Pardon my absence, I’ve been struggling + books to warm your (*my) cold soulless body (that aren’t YA)

Hi, friends! How are you? Hope this blog post finds you well!

How this blog post finds me

Sorry for being away. I swear I’m alive. Being a frontliner* sucks. Lol. ANYWAY!

With everything going on, I’ve been looking for some heart-warming reads that are easy to consume.

P.s who is giving me access to NetGalley?? WHO?? Because my requests keep getting accepted. And whilst I’m happy with every acceptance (YAY, validation!), that means I must WORK. Nevertheless, I keep getting surprised my requests get accepted despite knowing it was me who’s been logging on and begging for ARCs. Why am I like this lol.

đ“đąđ­đ„đž: The Tea Dragon Tapestry
đ€đźđ­đĄđšđ«: K. O’Neill
đˆđ„đ„đźđŹđ­đ«đšđ­đšđ«: K. O’Neill
đ†đžđ§đ«đž: Comics & Graphic Novels
đđźđ›đ„đąđŹđĄđžđ«: Oni Press


Behold! The Tea Dragon Tapestry is a magical heartwarming story. This book is the equivalent of the perfect marshmallow in the form of a book! However, said marshmallow isn’t edible, but it is sure is light, fluffy, and just melts your heart. Plus, it leaves you a slight concern of developing early-onset diabetes from all the sweetness it exudes. Let me just get this out of the way first: I am in love with the art style. The illustrations are gorgeous, soft, and beautifully detailed. The panels are engaging and the art captures and evokes emotions well. This graphic novel is not only heart-warming in the sense of characters and story-telling, but it also explores other avenues such as disabilities, grief, loss, and acceptance. Overall, this was an amazing book and I would highly recommend this book to everyone.


𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: grief, loss, disabilities, acceptance, purpose
𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of graphic novels, people looking for a wholesome, heart-warming read, basically recommend this to everyone
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Oni Press for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


đ“đąđ­đ„đž: That Can Be Arranged
đ€đźđ­đĄđšđ«: Huda Fahmy
đˆđ„đ„đźđŹđ­đ«đšđ­đšđ«: Huda Fahmy
đ†đžđ§đ«đž: Comics & Graphic Novels, Humour
đđźđ›đ„đąđŹđĄđžđ«: Andrews McMeel Publishing

I’ve been following Fahmy’s Instagram for quite some time and always thought her comics and content were truly funny and great. And this book definitely delivered. ‘That Can Be Arranged’ is an endearing read where we follow Fahmy’s journey to finding a husband. I liked the insights Fahmy shared upon her journey (self-worth, self-love, taking initiative, staying true to your belief, etc.) and how she kept a light-hearted tone despite covering some serious topics. I truly enjoyed this read. There were plenty of moments that made me smile and chuckle.

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: love, self-love, self-worth, taking initiative, staying true to your beliefs
𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: I’d definitely recommend this to any hopeless romantics, fans of Jane Austen, and anyone curious about this book.
Thank you to NetGalley and Andrews McMeel Publishing for the copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


đ“đąđ­đ„đž: Bear
đ€đźđ­đĄđšđ«: Ben Queen
đˆđ„đ„đźđŹđ­đ«đšđ­đšđ«: Joe Todd-Stanton
đ†đžđ§đ«đž: Comics & Graphic Novels
đđźđ›đ„đąđŹđĄđžđ«: BOOM! Studios

In Bear, we follow the paw steps of a guide dog named Bear. As a guide dog, Bear’s job is to assist his owner Patrick, who is blind. Patrick and Bear happily live their lives in-sync until the unthinkable happens—Bear loses his sight. Scared he’ll no longer be useful to Patrick and lose his job, Bear then follows the racoons to find a mysterious bear to teach Bear magic for his sight. Despite making friends in unlikely places, Bear finds trouble and then gets lost. Bear’s search is rewarded and reunites with Patrick. After their reunion, Bear undergoes surgery for his eyes. Whilst Bear states he wasn’t “one hundred per cent” after the surgery, he notes that he gained something far greater than what he thought he ever wanted—he becomes Patrick’s friend.

