Queer Girls, Dragons, and Rescue Missions | Shatter the Sky Book Review

YOU GUYS. I have been waiting (im)patiently to post this book review, because it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a long time! But I wanted to wait until release day, which was on Tuesday. Shatter the Sky by Rebecca Kim Wells is a must for anyone who likes fantasy, strong female characters, and LGBTQ+ representation.

Also, I’m borrowing an idea from Lydia of Noveltea for this review. She includes a section in all of her book reviews for why she chose the book, and I thought that was a really good idea, so I’m adopting it myself.

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About the Book

Raised among the ruins of a conquered mountain nation, Maren dreams only of sharing a quiet life with her girlfriend Kaia—until the day Kaia is abducted by the Aurati, prophetic agents of the emperor, and forced to join their ranks. Desperate to save her, Maren hatches a plan to steal one of the emperor’s coveted dragons and storm the Aurati stronghold.

If Maren is to have any hope of succeeding, she must become an apprentice to the Aromatory—the emperor’s mysterious dragon trainer. But Maren is unprepared for the dangerous secrets she uncovers: rumors of a lost prince, a brewing rebellion, and a prophecy that threatens to shatter the empire itself. Not to mention the strange dreams she’s been having about a beast deep underground…

With time running out, can Maren survive long enough to rescue Kaia from impending death? Or could it be that Maren is destined for something greater than she could have ever imagined?

  • Goodreads | Amazon | 304 pages (I think my review copy was longer, but maybe the font changed?)
  • Release date July 30, 2019
  • I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Why I Chose This Book

I basically lost my composure when I saw the mention of a girl stealing a dragon to rescue her girlfriend. UM, SIGN ME UP, PLEASE. I put in that review request faster than you can say “Claire, I think you’re a little too obsessed with dragons,” and then I jumped through the ceiling when I got approved.

My Thoughts

I feel like I’ve been looking for this book my entire life. It was a masterpiece. I can’t stress enough how fantastic it was. It’s Malinda Lo meets The Goose Girl with a little bit of Game of Thrones thrown in.

The world building was incredible. The history and geography of the world was super well planned, and I felt completely immersed. I would love to see a map. Maybe that will appear in the finished book.

That leads in to the main strength of the book, which is the diversity. As you can see from the cover, the main character is non-white. She appears Asian on the cover and that’s how she is described. Her love interest, Kaia, has dark curly hair and darker skin, as do most of the Zefedi. It’s so realistic to have different people in different parts of the world not look all alike. The culture was really well-developed, too. Maren has to figure out how to fit in.

Kaia and Maren. Ah, they really are the sweetest. I can’t describe how happy I am to have a prominent lesbian couple in a fantasy novel. It melts my heart into a puddle of gay butter. And Maren is bisexual! (Or pansexual.) The one thing I was not keen on is that there’s a bit of a love triangle, which I never enjoy. And bi people tend to be stereotyped as promiscuous or more likely to cheat, so the love triangle doesn’t do any wonders to help debunk that stereotype. That knocks half a star off.

The plot is all over the place, and I mean that in the best way – I didn’t predict a single thing. Maren’s goal at the beginning is to rescue Kaia, but it gets amended several times throughout. That’s because of the outstanding characterization. Maren grows SO MUCH throughout the book and I am SO PROUD of her. She goes from being a shadow of her girlfriend to being this amazing, independent, strong-willed, powerful character and it’s truly amazing to read about.

And, dragon bonding? I’m 100% here for it. The Aromatory is an absolutely fascinating concept and plot point, and I’m super impressed with Rebecca Kim Wells’ creativity.

Honestly, this is one of the best books I have read all year, and I can’t recommend it enough. Thank you so much to NetGalley for the ARC. It did not influence my review; I genuinely LOVED this book.

My Rating

4.5 stars, rounded up to 5
★★★★★

The Pianist and the Photographer | Yeah Write #432

Third week of doing this Yeah Write linkup and I’ve been having such an amazing time. Everybody has been so supportive and kind, and I appreciate every single comment and piece of constructive criticism/advice.

Today’s post has a male character for once, named Russell because I just watched a movie with a character named Russell and I’m abysmal at names. TW for mentions of homophobia.

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The Pianist and the Photographer

The music washes over him like the waves of the ocean, faint at first but growing louder as he walks toward the park. There are always musicians in Ashcreek Square on sunny afternoons, but rarely on overcast days like this one. 

And certainly not a classical pianist.

Russell stops in his tracks at the edge of the park, ignoring the bicyclist who has to swerve around him and the rude hand gesture that follows. Twenty yards away, in the middle of the square, sits a grand piano. Perched on the stool is a young man a few five years his junior. He wears a T-shirt and khaki pants and looks for all the world like an ordinary hipster who wandered out from the nearest Starbucks…if it weren’t for the otherworldly music flowing from his fingers. He plays like the secrets of the universe are captured within him and fighting to get out. 

