Recently Read Books | fish, figure skating, and more

Look at me, actually writing reviews for once! Some of these are not-so-recent reads, but here, have my thoughts anyway.

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Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

“Uniformity is not unity. Silence is not peace.”

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This YA fantasy follows Tarisai, a young girl raised in isolation by a frequently absent mother. When her mother sends her to compete for a spot in the prince’s magically bonded council, Tarisai thinks she might finally find a family, until she realizes that she was born for the single purpose of killing the prince.

For me, one of the strongest aspects of this book was the worldbuilding. The Aritsar empire is comprised of so many different cultures, each with their own languages, customs, and stories, and the whole place has such a sense of history and believability. This book has so much to say about justice and diversity and history that has been erased, all of which I felt was handled incredibly well. Not to mention, the concept of the Ray — a bond between the ruler and his Council of eleven — is so original and makes for some great found family feelings.

Sadly, I think this book suffered somewhat in terms of pacing. Although much of the book was very fast-paced and action-packed, there were other times when the story dragged, or time skipped by inexplicably without giving enough of a sense of what had happened in that gap. I liked that this book was quite character and relationship driven, and while some of the relationships were incredibly compelling — like the one between Tarisai and her mother — others were not. As much as it was important to the story, I could not bring myself to care about the main romance. (What else is new?)

Still, this is a wholly unique fantasy book that I think plenty of YA readers will love!

Content warnings: abuse

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3.5

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Ana on the Edge by A.J. Sass

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Ana is the latest US Juvenile figure skating champion, but she’s having trouble with her new princess-themed program. When she is mistaken for a boy by someone at her rink, she doesn’t correct it, and from there she begins to question how she sees her own gender identity.

Basically, this is the story of a nonbinary figure skater finding her place in a gendered world. It falls into my absolute favorite category of middle grade book: character focused, heartwarming, all about self-discovery and coming-of-age. While it handles some difficult topics, it always feels safe and compassionate toward its characters. I loved the discussions of gender, performance, and identity—the readers are right there alongside Ana as she figures herself out and rethinks everything she thought she knew. I’m so glad that this book exists because I know it’s going to mean a lot for so many young readers.

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4

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Foolish Hearts by Emma Mills

“Sometimes it’s hard to know if something’s for real? It’s hard to believe it, even if you want it to be real. Even if you want it so badly. Sometimes it seems…safer, you know. Not to risk it.”

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After accidentally overhearing the breakup of the school’s most popular couple, Claudia gets roped into helping with her school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream alongside the less friendly half of said couple.

Congratulations to everyone who told me to read Emma Mills, because you were right. I loved this. It’s one of those books that’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what made it so special, because while I was reading there wasn’t a moment that made me think this is amazing. I just flew through the pages and before I knew what was happening I was reading the ending with tears in my eyes, having no idea how the stories and characters managed to sneak into my heart like that. As Jane Austen would say, “I was in the middle before I knew that I had begun.”

The characters were, unsurprisingly, the absolute best part of this book. Claudia’s narration is absolutely hilarious, and the whole cast manages to feel slightly larger than life while remaining relatable and pulling at my heartstrings. I loved the friendship between Claudia and Iris so much, and Gideon is the absolute best kind of male love interest who makes me think that some men do deserve rights. Every word of this book bursts with heart and joy, and by the time I got to the end, I didn’t want to say goodbye to all of the characters that I felt like I had befriended along the way.

So, which Emma Mills book should I read next?

goodreads | bookshop

4.5

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Why Fish Don’t Exist: A Story of Loss, Love, and the Hidden Order of Life by Lulu Miller

“The longer we examine our world, the stranger it proves to be.”

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With her life falling apart, Lulu Miller turned to the story of 19th century taxonomist David Starr Jordan and his legendary persistence, hoping that investigating his life would help her find order in an existence that seems to be ruled by Chaos.

I didn’t know what to expect going into this book, but after hearing about it a few times, I checked out the audiobook from my library on a whim. I’m so glad I did, because this is easily the best nonfiction book I’ve read in 2020. Part memoir and part biography, it switches between the author’s life (particularly her experiences with depression and the end of a long-term relationship) and the life of David Starr Jordan, who’s best known for discovering and naming a huge portion of the fish that we know today.

This little book manages to tackle some of the biggest and oldest philosophical questions we have, such as making sense of a seemingly meaningless existence, how we survive adversity, and whether we can ever truly understand the universe. I don’t even fully know how to describe everything that this book covers, and I think part of the joy is figuring it out as you go along, so I don’t want to give too much away. I highly recommend this if need to have your faith in existence restored—it’s both sad and hopeful at the same time and exactly what I needed at this point in my life.

