Harley Quinn and the Birds of Prey

If you’re excited for the new Birds of Prey movie but, like me, you’re not totally up to speed on all the characters, then this is the book for you! With an excerpt and profile about each character, it introduces us to the stars of the new movie!

I love Harley Quinn and Black Canary, but I’ll admit after seeing the Birds of Prey trailer I was like…who are the others? So when I got this comic, I was thrilled!

There are six excerpts, and each features one of the characters – Harley Quinn, Black Canary, Renee Montoya, Huntress, Cassandra Cain’s Batgirl and Black Mask. They’re all from different comics and most have a short but concluded story. This made it easy to dive in and out, just reading one story at a time and I loved that! It gave me a short but sweet look into the adventures of each of the characters and their personalities.

Harley Quinn is trying to get parole from jail, and finally sees her opportunity when she’s approached by the villain Scarface – accompanied by an imposter where she thought to see her friend. This comic tells us a lot about who Harley is as a person – she’s actually very caring, willing to defend those who have helped and cared for her, and of course she’s tricksy, perhaps not to be trusted.

Black Canary teams up with Lois Lane to save innocents enslaved by a heartless, greedy villain. We’re given an insight into one of Dinah Lance’s many adventures, and conversation with Lois tells us about her past, and how her relationship with Green Arrow and his death affected her. I’ve read an origin comic for Black Canary but this one was a great story of her as an adult and who she’s become.

Renee Montoya is a cop in the GCPD, and she’s investigating a robbery whilst navigating her own life. I’ve never met Renee before but just from this short comic I can tell I am going to LOVE her! Of all the excerpts the editor of this collection could have chosen, they chose one that clearly shows Renee likes girls, and we know how much I love sapphic rep. I’m very excited to meet live-action Renee, because she’s badass and beautiful.

Huntress is working with Nightwing to bring down the Mafia bosses she so hates, but they’re struggling to work as a team. I LOVE HUNTRESS, officially, as of now. She’s so gosh darn awesome and I loved how this comic introduced us to how ruthless she is, but also her fear of commitment and her need to be alone.

Cassandra Cain is training with the Oracle to be the next Batgirl, but when a figure from her past resurfaces it’s up to her to take him down.  I love Batgirl, but I’d never read a Cassandra Cain comic before! I’m so glad I did because I really love her. She’s younger than the rest of the Birds of Prey, but she has just as many scars.

Each excerpt is a great introduction to the characters of Birds of Prey, illustrated stunningly by all different artists, and I’m really glad I read this before seeing the movie- which I am so excited for!

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki and Joelle Jones

Kara Danvers has powers beyond what earth has seen, but that’s not her top priority right now, not with school, running track and her 16th birthday around the corner. But even if she isn’t interested in using her powers, other people just might be…

I absolutely loved this beautiful Supergirl origin story, and it definitely is that. A little apart from the main DC continuity, it tells the story of how Supergirl claims her identity and heritage. 

I loved Kara, of course! She was a relatable teen girl…but with superpowers. This was such a great rendition of her and I loved it! She felt like a real and raw character, with flaws and human wants and needs, something Superman doesn’t seem to have – one of the main reasons I prefer my girl Kara! This is very much a coming of age story – just with adventure – and so it was full of doubt and happiness and loss – especially that one, as Kara loses someone close to her and worries it was her fault, a pivotal and powerful plot point. 

“Sometimes we begin again with a little piece of the past in tow. Tucked into our dreams and hearts.”

I loved Kara’s friends, and the relationship they all had! I especially loved Dolly and their friendship. She was supportive and happy and always there for Kara. I also liked Kara’s supportive parents, who adopted her when they found her crash-landed spaceship. Supergirl is an immigrant and one of my favourite things about her story is the political commentary on this topic. 

Joelle Jones’ art was beautiful. It was full colour, which really fits Kara’s personality, full of bright shades and of course absolutely stunning depictions of the storyline, the facial expressions were immaculate. 

Though there was adventure and excitement, a lot of this graphic novel was just Kara navigating being a teen in high school, as well as discovering the extent of her powers and claiming her identity as Supergirl. It’s a perfect introduction to our favourite badass superhero, even a great entrance point to the DCU overall! 

I’d love to read more of this Supergirl, so I hope the story continues! I would absolutely recommend this delightful, enjoyable and grounded comic.  

