Nannah's Bookbox

Nannah's Bookbox

Queer, disabled, and way too invested in YA lit. Always searching for more diverse books!

3 Stars
Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Daughter of Smoke & Bone - Laini Taylor
First half: 5 stars
Second half: 2 to 2.5 stars . . .

What happened? I think what summarizes the first half best is, in the book's own words, "Once upon a time, a little girl was raised by monsters. But angels burned the doorways to their world, and she was all alone." Sounds fascinating, right? It is. Ohh, it is.

Karou is an art student with one foot in Prague and one foot in a monster's workshop. She balances art classes with errands for Brimstone, the chimaera who raised her--mainly, gathering teeth of all kinds from around the world. This lifestyle continues until seared handprints start to appear on the portals to Brimstone's world, laid by angels, the chimaeras' enemies.

Creative, tense, and with great prose. Then the second half introduces the angel Akiva, who falls in love with Karou. Not exactly a spoiler, since it's something anyone could have predicted. But this happens at a part when Karou has her mind set on something. The plot revolves around her determination, and then . . . it standstills?

Instead of getting things done, Akiva and Karou get breakfast, watch the sun rise, etc. etc. etc. When things should be building up to a climax, it backtracks and spends the entire second half in backstory, explaining, creating no tension, and dropping all the tension the amazing first half created. The story finally goes back into real-time three chapters from the end, only to return to backstory (and have its climax there, which makes me feel robbed of something somehow?).

It could be that I'm just not such a fan of this type of storytelling, but I wanted things to happen, not have things explained for me.
3 Stars
The Last Dragonslayer
The Last Dragonslayer - Jasper Fforde
I've heard many good things about Jasper Fforde, so I finally picked this up from the library.

Jennifer Strange is an indentured servant living in an alternate version of the United Kingdom - the Ununited Kingdom, that is, where she manages what's left of the country's sorcerers. Their magic greatly diminished, they now use their powers to unclog drains, fix electric wiring, etc. However, that all changes when everyone gets word that the last dragon, and possibly the source of all magic, is foreseen to be killed - by Jennifer Strange.

The voice is quirky and fun for a while, but only a while. The charm quickly wears off and gets annoying quickly, undermining the book's serious moments. The book begins to have a single emotional tone: ------- Not funny (as was promised), not quite boring, not exciting, but not quite uninteresting. There's also so much time spent on explaining things that any immediacy of plot is lost in the types of wizards and levels of sorcery and the history of the Ununited Kingdom.

It's awesome that the subject of the prophecy is a girl, and the girl without magic who's surrounded by magic, but beyond that I wasn't too impressed.

There were too many characters introduced that I really don't have time to form an opinion about them when they do something relatively important to the story. Names are thrown about as if they mean something to me, and I'm wondering if this is somehow a sequel series maybe?

Aaaaand this:
"'Frightful, frightful woman. Her love of glittery things, fine robes, and bathing in rabbit's milk set feminism back for centuries.'"

I'm really not sure what made this book so funny to everyone, but it just didn't work for me.
3 Stars
Among the Enemy
Among the Enemy - Margaret Peterson Haddix
Whew, it's been a while since I read a book from this series!

Matthias, Percy, and Alia, characters introduced in the third installment, Among the Betrayed are reintroduced in this novel. They are living at Niedler School when the Population Police take them to what seems to be a work camp. They escape and run to the woods, but Matthias ends up working "among the enemy," at the Population Police Headquarters as an officer-in-training, undercover. There, he finds Nina, and they try to come up with ways to fight the Population Police.

I understand the protagonist changes are to get a better understanding of this dystopian society, but I still wish the series stuck with Luke/Lee as the MC for the entire run. I'm not sure why it bothers me. Or why it bothered me when Lee's mention was "'Lee - remember Lee? - he shovels out the stall where the top officers have their horses.'"

But Matthias was a pretty good lead. A sweetie with relatable, conflicting optimistic and pessimistic thoughts.

I'll have to grab the last one soon. It will be nice to finish this series!
5 Stars
Bear Daughter
Bear Daughter - Judith Berman
Book content warnings:
sexual assault

I stumbled across this book completely by chance in a used bookstore. I hesitated to get it because of the (obviously) white girl on the cover, but after seeing this interview by the author that other reviewers provided, I decided to grab it. Judith Berman talks about cultural appropriation, the research that went into the book, and her displeasure with the cover.

