Book Reviews, Contemporary, Fantasy, LGBTQIA+, Literary Fiction, Romance, Young Adult

Mini Book Reviews: August 2020 – Part 1

*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin, Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer Trilogy #1) by Maggie Stiefvater, Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, & Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams


» The City We Became by N.K. Jemisin



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» The City We Became is an urban fantasy that felt like an ode to New York City.  While I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting NYC, Jemisin paints a vivid picture of this beloved city that made it very easy to imagine I was there.  Jemisin’s passion for New York really shines through in this story.

» The City We Became is such a unique concept: the idea that each borough of NYC comes to life in human form to join forces to dispel evil forces.  This is why Jemisin is one of my favorite fantasy authors, she’s one of the most imaginative authors out there.

» I appreciate how Jemisin takes contemporary issues – racism, sexism, gentrification, etc – and illuminates them in a fantastical setting.  Despite the social issues being a bit heavy handed here, I thought HOW she wove them into the narrative was compelling.

» The way Jemisin writes and how she constructs her stories is unlike anything I’ve read before.  In my opinion, she is one of the most unique and clever authors out there today.WhatIDidntLike» This story did not grip me in the same way Jemisin’s Broken Earth series did.  The pacing felt off in The City We Became.  I felt like I was trudging through this story, which didn’t make me want to pick it back up after putting it down.

» The large cast of characters did not work well here.  All the different perspectives and individual subplots made the overall story feel jumbled.  Instead of enhancing the main plot, the subplots took away from it.  Also, I never fully connected to any of the characters, which impacted my investment in their plight.

› Recommended to ⇒ NYC fans; Urban fantasy fans

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ racism; gentrification; sexism; xenophobia

» Call Down the Hawk (Dreamer Trilogy #1) by Maggie Stiefvater



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» Could you read this book without reading The Raven Cycle?  Possibly… but I would not suggest it.  I think you will appreciate this story more within the context of the original trilogy.

» Ronan is one of my favorite fictional characters EVER.  I love that he’s a bit rough around the edges, but really a cupcake deep down inside.  Ronan’s witty, and sometimes brash, dialogue never fails to put a smile on my face.

» Stiefvater’s characters are everything.  She has such a unique way of writing such dynamic and interesting characters.  I LOVED all the new characters we met in this first installment of this spinoff series.  If I had to pick a favorite, I’d probably go with Jordan being a new favorite.  I also loved seeing more of Ronan’s brothers, Declan & Matthew.

» Call Down the Hawk had just the right amount of romance to enhance the story without becoming the focus.  I enjoyed seeing Ronan & Adam’s budding relationship that we didn’t get much of in The Raven Cycle.  We really see a more vulnerable side to Ronan in this story as he has insecurities about not being good enough for Adam.

» Stiefvater’s writing is deliciously atmospheric, which paired with her whimsical plots, makes for a mesmerizing reading experience. 

» I listened to the audiobook (like I did with The Raven Cycle) because Will Patton’s voice suits Stiefvater’s writing perfectly.  I will always listen to Stiefvater’s books via audiobook because her writing just translates so well to audiobook, especially with proper narration.

› Recommended to ⇒ fans of The Raven Cycle; those that enjoy atmospheric writing 

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ For atmospheric writing, try Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


» Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White, & Royal Blue


5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» This was a steamy, and highly entertaining, M/M romance.  For some reason, this was YA in my mind, but it is definitely NOT.  I’d classify this as new adult.  Our main characters are in their early 20s, and the steamy scenes are very steamy.

» One of the best aspects of this story was the delightful cast of characters.  The secondary characters were just as lovable as our main character.  I appreciated the inclusion of positive relationships outside of the romance.  Red, White, and Royal Blue features some wonderful friendships & familial relationships.

» Speaking of characters, Alex was my favorite character of course.  I loved his ambition, wit, and sass.  I really enjoyed watching his journey from the start of this book to the end.

» I love a slow-burn romance, and this was exactly that.  The enemies to lovers trope worked well here.

» I’m going to call it now, there will be sequels or spin offs of this book following the other characters.WhatIDidntLike» This was WAY too long for a fluffy contemporary story.  This probably could have been a good 100 pages shorter and been just as good.

» I think telling this story as a dual perspective, with both Alex and Henry perspectives, would have enhanced this story.

› Recommended to ⇒ those looking for a M/M romance

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ homophobia; racism; drug addiction; sexual assault

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ For cheeky characters, try The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee or My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, & Jodi Meadows

» Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams



5-Star Rating SystemWhatILiked» Queenie is one of the most honest & realistic portrayals of a character in the throes of depression that I’ve read to date.  It was harrowing to watch the slow self destruction of our main character, Queenie.  I also think this book brings to light the fact that not everyone experiences depression in the same way.

» I love a good redemption arc.  I was really rooting Queenie as she fought to climb back from her lowest of lows to get herself back on track.  I also appreciated that her road to recovery was long & challenging instead of a unrealistic quick fix that we sometimes see in books with mental illness.

» I loved the dry humor sprinkled throughout the narrative.  I found myself laughing out loud on more than one occasion.  It definitely helped to break up the heaviness of the story.

» I appreciated that Queenie had a wonderful support system in her friends and family.  While her grandparents were not totally supportive of Queenie seeking help at first, they eventually come around after seeing Queenie’s mental health improve.  I also LOVED her group of gal pals.WhatIDidntLike» It took me a LONG time to become invested in this story.  Queenie wasn’t exactly a likable character for the first 50% of the story, which made it hard to connect to her.  Once I understood what the author was trying to do here, around the 50% mark, I started the enjoy the novel.  The payoff is worth it if you can push through the first half of the book.

› Recommended to ⇒ redemption arc fans

› Trigger/content warnings ⇒ domestic violence; mental illness; racism

› If you liked this book, try ⇒ Normal People by Sally Rooney




Have you read any of these books?  If so, what did you think?

Comment below & let me know 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Mini Book Reviews: August 2020 – Part 1”

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