Mini Review Monday #73

I’m sharing another instalment of my Mini Review Mondays, the most recent of which was a little while ago. In case you haven’t seen any of my previous posts, I do ‘mini’ reviews of books that I’ve previously read and am now ready to share my full thoughts about.

First up, I’d like to talk about If You Still Recognise Me by Cynthia So. Thank you so much to Summer Lanchester at Little Tiger for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review.

An epic, evocative queer romance that is also a heartfelt love letter to comics and storytelling, So’s gorgeous debut about two girls separated by an ocean but united by their love for fan-fiction.

Elsie has a crush on Ada, the only person in the world who truly understands her. Unfortunately, they’ve never met in real life and Ada lives an ocean away. But Elsie has decided it’s now or never to tell Ada how she feels. That is, until her long-lost best friend Joan walks back into her life.

In a summer of repairing broken connections and building surprising new ones, Elsie realises that she isn’t nearly as alone as she thought. But now she has a choice to make…

A lyrical contemporary story about falling in love and finding yourself in the process, for fans of The Black FlamingoThe Falling in Love Montage and Alice Oseman.

Publication Date: 9th June

TW: mental abuse, prior toxic relationship, manipulation, homophobia, disowning, racism 

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

If You Still Recognise Me is an absolutely gorgeous exploration of identity, family and belonging. 

Occasionally a book comes into your life and finds a special notch in your heart. This was one of those books for me. So has crafted a book that really spoke to me and will mean so much to so many readers. This book is a quiet, understated and softly beautiful contemporary coming of age narrative. It really speaks to a lot of the queer experience and I loved the inclusion of different queer generations. Generally, the diversity and representation in this book is so heart-warming to see and I really loved So’s inclusion of discussing the lack of representation in the media. The repercussions this has on people, when they cannot see themselves reflected, is profound and impactful. To see this dialogue opened up is exquisite. 

This book also operates as a love letter to fandom and online community spaces. The way fanfiction is woven into the book is a really interesting and fun extra layer of texture. Fanfiction allows us to see ourselves in stories and have them play out how we wish. So intersects this with the lack of representation in traditional media. That inherently geeky obsession and passion that comes from these spaces is keenly felt, but gave this book so much more warmth for me. Elsie herself was a character I will never forget. She’s trying to find her feet after a troubled relationship, but also trying to learn to love and accept herself. That feeling of navigating through a foggy field is one we can all recognise. Her voice was so authentic and full of emotion that I fell in love with her. Also, her immense knowledge of comics was brilliant to see and experience that love alongside her. 

If You Still Recognise Me is a book infused with so much love, heart and soul that will really resonate with readers.

Next up, I’d like to talk about This Place is Still Beautiful by XiXi Tian. Thank you so much to Harriet Venn at Penguin Random House Children’s for sending me an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Two sisters. A shocking racist incident. The summer that will change both of their lives forever.

Annalie and Margaret are sisters who agree on only one thing: that they have nothing in common. Annalie is seventeen: sweet, content, and looking forward to a summer of flirting with the most popular boy in school. Margaret is nineteen: ambitious, a warrior for social justice, and desperate to forget her ex-boyfriend in New York City.

When their family is the victim of a racial attack, Annalie tries to pretend it never happened – but Margaret wants to fight back. Suddenly their relationship – and all the ones around them – are hanging by a thread. And then a crushing secret threatens to tear them apart forever…

Publication Date: 9th June

TW: racism, racially motivated hate crime, bullying, discrimination

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

This Place is Still Beautiful is a stunning, character-focused contemporary that delves into the model minority myth, race and family.

This is a gorgeously written book. Tian infuses every page with such delicate, emotional and visually appealing prose that I became utterly wrapped up in. Every emotion is explored with nuance and detail, creating a tapestry of complex relationships and connections. This is fundamentally a story about sisterhood and coming of age. That fraught time in their well-developed lives is crucial and Tian depicts it in the summery bubble full of endless promise and hope. 

That bubble is pierced with the horrific hate crime that kickstarts the book. The differing reactions to this, partially informed by the life experiences of both sisters and their visual ‘otherness’, are fascinating. I loved following both sister’s narratives and their different journeys towards healing and self-acceptance. They are two very different characters, but that love and bond between them is always evident. Margaret is more outspoken to begin with, determined and passionate. Annalie is initially more focused on her popularity and status within high school, fearful of being ostracised and ‘othered’. I loved both of their narrative voices and how they explored their past experiences. Their character arcs and development was amazing to witness. 

Tian ensures that this is a complex, nuanced book that is not always a light read. This is a nuanced book that really digs into the emotions presented and leaves them sitting with the reader. For me, I finished the final page and just sat there, contemplating the issues raised and the mix of emotions that arose within me. It is an important book to just sit with and unpack. However, I loved that the entire book was not defined by the hate crime. These characters are not simply defined by their ethnicity, though it does highly inform how they navigate the world and how the world perceives them. They are so, so much more and the particular exploration of the family unit and its changing relationships was incredible. 

This Place is Still Beautiful is a book to hold close to your heart and cherish forever.

Finally, I’d like to delve into This Wicked Fate by Kalynn Bayron. Thank you to Bloomsbury for sending me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

In the enthralling, exquisitely written sequel to the hugely popular This Poison Heart, Briseis seeks the Absyrtus Heart that will bring her mother back from the dead.

Briseis’s mother is dead, but there is one chance to bring her back. Find the last piece of the deadly Absyrtus Heart.

If she is to find the missing piece she must turn to the blood relatives she’s never known, learn of their secret powers and take her place in their ancient lineage. But Briseis is not the only one who wants the Heart, and her enemies will try to use her in any way they can …

Publication Date: 21st June

TW: death, violence, gore, grief, murder, death of a parent, blood, gore, vomit, kidnapping, mentions of child abuse & emotional abuse

Goodreads | Waterstones

My Thoughts:

This Wicked Fate is another tricksy and compulsively readable fantasy from a distinctive and constantly inventive author. 

I really enjoyed This Poison Heart when I read it last year. It was an imaginative and unique tale that will completely immersed me and transported me  to a world full of magic, plants and witches. I really loved how Greek mythology was entwined into this story. It just added more layers and richness to an already elaborate story that completely captured my imagination. The way Kalynn built on the already detailed worldbuilding of the first book was so imaginative and wonderful to see unfold. It had a unique feel to it, with a stunning magic system and a clever integration of mythology into the modern world. This made it stand out from the rest for me. 

Yet again, I really enjoyed the character work. Every character had new layers added to them, creating this complex web of morality and interspun relationships. We got some new characters that became fast favourites for me. Particularly, their fascinating backstories and the way their powers were connected to the primary plot was enrapturing. This infused the book with another level of emotional complexity, making the stakes even higher. The strong sense of companionship and support between them was wonderful to see. Bayron really does not hold back on the relentless emotional turmoil this book goes through. At its core, this is a book about family. Working through family trauma and chosen family are two central themes that Bayron really digs into to create tension, emotional chaos and ultimately a resolution that touches your heart. I love how she balances thrills and plot twists with these quieter, more character focused moments throughout the duology. 

This Wicked Fate concludes a consistently original, wholesome and heartwarming duology.

3 thoughts on “Mini Review Monday #73

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