Beyond the Shadowed Earth by Joanna Ruth Meyer

Eda was once the villain, but now she has her own story to tell. After making a deal with the gods to become Empress, the shadow of her bargain still haunts Eda, and amid court politics and unrest she struggles to uphold it, but she is meant for even greater things than she could know, and her promise will not be the only thing she must give to the gods.

I absolutely loved this unique, entrapping fantasy novel. The concept is so fresh and wickedly enjoyable, with a main character who was once a villain given a beautiful redemption arc, gods that struggle to keep the world together and love that is not what it seems.

Eda was a complex and interesting heroine. It wasn’t always easy to love her, as she pushed her friends away and acted in unkindness, but after a while, I came to adore her. She is fierce, determined to achieve her goals no matter the cost, but also fiercely loving and protective of those she cares about, even when blind to their needs. She is stubborn and brave, with a far kinder soul than you would expect. And as the book progresses, she becomes far less the evil queen and far more the saviour empress.

Beyond the Shadowed Earth was primarily character-driven which I loved, but the plot was awesome and exciting too. It was capturing and kept me hooked, filled with unique and interesting concepts and obstacles. I don’t want to give too much away, but as we got to the second half of the book and more plot points began to reveal themselves, I gasped!

”One must always take care when treating with gods,” said her father. “It may not be worth the risk.”

My main criticism with this book is that the beginning just totally didn’t hook me in. The first 100 or so pages were slow-paced and I just couldn’t pay complete attention, but then it started to get interesting! The middle section was really starting to get me hooked on the story and characters, but it was the last third or so that really made the book and its plotline so spectacular and interesting! I feel like the beginning could have been a little more interesting but I can see how it was important in setting up Eda’s character and the problems she will have to deal with, and I am so glad I pushed through.

Joanna Ruth Meyer’s prose is captivating and enchanting. She weaves characters and worlds in such a rich and vivid way. The imagery and descriptions were stunning, and the novel was full of hard-hitting and iconic quotes, as well as having amazing dialogue, all captured by the author’s haunting and atmospheric writing.

The world seemed at first a relatively normal fantasy world, but as the book progressed, we find out all its intricacies and uniqueness. It’s clear how much planning and love has gone into Eda’s world, and it’s magic and gods are absolutely wonderful.

Beyond the Shadowed Earth was an immersive and surprising novel with the villain redemption arc we all needed, and I think fantasy fans everywhere will love this character-driven, haunting story of power, sorrow and sacrifice.

Interview with Katherine and Elizabeth Corr

Katharine and Elizabeth Corr, authors of the spellbinding The Witch’s Kiss, are back this January with an all-new fantasy novel, A Throne of Swans. They were kind enough to answer my questions about themselves, their books, writing process, and more!

Hi, Katharine and Elizabeth! Could you tell us a little about yourselves?

Kate: Hello! We’re sisters, and we’ve been writing together since 2012. Our first novel, The Witch’s Kiss was published by Harper Collins in 2016. Our new book, A Throne of Swans is coming out with HotKey on 9th January. We’ve both been avid readers and writers since childhood (the angsty poetry and the gruesome sci-fi fan fic is safely hidden away, luckily!), but we didn’t think seriously about the possibility of being published authors until we started working together.

Liz: We both love fantasy ­– anything by Tolkien, Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman is a must-read. ­We enjoy YA fantasy in particular because of the ‘coming of age’ aspect; growing up and stepping into a larger and scarier world is something everyone expects to experience to some degree. From our earliest (terrible) teenage writing attempts, fantasy has always felt like our natural home. Aside from writing, we’ve worked in various different professions and we both have kids and cats.

For those who haven’t heard of it, what can you tell us about your upcoming novel, A Throne of Swans?

Kate: A Throne of Swans is a high fantasy novel, loosely based upon Swan Lake, with a dash of Game of Thrones and just a hint of Hamlet. Following the untimely death of her father, 17-year-old Aderyn inherits the role of Protector of Atratys, a dominion within the kingdom of Solanum (a place where the ruling aristocracy have the power to transform from human into bird form). Having spent most of her life confined within the walls of her family home, Aderyn is keen to experience the wider world and to travel to the court of her uncle, the king. However, she has another reason for leaving Atratys: she wants to find those responsible for her mother’s brutal murder and exact her revenge.

