Judaism, but that isn’t the case here, quite the opposite actually. Willow may not be as ritually observant as her mother, but she is still undeniably Jewish and her story deals in Jewish guilt, history and community. When she is conflicted about her work for Nigma, who gave her the money to save her mother, but is also the Riddler and involved directly with the destruction of her community, she seeks solace at her local synagogue, and it is the Jewish principle of tikkun olam, repairing the world, that influences why and how she operates as a superhero once she gains her powers. 

[Image ID: In the foreground Willow is rummaging through her dresser drawer for something to wear. Behind her, in the doorway to her room, is her mother, who looks gaunt and is wearing a headscarf indicative of chemotherapy induced hair loss. Her mother says, "I think you can lie and be a good person. You know the phrase tikkum olam?"  Willow replies, "Hebrew for world repair. Kinda like social activism." Her mother continues, "So, the key thing isn't truth or lies. It's that a person feels some responsibility for fixing what's wrong in the world." The snapchat caption is a drawn out "Yes." End ID]

This is a young adult graphic novel, but it’s very enjoyable for adult adults too and I would say probably also a decent read for kids as young as middle school. I would definitely recommend it if you need more Jewish heroes in your life. You can get it directly from DC here. 

If you enjoy my content and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night by Leon Langford

The cover of StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night. Front and center is a young black man, Jordan Harris, with black hair with two blond stripes shaved into the sides. His fist is clenched in front of him and the back of his glove reads "be your own hero."

He, and the other four characters behind him are all wearing black superhero suits with gold shoulder and chest plates. Behind his left shoulder is a Black girl with long purple hair, Alicia Jackson, and her hand outstretched and to Jordan's right is a white girl with blue shoulder length hair, Sydney Asimov, who is grinning sharply with her hand under her chin.

Above Alicia is Reuben Alvarez, who has short red/black hair and his extended hand is black with red cracks, like magma breaking through cooled rock. Next to him is Cooper Greene, a white ginger boy mid stride with ears and the tail of a red panda. 

There is a white star in the center of the cover between all the figures over which the title "StarLion: Thieves of the Red Night" is placed. 

Caption: Greek mythology! Superheros! Get hype!

Fast paced and absolutely riveting, “StarLion” is the story of Jordan Harris, a young man with powers derived from the gods, who dreams of being a hero, but has been told to hide his powers and so resorts to vigilante activity in his spare time. The origin of superheroes as descended from the gods of various pantheons gives the book a unique twist that is very, very refreshing in the face of what feels like endless stream of superhero movies that seem to rehash the same plot elements and problems. It also creates a fascinating alternate history, where major historical figures, George Washington, Napoleon, etc. had superpowers, and makes for some really cool world building moments. 

Quote from the text reads: The halls of West Memorial High School were painted with various historical figures, running chronologically through history. From Zeus standing on Mount Olympus, to Julius Caesar glowing with light in Rome, to Napoleon on a winged horse, to George Washington hovering over Washington, D.C.

The caption reads: THIS is the kind of fictional history we love to see

Though the most lauded superheroes are called Olympians and the school Jordan attends (as an alternative to prison after he’s caught doing vigilante work) is called Fort Olympus, the Greek gods are not the only gods represented. My two favorite minor characters, who I really hope we see again in a sequel, are Tobe and Osin, who are descended from the African god, Ogun.

And the characters, oh boy, there’s so much to love. Everyone, villain and hero alike, is well-rounded and dynamic. Everyone has flaws, people have to work to get along, and sometimes they just don’t get along. Relationships are complex and characters’ inner conflicts are complex, and I really enjoyed the choice to have the main team be so large and so dynamic. Not one person is alike, though they all share some level of similarity, Jordan and Alicia and Sydney all have family who were or are professional superheroes, but well, let’s just say it takes bit for them to get along, and Cooper and Reuben, whose powers manifest as being creature-human hybrids, could not have more polar opposite personalities, though they share some level of struggle (with varying severity). 

