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KathrynAcacia

Location: United States

Gender: F

Member Since: March 2017

Last online: August 2020

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Last Updated Jun 30, 2020

Pride Reads

Little late on Pride month, but as it’s June I thought I’d share some of my favorite books with LGBT+ storylines / characters! Mostly because I wanted to feel productive whilst procrastinating my own writing. But also because all these stories are amazing and well-written, regardless of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity, and because representation is really important.

 

 

Labyrinth Lost, by Zoraida Córdova

Alex comes from a long, proud line of brujas and brujos—witches with the ability to do incredible magic that allows them to heal injuries, protect people and places against danger, and perform rituals with cantos (spells). Not only that, but Alex herself is the most powerful kind of bruja, an encantrix, the kind of witch that appears only once in a generation. No one has more magic than she does.

Trouble is, she doesn’t want to have magic at all.

Alex has seen how magic attracts death and danger, and she wants nothing more than to live a normal life. But when she attempts to get rid of her powers for good, her canto backfires, and she accidentally sends her entire family into another dimension. To get them back, she must journey through a land of monsters, magic, and mayhem with an obnoxious boy (who she bribed into guiding her) and her magic-less best friend (who snuck along for the journey). And annoyingly, using the powers she never wanted in the first place is the only way they can make it through.

Such a great story—Alex’s voice as a narrator is spot-on for a snarky but still sensitive teenager, the descriptions of the magic and cantos and setting (especially the setting!) make everything seem real and vivid, and watching Alex come into her power as the plot progresses is immensely gratifying. The way her relationship and connection to her family affects her magic is just beautiful. Plus there are tons of magical creatures that are just plain awesome that you never see represented in European-inspired fantasies and it’s phenomenal.

 

Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi

The city of Lucille is a utopia—a land in the not-so-distant future where racism, homophobia, sexism, and every other type of hatred have been eliminated. There is no more poverty, the justice system has been reformed, and mass shootings are a thing of the past. Most of all, the monsters who once walked the earth in many forms—as everything from corrupt politicians to rapists and murderers—are gone. Forever.

At least, that’s what everyone is told.

When a girl named Jam accidentally brings an angel to life, she’s shocked to hear it has come to hunt a monster—not only that, but a monster living in her best friend’s house. The adults in Jam’s life are all certain there can be no more monsters in Lucille, but as Jam and Pet investigate, she realizes the truth may not be that there are no more monsters, but that people have forgotten what monsters look like.

There’s a lot to love about this novel—Jam is transgender, but this is only mentioned in passing, rather than dominating her identity, and she communicates largely through sign language, which the other characters have all learned to support her, plus the world Emezi has imagined celebrates diversity and difference rather than trying to ignore it—but one of the more unique aspects that I really like is that this isn’t a horror story. (Well, the end is kind of horrifying. But that’s just because it’s extremely intense.) In every other utopia story I’ve read where the people claim to have made progress and created a better world, there’s always some terrifying twist at the end where it’s revealed they’re all cannibals or they perform human sacrifices or something like that, but Lucille is different. It’s not a perfect utopia like its citizens claim, but is legitimately a better world than the one we live in. The people of Lucille have not forgiven and forgotten the past, but rather tried to learn from it. The story is a warning against complacency (which is especially relevant right now), but it’s also hopeful, rather than despairing.

 

Shatter the Sky, by Rebecca Kim Wells

I found this book while scrolling through a list of fantasy releases from last year, and when I got to Shatter the Sky, I will be perfectly honest and admit I didn’t even finish reading the blurb about it. I read the words “lesbians” and “dragons” and immediately switched over to the library app to place a hold. If anyone knows of any other sapphic love stories with winged reptiles, let me know, because imo, that’s about as good as it gets.

When Maren’s girlfriend Kaia is taken by the Aurati, a mysterious group that works for their kingdom’s Big Bad Corrupt Evil Emperor (I read this a while ago I don’t remember his name), Maren does what any devoted partner would do: she sets off on a quest to infiltrate the aforementioned Big Bad Corrupt Evil Emperor’s fortress, steal a dragon, and use it to rescue her girlfriend. She doesn’t even grieve or make an attempt to learn more about the Aurati or anything. She pretty much goes from oh crap my girlfriend is gone! to right so I need to break into the most secure location in the kingdom to kidnap an entire dragon so I can rescue the love of my life whilst smiting anyone who dares to stand in my way in about half a page. Honestly, what an icon.

