In a Holidaze was all the rage this past holiday season. You could not scroll through bookstagram without seeing a post talking about this new release from Christina Lauren. While this review is undoubtedly late (I never finish my Christmas reads on time), I would like to share my own thoughts on this fan favorite.
In a Holidaze by Christina Lauren tells the story of Mae. She celebrates Christmas every year with her family and their college friends in a cabin in Utah. She is seasonably unhappy, both with work and her love life. When she gets sent back in time, she realizes she might have a chance to do this holiday over and find out just what will make her happy after all.
This is not my first experience reading Christina Lauren. I absolutely loved Autoboyography. While this book is certainly Adult and not Young Adult, I went in with the expectation that it would be pretty well done.
And let’s be honest, it was well done. The characters were varied and lovable. It’s obvious what our main character wants and what she is struggling with. The romance did not come out of the blue, and even though there technically is a love triangle, it’s not too complicated.
However, it was still the romance that I liked the least about this book. The relationship was certainly rushed (if you’ve read it, the epilogue is where I really felt uncomfortable with how fast). There was also some victim blaming where Mae is accused of leading someone on when she did literally nothing. There were apologies, but it didn’t seem to quite make up for it happening in the first place.
Other than all those small issues, this was a heartwarming book meant to spread holiday cheer.
Unraveled is a fantastical story by Claire Olivia Golden that releases today!
Aurora Davis, expert crocheter, lives an ordinary life… until a mysterious crochet shawl appears at the store where she works, Yarn Emporium. The Briars and Roses Shawl, which claimed the life of its previous owner, pulls Auri under its spell. Unable to stop crocheting, she embarks on a quest to break the curse.
Catherine Bishop has a hard enough time fighting her OCD every day without a curse being thrown into the mix. But when her beloved grandmother dies, Cat suspects there’s something more to her death. Her investigation leads her to Auri… whom she’s been crushing on for months.
Auri and Cat plunge into a magical world where ancient curses tangle together and faeries seek revenge. As they navigate Feylinn and their blossoming romance, it soon becomes clear that Auri is in serious danger…and her life isn’t the only one at stake.
Unraveled by Claire Olivia Golden
Release Date: December 14, 2020
Publisher: Gurt Dog Press Genre: LGBTQIA+ YA Fantasy
Content warnings: Abduction, drugging, suicide, anxiety and OCD, mental health prejudice
Win one of two e-book copies of Unraveled and a signed and personalized bookplate, plus a crochet bookmark from the author. International giveaway. For the chance to win, follow Clarie Olivia Golden on Instagram @onceuponayarn, as well as Gurt Dog Press @gurtdogpress, share and tag in your Instagram story.
For an extra entry, also add Unraveled on your Goodreads and leave a comment on this post with your username that you added it with!
This book came at a good time for me! I always get back into knitting and crocheting around the holidays, so there was nothing better than working on a sweater while reading about cursed crocheting projects. I found myself loving both of the main characters. Cat and Auri are both relatable and unique in their own ways. Cat has OCD and I appreciated how it was explained so that we understood what was happening, but the book was not about her “overcoming” her mental illness or hiding it from those she loved. There is also sapphic rep, which was done perfectly!
Not only did this book have fantastic representation, it had a great storyline. The characters are all interconnected and their relationships are believable. I found it a little confusing when they discovered that faeries were actually real and some of the worldbuilding there, but overall it was done well and I liked the way that the author put her own twist on the themes that we see in fairytales.
Overall, this is a fantastic read, and I hope that you get a chance to check it out.
“How are you so calm?” I asked.
She laughed incredulously. “Do you actually think that about me?”
“You just seem so… unflappable.”
“My God, Auri, you have no idea. Can I tell you something?” I nodded. She bit her lip, dropped her gaze to the ground, and said, “I have really bad OCD. I’m not calm at all. I’m a mess inside, all the time. I don’t even know what calm feels like.”
I had never met anyone with OCD before. “I didn’t know,” I said. “You really do seem so calm to me.”
“It’s not something I tell a lot of people.”
“Thank you for sharing that with me,” I said, trying to catch her eyes. “You don’t have to be embarrassed. It’s brave of you, telling me that.”
Her eyes flicked up for a split second. “I’m the furthest thing from brave.”
“I don’t know what OCD is like, but I know you have to be strong to fight it. That seems pretty brave to me.”
