The Book and its Author
First serialized on the popular app and website WebToon, Always Human ran from 2015-2017 and amassed over 76,000 unique subscribers during its run. Now reformatted for a print edition in sponsorship with GLAAD, Always Human is a beautifully drawn graphic novel about a developing relationship between two young women in a near-future, soft sci-fi setting. Always Human is drawn in a manga-influenced style and with an incredible color palette that leaps off the page!
In the near-future, people use technology to give the illusion of all kinds of body modifications—but some people have “Egan’s Syndrome,” a highly sensitive immune system that rejects these “mods” and are unable to use them. Those who are affected maintain a “natural” appearance, reliant on cosmetics and hair dye at most to help them play with their looks.
Sunati is attracted to Austen the first time she sees her and is drawn to what she assumes is Austen’s bravery and confidence to live life unmodded. When Sunati learns the truth, she’s still attracted to Austen and asks her on a date. Gradually, their relationship unfolds as they deal with friends, family, and the emotional conflicts that come with every romance. Together, they will learn and grow in a story that reminds us no matter how technology evolves, we will remain . . . always human.
Rendered in beautiful detail and an extraordinary color palette, Always Human is a sweet love story told in a gentle sci-fi setting by a queer woman cartoonist, Ari North.
Ari North is a queer cartoonist who believes an entertaining story should also
be full of diversity and inclusion. As a writer, an artist, and a musician, she
wrote, drew, and composed the music for Always Human, a complete
romance/sci-fi webcomic about two queer girls navigating maturity and finding
happiness. She’s currently working on a second webcomic, Aerial Magic,
which is about the everyday lives of the witches who work at a broomstick
repair shop. She lives in Australia with her husband.
Always Human, an adorable sapphic love story that originated on WEBTOON should be at the top of your graphic novel TBR! I’m so glad I got the chance to read (and develop this moodboard and a book tag for you to try!)
First off, I’m immediately adding Always Human to my WEBTOON subscriptions page because I need to be kept informed about any future installments!
I also need to emphasize how cute Austen and Sunati are! They’re so cute together, and I loved looking at the scenes where they went on dates and explored the world together. They were so thoughtful about what activities would both show off their personalities and let the other have a good time as well, and… wow now you know how important I find proper date planning in a relationship. Anyways—squeal!!
The world was super creative. Set in a futuristic Australia (I’ve never read a book set in Australia before!), characters can use virtual reality, hover cars, and “mods”—things that we can only dream of now. I most enjoyed the interactions between Austen and Sunati where they had some hard conversations about Austen’s Egan’s Syndrome, and how that impacted her. I’ll say that I think Always Human has a heartfelt portrayal of some struggles a person with one might go through, and some that an abled person might have when starting a relationship. I’ve always agreed with the assessment that we need more disabled characters in YA, and Always Human is another great step!
I think the only place the story suffered is a lack of plot. There was a clear route of “problem, solution, rinse and repeat” each time, and I felt like Always Human could have been a little longer and delved deeper into some of the conflicts. Don’t get me wrong, I love a short novel, but I wanted to know so much more about the world and characters that I ended up feeling teased by the length. If there are future installments, this paragraph will be a moot point.
Overall, like I said before, you should give Always Human a try! It’s a refreshing romantic read perfect for any season and reader. 4/5 stars.
Always Human Book Tag
1. Thank the person who tagged you!
2. Link back to the creator, The Baroness of Books
3. Tag some friends!
4. Attach these rules to your post.
Sunati: What would you change about your last read?
Austen: What trope will you always enjoy, no matter what book it’s in?
Luna: Favorite fictional robot?
Rae: Most practical character?
Mods: Two of your favorite book covers?
Virtual Reality: What time period is your favorite setting to read about?
The Waterfall: Most romantic scene you’ve read?
Cayli: Sweetest character?
Yasel: A book that grew on you after you started it?