Russell finally gets enough presence of mind to step out of the bike lane. His fingers are already sliding around his camera, unclasping the lens, adjusting the focus. But even if he had the pianist’s permission, he couldn’t capture this in a photograph. The way the young man leans in to the forte, closes his eyes during the high notes, breathes the piece through his body…it’s like his DNA is woven of the musical clef.

HIs phone buzzes in his pocket. Probably his boss calling to clarify something for the photography assignment he’s on. No doubt he’ll hear an earful later about ignoring his call, but for now Russell doesn’t care. 

He takes a halting step forward but can’t bring himself to go any closer. All around the pianist people are walking past, too busy to stop and witness the performance. A few pause for a moment to nod in appreciation before they continue their fast-paced stride across the square. One woman slips a folded dollar bill into the cavern of the grand piano. The pianist doesn’t look up. As she turns away, the sharp angle of her jawbone and her dark brown hair makes Russell think for a moment that he’s looking at his mother. But no, her hair is cut in a bob, a far cry from his mother’s long curls, and she’s wearing round glasses that his mother never needed. 

When he first left home all those years ago, he saw her everywhere: the bartender who served the beer he drowned his sorrows in, a woman at the gay club in downtown LA, his next-door neighbor in their crappy apartment complex who asked him, brows furrowed in concern, if he was doing okay. It took his boyfriend pouring all his beer down the bathroom sink for him to realize that things had gotten out of control. But it took longer to get his life back on track. Some days, he still doesn’t think he’s there. Because staring at this beautiful man at the piano fills his gut with a hot, sickening guilt that feels all too familiar. Guilt, roiling and churning in his stomach, because of the flutters of excitement dancing through his body at the sight of this musician. 

Didn’t he spend his entire teenage years praying for these feelings to go away? Crying himself to sleep because he just wanted to belong, knowing in his bones that he would never find someone to love him back? He tries not to think of the day he broke down and told his mother, but the thoughts come unbidden just like they always do when he sees an attractive man. The bags of his belongings thrown out the garage door. His key no longer fitting the lock. His mother’s phone going to voicemail when he called. His childhood ended that day. And even though he’s made a life for himself, he’s still alone. 

He drops to one knee, frames the pianist, and snaps a picture. The only way he’ll ever view people is from a distance.

At that very moment, the pianist releases the last note and exhales a long breath. Russell finds himself holding his breath as the young man looks his way, takes in his camera, and meets his eyes. Maybe it’s the way his brown eyes search Russell’s mind, or the way he swipes his hair out of his eyes, but it prompts Russell to take a step closer. 

Just one step. But that’s all he needs to do. The pianist rises from the bench and comes to meet him.

749 words
Photo prompt this week is by gratisography
Emotion to incorporate this week was “shame”

Happy Pride

…from both me and Harriet!

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Love is love, and everyone should be able to express that love freely. If you’re going to a Pride event today, be safe and have fun. Not being one for crowds, I’ll stick to my rainbow-flag-waving in my backyard with Harriet’s supervision. This little bird loves everyone who tells her she’s pretty. Let’s be more like Harriet. 🙂

Happy Pride! ❤

A Pride Month Book Review

In celebration of Pride month, I wanted to share a fantastic book that I just finished with you guys. I recently joined NetGalley, where you can request ebooks in exchange for a book review, and I discovered this gem. I’m an LGBTQ+ ally, as you know, and I always want to learn new things…so I couldn’t request this anthology fast enough. Here’s the cover and description! 🌈🌈🌈🌈

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About the Book 🌈

“Love Beyond, Body, Space, and Time” is a collection of indigenous science fiction and urban fantasy focusing on LGBT and two-spirit characters. These stories range from a transgender woman trying an experimental transition medication to young lovers separated through decades and meeting far in their own future. These are stories of machines and magic, love, and self-love.

Goodreads | Amazon | 125 pages
Where I got it: I received a copy from NetGalley in exchange for a review. All opinions are my own. I wasn’t required to post this review on my blog, in fact…I just liked it so much that I wanted to!

My Thoughts 🌈

An amazing and thought-provoking collection of short stories, essays, and poems. I learned a lot from reading it. All of the stories feature LGBTQ2S+ characters who are indigenous. I can’t speak to the accuracy because I’m a white person but it was really interesting and all the authors put a lot of heart into their stories.

Here are brief thoughts on each of the contributions.

Beyond the Grim Dust of What Was: This was a dense but interesting essay that included a bunch of books to check out. And how cool is it that the person who wrote this teaches at my university? I may have fangirled for a bit.

