The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

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The Underground Railroad was the group book for #DiverseAthon, which was held from the 22nd to the 29th of January 2017!

This important and very needed readathon is being hosted by Christina Marie from Christina Marie, Joce from squibblesreads, Simon from SavidgeReads, Monica from shemightbemonica, Mara from BookMarauder, and Naz from Read Diverse Books!

“And America, too, is a delusion, the grandest one of all. The white race believes–believes with all its heart–that it is their right to take the land. To kill Indians. Make war. Enslave their brothers. This nation shouldn’t exist, if there is any justice in the world, for its foundations are murder, theft, and cruelty. Yet here we are.”

This powerful and moving story starts out by introducing us to a woman named Ajarry, who was uprooted and stolen from West Africa and sold into American slavery. Later, she has a daughter named Mabel who is somewhat famous for being a successful runaway slave, but the victory is heavy on the heart, because she left behind her own daughter, Cora.

The story’s main protagonist is Cora, and we follow her through an actual underground railroad, not metaphorical. Every stop Cora makes feels like a brand new world, but the fear of being caught never truly subsides.

Trigger warnings: graphic violence, abuse, and rape. And MILD/MINIMUM SPOILER WARNING: nothing major, but please use caution before reading if you’d like to go into this story completely blank!

“Stolen bodies working stolen land. It was an engine that did not stop, its hungry boiler fed with blood.”

Georgia – This is where Cora starts her life. She is dealing with a broken heart from abandonment, and unwilling to get close to anyone. We get to see, first hand, how truly terrible slavery is and how some scars don’t leave a mark. Others get many, many, cruel and unjust marks. This is truly the most heartbreaking of all the places Cora lives. The Randall Plantation is a place of nightmares, and I hope that everyone reading this story realizes that this was an actual reality in our country for so many. Thankfully, another slave named Caesar asks Cora to run away with him, because people believe that Cora is a good luck charm because of her mother’s successful getaway.

South Carolina – This is the first stop with Caesar, and the first time Cora is lulled into a false sense of security. Sadly, not all of the blacks are treated as well as Cora was. We are also introduced to a slave catcher named Ridgeway, and Cora is forced to run, but this time by herself.

North Carolina – This time Cora is by herself when she is taken in by a couple that is very scared that they will eventually be caught housing slaves. Martin and Ethel Wells make Cora’s time with them feel like a prison, until Ridgeway finds her again.

Tennessee – Ridgeway takes Cora here, because he has another slave to catch. Cora finds out that slave owners and catchers care a great deal about the message of bringing a slave back to their owner/plantation, because it relays a message to other slaves and diminishes their hopes of running away, where Cora’s mom gave very many slaves hope. Cora ends up fleeing with a man named Royal.

Indiana – This is the best place Cora has named a home. She is living on the Valentine’s farm with a large number of escaped slaves that are just trying to make a new life for themselves. Cora shares a house with a mother and a young daughter who she grows very attached to. Cora also allows herself to fall in love and begins healing from the years of abuse, trauma, and fear she has had to live. Cora, also, falls in love with reading and education, and I felt such happiness and hope for her. But as we learned from South Carolina, it is dangerous to ever feel safe as a runaway slave, even if your plantation owner has died. Cora is again forced to flee, this time leaving many pieces of her heart behind.

The next, and second to last, chapter of this book is in Cora’s mother’s point of view. It was heartbreaking, and I could barely read with the tears that were constantly blocking my vision. If this book ended on this chapter it would have been an easy five stars. My heart breaks for Ajarry, Mabel, Cora, and every single family that has been impacted by the horrible violence and violations from slavery.

Also, the prose and metaphors in this book are truly in a league of their own. Colson Whitehead has crafted such a unique and important book, and his talent seeps through and onto the pages. I will recommend this to everyone and anyone.

But I truly disliked the last chapter of this book. I’m not saying that every book needs a happy ending, but I’m not the biggest fan of open ended endings. From being such an impactful and meaningful story to then juxtaposing a bland and open-ended ending just felt wrong. I could completely be in the minority with this feeling, but I’ve been thinking about this ending for a couple days and it upsets me every time.

