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review 2020-02-25 10:18
'Red Hood' is a bold and bloody tale of female empowerment; the predator becomes the hunted, and toxic masculinity is left to die in the woods
Red Hood - Elana K. Arnold

The first word I thought of to describe ‘Red Hood’ is outstanding. It holds a potent message of female empowerment and gives us a whole new image of ‘Little Red Hiding Rood,’ and it’s coated in so much blood it feels like a murder-mystery. If just that makes you uncomfortable or woozy, you probably won’t be able to handle all the intense themes and topics* that author Elana K. Arnold weaves into this hypnotic coming-of-age tale. But if you love a brave story where cruel realities meet bold fantasy and aren't afraid to enter the woods, you should definitely proceed.

There are countless stories where women and girls are at the mercy of men, of predators, where they are abused and assaulted, and it takes a lot for retribution to happen. Sometimes it never does. They are stories that mirror reality and they are hard to read and hear because they are too familiar to many of us.
'Red Hood' flips that story on its tail, with Bisou discovering her birthright when she gets her first period at the light of the full moon on Homecoming night; she suddenly has the otherworldly power to fight and kill the predators she can now sense in the dark Seattle woods. Bisou can sense when the wolves, these broken boys, are attacking their prey, and she is compelled by her own past, her bloodline, to protect and save these young women, these girls, and go on the hunt.

With a story loaded with an emotional hot-button issue like sexual assault (and revenge-killing) in a social climate where the #MeToo movement is on everyone's radar, this book is sure to catch the attention of a lot of readers. And it will be the reason some have to stay away; that's fine, we know our limits.
There will be discussion over whether 'killing the wolf' (and whether an 'eye for an eye') is justified. But I liken this kind of justice to that of other vigilantes out there in our fantasy worlds, our superheroes, Batman, Arrow, Hawkeye. I have to wonder if this kind of vengeance is called into question further because it's a woman carrying it out and because of the connection to sex. And no, I don't think we have to answer how the 'boy became the wolf' because that's a whole other story, and not for Bisou's tale. We don't always have to answer where the evil comes from to know that we have to get rid of it.

I struggled to write this review, as I often have when a book really blows me away. I’d been lost for words since I read it, but thought about it a lot, and had somewhat pointlessly ‘written’ a review in my mind several times. I just want others to feel the way I did when I read it, clinging to every word.
Last year, it was ‘The Grace Year’ by Kim Liggett that did the same thing for me. Both books portray women finding their place, their truth, and their power, albeit through very different stories and means, but both left me feeling that women can change their circumstances, they can be emboldened and empowered, and that they are ENOUGH. 'Red Hood' is magical and profound. It's also an intimate tale of one girl's discovery of her tragic past and her personal power. And as I said, it's outstanding.

*Aside from sexual assault, murder, revenge-killing and rape, some themes and topics raised: sexual intercourse (including loss of virginity, and teen sex), drug and alcohol use, menstruation, abuse, bullying, suicide, self-harm, stalking, toxic masculinity, harassment. 

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/46159058-red-hood
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review 2020-02-18 00:56
‘Beauty & The Beast‘ gets a new look in this YA romance reimagining set at an elite boarding school in the Colorado Rockies
Of Curses and Kisses - Sandhya Menon

Jaya Rao and her little sister Isha are Indian princesses, teenagers who end up at an elite boarding school called St. Rosetta's International Academy in Aspen, Colorado. Aside from Jaya's usual responsibilities that involve preparing her to one day take over the role of helming the 'Imperial House of Mysuru,' Jaya is fiercely protective of her younger sister Isha, who has recently fallen victim to a tabloid campaign released by someone in the Emerson family, British aristocracy and centuries-old rivals of the Raos. It's a rivalry based on a curse and superstition, centered around a stolen ruby, the perfect setup for a fairytale. In this modern reimagining of 'Beauty and the Beast' Jaya finds out that Grey Emerson, the young Lord Northcliffe, is also at Rosetta's and Jaya vows revenge for her sister, something that will require her to get this nobleman to fall in love with her just so she can break his heart.


'Of Curses & Kisses' was the perfect YA romance novel for me right now and since I'm not a huge reader of the genre, I'm pretty selective with these reads. This one piqued my interest early because of the boarding school setting (I just couldn’t resist) and the unique matchup of the main characters due to their backgrounds and ancestry.

Menon is a natural storyteller with a light and easy way of storytelling, and this novel is a perfect example of why she is one of the most popular names in young adult romance literature.

