Spoiler Free Review: Scorpica by G.R. Macallister

Title: Scorpica

Author: G.R. Macallister

Pub. Date: February 22nd 2022

Genre: Fantasy/LGBTQIA+

Format: eARC

Publisher: Saga Press

Pages: 448

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLE | AMAZON | LIBROFM

☆☆ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review☆☆╮

Characters: 8/10   Atmosphere: 10/10  Writing Style: 9/10  Plot: 7/10  Intrigue: 0/10  Logic/Relationships: 10/10  Enjoyment: 7/10

Rating: 51/7.2 =  ☆☆ 4 Stars☆☆╮

Rating system created by The Book Roast 

☆☆ 𝐀𝐜𝐫𝐨𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐅𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐐𝐮𝐞𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐨𝐦𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐤𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐧 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐥𝐝, 𝐨𝐧 𝐚𝐧 𝐚𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲, 𝐫𝐨𝐮𝐠𝐡𝐥𝐲 𝐚 𝐡𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐥𝐝𝐫𝐞𝐧 𝐰𝐞𝐫𝐞 𝐛𝐨𝐫𝐧. 𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐲 𝐫𝐮𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐝𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐟𝐫𝐨𝐦 𝐛𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐝𝐬, 𝐟𝐚𝐫𝐦𝐞𝐫𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐭𝐢𝐞𝐫𝐬, 𝐬𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐡𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐞𝐫𝐬, 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐬 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐪𝐮𝐞𝐞𝐧𝐬. ☆☆╮

Five Queendoms have ruled over the land in peace for five hundred years until the Drought of Girls arrives. When girls who are the warriors, healers, magic wielders, and scribes in this world cease being born, the Queendoms turn against one another. In a land of many religions, prayers go up to their different Gods in hopes of ending this curse. Told in multi-POV mainly from the perspectives of the Queen of Arca & Scorpica, this is the start to what has been described as the female Game of Thrones. We have a matriarchal society where men have lesser magic if any all, theirs is more for cosmetic purposes since their role in society is mostly as stay at home husbands. They do not have the right to vote or hold any office, they’re tasked with rearing children in this world where polygamy is the norm. The exception being the land of Scorpica where men are not allowed entry and women warriors travel out of their lands every five years to procreate. Male born babies are sold off and female babies are welcomed as future warriors. When the Drought of Girls begins, all Queendoms look to one another for the source of this curse. Power plays are set into motion by each queen to protect their positions of power at any and all costs. 

This is the type of Fantasy that will satisfy the reader who enjoys thoroughly fleshed out world building, political machinations, and slow but steady storytelling that feels like it’s all leading up to something greater. Although quite dense at times with a TON of characters, the short chapters really make it easier to follow the many story lines at once. I really enjoyed learning of the different lands and their Queendoms because each has it’s own specialty they’re known for sort of like the seven kingdoms of Westeros (Game of Thrones). We get to spend some time learning of the warriors in Scorpica, Scribes in the Bastion, deal makers/traders in Paxim, and Sorcerers in Arca. Some lands were explored more than others but I was satisfied with the two we spent the most time in (Scorpica & Arca) since they wield the most power through physical and magical strengths. A good majority of the cast of characters are queer and most relationships are Polyamorous. I love a good set of supporting side characters especially when they’re sort of found family. We get that here in a group of misfits/thieves we meet on the journey of one of the main characters we follow. I’m hoping to meet these characters on the page again after getting fully invested in their lives. This was definitely a foundation setting book to what has the potential to be an EPIC fantasy. My guess is that the sequel will hit the ground running and swords will be clashing. For this to be the first fully matriarchal/feminist Fantasy I’ve read…MORE please? haha! this hit the spot 🙌🏽


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Spoiler Free Review: Dark and Deepest Red by Anna-Marie McLemore

Title: Dark and Deepest Red

Author: Anna-Marie McLemore

Pub. Date: January 14th 2020

Genre: YA Historical Fiction/LGBTQIA+

Publisher: Feiwel & Friends/Macmillan

Pages: 309 Pages

GOODREADS | BARNES & NOBLES | AMAZON 

*ARC provided by Publisher in exchange for an honest review*

“Well-crafted seams and delicate beading gave my family a trade and a living. But red shoes gave us a name. They made us infamous. They made us brazen. Until they came for us. Except that’s not quite true. They didn’t come for us. They came for me.”