The Mime Order (The Bone Season #2) by Samantha Shannon

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1.) The Bone Season ★★★

Would me writing “I hate Jaxon Hall” over and over again be an acceptable review? Because that’s honestly how I’m feeling right about now.

“A boy who begged for books and pens as often as he did for coin. A boy with arms torn to ribbons by fingernails, plotting his escape from poverty.”

The Mime Order picks up right where the The Bone Season leaves off, and I mean exactly how it leaves off: our group is on the train, and their escape from Sheol I didn’t go quite as planned. I was filled with so much excitement; I couldn’t wait to see what would happen when Paige and the gang returned to London! Yet, to my remorseful surprise, after the action packed opener the book felt pretty stagnant for quite some time.

My biggest issue with this book: Warden didn’t show up until after 40% of the way through this book. Like, if a ton of exciting things were going on during that 40% to make up for Paige and Warden’s amazing dynamic being missing than I would have been fine, but the story only started getting good, in my opinion, once Warden showed up. The first 40% was dull and uneventful. Yeah, later those dull and uneventful moments became something great, but it was still a little bit of work to force myself to read on.

The best part of this book: The exploration of how this shady government group is deceiving everyone. They are spewing lies and hate, and making everyone afraid of each other, while trying to cover-up that they are working alongside an even worse evil.

“Hope is the lifeblood of revolution. Without it, we are nothing but ash, waiting for the wind to take us.”

The problems I had with information-dumping in The Bone Season subsided completely. These characters and this alternative London is starting to feel like home, and I really enjoyed that.

As far as new characters and locations, I loved reading about Jacob’s Island and the Jacobites. It felt just like Ketterdam from Six of Crows to me. I was so enthralled so fast, and I didn’t nearly get enough of it. Please, give me more Wynn Jacob and more of this island in book three!

I love the ragtag group that is known as The Seven Seals. Well, obviously I have issues with one of those Seals (and two others at the end), but I love their dynamic as a whole. The fourth scrimmage in the history of the London Syndicate gave me all the feels. Like, I reread that scene three times because I freaking loved it that much. The angst, the betrayal, the quick thinking, the cleaver mechanics, the waiting to see who chose what side, I loved it all!

The ending, for as much as it brought me rage, was amazing. It made me so thankful I received an ARC of the The Song Rising, and it made me want to ignore all of my scheduled February reading and start it immediately. So, that is pretty impressive and quite the hype I’m putting on it. Hopefully, it doesn’t let me down, because I have super high hopes for it and the Black Moth!

“Words are everything. Words give wings even to those who have been stamped upon, broken beyond all hope of repair.”

The Backstagers #1 by James Tynion IV & Rian Sygh

ARC provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I requested this because I thought it was the bind-up volume to be released in July. I normally do not review single issue comics, because it’s too difficult to get a good reading of them, especially the first volume in an entire series. That being said, I still really loved this, and I have even higher hopes for the actual first volume.

Basically, this is Lumberjanes with an all boy cast. And the best thing about this issue, like Lumberjanes, is the amazing representation in this very diverse cast of kids. I’m all for representation, and it is good to note that the writer, James Tynion IV, is openly Bisexual and the artist, Rian Sygh, is openly Trans.

And I very openly support Own Voices.

In this issue we are introduced to our main character, Jory, who has recently moved to a new city, which means he is now going to a new school. His new school is an all-boys school, and Jory isn’t the biggest fan of it so far. He feels like an outcast, isn’t making any friends, and just longs for a place to belong like many of us do when we are in high school. He thinks he will never find that place, until he stumbles upon the stage crew of the theater club!

These Backstagers make Jory feel like he finally has a home to escape to. Oh, and they also stumble upon some secret doorways to different places that look magical, so I’m all for reading more and exploring those.

Obviously the theme of being yourself and valuing your individuality is very present in this comic, but it also talks about finding others and creating healthy and lasting friendships of value, and that’s something really important to me. I for sure want to venture deeper into this world and see what else it has to offer. The art is beautiful, the characters are wonderful, and the representation is amazing. I really can’t recommend this enough.

