Where’s All The Book-to-Video Game Adaptations? {Book Blog Discussion}

It’s no surprise that I’m eager to see book adaptations break the mold when it comes to the medium in which they are told (you can read my discussion on Animation, here). So when I read adult SFF author Alix E. Harrow’s Tweet wondering why more books aren’t being adapted into video games, there was a lot I had to say on the subject which led me to create today’s post.

In the years before I found my love for reading, video games were my go-to hobby. Similar to my TBR though, there’s many games I’ve neglected to return to over the past few years, I’m always keeping updated on new or interesting titles that catch my attention. It’s my firm belief that mediums such as animation and video games are very much sidelined when it comes to creating adaptations based on written source material. They are an innovative form of storytelling that can be done in an endless number of formats, yet is often left out of the adaptation conversation. Now I’m very aware of the budget (and technology) required to create projects of this scale…however, I find that I’m always left wondering the “what ifs” and the potential to create a more interactive, immersive experience through the video game format.

One that many are aware of such as The Witcher, which is now a hit Netflix series, was actually first adapted into a successful video game franchise, starting in 2007 as an action RPG. Even Sir Terry Pratchett’s expansive Discworld Series was adapted into a point-and-click adventure game in the 90’s.

Book adaptations in a way are occupying a unique space right now where they are going direct to consumers, for example through Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and other streaming services [with Shadow And Bone, Always And Forever, Lara Jean (To All The Boys 3) slated to arrive early this year]. Now consider mobile games you can play directly on your phone, software like Steam to download games instantly, etc.

The biggest space where I can see already published books being developed into video games is most definitely in the SFF, science fiction and fantasy genres. With a variety of publishers from Tor to Harper, Orbit, etc., there’s lots of potential to bring epic sci-fi/fantasy series, novellas, you name it to the unique market of gaming too.

The reason video games carry such a particular and notable weight in terms of adaptations is the immersive quality to them. When you enter the world of a video game, you become the main character (or characters) in a way you can’t do when watching the finished product of a television series or film. Sure you experience both in very distinct ways, but video games offer the exclusive opportunity for you to experience the world, connect with the cast, and carry on the story at your own pace as the MC yourself.

Similar for book-to-screen adaptations, video games can embed the story elements of our favorite books (especially fantasy or science fiction) through a plethora of ways, such as the expansive world or setting, character design, outfits, the environmental storytelling, architecture, npc dialogue, even the soundtrack.

Video games at their core are comprised of challenges or quests, engaging mechanics, and a fundamental goal for it’s story. The reason that books can make such an impact in this already wide-ranging market with genres, animation, and narratives of all kinds is that they carry all the these key ingredients that can carry over into a fun, dynamic video game space.

However, aside from storytelling another vital piece of the video game recipe is the gameplay (or combat) itself. From puzzle games, to open-world settings, RPG’s, strategy, visual novels, VR, action-adventure, and so on…the narrative within books themselves can allow for an endless of possibility of gameplay mechanics in order to tell the story.

The story and game design (or mechanics) in my opinion, work best when they are interconnected and benefit or even build each other to tell plot in the best way possible. The activity of reading a book and playing a video game, require very different muscles. For one, in video games it’s all about interaction, strategy, in order to actively progress through. However, that’s exactly why they would make such a great medium for adapting books, for those who are familiar with the story, now you become a part of it. Speaking to the other characters, voyaging across the setting, or something as simple as interacting with environment.

There’s also infinite possibilities when choosing core elements of the book’s plot, character, dialogue and world to create specific tasks, goals, or quests, even cutscenes that dictate how the in-world setting and story of a video game would operate. Thus, this creates an incredibly narrative-driven experience.

Now for the rest of the post I’m going to list a few books that I think would make great video games and delve into what I think the best gameplay/mechanic and narrative that would fit best with a particular book! Now there’s tons of books I’ve read that would make amazing video games, but these are just some I think I could explain with the most clarity…however, of course PLEASE recommend your own and share your dream book-to-game adaptations with me in the comments as well!

Love Sugar Magic: A Dash Of Trouble by Anna Meriano: Because I’m currently reading the sequel as I draft this post, there was a spark of an idea I just couldn’t let go of!

This game I can perfectly picture (with cover artist, Mirelle Ortega’s beautiful artwork) as a very cute point-and-click, narrative game where the player can create delicious and magical treats from the Amor y Azúcar Panadería as the main character Leo.

Not only is the storytelling of this series incredibly wholesome, but Meriano develops a unique magic system surrounded by baking and brujeria skills of the Logroño family.

The backgrounds of the bakery, even the specific baking ingredients, and magical items the Logroño family uses would all be at the center of this quiet contemporary fantasy game.

Scavenge The Stars by Tara Sim: From the moment I stepped into the lavish, tropical, rich and detailed setting of Moray, a thought that stuck with me throughout the entirety of the novel was…”WOW, this needs to be an video game tbh.” This Monte Cristo retelling is filled with revenge, corruption, but at its heart a tale of legacy and identity that would be perfectly executed as action role-playing game.

I can clearly picture this novel as an adventure RPG filled with quests, treasures, sea faring, intrigue, and above all an open world where you can be both Cayo and Amaya as they uncover more secrets about the dual-sided city of Moray.

The setting and atmosphere that Sim weaves throughout the novel would perfectly transition to a format for players to explore the world themselves as they journey either Cayo or Amaya’s stories.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi: This idea did not even cross my mind until I saw fellow booktwt friends mention that TGW would make an amazing puzzle game, and I agree!

Set in Paris 1889 and on the verge of the Exposition Universelle, Chokshi’s magic system and adorable crew of misfits would be perfect as a visual novel melded with the strategy of a puzzle game to tell the story of the crew on a mission to hunt down an ancient artifact.

What would be at the core of this fictional game, in my opinion, would be the atmospheric soundtrack, detailed characters/text boxes and backgrounds making for fun interactive puzzles across Paris, even the focus on narrative to uncover the secrets, but also delve into the various themes Chokshi centers into her novel.

Skip by Molly Mendoza: One of my favorite graphic novels of 2019, this graphic novel that blew me away with its beautiful storytelling and surrealist, colorful artwork (Seriously if you haven’t read this graphic novel please read my REVIEW if you need more convincing).

This is set in a post-apocalyptic world where protagonists Bloom and Gloopy are from different dimensions and become best friends, while also trying to find their way back home. When I think of this as a video game, I picture it with a Journey-esque quality (if you know what game I’m talking about) where there’s no health bar/status and is just about exploring the open world setting and interacting with the world or characters.

Basically no overly serious quests, just traveling in a marvelously illustrated world and immersing yourself in the aesthetics of it all. I also picture the cutscenes done in the style of Mendoza’s artwork from the graphic novel.

Perhaps for a future post I can share more of these ideas for book-to-game, but to conclude I had a lot of fun writing + crafting this post, and sure hope you enjoyed reading it. Perhaps one day studios will experiment more in animation and video game adaptations when it comes to books!

Do you have an dream books-to-videogame adaptations? What kind of game format do you imagine and thoughts on the ones I mentioned above? 📚🎮💖

Book Blogger Resources: Creating Graphics For Posts and Organizing Your Reading

In 2021 a goal of mine is to bring bookish posts that helps other book bloggers and creators by sharing lists of various resources to alleviate the stress when your unsure of how to create your next graphic, organize your reading, making posts, etc. Book Bloggers put in numerous hours into crafting content and I’d love for this series to help either new or long-term creators utilize these tools to elevate your amazing work.

When I first began my blog in 2015, I never knew about these resources for creating graphics and when you think about it, visuals are such an important part of how we interact with content.

Over the years I’ve gotten a better hang of making banners for my posts and want to share what I’ve learned with all of you! I’ve created a broad resource for book bloggers looking to make graphics for their posts, blog and social media. I’ll be splitting it up by graphic design platforms, places where you can find images, and chat about places where you can keep your reading organized (aside from Goodreads).