I will concede that my standards for this book were extremely low because I was pretty much guaranteed to love it based on the premise alone, but it is a legitimately good novel. Great fantasy story, dragons, lots of specific details that give insight into the world’s culture without infodumping, dragons, cute relationships, dragons, FANTASTIC (and evilly cliffhanger-y) ending, and oh did I mention DRAGONS.

 

Dreadnought, by April Daniels

I think this was the first book about superheroes I ever read that wasn’t a comic book, and it worked really well! April Daniels needs to give lessons on how to write action scenes, she’s a master at it!

Danny is chilling behind a shopping mall painting her toenails when the greatest superhero of her time, Dreadnought, comes crashing down to earth in front of her. He’s been wounded from a battle with a mysterious supervillain named Utopia, and as he dies, his powers pass to Danny. Not only do they give her flight, super senses, and the combined physical strength of an entire sports team, they also give Danny her ideal body. There’s just one problem.

Danny is transgender.

And closeted.

On the one hand, now she has the girl’s body she’s always dreamed of, and for the first time, she feels happy when she looks in the mirror. Not to mention she’s a massive superhero fangirl and having powers is pretty much the coolest thing that’s ever happened to her. On the other hand, some people—namely, her father and a few of the other local superheroes—aren’t too happy about her transformation, and they’ll do anything to try to change her back. Meanwhile, Utopia is still out there, and with the powers of the greatest superhero in history, Danny might be the only one who can stop her.

Some sad parts (mostly owing to transphobic characters) (Graywytch is the real villain of the story tbh), but overall a really sweet story about found family, friendship, and identity, plus some exhilarating action scenes and an evilly-awesome female villain.

 

 

Other honorable mentions I have enjoyed but didn’t feel like writing a lengthy summary of:

  • Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles (you know how the story of Achilles and Patroclus has to end but it’s still so saaaaaad)
  • Rosiee Thor’s Tarnished Are the Stars (steampunk adventure-quest-mystery)
  • Maggie Tokuda-Hall’s The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea (genderfluid pirate and pampered noblewoman team up to rescue a captured mermaid and take down a slaving ship)
  • Karen M. McManus’s One of Us Is Lying (The Breakfast Club but with a body count)
  • Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows / Crooked Kingdom duology (be gay, do crimes impossible heist story)
  • Natasha Ngan’s Girls of Paper and Fire (lower-caste girls selected as concubines for an evil king plot to murder him while falling in love with each other)

 

Happy Pride!

 

 

Black Lives Matter Reads

 

I don’t usually write anything political, but people’s right to exist and not be murdered because of the color of the skin really shouldn’t be a political issue. As a white person, I have benefited from white privilege—I have the right to go jogging without being shot, I have never worried that a routine traffic stop could mean the end of my life, and I have never had to look far to see people who look like me represented in the media. But that hasn’t been the case for far, far too many people, and being silent and complacent about this is the same as being complicit. For Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Dion Johnson, and so many others whose stories weren’t filmed or noticed by the media, white privilege—or rather, the lack thereof—was fatal, and nothing will change by being silent or looking away.

Below are the links to some fantastic articles on white privilege, white supremacy, and the antiracist movement.

 

“Racism Defined” from Dismantling Racism: https://www.dismantlingracism.org/racism-defined.html

“Welcome To The Anti-Racism Movement — Here’s What You’ve Missed” by Ijeoma Oluo: https://medium.com/the-establishment/welcome-to-the-anti-racism-movement-heres-what-you-ve-missed-711089cb7d34

“The Subtle Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy” by YawoBrown: https://medium.com/@YawoBrown/the-subtle-linguistics-of-polite-white-supremacy-3f83c907ffff

“White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh: http://convention.myacpa.org/houston2018/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/UnpackingTheKnapsack.pdf

“Who Gets to Be Afraid in America?” by Ibram X. Kendi: https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/ahmaud-arbery/611539/

“The 1619 Project,” a series of articles from The New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/14/magazine/1619-america-slavery.html

 