Feversong (Fever, #9) by Karen Marie Moning

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1.) Darkfever ★★★★
*.) The Alpha Alternative: JZB Sex Scene
2.) Bloodfever ★★★
3.) Faefever ★★★
4.) Dreamfever ★★★
5.) Shadowfever ★★★★★
*.) Fever Moon: The Fear Dorcha ★★★★★
6.) Iced ★★★★
7.) Burned
8.) Feverborn

“He kissed me like I was the empire he was sworn to protect and would die a thousand deaths to keep secure. He kissed me like I was a woman with a deep dark wildness that needed to be fed and he knew just how to do it. He kissed me like he was dying and this was the last kiss he would ever taste.”

God, I don’t even know how to rate this book. Part of me wants to give it five stars, and ignore all the problematic things, just because it actually felt like the Fever Series I knew and loved. Yet, another part of me is all riled up and wants to give this book another one star rating, like the past two books, because KMM should know better than to put all these problematic things in another book!

If I was just rating this book with my heart and soul, knowing how privileged my perspective is and ignoring how upsetting some of these themes are, I would give this book five stars, because I truly did love reading it, while pretending the rape culture wasn’t there. But, luckily for my reviews, I use my mind to rate books, and this had some pretty upsetting things in it, that I will get to later in my spoiler section.

I will also say that this book, especially the first part, is really dark. I was actually surprised by the brutality that KMM showed, and it actually shocked me so much I forgot about the mess that was Feverborn. Maybe it helped, because I felt like I went into this story with a clean slate from the shock value alone, but let’s just say that KMM wasn’t scared to kill anyone, and I truly mean anyone.

Feversong picks up right where Feverborn leaves off: Dublin, and all of Earth for that matter, are on the verge of being sucked into a black hole. Mac now is harboring a host that is pretty brutal and Dani is finally getting back to being Dani and learning to leave Jada behind, while accepting her time spent in the Silvers. Dani and Mac are finally back to being friends sisters, and that’s truly all I want from this series. I was living for them being all girl power, working together, and kicking ass.

Dublin still is home to not only humans, but both fae courts:
• Seelie – the “light” or “fairer” court of the Tuatha Dé Danaan governed by the Seelie Queen, Aoibheal, who was a mortal concubine, who was tricked into becoming Fae. She’s also the only one that can sing the Song of Making (which is pretty important in this story).
• Unseelie – the “dark” court of the Tuatha Dé Danaan. The Unseelie King is very mysterious, and communicates with mortals on Earth using a human form (sometimes a cute one). He also has the power to manipulate matter and create things, resulting in many people thinking he is God.

Obviously, Mac and Dani have their hands very full with trying to restore the Earth before it is too late, but they are also faced with ensuring everyone else’s safety. With this being the ninth book in the series, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else without spoiling everything, but I will say that Feversong did impress me much more than Burned and Feverborn, both of which got one star. KMM is definitely improving to make this series what it once was, but she still has some work to do.

If you’ve been unhappy about the last few books, too, you can read the first five chapters for free: Here!

WARNING: The next part of this review will have MAJOR SPOILERS! Please, do not continue on if you have not read Feversong in its entirety! Major, major, major spoilers from this point forward!

Okay, I’m going to try to group together my thoughts in the most non-fangirl way, but I apologize in advance for this gush. I just feel like I have a million thoughts and feelings in my head and I want to get them down on paper.

As I said above, I really enjoyed this book. I felt the same excitement I used to feel while flipping each page before the series was ruined! My favorite part of this story was probably the equal emphasis on Dani and Mac. Before, I felt so cheated when KMM switched the story direction back to Mac’s POV, but this book felt right. I loved seeing Barrons and Mac being Barrons and Mac. It wasn’t forced, or unbelievable, it was nice and made for a really great reading experience.

Dani’s chapters were much harder to read, but I don’t mean that in a negative way, it just made for more tears. Dani’s past was utterly heartbreaking to read about. I found myself sobbing at the end of each chapter. I am so excited that the next two books will fully focus on her, and I hope KMM actually stays true to it. Also, Shazam, Dani’s Hel-Cat, is going to cause so much havoc – I can’t wait!