📚☕ GRAPHICS 📚☕

Canva: This FREE graphic design platform is filled with numerous templates and layouts making it incredibly easy to create banners and featured images for your blog posts /content. There’s even specific templates for platforms such as Instagram and Twitter providing you with the perfect sized image.

There’s various tools that provide free backgrounds or images, text, and design elements so you can customize your graphic in any way you’d like. I use this a lot for my own blog and highly recommend using it if you haven’t already!

FhotoJet: Another website perfect for creating graphics, there’s a lot of premade templates, images, and text available to use. I tried this one out without needing to create an account, so if you want to make something super quick, this is a nice website! Recently discovered it and I think it’s worth checking out.

📚☕ Free Stock Images 📚☕

Unsplash: This website is full of thousands of free stock photos and the layout of the website makes it very simple to scroll, search, even find photos based on locations or tags. I’ve honestly spent hours scrolling on this site and am always left pleasantly surprised by the range of photos available. I’m pretty sure sites like ‘Book Riot use it for their posts, so I recommend checking out their Twitter to see how some of the photos look.

Additional sites that have free vectors, images, or illustrations: FREEPIKPIXABYPEXELS

Museums and access to images in the public domain: This is a unique resource I’ve only learned more about over the past couple years and I don’t utilize it much, but it’s a fantastic way to incorporate artwork into your graphics if you’re interested. According to Creative Law Center, this post contains various galleries of museum artwork you can access for free (just as long as you select “public domain” or similar wording under the filters when browsing). They are free to download and offer a large variety of work to view.

(Or whenever you want to use artwork/photographs provided by museums, just make sure it has the Creative Commons License)

📚☕ Organizing Your Reading 📚☕

With many readers actively searching for Goodreads alternatives that offer more features and customization, here’s a few places you should check out!

Storygraph: You’ve probably heard of this platform over the past year and what makes this website great, aside from its user-friendly and eye-catching layout, this is the place to “[help] you track your reading and choose your next book based on your mood and your favorite topics and themes.” Its a great website to discover new reads from the ‘Browse Books’ section and learn more about a book through different literary devices or elements like tone and pacing. There’s also more customizable ratings letting you be more specific and I think it also lists content warnings for books.

I haven’t spent too much time on my account, but I’d love to check back and see all the new features the Storygraph has added now that it’s out of Beta mode.

Booksloth (App): One of my favorite bookish apps by far now is Booksloth, I think its such an inviting space and truly makes reading feel more like a community activity through it’s discussion section, customizable shelves, and by making it incredibly easy to customize your profile making reading feel more personal and fun!

According to their website Booksloth is all about offering “personalized book recommendations” and making it easy to join their “bookish community.”

I’ve been meaning to get back to using this app because another one of my favorite features is how it lets you rate different story elements of a book and just discover new reads (or even recommend some) in the discussion section.

Readng: This reading tracker launched I think within the past couple years (2019-2020) and I’ve only just discovered it in the past month, but overall I love what I’m seeing. I like the layout of the site and how clean the design is. Its so easy to create collections for specific books, track current/finished/tbr reads (all determined with specific icons on the navigation bar), and there’s upcoming additions like statistics, reviews, and reading goals!

I like how it’s easy to see a live feed of other users activity for the books their reading and import directly from Goodreads.

Digital Spreadsheets: As I’m sure you’ve probably seen around the book community from different bookish creators are reading trackers through spreadsheets. Creators often make blog posts or videos and link their templates which provide an easy way to track your reading in a more detailed fashion.

When seeing all the different kinds of templates out there it can be a bit overwhelming, but over the past year I’ve found its a great way to not only track reading, but other specific book-related stuff too. In a future blog post I’d love delve more into my 2021 spreadsheet and offer unique ways to create your own.

Overall what makes spreadsheets such a great resource for book bloggers (or any book content creator) is how easy it is to customize it in whatever way you want and there’s lots of different digital tools you can use to get started! There’s places like Google docs or sheets, using templates, maybe even Notion, or other note-taking websites!

Hope my blog post offered some value for book bloggers or other bookish creators and I’ve love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

✨ What sites do you use to create graphics? ✨ ✨How do you track your reading?✨ ✨Will you use any of the resources I mentioned above?✨

The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black Review

The Queen Of Nothing by Holly Black (The Folk Of The Air #3)

Publisher: Little Brown & Company

Release Date: November 19, 2019

Pages: 305

Available Through The Book Depository: The Queen Of Nothing

Summary: He will be the destruction of the crown and the ruination of the throne.

Power is much easier to acquire than it is to hold on to. Jude learned that lesson when she released her control over the wicked king, Cardan, in exchange for immeasurable power.

Now, as the exiled mortal Queen of Faerie, Jude is left reeling from Cardan’s betrayal. She bides her time, determined to reclaim everything he took from her. Opportunity arrives in the form of her deceptive twin sister, Taryn, whose mortal life is in peril.

Jude must risk venturing back into the treacherous Faerie Court, and confront her lingering feelings for Cardan, if she wishes to save her sister. But Elfhame is not as she left it. War is brewing. As Jude slips deep within enemy lines, she becomes ensnared in the conflict’s bloody politics.

And when a terrible curse is unleashed, panic spreads throughout the land, forcing her to choose between her ambition and her humanity….

My Rating: ★★★☆☆ ¾

My Thoughts: The Queen Of Nothing is the entertaining conclusion to the Folk Of The Air trilogy! When Jude’s exile is cut short by her sister, she’s given an opportunity to return to Elfhame, confront Cardan, and give it one more shot at her hold for power. Dynamic character arcs, dramatic politics, and more make this a page-turning finale!

As 2020 was coming to a close, I was very undecided on what my final read of the year would be. Then remembering one of my goals was to finish up QON after the gripping sequel that was The Wicked King, it wasn’t surprising at all that as with the previous book, it was read in practically a day. Taking a pause on blogging gave me more time to think about all the things that happened in this finale and while I find these reads to be just pure escapism, still felt there were parts that could’ve been better.

What kept me motivated to finish up Folk Of The Air was not only Jude x Cardan dynamic, but also the fate of Elfhame after Jude’s exile. Though without question, TWK is by far my favorite book in this series.

Jude is barely getting by in the human realm and continuously feeling out of her element, with her sister Vivi and Oak. However, when a quest involving the a former Court fae by the name of Grima Mog offers her the chance to brush up on her strategy / training she’s retained within her since being exiled, she knows she has to find a way back.

Then when her twin sister Taryn gives the perfect opportunity by switching places with her and attempt to pardon her after murdering her husband Locke, she questions whether she should take this chance and risk facing the King of Elfhame, Cardan again.

While seeming rather disjointed and unpredictable early on from Jude’s moments undercover at the Court Of Teeth to her eventual return to the palace, there’s importance to these scenes especially in how Jude’s power as queen and the stakes are confronted later on in the story.

Both a pro and a con of this finale is how sympathetic I felt for the cast, which is supposed to be filled with morally grey / bad fairy folk. When Jude is reunited with her sister again, there’s that moment of fear for Taryn and the feeling of triumph that Jude finally has a way back to Elfhame. When she sits down with Madoc at the Court of Teeth, there’s a sense of understanding in knowing now why Jude and Taryn were brought up so differently with Madoc. However, why this majorly impacts the story is that it takes away from the whole purpose of what I thought this series was meant to be: these are morally bad people and Jude being one of them, we’re still compelled to root for her in her journey to gain power.

In a way our characters felt weirdly out of character. That intense greyish morality and cunning was swapped for this idea that now everyone is just misunderstood. Did I like some of those characters regardless? Absolutely, in the context of the book I enjoyed it, I’m not sure about you but I felt like I finally understood Taryn in this one even Nicasia. However, in general it felt like that mystery of whether characters can be good was just taken away and didn’t seem like it made sense when looking to the series as a whole.

The politics, while not as strong as in The Wicked King, do carry an important weight as we begin to see the impact power, prophecy, and the fae lore has on the future of this world. The division between Elfhame and the mortal world was a much needed addition that brought a nice balance of realism to the fantastical elements of the Folk Of The Air. The way it operates is pretty different than in Elfhame and it was fun to see that introduced.

