Rose City Comic Con 2017

(Chantel)

As I announced in last week’s First Lines Friday, I attended Rose City Comic Con in Portland. I know it was a week ago, but it had been a long week getting back to work and I didn’t have a lot of motivation to do anything. However, I’ve recovered a bit and I’m ready to talk about some of the things I saw and bought at RCCC.

The con went from Friday until Sunday and while I went Friday and Saturday, I needed to recover before work on Monday so I didn’t attend on Sunday. Sometimes you just need a rest day.

Just for shits and giggles, here is a selfie from Friday and this is the shirt I was wearing. It was the official RCCC shirt from last year and I love this shirt. I don’t wear it outside of any cons and I was excited to wear it again.

Here is a selfie from Saturday and the shirt I was wearing.

Now, I love this shirt. It’s one of my favorite shirts, if not my favorite shirt. It’s puffy, it’s the Tardis, and it’s fantastic. I bought this at Wizard World Comic Con in February from the booth of J&R Apparels. I linked to their website if you want to check out other puffy shirts they have. Their shirts are really cool and super comfy. I highly recommend.

Also, my eyes look weird in that picture, but I’m gonna roll with it.

Saturday is also the day I bought the majority of prints and books. I didn’t get much so this is a fairly small haul, but I want to share some of the things with you and will include links to the artist if possible.

Books: 

Niobe: She is Life #1 

Written by: Amandla Stenberg & Sebastian A. Jones

Illustrated by: Ashley A. Woods & Darrell May

Edited by: Joshua Cozine

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I had not heard about Niobe at all before, but it’s a graphic novel from Stranger Comics and I was sold when I was told the concept of the graphic novel. The art on the front is gorgeous enough and it was written by Amandla Stenberg from The Hunger Games and Everything, Everything. I didn’t get to meet Amandla, the autographs on the graphic novel are from the Sebastian A. Jones and Darrell May. I look forward to reading this in the future. I am trying to read more graphic novels (since I’m not really a fan of comics and graphic novels…yet) so it makes sense that I would walk away from a Comic-Con with at least one graphic novel.

Ardulum: First Don by J.S. Fields

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I think one of the highlights of the convention for me was going to a panel of queer authors and listening to them talk about how important representation on the page is. I went to the booth they were at after another panel. Not only was I happy to get LGBTQ+ book recommendations I’d never heard of before, but to meet queer authors that had books published was a lot of fun. I ended up buying Ardulum from J.S. Fields, but I definitely wanted to buy L.M. Pierce’s book, Trans Liberty Riot Brigade and while I didn’t I do plan on buying/reading in the future. I am always for buying and promoting queer author’s works. 

Prints:

Artist: Jason W. Christman

I really love minimalist prints and this R2-D2 and Tardis print are two of my favorites. I knew I wasn’t walking away from this booth without getting the R2-D2 print. The Tardis print is absolutely gorgeous and I can’t wait to get frames for these and hang them up. 

Artist: Bruce Brenneise

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These two prints caught my eye as I was walking around, trying my best to look around me while everyone else was trying to move forward. The landscape is gorgeous and I love the ship in the top one. These prints are absolutely stunning in my opinion and I’m very glad I was able to buy these from the artist who was kind enough to hold them for me until I was ready to leave so I didn’t have to carry them all day. 

And finally: 

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This year I got the Stranger Things themed Comic-Con shirt. I knew the moment I saw it, I wanted it. They actually had a large variety of shirts this year, but this was the one I wanted. I could’ve gotten the Sasquatch one to match last year’s, but I like having something completely different. Even though I didn’t get to wear it this year, I will wear it next year for sure. 

That is everything I bought at Comic-Con, however, I want to show off one more thing. Even though I didn’t meet any celebrities this year or get any autographs, I went to a panel and I’ll just leave these pictures here. No matter how hard they might be to see. 