Even though Dani was all like:

But like, no one is questioning whether or not KMM can write a good sex scene, because… she can.

And people can say what they want about Ryodan, but he was awesome to let Dani experience different things, and not being a selfish prick. I know he gets so much hate for Iced, but he was a standup guy in this book.

Even though I did enjoy Mac’s chapters, while loving the ones involving Barrons, the Sinsar Dubh’s chapters were a little insane. I mean, it made for a quick read and all, but it had a really weird fascination with having sex with Barrons. Like, I’m not holding that against it or anything, but it kept pulling me out of the story.

Barrons was Barrons, so all was perfect. Barrons was my first ever book crush, so he gets away with shit I wouldn’t let other male protagonists get away with. He’s still so dreamy in my eyes and I’m not sure what could ruin that immersion. I like how he trusted Mac, even when he had reason not to trust her, in this book. BB&B is still one of the bookish places I wish I could visit, and I think I always will, especially with this new mysterious mural. Like, if Barrons becomes a Fae King I will seriously lose my shit, and I’m not sure how I could possibly fangirl harder.

Mac being the Queen of the Court of Light was pretty unexpected, but in a good way. I liked this twist, and the scene in BB&B with the little faeries made me giggle like an idiot. The cliffhanger of Cruce not dying and remaking the Court of Darkness makes me feel a lot of negative things! Please, let this love-triangle die in Hell where it belongs. I’ll write more on Cruce being a disgusting rapist later.

Christian is still my favorite side character. Be still, my heart. I love this poor, brooding Unseelie Prince. I was so happy the Song of Making didn’t unmake him. And, also, it’s very obvious that he’s going to end up with Enyo, so maybe KMM is setting up a spin-off for them or something? I was picking up that vibe, at least.

Inspector Jayne turning into a Seelie Prince is like everything I never knew I wanted in this series! I was so freaking happy, and it was so unexpected! Like, seriously, I’m here for him working with Mac again, because their friendship is so great to read about.

Okay, now that I’m done gushing, I’m just going to list the biggest problem with this book and why I am tempted to really drop my rating: The rape culture in this book is fucking strong! As we learned from the original Fever Series, Mac was gang raped by Cruce and three other Unseelie Princes that Barrons and Dani later killed. Cruce was imprisoned, Mac didn’t think it was important enough to tell Barrons that the fourth rapist was Cruce *gags*, but everyone still saw Cruce for the gross, evil villain he truly was/is.

Alright, now let’s flash forward to this book, where Mac not only states numerous times that Cruce isn’t evil, because there are people/books that want to destroy the world, so since that’s worse than rape, then that is what is truly evil, not a little rapist. Plus, she did orgasm and enjoy herself while being gang raped and out of her mind, so, that really emphasizes that Cruce just made a mistake. *Sets fire to everything around me!*

This is not okay. Rape is never okay. I will never condone a book that makes excuses for rape. Rape apologists are fucking disgusting, and this book would have been an easy five stars if Mac, and everyone else, told Cruce that, instead of making excuses or putting him on a “lesser evil” scale. Rape is inexcusable, period, and there is nothing else to say on the topic.

Instead, KMM makes Mac kiss Cruce passionately, while telling him she could have fallen in love with him, instead of Barrons, if she would have only met him first, because that’s the only way to save the whole entire world. Like, how is that supposed to sit okay with me? It feels like daggers in my heart, because I loved the rest of this book, but how am I supposed to ignore that problematic theme and inexcusable action? I can’t, I just can’t.

“Yes, he’d raped me. I’d survived, and the nearly incoherent anger I’d felt for so long was simply gone. What remained was a chaotic world with complex politics and few with power enough to lead the various factions. My experience with the Sinsar Dubh had forever changed me. I’d encountered true evil. Up close and personal. I knew what it was. Cruce was not evil. As a Fae, he was a fine one. Exemplary even. A Fae that sometimes did very bad things to humans.”