Next I wanted to talk briefly about the writing. While it does have a fairytale-like quality to it and Black is very clever (in this book especially) with weaving together plot points/ fae’s ability to say things a certain way in order for them to come true later. I feel like it gets me to remember specific scenes, and allowing those important tidbits of info to stick with you. But as a whole, the writing in general doesn’t have much substance to it. It’s very focused on Jude’s internal and emotional thoughts which leaves little to no detail for the setting or building more concrete elements into the world itself.

Okay now onto Cardan and Jude!  The ending of the second book left them off on an interesting twist and no doubt I was invested to see what would happen to them in the finale. Out of all the characters, he was the most interesting and one of my favorites throughout the series. I think their dynamic here was more like an established partnership (which was nice) as their fitting into their roles as king and queen, but I thought that angst and uncertainty wasn’t as strong in this one. While I won’t spoil specific scenes, it felt like a core piece to Jude as a person did a complete 180 in this book because of their roles and established relationship. Again, I didn’t dislike their relationship, but it felt like something was missing here.

The pacing itself is also a bit weird. It’s fast paced at times and yet it felt it like I was stuck at certain spots forever, like the Court Of Teeth and the Madoc stuff near the end. It felt like that sense of urgency to the story wasn’t always there. Also a very random side note, I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned this in previous reviews of The Cruel Prince or Wicked King, but overall, don’t really like Bomb, Roach or Ghost…In this book I thought they brought interesting surprises for Jude in the story for sure, but sadly I’m just not the biggest fan of them and honestly could not tell you a single thing about them.

The ending does wrap-up rather quickly, though the build-up towards it felt like forever. Spoiler’s ahead: Probably one of my favorite chapters in the entire book was the throne room stuff near the end, yet I felt like it was bogged down with trying to show Jude become more comfortable in her role as queen on her own. But in general it’s a nice ending so I’ll leave it there. Overall this series was just fun, entertaining, escapism, and I could probably see myself rereading them in the future one day.

The Queen Of Nothing is the conclusion to the Folk Of The Air series! Wrapping up all the loose threads this finale does seem a bit out of place compared to previous books, but overall it’s filled to the brim with politics, intrigue, some romance and is just entertaining all around!

Taking a Blog Hiatus…sort of? {Blog Discussion}

Hello everyone, on the eve of the new year that is 2021 I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about my blog, reading, reviewing, basically a lot. For months I’ve been dreading making this post because 24hr.YABookBlog has been place where I’ve seen myself grow as a reader, writer, content creator, and as a person. But in the rush to keep up with new blog posts, reviewing, posting weekly content, I especially found myself being burned out during 2020. With other life priorities I see how that was reflected in my blog posts, although I’m so proud of the content I created in the past year, it’s important for me to take time for myself too.

In my 5 years as a blogger I’ve NEVER taken an official hiatus, but there’s moments like now where it’s important to remember that occasional breaks are necessary. Although I feel like with a more free schedule in 2021 I’ll definitely be reading more, I also care about bringing the best blog content I can to all of you. This means I need to take that time to find out what I’m missing and where to go from here.

At most I think I’ll take the month of January off (although I’ll be reviewing and posting still…sort of? It’s complicated). There’s other blogs and spaces where I’ve been eager to get back to creating for too and this will give me more time to reflect on my content here, like The Booked Shelf and another awesome space I’ll talk about more once I’m back! I’m also planning to catch up on lots of books in January 2021 so I’ll still be posting reviews here, I just think it’ll just be more sporadic for a couple weeks (I’ll probably make them very brief for the time being, but again not too sure yet).

My goal is to improve my reviewing, discussions, and writing in general. I’ve been caught in a routine that I’ve noticed when it comes to my book reviews and it’s important for me to change it up a bit. This means I’ll try to blog hop more and get inspired by fellow bloggers by reading more posts.

Without a doubt though, I’ll be back to posting more regularly by the end of January.

There’s many books I’d love to catch up on and lots of fun bookish lists, discussions, and content in general I’m feeling inspired to post on the blog, but I know I’ll need a bit of time to find that spark again.

I’ve also felt a frustration (as I’m sure many can relate) with wanting to post and stay active within the community, while reading ALL the books and posting consistently. Also getting a bit more personal with my blogging journey in 2020, this year especially has reminded me that while its amazing to see other bookish creators posting more varied content (book news, certain discussions/content, etc.), there’s a feeling of erasure or fear that others are “copying” you without proper credit. Maybe this is a bit of a stretch, but I’ve really felt that way this year and I want to work harder to establish myself and content, because I put a lot of heart into it and don’t want my work to go overlooked.

As with each year, I want to find my writing voice and convey more of a style into what I blog about. That’s something I try to get better at with each review and hopefully my blogging hiatus will help with that.

There’s a lot more I’m excited for in the new year and I think I’ll leave it here for now. But now some QUESTIONS for all of my wonderful fellow bloggers, readers, and followers of my blog: What is it you enjoy about my content? Is there anything you’d like to see more of? If there’s a specific review or post of mine you loved reading, which is it? All of your amazing thoughts would really help me feel motivated, inspired, and eager to reinvent myself as a creator during my hiatus. [*Still planning to create a 2020 wrap-up of sorts too, so keep an eye out for that as well 💕]

Lots of fun bookish content is coming and I’m so excited to share it with all of you! See you all again very soon in 2021! 😍🎉📚

Magic Dark And Strange by Kelly Powell ARC Review

Magic Dark And Strange by Kelly Powell

Publisher: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Release Date: October 27, 2020

Pages: 240

Available Through The Book Depository: Magic Dark & Strange

Cover Design: Sonia Chaghatzbanian and Greg Stadnyk

Summary: Catherine Daly has an unusual talent. By day she works for a printer. But by night, she awakens the dead for a few precious moments with loved ones seeking a final goodbye. But this magic comes with a price: for every hour that a ghost is brought back, Catherine loses an hour from her own life.

When Catherine is given the unusual task of collecting a timepiece from an old grave, she is sure that the mysterious item must contain some kind of enchantment. So she enlists Guy Nolan, the watchmaker’s son, to help her dig it up. But instead of a timepiece, they find a surprise: the body of a teenage boy. And as they watch, he comes back to life—not as the pale imitation that Catherine can conjure, but as a living, breathing boy. A boy with no memory of his past.

This magic is more powerful than any Catherine has ever encountered, and revealing it brings dangerous enemies. Catherine and Guy must race to unravel the connection between the missing timepiece and the undead boy. For this mysterious magic could mean the difference between life and death—for all of them.

My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Thoughts: Magic Dark And Strange is Powell’s latest standalone set in a Victorian fantasy world filled with magic and murder! A necromancer and watchmaker’s son team up to solve a mystery when a boy is brought back to life. This is an atmospheric, immersive novel, that delivers a more quiet, character-driven story! Perfect for fans of Margaret Rogerson!

Set in the Victorian-esque city of Invercarn, Powell crafts a story built around a distinct, equally quirky magic system, propelled by an almost slice-of-life narrative following a trio who band together to solve a town mystery!

Having read Powell’s debut, I’ve realized her unique, leisurely-paced historical fantasy novels can potentially be hit or miss with some readers who prefer more immediate storylines with a swiftness to their plot, but don’t let that deter you from this fun, gothic fantasy with friendship at its core!

Catherine Daly has worked at the Invercarn Chronicle for two years to support her family and tries to write them often. She seems to have a rather mundane job as an obituary writer, but to sustain the business her boss (as many other businesses do) have side operations that run solely on providing magical services.

Opening at a graveyard no less, Catherine uses skills of necromancy to help clients reunite with loved ones who’ve died. But with magic at a cost to the user, Catherine herself loses hours of her life in exchange.

When her boss is eager to find a magical timepiece or risk losing her job, Catherine teams up with Guy Nolan, son of Nolan’s Watch & Clock Repair to dig up some leads. This leads them to the grave of a boy (given the name Owen) whose mysteriously brought back to life! But the watch isn’t with him and he has no memories of who he was or his past. Now the three of them are working together to figure out where the mysterious timepiece is and when rumors surface, why it’s leading to a thread of murders.