Liz: But, Aderyn is young and inexperienced, and also concealing a potentially life-threatening secret; she has been unable to transform into a swan – her own ancestral bird ­– since witnessing the death of her mother. It’s no surprise that she soon finds herself out of her depth and in danger: taking revenge proves to be far more complicated than she anticipated. As Aderyn uncovers the deadly secrets at the heart of her uncle’s court, she gradually realises just how much she will need to sacrifice to protect both the people and the land she loves.

A Throne of Swans is inspired by the story of The Swan Princess – what made you want to write about this fairytale and what aspects of the original story made it into your retelling?

Kate: Our initial source for A Throne of Swans was actually Swan Lake, which of course is itself based upon the Swan Princess fairytale (a story where a swan maiden stays with a human man as long as he conceals her wings). One of our children – who is ballet obsessed – suggested that a reimagining of Swan Lake might make a good story. However, once we started looking into it, we realised we were more interested in the story’s villains. The ballet is a very black and white tale of good versus evil: Odette and Siegfried are virtuous whilst Rothbart and his daughter Odile are definitely not! We wondered if there could be more to Odile’s story. What if she wasn’t the villain she was made out to be? What if she had some unrevealed motivations for her behaviour?

Liz: That was our starting point, but the story took on a life of its own and developed in ways we weren’t originally anticipating. We’ve kept some of the names from the original ballet (Odette, Siegfried and Rothbart), but Odile changed into Aderyn at some point, and now has a very different tale to tell.

A Throne of Swans is the first of a duology. Without spoilers, what can you tell us about what’s next for Aderyn and crew?

Kate: Aderyn has dealt with a lot by the end of A Throne of Swans. She’s had to make sacrifices, and her life has changed in ways she couldn’t have imagined. In the next book, A Crown of Talons, we see her struggling with her new responsibilities and fighting desperately for the future of Solanum, whilst still trying to hold onto some measure of happiness in her personal life.

Liz: There are new characters, some from within Solanum, some from other kingdoms. But Aderyn finds that both the newcomers and those she thought she knew are not necessarily what they seem, and her world is turned upside down more than once before the final pages of the book.

What was the hardest thing about writing A Throne of Swans?

Kate: I think I’m going to say the world building. Our first trilogy was mainly set in modern-day Surrey, with some scenes in early medieval England ­­– very much rooted in our own culture and history. We had to dig deeper in order create the Kingdom of Solanum. Although we referred back to history (the setting is loosely based on eighteenth century Europe) we had to think about the impact of having a ruling class of shapeshifters. We had to imagine how that would affect things like dress, social structure, religion, architecture. We also had to invent the geography of Solanum. It took a lot of time and research, but it was also hugely enjoyable.

Liz: We also spent a lot of time on Aderyn’s character development. We wanted to show a realistic level of naivety at the beginning of the book: she’s just turned eighteen when she travels to her uncle’s court, but until that point she’s had an incredibly sheltered upbringing, and she tends to look at things in a fairly black and white way. But Aderyn has to learn fast that appearances can’t be trusted, and that her own desires might need to be put aside for the greater good. We were a little anxious about showing that rapid development in a realistic way, but we’re both pleased with how it ended up.

Is there any advice you would give to aspiring authors?

Kate: Don’t attempt any major editing until you’ve finished your first draft. Your story will develop, your characters will change, but if you don’t push yourself to get to the end of that initial draft there’s a risk that you’ll just keep re-writing the beginning and never actually finish. Trust me, we’ve been there. Of course, once you’ve got that first draft don’t send it straight off to agents; take time to let it sit, then polish it as much as you can.

Liz: Write what you love and don’t give up. Taste in books is subjective: one person will read your story and be utterly enthralled, another will think it’s the worst thing they’ve ever read. You can’t please everyone. What you can do is believe in yourself. Don’t take no for an answer. Keep submitting, keep improving and above all keep writing!

If A Throne of Swans were adapted to the screen, what format would it take (TV show, movie, etc) and do you have anyone in mind for a dream cast?

Kate: I think it would make a great Netflix or Amazon series – like Game of Thrones but probably shorter! With modern CGI it might not be too difficult to portray scenes where nobles transform from human to bird and back again.

Liz: Casting is a hard one – we’ve not really talked about it, and I’m sure we both have our own ideas of how the characters look. Off the top of my head I’d say Rose Williams (from Sanditon) as Aderyn, Leo Suter (also from Sanditon) as Lucien, Jodie Comer (Killing Eve) as Odette and Patrick Gibson (The Spanish Princess) as Siegfried. Oh, and Tom Glynn-Carney (Dunkirk) as Aron.

