MINI REVIEWS — Fence, Vol. 1; Unwind; The Tea Dragon Society; The Girl King

December 29, 2018

This week’s mini review round-up includes 2 graphic novels and 2 novels!

Some the reviews below are the shortened version of my review, but the “goodreads” link buttons will take you to the full review. Enjoy!


TITLE: Fence, Vol. 1
AUTHOR: C.S. Pacat
RELEASED: July 31st, 2018; BOOM! Box
GENRE: Contemporary

Nicholas Cox is determined to prove himself in the world of competitive fencing, and earn his place alongside fencing legends like the dad he never knew, but things get more complicated when he’s up against his golden-boy half-brother, as well as sullen fencing prodigy, Seiji Katayama.


Please, universe, if you’re listening, don’t ever let C.S. Pacat stop writing amazing queer stories. ♥

Seriously, though, I knew I would adore this and I was right. Pacat is an absolutely wonderful writer who is so proficient at scripting these lovable (or hate-able) characters and storylines. I was interested to see how she’d handle a contemporary sports-based plotline, with how vastly different it is from the Captive Prince series I cherish so dearly, but she did an amazing job with this, too.

On top of how fun and quick-paced the plot is, there’s a delightful (and diverse) cast of characters—my favorite, of course, being the sweet, effeminate Bobby—and Johanna the Mad’s artwork fits the story perfectly with its bright colors, expressive faces, and occasional homages to typical manga-inspired art moments (i.e. the random switches to chibi faces ♥).

The entire volume is honestly just perfection. I got to root for a lovable underdog, rage at a hate-worthy-brooding-arrogant-jerk antagonist, learn a little about fencing, and get wholly sucked into this little universe to the point where I’m already dying for volume 2 to release. I will probably read and recommend everything Pacat ever writes, and Fence is no exception.



TITLE: Unwind
AUTHOR: Neal Shusterman
SERIES: Unwind Dystology, #1
RELEASED: November 6th, 2007; Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
GENRE: Sci-fi/Dystopian

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.


This was one of my December “unhaul challenge” books, meaning I had to finish it by December 31st, or unhaul it. I started reading this on December 3rd; it is now December 27th, and it feels pretty telling to me that I don’t care enough to finish this before the deadline in a few days, so I’m DNFing it. I’m extremely interested in Shusterman’s newer work, and I think, had I read this when it released, I would have adored it, but sadly, I seem to have missed the window of opportunity. 🙁



TITLE: The Tea Dragon Society
AUTHOR: Katie O’Neill
RELEASES: October 31st, 2017; Oni Press
GENRE: Fantasy

After discovering a lost tea dragon in the marketplace, Greta learns about the dying art form of tea dragon care-taking from the kind tea shop owners, Hesekiel and Erik. As she befriends them and their shy ward, Minette, Greta sees how the craft enriches their lives—and eventually her own.


This is literally one of the best graphic novels I’ve ever read in my life. I can’t even begin to express how much I cherished these precious characters, the sweet dragon babies, and the incredible range of representation. We have normalized QPOC rep all over the place (I mean, I’m not sure if anyone here is cishet and I’m so here for it), disability rep that is so beautifully done it made me cry, and I just loved the entire story endlessly. I know I’ll be recommending this to anyone and everyone for a long, long time.



TITLE: The Girl King
SERIES: The Girl King, #1
RELEASES: January 8th, 2019; Bloomsbury YA
GENRE: Fantasy

Sisters Lu and Min have always known their places as the princesses of the Empire of the First Flame: the eldest, assertive Lu, will be named her father’s heir and become the dynasty’s first female ruler, while timid Min will lead a quiet life in Lu’s shadow. Then their father names their male cousin Set the heir instead, throwing both girls’ lives into chaos.

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu is forced to flee, leaving Min to face the volatile court alone. Lu crosses paths with Nokhai, the lone, unlikely survivor of the decimated Ashina, nomadic wolf shapeshifters. Nok never learned to shift–and he has no trust for the Empire that killed his family–but working with the princess might be the key to unlocking his true power.

As Lu and Nok form a tenuous alliance, Min’s own hidden power awakens–a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set’s reign . . . or allow her to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters’ greatest enemy could very well turn out to be each other.


DNF @ pg97

I really… really hate doing this. I want to love this book so badly. I was hooked on the idea of it when it first came out, and I hyped it up so much in my own head that I did a little happy dance when I got the ARC and everything. But honestly, I just can’t connect with this at all. I’m not interested in the plot, I can’t connect with the characters, and the writing isn’t doing much for me. I do love the main character, Lu, because she’s an angry, feisty little warrior, but the perspective shifts to the other characters are dragging miserably and making me dislike this book.

This is one of those rare times where I’m choosing to DNF a book early and avoid rating it, because if I continue far enough in to warrant a star rating, I know it won’t be the one this author deserves. The Girl King will be an incredible read for many readers; sadly, I’m simply not one of them.

Thank you so much to Bloomsbury YA for providing me with this ARC in exchange for an honest review!


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More about Destiny @ Howling Libraries

Just a horror aficionado/geek girl trying to juggle motherhood, reading, blogging, gaming, and everyday life.

    1. Unfortunately I have seen many similar feelings toward The Girl Thing, which is such a shame because I was also super excited about it when I saw it at Book Expo. Sorry it ended up having to be put down.

      1. Yeah, I feel like everyone was so hyped for it and it’s been a letdown for so many people! 🙁 It makes me sad but it also tells me maybe it’s not *just* me, which is comforting in a weird way if that makes sense! ?

    1. Shame you didn’t like Unwind, but I get it. I have a lot of YA fiction where I wish I had read it when I was 15-16 myself because I would have liked it way more than I did by the time I actually read it. Still, I’m definitely loving Unwind and can’t wait to read pretty much everything Shusterman has ever written.

    1. Okay, I am definitely reading Fence asap, it sounds amazing also the art is absolutely amazing! Maybe it should be my first read of 2019?

        1. Unsurprisingly I really enjoyed it! I will definitely be reading volume 2 as soon as I can get my hands on it!

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