Review// Captive Prince by C.S. Pascat

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Author: C.S. Pascat
Series: Captive Prince #1
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: February 2, 2013
Book Length: 270 pages 
Publisher: Berkley
Review: 2.5/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Damen is a warrior hero to his people, and the rightful heir to the throne of Akielos. But when his half brother seizes power, Damen is captured, stripped of his identity, and sent to serve the prince of an enemy nation as a pleasure slave.

Beautiful, manipulative, and deadly, his new master, Prince Laurent, epitomizes the worst of the court at Vere. But in the lethal political web of the Veretian court, nothing is as it seems, and when Damen finds himself caught up in a play for the throne, he must work together with Laurent to survive and save his country.

For Damen, there is just one rule: never, ever reveal his true identity. Because the one man Damen needs is the one man who has more reason to hate him than anyone else…

My Review:

Me, when I found out that this book is supposed to be a slow burn romance:

Oh man, I mean, it was definitely slow, so they got that part down. It just felt like I was waiting forever for something to happen between the two main characters that quite honestly never did. Not to mention, neither of the two were particularly likable or interesting to me, so even if it had happened, I’m not sure I would have cared.

If I really think about it, I couldn’t even really tell you what the plot was – all I know is that the main thing that I can’t shake about this is that there was so much rape, sexual abuse, and paedophilia that I did not anticipate going into it as I knew nothing about the book before reading. There was one character, Nicaise, who is 13 years old but sexualized so much, it made me uncomfortable. The way he’s described is very adult-like, so you almost dismiss it, but then you remember he is a child and it all just feels gross. In addition, although I appreciate all the world building and a lot of it was great, at times the description was so dense and repetitive that it was hard to follow.

The book has very mixed reviews, and personally, it wasn’t for me, but if you’re into fantasy and suuuuper slow burn romances, I’d say don’t knock it till you try it – I have a feeling the next book in the series might even be better.

– Catherine

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Review// Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana L. Davis

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Author: Dana L. Davis
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: May 1, 2018
Book Length: 334 pages 
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Review: 2.5/5

Tiffany Sly is a 16-year-old girl living in Chicago whose mother has just passed away from cancer. After her mother’s death, she moves to California to live with the man she believes to be her father, Anthony Stone, along with his wife, Margaret, and four other daughters: London, Naveah, Heaven, and Pumpkin. Before she moves, a man named Xavier shows up at her door in Chicago claiming to potentially be her father, and he wants a DNA test within the next 7 days to prove it. Tiffany is conflicted on what she should do, and who she wants to be her biological father – will it be Xavier, or will it be Anthony?

As for my thoughts, let’s just say Tiffany isn’t the only one conflicted here – on one hand, I thought this was okay, maybe even good at some points, but on the other, there were some problematic bits that tainted my overall impression.

First, I will be starting with the things I liked:

Anxiety/ OCD rep was done well– Tiffany has anxiety and OCD for which she takes medication. A lot of her anxiety has to do with death; she is scared to fly in an airplane, gets anxious when the car she is in is going over the speed limit, etc. I think her internal monologue in these situations was well written and well represented.
Marcus– Tiffany’s neighbor and friend when she moves to California; he is such a sweet character and really added some feel-good moments to the book.
Naveah– she was definitely my favourite Stone sister; she was hilarious and basically the kid that had no filter but in a very endearing way.
How accepting Tiffany’s new stepmom is of her– I honestly thought Margaret was going to be the stereotypical ‘evil stepmother’, but if anything, I felt she had Tiffany’s back more often than Anthony did, and I liked that she was portrayed in a positive light.

Now for the things I wasn’t too keen about:

The way Anthony treated the family– he took away Tiffany’s anxiety meds; slapped her across the face; took away her phone for silly reasons; made her take out her braids even though she had alopecia; pretty much abused Pumpkin, his young autistic daughter, because he didn’t want to learn how to actually deal with her autism (which could be triggering for some to read); controlled who Tiffany could hang out with; barely took an interest in actually getting to know Tiffany at all in the 7 days this book took place… and I could probably go on, but I’m going to stop for my own sanity.
• The dialogue– some of it really did not sound believable. For example, the way that Tiffany’s half sister London was portrayed and the dialogue she spoke didn’t line up for me. There was a bit of a disconnect between the two that I could never quite get over. Not to mention, the way that Anthony spoke to his family in general was disgusting at times. I hated that he tried to hide behind his Jehovah religion to justify how he treated people. In addition, there were a few fatphobic comments, as well as a comment comparing one character’s movement to having Tourette’s, which I felt was inappropriate.
• The attempt at a redemption arc for Anthony– so Anthony does and says all these terrible things for the entire book, and then there comes a point where he shows a side of himself that actually seems human, and I think the reader is supposed to empathize and start to grow a soft spot for him, but I couldn’t. The redemption arc for Anthony could not be done by that point; I really didn’t care that he was nice that one time near the end, when for the other 300+ pages he was a complete asshole. I am all for forgiveness, but I needed a bit more than one positive instance in order to care.

I really wanted to like this, and at times, I did. But the negatives unfortunately overpowered the positives here which affected my overall view of the book.