Quote: "What?" Reuben shot back. "Are you telling me you all knew who his uncle was?" 
Alicia nodded. "Yeah, Jordan told me." 
Battalia nodded, too. "My dad told me." 
Cooper admitted bashfully, "He's buying my silence with toys." 

Caption: Poor Reuben, but the framing of this is hilarious.

Large casts like this can be very difficult to pull off, especially when you need to develop them all quickly, but through the use of third person omniscient narration, we get to learn quickly and effectively just where all the points of conflict between our leads comes from. This, in turn, allows for rapid movement forward as they all learn to work together and grow as friends and team mates.

While Jordan is the primary POV character, the dip in and out of other characters’ POVs also adds some really wonderful layers to the story and sets up some really great tension and suspense. This allows for a really great blend of both foreshadowing and learning information that our protagonists just don’t know. 

Quote: "I panicked. It was just the two of us and -- I was just 20-years-old, barely an adult. So I hid him. I told him to hide his powers. I - I thought about putting him in a hero school. I thought about telling him the truth. I thought about all these things, but god, it was just so much easier to hide. I told him to hide who he was. I - I hid myself and --." Khadija stopped. She was out of breath. She sunk back in her seat, a decade of lies weighing on her. "He's going to start asking questions, Darius. Questions about the Green night. Things I don't want to face." 

Caption: Oh I am intrigued [followed by three eye emojis]

Some other things I enjoyed:

1. The artwork. There is absolutely gorgeous, full-color artwork throughout the book, and the uniforms are completely unisex. There are also little character bios, which are really great. 

A picture of Jordan in his black and gold uniform punching the Red TItan in the face. A rainbow of light swirls behind him and is punctuated by pale blue and gold starbursts. The armor on the Red Titan's face is in the process of shattering. 

Caption: Oh wowza that's stunning.

2. A very diverse cast! There are multiple characters of color—Jordan and Alicia are Black and I believe Reuben is Latino—and multiple disabled characters too! Jordan’s best friend Nathan walks with crutches, and superhero Red Wing, who is Jordan’s squad leader is an accomplished hero who started his hero career already missing one arm. 

3. How very obviously their age the main five leads are. They’re teenagers and it shows, though again, in different ways for each character, no one has the same sort of background. 

There’s so much more. I could go on and on. “StarLion” is a wonderful and fun read.

The biggest warning I would give is for genre typical violence, and one description on page 362, first full paragraph on the page, of an open, compound fracture.

“StarLion: The Thieves of the Red Night” can be found in paperback here and as an ebook here. (The paperback is gorgeous and incredibly satisfying to hold.)

If you enjoy my content and would like to see more, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon!

Opal Charm: The Path to Dusk by Miri Castor

Opal Charm: The Path to Dusk by Miri Castor

Despite being the third book published in the “Opal Charm” series, “Opal Charm: The Path to Dusk” is actually a prequel that follows Opal’s older brother Jermaine as he comes into the power called Twilight that runs in the Charm family. 

However, just because this book is a prequel, it doesn’t neccessarily mean that you need to read this book first, if you haven’t already read the other two books in the series, “Opal Charm: The Path to Dawn” and “Opal Charm: Hope in Nautical Dusk.” It became a situation, in my opinion, similar to the “Redwall” books. There are multiple different ways you could read them. You could read them in the order published (“Path to Dawn” —> “Hope in Nautical Dusk” —> “Path to Dusk”),  you could read them chronologically (“Path to Dusk” —> “Path to Dawn” —> “Hope in Nautical Dusk”), or you could start with “Path to Dawn,” bounce back in time and read “Path to Dusk” and then move on to “Hope in Nautical Dusk.” Ultimately the choice is up to you.