The truth is, racism is blatantly present in every aspect of life, and the literary world is no different. English classes in school focus almost exclusively on literature by white authors, possibly allowing one or two token works by an author of color. What’s more, nonwhite authors are constantly overlooked or rejected by the publishing industry because their stories are seen as less important. Author Rachel Howzell Hall has spoken out about being a Black mystery author in a white-dominated genre and being constantly told that either there was “no audience” for her books or they were too similar to Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series. (Apparently all mystery novels written by a Black author must be exactly the same, even if they take place in different time periods, with vastly different characters, and have a completely different writing style.) For that reason, I’ve listed a few of my favorite books by Black authors below. If you want to purchase any of these books, the following link has a running list of Black-owned bookstores you can support:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/u/1/d/1yfTHJqYcD7oX6t3MoBdtwGPUAT6qzWXtI90o3_gH3JI/htmlview

 

 

Mystery / Crime Fiction

 

The Detective Elouise Norton series, by Rachel Howzell Hall

The Elouise Norton series (which, in case it is not blatantly obvious, is extremely different from Walter Mosley’s work) is one of my favorite series of all time, mainly because the protagonist, Lou, is so fantastic and well-written. She’s a police detective in Los Angeles, and one of the few to care about the far too many missing Black girls who are forgotten and overlooked by the police. Hall doesn’t sugarcoat anything, from the tragedies and atrocities Lou encounters on the streets of LA to the racism and sexism she experiences within her department, and she also doesn’t shy away how these things affect Lou. We see her grapple with her demons and struggle with PTSD, but this is one of the few crime fiction series I’ve read where the protagonist actually works to deal with her problems in a healthy and constructive way, rather than becoming a brooding and dangerous alcoholic who frankly has no business handling a gun.

Hall also writes smart and twisting plots that I never see coming, her villains are always the perfect balance of creepy, horrible, and believable, and her writer’s voice is phenomenal, snarky and sharp and vivid. Nearly every recurring character across the books has an interesting character arc, and watching Lou’s relationships with her family, friends, and coworkers (particularly her partner) develop over the course of the series is incredibly satisfying. These books are kind of hard to find but they are so so worth it, they’re so well-developed and skillfully written.

 

Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett

This is a really fun read! Every cozy mystery has an origin story for how their heroine becomes an amateur detective. Usually, it’s either because they knew the victim of a murder, or they (or their mother / best friend / secret crush / favorite post office worker / etc. ) are suspected of killing someone—surprisingly dramatic stuff for a genre set almost exclusively in either snoozy snow-white small-town suburbia or else the modern equivalent of Downton Abbey. Dayna, the hero of this story, has a slightly different motive: she’s flat broke, hears there’s a reward for solving a hit-and-run that she witnessed, and decides detective-ing is as good a way to make money as any.

To be fair to Dayna, she wants to make money so she can keep her parents from losing their house, which is genuinely sweet (her relationship with her dad is adorable, while her relationship with her somewhat crazy mother is hilarious). Set in Hollywood and the world of hopeful up-and-coming actors, the story follows Dayna and her colorful cast of friends as they go galivanting around LA trying to solve a murder despite having no experience. There are tons of laugh-out-loud funny parts, from her friend Sienna’s crazy attempts to get noticed by someone who can make her a star to Dayna’s incessant calling of the reward hotline every time she finds a clue so she can be sure she actually gets credit for solving it (and her reward money), combined with some cute, flirty romance, and above all, really strong friendships. It pokes fun at the craziness of Hollywood, but affectionately, and it’s one of the most genuinely entertaining books I’ve read in a while.

 

Spin, by Lamar Giles

When Paris, a young, rising-star rapper, is murdered and neither the police nor the public seem to care much about solving it, her childhood best friend and since-stardom best friend—who hate each other’s guts—are kidnapped by an obsessive group of Paris’s fans and threatened into investigating the case. One of the strongest parts of this book is its structure—the narration alternates from the POV of each friend while occasionally including a section from Paris’s POV in the months, then days, then hours before her murder. It makes for an incredibly suspenseful story, rife with dramatic irony and tension, and also allows the enemies-to-friends arc of the protagonists to be much more believable. Both sad and funny, this is very much a mystery story, but it’s also a story about friendships, identity, and forgiveness, and it’s really beautiful.

 

Allegedly and Monday’s Not Coming, by Tiffany D. Jackson

The other books I have listed here are all pretty enjoyable reads. They get dark in places, but not unbearably so, and you can count on a satisfying, if not exactly happy, ending.

These books are not at all enjoyable.