As mentioned above, this is very much a slice-of-life story because the characters go about their daily lives while also trying to find the watch! I think that makes for a very interesting setting in YA Fantasy because it shows how lived in the world is, plus how our characters interact with it. Magic itself is established in the world as a norm and isn’t used to extremes or for very heightened stakes, so it’s delved into in a very quiet way.

As Catherine continues her quest while also writing for the paper, Guy is working alongside his father to fix watches, plus they even help Owen try to find work and establish a new life for himself as he’s now alive again.

Throughout the novel, friendship and the bond between the trio is such an important, underlying theme that Powell makes so clear through Catherine and Guy’s dynamic, Catherine and her support for Owen, even Guy using his connections to help Owen learn more about who he was. There is an element of romance between Catherine and Guy, whose shows a vulnerability around her, but the two of them establish a friendship first. The way Powell makes those friendship dynamics such a central force of the story, allows it to be such a refreshing read too! Their support for one another is so nice to read and once you reach the end your also left feeling kind of sad because there’s only one book!! I could imagine tons more adventures with the three of them together and tbh think they should open up their own magic side business or something!

Powell’s novel reads like a comforting, familiar fantasy where you can easily picture the story and immerse yourself in it. You really sink into the city and it almost envelops the reader as their along for the adventure sweeping our main cast across town. The Victorian setting is brought to life through the weather, stone architecture, locations (university, cemetery, shops, etc.), period styles of clothing, even how the characters speak, allows you to picture a very specific kind of location. The mystery is also compelling and interesting because it asks so many questions about who is risking so much to obtain this magic, where is the watch now, and what’s at stake?

Powell’s novels carry a unique whimsy to them that’s made her one of my favorite underrated authors over the past couple years. This book just takes you on an adventure woven with mystery, friendship, and brings up such fascinating ideas about who we are and where we can go next. This wonderful underlying messages delved into through each character in their own way, which is present a lot with Owen for example, who is confronting his own fears of not being able to know his true identity and also trying to establish something completely new for himself. Same with Catherine & Guy who seem to be pretty comfortable with where they are at, but working together to solve the mystery and building that friendship allows them to question what’s next. In addition, there’s a brief, underlying moment where Powell presents this idea of the price of magic for those we care about. All are very interesting questions, however I just wish they were delved into even more. Same for the magic system and the world itself: What other magical jobs are there, different layers to the magic system and how others use magic that’s such common place? I feel like we never really get those answers.

Now onto why I personally rated it 4 stars, although I whole-heartedly recommend this fun read: The build-up to the mystery is fascinating as we’re wondering who Owen was in his previous life and who was responsible for his death? Also, where is that timepiece? But, because they go back and forth a lot between the shops and various characters as well who may have leads, it feels like the mystery never really picks up until halfway through. The urgency felt like it wasn’t completely there, but again as someone who enjoys the quiet fantasy stories, I didn’t mind too much, however with the fascinating story Powell presented it felt like the pacing could have been a bit faster.

With the writing itself too, it felt like there was more to learn about Invercarn! Again, Powell really delves into a specific atmosphere and setting, so I just wanted to know even more about the magic and world itself.

Aside from that though, I will absolutely be reading Powell’s next book! She crafts such inventive, creative YA Fantasy tales that no matter what, always leave me feeling like I’ve gone on some grand adventure. And seriously, if you enjoy Rogerson’s Sorcery Of Thorns, I think you’d have a lot of fun with this book too! Highly recommend reading it.

Magic Dark And Strange is an inventive, fantasy standalone with necromancy, murder mystery, with a Victorian-gothic setting! Although quiet, the story delivers a compelling plot and mystery, alongside a delightful main cast of characters you want to learn more about. A unique world, intriguing layer of questions, and atmospheric storytelling make this an underrated YA Fantasy worth checking out!

Book Buying and Tracking Finances As A Book Blogger

Over the past couple years as a university student it’s no surprise I began to think more about my finances. As a book blogger especially, who reads and reviews books every year, it’s even less of a surprise that over 4 years later I’m considering and questioning how much is being spent on buying books.

To give a bit of background, I’d never been much of a book buyer growing up, but when I discovered my love for Young Adult fiction in about 2012, slowly the number of books being added to my personal library began to grow little by little. Now, as the weight of my 100+ collection slowly began taking root in my mind, it was clear I had to think more about my spending habits.

In late 2018 I discovered Readwithcindy’s booktube video Why I Only Own 4 Books 💸 A Chat On Booktube Consumerism’ and more specifically this video ‘how much money i saved on books| 2018 stats.’ There’s a particular idea I took from both of them that has forever changed the way I think about my bookish spending. As someone whose reading is about 80-95% through the library not once did it ever cross my mind to track those savings, until I watched Cindy’s videos!

Now for all of 2019 and 2020 I’ve created spreadsheets / lists of books I’ve checked out from the library comparing with hypothetical prices if I were to buy them (with some discounts) via Barnes & Noble, Book Outlet, or The Book Depository. There’s something rewarding about seeing the amount of dollars saved in black and white, just by writing it down. Now, I’m trying my best to limit spending as much as I can in the new year (especially as being inside more during 2020 has without a doubt caused me to splurge a bit more online). I’m fortunate to have access to a great library system and this year has put into perspective how I can do more to utilize it and save money on my reading. Especially when I’m sure many can relate that we buy books here and there, only to set them aside for months at a time and end up reading something else.

Writing down those figures, tracking the expenses, and preparing new goals for the upcoming year has made me especially conscious of my habits to save more where I can, and this is not a surprise…Now for a bit of psychology! According to Forbes, the neuroscience involved in simply jotting down goals helps with external storage and encoding to help you accomplish them. Essentially it’s best summed up by this quote, “Study after study shows you will remember things better when you write them down.” That includes storing them within your long-term memory and identifying the “Generational Effect” which basically means you remember information more when you’ve personally generated it for yourself.

Something as simple as writing down the number of books being borrowed from the library has made a big impact on how I’m calculating spending. For a majority of 2020 I’ve followed the Japanese budgeting method of Kakeibo and it completely changed the way I not only think about, but also view finances. All year the journal that’s been by my side, Kakeibo: The Japanese Art Of Saving Money, has made it easy to jot down month by month, how many dollars have gone towards my book-buying habits. Although it faltered now towards the latter half of this year, there was never a moment I forgot about this concept with each purchase I made. Writing these numbers by hand has created much more awareness as to where it’s going and how I can personally do more to save what’s already there.

From Thomas Oppong in The Ladders, this article breaks down the essential questions that Kakeibo asks with each monthly budget: How much money do you have available, How much would you like to save, How much are you spending, and How can you improve?

Created by Japan’s first female journalist, Hani Motoko had another idea to keep in mind too: “saving money is about spending it well.”

So if your struggling with saving money on books, don’t be afraid to just start writing these numbers down and see where you can reduce your spending. There’s also the underlying (very nuanced) topic of consumerism, even how we are propelled to pick up the newest releases more and more because of our access to various platforms, etc.! We’re often unintentionally encouraged by seeing other bookish creators on other platforms with their monthly hauls, overflowing bookshelves, and passionate recommendations to find a way to access those books as well. This is amazing as a community that we encourage each other to discover new reads, however when it comes to finances and access, it may not always be possible for everyone.

I’m not sure I have the time to delve into this topic too much here, but perhaps I’ll save this for another post if your interested? In which I can talk more about consumerism in the community, minimalism, and how that can be impacted by book influencers.

To sum up, I think tracking how much money I’ve contributed to my book buying hobby has really helped me put it into perspective. This not only applies to the amount of spending, but where I can start saving as well, which I plan to continue for years to come!

What are your thoughts on this discussion? Do you track your book spending? Any tips you personally use to save money? OR any websites you recommend for book buying on a budget? 📚✨

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2 by Makoto Hagino {Manga Review}

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow by Matoko Hagino (Tropical Fish #2)

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: February 11, 2020

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2

Summary: From the moment they met at the Aquarium Club’s open house, Konatsu has admired Koyuki and treated her like she wasn’t a distant figure on a pedestal. In turn, Koyuki has been open and welcoming to the new girl who stirs her heart.

