Reader Reaction: Twice Dead

Reader Reaction: Twice Dead

Title: Twice Dead
Author: Caitlin Seal
Publication Date: 18 September 2018
Favorite quote: “Sometimes, little bird, you have to bend to keep from breaking.”

I received an ARC on netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Twice Dead is the first installment in Caitlin Seal’s new series titled The Necromancer’s Song. Because this is a review for a book that has not yet been released, it will be spoiler and plot free. I was first drawn to the cover of this book, and although I usually tend to avoid paranormal fantasy, the description proved too tempting to pass up.

“Naya, the daughter of a sea merchant captain, nervously undertakes her first solo trading mission in the necromancer-friendly country bordering her homeland of Talmir. Unfortunately, she never even makes it to the meeting. She’s struck down in the streets of Ceramor. Murdered.

But death is not the end for Naya. She awakens to realize she’s become an abomination–a wraith, a ghostly creature bound by runes to the bones of her former corpse. She’s been resurrected in order to become a spy for her country. Reluctantly, she assumes the face and persona of a servant girl named Blue.

She never intended to become embroiled in political plots, kidnapping, and murder. Or to fall in love with the young man and former necromancer she is destined to betray.”


Let’s start with Naya – the main protagonist whom the story follows through her transition from living to her new “life” as one of the undead in a new and unfamiliar land.  Naya is a young girl dedicated to her father and country to a fault.  The battle that Naya wages against herself is fleshed out well throughout the course of the novel, but it took about halfway through the book for her to make a clear decision.  While it seems a bit too long for this part of the main character’s internal storyline to be up in the air, the external events and conflicts really drive the story to keep the plot from sagging.  Once Naya resolves her inner-conflict, the story soars.

Corten is the potential romantic figure in this book, and while I wasn’t really feeling their connection as strongly as I would’ve liked (at first), it was cute.  Corten takes on an important role in Naya’s new undead life and it developed into a unique relationship that I loved.  Maybe it’s because I don’t usually read paranormal stories, but Corten and Naya’s friendship was different from others that I’ve read because of the circumstances that their bond is built upon.

Corten and Naya are both those types of flawed, relatable characters that ground the reader in something that they can connect to.  For me, it was Naya’s uncertainty and Corten’s sense of persistence despite his own perception of his artistry as inferior.

Really, a lot of the characters are relatable in some way or another.  Seal writes characters that can stand apart from others within the text, though I’m not sure how I feel about them standing on their own outside of the text.  If I take my favorite character from any book, I can predict how she’d react to any new situation with some surety; if I take any character from Twice Dead and place them in any scenario outside of the book’s parameters, I only have a slight sense of them and their decisions.  That could possibly be because it’s only the first novel in the series so they haven’t been given the proper amount of story to fully-develop as people rather than just fictional characters, though.  Hopefully as the series continues, the characters will come into themselves and break free from the pages.

Because this is a review being posted before release, I feel that if I discuss any other characters and their arcs in the depth that they deserve, I’ll be giving away too many details that the reader needs to experience for themselves going in without that foreknowledge.  What I will say, though, is that the “bad guys” were a bit predictable from the beginning, which led to me predicting the twist before it came.  There were too many hints dropped that led me to guess where the story was going.  Although that sounds like it would ruin the book, I assure you that it doesn’t!  This is one of those books that a reader can predict the ending of without spoiling the way that it leads to that point and the events that happen after.  Really, there are completely unpredictable parts in the book that hold the reader’s interest.

There are a couple parts in the novel that really drew me out of the reading experience and had me questioning how likely those events/actions were.  They were few and far between, but these instances were noticeable enough for me to bring it up in this review.  If you, as a reader, can suspend your disbelief a bit further than I can, I think these points in the text shouldn’t be an issue.  However, if you, like me, tend to question motives and the practicality of actions, maybe just try to glaze over these parts of the book and accept what happens for the sake of the plot, because I promise that to me, it was worth it to finish the novel and brush over the slight irregularities that popped up.

I really enjoy the world.  The political tension and moral disagreements between countries create an interesting layer to the plot.  While some history is given, it felt a bit too surface-based for me.  The world was developed enough to give a sense of ties and tensions and betrayals to serve the purpose of the plot, but I’m really hoping that the world is more thoroughly developed (which the ending of Twice Dead suggests that it will be).