I don’t know how good those look, but if you don’t recognize them that is James and Oliver Phelps who played Fred and George Weasley in the Harry Potter films. It was really fun to watch them answer questions and talk about their experiences during, before, and after the Harry Potter films. 

The reason I posted about my weekend at Comic-Con was to demonstrate that someone who isn’t good with crowds and feels very socially awkward can go to a large event like this and still enjoy themselves. It’s definitely not for everyone and Saturday I felt very overwhelmed, yet I still had a great time. One day, I’d like to find a con buddy, but I’m not going to let that stop me from doing something I enjoy. 

 

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Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

Fortitude Smashed cover

(Chantel)

I received an ARC for this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

DNF @ 25%

1/5 – I’ve been dreading writing this review, I knew I was going to DNF this book for over a week and didn’t want to review it. I don’t like doing negative reviews and don’t like doing them for ARCs. I’m just ripping this band-aid off so I can move on.

Here is a text I sent Caidyn before reading this book and shows what I expected when reading it: “It sounds like a sci-fi love story that’s hella gay so I’m optimistic.”

A futuristic world with an m/m romance sounds like it would be right up my alley, but ultimately I was disappointed.

My main issue with this book was the lack of sci-fi and abundance of romance. I like more plot with my romance, not the other way around. Things between the characters progressed very quickly and while they never uttered the word love, I felt like it would come out of someone’s mouth soon. This just isn’t the kind of book I’m interested in reading.

Now, I’m a sucker for queer books with queer characters, but I couldn’t get into either character. One was a young Detective named Shannon and he is the youngest in the history of the police department he works for, and he did things throughout that didn’t make sense for a detective who is dedicated to his work. Like not turn in a known thief. The other character was a thief named Aiden. This is the main premise of the book, that two opposites come together and fall in love. My issue with Aiden was he wasn’t this clever thief going around stealing art. The premise of a thief and a cop falling in love was negated by the fact he only tried to steal one time. He had stolen in the past, but after he met Shannon that desire seemed to go away, I don’t know if that changed or not throughout the rest of the book, but that was my experience. I would’ve liked some moral ambiguity with both characters because Aiden seemed more like a sweetheart rather than a morally gray character. That alone would’ve made this more interesting.

There were also inconsistencies with the relationship between Aiden and his brother. It seemed that they had a strained relationship and Aiden deliberately avoids him but then when they meet up for dinner they are very friendly and brotherly with each other. I felt like I had missed something where their relationship had improved.

Very early on the book established the world they lived in with Camellia Clocks and Rose Roads. These are terms we have to interpret what they mean, but 25% into the book I had no idea how these terms came to mean what they meant and I had no idea why this world had established that everyone has a soulmate. I would’ve liked that explanation early on so that I wouldn’t be thinking about it after the characters got together.

That just outlines the issues I had with the book and ultimately why I stopped reading it. I didn’t mean for it to be wholly negative, but I just wasn’t that into it.

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

The Seafarer's Kiss cover


“As the weapon sank, the relieved whales rose. Each of them gently brushed my hip as they took a breath, thanking me in their soft, dignified language of touch.” (16)


(Chantel)

4.5/5 – I absolutely love The Little Mermaid (the Disney movie) and I enjoy the movie as it is. When I heard about a queer retelling of The Little Mermaid with a bisexual main character, I was very much into it. And I loved this book. I read it in about eight hours and that’s rare for me. (Not straight through mind you — the season finale of Game of Thrones was on.) I’m not the fastest reader out there, but I could not stop reading this book. It was only 212 pages and there was so much to enjoy about it. So, prepare for a lot of gushing and a tiny bit of nitpicking.

I absolutely loved the setting and the Norse mythology weaved into this story. I don’t know anything about Norse mythology, but I’m suddenly interested. The writing in this book was gorgeous. The descriptions of the glacier the merpeople lived on just made me want to be a part of that world. There was something calming and serene about this book, and I don’t even like the ocean. I can’t even swim, but dammit I wanted to be a mermaid after reading this book.

