Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron: Badass Girls Taking Down the Patriarchy? Yes, Please!

Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Publisher: Bloomsbury YA
Published: July 7th, 2020
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Retelling/Dystopian/LGBTQ+
# of pages: 400
My rating: 4.5 stars
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration
Add to Goodreads
Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

It’s 200 years after Cinderella found her prince, but the fairy tale is over. Teen girls are now required to appear at the Annual Ball, where the men of the kingdom select wives based on a girl’s display of finery. If a suitable match is not found, the girls not chosen are never heard from again.

Sixteen-year-old Sophia would much rather marry Erin, her childhood best friend, than parade in front of suitors. At the ball, Sophia makes the desperate decision to flee, and finds herself hiding in Cinderella’s mausoleum. There, she meets Constance, the last known descendant of Cinderella and her stepsisters. Together they vow to bring down the king once and for all–and in the process, they learn that there’s more to Cinderella’s story than they ever knew...

This fresh take on a classic story will make readers question the tales they’ve been told, and root for girls to break down the constructs of the world around them. 


Between the gorgeous cover and this pitch - “queer black girls team up to overthrow the patriarchy in the former kingdom of Cinderella" - I knew I had to read Cinderella is Dead. I’ve always been a fan of fairytales and retellings, and this one has made it onto my list of top favourites.

All the girls in the kingdom of Lille are forced to attend the annual ball, during which the goal is to be chosen for marriage. They have three chances, after which they’re considered undesirable and are often forfeited to the palace, never to be seen or heard from again. In Lille, women are little more than possessions, and men are allowed to treat them however they see fit, which is often with abuse and absolutely no respect. Sophia doesn’t want any part of that for herself or anyone else; she knows things should be different, and she wants to live a happy, free life with her girlfriend. Disgusted and disheartened, Sophia flees her first ball and ends up at Cinderella’s mausoleum, where she meets the only living descendent of Cinderella’s stepsisters, Constance, and begins to learn that the true tale of Cinderella is far different from the palace-approved version known to everyone in the land.

I loved so many things about this book. As I was reading, I saw countless parallels to today’s reality, and I loved how the story was a commentary on modern society and the issues many people face while also incorporating magical elements that managed to feel realistic. The world Sophia lived in was bleak and heartbreaking, but she was such a bright light. She wanted to live in a world where women weren’t possessions and couldn’t be forfeited for things beyond their control, where they were able to choose who and what they wanted to be - and who they wanted to be with. When she met Constance and saw how brave, tenacious, and determined she was, she realized it was possible for her to be like that too. Those things had been in her all along, despite being told she wasn’t entitled to happiness or freedom, and Constance helped her see it was possible to do more than just wish things were different.

I really loved how Cinderella is Dead turned the familiar tale on its head in so many ways. A lot of people have an issue with the Cinderella story because they don’t like the idea of the prince ‘saving’ her or the insta-love aspect, or, in the case of the live-action Disney remake, the fact Cinderella’s motto was “have courage and be kind” but it led to her being a pushover. Sophia and Constance knew courage was necessary, but they put actual action behind it too. They were a fierce pair, and I cheered them on every step of the way. Sophia challenged the status quo and knew things should be different and could be, and meeting Constance helped her see how she could act on that desire for change and equality.

Full of fierce, kickass characters, an engaging plot, and enough magic to completely enchant you, Cinderella is Dead is a hopeful, inspiring modern-day fairytale that should be on everyone’s TBR.


Have you read Cinderella is Dead? Do you have a favourite fairytale retelling?




*Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate, and some of the links in this review are affiliate links. All income made through affiliate sales goes directly back into maintaining Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Thank you for your support!

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Pride Month 2020 Reading Recap

*Please note: Each book has a link to Amazon, which is an affiliate link - all earnings go into the upkeep of this blog, and I truly appreciate your support - but if you have a local indie bookshop you can support, please be sure to do so!


At the beginning of June, I shared a post featuring 12 LGBTQ+ books that were on my TBR for Pride Month. Throughout June, I managed to read seven LGBTQ+ books, but only four of them were actually from that list. For the list, I chose 12 books at random from my general TBR, but about a week into the month, I realized my list of 12 could easily have been doubled, especially as I added to my TBR almost daily.

I've always done my best to read diversely, but this month I realized I can - and should - be doing better. I love LGBTQ+ books and have read many over the years, but most of them have been by white authors and tend to feature gay, lesbian, and bi characters. It wasn't a conscious thing - I often choose books at random - but now I'm going to make sure I seek out more LGBTQ+ books by BIPOC authors that also feature a wider range of the queer spectrum.