I’ve always been intrigued by the Salem Witch trials & the mass hysteria caused by outcries of devil worship. This story however takes place in 1500’s Strasbourg, a time when Romani people were being forced out of France & Germany. Our MC Lala is a Romani girl, she is a person of color, unwed, makes her own living and is in love with a transgender boy. She must give up all Romani traditions & beliefs if she is to pass off as German or French in Strasbourg. Lala has a target on her back when the women are inflicted with dancing fever, a dance they cannot stop & often ends in injury or death. Witchcraft is believed to be at the very heart of these dances as more and more women are touched by the fevered dance. The author gives us Lala’s POV during this time while also jumping ahead to her descendants in current time.

Five centuries later we meet Rosala Oliva & Emil who have ties to Lala & figuring out what those are may help stop the dancing fever from returning. Rosala’s family has been making the red shoes said to deliver a bit of magic to its wearer. Being Romani is something Rosala & Emil have in common, something they know makes them different. Five centuries later their traditions and beliefs aren’t something they’re made to feel they can openly share. When the threat of the Dancing Fever looms over Rosala she turns to Emil who is the only person who can shed some light on the history that binds her both literally & figuratively to her red shoes.

Content Warning: death, religious persecution, racism, homophobia/transphobia, some body horror

We follow two sets of characters, those in 1500’s Strasbourg & those in present day. I personally loved how well fleshed out Lala, Tante, and Alifair are as their part of history is brought to life. Lala knows it’s only a matter of time before she’s made a target of injustice & hate once the dancing fever takes a hold. She knows the odds are well stacked against her even as she falls deeply in love with Alifair who is a transgender boy. Seeking acceptance from those around them is something both Lala & Rosella share in common. They make themselves blend in so as to stay safe. Both learn that embracing that which sets them apart is really the only way to fight back oppression. I admired Alifair’s strength & how protective he is of his found family (Lala & Tante) while also carrying his own secret that if exposed would mean sure death.

Emil & Rosala were also very interesting characters to follow as they navigate relationships with their peers. Their parents have passed down their own knowledge of things that happened during the 1500’s to some of their ancestors. A knowledge that weighs heavy because it’s filled with pain, violence, and persecution for being Romani. These characters know they carry within them a history so rich it’s seeping into their day to day lives. It’s safe to say McLemore has once again delivered an unforgettable cast of characters.

Told in Multiple POV format this is a YA Historical Fantasy in which we follow two sets of characters. Most of the focus however is on Lala & her family in the 1500’s, these characters are well fleshed out vs. the ones we meet in present day. That being said, I felt this worked well since history has a way of repeating itself. Understanding where it all started was emphasized in the way this story was weaved. Although difficult to see, the time I spent reading Lala’s POV was perhaps what I loved most about this book. This may be my bias because I hold a special place in my heart for Historical Fiction but the touch of magical realism McLemore delivers so well is really what draws me in. Scenes with Tante dyeing cloth to sell in rich colors contrasted against the fevered women dancing through the streets till their feet were raw visually stand out. The heavy blanket of anxiety that sits on top of these characters is felt by the reader. Despite the darkness, I am thankful for how McLemore is consistent with delivering a sense of hope with all of their stories. There is a sense of solidarity that comes through at the very end that stirred up some deep emotions within me. I will continue to read all that Anna-Marie McLemore writes for the simple fact that their stories leave a lasting impression in my soul.


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November Wrap-Up

Hello Bookworms! I come to you with my November Wrap-Up which is only a slight bit different in format than what I typically post here on Lair Of Books. I usually include my Book Haul but that tends to leave me with a lengthy post & so I decided to split them up and I think I may keep it this way. I really didn’t expect to get as many books as I did in November but that’s usually the case whenever I try to convince myself that I can go on a book buying ban smh, check out my My November Book Haul where I bake my soul for judgment…please be easy, i’m just a woman with a profound love for books, the prettier the better haha!

November was a roller coaster of events for me with close friends and family experiencing loss & sadness. I found myself really wanting to be around my loved ones, people who are known for being strong & always being there for others. It was time to give back & be the source of strength for two very important people in my life. Thanksgiving was bittersweet but I found so much to be thankful for. I’m a little late with this post but I just want to say Thank You to all my blogging buddies both new & old. I’ve enjoyed getting to know a lot of you a bit better & the wonderful conversations we’ve had, many times have changed my day for the better. I appreciate you all & can’t wait to see what 2018 brings us 🙂

*My reviews for each are linked below

Her Body and Other Parties ★★★★ 4 STARS (RTC)

Artemis ★★★ 3 STARS

The Closest I’ve Come ★★★★ 4 STARS

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance ★★★★ 4 STARS

Renegades ★★★★ 4.5 STARS

After the EPIC month of October, I knew it would be a tough act to follow lol. No 5 star reads but they definitely came close & so I am satisfied. Renegades was my best read of the month, I was just happy to have a new book by Marissa Meyer but it wasn’t w/out its flaws. My overall enjoyment overpowered the fact that there were large chunks of inactivity & it’s a HUGE book so there’s that. Still though, highly recommend to any superhero/villain lovers out there. Be warned though, that ending will leave you begging for the sequel like yesterday. My biggest disappointment was Artemis by Andy Weir & whelp, I wasn’t expecting that to be the case (review linked above). I may still give The Martian a go but I’m not so sure I’ll be continuing on with the follow-up to Artemis that is rumored to be in the works.

