First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.


People often shit themselves when they die.

Their muscles slack and their souls flutter free and everything else just… slips out. For all their audience’s love of death, the playwrights seldom mention it. When our hero breathes his last in his heroine’s arms, they call no attention to the stain leaking across his tights, or how the stink makes her eyes water as she leans in for her farewell kiss.


This is a book that’s been on my radar for years but haven’t gotten to it. I think that’s going to be a common theme in my life. I’m interested but haven’t decided to take that plunge. Now that I own it, I’m going to get to it sooner. I’m lying. I won’t.

It is….

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff

Nevernight (The Nevernight Chronicle, #1)

1. The cover is gorgeous.
2. That opening bit made me laugh because this is something I think about, too. Why can’t books talk about shitting? We all do it.
3. It kind of reminds me (at least the first little bit) of a YA Mark Lawrence, who is fave so I have to do it. I have to read this. That’s that.


I’m on the toilet at the 9:30 Club, and I’m wondering how mermaids pee.

This isn’t random. There’s a mermaid Barbie attached to the door of the bathroom here. Which is a pretty odd choice for a bathroom mascot. If that’s even a thing. Bathroom mascots.


I guess this week is all about bathroom habits. Shitting for Caidyn and peeing for me. I gotta say this is pretty on brand for me. 

The book I’ve chosen this week is a book I’m ashamed to admit I have not read yet. Why? Because it came out a year ago and I enjoyed the author’s first book very much. So, what book has it taken me so long to read? What book have I still not started and do not know when I will start it? 

Only every book ever.

Seriously though, this week I’ve chosen…

The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli

upside cover

I’m pretty upset I haven’t gotten to this book yet, but fear not, it’s not the only book I’ve failed to read lately. 

However, here I am texting Caidyn about how disappointing it is to read about fat characters in Harry Potter that are awful. Vernon and Dudley Dursley, Aunt Marge, Umbridge, and Moaning Myrtle come to mind. 

And yet, here is a book with a fat main character. Something I absolutely relate to. I’m not usually sensitive about a lot of things, but when it comes to queer characters and fat rep, I like to see positivity not being another characteristic of an awful character. 

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages edited by Saudra Mitchell

All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages

(Caidyn)

3.74/5

I have a very specific number for my rating, don’t I? That’s because I totaled up all of my individual ratings to see how it evened out over the whole book. And I think that basically describes my thoughts about it.

It started off with a bang, but I thought it cooled quickly with some good stories in the middle. A lot of the stories actually blended together for me. I thought there were a lot of F/F stories. I expected to have a ton of M/M stories, but there weren’t too many. Now, I love F/F stories, but, by the end of the collection, they all blended together because they were so alike.

I was also surprised that there were two stories that featured transmen (one M/F and one M/M) in some way. My shock is because I’m used to there being more about transwomen than transmen. It would have been nice to have something with transwomen in there.

Also, no bi or pan stories either, unless I didn’t catch hints dropped that a character identified as such. I think that one of the last stories had a bi love interest, but it was never really stated.

There was a lot of diversity within the stories even though I thought there could have been more sexual diversity. Lots of rep for various cultures, which made my heart sing at times.

My favorite stories were: Roja, And They Don’t Kiss at the End, The Dresser & the Chambermaid, Every Shade of Red, The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy, and Three Witches.

It should surprise no one that both of the stories with transmen and the one story with an ace person are in my favorites. The other three are an M/M and the two F/F stories that really stuck out to me.

Overall, I thought this was a good collection that I could see myself rereading one day. Keep reading for my mini-reviews of the stories!


Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: 4/5

My little transboy heart was full with this one. Especially as I just had top surgery (literally one week ago – 3/13/18), so I’m really in tune with that facet of myself. I think it was the author’s note and one passage from the story that choked me up, as our MC described how she always saw Leon as a man, no matter what his body said. And that he was hers. God, I’m getting teary just thinking about it.

But, why a star off? I got choked up. I got emotional. That’s not usually how I am (although Chantel will beg to differ). I just thought it could have been developed a little more. I wanted more concrete details. Did our MC really have some witchy power? What happened to Leon? All the details kind of blended together for me and didn’t quite meld. I really enjoyed it in the end, but I thought it could use a little more.