When the time comes to pick a club, Konatsu chooses the Aquarium Club with Koyuki. And even though it’s just the two of them, they manage to host a successful open house. What’s next for Koyuki and Konatsu, now that the shared experience has deepened the bond between them?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 2 follows Konatsu and Koyuki as the story builds on their wholesome friendship and navigates their introspective feelings as they continue to deepen their bond! This character-driven, page-turning story is propelled by the girls start to summer vacation with much on their minds. A quiet, slice-of-life manga sure to captivate!

Without a doubt after falling completely in love with Tropical Fish Vol. 1 I had to continue this series! There’s a poetic beauty to it as new girl in town Konatsu and aquarium club leader Koyuki find themselves inexplicably drawn to each other, like a wave upon a shore. They both are navigating this underlying loneliness, their feelings for one another and in this volume, keep each other in their thoughts.

As the aquarium open house comes to a close, Konatsu worries about her well-being as Koyuki, in reality, is trying to keep her feelings hidden. Konatsu, in her pursuit to help during the open house, is told from Koyuki’s father that the best she can do is just be there for her (the frog/salamander bread scene was too wholesome).

Unsure of how to communicate her complex feelings about Konatsu, Koyuki seems to struggle to further strengthen their friendship in the beginning, which leads to some moments of miscommunication between them. However, Koyuki takes the chance to invite Konatsu during their summer break to Aoshima (aka Nekojima / Cat Island) for a club trip, with much anxiety about asking for her number too! That led to this very funny line that I just have to share from Konatsu: “I’d call her anytime…but I don’t actually know her number!!!” (52).

During the trip, they go fishing, get caught in the rain, have some longing glances, and run into lots of cats! It was a very sweet chapter seeing them together and it just warmed my heart. I was very much just along for the ride in this volume and loved how every moment they have together (or apart), carries so much depth to each scene.

As the Summer Festival approaches, Koyuki struggles with the guilt of trying to ask Konatsu while not wanting to be unfair to those she turned down before. This leads to her assuming that because Konatsu and Kaede hung out, she’s no longer available. Although this volume leaned towards some miscommunication, this series adds more to it by navigating their girls reflections or inner dialogue as their feelings drive a particular scene.

Kaede is another character who gets a little more development too which I loved! In fact, I adore this main girl squad and can’t wait to see their friendship continue to grow. She’s very bubbly, outgoing, a bit blunt at times, however she’s always there to lend an ear. When Konatsu can’t stop thinking about Koyuki during their afternoon together, Kaede steps in to offer advice as Konatsu expresses she feels like she’s annoying Koyuki with her texts. Kaede is incredibly supportive, taking her right to Koykui’s house to solve it.

Once everything is cleared up, Koykui and Konatsu agree to go together (with both their dads joining too). But one scene that further presented the loneliness the girls are navigating throughout the series was when Koyuki shares that she admires Konatsu’s strength. However, Konatsu begins to sink back into that quiet, empty space thinking their isn’t anything particularly special about herself. As the two of them get split up because of an upcoming fireworks display, Konatsu can’t get a certain question off her mind: Why did Koyuki speak to Konatsu randomly at the open house the day they met? [More context is given early on in this volume, but seeing that come full circle finally in the end was nice and I’m hoping Koyuki will finally say (or even hint) at how she feels].

Hagino’s quiet, slice of life atmosphere really gives a calm, simplicity to the series that’s also very thought-provoking too. It’s seen especially in the personal moments that Koyuki or Konatsu reflect on their feelings or internal loneliness.

As with the first volume, I just love the artwork and how it really allows those quiet moments to stay with the reader through every page. The frog/salamander symbolism makes a return, but it’s definitely a little more in the background as the metaphorical elements are more hinted at throughout this volume. Honestly, every close scene they have together is very emotional, moving, and I just can’t wait to see their relationship develop throughout the series (though I’ve seen that it is *very slowburn).

There’s nothing I didn’t like about this volume honestly, it’s more about the plot and it just feels like a 4.5 rating! Although, this series has truly captured my heart and made a mess of my life only two volumes in, Koyuki and Konatsu are just very much in need of some hugs!! ❤

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a fantastic, but also underrated manga series with lots of depth, two very complex protagonists, and a slow-burn romance that will keep you reading! As Koyuki and Konatsu spend more time together, they continue to navigate their feelings for each other! An absolute gem of a manga series!

YA Book Comparisons by Authors Of Color and Unfair Critiques of BIPOC Work {Book Blog Discussion Revisited}

As it often happens in the book community, discussions are often recycled, repeated, in an almost yearly cycle. However, one cannot ignore the nuance and expansion that each of these discussions brings (no matter how monotonous), which sheds a new light on a different angle of which to view it. Today I’m revisiting an article I wrote originally in October of 2019 to explore the idea of comparative titles or reader comparisons in general, and how they impact the ratings/perception of YA Fantasy novels, particularly by authors of color.

Due to specific expectations or perhaps the overworked concept of “comp titles,” the main point of my 2019 article was to showcase how these books, almost always by authors of color are harshly critiqued or left with unfair ratings due to surface level comparisons. So why am I revisiting this discussion again? Well news broke on November 4 that Hafsah Faizal’s upcoming 2022 novel (which sounds phenomenal btw) titled “A Tempest Of Tea” would be a new fantasy duology featuring a “gang of outcasts and a deadly heist.”

According to Faizal via Twitter, in the span of less than 24 hours, 19 to be exact, her unpublished book with only an announcement already started getting compared to no surprise… Six Of Crows.

Many in the book community, rightfully so, have taken to Twitter speaking out against this unfair critique. As mentioned in my 2019 discussion, surface-level comparisons such as these often undermine the lengthy discussions and research authors of color input to delve into topics such as colonialism, slavery, race, and much more unlike the white authors to which their novels get compared to. Especially when authors of color are crafting works based on their own distinct experiences or culture.

It’s truly disheartening to see because it instills this idea *specifically* among the book community (or industry) whether it’s readers, publishers, etc. that authors of color or BIPOC folks, can’t have their novels stand on their own. In my previous piece I examined this through The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi and Nocturna by Maya Motayne (which are both excellent YA Fantasy titles).

*Note: I’m not here to completely disregard comp titles or anything, because without a doubt they can invaluable tool to increase awareness, draw in similar readers, or help titles during different stages of the publishing process. For information on the usefulness of this method, I recommend reading “Comp Titles: An Elevator Pitch For Your Book” from the Penguin Random House blog ‘News For Authors’.

As mentioned numerous times by authors, readers, and so on, SOC did not invent heists nor will it ever be the only novel that does so. (Especially since Ally Carter’s Heist Society came out in 2010 and is often forgotten). Maybe I’ll delve into this in another discussion, but I feel this largely has to do with the rise in online book community spaces just as SOC was released and hyped up which then in turn, led to this book being pushed and later cemented among that wave of readers, reviewers, etc. finding their online space.

Now back to my main point, in the end us as readers need to be more cognizant that as publishing continues to become more inclusive and diverse, we need to understand that many communities of color have not had their chances at telling the stories we’ve encountered hundreds of times. While of course not every book is for everyone (which is absolutely valid), I think if anything, this is a great opportunity for readers to see how authors use their unique and distinct backgrounds to explore tropes/storytelling from their particular lens.

In an article from Bustle on November 24, celebrating Sabaa Tahir’s finale to the ‘An Ember In The Ashes’ quartet, Tahir mentioned how there is still much work to be done in “[diversifying] YA publishing,” additionally she stated:

Over and over, authors from marginalized groups are told, ‘We already have a book like this,’ or ‘We already have an author like you.’ But books by marginalized authors shouldn’t be a quota you fill…”How many vampire books written by white authors? Dozens. I’ve nothing against that, but authors from marginalized groups deserve the same respect. Just because authors have similar experiences or ethnic backgrounds doesn’t mean their stories will be identical. We contain multitudes and our work is meaningful and distinctive.