– Catherine

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🌈Pride Month Reads: Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden

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Author: Nancy Garden
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: July 1, 1982
Book Length: 234 pages 
Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

When Liza Winthrop first lays eyes on Annie Kenyon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she knows there’s something special between them. Soon, their close friendship develops into a deep and intimate romance. Neither imagined that falling in love could be so wonderful, but as Liza and Annie’s newfound sexuality sparks conflict in both their families and at their schools, they discover it will take more than love for their relationship to succeed.

One of the first books to positively portray a lesbian relationship, Annie on My Mind is a groundbreaking classic of the genre. The subject of a First Amendment lawsuit over banned books and one of School Library Journal’s “One Hundred Books that Shaped the Century,” Nancy Garden’s iconic novel is an important story for anyone discovering who they’re meant to be.

My Review:

“What struck me most, though, was that, in that whole long article, the word ‘love’ wasn’t used even once. That made me mad; it was as if whoever wrote the article didn’t know that gay people actually love each other. The encyclopedia writers ought to talk to me, I thought as I went back to bed; I could tell them something about love.”

Happy Pride Month! I am going to try to read more LGBTQIA+ books, not only this month, but in this lifetime, and Annie on My Mind is where that promise to myself begins. I thought this was beautiful. The relationship between Liza and Annie felt really organic and honest, and I enjoyed the journey that it took me on as their relationship blossomed.

This book is about being true to yourself in a world where other people think they know what’s right for you, and even though other people tried to make her feel confused and guilty, I loved that Liza stayed firm and was true to herself and to her love for Annie.

I think this book is definitely suited for young readers, and especially those who are beginning to explore their sexuality. The homophobia in the book broke my heart, but the girls did have reliable, supportive allies to turn to, which I felt was important, because at the time it was written in 1982, I think the author was trying to show people that they could find support somewhere; if not in their real lives, then surely within this book.

The world has definitely changed since this was written, but we still have work to do, and my hope is that one day the ideals in here will be completely outdated and people everywhere can live without fear or judgement and just love whoever it is they want to love in peace.

If anyone has any LGBTQIA+ book recommendations, please let me know!

-Catherine

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Review// Enigma Variations by André Aciman

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Author: André Aciman
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fiction
Release Date: January 3, 2017
Book Length: 266 pages 
Publisher: Straus & Giroux
Review: 4/5

My Review:

What I find interesting about my feelings towards this book is that I didn’t entirely love any part of the story or characters, like, at all, yet I could not put it down at certain points due to how lovely the writing was.

This book is about a man named Paul and his love interests throughout his life. I don’t believe it was ever explicitly stated, but from what I gathered, he was in his forties by the end of it. The love interests each had their own section of the book which detailed the relationship Paul had with them respectively.

Though I was intrigued by some stories more than others, especially Star Love, I can’t say that I really felt a connection to either Paul, or any of the men and women who played a significant role in his life at different stages. If anything, I would say that Paul was unlikable. The way he talked about his lovers made me feel like he didn’t care about any of them; he just wanted them around to make him feel good about himself. He would describe each one in such an unhealthy, obsessive manner that quite frankly made me feel uncomfortable at times, and yet he would always be searching for the next best thing. I also felt dissatisfied every time one story ended because I felt things weren’t explicitly clear with regards to how the relationships ended. Regardless, I have to say that I really didn’t care whether Paul found love, or whatever he believed love was. What I did care for, however, was the writing style. André Aciman knows how to write beautiful prose, and for that reason alone, I would definitely consider giving any other books of his a read.

“Our star life, yours with mine. As someone said over dinner once, each of us is given at least nine versions of our lives, some we guzzle, others we take tiny, timid sips from, and some our lips never touch.” Neither of us asked which was our life. We didn’t want to know.

-Catherine

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Review// Magic by Mike Russell

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Author: Mike Russell
Series: Standalone
Genre: Fantasy
Release Date: March 5, 2020
Book Length: 268 pages 
Publisher: StrangeBooks
Review: 4/5

Goodreads Synopsis:

Does magic exist? Charlie Watson thinks it does and he wants to tell you all about it. Before he was famous, Charlie Watson decided to write a book to share with the world everything he knew about magic. This is that book. You will discover why Charlie always wears a top hat, why his house is full of rabbits, how magic wands are made, how the universe began, and much, much more. Plus, for the first time, Charlie tells of the strange events that led him from England to the Arctic, to perform the extraordinary feat that made him famous, and he finally reveals whether that extraordinary feat was magic or whether it was just a trick.

My Review:

First off, I would like to thank the author for providing me a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

I’ve read almost all of Mike Russell’s books, and I have to say that this one is my favourite one. The beginning where the inception of magicians was described was one of the best parts, it was very clever and set the tone for the rest of the book. Something about this kind of reminded me of something you’d see in a Tim Burton movie – at least, that’s the way I pictured things in my head! Charlie was silly and sweet, and I fell in love with him and his quest for magic. I remember going to magic shows as a kid and being amazed at all they could do right in front of our eyes – reading this book gave me that feeling again.

I especially liked the message of the story, I thought it was really heart warming and sweet: everything is magic, even the most mundane, and if you go about your life believing in magic, you will always find it. 😊

-Catherine

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