Having read the books in the order published myself,  it’s was really great to see how the characters were different in “The Path to Dusk.” They’re younger, they haven’t experience the pain of losing a sibling and child. As the third installment, it’s retrospectively showing us the character development and personality shifts that happen following a tragedy. It was also really nice to see Jermaine and how he fit into the family dynamic, as in the other two books we only really see him as part of the other world, Athre, that he nearly died trying to save.

Another thing that I find indescribably enjoyable is the ability to catch little bits of foreshadowing, because I’ve already read the other two books, I know what the ultimate outcome of this book has to be. 

On a  structural level, I really loved how the book flowed. While it’s not a book you can really zoom through, it’s pacing is excellent and the chapters, while varying in length, never feel unmanageably long. The chapters encapsulate what they need to, without dragging into the unnecessary. 

Furthermore, LGBTQ characters abound as always. Adaeze who first appeared in “Path to Dawn” is asexual and we meet her girlfriend, Lavanda, in “Path to Dusk”! Additionally, Limbani, a disabled trans girl who first appears in “Hope in Nautical Dusk,” also makes an appearance!

If you’ve read the other books you’ll know Adaeze and Lavanda are no longer together and I have to say there was a very small part of me that was worried Lavanda was going to die, but she didn’t! They do break up but there are no buried gays.

The only warnings I can really think of at the moment are for general fantasy violence, but nothing you wouldn’t expect from this kind of young adult novel. 

“Opal Charm: The Path to Dusk” will be released on September 3rd and can be preordered here!

If you enjoy my content, please consider buying me a Kofi or supporting me on Patreon.

Opal Charm: Hope in Nautical Dusk by Miri Castor

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[Edit: Originally published March 4, 2017]

This is not a spoiler free review.

Opal Charm is back with a new adventure! Actually it’s not new per say, but it’s a new segment of her ongoing quest. We get to see Opal working with her powers a lot more than we did in the first book, how she develops and strengthens them. We also get to her her develop alongside her brother Jermaine, who for a large portion of the last book was presumed to be dead. I think Jermaine and Opal’s relationship is probably my favorite familial relationship in the book.

We also get a lot of really excellent world and language building for Athre. Opal ends up working (undercover) in a political/bureaucratic place within the government that they’re working to overthrow. Through this and several other events the politics of this world slowly gets more and more revealed to us. The same happens with language. We get snippets of the Athrenian language and culture through Opal learning them, and they get used again and again after they’re introduced. I always love it when fantasy stories have a language that’s been created for it.

Friendship is such an important theme in Hope in Nautical Dusk, just as much as it was in The Path to Dawn. Aaron and Anza/Hope continue to be these fundamental forces of friendship for Opal, but are also a source of conflict. The friendship between Aaron and Opal and Anza and Opal or crucial to the story both in character development and driving plot and it’s beautifully done.

Queer characters abound! Opal starts figuring out her sexuality (she’s bisexual), Adaeze is asexual and her former romantic partner was a girl. We’ve got two, I repeat, Two trans characters, Hinata and Limbani. Hinata’s a trans man and Limbani is a trans woman. I was super excited about that. I love them both so much.

The only big warning I’d give for this book is that there is pretty major character death. Some of this is reversed by time manipulation but some isn’t.

This book is available for preorder here. It comes out officially March 19th.

Related Reviews: Opal Charm: The Path to Dawn

@miricastor

They Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

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[Edit: Originally published May 21, 2016]

Nobody Owens, a boy raised by ghosts. When a baby is the only survivor of a family brutally murdered in their homes, he’s taken under the wing of the ghosts of an old cemetery near his house. He is named Nobody by Mrs. Owens, the wife of Mr. Owens, and self appointed mother of Nobody, or Bod for short.

Now, with the man who killed his family still at large, Bod is, for most of his early life, confined to the graveyard. He has teachers in some of the other ghosts, and then there’s his mysterious guardian Silas as well. Silas can leave the graveyard while the other ghosts can’t, so he’s the one who’s charged with getting Bod food, among other things.