Sabaa Tahir via ‘The An Ember In The Ashes Series Might Be Over, But Sabaa Tahir Is Just Getting Started’ from Bustle

Where traditionally, marginalized and BIPOC writers have been on the outskirts, we should not overlook the strides made when a new author of color publishes, because each one is an accomplishment, inspiration, and hope for a future beaming with new writers waiting to tell their own stories too.

I will yet again, leave on this quote from Leigh Bardugo herself in a 2016 article from Bustle, where she states, “The truth is, I get a lot of praise for diversity, but there are far more diverse fantasy worlds out there.”

Any additional thoughts you’d like to add to this discussion? or Any related topics your interested in sharing? 📚✨

Additional articles from fellow book bloggers that also discuss this topic:

1.Michelle from MagicalReads7 post The Gilded Wolves Vs. Six Of Crows

2. CW from The Quiet Pond posting about Book Recommendations: Diverse Heist Stories (That aren’t SOC)

2021 YA Books From Authors of Color to Add To Your TBR!

It’s no surprise that as we near the end of 2020, us avid readers are already prepping our 2021 TBRs! With the new year right around the corner, its the perfect time to start gushing about the phenomenal books being released by authors of color.

Support these authors, their books, and let’s celebrate them together! This list will feature debuts, new series, standalones, etc. As always my post will feature a mix of contemporary, fantasy, sci-fi, magical realism, historical fiction, and more!

While release dates and covers for some of these have yet to be finalized, I really wanted to get these books on your radar because I definitely think they need more buzz!! Join me in discussing and gushing about these reads from AOC’s we are getting so very soon.

Enjoy today’s list and let me know if your looking forward to these Young Adult releases as well or have more recommendations of your own! 📚✨

1.Happily Ever Afters by Elise Bryant

Available through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Tessa Johnson has never felt like the protagonist in her own life. She’s rarely seen herself reflected in the pages of the romance novels she loves. The only place she’s a true leading lady is in her own writing—in the swoony love stories she shares only with Caroline, her best friend and #1 devoted reader.

When Tessa is accepted into the creative writing program of a prestigious art school, she’s excited to finally let her stories shine. But when she goes to her first workshop, the words are just…gone. Fortunately, Caroline has a solution: Tessa just needs to find some inspiration in a real-life love story of her own. And she’s ready with a list of romance novel-inspired steps to a happily ever after. Nico, the brooding artist who looks like he walked out of one of Tessa’s stories, is cast as the perfect Prince Charming.

But as Tessa checks off each item off Caroline’s list, she gets further and further away from herself. She risks losing everything she cares about—including the surprising bond she develops with sweet Sam, who lives across the street. She’s well on her way to having her own real-life love story, but is it the one she wants, after all?

2. One Of The Good Ones by Maika and Maritza Moulite

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: January 5, 2021

Summary: When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again. 

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

3. Roman & Jewel by Dana L. Davis

Summary: If Romeo and Juliet got the Hamilton treatment…who would play the leads? This vividly funny, honest, and charming romantic novel by Dana L. Davis is the story of a girl who thinks she has what it takes…and the world thinks so, too.

Jerzie Jhames will do anything to land the lead role in Broadway’s hottest new show, Roman and Jewel, a Romeo and Juliet inspired hip-hopera featuring a diverse cast and modern twists on the play. But her hopes are crushed when she learns mega-star Cinny won the lead…and Jerzie is her understudy.

Falling for male lead Zeppelin Reid is a terrible idea–especially once Jerzie learns Cinny wants him for herself. Star-crossed love always ends badly. But when a video of Jerzie and Zepp practicing goes viral and the entire world weighs in on who should play Jewel, Jerzie learns that while the price of fame is high, friendship, family, and love are priceless. 

4. Angel of Greenwood by Randi Pink

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: January 12, 2021

Summary: A historical YA novel that takes place during the Greenwood Massacre of 1921, in an area of Tulsa, OK, known as the Black Wall Street.

Seventeen-year-old Isaiah Wilson is, on the surface, a town troublemaker, but is hiding that he is an avid reader and secret poet, never leaving home without his journal. A passionate follower of WEB. Du Bois, he believes that black people should rise up to claim their place as equals.

Sixteen-year-old Angel Hill is a loner, mostly disregarded by her peers as a goody-goody. Her father is dying, and her family’s financial situation is in turmoil. Also, as a loyal follower of Booker T. Washington, she believes, through education and tolerance, that black people should rise slowly and without forced conflict.

Though they’ve attended the same schools, Isaiah never noticed Angel as anything but a dorky, Bible toting church girl. Then their English teacher offers them a job on her mobile library, a three-wheel, two-seater bike. Angel can’t turn down the money and Isaiah is soon eager to be in such close quarters with Angel every afternoon.

But life changes on May 31, 1921 when a vicious white mob storms the community of Greenwood, leaving the town destroyed and thousands of residents displaced. Only then, Isaiah, Angel, and their peers realize who their real enemies are.

5. Rise Of The Red Hand by Olivia Chadha (The Mechanists #1)

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: January 19, 2021

Summary: A rare, searing portrayal of the future of climate change in South Asia. A streetrat turned revolutionary and the disillusioned hacker son of a politician try to take down a ruthlessly technocratic government that sacrifices its poorest citizens to build its utopia.

The South Asian Province is split in two. Uplanders lead luxurious lives inside a climate-controlled biodome, dependent on technology and gene therapy to keep them healthy and youthful forever. Outside, the poor and forgotten scrape by with discarded black-market robotics, a society of poverty-stricken cyborgs struggling to survive in slums threatened by rising sea levels, unbreathable air, and deadly superbugs.

Ashiva works for the Red Hand, an underground network of revolutionaries fighting the government, which is run by a merciless computer algorithm that dictates every citizen’s fate. She’s a smuggler with the best robotic arm and cybernetic enhancements the slums can offer, and her cargo includes the most vulnerable of the city’s abandoned children.

When Ashiva crosses paths with the brilliant hacker Riz-Ali, a privileged Uplander who finds himself embroiled in the Red Hand’s dangerous activities, they uncover a horrifying conspiracy that the government will do anything to bury. From armed guardians kidnapping children to massive robots flattening the slums, to a pandemic that threatens to sweep through the city like wildfire, Ashiva and Riz-Ali will have to put aside their differences in order to fight the system and save the communities they love from destruction. 

6. Wings Of Ebony by J. Elle (WOE #1)

Available Through Bookshop & Barnes & Noble
Release Date: January 26, 2020

Summary: In this riveting, keenly emotional debut fantasy, a Black teen from Houston has her world upended when she learns about her godly ancestry–and with evil sinking its claws into humans and gods alike, she’ll have to unearth the magic of her true identity to save both her worlds.

“Make a way out of no way” is just the way of life for Rue. But when her mother is shot dead on her doorstep, life for her and her younger sister changes forever. Rue’s taken from her neighborhood by the father she never knew, forced to leave her little sister behind, and whisked away to Ghizon—a hidden island of magic wielders.

Rue is the only half-god, half-human there, where leaders protect their magical powers at all costs and thrive on human suffering. Miserable and desperate to see her sister on the anniversary of their mother’s death, Rue breaks Ghizon’s sacred Do Not Leave Law and returns to Houston, only to discover that Black kids are being forced into crime and violence. And her sister, Tasha, is in danger of falling sway to the very forces that claimed their mother’s life.

Worse still, evidence mounts that the evil plaguing East Row is the same one that lurks in Ghizon—an evil that will stop at nothing until it has stolen everything from her and everyone she loves. Rue must embrace her true identity and wield the full magnitude of her ancestors’ power to save her neighborhood before the gods burn it to the ground.

7. Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: February 2, 2021

Summary: Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

8. Like Home by Louisa Onomé

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: February 23, 2021

Summary: Fans of Netflix’s On My Block, In the Heights, and readers of Elizabeth Acevedo and Ibi Zoboi will love this debut novel about a girl whose life is turned upside down after one local act of vandalism throws her relationships and even her neighborhood into turmoil.