Her lip trembled. “Nobody’s ever said that before.”
“Well, they should.” What was this rush of protective feeling that washed over me? “Maybe you can tell me about it, sometime. If you want to. If you ever need someone to talk to.”
“Nobody’s ever asked before.”
“Then you need to get a better group of friends, because you deserve people who care.”
About the Author:
Claire Olivia Golden likes books, yarn, and the Oxford comma. She graduated summa cum laude from Portland State University in 2020 with a B.A. in French and English. Now she works as a full-time crochet designer for KnitCrate and, consequently, has more yarn than she knows what to do with. She believes that magic exists everywhere if you just look hard enough, and that life is more fun when you enjoy the little things.
My full-time job is product development for the yarn subscription company KnitCrate. I partnered with them to create an Unraveled kit, with a signed copy of the book and all the yarn necessary to make the “Unraveled Shawl.” This will be available for purchase through the KnitCrate website and they will promote on their social media as well. The kit releases on January 1.
I love listening to music and reading, so what’s better than combining the two? I always listen to music while reading, and sometimes songs remind me of a certain story.
10. Cleopatra by The Lumineers + Circe by Madeline Miller
Circe is a story about a goddess who loves and is loved, but is also betrayed by those she trusts. However, she sees the positive things and ends up having a good life. It reflects the narrative found in Cleopatra.
9. Crooked Teeth by Death Cab for Cutie + We are Lost and Found by Helene Dunbar
Crooked Teeth reminds me of living in a city and everything being messed up around you, and We are Lost and Found fits that description quite well. It’s a story set in the 80s in New York City where the main characters navigate relationships, being queer, and the rising fear of AIDS.
8. Tim I Wish You Were Born a Girl by Of Montreal + The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
This song is a friends-to-lovers anthem. Even though The Gentleman’s Guide happens centuries earlier than the song, the sentiments are the same. Monty and Percy are the perfect parallel.
7. No Children by The Mountain Goats + Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
Nothing fits a song about falling out of love and wishing harm on the other than Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. This is one of the best thrillers I’ve read this year, and this song always reminds me of it.
6. The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box by Modest Mouse + A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
This entire song is about humanity evolving and becoming something better. The science-minded lyrics remind me of reading through A Brief History of Time earlier this year.
5. Holland, 1945 by Neutral Milk Hotel + Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Maybe it’s because this is the only book that I read that fits the time period of the song, but the chaotic nature of this song also matches the chaos of Catch-22.
4. This Year by The Mountain Goats + Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams
While this song is the theme of 2020 in general (I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me…), it also reminds me of Mostly Harmless–the last book of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy that I read this year. It’s chaotic and filled with a lot of near-death experiences.
3. Missed the Boat by Modest Mouse + Radio Silence by Alice Oseman
Radio Silence is filled with characters who “miss the boat” and don’t fulfil society’s expectations of them. The beauty of this book is that they learn to not let these expectations confine them.
2. King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1 by Neutral Milk Hotel + Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo
A song about dysfunctional families and a book filled with dysfunctional monster hunters? I think a correlation can be drawn. While Ninth House is dark academia and Neutral Milk Hotel is in its own lonesome category–I think the chaos and the existentialism go well together.
New Slang by The Shins + I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
Nothing can compare to this song except for my favorite book. While the match is not perfect, there are elements in both that make me love them more. New Slang is about being lost and finding a way out, and while I am the Messenger is about finding your place, there’s still that feeling of being misguided and needing an escape in the book as well.
Thank you for reading through this short little post. I hope you enjoyed looking through your own spotify wrapped as well!
Happy reading, and I hope you have a good ending to your 2020.
Are you ready for Halloween? If you are, there is a book releasing tomorrow that might just be for you! Keep reading for my review and the giveaway!
Act 2, In Which: Our friends, some old and some new, must awaken a powerful, centuries-old magical force – before an old enemy gets there first…
Life for Jude is finally getting back to normal – or as normal as it gets when your new boyfriend has fangs, your old maybe-boyfriend isn’t dead after all (and has even bigger fangs), and everyone’s scrambling to adjust their lives accordingly.
There’s enough to worry about without evil, ancient vampires closing in, preparing dark rituals, and threatening to undo everything Jude, Pixie, and their loved ones have built together. But as they’ve all seen, normal doesn’t tend to last for long. And it’s hard to shake the feeling that something’s missing.