To be clear, the writing is fantastic and the plots are gripping—I read Allegedly all in one sitting. But the stories Jackson tells have no good ending, for they are stories of failure. Specifically, how the system fails poor, and especially Black, children and allows them to slip through the cracks. Allegedly is about a girl who was convicted of killing a baby at the age of nine, despite the many unjust missteps of the police, judge, and jury, and now lives in an abusive group home. When she becomes pregnant, she decides to fight to clear her name and win the right to keep her child. Monday’s Not Coming is about a girl who returns from summer vacation to find that her best friend has gone missing. None of the adults in her life know where she is, and what’s worse, none of them seem to care. These books are brutally honest and infuriating and gut-wrenchingly sad, all the more so because they are so realistic. They are important books because of how they deal with race, poverty, and mental illness, but they’re also devastating. The end of Monday’s Not Coming is cathartic, despite the sadness, but the end of Allegedly made me sick. I definitely recommend these, but only if you’re in the right place for such a dire story.

 

Fantasy

 

Kingdom of Souls, by Rena Barron

The worldbuilding alone in this West African-inspired fantasy makes it worth reading—everything from the traditions to the landscape to the rules of the world has been meticulously thought out and yet is presented in a way that completely void of info-dumping. Instead, the culture is explained through storytelling and ceremonies and the joking and banter between the characters, which completely immerses the reader in the story. But it’s not enough just to have worldbuilding, because what Barron does with her world is even more fantastic!

The story centers around Arrah, the daughter of two powerful witch doctors in a world where most people have magic and use it to do everything, from performing powerful spells and rituals to dying their hair crazy colors. But Arrah doesn’t have magic, and despite her father’s assurances that he loves her just the way she is, she can’t escape her mother’s scorn or her own disappointment. When children in her community begin going missing and she is powerless to find them without magic, she decides to trade years of her life in exchange for magic power. The plot has so many twists and turns and foreshadowing, I had literally no idea how it was going to end, and with each new revelation, the stakes get higher and higher. If I had to describe this book in just one word, it would be “epic,” both in terms of scale and quality. There’s romance and mystery and mythology and battles, all wrapped up in a story of empowerment.

 

The Good Luck Girls, by Charlotte Nicole Davis

The start of this Western-inspired fantasy is rough—not in terms of the writing, but in terms of the given circumstances. Aster works as a Good Luck Girl in a “welcome house”—a pretty name for a brothel. She and the other Good Luck Girls have been sold into sex slavery there and bear magical, uncoverable tattoos on their faces that make it impossible for them to ever escape and join the rest of society. Aster has resigned herself to her fate, but when her younger sister accidentally kills an abusive customer, they go on the run with a trio of other girls—including one who claims to be able to find someone who can remove their tattoos for a price. What follows is an adventure story full of close encounters with the law, dangerous heists to procure funds, and an impossible journey to safety. The writing is fantastic and the plot is gripping, but by far the most powerful part of the story is the friendships that develop between the girls over the course of the novel as they discover their own strength.

 

Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse

The apocalypse has struck (in the story, too!), bringing with it rising sea levels, worldwide panic, and the downfall of most technology.

Oh, yeah. And monsters.

The figures from Diné mythology have returned, good and bad, heroes and demons—although most of the heroes seem too busy to help out the humans. It’s up to Maggie, a human girl trained by a legendary monsterslayer, to hunt down and slay the monsters. It’s a job she excels at, until she encounters a monster that’s unlike anything she’s ever seen and finds herself enmeshed in a plot bigger than herself. With a cast of interesting and complex side characters, vivid (and occasionally gruesome) descriptions of the landscape, setting, and action, and a breathtaking pace (this is another one I read all in one sitting), this book is absolutely fantastic and one of the most exciting and engaging fantasies I’ve ever read. A lot of fantasies start out slowly, describing the setting before gradually building up to a climax, but this one takes off at full speed from page 1, and it’s impossible to put down.


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Growing up with a gaggle of younger siblings and cousins means babysitting duties fall on your shoulders- a lot. That's why I started writing: telling stories = hours of entertainment for the little monsters- I mean darlings. My most popular tale to date is “Spider-Gwen, Miles Morales, and Peter Parker Battle the Haminator,” which follows an army of spider-people trying to keep an evil villain from turning the population of New York City into hamsters. I try to make the things I post on Booksie at least slightly less ridiculous than the stories I tell my small relatives, but I have just as much fun creating them!

 

 

 

 

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