Bear Daughter is a book set in an alternate world, based on the cultures of the Northwest Coast Native Americans and with a plot that follows many Old World European myths and traditions: a great journey, underworlds, and wizards whose power sources are found in hidden, locked boxes. Cloud, the MC, is a bear-girl, borne of one of the First People and a mortal. Her father, a bear, and her brothers, all murdered, call out to her in her sleep. They won't stop haunting her until she can find their bones and free their spirits.

Immediately, I fell in love with the writing style, Cloud, and the plot. I could not stop reading. Even at the beginning, which is fairly slow, but never boring. It's addicting, dark, and lovely, evoking gorgeous imagery. The plot meanders, sometimes a little too much, but I couldn't bring myself to mind, because I was just too caught up in the writing and the journey.

I'm pretty sure this is a book that will be one of my favorites for a very long time.
3 Stars
Love in the Time of Global Warming
Love in the Time of Global Warming - Francesca Lia Block
Book content warnings:
homophobic slurs

This . . . is a book that's very hard to rate. On one hand, I love the fact that there's LGBT+ representation, and I want to support it! On the other . . . I'm not sure how much I actually enjoyed the book as a whole.

I do need to say how much I loved the writing, though. The writing is gorgeous. So lyrical and expressive. I can see why Francesca Lia Block has many loyal fans. And the book certainly has one heck of a lovely package: the stunning cover design and the butterfly-adorned chapter illustrations.

Love in the Time of Global Warming somewhat follows The Odyssey, in a post-apocalyptic, modernish-day way told from the viewpoint of a young bi girl, but things seem to be thrown into the story to make this "retelling" make sense. There isn't a lot of explanation for why these things happen (a Lotus Hotel randomly coming into her path full of teens drugged on lotus flowers to serve as the Lotus-eaters of this modern-day Odyssey, etc.). The story spends such little time in places that there's not enough spent on building tension, learning from each situation, etc. Places are there to acquire new characters or draw very blatant similarities to the Odyssey.

Francesca Lia Block tries to make the story scientifically plausible with whole scientists-gentetically-mutated-&-cloned-giants-to-create-the-apocalypse thing, but the entire story world is so fantastical that the explanation seems far-fetched somehow. It almost seems that a more magical explanation would suit the story better and would make more sense . . .

The book also has a tendency to skip over the action scenes, having Penelope (the MC) fall unconscious at the most convenient parts so others can get her out or something similar and then explain how they did it later. It became very annoying (her rescuer: a man who tended to show up at nearly every scene she needed help. How does he always pop up so conveniently to save the day?? Why was that a thing?).

This book is half written in flashbacks that the MC could see when she looked at people, and half when the book actually takes place. I found myself way more invested in those flashbacks than the current plot, as they tended to make a lot more sense, invoke more sympathy, and show more character than anything written out-of-flashback.

Now . . . the diversity! The four main characters are part of the LGBT+ community. One of them is described as being black, and there is an interracial couple as well. Yes! This is great. Everyone knows YA could use more diversity, and this is wonderful. The whole "queer superpowers" dialogue had me grinning so much it hurt.

But . . . this book keeps trying to say Hex is queer . . . and he's not.

"Ash throws a glance back over his shoulder. 'Wait, since when are you queer?'
'I am not what I once was,' he answers, and though Ash and Ez exchange a glance, no more discussion seems to be needed."

Hex is attracted to women. He's a heterosexual trans man. Him liking women does not make him queer, because he's a man. Then again, I hear the next book is extremely transphobic, so I guess this is foreshadow.

Anyway, I was tempted to read the sequel just to support diversity in YA, but I read some reviews discussing how the book was ridiculously transphobic, ableist, and slut-shaming, so I think I'll pass.
3 Stars
In a Handful of Dust
In a Handful of Dust - Mindy McGinnis

Well, this world is just as cruel as I remember from Not a Drop to Drink.

Apparently this book takes place about ten years after the first one, and it follows Lucy instead of Lynn. Their camp by the creek is disturbed by an outbreak of polio, and because Lucy is suspected of being a carrier, she's exiled. Naturally, Lynn goes with her, and they both set their sights on California, where things are supposed to be more like it was before the Shortage.