Now, I’d like to talk about a few different relationships in this book because I feel like they were at the core of this story. First, I’d like to talk about Ersel and her mother. I teared up during a scene with these two and their relationship was so wonderful. I’ll admit, I thought about my own relationship with my mom and that made it even more emotional for me. I would say more but that would lead to spoilers and I really want people to go read this book. In fact, I’m going to be vague because I don’t want to give too much away.

Second, I’d like to talk about Ersel and Ragna. It’s no secret there is an f/f romance in this book. If it’s a surprise to you, well surprise! There’s a scene, again being vague, that was so beautiful and I was blown away. Maybe it’s just because I’m a romantic person, but I loved it. Also, even though their relationship escalated quickly, Ersel acknowledged she didn’t know if things would work out. It was something worth giving a chance and I liked that. It’s not insta-love, but there is potential for love to blossom.

Lastly, I’d like to talk about Ersel and Havamel. Now, I liked Havamel and yet I’m not a huge fan of his role in the plot. This was one of my few nitpicks and something that bothers me in general. In the beginning of the book, Ersel is already upset with him and considers their friendship over. In my mind, a romance between them isn’t going to happen, but then to have him do something so wrong that Ersel might not forgive him was unnecessary because he’s not a bad person. I think showing their friendship throughout would’ve been nice because as I’ve said before, two people can be friends without the potential for romance.

I should also talk about Loki. In this book specifically, Loki’s gender is not male nor female but both and neither at the same time. I’m not labeling them specifically because I don’t know the specific label. Basically, they go back and forth between male and female forms and it’s amazing. However, Loki wasn’t the most likable character by a long shot. I’m sure that’s part of Loki’s mythology, they are clever and funny, but also awful. Horrible things happen because of Loki. Personally, I just loved the idea of a character with no fixed gender and everyone accepted them as such. However, I acknowledge that I’m cisgender and I might feel completely different if I wasn’t.

I just want to continue talking about this book and encouraging others to read it. It’s a fantasy book with an f/f romance and body positivity. I need more books like this. I want more books with a folklore I’m unfamiliar with and a world I can just sink into. It’s a great time to read LGBTQ+ books right now and I wish I had more books like this when I was a teenager.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee

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Caidyn also read Gentleman’s Guide this month and already reviewed it. If you want his opinion on the book, here it is: Caidyn’s Review.


“It occurs to me suddenly, as I look down the deck to where Percy’s sitting with his fiddle and two of the men, who are singing a tune for him in hopes he can pick up the melody, that this must be the first time in his life he’s around men who look like him. Men who don’t assume he’s worth less than them just because of the color of his skin. Among the pirates, he has nothing to prove.” (406)


4/5 – It’s rare that I read a book that’s recently come out. I’ve been burned before when it came to books that were hyped. However, I’m glad I didn’t wait to read this. It wasn’t the book I thought it would be, but sometimes that’s perfectly fine. There were some things that were unexpected, some things were predictable, and at the core of it were these two boys who wouldn’t tell each other how they feel.

Let’s just get this out of the way, I’m not a huge fan of angst at all. I found the angst in this book annoying. Especially because it was clear they had feelings for each other, but it wasn’t clear to them. This just isn’t a trope I’m fond of. It went on for so long and it got tired quick. Without it, I might have rated it higher. That being said, this book features an openly bisexual male, and his best friend/love interest Percy is black. That’s a lot more than most YA books have and I love that about this book.

Also, I absolutely adored Percy, he was my favorite character throughout the book. He was just so precious and adorable. It was a relief to see that they didn’t shy away from the prejudice he would’ve faced in that time because of his skin color.

Monty was complex and I still don’t have my feelings on him sorted out. I think I like him, ultimately, but I didn’t like him at first. His lack of self-awareness really bothered me and he made several decisions that were very selfish. However, there is far more under the surface when it comes to Monty and he has a nice character arc and ends the book being a character I like. His love for Percy was his one redeeming quality, but again it took a while for that to amount to anything. In the end, all his decisions were true to his character and his growth throughout didn’t feel unnatural or forced in any way. It felt realistic.