Bod has many adventures in and out of the graveyard. He has encounters with ghouls, discovers the guardian of the oldest grave in the cemetery, makes friends with a girl who comes to the graveyard, and even sneaks out of the graveyard in order to try to get a headstone for his witch friend.

This is, thus far, the only Neil Gaiman book I’ve read outside of Good Omens, which is of course, a combined effort of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Therefore, I can’t really say how The Graveyard Book compares to other things that Neil Gaiman has written on his own. 

I greatly enjoyed the book. It’s creepy in the way that visiting a cemetery after dark is creepy. It’s a fun creepy that makes you want to explore more, you want to know exactly what happens to Bod, and despite the apprehension you might feel (there were several sections that had me very anxious about what would happen to Bod), you keep going.

I will always enjoy a book that has a male/female friendship that doesn’t end in romance, and Neil Gaiman delivers that in the friendship between Bod and Scarlett who visits the cemetery on a number of occasions throughout Bod’s life. At the end of the book, when Bod finally leaves the graveyard. It’s not with her, or for her. He’s just going out on his own to have his own life and adventures in the outside world. I was very pleased by that.

@neil-gaiman​

The book can be found here.

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(Notes: 1)  FILED UNDER: the graveyard bookghostshorrorfantasyya fictionfictionbooksneil gaimanharper perennialbook reviewmagic

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs

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[Edit: Originally published May 19, 2016]

The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants- I’m sorry, the wights and hollowgasts, formerly peculiars who lost their forms in an experiment to increase their powers and raise them to the level of gods, are after the Peculiar Children and Miss Peregrine who is injured and stuck in her bird form. The trouble that was brewing in book one has now come to a head!

The children, plus one Jacob, must travel through the war torn country side to London to find help for their teacher and guardian Miss Peregrine before it’s too late and she’s stuck as a bird forever. 

This is a typical book two of a trilogy (this isn’t a bad thing, it’s just a way trilogies often get set up, you can see it in “Hunger Games” too). The first book set everything up, we know what we’re dealing with, then in book two everything increases in intensity. If a series is going to have a book about traveling or searching for something, this is going to be that book (see “The Two Towers”).

The children meet more people, some who help and some who hinder. Some who die and some who don’t. Frankly I was surprised with the amount of deaths and who the deaths were. The plot twist was excellent and beautifully placed. There’s a point in the book where things are winding down and it looks like things are going to be sorted out, but then you see how many pages are left and go “That can’t possibly be right, if it’s resolved then what happens in these pages?” That’s the beauty of the plot twist, it ends the second book and prepares you for what’s next.

Update on the favorite character front, still Millard, but I have a growing fondness for Hugh. The poor boy only has one bee left.

Buy the book here.

Related reviews: Miss Peregrine’s and Library of Souls

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Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

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[Edit: Originally published May 16,  2016]

When I started reading this book I described it to a friend as a historical fantasy X-Men AU, and having finished it I still stand by that statement. There was the parallel between Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and The Xavier Institute for Gifted Youngsters that I saw and there was also the peculiars as sub species of homo sapiens (see mutants as homo superior). However, boiling it down solely to that would not be doing the book justice at all.

This book was fan-fucking-tastic. It had literally been sitting on my bookshelf for two years and I am so mad at myself for not having read it sooner.

It’s the exact sort of eerie that I adore. It’s eerie and mysterious, but it’s not smacking you over the head with grimdark either. It’s exactly as eerie and peculiar as the covers make it seem. The black and white photos that accompany the story are perfectly placed and enhance what your reading ten fold. 

The year is 1940, but no wait, it’s also 2011. September 3rd 1940, it’s a very important date. A date that holds all the answers that our young protagonist Jacob needs after the death of grandfather. “Find the bird. In the loop. On the other side of the old man’s grave. September third, 1940.” His grandfather’s last words lead him on a journey that there’s no turning back from. A group of peculiar children and their teacher, who have secrets and not-so-secrets, and there’s trouble brewing abroad that is more that just the troubles of World War 2.