In a Handful of Dust is definitely survival fiction more than anything else. The fact that at its core is two strong women is something I love to see.

But the lack of happiness and heartwarming moments in this book made it hard to read, and not in a good way. Hardship after hardship after hardship. Characters didn't seem to grow or change, they just bore each event with the same: "But you're Lucy, and I'm Lynn." It didn't seem to have the same power and effect as the first book did.

When Lucy and Lynn reached Las Vegas near the end, it just reminded me of a later season of The Walking Dead. Instead of keeping the story well-contained, it branched out to show a more broad view of its dystopian world, and ended up sacrificing a little bit of its originality. People are not to be trusted, everyone has ulterior motives, things are too good to be true, strong men are the ones in control, etc. etc. etc.

And the ending! I didn't like the ending at all. It was something that was foreshadowed throughout the entire book as something that was supposed to be a difficult decision for Lucy, but it ended up feeling like "eh, whatever, do what you wanna do." I know it's such a childish thing to think, but I wish I hadn't read this companion novel and just stuck with the ending of Not a Drop to Drink. It had a completeness that this one lacked. Lynn is still my hero, and she was left without an ending, which broke my heart.
4 Stars
Teeth - Hannah Moskowitz
Book content warnings:
rape mention
physical abuse

Uffda. This book had me engrossed from start to finish. And the only reason it doesn't get five full stars from me is for two small parts that were extremely problematic. I'll talk about that later, because I want to go on about what I loved first.

Immediately, immediately, I'm sucked into this story of family, romance, and fairytale. Rudy's brother has cystic fibrosis, and his family moves to a remote island to seek a miracle cure. This island, usually a "last resort" for people, is home to magical silver-scaled fish that help those with health problems when eaten. Rudy, far removed from his friends and technology, is naturally restless and lonely until he meets a strange fishboy who climbs up on to the rocks to flirt with him . . .

The characters felt so real and carefully realized. The sibling relationship between Rudy and his little brother, Dylan, was especially well crafted. Rudy shutting down and running away when Dylan was at his worst felt very authentic, and I felt for this entire family.

Diana is also an intriguing character, introduced at exactly the right time to set up secrets and mysteries about the island and characters so that I'm dying to read more and know more. This book is one heck of a page turner, and I'm proud to say I stayed up all night to finish it.

I'm surprised to see how many reviewers thought the romance between Rudy and Teeth was unnoticeable or that - "this was supposed to be a romance???" Were we reading the same stuff? Talk about heteronormative perspective, because seeing things like "It doesn't matter what team I'm on, for a minute. For a minute it's just me and that smile." and "Oh my God. He's hugging me. [. . .] And fuck it, because that was seriously fucking fantastic." and "I don't know how to tell him that friends at home weren't anything like this, because then I'm scared he'll ask what this is. And . . . God." and the big one: "I fall for fish instead of girls." is pretty obvious. And that's just a few. I imagine if Teeth had been a merMAID, people would be singing a different tune.

What I didn't enjoy was the rape mention. The way it played out was as if it were the punchline to some big joke, and that's not . . . respectful in any way. Not to mention that there was a rape joke later in the book. Rape jokes are never funny. Never.

All the same, I enjoyed the book as a whole, even if the very bittersweet ending had me wishing for more.
3 Stars
Sister Light, Sister Dark
Sister Light, Sister Dark - Jane Yolen

Jenna, a white-haired babe orphaned three times, is taken in and raised by an all-women community who worships a white-haired goddess named Alta. There, she learns about dark sisters - shadow women called out from a great mirror who only appear during the night. She also discovers that she might be the subject of a prophecy that foretells the goddess's rebirth on earth.

Folktales, ballads, and history lessons interrupt each chapter, told from sometime in the future looking back. It really reveals how corrupt history can become with each retelling and from who's telling it (the historians are all men, lecturing about what they thought they knew about the all-women communities, while what's shown to the readers real-time in the chapters tend to differ).

I ended up enjoying the book, but it took until halfway for the story to really get moving. And I felt the entire book was written up to set up its sequel, which bummed me out. I wished the book had a complete beginning, middle, and ending. I might pick up the sequel, but we'll see . . .