Kate: Can I add Sean Bean as King Albaric (Aderyn’s uncle)? We both loved him as Boromir.

You wrote both The Witch’s Kiss and A Throne of Swans together! Is there anything you particularly love or hate about writing a book with someone else?

Kate: Given the way we write (mainly from a single point of view, rather than a dual narrative with alternate chapters), it could be quite a difficult experience if we weren’t related by blood! There can be a lot of disagreements over things like the general direction of the story, which characters to kill off, whether particular passages fit or need to be edited out, who gets to write which bits. We have to be organised: we create detailed outlines for our books, including the plot and a schedule for who is writing what. Although both of these inevitably change along the way, at least we know in which direction we are supposed to be heading.

Liz: Overall, writing together has been a really positive experience. If one of us gets stuck on a particular plot point, the other one can usually find a solution. And because we’re sisters we can argue with one another knowing that we won’t have a massive fall out, no matter how heated it gets. Most of the time it’s been a lot of fun: we really do make each other laugh! We can’t write together in one physical space though. We have to be in separate houses for that, as apparently one of us talks way too much…

Kate: She really does.

Talking of writing together, you also grew up together! How has your relationship as sisters changed since your childhood?

Kate: To be honest, it hasn’t changed that much over the years. We still like all the same stuff (we’re both die hard Jane Austen and Star Trek fans), and we still live about ten minutes from one another. Even though there are almost four years between us, we’ve always been incredibly close. Our mum was ill for more than a decade before she died, so we’ve been looking after each other and looking out for one another for a long time.

Liz: Something that has changed is that we both have children now. Luckily, we both love being aunties – there’s been a lot of babysitting each other’s kids over the last few years. Our four children are very close to each other, despite the ten-year age gap between the oldest and the youngest. There’s the occasional epic argument, but mostly they get on really well.

Your first novel, The Witch’s Kiss, was published in 2016. What have you learned since then?

Kate: We know a lot more about publishing now: how the editorial process works, what to realistically expect in terms of marketing, how to deal with criticism (constructive and otherwise). We’ve also become better story tellers and much better at editing our own work. At the same time, we’ve come to trust our own intuition more. By the time we finished the last book in The Witch’s Kiss Trilogy – The Witch’s Blood – we were much more confident in our own abilities, and far less willing to compromise. Luckily all our editors have been an absolute delight to work with, and we’ve learnt a lot from all of them.

Liz: Having worked on A Throne of Swans we’ve also learnt how much we love writing high fantasy. Creating our own world was an intense experience, but incredibly satisfying.

Do you have any book recommendations for us?

Kate: Everyone should read Sanctuary (V V James) and Perfectly Preventable Deaths (Deidre Sullivan) – I absolutely loved them! I also really enjoyed A Spell of Murder (Kennedy Kerr), a lovely cosy witch mystery.

Liz: Recent reads for me include The Sentinel Trilogy by Joshua Winning, The Cruel Prince by Holly Black and Frostblood by Elly Blake, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed.

And finally, I think this is the most important question of all, what bird do you think you would turn into if you lived in Solanum?

Kate: Definitely an owl. Binocular vision and virtually silent flight. I can be a little bit clumsy in real life so it would be fun to be stealthy for a change.

Liz: Someone else asked this and I said an eagle – strength and grace combined. But I think I’d also enjoy being a swan. They are such elegant creatures it’s easy to forget how powerful they are too.

One of Us Is Next by Karen M. McManus

In the sequel to One of Us is Lying, we return to Bayview High with a new set of characters as a game of Truth or Dare and poses new dangers to the students and takes the school by storm.

We meet some great new characters in this novel, as well as having lots of appearances from the original Bayview four! This includes Maeve (Bronywn’s sister) who is smart and determined to get to the bottom of the new game before her or her friend’s get hurt. Then we are introduced to Knox, Maeve’s best friend, who interns at Eli’s law firm and Phoebe, a classmate of their, who is struggling with her family after the death of her father. These three were all great characters and I really enjoyed getting to know them! Their character arcs over the course of the story were interesting and I was quickly invested in them just as much as the action.

Fans of the Bayview Four need not worry though, there’s lots of little snippets of their lives amid our new character’s lives.