I’m a huge sucker for WW2 era books, and this is the perfect blend of historical and fantasy. You get a whole bunch of weird set to a back drop of World War 2. 

Also, like I talked about at the beginning, I get the same draw from the peculiar as I do with mutants. There’s an othering there that I can identify with which allows me to latch onto the characters more tightly than I might in another book. Basically, if you really like the whole mutant metaphor thing of the X-Men, then I would highly, highly, recommend this book.

For the record, my favorite character is Millard the Invisible Boy. 

Book can be found here.

Related reviews: Hollow City and Library of Souls

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The Radiant Road by Katherine Catmull

[Edit: Originally published on April 4, 2016]

(A note about the snapchat comment: I thought the girl on the cover looked a bit like Caleb Landry Jones, who plays Sean Cassidy in X Men: First Class, Theresa is Sean’s daughter in the X Men comics.)

When is a fairy tale not a fairy tale? When it tells you that it isn’t. Such is The Radiant Road. 

Clare Macleod is returning to Ireland, to her home with the tree, after years of living in the States. She is a girl who knows and recognizes Strange things and when she comes home she remembers that her home is full of Strange. Strange or another word that could be used, magic. What other books would call “magic” The Radiant Road calls “making” creation is the key to the whole book. You must make. It doesn’t matter if it’s particularly “good” in critical terms, what matters is that it’s yours and comes from you.

Clare must learn to make again after years of pushing aside the fairies and the Strange that she knew as a child. If she doesn’t, the fairy world and the human world could be forever severed and the worlds would lose the light and love of the other. 

I loved the mistakes that Clare made. She was not the perfect heroine, yes there was a happy ending, but she still made the mistakes of a teenager and there were serious consequences to those mistakes. The mistakes that were made almost cost Clare everything that she’d worked so hard for.

The Radiant Road is recommended for ages 12 and up but I would argue that younger children could find enjoyment in this story as well. Though I suppose part of the point of the story is too remind teenagers and young adults of the magic they found as a child. That was certainly what I took away from it. I remember as a little boy I would put out these dainty little tea sets with water and food to try and attract fairies to visit me. I even built a fairy home at my grandmother’s house, but I haven’t done either of those things for a long time. I think this book serves as a reminder that just because we grow up we don’t have to outgrow the magic we had as children. 

All in all the book is beautifully written and there is never a boring moment. As I read it I felt that it was written like a book that should move slowly, however, it moved along very smoothly once you started reading. There was just too much happening for it not to. 

Once again what I’ve read is an uncorrected proof, but the book is for sale and I would highly recommend picking up a copy.

The Snaps:

Titans by Victoria Scott

[Edit: Originally published on March 28, 2016]

Are you tired of “a girl and her horse” stories? Well, okay, this is a story about a girl and her horse, but it’s a biracial girl named Astrid and a robotic horse named Padlock. The robotic horses are the Titans that give the book it’s name. It’s a beautifully crafted story and it’s really hard not to fall in love with every single character. Even if you’re sure you’re going to despise them. My favorite character ended up being someone I thought for sure was going to be the antagonist of the book, but in the end he wasn’t.  

Titans is a story about relationships. The relationships that you have with family and friends, as well as relationships between competitors and strangers, and people from different socio-economic classes.

While romantic relationships are certainly touched on, there is no proper love interest for Astrid. The guy who you think might be her love interest? Spoiler alert he ends up with the her bff, which I thought was a pleasant twist. 

One of the largest themes in the book is the class divide, between upper and lower class. Titan racing is for the upper class. It costs a lot of money to buy a Titan and enter the races, but then Astrid, who is not from that upper echelon gets her chance to race. The feel of the story really kind of reminds me of the movie A League of Their Own, about the start of the women’s baseball league. It’s not quite an underdog story or a story about an outsider trying to fit in, it’s more complicated than that. 

Again what I have is an advanced readers copy, but the book is now for sale and can be found right here.