ARC review – The Reckless Oath We Made by Bryn Greenwood

Caidyn's review (1)

The Reckless Oath We Made

Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review!


CW: drug use, drug dealing, car accident, kidnapping, mental illness, hoarding, and death

I’m a big fan of Bryn Greenwood. Her first book, All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, blew me away. It was a fantastic book and I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for her next book. When I saw it on Netgalley, I clicked that button so fast. And now I’ve read it!

As usual, Greenwood looks at the uglier side of Kansas. Drugs, hoarding, white supremacy, jail. She takes characters who maybe aren’t ones you would root for, but you find yourself drawn into their stories in a way that you can’t deny is compelling. She’s really just fantastic and I cannot emphasize enough how quickly you should pick her up. If you were turned off by the idea of her first novel, this one is far less polarizing.

The story follows Zhorza, or Zee, after another bad thing has happened in her life. Her father was in jail growing up, her mother’s a hoarder, her relationship with her sister is iffy, she has been hit by a car, and she deals drugs on the side to make ends meet. Her sister, LaReigne, has been kidnapped after convicts escape from the jail she volunteers at. This leaves her young son, Marcus, in Zee’s hands while they wait to find out what’s going on.

Then, there’s Gentry. Gentry is schizophrenic and autistic. He believes he’s a knight s and has multiple voices that talk to him, including a witch and a black (i.e. evil/bad) knight. Two years ago, he met Zee when she was on her way to physical therapy after her car accident. And, he was told that he’s to be her knight and champion for the rest of his days. All very chivalric (and I loved the research that Greenwood put into that to make it believable) and great.

I loved how this book shows mental illness — especially schizophrenia since people with it are so often characterized as a danger to themselves and others — and how it can be managed without medication. Those medications, whether they’re typical or atypical antipsychotics, have a lot of harsh side effects. Yes, some people need them. But that shouldn’t be the first option unless the person is in a full-blown psychotic episode and needs to be brought back to figure out how to manage it best. And I just loved how Gentry was Gentry and, really, everyone learned to accept him for who he was despite his oddities.

I do wish that the story had a more specific plot. The story finally made sense at the end, especially when I reflected on the title. But, other than that, it felt more meandering. It was a lot like Greenwood’s first novel. There’s no huge plot — and I think I’m used to distinctive plots because of reading lots of fantasy; those usually have a definite goal — and it’s told through multiple perspectives. Zee, Gentry, Marcus, some detectives, some people they meet along the way of the story.

But boy was it beautiful. It was just a great read and I could sink into it. The characters were as fantastic as I expected and Greenwood’s writing was just as amazing. I’m pretty sure that this book is going to be liked and I can’t wait to put it in a spot on my shelves!

Talk to me!
Have you read anything by Greenwood yet?
Is this one on your TBR?

Book review – With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Caidyn's review (1)

With the Fire on High


CW: teen pregnancy, death of a mother, father abandonment, and girl-on-girl hate

First thing I want to say is that this isn’t my culture and I’m not an ownvoices reviewer. I will not be able to pick up on the nuances of culture, although I really appreciated and loved reading the Afro-Latinx culture and how rich it is.

Emoni is a teen mother to a three-year-old, Emma/Babygirl, juggling school, work, and her love of cooking. Her mother died and her father went back to Puerto Rico, so she was raised by her grandmother, ‘Buela. Ever since Emoni was a child, she loved cooking and she works magic with it. She has a tense relationship with Tyrone, Babygirl’s father, but manages it. Her best friend, Angelica, has recently come out as gay and is living her best life with her girlfriend, Lauren.

I really, really enjoyed this book. I loved the themes of cooking and following your dreams and balancing responsibilities. And, for Emoni, she’s just seventeen. She’s a baby herself by my standards. And, damn, she does a great job. I loved reading about the generational support, something that I don’t always have in my family. I’m vaguely close with all my grandparents and I hate asking them for anything since that’s just not what our family does.

The story also isn’t a romance. Or, it has a side plot of a romance, but it’s more about the importance of family. I really loved that. It made it easier for me to read the more “romantic” parts. Plus, Emoni puts her daughter and her needs first. That’s something I loved. It was just about family and a young woman leaning on her family to get through these hard times.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the girl-on-girl hate, though. Along with the whole “pretty girls are mean” trope. There’s a character called Pretty Leslie and I was tired of how she was mean and her one identifier was that she was pretty. Honestly, it was annoying. I did enjoy how things ended up between them, but I just wasn’t a fan. I understood it. I was in high school, after all. I know how you hate attractive and popular people. But it got tiring as the book went on.

One thing I really connected with was Emoni’s love of cooking. I don’t talk about it a lot, but each Saturday for almost a decade now have cooked together. My mom’s not a cook and doesn’t like it, but my dad loves cooking. He passed that on to me because I love cooking too. Each Saturday, we come up with some big meal so when my mom gets home from work we sit down and eat. It’s really nice. I love cooking. While I don’t have the intuition like Emoni does, cooking is still a huge passion for me.

The long and short of this review is that I really enjoyed it. There were aspects that I didn’t like, but I loved the theme of family and that it was very light on the romance. I’d definitely revisit this book and read another Acevedo book.

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Have you read this?
What did you think?

Book review – George by Alex Gino

Caidyn's review (1)



CW: gender dysphoria, deadnaming, and bullying

I’m waayyyy late to this book.