0 Stars
Deerskin - Robin McKinley
Thanking a friend for catching me before I read very far into this one.

This book has been on my to-read list for so long I hadn't really checked out reviews or content very thoroughly. I really need to do that before I read something.

Apparently there is subject matter I really wouldn't be comfortable with in Deerskin, mainly rape and abuse, neither of which are handled well. Glad I was able to quit this one before I got into that, even if the prose is very lovely.
3 Stars
The Onion Girl
The Onion Girl - Charles de Lint
Book content warnings:
drug addiction

This book was difficult to read. A friend recommended it to me, and, though I know why, the fact that she was my friend was the only reason I finished this book. Coming from an abusive household made Jilly and Raylene's PoVs and backstories sometimes hard to stomach. The abuse scenes weren't particularly graphic, but they were very triggering, and I strongly advise people who were/are in similar situations to be very careful before picking up this book.

I also want to caution people who are disabled or people who have chronic illnesses. Some may find it great representation! And that's wonderful. Jilly Coppercorn, the MC, has been through a horrible car accident and is bedridden with paralysis on one side. She goes through a lot of negativity, thinking of herself as the "Broken Girl," but eventually comes to terms with herself. Spoilers, perhaps? But it's hardly surprising. However the book is very difficult to read if you're in a difficult situation yourself. Yes, the MC finds some sort of peace at the end with her disability, but during the process there are a lot of awful thoughts. I have a chronic illness, which limits what I can do dramatically (running, any kind of sports, things with my hands, etc. etc. etc.), and reading this was very, very hard. I would never want to go through it again.

But on to the book itself.

Some books are written so the reader doesn't know they're even reading, and some books are written so the reader is definitely aware they're reading beautiful prose without being deprived of visuals. The Onion Girl is of the latter category. I looooved the prose - when Charles de Lint wasn't lecturing. The dialogue . . . not so much. The girls had such stilted dialogue that could (should?) have been edited out - there is so much time dedicated to explaining what I could get contextually. It's almost written in children's video-game style: "Let's go here." "That's a good idea, but how about we go here first, so we can do this?" "Good idea, let's do that."

I have a feeling there were too much characters to keep track of and to give arcs to, so they were left feeling very much like cardboard. I mean, I get it, it's a very long series, but I still feel like they could have been handled better (especially the characters in the World As Is). Speaking of, there were also too many subplots - some I believe included just to lecture (the pit bulls?).

I like the basic idea of the two sisters coming from similar situations who branched off and ended up quite differently, opposites who ended up facing each other in the climax. I also wish the climax would have felt more . . . climactic? Things dissolved too quickly for my taste. And after the climax, things just kind of dragged on, and I wished it had ended more succinctly.

To be a bit nitpicky, there were things that just . . . bothered me, too, about the way Charles de Lint described characters or used voice. Like using "coffee" to describe skin tone multiple times, and describing a dark-skinned couple as "exotic" another time - it shows a lack of creativity, and it's . . . not very respectful. There were also multiple times where I got a major queerphobic vibe from characters (especially Raylene, but I do understand that characters' views ≠ author's views). Apparently Charles de Lint wrote books with queer characters, so I'll wait with my judgement on this issue, though I really didn't appreciate the lesbophobic and homophobic slurs being thrown around so often. Not sure what the point was, as it really didn't have a subplot or anything.

Anyway, this was my first book by Charles de Lint, and I have a lot of his books on my to-read list, but I'll probably be a lot more cautious next time.
4 Stars
The Witch Sea
The Witch Sea - Sarah Diemer
Lovely, simple, and enchanting.

The Witch Sea is a short story about a sea witch named Meriel who inherits a great responsibility from her grandmother. She must tend to the spell that binds a sea god and prevents him from destroying humankind. But when a beautiful selkie girl slips through her spell, Meriel finds herself torn between obeying her grandmother or setting the sea god (and the unfortunate sea people who were caught onshore with him) free.

This is the first work by Sarah Diemer I've read, and I'm definitely planning to look at her other stories. The prose is gorgeous - lyrical but without any filler - and the story really evokes a sense of place.
4 Stars
Over The Wall
Over The Wall - Peter Wartman
This was such a fun read! Very quick, too--very, very quick. I think I finished it within 15 minutes.

The story follows a young girl venturing inside an abandoned, walled-off city to find her brother, whom she can't quite remember. In this city she finds a demon who becomes her very sarcastic guide, and she unravels the mystery of the city and the one behind what's keeping her brother trapped inside.