Starlight Soldiers: Your favorite non-bookish piece of media?
Hi friends! It's been a while! Sorry for the late post, it's been a long day. I worked a full shift today, and then wrote some upcoming posts and completely lost track of time while I raved over Fable. Seriously, it's one of the longest reviews I've ever written (first prize goes to The Cuban Girl's Guide to Tea and Tomorrow, with which I am obsessed).
What I'm reading: I'm working my way through the Anne of Green Gables series, trying to decide if I want to move them off my shelves to make room for other books. So far my answer is yes--they're not my favorite thing in the world so I'm okay storing them on secondary shelves.
What I'm crafting: Thinking about restarting my bullet journal! I stopped journaling when quarantine started, because I lost all sense of time and space. I don't have the wherewithal to start up June, July, and August again, but I think I'm going to paint in the last few pages of my old Leuchtturm and then grab a new one for the new academic year. Student-ing is hard without an organization message.
In a city covered in ice and ruin, a group of magicians face off in a daring game of magical feats to find the next headliner of the Conquering Circus, only to find themselves under the threat of an unseen danger striking behind the scenes.
As each act becomes more and more risky and the number of missing magicians piles up, three are forced to reckon with their secrets before the darkness comes for them next.
The Star: Kallia, a powerful showgirl out to prove she’s the best no matter the cost
The Master: Jack, the enigmatic keeper of the club, and more than one lie told
The Magician: Demarco, the brooding judge with a dark past he can no longer hide
Where Dreams Descend is the book of the season! Magical and show-stopping, it promises not to be the next Caraval or The Night Circus, but instead a lush original fantasy all of its own. Once I started reading and getting to know Kallia, Jack, and Demarco, I was hooked. Unfortunately, the ending was a let-down for me and I am more confused than ever. I have such mixed feelings about this book, so I’m sorry that this review will be all over the place!
Admittedly I did struggle with the first few chapters, before I understood how magic works, and Kallia’s role as a female show magician, but after that the pages flew by! Fast-paced and exciting, Where Dreams Descend will surely delight readers. Part of the allure is the magic, but there’s also a mystery plot surrounding the missing magicians that I would have loved to focus on more. We’re given teases of a greater danger that Kallia might face, and how it ties into Demarco’s backstory, but never enough information to put the whole puzzle together.
I LOVED learning about Kallia and her relationship with her power, especially because she faces challenges at every turn as a female show magician. I wish we’d gotten more of her incredible magic and performance in the story. The competition scenes were some of my favorites, as well as the ones she and Demarco shared, and I think that added emphasis could have helped heighten the magical atmosphere. Angeles is clearly a talented writer.
The plot, on the other hand… oof. I can’t mention too much without adding spoilers, but I have to say I’m very disappointed by the entire thing. The ending especially was so out of the blue, and I am so confused as to what happened. I would love if someone would explain to me how exactly we got here—quite frankly I was expecting a LOT more resolution to the Spectaculore competition given that it was a large focus of the rest of the novel.
The reason I’m only giving 3/5 stars is while I loved the descriptions and the magic, I feel like the story is holding back. Pacing could have been better, more character development and understanding of their histories is needed, and the plot needs to pick a direction before I could really sink in and enjoy the book. I’m hoping I can try the sequel next year and find out what happens, as sometimes that added context helps me enjoy a first book better.
I’m back with a new #QuarantineReads post! I laid off on these for a couple months, but I’ve read over 50 books this summer so I thought I’d share some new patterns.
Somehow my quarantine reading has come full circle. If you’ll recall, back in April I had sworn off ebooks, and I was reading only fantasy books. Now it’s August, I’m still locked in my house (occasional outings to the Barnes & Noble not withstanding, as my state has gotten better), and I’m reading all sorts of contemporaries and a whole bunch of eARCs.