The POV’s of our new character’s are intercut with logs from a Reddit forum inspired by Simon and news broadcasts that both hint at the plot twists and storyline. This is one of my favourite things about Karen M. Mcmanus’ writing, how perfectly she foreshadows the twists and leaves little clues that keep you guessing and on edge!

Of course the twists are absolutely riveting! The plot of One of Us is Next was so gripping that I read it all in one night, as I rarely do! It was so exciting and I just couldn’t stop reading until I found out everything! I’ve never read anyone else who weaves a suspenseful storyline so well.

This book wasn’t without faults as some aspects were quite cliché but the mysterious and unique storyline more than made up for that!

I was absolutely hooked on Karen M. Mcmanus’ latest novel despite my usual wariness of thrillers and would absolutely recommend it to every YA reader who loves some suspense and thrilling reveals!

Interview: Janet Gurtler, Author of You Too?

I had the pleasure of talking to Janet Gurtler about You Toowhich published on January 7th! Janet discusses about how the anthology came together, the essays she contributed, writing, advice, and much more!

Hi Janet! Can you tell us a little about yourself?

Sure! I’m a kooky old woman who has gotten more outspoken in my fifties. It’s not a bad thing. Getting older or being outspoken. I like to help people I care about and I’ve always been a cheerleader for underdogs. I like nice people. I like people who are kind to food servers. I like the quiet people sitting in corners at parties as much as the person getting all the laughs.  I’m not perfect, far from it in fact, but I am trying to become a better person.  I used to be a DJ in a nightclub way back when I was in my early twenties.  I like to tell that story, because I think it makes me sound cool. My husband rolls his eyes because he’s convinced that I’m not.

In case some readers don’t know about your upcoming book You Too?, what can you tell us about it? 

You Too? is an anthology that has heartfelt and powerful essays from young adult writers about #metoo issues that happened in their teen or younger years. It’s often a hard read, but also sort of cleansing, I think. My belief is that we need to keep talking about the tough things that happened to us, not for shock value but to help build a world where kids can grow up and know it’s not okay for sexual harassment or abuse to happen to them. And, that’s it not their fault if it does or did.

When did you first know you wanted to make this anthology happen?

I watched with the world when #metoo stories exploded on social media. And I was shocked. Not because the stories were coming out, but because there were people who actually hadn’t experienced some form of sexual harassment as young people. It seemed to me that almost every woman I knew had at least one story and most had many. Men too. Men have #metoo stories that they never talk about.

I thought about how often I put up with things as a young person how it was “just the way things were”.  And I thought, you know, we should talk about these stories with young people. Talk about what we went through. And that’s where the book idea was born. By sharing experiences we’re taking back the narrative and removing the shame.  Trying to at least.

How did you find or select the authors you wanted to contribute to You Too? 

I less feel like I selected people and more like I was blessed with authors who agreed to be a part of something that wasn’t comfortable to do.

It was not easy to reach out and ask for people to share such personal stories. And I don’t know that I did it right initially. I emailed authors. I asked for contact info from other people. It was a process of asking some authors I “know” or authors I knew were vocal about supporting the #metoo movement.  I asked around. Some people didn’t feel comfortable sharing, and I totally respected that.

The one thing that was important to me and to Inkyard Press was that we wanted a diverse group of authors to be a part of this book. The more people who can relate to the essays or even learn something from them, the better.

Can you tell us a little about the process of putting together the anthology? 

I learned as I went. It was a new experience for me editing personal essays and putting them into book form. Once authors agreed to be a part of the anthology, they signed a standard publishing contract. The guidelines were pretty loose as far as word count and subject matter. I wanted it to be their story. I did some initial editing and quite enjoyed that process, but the essays are also raw and honest, and it was emotional. Many of the authors found the essays difficult to write and I wanted to be respectful of that. Going back and rehashing difficult memories isn’t simple to do, and the editing was a gentle process. It isn’t easy to share such personal stories with the world. I know that and I feel really protective of the people involved in this book.

Technically, I had to figure how to put the book together and the order of the essays. I eventually decided to go with alphabetical. It worked out well. The first essay in the book is by Patty Blount, and it’s one of the essays that gutted me. Tough and emotional. It hurts to read. It’s also necessary to hear. Because there are people out there who prey on children. And those children need to be protected and heard.

Who are your role models when it comes to writing?

How long do you have to listen? Lol. I have so many writers I admire. Role models for me are authors who go to the deep dark places with honesty and are able to make readers feel emotion and hope. Jo Knowles, Ellen Hopkins, A.S. King are a few examples.