Returning to Ourselves: Again, pretty academic. An essay, not a story. Neither of these were super interesting, but they have a lot of good information.

Aliens: Wow, what a start to the anthology. This writing style took some getting used to, and I’m not sure why it wasn’t told from the main character’s point of view, but this was great. 4/5 stars ★★★★☆

Legends are Made, Not Born: This was a sweet, quick little story. Auntie Dave is an intriguing character. I never felt fully involved with it, mostly due to the writing style, so 3/5 stars ★★★☆☆

Perfectly You: RIGHT IN THE FEELS. Reminded me of San Junipero from Black Mirror. This was absolutely amazing! Lesbian main character. 5/5 stars ★★★★★

The Boys Who Became the Hummingbirds: This read more like a legend or a fairytale than a short story, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s just not my preferred style to read. 3/5 stars because the writing really is beautiful. ★★★☆☆

Né Łe: This story is so cute, this one was especially well done. It’s about dogs and lesbians, and neither the dogs nor the lesbians die for a change, thank goodness. 5/5 stars ★★★★★

Transitions: I really liked this one. Interesting main character and I love plots involving medical trials. I wish this story had been longer because the end kind of leaves you hanging, but at the same time you have a pretty good idea of where it’s going. Trans woman main character. 5/5 stars ★★★★★ [TW: transphobia]

Imposter Syndrome: I had a hard time following the plot of this. Lots of interesting ideas but too much happened in too short a page count for me to keep up. 2/5 stars. ★★☆☆☆ [TW: violence & sexual assault]

Valediction at the Star View Motel: More lesbians! I liked the characters quite a lot and it’s a really sweet storyline. Would definitely read more about them. 4/5 stars ★★★★☆

Parallax: I was surprised to find a poem in here, but it was a good conclusion to the anthology I think. I’m not much of a poetry fan to be honest but this deserves 4/5 stars. ★★★★☆

In conclusion, this was a very well-assembled anthology that’s strong on the #ownvoices category. I highly, highly recommend it.

Overall Rating: ★★★★
Or, 5/5 rainbows 🙂
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It looks like the book is only $5 on Amazon which is a pretty good deal. So if you’re looking for some Pride reading you may wish to check it out.

The one with the rainbows

Someone please help me think of titles so this blog doesn’t look like a season of FRIENDS.

I’m thinking about deleting Instagram and posting shorter posts here instead. What do you think about that? Social media has become such a time-suck and isn’t entirely positive for me anymore. Your feedback is always welcome and appreciated.

Today’s post is basically just me squealing because my newest design is up on Crochet Spot, and I’m over the moon about this one. It’s one of those rare cases where the finished product looks exactly how I envisioned it, and it came together pretty easily.

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View the free crochet pattern here! Crochet Spot is way too fun to be considered a job. It really is a dream come true!

Okay, so there were a few snags along the way with the design process for this one, namely when I managed to crochet a rainbow with red at the bottom and purple at the top. I am a grown adult who forgot what the rainbow color sequence is. After giggling for quite a while at that mistake I sorted it out.

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I made three of them to sell at the craft fair I went to this month. They were successful because all three of them went to new homes within a couple hours. Which makes me happy! I figured since Pride month is right around the corner this would be a good time to put this pattern out into the world. 🙂

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Have a rainbowy day, you guys, and please send your prayers and good vibes to help me through finals. They sure would be appreciated! ❤

20BiTeen

I added something to my Etsy shop that I’ve been wanting to do for a very long time, and I just realized I never showed you guys! I’m a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community and I wanted to make something inspired by it. I saw a lot of really cute mini flags around the internet and decided to do my own take on it ^__^

By the way, the title of this post is taken from good ole Tumblr – last year was dubbed 20gayteen, and they slightly modified it this year to 20biteen. I always love a good pun.

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Rainbowpalooza! Here’s the Etsy link.

These are the most fun things ever to make. The ends aren’t so fun to weave, but it’s worth it for rAiNbOw. I chose some of the more popular Pride flags to start.

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Rainbow/gay flag
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Bisexual flag
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Transgender pride
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Genderqueer flag
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Asexual pride

I’m selling them for $3 each with the option of adding a keychain or a pin back. I’ve already gotten quite a few compliments on the rainbow keychain I put on my backpack. I brought a bunch of these to the craft fair and they all sold out, which made me super happy. I saw teens walking around with two or three pride flags clipped to their belt. Pretty cool. 🙂

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I think they’re pretty cute, but I do really like tiny things haha. But this is a great way to show your LGBTQ+ pride and support. I might do a giveaway sometime with these.

Here’s the Etsy link one more time. I’m about to start a new college term, so this would be a great way to buy me a burrito for lunch… 🙂

What other flags do you think I should make? 🙂