The other thing that is a little gross, too, is Dancer’s death. Okay, hear me out; I ship Dani and Ryodan. I ship them, because I feel like KMM has set them up together from the start. I completely understand people who shipped Dani with Dancer, and even the amazing Christian, but, for me, this story has always been told in a point of view that has Dani and Ryodan be end game.

Obviously, there was no easy way for Dani to pick, even though she sort of tried to pick Ryodan, so KMM made the choice easy for her, while also giving a little bit of fan service to the Dancer and Dani shippers. Dani went back and forth, constantly comparing the two guys, but once I read about Dancer’s condition I knew KMM was going to pull the trigger. Yes, KMM took the easy way out and it did feel a little bad, even as a Ryodan shipper, I’m not going to lie.

Dancer’s death impacted me unexpectedly hard. I’m totally going to understand the fans that will be upset and all of their feelings are completely valid, but I kind of liked the emphasis on how precious life is, especially in an apocalyptic world. We are all truly on borrowed time, and I enjoyed the message of how important it is to spend time doing what you love with the people you love.

Besides those two things, which I know the one is freakin’ huge and I definitely do not want to ever gloss it over as a minor mistake, I really did enjoy reading this. If you could eliminate that kiss with Cruce, this would be an easy five star book, which is pretty insane when I’ve given the last two in this series one star. Hopefully, KMM can only learn and grow and the next Dani book can blow me and my expectations out of the water, too.

Assassin’s Apprentice (Farseer Trilogy #1) by Robin Hobb

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What unexpected, and much needed, joy this book brought me! I know this is a fantasy favorite among so many people I trust, but I never expected it to be as perfect as it was! Fitz and his journey was an absolute joy to read about, and I cannot wait to continue on with this world. Like, I need the next book now.

This story is a slow burn, that’s for sure, but learning about the main protagonist, Fitz, and his back story made the slow pace still really enjoyable. Fitz is a bastard of the king in waiting, Chivalry. When he is only six-years old, his grandfather on his mother’s side takes him to his father. Obviously he is a blemish on the royal Farseer family’s appearance, but his Uncle Verity orders that he be given to the King’s stableman, Burrich*, instead. Fitz’s father, however, felt so much shame with having a bastard; he goes into exile, giving up his right to the throne

*Also, besides Fitz, Burrich was the MVP of this story. I love that man. His cameos kept warming my heart to no end.

Yeah, Fitz’s Uncle Verity is awesome. Unfortunately, his other uncle, Regal, is a major ass and likes to make Fitz’s life extremely hard. See, Fitz has something that the book refers to as “the Wit”, which basically means that Fitz is able to speak telepathically to animals. Also, for as much as people rave about this series, I was so surprised with Fitz’s gift with animals! I had never heard anyone talk about it before, so it was such an amazing surprise and truly made this reading experience even better.

Fitz’s connection to animals really meant a lot to me. I’m a huge animal lover, and I’ve read a lot of fantasy in my days, and this was such a unique and meaningful concept, I was in awe with how perfectly Robin Hobb executed this element.

Using Wit isn’t the only magic in this book; we are also introduced to Skilling, which the royal family seems to do with ease. Like using Wit, Skilling is also done telepathically, but instead of animals it is between humans, but we soon learn that using this ability in mass quantities taxes a person very much.

Anyways, once Fitz is a little older, his grandpa on his father’s side, you know, the King, gets Fitz to become a “King’s Man”, which is basically an assassin. He is then given to a man named Chade to become *wait for it* an assassin’s apprentice!

Oh, and all the Six Duchies are being attacked by Red-Ship Raiders, who steal people and bring them back with no memory and as shells of their former selves. So, that’s a pretty big problem that I’m sure will be addressed even more in the continuation of this series.

I really don’t have much to complain about, except that this story is a little slow. Yet, with that slow build, I felt so much empathy for Fitz and the poor hand he got dealt in life. This story truly was on the sadder side of stories, and I want nothing more than for Fitz to get a happy ending, filled with all the cute puppers in the world.