My last favorite read was The Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow—I was so lucky to receive an ARC and I can’t wait for you all to pick up this book in October. I honestly can’t remember the last time I declared that a romance was my favorite book—usually that list is topped by fantasy books, especially this summer. I’m currently reading Not the Girls You’re Looking For, by Amina Mae Safi, and I’m not loving it so far. I think Lulu and her friends have an unrealistic group dynamic and it’s a little awkward all of the time. Whether or not I like it, though, I still am reading more contemporary novels than I was even a month ago.
Part of this is that I have a new job and I’m reintegrating into my life, so it feels a bit easier to read a contemporary book and not fall into a mess over how life could have been. I don’t need as much escapism as I did in the spring. One thing I am nervous about, though, will be books published in the future that include pandemic references. I’m not sure I’d like to keep reading books where characters have to wear masks, distance themselves, and take classes online. Part of this is that it eliminates many plot possibilities, but honestly? I just don’t want to be reminded of this when it’s over. I don’t want to think about it anymore.
Speaking of things I’d rather not confront… A massive pile of eARCs from Netgalley has also challenged my goal to remain e-reader free this summer. I’m so excited to share love for these upcoming books that I just gave in. My eyes kind of hate me right now, but I’m taking breaks to listen to podcasts and read physical books, so hopefully I won’t get too much strain. I’m currently working through Where Dreams Descend (another fantasy! Yay!).
That’s it for my #QuarantineReads post this time! Let me know in the comments what you’ve been reading!
I'm going to make this brief because I really want you to go and check out my review and moodboard for The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed--and then maybe go pick yourself up a copy... (Affiliate links included in this post, please see sidebar for disclosure).
1. I updated my Bookshop.org page this week! I added some new recommendation lists that you can see in the shop in addition to choosing your own reads. Check them out! My favorite romances, what's next in my cart, my favorite all-time books, and some witchy reads are all included! I plan to update lists periodically to match some blog post rec lists.
2. I'm going to be near a Barnes & Noble later this week, and I will probably make an impulse purchase from my next list. Stay tuned!
I'm so excited to share The Black Kids with you today on this blog tour for SimonTeen! This amazing novel came out August 4th, and I hope you'll go pick up a copy today! I also want to note that I am not an #OwnVoices reviewer for this book, and accepted the tour information because I knew SimonTeen also worked with Hear Our Voices Tours on a tour that did prioritize Black reviewers.
The Book and its Author
Perfect for fans of The Hate U Give, this unforgettable coming-of-age debut novel explores issues of race, class, and violence through the eyes of a wealthy black teenager whose family gets caught in the vortex of the 1992 Rodney King Riots.
Los Angeles, 1992
Ashley Bennett and her friends are living the charmed life. It’s the end of senior year and they’re spending more time at the beach than in the classroom. They can already feel the sunny days and endless possibilities of summer.
Everything changes one afternoon in April, when four LAPD officers are acquitted after beating a black man named Rodney King half to death. Suddenly, Ashley’s not just one of the girls. She’s one of the black kids.
As violent protests engulf LA and the city burns, Ashley tries to continue on as if life were normal. Even as her self-destructive sister gets dangerously involved in the riots. Even as the model black family façade her wealthy and prominent parents have built starts to crumble. Even as her best friends help spread a rumor that could completely derail the future of her classmate and fellow black kid, LaShawn Johnson.
With her world splintering around her, Ashley, along with the rest of LA, is left to question who is the us? And who is the them?
Christina Hammonds Reed holds an MFA from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts. A native of the Los Angeles area, her work has previously appeared in the Santa Monica Review and One Teen Story. The Black Kids is her first novel.
(From the Simon & Schuster website)
A compelling and grounded historic read, The Black Kids offers an intelligent perspective that is alarmingly relevant today. I must admit, I was not well educated on the 1992 Rodney King Riots before reading this novel, but I am now committed to continuing to learning more.