Did you find it difficult to write your essay, Before Starbucks or Cellphones

Yes and no. I told someone else’s #metoo story from my pov, and I was worried about that part. I did end up speaking to this old friend from my teen years, and I sent her the essay to read before the book was published, so I’m glad about that. The other part of my essay, the things that happened to me weren’t hard to write down. Many have come out in other ways in my fiction. I think it’s harder knowing that people who know me not as an author, but just as plain old Janet. may read the essay and see a more vulnerable part of me than I generally present to the world.  It’s okay. I’m trying to be real.

In your story, you talk about how you wish you had taught your son more about sexual assault. How do you think parents should educate their children – both boys and girls – around the topic?

That’s a great question and something I have thought about a lot. I’ve read some great material on how to teach consent to young kids. I think that’s a good place to start when kids are really young. That they have the right to say no to people who make them uncomfortable. And that’s it’s okay to tell someone if it happens. And for young boys and girls, I think it’s important they learn how to respect each other and what is and isn’t appropriate behavior. I think open dialogue from parents is a big part of educating kids, especially in this era of social media and everything good and bad that’s available to look at online.

How do you think society has progressed in terms of sexual assault and the stigma surrounding it since your teenage years? 

I really hope that we’ve made progress. The #metoo explosion pulled back some curtains. I also think we are still learning and there’s still lots of work to do.  I remember reading about a college boy who raped a girl who was passed out at a party. And how his parents and teammates defended his behavior when he was caught. The old ‘boys being boys’ excuse. I read about how much it damaged the girl. Boys need to learn to do better. I think there’s a lot of work still to be done. Clothing does not cause rape or sexual assault.  Blaming the victim has not gone away. I am hopeful that we are listening though. And that change is happening.

If you could tell your younger self one thing, what would it be?

I would hug my young self tight and whisper in her ear that things were going to be okay. That I deserved to be treated with respect and that my physical appearance did not dictate what kind of person I was or how people could treat me.

What were your initial thoughts and feelings when the #MeToo movement started in 2006?

My initial thought was, well no kidding, this doesn’t surprise me one bit. Harassment and abuse have been going on for a very long time and most people have just felt unable to say anything. Finally, people are able to talk about what happened to them. Finally, we’re able to acknowledge when things are not what they should be.

I was also really angry for the women sharing their stories, and sad because so many of them were still carrying shame and being blamed for things they had no control over.  The anger spurred me towards putting together this book.

What is your best piece of advice for aspiring authors? 

Strap on your seatbelt, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Most of all, persevere. I think that’s how I got my first book published. I kept going. I got knocked down hard a few times by really tough rejections, but I kept going. If you really want this, keep at it. Getting a book published probably WON’T change your life. But it’s pretty darn cool and has some really great moments.

And finally, You Too? was out this week. What do you hope readers take away from this anthology?

I hope the readers find truth and understanding in the essays they read. I hope the book reaches young people and people who were once young, and shows them they are not alone. Hearing other people’s truths and hardship helps us to feel empathy. And outrage. I hope readers who went through similar things see that what happened to other people was not okay. And whatever happened to them wasn’t okay either. I hope people feel like they can talk about some of these difficult things. If they want to. I hope this book keeps people talking and listening.

You Too? by Janet Gurtler

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Inspired by the #MeToo movement, twenty-five voices share their own stories in Janet Gurtler’s latest anthology You Too? In a powerful push to let young adults know they are not alone, these stories tackle sexual assault in a deeply meaningful way, from diverse voices young and old, from authors we know and ones we don’t quite yet.

Before I begin, of course, I need to say that this anthology includes a lot of potential triggers, so please be aware of a content warning for sexual assault, rape, incest and exploitation, so please be aware of this. Personally, these topics are quite sensitive but immensely important to me. I made sure to read this anthology in small amounts when I was in the right headspace. It was so powerful and meaningful to me and has had a positive impact on my mental health but make sure you do what is right for you.

You Too? Is made up of twenty-five essays, each one telling a different story that centres around sexual assault. They each tackle the subject in a different and powerful way, sharing their different and yet so similar experiences and discussing the impact and inference of these experiences. This anthology discusses rape culture, paedophilia, objectification, racism, toxic masculinity, society’s expectations pushed on girls, homophobia, speaking up and so so much more in such an important, timely and poignant way.