She creates many great setups for multifaceted vibrant characters and demonstrates the struggle to choose between family and ancestry, and the desire to grow up and become autonomous. As a lead character whose motives drive the storyline, Jaya’s connection to her sister is one of her most admirable traits, but because it fuels her revenge plot that revolves around her getting close to her male ‘rival’ Grey, she has so many conflicting emotions. She is confused by her real attraction to Grey, a brooding, sympathetic character (who calls himself a ‘Beast’) who she is supposed to ‘love and leave’ as it conflicts with her duty to marry an Indian boy back home.

I was frustrated that some of the friendships seemed a little shallow and although the strict conformity of Jaya was initially irritating, these elements made more sense as the story unfurled. I was aching for her to break out of the mold that she is trapped in, which her sister Isha has been able to do since they’ve been far from their home in India. I’m really hoping that in upcoming sequels about these two at Rosetta’s, Menon includes more of Isha and allows them both to blossom further.

While this might not be ground-breaking territory, I appreciate that author Menon has written a romance that teens on the younger end of the scale can read and appreciate, along with everyone else; the intimate encounters between characters don’t feel too over the top.


Whether you are a ‘Beauty & The Beast’ fan and are looking for new life to be breathed into the classic fairytale, or you know nothing of the original, this is a fun jaunt with a modern twist to boarding school in the Colorado Rockies. It offers international flair and light romance and is perfect reading for in between heavier books.


*Thank you to Goodreads giveaways for my early copy!

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/43985469-of-curses-and-kisses
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review 2019-10-29 20:15
Lifestyles of Gods & Monsters - Emily Roberson


 So I took a break from my regularly scheduled October menu of horror reading and read LIFESTYLES OF GODS & MONSTERS for this blog tour, and it was like stepping into an alternate reality. It's a YA fantasy, but it almost defies categorization because of how it brings the old world into the present and breathes new life into ancient myth. 



Author: Emily Roberson

Pub. Date: October 22, 2019

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Byr)

Formats: Hardcover, eBook

Pages: 352

Find it: GoodreadsAmazonKindleB&NiBooksKoboTBD


Sixteen-year-old Ariadne’s whole life is curated and shared with the world. Her royal family’s entertainment empire is beloved by the tabloids, all over social media, and the hottest thing on television. The biggest moneymaker? The Labyrinth Contest, a TV extravaganza in which Ariadne leads fourteen teens into a maze to kill a monster. To win means endless glory; to lose means death. In ten seasons, no one has ever won.


When the gorgeous, mysterious Theseus arrives at the competition and asks Ariadne to help him to victory, she doesn’t expect to fall for him. He might be acting interested in her just to boost ratings. Their chemistry is undeniable, though, and she can help him survive. If he wins, the contest would end for good. But if she helps him, she doesn’t just endanger her family’s empire―the monster would have to die. And for Ariadne, his life might be the only one worth saving.


Ariadne’s every move is watched by the public and predestined by the gods, so how can she find a way to forge her own destiny and save the people she loves?




This is an astoundingly clever mash-up of Greek mythology, celebrity culture (think 'Keeping Up with The Kardashians'), and the Hunger Games; altogether the story of Ariadne and Theseus is told, where the gods are under the lens 24/7 just like Khloe and Kim, and ratings are always king. The monster is the Minotaur, Ariadne's brother, a tragic character, who is supposed to be killed by whoever solves the maze. Ariadne is caught between helping her new-found love or helping her family, with everything having been written by the gods.

Life's tricky when your dad is King of Crete.


It's kind of nauseating to read about Greek gods and goddesses caught up in the trappings of modern life, of cell phones, celebrity gossip, and social media, BUT its also really fun. Suspend your disbelief for a little while and imagine Ariadne with an iPhone. She is also a strong heroine in this novel who carries the whole storyline, making you root for her the whole way through.


Author Roberson is making Greek myth accessible for a newer generation at the same time questioning the way we value celebrity; she has written something decidedly clever and unique. Her writing is provocative without being too obvious, fand it's both funny and intelligent.

Purists may have a hard time with a book like this but it's hard not to get caught up in the idea of it. If you liked the Hunger Games, like Greek myths and can see the funny side of celebrity culture, give this is a go.



EMILY ROBERSON is the author of LIFESTYLES OF GODS & MONSTERS (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, October 2019). She lives in Little Rock, Arkansas.


