Category Archives: Alex Reads

Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Unicorns, University, and the Underworld

YA recs U

And we’re back, with three more gloriously varied entries in the field of queer YA! This time we have a contemporary Australian coming-of-age story, a cheesy urban fantasy, and an exploration of trauma and yearning after coming “home” from a quest in a magical world. Take a gander and see if any call to you… Continue reading

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Bloom: A Graphic Novel That Made Me Cry About Bread

Bloom (1)

Bloom is a story about growing up, figuring out what you want, falling in love, and embracing the gentle catharsis of baking. It’s a sweet queer romance about two young people in weird transitory times in their lives, who are brought together by chance and, by even happier chance, end up being just what the other needs. It’s an all round delight to experience, capturing the magic of the graphic novel medium as well as everything I enjoy about YA. It also made me tear up and sniffle over sourdough starter, so consider that an endorsement of its emotional pulling power. Continue reading

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Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Aces, Alchemy, and Ancient Magic

YA mini reviews 2

It’s time for another set of reviews celebrating the vast and delicious variety to be found in young adult fiction! This time round we have a contemporary romance, a historical romp, and a quirky and delightfully haunting story about love and magic. Travel onwards for recommendations! Continue reading

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The Paladin Caper: The Gang Saves the World

paladin caper

And so Rogues of the Republic comes to its climax and conclusion, and so I come to the end of what turned into a trilogy of review posts. It’s been something of a rollercoaster ride, and, despite these not being my most view-grabbing posts, I’m glad I decided to write up my thoughts on each instalment separately. For one thing, hey, even if these aren’t my most view-grabbing posts, I want to put the word out about a story that I enjoy, and if coming across these gets at least one person to say “hey, that sounds like fun” and discover a new book they enjoy, I have done my work as a blogger and can be delighted with that. For another, I’ve had quite a different reaction to each individual entry in this trilogy, which has been interesting to chart. And the reaction to the third one… well, it’s not as positive as the previous two, but in a way that highlights why the previous two were so successful. Without further ado, let’s get into exactly why. Continue reading

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Queer YA Mini-Reviews: Music, Mythology, and Murder Mystery

YA mini reviews 1

YA is one of the most versatile and interesting fields of publishing right now, full of a glittering spectrum of stories of all genres and protagonists from all walks of life and identities. And you know me, I love a good coming-of-age story, whatever shape it may take… and what better way to celebrate those many shapes than to review three wildly different, but all brilliant, YA novels together? Let’s dive in! This time round we have psychological thrillers, we have mythology retellings*, we have ruminations on fame and friendship and fandom.  Continue reading

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Tash Hearts Tolstoy Is the Ace Coming-of-Age Story We Need and Deserve

Tash Hearts Tolstoy cover Simon + Schuster

Let me tell you a story about art, asexuality, and Anna Karenina.

Kathryn Ormsbee’s 2017 young adult novel Tash Hearts Tolstoy broke my heart and put it back together in the way only a good book can. It has everything you could want from a coming-of-age story: the last summer before graduation, familial conflict, heart-tugging romance, road trips, college anxieties, profound realisations set to pop-rock music, the power of friendship … and the personal story of one ace teenager navigating life and love. That last part, you don’t normally see.

Read the full post on The Asexual!

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The Prophecy Con: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Magic Crystals

prophecy con

Every time a trilogy’s Book Two is better than its Book One, an angel gets its wings. One of my early posts on this blog was a somewhat scientific (and pretentious, but hey, that’s what most of my early posts seem to sound like) study of what I called Second Book Syndrome, the curse that afflicts sequels and mid-point novels in trilogies that makes them… just not great comparatively, for a variety of reasons to do with both author heebie-jeebies and narrative structure. Well, my younger self would be pleasantly surprised to learn that I’ve found a series where Book Two is both better constructed and more enjoyable than Book One. It’s a Christmas miracle! It’s a rollicking fantasy action adventure! It’s Rogues of the Republic: The Prophecy Con!

If this sounds intriguing but you haven’t read my review of Book One and/or Book One itself, I would do that first—this review will naturally contain a few spoilers for its predecessor, since discussing the plot of The Prophecy Con will naturally involve discussing what happens in and after The Palace Job. Honestly, this book does a wonderful job both following on from the previous book and feeling like its own individual, fresh story, and perhaps it’s striking this delicate balance that helps it avoid Second Book Syndrome. It’s also a big improvement in terms of craft: the chaotic nature of the writing itself that threw me off about The Palace Job has mostly been ironed out, and the plot is much cleaner-cut into arcs that make a Three Act Structure more discernible. The prose on a page-to-page level, as well as the plot itself, are much easier to follow, and you get swept up in the adventure and intrigue with even more vigour than before. Also, this is the book where things get gay. Consider these your vague, non-spoiler recommendations, and proceed from here if you want more details. Continue reading

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