But then, it seems like everybody’s missing somebody.
Both books in this series so far are a wild ride! They’re filled with vampires, love, humor, and fantastic lgbtq+ representation. I found all of the characters to be lovable in their own ways. Jude is the main character who loves fiercely and wants to see justice served. Pixie is Jude’s former neighbor, who is also a vampire. He can transform into an adorable pink bat, which matches his pink hair. Eva and Jasper are Jude’s two best friends who have stuck with him through thick and thin. Eva is aro-ace and Jasper is gay and polyamorous. Jude is still trying to figure out exactly how he identifies/expresses himself, but his friend group is incredibly supportive.
The plot was very fast paced, so it never felt like it dragged at all. However, it was very dialogue heavy. The banter was good and it was wonderful seeing the cast of characters grow closer together in this sequel to their first adventure, but I would find myself distracted by the dialogue and would not pay attention to what was actually going on around the characters. I ended up giving it three stars for this reason, but overall it is a great story filled with vampires, magic, and lots of representation.
Win one of three ebook copies of the release, or a paperback copy. International Giveaway.
RoAnna Sylver writes unusually hopeful dystopian and vampire stories about marginalized heroes actually surviving, triumphing, and rocking really hard. RoAnna is also a singer, blogger, and artist who lives with family near Portland, OR, and probably spends too much time playing videogames. The next amazing adventure RoAnna would like is a nap in a pile of bunnies.
Do you like graphic novels? Do you like superheroes? Do you like Maggie Stiefvater’s elegant way of weaving her stories together to blend fantasy with reality? If you can check any of these boxes, Swamp Thing might just be the next graphic novel for you.
Thank you to DC Comics for a free copy in exchange for an honest review
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches tells the story of twins Alec and Walker who are uprooted from their lives on the west cost and planted in the middle of nowhere, Virginia. The brothers have been drifting apart as Walker becomes more and more of a socialite, charming everyone he meets, and Alec becomes more invested in his research centered around plants and the way they think. It is a fantastic story about brotherhood, family, friendship, and growth.
I definitely enjoyed the plant facts/fiction presented alongside the narrative, slowly illuminating just how Alec feels distant from his family and humanity in general. I also enjoyed how there was the parallel between his diabetes and the plants. I’m hoping that if there is a sequel, there are more details as to why his research affects his blood sugar so drastically, and if it has anything to do with how he developed type 1 diabetes in the first place.
I wasn’t as smitten the first time I read this, but I’m definitely raising my rating up to four stars after being able to read the physical copy and truly appreciate the artwork that way. I love the way the artwork is ever so slightly creepy, and how the color choices bring everything together.
Twins Alec and Walker Holland have a reputation around town. One is quiet and the other is the life of any party, but they are inseparable. For their last summer before college, the two leave the city to live with their rural cousins, where they find that the swamp holds far darker depths than they could have imagined.
While Walker carves their names into the new social scene, Alec recedes into a summer school laboratory, because he brought something from home on their trip—it’s an experiment that will soon consume him. This season, both brothers must confront truths, ancient and familial, and as their lives diverge, tensions increase and dormant memories claw to the surface.
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches is now available wherever books are sold!
“Everyone remembers the day they lost their teeth: the holy day of Floris.
“The feel of the pliers pulling the teeth from bleeding gums. Eyes clenching shut, tears leaking traitorously from under their lids. The sound each one made as it fell into the glass bowl, solid and slick with blood. The echo of it sounding through the vast hall, met with the song of heavy breathing and keening. The agony of nerves being rent and severed as blood rushed down their throat, choking. Amid blooming flowers and flickering candles, the witnesses standing hushed and respectful until the final hymns, marveling at the loss of innocence. Flowing blood coating their chin, fat droplets staining the embroidered smock that covers their shaking form.
“Above all, everyone remembers the pride, the excitement that they are finally old enough to bear magic. No longer children kept from it for fear of misuse, but adults, soon to be taught to shape and control it. To bend the world to their will with wishes. Soon to be given new teeth, each one infused with magic, each one made solely for them.
“No one more than I remembers that day, because though my Floris started full of pride and excitement, it ended in shame and filth. A day that should have been one heralding a new beginning, my first steps into adulthood instead became a twisted nightmare, a secret I could confide in no one for fear of being ridiculed.”