Felicity, by comparison, was a lot of fun. A determined, smart woman in the 18th century who didn’t take Monty’s shit. Sign me up! She provided a lot of humor and a nice relief from the angst. If she hadn’t been there this book would’ve been harder to deal with. I cannot wait to read the next book which I believe is from her point of view. Not to mention, I’ve heard murmurings that she’s asexual and I’m absolutely down for that if it’s true.

The plot of the book takes quite a few twists and turns and there was a lot I didn’t expect out of it. While I wasn’t a huge fan of the plot, it was the reason a lot of the things I did like occurred. Plus, the adventure starts with Monty doing something incredibly stupid, which was in character for him at that point in the book. It was a fun, quirky adventure which I wasn’t expecting. Let’s just say it wasn’t one’s typical Grand Tour.

Overall, I didn’t love this book, but I think it’s a great addition to the collection of LGBTQ+ books out there. I’m not surprised this book is popular because it’s a lot of fun and I thought the representation was fantastic. It’s also hilarious. If we have more books like this, I’ll be happy to keep reading them.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera

Juliet Takes a Breath cover

“What did it feel like to be so committed to something that you’d die for it? I didn’t feel that way that about anything. Not about being gay or trying to become a feminist, nothing.” (134)


(Chantel)

4.5/5 – This book follows Juliet from The Bronx when she gets the opportunity to do an internship with her favorite author in Portland, Oregon. I’m not going to lie, the fact that a majority of this book takes place in Portland is a huge reason why I picked it up. I wanted to see how an author used Portland as a backdrop to a story because Portland is my home and has been for many years. I think it was used perfectly as a setting for someone who is coming to terms with their sexuality while simultaneously opening her up to new ways of thinking about the world and herself. Not to mention, Powell’s was mentioned multiple times and I can’t walk in there without buying something because I have no self-control. There was something exciting about reading what an outsider thought about Portland. And yes, it’s true, the buses smell that bad.

Juliet comes from a place so drastically different from Portland. Juliet sees Portland as a hippie, queer haven and while I think that’s a little exaggerated, just like the show Portlandia, there is some truth there. However, Juliet isn’t just a fish out of water in Portland, she is a fish out of water in both the LGBTQ+ and Feminist communities. She arrives in Portland and has an encounter where someone asks her what her preferred gender pronouns are and what she identifies as. She is so overwhelmed by the interaction because she has no idea what those terms mean. Back home, she hasn’t been able to talk about being a lesbian with other people because she was in the closet. Throughout the book, she ends up finding people to relate to on numerous levels.

It’s hard to straighten out my thoughts about this book because it made me think hard. I’ve never been so stumped by a book and had so many thoughts jumbling around about race and feminism. Ultimately, I really enjoyed this book. It was entertaining and Juliet was a great narrator with tons of humor. I related a lot to her. I was someone who was so sure of who I was when I was 18-19, even before then, and then one college course changed that completely. Now at 25, I don’t feel that sure about anything because people change. Juliet experienced this over one summer and I experienced over the course of a college term, things change quickly, and you can either deny it or lean into it.

I will say there is some levity in this book with one of my favorite romances I’ve read about recently. Which says a lot because I like my queer romances. While doing research at the library (if I’m not mistaken Rivera was referring to the Central Library downtown) Juliet meets a cute girl named Kira. I was totally invested in these two and while the romance didn’t overtake the book I loved it. In fact, I wanted more but that’s because I’m a sucker for romances.

This book will make people uncomfortable, and I won’t deny that. I am half black, but I grew up with my mom who is white. I was never fully immersed in my dad’s world or culture. This is something I’ve struggled with but ultimately, I don’t think my race matters on the opinion of this book and instead of commenting on what the book provides I’d recommend going and reading. If nothing else, it’ll make you think.