I lovethe art style. That and the color palette of black, purple, and white led me to pick up this novel in the first place. It's bold and expressive, perfect for younger readers.

I wished it had been a little longer, to expand upon the mythology of its world and its history, but as it is it's definitely not a bad read.
5 Stars
The Summer Prince
The Summer Prince - Alaya Dawn Johnson

This looks like a little novel, but it's 289 pages packed full of character development, race relations, good LGBT representation, discussions on classism, the difference in thinking between generations, corrupt politics, etc. etc. etc. It's such a powerful and beautiful book that I'm not even sure what to say.

Maybe . . . review to come later?
5 Stars
Maggot Moon
Maggot Moon - Sally Gardner
This book. This tiny, amazing, horrific book.

It's difficult to get my thoughts in order.

On page four, I fell in love with the voice. I was absolutely involved with the protagonist and his story. Maggot Moon is definitely written with a less-is-more approach in mind, and it really works.

The MC, Standish Treadwell (who "can't read, can't write, Standish Treadwell isn't bright") is a teenager with dyslexia and heterochromia in a horrific, dystopian version of history where both make him undesirable. He lives with his gramps in the only house left on his street, and people keep getting "rubbed out" all around him.

But over the wall, he finds something that the Motherland has been hiding, something that gives him the stone he can use to bring down the giant.

This is a dystopia truly seen through the eyes of a youth. Not really understanding why or how things really work, just that this is the way it is, and that he's living in it (instead of overwhelming the reader with info about the book's dystopian society because the author wants to show readers all about their society and how it's run, how it's oppressive, how it's different, etc.).

This book is also terrifying. Not only because of the book's story, but because of the art accompanying each new chapter, which turns out to be about every two to three pages. It's definitely not for the squeamish. Illustrations of a fly laying eggs in a dead rats mouth are on each page opposite the chapter titles, and it can get pretty gruesome.

I fell in love with this book word by carefully-thought-out word. Standish, Gramps, Hector, Mr. Lush, Standish's beautiful relationship with Hector, Standish's bravery in the face of all that horror and death, and everything this tiny book had to offer. It's awful and frightening, but it's also amazing.
1 Stars
Larkstorm - Dawn Rae Miller
Uffda, this book is a mess.

Where is the plot? Halfway through, I thought, finally the plot's going to become clear, but then the book kept going, and I still didn't know the story's main focus. Lark finding a way to be with Beck? Lark trying to learn magic? Light and Dark witches and their drama? What's the plot? Everything is so jumbled together, and yet more plot points and conflicts keep being added! I basically was left to conclude that there was no plot, just a series of revelations.

The first half and the second half of the book seemed like two entirely different stories. The first: a mishmash of different dystopias thrown together for who-knows-why, especially because it never planned to do anything about it, or deal with any of the issues the dystopian society presents (criminals being branded as "Sensitives" and being forced to do menial jobs, while Sensitives infiltrate the State, etc. etc. etc.). The second: a very clichéd Dark vs Light story overflowing with melodrama (Lark and Beck needing each other while everyone tries to keep them apart, a good, ol' classic bully figure who no one else seems to notice, Lark internally screaming, "I'm EVIL" multiple times every scene, etc. etc.).

Each chapter in the second half is 3/4 story time. History lessons or new things Lark didn't know that everyone else seems to know, and none of it is fascinating; it just makes the story more and more cliché: Dark witches are evil destroyers! Light witches are creators and draw on love, happiness.

Sure, it could just be me, but the story rubbed me the wrong way.
0 Stars
Kushiel's Dart
Kushiel's Dart - Jacqueline Carey
DNF at like way too little percent to put up here.

Uhh, I wish I'd read the reviews here or looked at the goodreads shelves for this book before I picked this up. I'd remembered that a friend years ago told me to read this trilogy, so I checked it out.

. . . and as a sex-repulsed asexual, I was more than uncomfortable. And even though I rarely leave a book unfinished, I'm going to have to with this one. I googled it a bit more, and after seeing how much sex (incredibly graphic sex) was in it, I decided that leaving it early was a good idea for me.

The writing is lovely, though, and I was very much invested in the characters. It's just definitely not my kind of book.