Don’t miss Beneath a Bethel, a dark queer fantasy novella by April-Jane Rowan. It is now available!
Beneath a Bethel by April-Jane Rowan
Release Date: August 31, 2020
Publisher: Gurt Dog Press
Genre: LGBTQIA+ Horror Fantasy
Content Warnings: Assault, Abandonment, Murder, Gore
Every youth of Elbridge remembers their Floris, the holy ceremony where their teeth are pulled out with pliers. It marks their ascension into adulthood and their right to have new porcelain teeth, ones that are embedded with magic, that grant the ability to make wishes.
Angora’s Floris will be upon the banks of the Eldwen river, the communal ceremony befitting his station. However, he longs to remember his ceremony for the splendor of the Bethel, wreathed in candle light, drooping flowers and holy hymns.
Seeking to fulfill his dream leaves him the victim of violence and an outcast from society, living on its fringes until a chance meeting brings him to the heart of the Masters Guild, the place teeth are made. Learning secrets he never thought he’d be privy to, he eventually discovers the dark cost of their tradition.
I absolutely loved this dark novella! I thoroughly enjoyed the writing, the characters, the atmosphere, and the full page illustrations. It tells the story of Angora and his Floris that goes awry. What follows is a story filled with mystery and hope. My only word of warning is that there is a scene with assault that while only physical, is coded sexually. It is very well done and I do like the allusions that it makes, but if you are triggered by sexual assault scenes, you might want to steer clear of the scene in this one. However, even though this story is short enough to be called a novella, it is still filled with enough material to be enjoyable and thrilling.
April-Jane Rowan was born with a morbid fascination that she turned into writing so she could explain away her strangeness. Luckily for her, she found she rather liked it, so for many years, she has been creating bizarre, dark tales. When not writing, she can be found lurking in graveyards, libraries, and museums. She lives in Sweden with her two partners and their pack of beasties.
If you’ve been keeping up with my (sporadic) posts at all, it’s not difficult to see that I completed my original goal of fifty books earlier this year in April. Because I exceeded the goal in the first four months of the year, I doubled my goal. However, four months later, I have completed the new goal of one hundred.
So here are my top 10 of the year (so far), with my reviews linked!
This book is so out there that it’s hard to believe that it’s true, except I can relate to it more than you know. I too was told I couldn’t go to college by a father who insisted on homeschooling and raising daughters to be homemakers. It shows that anything is possible.
This was a fantastic non-fiction read about the history of humankind and how we came from being cavemen to the myths that keep us together in society as well as the future that we face if we continue acting the way that we do.
I put off reading Alice Oseman for the longest time because even though I knew that she would be one of my favorite authors, I didn’t want to take the risk and be disappointed. Thankfully I was the opposite of disappointed and this is the most perfect and wholesome book I have ever read.
Not that long ago, JK Rowling outed herself to the world as a TERF–or a trans-exclusionary radical feminist. She does not support trans rights, and is honestly just very miseducated on the subject and decides that she’s going to strawman the case of trans people everywhere, and continue to spread hate instead of taking a step back and reeducating herself from a loving perspective. Rowling did write a wonderful fantasy series that is cherished by many people across the world. I loved Harry Potter, and there is nothing wrong with distancing the author from the art and being able to enjoy the story despite JK Rowling’s beliefs.
Despite this divorce of Harry Potter from the author, I believe that we need to stop supporting her art while she continues spewing nonsense and ill-informed responses. In response, we should find other series that will help educate kids, and provide them with a wonderful fantasy world filled with magic and good vs. evil.
And there is a series that I think is a perfect replacement for Harry Potter in the eyes of the youth today.
We need to all start reading Percy Jackson again.
Not only is it a world filled with magic and magical realism (where you get your wizard/muggle divide), but the characters are diverse (religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, etc.). Rick Riordan also didn’t stop with just Percy Jackson and the greek myths that influenced that series. He also wrote Magnus Chase–a series based on Norse mythology, but with an even more diverse cast of characters. There’s also another film adaptation in the works!