Chinelo, or Nelo as her best friend Kate calls her, is all about her neighborhood Ginger East. She loves its chill vibe, ride-or-die sense of community, and her memories of growing up there. Ginger East isn’t what it used to be, though. After a deadly incident at the local arcade, all her closest friends moved away, except for Kate. But as long as they have each other, Nelo’s good.

Only, Kate’s parents’ corner store is vandalized, leaving Nelo shaken to her core. The police and the media are quick to point fingers, and soon more of the outside world descends on Ginger East with promises to “fix” it. Suddenly, Nelo finds herself in the middle of a drama unfolding on a national scale.

Worse yet, Kate is acting strange. She’s pushing Nelo away at the exact moment they need each other most. Nelo’s entire world is morphing into something she hates, and she must figure out how to get things back on track or risk losing everything⁠—and everyone⁠—she loves.

9. The Mirror Season by Anna-Marie McLemore

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: March 16, 2021

Summary: When two teens discover that they were both sexually assaulted at the same party, they develop a cautious friendship through her family’s possibly magical pastelería, his secret forest of otherworldly trees, and the swallows returning to their hometown.

Graciela Cristales’s whole world changes after she and a boy she barely knows are assaulted at the same party. She loses her gift for making enchanted pan dulce. Neighborhood trees vanish overnight, while mirrored glass appears, bringing reckless magic with it. And Ciela is haunted by what happened to her, and what happened to the boy whose name she never learned.

But when the boy, Lock, shows up at Ciela’s school, he has no memory of that night, and no clue that a single piece of mirrored glass is taking his life apart. Ciela decides to help him, which means hiding the truth about that night. Because Ciela knows who assaulted her, and him. And she knows that her survival, and his, depends on no one finding out what really happened.

10. The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: April 13, 2021

Summary: New girl Rachel Chavez is eager to make a fresh start at Manchester Prep. But as one of the few scholarship kids, Rachel struggles to fit in, and when she gets caught up in a prank gone awry, she ends up with more enemies than friends.

To her surprise, however, the prank attracts the attention of the Mary Shelley Club, a secret club of students with one objective: come up with the scariest prank to orchestrate real fear. But as the pranks escalate, the competition turns cutthroat and takes on a life of its own.

When the tables are turned and someone targets the club itself, Rachel must track down the real-life monster in their midst . . . even if it means finally confronting the dark secrets from her past.

11. The Forest Of Stolen Girls by June Hur

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop

Summary: After her father vanishes while investigating the disappearance of 13 young women, a teen returns to her secretive hometown to pick up the trail in this second YA historical mystery from the author of The Silence of Bones.

Hwani’s family has never been the same since she and her younger sister went missing and were later found unconscious in the forest, near a gruesome crime scene. The only thing they remember: Their captor wore a painted-white mask.

To escape the haunting memories of this incident, the family flees their hometown. Years later, Detective Min—Hwani’s father—learns that thirteen girls have recently disappeared under similar circumstances, and so he returns to their hometown to investigate… only to vanish as well.

Determined to find her father and solve the case that tore their family apart, Hwani returns home to pick up the trail. As she digs into the secrets of the small village—and reconnects with her now estranged sister—Hwani comes to realize that the answer lies within her own buried memories of what happened in the forest all those years ago.

12. Witches Steeped In Gold by Ciannon Smart (WSIG #1)

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date:

Summary: Divided by their castes. United by their vengeance.

Iraya has spent her life in a cell, but every day brings her closer to freedom—and vengeance.

Jazmyne is the queen’s daughter, but unlike her sister before her, she has no intention of dying to strengthen her mother’s power.

Sworn enemies, these two witches enter a precarious alliance to take down a mutual threat. But revenge is a bloody pursuit, and nothing is certain—except the lengths they will go to win this game.

13. The Other Side Of Perfect by Mariko Turk

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: May 11, 2021

Summary: Alina Keeler was destined to dance, but one terrifying fall shatters her leg–and her dreams of a professional ballet career along with it. 

After a summer healing (translation: eating vast amounts of Cool Ranch Doritos and binging ballet videos on YouTube), she is forced to trade her pre-professional dance classes for normal high school, where she reluctantly joins the school musical. However, rehearsals offer more than she expected–namely Jude, her annoyingly attractive cast mate she just might be falling for. 

But to move forward, Alina must make peace with her past and face the racism she had grown to accept in the dance industry. She wonders what it means to yearn for ballet–something so beautiful, yet so broken. And as broken as she feels, can she ever open her heart to someone else? 

Touching, romantic, and peppered with humor, this debut novel explores the tenuousness of perfectionism, the possibilities of change, and the importance of raising your voice.

14. Perfectly Parvin by Olivia Abtahi (Perfectly Parvin #1)

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: May 18, 2021

Summary:  Fourteen-year-old Iranian-American Parvin Mohammadi sets out to win the ultimate date to homecoming in this heartfelt and outright hilarious debut.

Parvin has just had her heart broken when she meets the cutest boy at her new high school, Matty Fumero–with an emphasis on fumero, because he might be the smoking hot cure to all of her boy troubles. If Parvin can get Matty to ask her to homecoming, she’s positive it will erase all the awful and embarrassing feelings He Who Will Not Be Named left her with after the summer. The only problem is Matty is definitely too cool for bassoon-playing, frizzy-haired, Cheeto-eating Parvin. Since being herself has not worked for her in the past (see aforementioned relationship), she decides that to be the girl who finally gets the guy, she should start acting like the women in her favorite rom-coms. Those girls aren’t loud, they certainly don’t cackle when they laugh, and they smile much more than they talk. Easy enough, right?

But as Parvin struggles through her parent-mandated Farsi lessons on the weekends, a budding friendship with a boy she can’t help but be her unfiltered self with, and dealing with the ramifications of the Muslim Ban on her family in Iran, she realizes that being herself might just be the perfect thing after all.

15. Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: May 25, 2021

Summary: Crazy Rich Asians meets The Princess Diaries in this irresistible story about Izumi, a Japanese-American girl who discovers her senior year of high school that she’s really a princess of Japan.

Izumi Tanaka has never really felt like she fit in—it isn’t easy being Japanese American in her small, mostly white, northern California town. Raised by a single mother, it’s always been Izumi—or Izzy, because “It’s easier this way”—and her mom against the world. But then Izzy discovers a clue to her previously unknown father’s identity…and he’s none other than the Crown Prince of Japan. Which means outspoken, irreverent Izzy is literally a princess.

In a whirlwind, Izzy travels to Japan to meet the father she never knew and discover the country she always dreamed of. But being a princess isn’t all ball gowns and tiaras. There are conniving cousins, a hungry press, a scowling but handsome bodyguard who just might be her soulmate, and thousands of years of tradition and customs to learn practically overnight.

Izzy soon finds herself caught between worlds, and between versions of herself—back home, she was never “American” enough, and in Japan, she must prove she’s “Japanese” enough. Will Izumi crumble under the weight of the crown, or will she live out her fairytale, happily ever after?

16. Fire With Fire by Destiny Soria

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: June 8, 2021

Summary: Dani and Eden Rivera were both born to kill dragons, but the sisters couldn’t be more different. For Dani, dragon slaying takes a back seat to normal high school life, while Eden prioritizes training above everything else.

Yet they both agree on one thing: it’s kill or be killed where dragons are concerned.

Until Dani comes face-to-face with one and forges a rare and magical bond with him. As she gets to know Nox, she realizes that everything she thought she knew about dragons is wrong. With Dani lost to the dragons, Eden turns to the mysterious and alluring sorcerers to help save her sister. Now on opposite sides of the conflict, the sisters will do whatever it takes to save the other. But the two are playing with magic that is more dangerous than they know, and there is another, more powerful enemy waiting for them both in the shadows.