The Sweet Trade by Natalie C. Parker: 3/5

Cute. It was cute. I liked the characters and the story being told, but I just wanted more. I really wanted to have more to the story where I found out more about them and if Clara or Pearl had those feelings before or if it was the first time they noticed them or some combination. It just didn’t feel as developed as I wanted it to me, even though I thought the story was super cute.

And They Don’t Kiss at the End by Nilah Magruder: 4.5/5

MY ACE HEART. It was so sweet. So, so sweet. I loved how it was really a character study with an internal drive rather than something external. It was all about Dee not having the word for her sexuality when she was describing it perfectly. And the guy, Vince, so sweet.

Can you tell I thought this story was sweet and cute and lovely?

It made me feel happy to get some ace rep in here, and to have it in a non-awkward and a chronistic way. It never felt like I was getting a lecture or being taught about asexuality because that term wouldn’t have been used in the 1970s. It felt specific to the time, all while capturing the timeless feeling of asexuality (the non-aromantic side of the spectrum, though).

Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee: 4/5

Another super cute story. So far, most of these are fluffy and cute. I like that. But I loved how this was set in the 1600s, far before there was a more modern idea of queerness. It felt very outside the scope, yet, again, it connected deeply to a boy knowing that he’s not interested in women and trying to figure that out. Along with navigating that unattainable crush we’ve all had and realizing the person in front of you is the one you ought to be with.

The Dresser & the Chambermaid by Robin Talley: 4.5/5

I have to admit, I spent a lot of this story researching. I kind of got interested and decided to figure out who Princess Amelia was. Finally, I figured out she was daughter of George II and that was cool. Obviously, this one caught me. I love some good history tossed in and historical figures.

And the characters were so great. Country girl versus city girl. Not in a women pitted against each other way, but just the obvious differences that come from that. I found them both so cute and fun and charming. They were a joy to read about, really.

The mini-tension that came about near the end of the story was well-placed, but not overdone. It could have easily been overdone, too. In the end, I felt like I could have read a whole book about these characters. Especially Barnaby. Because, y’all, he seemed like a joy to have around.

New Year by Malinda Lo: 4/5

This one was unique compared to the others. Instead of following a blossoming relationship, it showed a Chinese American girl in the 1950s discovering she’s not straight through a chance encounter with a male impersonator. It was a lot of fun. While it wasn’t like the others, that made it stand out all the more. Plus the diversity! Chinese Americans in the 1950s with a nod to Maoist Communism and American fears. It just made me smile because I liked how it was purely a teen discovering herself.

Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler: 3/5

I can think of someone who would enjoy this story more than me. Maybe because I’m not into music. I don’t learn every fact about the artists I listen to. Sure, I’ll listen to them over and over again, but I don’t have to know every teensy thing about them.

Molly and Annabelle never exactly jumped off the page for me. They were there and I could understand how they felt — we’ve all mourned a celebrity death in our lives — but, other than that, it didn’t work for me. I think that if it was just a little bit longer, I would have enjoyed it more.

The Coven by Kate Scelsa: 3/5

I have about the same critique for this as the last time. I liked the story and the meaning behind it of the MC’s confliction over her brother, but I also wish that it had been longer to let me get a glimpse of their relationship at its fullest. It felt unfinished. A good snapshot, but unfinished as a whole.

Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake: 5/5

WELL THAT HURT.

But, Elliot Wake wrote a M/M romance with a deaf character and a transman character. Set back in the 14th century. And was a reimagining of Robin Hood. Like holy fuck. That was a good ass story. And one of the only stories that didn’t have a happy ending. But what should I expect from Wake? I just loved that this was an own voices story and was a really well-crafted story. Maybe it’s more of an impulse to give it5 stars, but it also was just a damn good story.

Willows by Scott Tracey: 2/5

While this was a longer story, it felt as if more went unsaid than actually stated. And I didn’t like that. If it’s going to be more of a fantasy/paranormal theme, then I need more explanation than it sort of being hinted at. I don’t like making assumptions about the author’s world.

So, this one wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t think it was developed as much as I wanted it to be, even though it was a longer story. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t paying as close attention to it, maybe it was because it wasn’t the best story. And what a shame since this is only the third (I think) M/M story in here.

The Girl with the Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe: 3.5/5

Another fantasy, but more explained. At least slightly. At least, the world the MC was coming in contact with wasn’t important to understand. Just that it was there. I thought it was sweet and interesting, but still not my favorite. I just didn’t connect to it as much as I wanted to, hence the brief review.