Ashley Bennett’s voice was perfect for this story as a quintessential teen. She was far from perfect, and that’s exactly what we needed. Her socioeconomic status left her privileged and unaware—at times, she was outright impolite in collaboration with her mean-girl posse. However, we appreciate a character who learns and grows!! The Black Kids can also be considered a coming-of-age novel as Ashley reckons with the combination of her wealth and her Blackness, and what it means to be both in her LA neighborhood.
I know talking about atmosphere is usually reserved for SFF books, but I’d say historical fiction is a hard genre to get right as well. It’s strange to me that the 90’s are considered historical now, because I mostly couldn’t distinguish this novel from a contemporary aside from the absence of iPhones and laptops. Regardless of that, it definitely gave off California vibes. Refer to my moodboard below for the New Englander’s perspective of what a “California vibe” is. The structure of the novel, with flashbacks to earlier times in Ashley’s lief
The first-person narration and full account of Ashley’s life made the book that much more special for me. Taking away the measure of separation between the reader and the narration brings Ashley’s perspective, and the lessons she learns, to the forefront of the book. We feel her pain just as much as we see her mistakes, and we’re compelled to root for her through both the good times and the bad. I particularly appreciated Ashley’s interactions with her friends. Her wealthy white friends’ insensitive comments about race and deep-seated misunderstanding of the dangers Ashley could face when interacting with police officers is powerful (and sadly familiar to many BIPOC readers). I loved Ashley’s developing understanding of the kind of friendships she truly wants, and her later chats with LeShawn and Lana made me so happy because I felt that she truly was forming healthy relationships.
I would highly recommend this novel to all readers. I can’t stress enough how essential it is, for both its existence as a historical YA covering an event many young Americans may not even know about, but also for its amazing writing and delivery.
I’ve been a bookstagrammer almost as long as I’ve been a blogger. In that time, I’ve discovered a tight-knit community, repped for some awesome brands, and now I wouldn’t give my tiny little account away for anything! 500 followers and still growing!
Thanks for reading! I hope you’ll share some of your own favorite parts of bookstagramming in the comments below!
Back in January, I curated a list of 2020’s Hottest LGBTQ+ YA, fully intending to read them all before year’s end. HA! That didn’t materialize, as halfway through the year I decided to read mostly books I already own in order to cut down on my bookish spending. However, I have read 10 of them (some for reviews and some on my own), so I wanted to drop in and share my thoughts on these ten! If I've reviewed, I'll include a link to that on the title.
Another week, another blog tour sign up tomorrow! This is for Wai Chim's The Surprising Power of a Good Dumpling! Bloggers should head over to The Book Terminal website to sign up for the tour masterlist so you'll be emailed when sign-ups open. I'm so excited for this novel, and I hope you are as well!
Second: I'm working on going biking and walking more this summer, to keep myself from going stir-crazy inside. I usually bike to a local park if I want to read outside (alone), or just around town if I'm in the mood for an outing. Later at night, if I've been busy, I take some time to listen to music and walk for about five miles. It's a pretty good routine, and I hope I can keep it up for a while!
Aaaahhh!!!! I'm freaking out over being on this blog tour for my most anticipated 2020 release, Star Daughter! If you want to check out the tour schedule here, you'll find a multitude of other amazing blog posts celebrating Star Daughter's release. Read on for my review, #OwnVoices reflection, and a recreation of the cover in a photoshoot featuring yours truly!
The Book and its Author
The daughter of a star and a mortal, Sheetal is used to keeping secrets. Pretending to be "normal." But when an accidental flare of her starfire puts her human father in the hospital, Sheetal needs a full star's help to heal him. A star like her mother, who returned to the sky long ago.
Sheetal's quest to save her father will take her to a celestial court of shining wonders and dark shadows, where she must take the stage as her family's champion in a competition to decide the next ruling house of the heavens--and win, or risk never returning to Earth at all.
Brimming with celestial intrigue, this sparkling YA debut is perfect for fans of Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor.