Emily has been a bookseller in Little Rock, a newspaper reporter in Vicksburg, a marketing manager in Boston, and a writer in Chapel Hill and Dallas. She graduated from Brown University and has a master’s degree in English from the University of Texas at Austin. She now lives in Little Rock, Arkansas with her husband, three sons and no pets.


You can find her on the web on instagram @robersonemilym and on twitter @RobersonEmily.

Sign up for Emily's newsletter here if you would like book news and other updates. 

Image by: Laura Kellerman photography


Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Tumblr | Pinterest| Goodreads



3 winners will receive finished copies of LIFESTYLES OF GODS & MONSTERS, US only.



*Thank you to Rockstar Book Tours for this blog tour!



Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/42642047
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review 2019-03-29 04:47
Sky Without Stars is an epic futuristic reimagining of Les Miserables in space 'et c'est magnifique!'
Sky Without Stars - Joanne Rendell,Jessica Brody

Les Misérables, the historical classic novel set during the French Revolution and written by Victor Hugo in 1862, may never be seen the same way again after you read this YA sci-fi re-imagining. Sky Without Stars is the first in a series of novels in the System Divine set on the planet Laterre, where the divide between wealthy and poor is massive, and signs of revolution are everywhere.


There is so much to say about this book that it’s hard to know where to start in describing it, especially without revealing too much. While the size of it is daunting, its pace is even and kept me enthralled throughout; I didn’t want to put it down at all over an entire weekend. You also don’t have to know the story of Les Misérables (and many readers will likely only know the story from the several films of the same name) so I'll be a heathen and say it doesn’t matter if you haven't read the original book this is based on.


This glorious epic novel follows the lives of Chatine, Alouette, and Marcellus, and we gradually find out how a thief, a guardian, and a general can have such desperately different lives but actually have a lot in common.

Within the Frets of the planet Laterre, Chatine survives as a thief, her parents run a gang, and she hides her identity by posing as a boy. Beneath the city in The Refuge, Alouette lives within the Sisterhood, protecting the only surviving library of the Old World and unbeknownst to her, has been living her life behind a web of lies. Meanwhile, Marcellus, grandson of General Bonnefaçon, struggles with the responsibilities of living up to the standards of his grandfather and doubts the government he is supposed to serve and stand by. The paths of these three characters intersect in a fascinating world that melds scenes from Hugo's epic novel with a space-age future where humans have inhabited multiple planets many centuries from now. I found all three of them to be multi-faceted and to constantly be in tune with what was going on around them, and even when they were struggling or seemingly at their worst, I found myself pulling for them.


I was easily drawn in with the excellent world-building, which has shades of rebellion that made me think of Star Wars, but the new planet that everyone has inhabited still feels very French, with Français used throughout the book, so it keeps the heart of Les Misérables close. The science fiction comes across as plausible and frighteningly realistic (the best kind to read, in my opinion!). I lapped up all the details in this world that was created for these characters: Everyone has electronic ‘Skins’ implanted in their arms, and audiochips in their ears, and the squalor that everyone lives in is hard to digest; it made me think of Bladerunner, that fusion of the old and new. The very fact that the written word has become extinct, that books have become extinct (and protected by the Sisterhood) is heartbreaking. Being able to actually read has also become a rare skill.

The planet is illuminated by three fake Sols and the moon has become a prison colony, even the use of fire has been banished. It seems there is some forest on the outskirts of the city and on the periphery of LeDome; all of these environments and areas are sketched out in a map in the front of the book. There are also other planets described in the System Divine and I really hope they are visited in subsequent novels in the series.


Authors Brody and Rendell have created an entire imagined parallel universe that I could’ve kept on reading about for hours longer, no matter how sobering and dark.

There is action, adventure, science-fiction, romance, the feeling of reading a history, as well as political intrigue, an underground revolutionary uprising called the Vanguarde. Based on one of the greatest novels of all time, ‘Sky Without Stars’ depicts a future where the chasm between classes has grown exponentially, but the layers in between make this novel irresistible.

Source: www.goodreads.com/book/show/34513785-sky-without-stars
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review 2016-07-17 19:02
I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland (manga, vol. 3) art by Ayumi Kanou, story by Visualworks, translated by Jocelyne Allen
I Am Alice: Body Swap in Wonderland Vol. 3 - Ayumi Kanou

At the end of the previous volume, the King of Hearts, angered by the sight of Makoto's (technically Alice's) face, magically sent him away. Hatter tried to save Makoto and got sent away as well. At the start of this volume, Makoto wakes up to discover that he's in chains. Several menacing men threaten to torture and rape him if he doesn't tell them where the King's palace is, but thankfully Hatter saves the day. Their troubles aren't over, however, as a new enemy, the Jabberwock, arrives.