The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy by Alex Sanchez: 4/5

Aw, this was a cute one. It pulled at my heartstrings just right. A boy knowing he likes boys, being teased for it, not out to everyone in the late 60s, and falling for a guy. It was such a teenage story that it made me smile. Sudden “love” for this person because hormones tell you you’re in love and you don’t know what it all means just yet. Then, you realize that you can’t be in love and you can’t run off because there are things at home. Even in a place that isn’t accepting of it.

It was just sweet and a story that left you wanting more and hoping he was able to be who he was, but also knowing he has something within him that will keep him safe no matter what.

Walking After Midnight by Kody Keplinger: 4/5

So cute. Two women supporting each other. I’m a softie for that sort of stuff.

But, really, it was a cute story that featured a young woman yearning to leave a small town and a woman who feels far too old and washed out for her age. It’s that kind of story where they just have a night together (maybe more) to lift each other up. And also kiss.

The End of the World as We Know It by Sara Farizan: 4/5

These are all too damn cute. Set during New Year’s Eve of Y2K (god, most of the kids on here will have no clue what I’m talking about, will they?), it features two friends trying to figure out where things went wrong. Having had many friendships that fell through because I was just shut out, I really connected to how the MC felt. That pain sucks. It really sucks when you suddenly don’t have a friendship you valued.

But, anyways, the story is about those friends talking about what went wrong, then features my favorite romance trope. Something I could get behind 100%

Three Witches by Tessa Gratton: 4.5/5

YAS. 1519 in Spain. My era. And lesbians.

I think what makes this even more interesting is that lesbianism is so undocumented throughout history. That makes it so interesting when it’s tackled in fiction. And tackled so well. I was going to give this five stars because I thought it captured the feelings in such a brief, compelling way. Then there was the last part that didn’t thrill me and so I took that .5 off.

The Inferno & the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson: 3.5/5

This is like a gay version of The Prestige. Okay but minus the magic and deception but add in real magic. And gay boys who have some sort of powers. It was a lot of fun, reading this one. I liked the characters, liked the story, liked the way it was developed. Yet, despite this being on the longer side, I wanted more. It felt as if I could have used more backstory for the characters.

Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia: 3/5

I like how the stories came around, in a way. The collection started with Mexican culture and ended with it, both involving magic and witches. This one, though, didn’t interest me as much. I enjoyed the PTSD and grief rep in the story, but other than that it didn’t stand out in my mind. A good one and interesting one, but just didn’t stick out.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)

(Caidyn)

1.5/5 – DNF at 40%

Now, I didn’t expect to write this review.

Don’t you love it when I say that? It either means that I enjoyed a book I didn’t think I would or I didn’t like a book I thought I would. This time, it’s the latter. After seeing all the great reviews of this book, I didn’t like this one.

Despite that, I do have some positives. And I want to start the review off with those.

The diversity in this was great. An African culture that had black characters leading the path. I love it. I want more of it. I look forward to there being more of it. I also enjoyed the nod to other cultures having influenced this one — I’m rather sure Spain, the UK, and Portugal were mentioned in passing as having magic that destroyed them — which then brings in the color issue where light-skinned black people are more valued.

So, I enjoyed that.

Then, the stuff I didn’t like. Aka, the rest of the book.

First, I thought the characters were flat. While I saw a whole lot of promise, they just didn’t jump off the page for me. They felt like any other character I’d read in any other YA fantasy. The firecracker lead girl who’s tough and can’t keep her mouth shut. The protective, older brother character. The sheltered girl who still knows too much about the world. The conflicted boy who is trying to be the man he isn’t and is finding his weakness.

They didn’t feel real. They felt like those archetypes.

Second, the world. I was super excited since I’m familiar with Yoruba culture and, more specifically, the Yoruba religion. Super excited. And then I realized it was loosely based off of that. There was no context to the world. I felt like it was half-formed and there were concepts being thrown in and I’m sitting there like “Where the hell did that come from??”

I love a book that challenges me, but I don’t like a book that sets it up for me to fail while I struggle.

Third, the plot. It just felt like any other plot I’ve read. Kind of as I said about the characters, I felt like I was going down the same well-trodden path without anything new. Sure, the world was different and unique, but it still felt the same. And then I could tell what was happening and where it was going.