December is already lining up to be a pretty EPIC reading month, I’ve already finished my first read & it is a EPIC 5 stars! currently reading The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden & gahhhhh! how I’ve missed Katherine Arden’s LUSH WORLD BUILDING!!!! her books feel like a warm blanket on a cold winter night & I just don’t ever want to leave *sobs* My December TBR will be going up this Friday so stay tuned <3’s!

I was actually surprised that I managed to squeeze in 2 movie dates with the hubby & a Netflix binge but it happened and it was AMAZING!…

Thor Ragnarok

    

SO worth the 5 Butterflies!!! I can honestly say I LOVED this movie so much so that it made the 2011 flick fade to black #jussayin Thor Ragnarok had incredible action sequence scenes, EPIC call to action soundtrack, fun plot, and LOTS of screen time with Tom Hiddleston (still not enough though lol). We also get to catch up with Hulk & see where he’s been, those scenes brought some humor & levity to the flick. Similar to how how I felt about Spiderman Homecoming…this movie made me see Thor in a new light. Whereas before I didn’t really care much for the God and his hammer, now I’d like another movie please 🙂

Justice League

   

 4 stars to the movie that surprised the heck outta me! I was not expecting to enjoy JL as much as I did after not quite loving Batman VS. Superman but I did! Ben Affleck toned it down several notches & I found him to no be as annoying this time around. I actually really enjoyed his Bruce Wayne scenes especially those with The Flash who wonder & awe added some comedic relief. Didn’t think I’d love this Flash because I LOVE Grant Gustin’s version so much on the CW but surprise surprise lol. Aquaman legit made my heart skip beats & yes! yes I would like more Jason Momoa on the screen please lol. Gal Gadot friggin Killed it, she can do no wrong in my eyes at this point. Cyborg is a essential & awesome new addition to the team, he is constantly evolving as he is part machine which I thought made him all the more interesting. Overall, I really enjoyed Justice League & hope it continues in this new direction.

Punisher

    

There’s a new order to my fave Netflix Marvel series & it goes like this…Luke Cage (#1), Punisher, Jessica Jones, Daredevil, Defenders. I haven’t had a Netflix binge since Luke Cage & when I sat down with the hubby for some Pizza & the pilot episode to Punisher, I wasn’t expecting to watch 8 episodes back to back but again, I did. This month was definitely filled with some unexpected goodies in my viewing so yay for that! 🙂  this show is not for the feint of heart, there is a lot of violence & revenge taking place but I just couldn’t tear my eyes away. Frank Castle is seriously bad a**!& I’m here for it! haha!


Happy reading in December Bookworms!!! Hope you all had a wonderful November & an even better start to December. What are you currently reading/watching? drop your comments down below <3’s!


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Review: You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins

Title: You Bring the Distant Near

Author: Mitali Perkins

Pub. Date: October 31st, 2017

Genre: YA Contemporary, #Ownvoices

Publisher:  Macmillan Children’s Publishing

Pages: 320

Format: eGalley/Netgalley

    

Five girls. Three generations. One great American love story. You Bring the Distant Near explores sisterhood, first loves, friendship, and the inheritance of culture–for better or worse. Ranee, worried that her children are losing their Indian culture; Sonia, wrapped up in a forbidden biracial love affair; Tara, seeking the limelight to hide her true self; Shanti, desperately trying to make peace in the family; Anna, fighting to preserve Bengal tigers and her Bengali identity–award-winning author Mitali Perkins weaves together a sweeping story of five women at once intimately relatable and yet entirely new.