I felt so-so about the previous two volumes and was expecting more of the same, so it was a shock that this one actually gave me more intense feelings. Unfortunately, they were primarily the negative sort.

The beginning of this volume was awful. First, that Makoto was threatened with rape to begin with. It would be nice if people writing fluffy (if problematic) fantasy for what is probably a primarily female audience could leave rape out of it. Second, Hatter's response instantly reduced his appeal, more so than even the stupid skirt flipping incident. As he charged in to save Makoto, he said this to Makoto's captors: “Didn't your mother ever teach you not to take other people's things?” It was gross that Hatter, the primary romantic lead, referred to Makoto as his property, especially in this situation. Third, I hated that Makoto's near-rape was used as an excuse for the series' steamiest on-page moment. In order to “disinfect” Makoto's emotional wounds, Hatter licked Makoto's throat the way his near-rapist had done. And it worked.

But there were additional problems! All throughout the series, Makoto has had difficulty reconciling the difference between his behavior while inhabiting Alice's body and his mental image of how men should behave. In this volume, those issues came to a head.

The series has never shown Makoto in his own body, so it's tough to say if his behavior changed after he swapped bodies with Alice, but I'd guess that he's probably still the same person, just questioning his “manliness” more now that he's in a female body and feeling attracted to another guy. Makoto, however, was convinced that he was starting to turn into a girl. He couldn't lift a heavy rock. He cried all the time. Lots of guys hit on him, and, in this volume, a guy almost raped him. When Hatter needed backup, Makoto couldn't bring himself to shoot one of the bad guys. And then Makoto enjoyed it when Hatter licked his throat. None of these things fit with his mental image of a proper man.

The next part, with the Jabberwock's labyrinth, could have led to Makoto to some kind of big gender-related epiphany. Instead, he got to save Hatter and thereby confirm for himself that he really is still his mental image of what a guy should be. After all, guys save people. (Now I wish, even more, that Alice had been permitted to be a competent fighter working alongside the Wonderland guys. But all her “weapons nut” stuff was surface level only, played almost entirely for laughs.)

In addition to the Jabberwock, a couple new characters showed up to force the story to move along more quickly and serve as advertisements for the game (the only reasons I can think of to introduce two brand new characters and one mostly new character in the final volume of the series). Then came the final battle (sort of) against the King of Hearts.

Even the series' own characters thought the revelations and ending were stupid. The King controlled monsters, killed his own people, and was prepared to destroy his country for the absolute dumbest reason. I think the last time I've seen such a whiny over-powered man-child reaction to a situation like this was Neil Gaiman's Sandman. I felt like applauding when Alice instantly blew up on him. And Makoto got to punch him and kick him in the face. Okay, violent, but the guy deserved it.

And then there wasn't a proper ending. I had expected Makoto and Alice to have to make a decision about whether to stay in Wonderland or leave, but even that choice was taken away. The romance, too, stopped at an unsatisfactory point. Makoto still hadn't admitted that he liked Hatter, and Alice's attraction to Dum from back in the first volume was utterly forgotten.

This series was purely an ad for the related games. While it's true that the Alice in the Country of Hearts/Clover/etc. volumes were all ads for their related games as well, at least those were written like complete stories. I Am Alice, not so much.


  • Two full-color pages, one of which is a list of characters.
  • The URL and QR code for the I Am Alice: Boy x Boy social game. This was clearly copied and pasted from the previous volume, because it retained the “Box x Boy” typo.
  • Initial character designs for Makoto, Alice, Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Dormouse, Jabberwock and Dum, along with a few comments from the artist.
  • A four-panel comic introducing the premise of the I Am Alice: Boy x Boy social game – in order to get home, Makoto will have to win a Wonderland fashion contest.
  • A 1-page afterword written by Kanou, which includes this statement: “In other words, please go and check out the game now. This is not stealth marketing; it is blatant marketing!!” I still don't think it's too much to ask that this 3-volume game ad include a real ending.
  • A 1-page (actual) ad for the I Am Alice: Boy x Boy social game, which doesn't appear to be available in English.
  • A 14-page preview of Girls & Panzer.


(Original review, including read-alikes, posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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