Content warnings: suicidal ideation, self harm, depression, eugenics and forced sterilization

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5

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Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my thoughts? What have you read recently?

x Margaret

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25 thoughts on “Recently Read Books | fish, figure skating, and more

  1. I’m very intruiged by Raybearer (honestly part of it is probably because the UK cover is so gorgeous I can’t help but want it) so I’m glad to hear you liked it! YA fantasy can be pretty up and down but I’m more than happy to give it a go.

    I read my first Emma Mills book in October and absolutely adored it!! I started with Famous in a Small Town, which I think was a really good choice for me because I *love* small town settings. The characters were wonderfully realistic and I definitely fell in love with them. Romantic interest August also made me believe that “some men do deserve rights” 😂😂 Honestly Margaret that may be my new favourite quote ever.

    Ana on the Edge is definitely on my reading list, I’m so excited by more fiction featuring non-binary characters. And the fish book sounds really interesting – I could definitely do with having my faith in existence restored!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The UK cover of Raybearer IS gorgeous!! I hope you enjoy it if you decide to pick it up 😊

      Ahhh hooray, happy to find another new Emma Mills fan!! I definitely want to read Famous in a Small Town now. And glad I could make you laugh with that 😉

      Ana on the Edge is incredibly wholesome ❤️ And yes, you should read Why Fish Don’t Exist for that good good hope restoration!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ooo somehow missed how much you liked foolish hearts on goodreads, adding it to my tbr!! also I’m so excited to read why fish don’t exist, I’ve heard so many good things!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oohh fish and figure skating in the title, interesting 😂😂 imagine if it was the same book!!

    I’m really excited to read Raybearer so I loved hearing your thoughts. I’m glad the world building was amazing, I mean it sounds incredible and I really love the plot premise. I’m sorry a few parts fell short for you though so I’ll be interested to see what I think!! 😊

    Ana on the edge sounds like a very important books and the way you’ve described it makes me think of Rick by Alex Gino which I am currently reading as it is comforting, important and deals with identity/self discovery. It is always nice to see middle grade books like these!!

    Ah… I really need to pick up some of Emma Mills’ books!! I’m glad you loved Foolish Hearts!!

    Why Fish Exists sounds like a really interesting and remarkable read. I don’t think I would have thought of picking it up until you mentioned it so thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed it so much!!

    Happy reading!! 💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A book with both fish and figure skating sure would be something! 😂

      The worldbuilding in Raybearer is fantastic! I’m excited to see your thoughts when you pick it up, and I hope it Iives up to your expectations.

      I haven’t read Rick but from what I’ve heard they do seem similar! I agree, middle grade books that can handle topics like that are so important and wonderful.

      Why Fish Don’t Exist absolutely took me by surprise too! I want everyone to pick it up bc it’s so beautiful. Thanks so much, Sophie!! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m currently reading Raybearer at the moment (although I may put it aside for a while unfortunately). I do love the writing and it’s definitely such a unique fantasy but I’m always so rubbish at getting my head around fantasy worldbuilding? I don’t know why I just always get confused haha. Definitely do want to finish it though because I do love the plot

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Totally agree with Raybearer! I started it but put it aside for now although I am so intrigued to find out how The Lady command plot works out, so I will go back to it soon. I just found that the pacing was off like you said, so that was a bit frustrating. I also kind of struggled with the world building which is why I never really read fantasy, I can just never get my head around the new places haha. That’s a ‘it’s me not you’ problem though definitely because the writing is amazing!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. ahhh i’m so glad you enjoyed Raybearer and Foolish Hearts, Margaret! i really loved both of those books as well, and it especially warms my heart that you absolutely loved Foolish Hearts ☺️ it’s truly such a feel-good and adorable read, and Gideon is the best haha. as for Emma Mills’ other books, i also really enjoyed This Adventure Ends and Famous in a Small Town ❤

    hope you are doing well!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. foolish hearts really was iconic. i liked the characters a lot and the enemies to friends was my favorite thing. also, the concert chapter made me super emotional, as someone who loves going to concerts and has amazing memories, it was sad to read about it and realize it’s unlikely we’ll have concerts any time soon. i recently read this adventure ends by emma mills and also loved it (i think i might actually have liked this adventure ends better than foolish hearts?) they’re both amazing, though, i love how emma mills incorporates fan culture into her work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The characters in Foolish Hearts were sooo good!! Ahh I miss concerts too 😭 Hopefully it won’t be too long before we can have them again…..
      So glad you loved This Adventure Ends! I’m definitely looking forward to reading more of Emma Mills’ books 😀

      Like

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