17. Gearbreakers by Zoe Hana Mikuta

Available Through The Book Depository & Bookshop
Release Date: June 29, 2021

Summary: Two girls on opposite sides of a war discover they’re fighting for a common purpose—and falling for each other—in Zoe Hana Mikuta’s high-octane debut Gearbreakers, perfect for fans of Pacific Rim, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising Saga, and Marie Lu’s Legend series.

We went past praying to deities and started to build them instead...

The shadow of Godolia’s tyrannical rule is spreading, aided by their giant mechanized weapons known as Windups. War and oppression are everyday constants for the people of the Badlands, who live under the thumb of their cruel Godolia overlords.

Eris Shindanai is a Gearbreaker, a brash young rebel who specializes in taking down Windups from the inside. When one of her missions goes awry and she finds herself in a Godolia prison, Eris meets Sona Steelcrest, a cybernetically enhanced Windup pilot. At first Eris sees Sona as her mortal enemy, but Sona has a secret: She has intentionally infiltrated the Windup program to destroy Godolia from within.

As the clock ticks down to their deadliest mission yet, a direct attack to end Godolia’s reign once and for all, Eris and Sona grow closer—as comrades, friends, and perhaps something more…

18. A Beautiful Doom by Laura Pohl (Grimrose Girls #1)

Available Through Bookshop & The Book Depository
Release Date: August 3, 2021

Summary: Four troubled friends, One murdered girl… and a dark fate that may leave them all doomed.

After the mysterious death of their best friend, Ella, Yuki, and Rory are the talk of their elite school, Grimrose Académie. The police ruled it a suicide, but the trio are determined to find out what really happened.

When Nani Eszes arrives as their newest roommate, it sets into motion a series of events they couldn’t have imagined. As the girls retrace their friend’s last steps, they uncover dark secrets about themselves and their destinies, discovering they’re all cursed to repeat the brutal and gruesome endings to their stories until they can break the cycle.

This contemporary take on classic fairytales reimagines heroines as friends attending the same school. While investigating the murder of their best friend, they uncover connections to their ancient fairytale curses and attempt to forge their own fate before it’s too late.

Words can’t explain all my joy & anticipation for all the wonderful upcoming books! Although these are just some of the many POC-authored books I’m eagerly waiting for, I hope you enjoyed this list! 💜📚✨

Which 2021 YA releases from AOCs are on your TBR? 😍📚✨

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 1 by Makoto Hagino {Manga Review}

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Vol. 1 by Makoto Hagino

Publisher: Viz Media

Release Date: November 12, 2019

Pages: 192

Available Through The Book Depository: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow Volume 1

Summary: When her dad gets a job overseas, Konatsu Amano has to leave the Tokyo life she’s always known and relocate to a small seaside town to stay with her aunt. The move also means starting a new school surrounded by complete strangers, and it’s a lot to handle for a girl who has trouble with change. But on her first day in her new town, Konatsu is instantly drawn to Koyuki, an older girl who is the sole member of the Aquarium Club. Konatsu’s introverted tendencies are hard for her to overcome, but maybe she’s found something worth coming out of her shell for?

Konatsu is doing her best to adapt to her new school, but being required to join a club has introduced additional pressures. Her friendly classmate Kaede invites her to join the Home Ec Club, but Konatsu hasn’t even had time to consider which club she’s interested in. Meanwhile, Koyuki is like a ray of sunshine in Konatsu’s cloudy world. Will Konatsu join the Aquarium Club?

My Rating: ★★★★☆ ½

My Thoughts: A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a charming, slice-of-life manga debut that follows the bond between two girls who go to the same school in a seaside town! Their instant connection makes for a wholesome, sweet story as the relationship grows with each page! Featuring much SLOWBURN and YEARNING, this is a fantastic start to a new series!

A quiet, seaside town, a chance encounter at a school aquarium, and two girls who are in their own ways…lonely. This is the beginning of A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow, easily one of my new favorite manga series!!

Konatsu Amano moves to Nagahama to live with her aunt after her father gets a job overseas. However, Konatsu can’t let go of this loneliness that’s buried within her. But, when she sees her new high school with an open house for its aquarium, she finds herself instantly drawn to Koyuki Honatsu, the club’s leader and only member.

There’s a comforting, almost delicate, gentle bond that forms between these two girls and that exact feeling unfurls throughout the various layers of this story from its art style, character dynamics, themes, and underlying romance. It’s beautiful & although it seems like a very simple story, Hagino’s masterful execution is anything but that.

As Konatsu tries to drift among the current of her new life at school, she can’t help but feel those tides shift whenever she sees or hears about Koyuki! There’s such intense emotion that’s woven throughout the entirety of this first volume and it’s in a way, poetic?

The reader is left with a sense of melancholy, but also bountiful feeling of joy seeing these two girls continue to bond and navigate the emotions they feel for each other.

As each student is required to join a club, Konatsu wonders whether joining Koyuki’s Aquarium Club is a good idea (with her feelings for Koyuki only continuing to build) as her other classmate Hirose, recommends the Home Ec. club. The author brilliantly delves into the inner complexities of our heroines, the complicated emotions they have for one another, and the underlying sense of loneliness.

Konatsu instantly finds a friend in Hirose, the bubbly, extroverted classmate who gets her to see the aquarium in the first place! She’s just a really fun character and seeing Konatsu’s inner conflict with wondering whether to accept or decline her offer to join Hirose in the Home Ec club turned out to be very funny. I can’t wait to see all 3 of these girls bond even more over the next volumes!

Hagino builds such a fascinating, unique slice-of-life school atmosphere through Nanahama High School, not only through its minimal details, but also by emphasizing the importance of clubs! The inclusion of having club involvement be mandatory for students just added to the distinct atmosphere of Nanahama.

Now the ROMANCE is very slowburn, but also achingly soft and sweet. The tiniest moments really capture an entire scene whether its small hand holds, sharing food, or just the longing gazes. This SAPPHIC romance has really gone under the radar and hopefully my review inspires you to pick up this series!

There’s such wonderful imagery and metaphors woven throughout Vol. 1, especially when it comes to salamanders, which becomes the foundation for the girls’ dynamic! Masuji Ibuse’s “Salamander” to a salamander in the aquarium club from the very first pages, even to Konatsu calling it by Koyuki’s name, represents the desire for these two to escape the cold, loneliness they feel.

At its heart, its such a beautiful message about the two allowing each other to escape when they feel trapped and isolated. Though Koyuki feels more of a weight from expectations from those around her and in turn, she never really feels understood. All the details about marine life are beautifully woven in as well, very much looking forward to see how the author develops it!

One of my favorite moments between them was on page 36 when the aquatic background takes over the scene as they hold hands at the beach! We see how much Konatsu and Koyuki mean to each other with every moment their on page together (or even just thinking about one another), its very cute!! ❤

The budding relationship between Konatsu and Koyuki is not only delicate and gentle, but also brilliantly captivating in how it navigates emotion, yearning, just…all those layered feelings!

Story-wise although its definitely slower-paced, its very character-driven, which in turn draws you into all these other captivating elements of the story because of how wonderfully developed they are. The writing is also very good and I can count many beautiful lines that show the deep, inner feelings the girls had for each other.

The artwork is wonderful, allowing for a slow, introspective view of the story. Its in the detail of the characters, expressions, alongside the backgrounds, that bring so much to each scene. The inclusion of the aquatic elements like the ocean, marine animals, etc., all add to that special world that these two have carved for themselves and its really beautiful. I’d even say through moments where the animals around them seem more animated or a salamander appears on their shoulders/near by, uses an element of magical realism/fabulism to convey the importance of their inner voices.

If you take anything away from this review, its that you should definitely pick up this series and get carried away by its remarkable story! Tropical Fish has easily become one of my new favorite manga series, Konatsu and Koyuki have captured my heart!!

Despite the 4.5 star rating, this is a 5-star series ABSOLUTELY!! I think its just wanting a bit more to our characters in this first volume, but despite that I adored it so much!

A Tropical Fish Yearns For Snow is a fantastic yuri manga series filled with a slow-burn, heartwarming romance, wonderful main heroines, unique school setting, gorgeous symbolism, and an immersive story you won’t be able to put down!