It’s hard to review non-fiction like this, past saying how so so very important this anthology is. I hope it reaches the hands of teen girls everywhere, boys too. I hope everyone reads it and I hope it helps them feel less alone, helps them understand, helps them to speak up and to notice and to help themselves. This anthology made me cry of happiness, of sadness, in anger, and I am so so glad to have read it.

I really hope that you will pick up this novel, for yourself, but also for everyone who has experienced sexual assault, who can say “yes, it was #metoo.”. I hope this book succeeds so that more can follow, and I am so thankful it exists.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

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Condesa Ximena is the last Illustrian royal, ever since the uprising when the usurper Atoc took control. And now her people are in danger again, and the only way she can save them is by travelling into enemy lands and marrying Atoc. But Ximena has something to hide. She is not the real Condesa, but a decoy put in place to protect the true Condesa, Catalina. And she has come to assassinate Atoc. But all may not be as it seems, and the only way to peace might be the way Ximena vowed never to take.

I absolutely adored this luscious, rich fantasy. It was breathtaking and beautiful and everything YA fantasy should be. Taking inspiration from Bolivian politics and history, Isabel Ibañez has woven a striking story of revolution, magic and romance in a stunning and cultural world.

“Luna reveals herself to us all the time. In small ways. In big ways. She pushes the constellations into new positions to communicate with us. Her moonlight revives and heals, and she speaks to those devoted to her. Her magic blesses us with extraordinary gifts.”

I loved that the characters have to make hard decisions with no right answer, and nothing is made easy for them to help the story.

Ximena was an awesome heroine; badass, smart and brave. She was clever and inquisitive, and always determined to fight for what she believed was right. But she was also so real. She wasn’t perfect and she made bad decisions sometimes and had to atone for them. Her storyline was wonderful, but perhaps the most powerful part was how she had to come to terms with the fact that her people and ancestors had been oppressive and perhaps at one point had been the bad guys themselves, even if the scales were now tipped.

“I am a decoy first. I trained, pretended to be Catalina, and tried to make Ana proud. That has been and will be my life until I can finally take my mask off and be me — Ximena.”

Rumi was wonderful he was sarcastic but loving and I loved how his true character is slowly unveiled as Ximena really gets to know him and looks past his frontal facade.

Both Rumi and Ximena had wonderful character arcs as they were forced to make compromises on their beliefs and find a middle ground of peace.

Though at first Atoc seems like a quite cliché and typical evil villain, he is actually quite well developed. The fact that he is based on a real person lends my hatred for him an extra level and brings forward how powerful and important this story really is.

I absolutely loved all the secondary characters, they were all quite wonderful. I especially loved Princess Tamaya and would maybe kill for a spin-off about her.

The storyline is powerful and talks about the aftermath of war and morality in a world where everything cannot be just black or white. The antagonist is based on a real person and some aspects of the story are reminiscent of real events that have happened in Bolivia, and so the story felt real and raw, a powerful and emotional portrayal of politics and morality.

“I’m only a copy of someone else. Just a decoy. I’m not really her. I’m not me. I don’t know who I am or where I belong, if anywhere at all.”

Though the plot is awesome and full of exciting twists and turns, it also really centres around character development and how this impacts the storyline, which I loved.

The romance was a beautiful slow-burn that didn’t feel forced at all and really made sense for the characters and their development. It built up through friendship and a mutual need for support and love, and I really liked how soft but also angsty it was.

The world was so rich, it was cultural and interesting and overall so atmospheric. I’ve never read about a world inspired by Bolivia before so it felt very unique and magical to me. The magic was so unique and interesting as many had powers given by the moon. The magic really brought the story to life, and though it was quite subtle it really lent to the stunning atmosphere of the book.

“I like creating with my hands. There’s something rewarding about making art out of nothing. The tucking and untucking, the folding over and under. Repeating until a bright new thing winks back at me.”

Isabel’s writing is lyrical and filled with beautiful imagery. Her prose is so intoxicating I could barely believe this is her debut novel.

Isabel Ibañez’s debut does not disappoint and is sure to be adored by all fans of YA fantasy. Woven in Moonlight is a lyrical, magical story written in lush prose that will take your breath away, filled to the brim with magic and revolution and bringing a wonderful new Latina voice to fantasy.

