Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


The more I think about this book, the more I love it. Came for the ghosts, gods, and family drama, was very excited for the surprise GANGSTERS. All the elements (characters, plot, surprises) are very well balanced. The story moves at a good clip that feels urgent without tossing all the character and family development aside to be a straight thriller.

I enjoyed this so much, I struggled to write a review because I couldn’t identify any single thing that made this book stand out. All of it was so good, and all of it worked so well together.




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St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid, by C.L. Polk

St. Valentine, St. Abigail, St. Brigid by C.L. Polk

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Listened to the Levar Burton Reads podcast of this story, and his reading is fantastic. I really appreciate that he highlighted Teresa’s inner landscape of acknowledging, receiving, and giving love. There are a lot of things going on this story, and that wouldn’t necessarily have been the element that stood out to me the most, but it is at the heart of the character, and drives the story above all other aspects.

This story has so many things I love – witching, witching with bees, birdcage elevators, women being strong in different ways, academic competitive friendships, and horrible people getting what they deserve.



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The Janus Stone (Ruth Galloway, #2) by Elly Griffiths

The Janus Stone by Elly Griffiths

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I wanted more Ruth, I went and got myself more Ruth. I can’t get enough of this kick-ass forensic archaeologist who is always thrilled when someone shoves some bones in her direction (even when it’s another child, and looking likely their death is a sad story). Ruth seeks truth, justice, and history, and I’m here for it. She’s also living her best life and being smart and scrappy, which will keep me reading. Stories about thresholds, the gods that rule them, and transgressions creating uncanny domestic spaces are always welcome.



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Autumn Princess, Dragon Child (Tale of Shikanoko, #2) by Lian Hearn

Autumn Princess, Dragon Child by Lian Hearn

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Spoilers ahead . . .

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Jokes on me! I skimmed the ending of book four to make sure Aki and Shika didn’t reconcile, and it looked safe to proceed, so I read volume two. In addition to being slower moving than volume one, I cared less and less about the characters as I went. Everyone was a scheming whiny asshole, and all the women kept getting screwed over, or reconciling with men who treated them badly. Before anyone pushes up their glasses and tries to say “well, actually” in my direction, I understand that the author is following traditional Japanese epics as a guide, and that everyone is probably meant to be a scheming, whiny asshole, but that doesn’t mean I have to want to read these books. This is not what I’m here for.

Aki had a rape baby, and then died at the end of the book. It was supposed to be a big heroic and sad sacrifice, and I might have appreciated it more if she hadn’t been raped, had a baby, and then considered reconciling with her rapist just before died. Also, the rape was unnecessary from a plot and character arc perspective, so . . . I’m done. I’m stopping here. This series will remain unfinished, and all four volumes are now in my giveaway pile.



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Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise

Wendy, Darling by A.C. Wise

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Thanks to NetGalley and Titan Books for the free e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.

A.C. Wise does not flinch in this brutal and feminist take on Neverland and what happened after for Wendy Darling. She explores the consequences of capturing Peter Pan’s attention and the disenfranchisement of women who stepped out of line or failed to meet male expectations in the early 20th century.

I’ve been reading A.C. Wise’s short fiction here and there for a few years, and was really excited to sink my teeth into a whole novel, especially a female-centric take on the Peter Pan mythos. I recently re-watched Hook, and as much as I love the twists that film takes, as much as I appreciate a fathers-and-sons story, there are ladies in this sandbox, too, and they are often marginalized and underutilized when writers decide to play with Pan.

This was not an easy book to read. It was an adventure, and it was satisfying, but it was not fun. It was a pleasure to arrive at Wendy’s self-actualization and triumph, but difficult to follow her through her valley of despair along the way. While Wise doesn’t flinch, she still handles with care. She makes interesting rather than easy choices, and goes for nuance over cliché. Native and queer characters and experiences are given places of prominence, and the darkness at the heart of Peter Pan is at the center rather than the edges, interrogated rather than left to the subtext.

I don’t want to give spoilers, so I’ll give a warning instead: read this book only if you’re prepared for some darkness and to be challenged. The rewards are worth the risk.



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