There is one part of the book that I do want to specifically discuss, but it will be as spoiler-free as I can manage.  I want to talk about the inclusion of a homosexual couple in Twice Dead and the immediate acceptance the character receives from the person who asks about their relationship.  It’s common in stories with similar worlds that feel older, more historical than modern, to treat homosexuality as it was treated in our own history.  Although this scene is such a minor part in terms of the plot and its development, this was one of the parts that I most enjoyed because it gave insight into the different countries, their values, and their policies.  Marriage, sexuality, and motherhood are discussed in this part of the book, and while it was short, I really loved it!  It really developed the world in a way that I didn’t get in other parts, even those that directly described policies and values.  The reason I loved this so much may have been because it was one of the major instances of “showing, not telling.”  While I felt that there was a bit too much “telling” in the book, that’s a personal preference for everyone and not everyone will see it that way.  Regardless, it wasn’t so overt as to interrupt the flow of the story.

While I like the characters and the world enough for me to comfortably recommend the novel to readers who gravitate toward the genre anyway, the plot (especially what takes place in the last 10% of the book) is the true praise-worthy factor that leads me to recommend this novel.  From the beginning, the plot and its direction kept me hooked.  I finished this novel within a couple days (while attending university full-time as a literature student with tons of other books to read for my classes), so that should give you an idea of how excited I was about the plot and seeing what the ending brought.  Again, I mentioned briefly that it wasn’t until about halfway through that Naya settled into herself, so the second half of the book did pick up a bit – not to say that the first half was slow, because it definitely wasn’t.  What I mean is that the second half of this novel flew by!  The last 10% came and I didn’t even pause my reading to answer questions from people who came in to talk to me; this is how much the plot drew me in.

I highly recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys paranormal fantasy, “historical” fantasy, or these themes: political intrigue, the question of mortality, the individual’s meaning of life, and self-discovery.


February Wrap-Up

Hello, everyone!

My final semester of university has kept me busy, but I want to write a quick wrap-up for February. I did manage to read ten books, and I loved the majority of them! This month, I was also chosen as a rep for 2 different bookish companies – a YA book box based out of Australia called Booked for the Weekend and a bookmark company called Novel Trimmings. I hope that you guys check out these two amazing new shops that I’m so proud to be a representative for in their first rounds.

  1. Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien (5/5 stars)
  2. The Uncensored Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde (4/5 stars)
  3. Tandem by Anna Jarzab (5/5 stars)
  4. The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien (4/5 stars)
  5. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (5/5 stars)
  6. Princess of Thorns by Stacey Jay (4/5 stars)
  7. The Return of the King by J.R.R. Tolkien (5/5 stars)
  8. Hamlet by William Shakespeare (3/5 stars)
  9. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (re-read 5/5 stars)
  10. George by Alex Gino (4/5 stars)

If you see any books that we had in common and have any questions on any of these books, please feel free to comment! I’m going to try to be more active on this blog, though I’ll only be reacting to ARCs and new favorites in the future.


LGBT+ Fairytale Retellings

Let’s be honest who doesn’t love a good fairytale retelling? The magic of our childhood reimagined through a new lens. For me as a lesbian it is especially lovely when someone takes these stories and transforms them to be more inclusive of LGBT+ people. Princesses getting their happy ending with another girl (or in a lovely polyamorous squad!). Ariel meeting a gorgeous sailor lady. Or Peter Pan as a trans man struggling with toxic masculinity and his confusing feelings for Captain Hook. So here are my top 4 LGBT+ Fairytale Retellings that I’ve read and loved, plus another 4 LGBT+ Fairytale Retellings that I’m really excited to read! (as well as two LGBT+ webcomics that are inspired by Fairytales because webcomics are great!)


Peter Darling



A gorgeous retelling of Peter Pan this book is definitely one of my favorite retellings. Set in a more grown up Wonderland to which Peter…

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Reader Reaction: Chainbreaker

Reader Reaction: Chainbreaker

Title: Chainbreaker
Author: Tara Sim
Released: 2 January 2018
Favorite quote: (Because this hasn’t been released yet, I’m not posting a favorite quote.)