I read some truly fantastic books in June. I broadened my usual reading horizons and aimed to include as much intersectional diversity as possible on my reading list. These are the seven LGBTQ+ books I read in June, in the order I read them:




Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner
Genre: Contemporary Romance
My rating: 2 stars
Representation: Lesbian Chinese-American heroine, Jewish bisexual heroine 
Goodreads || Buy




Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
My rating: 5 stars
Representation: Black queer trans demiboy hero, biracial bisexual love interest
Read my review
Add to Goodreads || Buy



Cinderella is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy/Dystopian/Retelling
My rating: 4.5 stars
Representation: Black lesbian heroine, lesbian love interest
Add to Goodreads || Buy



The Falling in Love Montage by Ciara Smyth
Genre: Young Adult Romantic Comedy
My rating: 4.5 stars
Representation: Lesbian heroine, lesbian love interest
Read my review
Add to Goodreads || Buy



Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
My rating: DNF at 50%
Representation: Black biromantic asexual heroine, Japanese love interest
Add to Goodreads || Buy



Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
Genre: Romantic Comedy
My rating: 5 stars
Representation: Black bisexual curvy heroine, Pakistani Muslim hero with anxiety
Read my review
Add to Goodreads || Buy



Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Genre: Romantic Comedy
My rating: 5 stars
Representation: Gay hero, gay love interest
Read my review
Add to Goodreads || Buy




Did you read any LGBTQ+ books in June? Have you read any of these seven books?


Monday, June 29, 2020

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall: British RomCom Perfection

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall
Published: July 7th, 2020
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Romantic Comedy/LGBTQ+
Tropes: Enemies to lovers, opposites attract, fake dating
Heat level: 🔥🔥
My rating: 5 stars
Acquired this book: From the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for honest consideration
Add to Goodreads
Buy: Amazon Canada || Amazon US || Indigo

Wanted:
One (fake) boyfriend
Practically perfect in every way

Luc O'Donnell is tangentially--and reluctantly--famous. His rock star parents split when he was young, and the father he's never met spent the next twenty years cruising in and out of rehab. Now that his dad's making a comeback, Luc's back in the public eye, and one compromising photo is enough to ruin everything.

To clean up his image, Luc has to find a nice, normal relationship...and Oliver Blackwood is as nice and normal as they come. He's a barrister, an ethical vegetarian, and he's never inspired a moment of scandal in his life. In other words: perfect boyfriend material. Unfortunately apart from being gay, single, and really, really in need of a date for a big event, Luc and Oliver have nothing in common. So they strike a deal to be publicity-friendly (fake) boyfriends until the dust has settled. Then they can go their separate ways and pretend it never happened.

But the thing about fake-dating is that it can feel a lot like real-dating. And that's when you get used to someone. Start falling for them. Don't ever want to let them go.


Boyfriend Material is one of those books I’m finding difficult to review because I basically just want to gush and squee and scream, ‘I loved everything about this book!’ It was hilarious (I had actual tears of mirth running down my face at times), romantic, and full of unexpected feels. It had the perfect balance of hilarity and ridiculousness and also depth and real emotion. Add in a fantastic cast of memorable characters, and Boyfriend Material is easily one of the best books I’ve read in 2020.

Luc was a screwup and he knew it, but he wanted to do better. He’d been trying to fill an emotional void with all the wrong things - casual sex, booze, complete avoidance of his problems. He and Oliver were both so wonderfully, realistically flawed. They didn’t like each other at first, but they needed one another, and they ended up being so good for each other and integral to each other’s growth. Their banter was hilarious and they had such great chemistry (just for the record, all sex scenes are fade-to-black). I rooted for them throughout the book and I swooned hard on several occasions. I also really felt their pain, their insecurities, the self-destructive tendencies that stemmed largely from a lack of self-worth on both their parts. They were so different and yet so similar, and I adored them.

Luc and Oliver weren’t the only fantastic characters in Boyfriend Material. I loved Luc’s zany friend group, his ridiculous co-workers, and his eccentric mother. I’m actually sitting here giggling as I think of all the antics this group of characters got up to. I feel like I’d fit right in with Luc’s quirky group of friends, and I desperately wish they were real so I could be part of it.

Charming, hilarious, heartfelt, and full of British wit, Boyfriend Material is the perfect escape from the hellscape that is 2020. It was an instant new favourite, and one I know I’ll recommend constantly. Also, this would make such a fun, funny movie...who do we have to talk to to make that happen??


Have you read Boyfriend Material? What's the last book you read that you'd love to see turned into a movie?




*Please note I'm an Amazon affiliate, and some of the links in this review are affiliate links. All income made through affiliate sales goes directly back into maintaining Ramblings of a Daydreamer. Thank you for your support!
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