A Throne of Swans by Katherine and Elizabeth Corr

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The Corr Sisters return with A Throne of Swans, a rich and imaginative fantasy about a world where nobles can transform into birds. Aderyn’s ancestral bird is a swan, but she has not been able to transform since the death of her mother left her harrowed many years ago. But when her father dies and she inherits his dominion, Aderyn must travel to the heart of the kingdom to prove herself to the king, where she begins to uncover secrets long hidden that could change her life forever.
I loved this book! It is loosely inspired by Swan Lake, a story I’ve always loved. However, it didn’t reflect the original tale as much as I expected! Aderyn can turn into a swan, and there is a secondary character named Odette as well as political intrigue, but little past that. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the storyline and found it to be riveting and dark!

“And where the stars sing, there you will soar. And where the stars fall, there you will be free.” 

Aderyn is an interesting heroine. She is ambitious and political, ready to do whatever it takes to protect her dominion and keep her power, with a strong sense of justice, a thirst for knowledge and a brave mind. She is also loyal and loving to those closest to her, which made her likeable! However, there were times when I was deeply frustrated with her, such as when she made decisions that I could see were bad! It definitely added to the tension and intrigue of the story, but it also kind of made me want to shout at her to pay a bit more attention.
I liked the secondary characters, though I would have liked to get to know them more. I especially loved Aron and Odette and I hope in the second book we might get to delve more into their personalities as they were both interesting and unique characters!
I can’t give away my thoughts on the romance without spoilers, so I’ll try to be vague. Both romance storylines were rather predictable, but I did enjoy them to an extent. The main one seemed to be building up wonderfully throughout the book and I was rooting for the characters, but when it did happen it seemed a very sudden transition from slow burn maybe to “true love”, but I suppose this isn’t the first book that’s done this. As for the second romance, someone made some mistakes and I saw it coming, I won’t say anything else.
Aspects of the plotline were riveting and kept me guessing and hungry for more, but the overall story was relatively predictable. I really enjoyed it and it’s carefully woven intricacies were what made it wonderful, but I was hoping to be a little more surprised.
The writing was simplistic but still very beautiful, so the book was easy to read and follow but still lyrical and glittering.
A Throne of Swans was an enjoyable and intriguing YA fantasy about royal politics, revenge and romance that I would describe as Throne of Glass meets The Storm Crow!

Wonderwoman: Wabringer by Leigh Bardugo and Kit Seaton

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Diana longs to fit in with the other Amazons, all of whom have earned their places in Themyscira, but no matter how hard she tries she will always be the girl of clay her mother shaped. Until a mysterious girl washes up on the shores of her home, and it is up to Diana to save her people and everything she holds dear.

This has to be one of my favourite DC comics yet! With Leigh Bardugo’s wit, stunning artwork and all the badassery of Wonderwoman, what’s not to love?

Diana is a determined and brave young woman, and she has always been one of my favourite DC characters. Throughout this novel, she is determined on doing the right thing and saving her people, and her moral compass is always strong. But she also proves to be a sensitive and loving friend, ready to listen to and love her new companions. I loved her character arc in this comic, as she discovers life outside of Themyscira and struggles to find her place in the world.

I loved the secondary characters! Alia is awesome and witty, and I loved her dialogue and openness with Diana. Such an iconic duo. One thing I do feel is that if a lot of things were pointing towards a romance between these two, and I think that would have made a lot of sense, but ah well.

“Sisters in battle, I am shield and blade to you. As I breathe, your enemies will know no sanctuary. While I live, your cause is mine.”

Nim was bubbly and enigmatic, of course, I loved her. I do really hope this novel gets a sequel because I’d love to see more of these girls!

The art is, of course, stunning. It brings the world and characters to life amazingly, and I especially loved the attention to detail in the characters expressions. The cool tones of the book were beautiful and made the occasional reds stand out even more.

The storyline was exciting and captivating, and I read the whole book in less than an hour, I just couldn’t put it down! It was a great introduction to Diana and gave a good insight into the ways of Themyscira, which I enjoyed. As well as being full of action and adventure, this novel addresses feminism, inclusion and xenophobia and sends a strong message about the importance of friendship.

“I am done being careful. I am done being quiet. Let them see me angry. Let them hear me wail at the top of my lungs.”

Wonderwoman: Warbinger was a captivating and entertaining graphic novel which all Diana fans should pick up straight away and a perfect place to start for those wanting to know more about the goddess we call Wonderwoman.