I’ve been sitting on this reader reaction for a couple weeks because I wanted to post it right before its release tomorrow/today (depending on where you are in the world).  I requested the ARC from Sky Pony Press and was given an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

I’ll start by giving you a bit of my background with Timekeeper (which was a 5/5 stars for me): I asked for the book for Christmas (2016) because I saw that it was a Steampunk LGBTQ story with a neat cover. That’s basically it. I had low expectations entering because I hadn’t heard much about it other than what I just wrote above. When I was given the book, I devoured it. It was one of those stories that kept me on the edge of my seat until the very end. Chainbreaker was no different.

This review will be less focused on specific points from the novel to avoid spoilers. Instead, the majority will be based on my reactions to the characters, plot, and the ending (which will not give anything away, but it will offer a general mood and my feelings about the ending, so if you would like to skip, stop at the sentence “A bajillion times yes!” halfway through the 4th paragraph).

Goodreads Synopsis:
“Clock mechanic Danny Hart knows he’s being watched. But by whom, or what, remains a mystery. To make matters worse, clock towers have begun falling in India, though time hasn’t Stopped yet. He’d hoped after reuniting with his father and exploring his relationship with Colton, he’d have some time to settle into his new life. Instead, he’s asked to investigate the attacks.

After inspecting some of the fallen Indian towers, he realizes the British occupation may be sparking more than just attacks. And as Danny and Colton unravel more secrets about their past, they find themselves on a dark and dangerous path–one from which they may never return.”

Although it was the Danny/Colton story that I fell in love with in Timekeeper, it was the solo-Colton and solo-Daphne storylines that kept me hooked to Chainbreaker. To be completely honest, I wasn’t fond of Daphne in Timekeeper. I don’t know if that’s something that Tara Sim had intended before focusing in on her in the sequel or not, but it was a phenomenal shift for me.

When Daphne and Danny are sent to India as two promising clock mechanics to help solve the mystery behind attacks and their consequences, Daphne’s mixed British/Indian identity becomes a focal point of the story. While this wasn’t a huge point in Timekeeper, it becomes a huge part of this novel and probably the part of the novel that I was most intrigued by. Because of Daphne, Tara Sim claims Chainbreaker an #ownvoices story. Recently, a Kirkus reviewer claimed that “mixed-race Daphne’s character does not develop much, despite the fact that her late father had a white English father and an Indian mother and that Daphne’s trip to India plunges her into speculation about her heritage and identity…” Apparently there were a couple details that weren’t entirely in line with the Indian setting, but this in no way affected my reading of it. Granted, I’m not as familiar with Indian culture as I’d like to be, but considering that Daphne is an #ownvoices character, I really think that this is one of the few times I’ll freely write that I do not suggest reading major reviews on this novel before reading it. The critical conversation surrounding race and diverse characters/authors is wildly interesting and vital to all readers, but lately, I think (not that my opinion is worth much) that the overall conversation is steering in a direction that is excluding too many valid characters and writers, especially those that are #ownvoices.

While I loved both the characters and plot in Timekeeper, the plot did fall a bit flat for me in comparison until the very end. The characters, though? They all had me wrapped around their fictional fingers the entirety of the novel. Timekeeper was equally plot and character driven; Chainbreaker felt more driven by characters and opinions. There are definite opinions that serve as foundation for this novel, and while that isn’t for everyone, I loved it. I love that I know what the speaker/writer is passionate about (i.e. equal rights, gun control, etc.). No, maybe not everyone agrees with these opinions, but that doesn’t detract from the power of giving these thoughts to characters in a time when the masses vehemently disagree. That alone gives the story a new level of emotion: we follow characters who may be scared to death of the consequences of following their hearts and who have a much more modern sense of “right” and “wrong.” Of course, these novels are modern, but when I was completely immersed in the story, I didn’t think of it like that. It was just characters fighting for what they believed in decades ahead of their time.

Why did the plot fall flat for me then (until the end)? That’s not something that I like to say without offering an explanation for what may otherwise seem a harsh opinion. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the plot, but I felt like the plot in this novel was created to advance the characters rather than the actual clock tower story. It did advance the clock tower story! It did but in a way that tied back so closely to the characters that it felt more pre-destined than chance. I guess what I’m saying with this is that it’s entirely up to reader preference on this point. Did I enjoy the plot? Yes. Was it as great as Timekeeper‘s? No, not in my opinion. BUT! Was the end of Chainbreaker wildly more exciting and informative than Timekeeper? A bajillion times yes! [I’ll try to be spoiler free in this next sentence, even though it’s going to be hard…] I don’t know how my opinion on the plot while reading managed to do a complete 180 within a couple chapters, but the realization about why certain things were happening to a certain character (that I had thought were entirely developing that character) transformed into another thick-ass layer of amazing plot that changed EVERYTHING ABOUT THE FREAKIN’ WORLD IN THE SERIES!