You Bring the Distant Near truly felt like a gift I was unwrapping Christmas morning. It’s not often that we get stories based on Indian culture yet here we have a multi-generational book spanning the lives of 5 women in the Das family. We first meet Ranee & Rajeev Das, the parents of Tara & Sonia Das as they move from Bangladesh to London & finally Queens, New York. Rajeev Das is a hard worker & provider for his family, his wife Ranee wants them to own a beautiful home in a safe neighborhood. The Das family has very humble beginnings in a apartment in Queens that is located in a predominantly black neighborhood. We see Ranee struggle with her own prejudices & how her fear leads her to restrict Tara & Sonia. We also get an inside look on her marriage & the disconnect that often leads to arguments in the Das home. Underneath it all however, is a whole lot of love. This book truly has it all! the immigrant experience, marital woes, intersectional issues, colorism, feminism, Islamophobia, complex characters and so much more. I couldn’t put this book down other than to shed some tears every now & again. Seeing three generations of women try to retain some of their culture while also trying to fit in to their new lives was rewarding for me as a reader. Having had some of my own family immigrate from Salvador to the United States, I knew assimilating would be difficult but never really thought about how difficult it must be to try & retain some of their own culture. I found myself rooting for these characters to win their battles & stand up for what they believe is right. This isn’t by any means a fast paced book, it is however a heart warming read that gives you a inside look to a culture & people not often seen in YA books.

The author kindly included a family tree at the very beginning of the book but I found I didn’t really need it since the characters were very well fleshed out. 5 women’s stories spanning over 3 generations, all so very different from each other but the one thing they have in common is their wish to hold onto some if not all of their roots. I LOVED all of these characters, they’re the type to stick with you way after you’ve read the last page.

Rajeev & Ranee Das- mother & father to Tara & Sonia are struggling to meet eye to eye when it comes to settling down on a place to live. Rajeev is sweet & the definition of a proud & doting father. He has a ton of love for his daughters & I found myself crying the most whenever he interacted with Tara & Sonia because this is the closest a character has come to resembling my own father & how he cared for my sister & I. Rajeev is incredibly supportive of his daughters & encourages them to follow their dreams. Our matriarch Ranee Das on the other hand is the law in her home & perhaps has the most character growth in this book. She has a ton of prejudices to sort through & we get to see her struggle with her marriage, daughters, grand daughters and her own internal struggle to both let go & hold on to some cultural beliefs. I loved seeing how realistic this marriage was portrayed & the underlying love that shines through.

Tara & Sonia Das- Since the majority of this book is told in alternating POV’s between these two sisters, I felt that I really got to know them. Tara aka Star is in love with acting, drama, entertaining, and fashion. She loves studying different icons on tv & imitating their style. This is something she sees as a useful tool whenever she has moved to a new country & started a new school. Tara is also the sister everyone considers the beauty who is sure to find a suitable husband. Sonia aka Sunny is a reader & writer, she loves retreating into her own world where she can journal & read non-fiction. The move to NYC places her on course to becoming a feminist & activist. I enjoyed seeing the contrast between Sunny, Star, and Ranee. Sunny is very vocal in squashing any prejudices coming from her mother which is why they clash the most. Sunny is also of darker complexion & we see the affects of colorism both in her home & with other Indian neighbors.

Chantal & Anna-  the daughters of Sunny & Star, the latter part of YBTDN is told in alternating POV chapters with these cousins. We still get to see their parents but the focus shifts to their high school lives. Chantal is Sunny’s daughter & she is trying to find peace between her two grandmothers. Chantal is bi-racial & we get to see the very realistic familial battles that take place when two very different cultures come together through marriage. Anna is Star’s daughter & she for the most part has been raised in Mumbai. Her parents do travel with her to & from NYC to Mumbai but she has no interest in American life. We see her get uprooted & the difficulties she faces when trying to hold on to her roots.

Grandma Rose- doesn’t come into the picture til’ we meet Chantal later in the book but I seriously LOVED seeing her duke it out with Ranee for title of best grandma. Grandma Rose is black & is very involved in Chantal’s life. I loved seeing her pride & confidence in Chantal, she really is her #1 fan. Some of my favorite scenes were those between Rose & Ranee, these two had me smiling & shaking my head.

Rich in culture & family dynamics, You Bring the Distant Near is easily a top contender for my top 10 favorite books of this year. For any bookworms looking for #ownvoices reads, I highly recommend picking this book up. In just 320 pages we get wonderful character development & a ton of tough topics thrown in the mix making this one hell of a journey. I felt a range of emotions seeing this family try to set down new roots in a strange land while also learning to adapt when life throws you a curve-ball. I also found myself wanting more story once I finished reading & perhaps that’s due to how well it was structured. The alternating POV chapters between Sunny & Star and later their daughters Chantal & Anna really allow you to form attachments. This bookworm would love to see more of the Das family & their growing pains. I am so happy to have read YBTDN & wish only to see more from this author in the very near future *fingers crossed*

*HUGE thanks to Macmillan Children’s Publishing, Netgalley, and Mitali Perkins for the eGalley copy of You Bring the Distant Near in exchange for an honest review.