My final words on this book? Come for the deep dive into feminism and race, stay for the adorable romance.

Taproot by Keezy Young

Taproot cover

(Chantel)

I received an ARC of Taproot from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. 

3/5 – This is the first ARC I’ve ever gotten from Netgalley and the first ARC I’m reviewing. That’s pretty exciting for me. I always found the idea of reading and reviewing a book that wasn’t out yet was a bit intimidating, so I picked this short, cute graphic novel as my first. Here we go!

This graphic novel centers around a ghost named Blue and his best friend Hamel who can see ghosts when nobody else can. Blue also happens to secretly be in love with Hamel. In addition to dealing with his feelings, he must deal with unusual events happening around him and Hamel which leads him to make an important decision.

Simply put, I thought this graphic novel was adorable. Hamel was a giant teddy bear who loved flowers and Blue was a ghost who was in love with his best friend, despite his attempts to appear as if he isn’t. This provides multiple misunderstandings between the two as is expected. I thought the art style gave the book a sense of whimsy and complimented the graphic novel’s tone well. At its core, it was a sweet love story between two young men. It made me smile.

My issue with the story lies in the supernatural elements that come in around halfway through the book. I felt that it wasn’t properly explained what was going on and I struggled to comprehend what was happening. I don’t usually gravitate toward books with supernatural elements, so there were some terms that were unfamiliar to me. Someone who is familiar with reading books similar to this might not have this issue. However, it was confusing to me. Some more explanation of the term necromancer in the context of the story would be helpful.

Overall, I’d recommend this graphic novel. It’s a quick read and I think it’ll make anyone smile who enjoys a good love story.

 

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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“I always saw the book as a kind of love story, with Liesel at its center.” – Markus Zusak


This was the book Caidyn assigned to me for July as part of our book club. We decided to choose our favorite book to assign the other to read.

(Chantel)

5/5 – I feel some shame at having taken so long to read this book. Then again, I’m not always drawn to books I know will break my heart. I was about halfway through this behemoth of a book when I decided what my rating was going to be. This was the easiest five stars rating I’ve ever given. It is THE best book I’ve read all year and I don’t know if another book will come close.

The book takes place during World War II, in Germany. Almost immediately, I had a sense of dread. Before I even opened the book, I dreaded what would happen to these characters. That dread followed me through to the last page. What made matters worse, was how attached I became to each character who came into Liesel’s life. The relationships she had with Hans, Max, and Rudy were so powerful and there was so much love between them even if it was never said out loud. It was the little things. The way the characters would do selfless things for each other without a second thought, and the characters came alive against this very real and tragic backdrop of WWII.

Death is a character I want to talk about separate from everyone else. Death is telling this story of Liesel, the book thief, and brings such a unique perspective on humans. Of course, Death is a fictional character created by a human, but that doesn’t invalidate anything Death says in my opinion. Throughout the book, Death isn’t just someone who takes people’s souls to whatever comes after life, but Death sees things that we as humans might not. At the same time, Death feels things the same way we do. This was almost a story told from Liesel’s perspective, according to Zusak, but instead, he kept coming back to the narrator being Death. Having a distance and yet intimate narrator such as Death, someone who sees people at their weakest moment, that was a brilliant decision.

This book made me smile, made me laugh, made me angry, and made me cry. I felt so many emotions throughout this book and yet, I found the ending uplifting. I mean, that doesn’t even mention that the book is divided into parts and each part is the title of a book significant to Liesel. That blew my mind when I figured that out. It’s a minute detail, but it adds something to the book.

This book is gorgeous. Some of the lines Zusak wrote are breathtaking. I was a sobbing mess at the end of this book and it was still breathtaking. I would highly recommend this book. The Holocaust and World War II is a heavy subject and it’s not the easiest read, so I understand it’s not a book for everyone. More than its setting, this is a book about the distinct types of love one girl has for the people in her life. To me, that’s what made the book worth the read.