Fourth, I hated that it was all in first person with three different POVs. It’s all “I, I,I” and I have to try and keep track of who’s talking, which pulled me out of the story. A story I was already struggling to get into because I couldn’t connect with the characters and the world was just all over the place and the plot didn’t interest me.

Perhaps it would have gotten better if I continued, but it just felt like a half-finished book to me. A very long half-finished book. So, I set it down. I loved the diversity in it, but didn’t like the finished product.

First Lines Friday

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.


The two would-be jade thieves sweated in the kitchen of the Twice Lucky restaurant. The windows were open in the dining room, and the onset of evening brought a breeze off the waterfront to cool the diners, but in the kitchen, there were only the two ceiling fans that had been spinning all day to little effect. Summer had barely begun and already the city of Janloon was like a spent lover — sticky and fragrant.


Another week, another book. My choice is kind of unconventional for me. It sounded like something I’d like, but it’s not one that I’d have actively sought out or even heard of until I read a great review of it. It’s magic mixed with gansters mixed with fantasy. In other words, a pretty interesting mash-up.

It is….

Jade City by Fonda Lee

Jade City

I got this book rec thanks to Alienor’s review over on her blog. It’s a great review, so check it out here! It sounded right up my alley and like a book I’d like to give a try, so I got a hold on it through my library and now it’s in my hands. (Which aren’t tiny like Trump’s or Chantel’s, for the record.) I’m pretty excited to give it a go!


Once upon a time there was a pair of pants. They were an essential kind of pants — jeans, naturally, blue but not that stiff new blue you see so often on the first day of school. They were a soft, changeable blue with a little extra fading at the knees and the seat and white wavelets at the cuffs.


Again, another short entry but I don’t think anything more than this needs to be said about this book. 

This was a recent purchase of mine but it is certainly not a book that’s new to me. I bought it because it was cheap on Amazon but I was suddenly feeling nostalgic for the series and wondered if I would still enjoy it now despite years of distance. 

This week I’ve chosen: 

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

Like I said before, this series is not new to me. I’ve read the first three books and by the time the fourth and fifth book came out, I was no longer interested in the series. I remember this series being great. The chapters of the book contain famous quotes and/or proverbs and I used to record them in a journal because I was that much of a dork.

Honestly, the first movie was very well done. Not so much the second, but whatever. I used to watch the movie long after I had stopped reading the books and it was one of my pick-me-up movies.

I also remember the series being very raw and realistic when it came to sex, divorced parents, illness and death, isolation, and feeling like you are stuck in one place. Those are just a few things I remember but I know there are a lot more. 

At some point, I’ll pick this book up again and if I enjoy it then I will continue on. 

Hades by Candice Fox

Hades (Archer & Bennett, #1)

(Caidyn)

4/5

A while ago, I read this book as an ARC before it became available in the US. And I remember really liking it. There’s a review of it on Goodreads, but I know I’m going to be replacing it. But, I gave it a nice review and rated it at four stars. Luckily, that didn’t change for this reread!

The book has two stories that eventually meet up. The first is about the past, going over how Eden and Eric grew up. Victims of a senseless crime, orphaned, and raised by a man good at crime, they aren’t exactly set up for good. But they end up detectives in Australia.

The other story is in the present, mainly told by Frank, Eden’s new partner. Day one and he’s thrown into an insane case that involves tons of missing bodies being recovered. And then he starts getting suspicious about Eden and Eric.

Really, I thought that Frank was a character anyone could like. He was personable and kind, then he had a wicked sense of humor and a history that isn’t great. Eden was also an interesting character. I thought she was the one that as most relatable to, even though you don’t get a great sense of who she is. But you know enough that you can understand her despite how different she is.

Fox is a great writer. The book is easy to read and follow. She also wove a great story. However, I had an issue with how the two stories came together in the end. It didn’t work for me. It felt too contrived. Then, the romance that was injected into the story didn’t work either. Another part that I thought was unneeded in the end.

Other than those two areas, the book was great. I enjoyed it quite a lot and I’m very excited to continue the series.

First Lines Friday

Hello everyone! I hope everyone’s week went well. I know I’m happy for it to be over, but let’s get on to the first lines!

First Lines Fridays is a weekly feature for book lovers hosted by Wandering Words. What if instead of judging a book by its cover, its author or its prestige, we judged it by its opening lines?