Rick Riordan champions authors of different cultures with Rick Riordan Presents. This label helps readers find books that they might otherwise not see, and brings them kid friendly and educational books that help teach about different mythologies and religions through action and adventure. If you’ve seen the Aru Shah, Storm Runner, or Tristan Strong books when you go to Target or Barnes and Noble, you know that these books do have a prominent place on our shelves, and are written to be diverse and educational. While they are not written by Rick Riordan himself, they are endorsed by him and if you like his books, you’ll like these ones too.
While nothing can ever truly replace Harry Potter in our hearts, I think this is a very easy solution.
Let’s start reading Percy Jackson again and championing these books with diverse casts and adventure.
Little Black Bird, by Anna Kirchner, is an Urban Fantasy novel that follows Wiktoria as she discovers that magic is real and sorcerers are living hidden in her Polish hometown. This realisation leads her to question the origins of the strange abilities that have plagued her since she was a child. She finds herself battling both sorcerers and demons alike, with only her friends and a strange boy she seems to share her dreams with.
Little Black Bird is the start of a new series that is heavily inspired by Anna’s native Polish folklore. The book has questioning/asexual representation.
The gorgeous cover of Little Black Bird is made by Karolina Wucke, @wucke.illustration
Synopsis for Little Black Bird:
Magic is dying out, but it will not disappear without a fight. Wiktoria is a seventeen year old with a secret: she has psychic powers. Her uncontrollable telekinesis hurts her and others, setting fires and throwing objects in the air, no matter how hard she tries to hold it back. All she wants to have is a peaceful, average life, but it’s difficult when you’ve been cursed to destroy the magical world. Her carefully maintained facade of normality starts to unravel when she’s hunted down by local sorcerers and their Guardian, and accused of unleashing banished demons back into the human realm. When a murder shakes up the magical community, everyone agrees that the only way to save the world is to kill Wiktoria. Her only ally is a boy who can read her mind, shares her dreams and makes her question her sexuality. Together, they face mythical creatures and uncover ancient legends, and they soon realize that there is no such thing as simply good or evil. Whether they break the curse or allow it to fulfill its destiny, the magical world will be forever changed. Little Black Bird is a tale of trust, friendship and family, and what it means to discover one’s true path.
About the Author:
Anna grew up in Poland and lived in a number of countries before settling in Sweden. She spends more time in imaginary worlds than in the real one. She grew up on a mixture of Polish legends and original Grimm fairy tales, which she channels into fiction. She’s a proud Hufflepuff and a dog lover. She is easiest to find on her Instagram, where she talks about books and goes into queer-feminist rants.
This book absolutely floored me with how powerful, raw, and real it was. This isn’t an easy book to read, but it really showed a glimpse into the life of someone learning to take charge of her body and her sexuality and not let the past define who she was. Definitely look up content warnings before you read (I didn’t and that was a mistake…but then again I might not have read it otherwise).
This book messed me up. It’s a thriller and a mystery. it’s dark and depressing, but it truly shows how devastating messed up families can be and how dangerous and terrible pedophilia is. It reads like you’re listening to a podcast, a format that took me a little bit to get used to, but overall I couldn’t put it down and I still think about it nearly four months later.
Not only is this a classic, but I think it is well deserving of that title. I stayed up all night reading it (it’s not that big of a book, despite its standing as a classic). It’s a creation story with a message about revenge and acceptance and a love for humanity that will hopefully impact anyone who reads it.
I like reading books that are pure torture, don’t I? However, I am so glad that I read this one! This is a non-fiction compilation of testimonies of girls raised in the evangelical movement known as “Purity Culture”. As someone who was raised in the same way and experiences many of the same problems now as the girls in these stories, it brought me to tears and really makes me want to help others currently stuck in these situations.
This was the asexual rep I needed! Thank you to Bookstagram and @rattletheshelves for bringing it to my attention. I’ve grown out of my baby gay phase and I don’t need another book showing me innocent and pure asexuals who can barely even stand the mention of sex. Yes, there’s nothing wrong with being like that (heck. it used to be me) but there is so much more variety than just that. It’s sex-positive and trans-positive and just inclusive all around. let’s also give it a round of applause for portraying a main character who stands up to her (hot) abusive love interest. Just yes to all of this. Go read it if you haven’t yet!
It’s so hard to choose just 5 books out of the many that I read in the past few months, even taking my rereads out of the running! I hope that maybe this list helps inspire your reading and I encourage you to make a list of your favorites as well and tell me what they are.