Queens of Geek by Jen Wilde

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“Maybe it’s not just me. Maybe everyone is just as on edge as I am. Maybe they just know how to hide it better – not just from others, but from themselves.” (204)


(Chantel)

Edit 07/11/17: I completely failed to mention that Caidyn bought this for me as a birthday gift, and as a friend and blog partner he knows me well. 

5/5 – I fell in love with this book immediately. This is a novel about three best friends from Australia who go to SupaCon (think Comic-Con), which feature two different perspectives and two love stories. Charlie is a Chinese-Australian YouTuber who is an up- and-coming actress and is openly bisexual. Taylor is her best friend accompanying her and she is plus sized, autistic, and has anxiety. There is so much representation in this book and I even think that Jamie, the third character in this best friend trio is Hispanic but there’s only a slight hint to it. That doesn’t even include Charlie’s love interest Alyssa who is black. Some might disagree, but the overwhelming amount of representation didn’t feel forced. These felt like normal people to me and I could absolutely relate to some of the things both Charlie and Taylor were going through in the book.

There is so much representation in this book and I even think that Jamie, the third character in this best friend trio is Hispanic but there’s only a slight hint to it. That doesn’t even include Charlie’s love interest Alyssa who is black. Some might disagree, but the overwhelming amount of representation didn’t feel forced. These felt like normal people to me and I could absolutely relate to some of the things both Charlie and Taylor were going through in the book.

This book was written for someone like me. By that I mean, I’m a pop culture fanatic and I’m a huge fangirl, just in the last year alone I went to two comic-cons in my hometown and I’m going to another this year. I love the fandom culture and I felt like a convention was the perfect setting for a book.

I also love queer books as has been made clear several times on the blog and in the books, I review, but I felt like this book was more than just “a queer book”. I absolutely think queer characters are important, but the fact that one of the main characters is bisexual isn’t a huge deal. It’s just part of who she is. It was way more about fandom than anything. That being said, I was a sucker for both romances. The building romance between Taylor and Jamie was adorable. Whereas, Charlie and Alyssa’s romance was heated.

Back when I reviewed Every Heart a Doorway, I talked about how important representation was, especially when it’s done right, and how I’d forgotten that. This book just hit that home even more.

I definitely related to Taylor’s social anxiety and conventions are places that have large crowds. That’s overwhelming sometimes and exhausting to navigate. This felt very authentic and that’s because this is own voices when it comes to bisexual, anxiety, and autistic representation. I felt like it was handled very well.

This book tackles issues like biphobia, anxiety, autism, self-esteem, and body image but overall, I felt this was a feel-good book and I haven’t been so happy reading a book all year. It’s not perfect, some might say it’s cheesy or predictable, some of the plot points were too convenient, but I wasn’t concerned with this book’s plot. It was about the characters and how I related to them. This was a very personal book for me.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

Every Heart a Doorway cover

“Kade was possibly the most beautiful boy she’d ever seen. She wanted to spend hours sitting with him and talking about pointless things. She wanted to feel his hand against her skin, to know that his presence was absolute and focused entirely on her. The trouble was, it never seemed to end there, and that was as far as she was willing to go.” (121)


(Chantel)

4/5Every Heart a Doorway is a novella that takes place at a school for children who have gone through portals into other worlds and get forced back to our world for one reason or another and they are desperate to return to the world where they felt they belonged.

This book is beautiful. From the cover to the writing, it’s gorgeous. The writing is lyrical and I had to read it slowly so that I could take it in. Even though this book is less than 200 pages, take your time reading it and really focus on the writing. It’s worth slowing down and seeing which words McGuire chooses. There is very wonderful imagery as well as dark and disturbing imagery, some which I wasn’t expecting. This book is dark and I wasn’t expecting that going in.