Shveta Thakrar is a part-time nagini and full-time believer in magic. Her work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies including Enchanted Living, Uncanny Magazine, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, and Toil & Trouble. Her debut young adult fantasy novel, Star Daughter, is forthcoming from HarperTeen on August 11, 2020. When not spinning stories about spider silk and shadows, magic and marauders, and courageous girls illuminated by dancing rainbow flames, Shveta crafts, devours books, daydreams, travels, bakes, and occasionally even plays her harp.
I put off writing this review for so long, because honestly I don’t know what to say. From the moment I started reading, I knew I would fall in love with Sheetal and her world. I was right, and now I don’t have words to express what Star Daughter made me feel. Even not having grown up with Hindu stories and mythology, I immediately connected to the story.
Like with every other fantasy I read, I’ll start with the world building. The starry court is beautifully wrought, and I could absolutely live in the Night Market (I always love a good Night Market, and seeing what imaginative stalls and vendors authors choose to include). I felt like I was dreaming the entire time I was reading because of the lush imagery, and I don’t believe anything in the real world could compare to the wonders inside this story.
So much of my enjoyment came from the writing. Thakrar’s prose is out-of-this-world wonderful, like a hybrid blend of poetry and prose. There are beautiful lines on every page, so you’ll just have to read it before I reproduce the entire book by listing favorite quotes! The comparisons to Roshani Chokshi and Laini Taylor are spot-on. If you were a fan of Thakrar’s story in the Toil & Trouble anthology of YA witchcraft (as I was), you will absolutely love Star Daughter.
I also loved reading about Sheetal and her family. Her inner conflict stemmed from the loss of her mother, and the love she carries for her father (and consequent regret at harming him through her powers), which some have discounted as a “typical YA plot line,” but I found Thakrar’s approach to be wonderfully original. Dev, her love interest, is absolutely adorable! I’m of the mind that we need more soft/creative YA boys, and Dev fits perfectly. He’s so thoughtful towards Sheetal (and so clearly in love with her) but isn’t afraid to stand up for himself and his family.
If I was pressed to choose a favorite character, though, I think I’d choose Minal. She’s possibly the best YA BFF I’ve ever read about (and honestly, can we have a second book featuring her own adventures please??) Minal supports Sheetal no matter what in the competition, accompanying her to the Celestial Palace and never backing down from a challenge.
Like I mentioned above, I don’t think there’s anything derivative about Star Daughter. It is so different from all of its comps, and I think you need to read it. I really feel that this story has the potential to be so widely beloved, so please preorder, request from the library, or order the ebook! I’m giving Star Daughter 5/5 stars, and can’t wait to include it on my list of Favorite Books of 2020.
I haven’t read nearly enough fantasy with Indian protagonists, but not one of the ones I have read have starred a Gujarati character. It meant so much to me to see that in my favorite genre. Everything about Sheetal’s family, from the food they ate to every time someone called her “dikri,” hit me hard.
When I was a kid, there weren’t many stories centering characters who looked like me or shared my background. This was echoed in the community where I grew up (a mostly white New England suburb) and I never knew the effect it had on me until I started reading more widely in YA. I’m still discovering what that has changed about my self-image, about the unconscious ways in which I move about the world. I can’t speculate about what kind of person I’d be now if my culture and appearance had been represented in the “mainstream” when I was growing up. All I can do now is continue to support #OwnVoices authors and help create a welcoming space in the book community where everyone is allowed to tell their own story.
I have to thank Shveta Thakrar for sharing this beautiful tale with the world—Star Daughter instantly became a favorite story of mine and I know I’ll be yelling about it for years to come. (starting now, of course! Go buy this book!) I can’t wait to see what comes next from her!
^ my recreation of Sheetal's pose on the Star Daughter cover!
^ me holding Star Daughter!
Hey, I'm Shreya! I love to read, write, travel, and drink coffee.
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