  • Pick a book off your shelf (it could be your current read or on your TBR) and open to the first page
  • Copy the first few lines, but don’t give anything else about the book away just yet – you need to hook the reader first
  • Finally… reveal the book!

Caidyn will be in blue.
Chantel will be in purple.


As soon as the stranger set the bundle on the floor, Hades could tell it was the body of a child. It was curled on its side and wrapped in a worn blue sheet secured with duct tape around the neck, waist and knees. One tiny pearl-colored foot poked out from the hem, limp on his sticky linoleum.


I’m doing this way early, actually. Since, at this point, I’ll be three days post-surgery, I highly doubt that I’m going to be spry and ready to do anything. Therefore, I’m making it early and doing this early.

In other words, I don’t have any quippy intro to this and I’ll just get on with this. Yeah? Sound good. Good. Thanks for the consensus.

My book is…

Hades by Candice Fox

Hades (Archer & Bennett, #1)

This is a reread for me, actually. I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this when it was being published in America (this is Aussie based) and I loved it. Now that the third book is out and I wasn’t able to get it via ARC, I decided to check out all three books and just binge the series while I’m recovering. What I’m most excited for is to see how it measures up to a reread.


Shane is awake, wishing he wasn’t. The alarm clock makes a soft warning click before flooding the room with staticky Top 40. Too loud. Shane reaches an arm out from under the covers and hits snooze for the third time. It feels better in bed. Not good, but better. As long as his door is closed, no one wants anything from him. 


My choice is a book that actually came out this week and I received an ARC for. Unfortunately, I still haven’t posted a review for it. Oops, but it’s a book I want to give as much exposure as possible because I think it’s an important story to tell. 

Without further ado, I present…

Fire Song by Adam Garnet Jones

fire song cover

This book is about a teenage boy who is coming to terms with his sexuality who happens to be an Indigenous person who lives on a reserve in Canada. To me, these are the stories I want to read. I want to read about a culture completely different than mine. A culture that might have a slightly different take on homosexuality and there is a bit of that in there. However, I think this book was well written with characters that were very flawed. The reason I haven’t written my review yet is that it’s difficult to sort out my feelings about the characters and the directions the book took. 

However, I highly recommend it and want to spread the word about it as much as possible, but before going into it there are content warnings for suicide and sexual assault. 

Red Adam’s Lady by Grace Ingram

Red Adam's Lady

(Caidyn)

2/5 – DNF at 24%

I was given a copy in exchange for an honest review. This in no way affected my opinion.

Chicago Review Press approached me last month about reading this book for review. While romance isn’t usually my genre, I thought the reviews I read for it were good and it was historical fiction set in a period that I’m very familiar with.

What it came down to, for me, was that it was very slow. I could read a paragraph and nothing could happen. Then, my eyes would glaze over and suddenly I’d miss everything. Which is what I don’t like. I hate it when I can’t read a book because I’m getting too bored with it.

However, the writing was well-done — it definitely felt like a medieval story with how people were being addressed — and I thought it was rather period accurate. It’s definitely a different sort of romance, starting it off with an attempted rape of the heroine, Lady Julitta, by the “hero”, Red Adam. They marry to protect her honor, even if she beat him up. Lady Julitta is a heroine that someone can get behind and understand. She was interesting and, if the pacing had been different, I likely would have finished it and liked it.

Simply put, a book that just wasn’t for me.

House of Names by Colm Tóibín

House of Names

(Caidyn)

4.5/5

I said this in a First Lines Friday a while ago, but this author is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. Now that I’ve read three of his books, I really think he’s a fantastic author.

But this book is very different than what I’ve read of his thus far. It takes place in Ancient Greece, piggybacking off of a myth that many are familiar with. The Illiad showed the murder/sacrifice of Agamemnon’s daughter, Iphigenia, to start the wind. It recounts that story from the perspective of her mother, Clytemnestra, along with her siblings, Electra and Orestes.

What I found most amazing about this story was how it seamlessly told the aftermath (also recounted in mythology) of this death, and Toibin did so through those three very different perspectives. The mourning mother who wants nothing but revenge. The confused brother who was too young to understand. The sister who was left behind and only heard rumors, left to make her mind up about what happened.

More than that, it shows how we can all be haunted by the past, the echoes of other people running up and down the halls, full of things you wish you hadn’t done to them. I found it beautiful, despite it being full of murder and death sparked by a father’s decision and a mother’s choice following it.