You might ask why. I’m trans. I’m pretty open about that being a part of my life. So, why did I wait so long to read a book that’s being lauded as a heartfelt book about a transkid?

Because I’ve been burned many times by books that are labeled as that and about transpeople. Half of the time, it’s a sobfest of all the hard issues that transpeople face, including deadnaming, transphobia, bullying, outing, death, suicidal ideation, and extreme descriptions of gender dysphoria. Sometimes, it even misrepresents the people since the big authors who write these stories aren’t trans. They’re cis. All while trans authors are struggling to get their ownvoices works published.

Just once, I want a happy book with a transperson in it.

I finally have this book!

Now, I know the book is called “George” and that “George” is the MC’s birth name. But, she refers to herself as Melissa and that’s her chosen name. So, she’s Melissa in this review and always will be Melissa. Think of it as someone deciding not to call me Caidyn because that’s not my “real name”… even though legally it’s been changed to that and that’s the name I’ve lived in for years.

As basically all of you know, this book is about a transgirl and her coming out experience. Melissa desperately wants to play Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web. Her best friend is the super supportive and amazing Kelly. Her mom doesn’t quite get it and she has an older brother, Scott, who doesn’t know either.

And this is how she comes out to them and finally gets seen as the girl that she is.

It was incredibly sweet to read. As I said, there’s deadnaming in it (mainly because Melissa hasn’t told everyone the name she’s chosen) and definitely descriptions of gender dysphoria, but, overall, this was a happy book. It was a great book to read during Pride and I’m incredibly happy that it’s available for young kids to read and perhaps put a better name to what they’re feeling. It’s also easy to wrap your head around as a parent and an adult. It doesn’t dumb things down. It just makes it easier to understand.

This is one of those books that I wish that I’d had as a kid. Now, I never felt gender dysphoria as a child. I was pretty chill in myself. More friends that were boys than girls for a long time. My mom didn’t enforce any gender things on me, so I could play with what I wanted to. (I loved cars. I had a bff, Andy, in preschool and we’d play with them. I got bitten over a toy car there, too. Those were the days.) I also played dress-up and I’d fluidly go between male and female characters. One second I’d be playing Harry, then I’d go to Hermione, then I’d be Aladdin or Mogli.

But, being trans wasn’t a thing that was talked about. I think the first time I was exposed to transpeople was when I was 13 — so, a few years before I came out to myself and my family — and in Thailand. A transwoman there was in a shop we were shopping in because we didn’t pack what we needed so we were buying jeans. She was gorgeous and I didn’t have a clue that she was trans. But my parents did and they told me later.

I didn’t grow up with it in the news. I didn’t grow up like these kids are. And, maybe, if I’d had this book or more exposure I’d have realized sooner. So, it makes me incredibly happy that this book exists for younger kids so they can have a name for how they’re feeling and expressing themselves. Also, it’s a great book for parents to use to introduce their kids to more diverse topics and to help their kids understand people who aren’t like them.

I’d definitely recommend this book to other people. It was just fantastic in so many ways — supportive friends, school environment, and, in the end, family — and it’s the happy trans book that I’ve been searching for.

Talk to me!
Have you read this? What did you think?
Do you have any other happy trans books you’d recommend?

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.

“A health to the bride!” Sir John Seymour smiled and raised his goblet as the company echoed his toast.

Jane sipped her wine, watching as her new sister-in-law blushed prettily. Edward seemed besotted with his new wife. At seventeen, Cathrine was a very comely girl, a year younger than he. Jane had been surprised at how practiced she was at the art of coquetry, and how warmly the men were looking at her. Even Father seemed to be under her spell.

I would have kept going but holy shit that was mindnumbing. And, it went on in that same vein. So, obviously not a great start to the book, but it’s interesting me because, well, it’s Tudor!

And it’s a relatively recent release.

It is…

Jane Seymour, the Haunted Queen

If you’ve stuck around this blog long enough, you know that Weir and I have an iffy relationship. The past two books I’ve read by her, I’ve hated. So, this book is one of those that I’m a little worried about. I want to like it, but I have a feeling that something bad could happen with this book.

Also, it got a bit better after that opener. At least for me.

That spring, rain fell in great sweeping gusts that rattled the rooftops. Water found its way into the smallest cracks and undermined the sturdiest foundations. Chunks of land that had been steady for generations fell like slag heaps on the roads below, taking houses and cards and swimming pools down with them. Trees fell over, crashed into power lines; electricity was lost. Rivers flooded their banks, washed across yards, ruined homes. People who loved each other snapped and fights erupted as the water rose and the rain continued. 

Welcome back to Chantel picks a book she wants to read but will not actually start reading it. 

Seriously though, I have no idea why I continue to be haunted by a reading slump. My TBR is very large (not nearly as large as Caidyn’s) and there are so many books I want to read. So many books and I’m sad that my brain isn’t into it. 

However, I present another book that I would love to read and I want to share it with you all. 

It is…

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah
The Great Alone cover

I think everyone knows about our love of Book of the Month, and if not you should follow us on Instagram @bwreviewsblog. That was smooth wasn’t it? Anyway, this was a book I got as an add-on because it sounded incredibly interesting to me. Honestly, the first paragraph of this book is gripping and I already love the writing. I’m eager to see if I still enjoy the book. 

That is if I ever get around to reading it. 

Talk to us!

What do you think of the two books we chose? Would you read them?