Happy Monday Bookworms! hope you all had a wonderful weekend & managed to squeeze in some good books. You Bring the Distant Near is hands down a highlight in my October reading. Have any of you lovely bookworms had the chance to read YBTDN? or plan on adding it to your TBR? Sound off in the comments down below 😉


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ARC August Review: Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

 Spellbook of the Lost and Found by Moira Fowley-Doyle

Published by: Penguin Random House/Kathy Dawson Books

Date of Publication: August 8th 2017

Genres: YA Fantasy/Magical Realism

Pages: 368

Format: eGalley

   

If you’re not careful, you can spend your whole life looking for what you’ve lost.

One stormy summer in a small Irish town, things begin to disappear. It starts with trivial stuff—hair clips, house keys, socks—but soon it escalates to bigger things: a memory, a heart, a classmate.

Olive can tell that her best friend, Rose, is different all of a sudden. Rose isn’t talking, and Olive starts to worry she’s losing her. Then diary pages written by someone named Laurel begin to appear all over town. And Olive meets three mysterious strangers: Ivy, Hazel, and her twin brother, Rowan, secretly squatting in an abandoned housing development. The trio are wild and alluring, but they seem lost too—and like Rose, they’re holding tightly to painful secrets.

When a tattered handwritten spellbook falls into the lives of these six teenagers, it changes everything. The spellbook is full of charms to conjure back that which has been lost, and it lists a part for each of them to play in the calling. It might be their best chance to set everything back to rights, but only if they’re willing to pay the price.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found takes place in Ireland, much of the time is spent outside in the woods, a abandoned house, and a pub with a mysterious owner whose age remains unknown. The teens in this book are pretty much left to their own devices. It’s during a bonfire party that one of the characters by the name of Laurel, wakes up inebriated to find the spellbook that would inevitably bind all of their fates together. The spellbook contains the ingredients to cast the spell that would find what you’ve lost however…for every thing found…you must be willing to lose something & the choice is not always yours to make. These characters have all lost something valuable that they are willing to take the risk in order to get it back.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found was one of those books I spotted early on & just knew I wanted to read right away. I’m a lover of all things witches, spells, and mysterious atmospheres and this book delivered on all three. We follow multiple POV’s as there are three sets of friends:

Rose & Olive: Best friends and polar opposites

Rowan, Hazel, and Ivy: Rowan and Hazel: are fraternal twins squatting in a abandoned house after leaving a toxic home environment. Their childhood friend Ivy followed them & plays a protective role over them

Laurel, Ash, & Holly: with this set of friends we only get Laurel’s POV as she tells her group of friends story

Stories told in Multiple POV’s tend to be some of my most favorite because it’s a great way to have each character fleshed out, by getting in their heads. It did take me some time to get used to all of the players in this book because some shared striking character similarities with each other. I didn’t find any of these characters to have a real distinct voice but I enjoyed following the threads that connected them nonetheless. I did however, appreciate the diversity in this cast of characters with Rose being a bi-sexual POC, Olive being deaf & bi-sexual, and Hazel being gay. Friendship played a big theme in this book as well as sibling relationships. These characters for the most part are deeply flawed but what stood out most was the genuine concern for one another.

Spellbook of the Lost and Found is my first read by Moira Fowley-Doyle since I haven’t yet had the chance to pick up The Accident Season. Although there were moments of confusion, I was invested in this story and seeing it all the way through. Also, I wasn’t expecting the writing to be heavy with prose & so that took some getting used to but again it still maintained my interest. This is a slow paced read but the pay off makes it all worth your time. I found myself constantly trying to connect the dots & even went as far as making a little tree chart to see how each person knew the other haha! I can tell you this much…you won’t see the ending coming! & that alone was wonderful! seeing how well constructed & detailed this story really is was a real treat & speaks to the skill our author honed with her pen. I highly recommend Spellbook of the Lost and Found to those who enjoyed the movie The Craft & for anyone who enjoys piecing together a good mystery 😉

*HUGE Thanks Penguin Random House/Kathy Dawson Books & Moira Fowley-Doyle for the eGalley of Spellbook of the Lost and Found in exchange for an honest review

Hello Readers! Have any of you had the chance to read Spellbook of the Lost and Found? if you have, did you see that ending coming? btw, since this is a mystery & those are best to go into blind lol, I opted to go with this review format instead of my traditional categories…thoughts?


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