This is for sure a story about love and loyalty, and where people should put their trust. Is the importance on blood truly so great? Does blood really connect us in an explained way that makes it more important than other qualities? How much trust can we put into people just because of their blood, while ignoring everything else that person holds inside of them?

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

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There is so much hype surrounding this book, but after seeing Gemina make so many of my friends’ “Favorite Books Published in 2016” lists, I couldn’t ignore this series any longer. I also knew that it was told in a multimedia format, filled with interviews and IM conversations, and that made me a little apprehensive. This book was so unexpectedly addictive.

This story starts off in a much further progressed world, in both years and technology, than ours, on a hidden and secluded planet far, far away. Our two main protagonists, Kady and Ezra, have just broken up, and despite the awkwardness they are forced to be in class with one another. That is, until their hidden and secluded planet comes under attack, and they have to rely on each other to reach the evacuation ships.

Once safe, they are forced to board different ships, Kady on Hypatia, and Ezra on Alexander, and there is also a third ship in their fleet, Copernicus. These three ships are literally running for their lives and being pursued by an enemy battleship, the Lincoln, but they soon realize that the enemy catching up to them isn’t the only thing that is putting them in danger.

This story will definitely keep you on the edge of your seat, while you constantly tell yourself “just one more page” until you look at the clock and see it is 3AM. It is action packed, and the format is so easy to read, that these 600 pages will feel like 300 pages.

You won’t only fall in love with Kady and Ezra, but you will also fall in love with the whole ensemble of side characters. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry. You’ll be surprised and oh so anxious. You will feel like an absolute fool for not reading it sooner.

So why did I give this four stars? Because I couldn’t help but be constantly reminded of Dead Space. Don’t get me wrong, this book is still completely unique in its formatting and execution, but once the very climatic parts on Alexander started happening, I kept picturing myself playing that damn video game franchise.

AIDAN was my favorite, hands down. Kudos to both of these very talent authors for making that AI seem so scary, heartbreaking, and real. His points of view made this book for me, and once we got to those points of view, I couldn’t stop turning the pages.

“THE UNIVERSE OWES YOU NOTHING, KADY. IT HAS ALREADY GIVEN YOU EVERYTHING, AFTER ALL. IT WAS HERE LONG BEFORE YOU, AND IT WILL GO ON LONG AFTER YOU. THE ONLY WAY IT WILL REMEMBER YOU IS IF YOU DO SOMETHING WORTHY OF REMEMBRANCE.”

I was also surprised by all the twists and turns. Like, one of them was a little predictable, but the rest honestly did blindside me, especially that ending. How could you not want to immediately pick up Gemina after that ending?

I also feel like this book would be pretty universally liked, if you don’t mind the format. Like, I would totally recommend this to everyone; Sci-Fi lover or not. My only regret is not reading it sooner, because I was scared of the hype train, but now I have Goodreads and my amazing friends to thank for another beloved book in my collection.

Sunstone, Vol. 2 by Stjepan Šejić

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Sunstone is a lesbian BDSM love story. If that’s not your cup of tea, nothing I can say in this review will sway you to pick this amazing graphic novel series up. Luckily for me, this is very much my cup of tea and Sunstone will always have a very special place in my heart, even though this volume wasn’t my favorite.

This volume heavily talks about the importance of communication with your partner. Some people view BDSM as a getaway or a fantasy from their real life, but others want to make BDSM a lifestyle. Obviously I’m not judging either path people choose to take, but, personally, I am much more interested in the fantasy aspect rather than the lifestyle choice. So, I think that is why this volume didn’t speak to me as much as Vol. 1, even though I will say this volume is very, very important and this topic is a needed one.

Self-bondage is heavily discussed in this issue, with an even heavier emphasis on the importance of safe rope play. Again, having communication and compatibility with your partner is a must, because safety will always be the greatest priority in a BDSM relationship of any kind or level.

This volume also talks about fetish models and S&M performers. We are introduced to the BDSM club, the Crimson, that Alan custom makes the sets for. I absolutely loved seeing this club, and seeing Ally and Lisa interact with other people. I cannot wait to continue on with Vol. 3.