And what does Tara Sim do after this life changing and horrific/spectacular realization?

She ends the fucking book.

Pardon my swearing, but I don’t think you’ll understand my emotions until you read Chainbreaker. I’m both incredibly excited about this change (as well as other major changes that occurred but that were not nearly as unsettling) and what it means for the entire world and incredibly shocked. I’m shocked… That’s a great way to put it. I’m shocked that this is what the entire world was like the entire time. Once you read it, there’s no going back. My entire perception of the whole world in the Timekeeper series has shifted to something dark. The series became dark. That added layer of plot is a damn storm cloud that made home over a once mostly-sunny place.

I don’t know what Tara Sim will do in her next novel. I have no clue, but I do know that whatever it is, it’s going to be utterly perfect and devastating.

ARC of “Chainbreaker”

ARC of “Chainbreaker”

Hello, beautiful book lovers!

So this morning, I woke up to the most amazing sight in my inbox – an eARC of Chainbreaker by Tara Sim! To let you in on how I reacted… I had to keep myself from screaming so I wouldn’t wake anyone. Chainbreaker has been the first book I’ve ever requested an ARC for. Why? It’s the first novel that I’ve felt strongly connected to even before its publication. (Of course I’ve felt strongly about every SJM book before they’ve come out, but no one can get their hands on those ARCs. I’m still surprised and honored to have been offered a copy of Chainbreaker!)

A few nights ago (and please bear with me in this!), I dreamed that I was sitting in my grandmother’s living room – as pristine and kept as it had been back when she was alive – reading an ARC of Chainbreaker and crying into one of the comfy cushions of those huge chairs she had. Maybe I can’t sit in that specific room to read it, but I’ll get to read the ARC like in my dream! How awesome is that? Maybe that sounds like a silly thing to include in this little update, but it may help you begin to understand how much I’ve wanted this ARC.

Tara Sim’s debut novel – Timekeeper – is such a beautiful and intricate story with characters who jump off the page and into the heart. As an author, she’s flawless. As a person, Sim is adorable, hilarious, and strong-minded. Really, just go look her up on Twitter. You won’t regret it! While you’re at it, here is the goodreads page for her first novel and here is the page for her second. If you’re a fan of fantasy, steampunk, and lgbtq+ novels, these are the books for you! Have fun reading, y’all!

Where Have I Been For Two Months?!

I’m so sorry that I’ve let this blog die, but to be completely honest, I probably won’t be consistently blogging until next summer.

This is my last year of college and senioritis is hitting me hard.

Still, though, that’s an excuse. All I have, sadly, are a bunch of excuses. I have been reading and writing, but not as much as I’d like to. That’s just the way things go during the school year, though!

Hope you guys understand. I’ll drop in occasionally, but this blog will be taking a long hiatus until further notice.

If I receive any ARCs or books that I agree to post reader reactions to, though, that will bring me back here to y’all!  That’s the main exception to my break from BookishGirl.

“What’s Your Username?”

“What’s Your Username?”

Very quickly, let me just say that I must have a death wish. On top of dealing with my academic and social spheres, I have added more to that little globe in the corner that demands me to write. So what have I done? I’ve started a new novel that I’m publishing for free on both Radish Fiction and Wattpad on Tuesdays.

Radish Link

Wattpad Link

Here’s the plot summary/teaser:

No roots: That’s her one motto.
Leaving behind her life after junior college, Sammi Daniels moves to San Francisco to continue at a university far from home and far from any roots. The pace of the city, the readings for her literature courses, and her new roommate, Faith, keep her life busy. She’s content for the time, until Faith introduces her to Four Deer – a gamer YouTube channel based in the city that hooks Sammi with the first look at one of the YouTubers – Ethan.
Beginning as a harmless interest, her obsession with the channel, and more specifically, Ethan, grows over the course of the semester, leaking into her school life when one of her classmates notices and takes it upon himself to show her life on the other side of the camera. But along with the geeky YouTube gamer comes the threat of roots.