vickycbooks's reviews
817 reviews

The Dark Fantastic: Race and the Imagination from Harry Potter to the Hunger Games, by Ebony Elizabeth Thomas

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In general, I thought this was a thoughtful examination of really popular teen literature & shows and how Black characters were treated, albeit somewhat dated. I enjoyed seeing Thomas' descriptions of early fandom, but I did think that some parts didn't age as well as they could have. (VERY large warning for the last chapter on the book, which is centered on JKR and HP. It's from 2019, so it makes sense, but it's still jarring to read when you also remember the vitriolic hate JKR is putting forth.) I would recommend if you're someone who is interested in writing speculative fiction.

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The Burning God, by R.F. Kuang

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adventurous challenging dark medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes

5.0

best book in the series hands downnnn
The Dragon Republic, by R.F. Kuang

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challenging dark tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

I'm really excited to read THE BURNING GOD now -- I think in some ways, THE DRAGON REPUBLIC fell  victim to second-book-syndrome. The end was fabulous, but I felt like a lot of the beginning/middle didn't really capture my attention very well. In part, I think Rin wasn't very active in that period of the book & that made her narrative just inherently a little more boring (but she's internally very much Going Through Stuff). But, omg. The ending was fantastic and I'm so excited to see where the story goes. 

More spoilery notes:
SpoilerNOT THE CIKE. I'm so distressed. I can't believe all of them are essentially dead. Not Ramsa...sobbing.

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The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang

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adventurous challenging dark fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

what the actual fuck, Rin!!!!

(definitely lives up to the hype, i devoured it in less than a day, definitely would recommend)

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Off the Record, by Camryn Garrett

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emotional funny hopeful inspiring

5.0

give Camryn all the stars, it's been ages since I've enjoyed and devoured a YA book so thoroughly, but this was so heartfelt and just an absolutely engaging reading experience. I absolutely adored Garrett's debut and loved this one too and am so excited for FRIDAY I'M IN LOVE. just *chef's kiss* a perfect read all around. 
Always the First to Die, by R.J. Jacobs

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Not sure I would recommend this one -- I loved all the sneaky little Florida bits, but I thought all of the characters were absolutely insufferable. I disliked them all. They're always like "Wow! This situation is like exactly out of a horror movie! I'm going to go and . . . make bad choices." (cue my disappointed look.)
Jacobs did a good job of building up the mystery and making you want to stay through the end to find out who's the murderer, but it ultimately the ending felt a little unsatisfying and the whole story was a bit too much in the traditional thriller genre for me to fall in love with this.

Thanks to libro.fm for the complimentary audiobook! It was ready by Petrea Burchard who did a great job. I listened on 2.0 - 2.5x speed at varying points. 
Even Though I Knew the End, by C.L. Polk

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fast-paced

5.0

I've never read anything by Polk, although their work is highly regarded, and I'm glad to say that my first foray into their fiction was delightful.

Even within the confines of a shorter, novella format, EVEN THOUGH I KNEW THE END managed to lay out a fully fleshed historical fantasy world with magic, angels, demons, queer love, and a murder mystery. It was exactly what I didn't know I was looking for.

I think Polk was so highly successful with the scope of the story, managing to be illustrative and beautiful while staying concise and to the point. The mystery was intriguing, the characters had stakes, and the romance was a lovely side touch.

Overall, I really enjoyed and would highly recommend to anyone looking for a quick, but no less intense, fantasy read that doesn't feel too bogged down in excessive world building.

Thanks so much to libro.fm for the complimentary audiobook! January LaVoy did a great job with the narration and I thought their voice was perfect for this story. I listened on 2.2-2.4x speed. 
Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone, by Sequoia Nagamatsu

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5.0

 I absolutely adored this short story collection. It was engrossing and thought-provoking and exciting, while keeping a bit of magic and whimsy underneath. The stories evoked a really broad range of feelings in me, from unnatural fascination to sympathy to wonder. I loved the folklore inspiration, and I found the collection performed very well both as individual stories and within the whole.

I was weirdly fascinated by the story with the neck stretching; I felt for the couple who resurrected their daughter; and I was moved by the father and daughter still feeling the effects of the loss of their wife/mother.

I'd definitely recommend for someone looking for a collection of stories both beautiful and grotesque, with a magical whismy that can prove both wonderous and terrible.

I'd also highly recommend the audiobook, narrated by Brian Nishii and June Angela. They do a great job of bringing the stories to life and conveying the cadences and emotions of the array of characters. I listened to a complimentary copy thanks to Libro.fm, from 1.5-2.3x speed. 
Liar, Dreamer, Thief, by Maria Dong

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This was such an engrossing read! I finished the audiobook in one sitting as I worked on a painting, and oh boy was it a thrilling ride. If you're someone who enjoyed WHITE IVY by Susie Yang in 2020, I'd definitely recommend LIAR, DREAMER, THIEF. They're by no means the same book, but they both have that engrossing, thrilling edge and narrator unreliability that creates a delightfully entertaining reading experience.

The ending especially was very satisfying to me. I adored the final third of the book and thought the resolution really closed out the story well.

Hannah Choi's narration really brought Katrina to life, and if you're an audiobook person, I'd definitely recommend! I received a complimentary copy from Libro.fm and listened on 2.0-2.6x speed! 
The Jade Peony, by Wayson Choy

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emotional reflective medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes
 The intense sense of place and atmosphere that THE JADE PEONY evokes is one of the highlights of Choy's writing. It firmly grounds the reader in 1930s and 40s Vancouver and provides a vignette-like look at three different children in a Chinese immigrant family.

In many ways, the short novel looks at one specific experience (Chinese immigrants to Vancouver at this time period), but in other ways, it contains a wide breadth of thought and feeling from its characters. Each of the main characters, Jook-Liang, Jung-Sum, and Sek-Lung all take on different roles in the family which significantly shape their varied experience.

I think Jook-Liang's story was my favorite -- hers was in many ways the lightest of the three. It predominantly looks at a formative time period when she was young, idolizing Shirley Temple and forming a close and heartwarming bond with an elderly man in the community that their family knows. Jook-Liang struggles with her position in the family (she is less cared for in some ways because she is a daughter, as well as being birthed by her father's second wife, whom she must call "Stepmother") and basks in the elderly man's kind attentions on her.

Jung-Sum's story is a story of boyhood and queer awakening, looking in a non-chronological nature at how he enters the family (he is adopted into the family) and his position as a second son. We see him develop an interest in boxing, and this takes Jung-Sum's story in places which lead him to understand new things about himself.

Sek-Lung's story is in many ways the darkest -- it is firmly grounded during World War II and we see a lot of tension between Sek-Lung and others, especially as he sensationalizes the war and experiences increased aggression towards Japanese people in particular. His story is as much a coming of age as it is a coming of empathy, as his experiences with his new babysitter leads to conflicting feelings and new perspectives for Sek-Lung.

Overall, I thought THE JADE PEONY was a very moving work and I can see why it is a classic piece of Canadian fiction. (My copy was used and clearly annotated by a student in school -- I had the pleasure of reading two different definitions of concubine by their hand lol). I'm interested in reading the next book, especially as the first son's experience is only highlighted through other characters' perspectives.

Content Warnings:
Spoileruse of racial slurs, not just for various Asian ethnicities, but for Black, Native, and other ethnicities; internalized & external racism; war; homophobia; death of a loved one; gender discrimination within a household; corporal punishment; mentions of domestic violence; a self-enacted abortion