If you’ve looked back at the past reviews I’ve done, you’ll see that most of the books I’ve reviewed are primarily LGBTQ+ focused with LGBTQ+ main characters. This is no exception, but this book has an asexual main character, Nancy. Something I haven’t ever read about in a book and it was beautifully done. As someone who identifies as asexual, I felt like it was well represented and I could relate to how Nancy was feeling. The differences between “asexual” and “aromantic” being explained just had me shouting YES. This is something I crave and am desperate for more of in books.

Then there was a trans character named Kade, and he was my favorite character. I know there are two more books and I don’t believe either are about him but there needs to be a book about him. Then there is the interesting dynamic of Jack and Jill who are identical twins who present very differently gender wise. Jack wears button downs and bowties where Jill wears dresses, this is very interesting considering their background and I know there is more of their story in Down Among the Sticks and Bones which I’m very excited to read when I can get my hands on it.

My main issue with this book was that it’s a novella. It’s really short and when you have your eyes opened up to a new world and all of these characters who visited said worlds, you want to see them all. Again, I’m aware of two more books in the series, but I want to know far more about the worlds that were visited without having to wait a year for the next book to come out. I’m impatient that way. With that said, this is a standalone novella, you can read Every Heart a Doorway and never read any of the others. Although, I don’t know how you wouldn’t crave more from this world and these characters. I will read the other two books, Down Among the Sticks and Bones and Beneath the Sugar Sky when it comes out because I love this world that was created even if we get little snippets at a time.

It’s a wonderful thing to see yourself represented in a book and I think that’s something I don’t always realize, but to see your inner thoughts in print in someone else’s book coming from someone else’s mind, that means everything.

 

The Edge of the Abyss by Emily Skrutskie

The Edge of the Abyss cover

(Chantel)

Here’s my link to The Abyss Surrounds Us the first book in this duology.

3/5 – When I finished The Abyss Surrounds Us, I was so excited to read the sequel and it felt like it took forever until the book came into my possession. I needed to figure out where Cas’s journey was going to take her next after the end of the last book. There was some moral ambiguity that I couldn’t get enough of in the first book and I wasn’t disappointed when it continued on in this book. In fact, they go more in depth and addressed something that didn’t come up in the first book. How her decisions in the first book affected her family. I really liked seeing that paid off and the contrast between her and Swift was even more obvious in this book.

For those who haven’t read the first book, and looking back on my review I didn’t actually give a summary of the book, here was the general premise: Cassandra Leung is a reckoner trainer who ends up kidnapped by pirates on her first solo mission. When Cas is forced to train an illegal reckoner pup for Santa Elena, the Captain who kidnapped her, she’s put in a compromising position of loyalty. This was her arc in the first book, and it continues on in the second book.

This was probably the most compelling part of the book. I cared more about her struggle with morality and loyalty than I did with the actual plot or the romance (we’ll get to that), but I also thought it was something that was a huge part of her character and I felt like it needed to be explored and I wasn’t disappointed there.

What I was disappointed with was the relationship with Cas and Swift. I praised the first book for not allowing the two to enter into a relationship with a clear power imbalance. This is eliminated, but the second book did the wonderful trope of will they/won’t they. Actually, it was more of a tug-of-war where they would have a scene together where they were kissing or sleeping next to each other and then wouldn’t speak for two chapters because one of them was upset with the other. It got to the point where I was annoyed. I liked where their relationship ended up at the end, it wasn’t happily ever after but I felt it fit with their relationship and how up in the air it had been for two books now.

The ending, however, was frustrating. It was clear where the book was heading and I wasn’t sure how things were going to wrap up. My issue was it wrapped up too neatly for my tastes. It was disappointing for a duology that had explored different arcs than ones I was used to in YA. The end just felt like everything was neatly wrapped up with a bow like it only is in movies and books. I’m not saying I would’ve liked an ending where everyone died, but a more realistic ending or at least one that wasn’t so predictable and neat.

The first book was far more superior and while I enjoyed parts of this one, it’s not a five-star book by any means and I felt the ending was beneath the duology as a whole.