Bear is such an endearing character and I found it easy to emotionally invest in him and his endeavours. I enjoyed the themes explored in this book and liked the unique premise of the story and how it highlights the importance of guide dogs. The book also educates the readers regarding how blindness impacts people.

This is a heart-warming read with themes of identity, friendship, and perseverance woven into Bear’s journey. Through his blindness and his tireless search, Bear discovers true friendship and acceptance. His emotional journey for purpose showcases resilience in the face of adversity. Also, I LOVE the illustration! The artwork is adorable and colourful. The art panels are engaging, successfully evoking intended emotions upon reading the book.

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: friendship, acceptance, resilience
𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: This is a book I’d highly recommend and I’d definitely buy a copy. I can’t wait to read this to the kids.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publishers for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.



đ“đąđ­đ„đž: All The Colors of Life
đ€đźđ­đĄđšđ«: Lisa Aisato
đˆđ„đ„đźđŹđ­đ«đšđ­đšđ«: Lisa Aisato
đ†đžđ§đ«đž: Arts & Photography
đđźđ›đ„đąđŹđĄđžđ«: Arctis Books

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ Gorgeous, breathtakingly beautiful illustrations depicting different phases of life accompanied by short poems.
‱ The illustrations are vivid, whimsical, and engaging. I can’t get over how stunning, atmospheric, and expressive each picture is and how well fitted it was to the prose.
‱ I feel like this book would be a perfect coffee table book. Great to peruse and keep around.

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: the exploration of human experiences and life
𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of art, everyone
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Artics Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.



đ“đąđ­đ„đž: Beneath the Trees
đ€đźđ­đĄđšđ«: Dav
đˆđ„đ„đźđŹđ­đ«đšđ­đšđ«: Dav
đ†đžđ§đ«đž: Children’s Fiction
đđźđ›đ„đąđŹđĄđžđ«: Diamond Book Distributors


𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ A charming read about a character (Mister Grumpf) who is a grumpy badger trying to rake leaves in front of his house however, gets continually distracted by his neighbours
‱ Simple and fun read with a great message (helping those in need)
‱ Gorgeous art style with vibrant and a beautiful colour scheme befitting for Autumn/Fall
‱ The ending made me chuckle
‱ Perfect Autumnal read

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 đ§đźđ­đŹđĄđžđ„đ„, đ«đžđšđ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬 𝐱𝐟 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ„đąđ€đž:
✔ grumpy characters with a heart of gold
✔ seasonal mood reader looking for a cozy read
✔ fan of Disney-like art style/storytelling

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: community, never judge a person by their appearance, kindness
𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: everyone, fans of Disney, those looking for a charming and cozy read
Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.



đ“đąđ­đ„đž: My Pet Cloud
đ€đźđ­đĄđšđ«: Amanda Rawson Hill
đˆđ„đ„đźđŹđ­đ«đšđ­đšđ«: Laia Arriols
đ†đžđ§đ«đž: Children’s Fiction
đđźđ›đ„đąđŹđĄđžđ«: Capstone


𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ A sweet and charming story about a boy and a pet cloud
‱ Not only is this a cute read that explores the importance and responsibilities of owning a pet but there is also an educational factor regarding weather and science
‱ Beautiful illustrations with a gentle colour palette, befitting of the narrative and themes
‱ Perfect read before bedtime

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: responsibilities of having a pet, friendship, educational (weather and science)
𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: young children, curious children, children wanting pets (great conversation starter when discussing responsibilities and compassion)
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher, Capstone for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.


How are you?
What are some of your favourite heart-warming reads?

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Iron Widow | ARC Book Review + incoherent thoughts

Title: Iron Widow
Author: Xiran Jay Zhao
Publisher: Rock the Boat
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of unhinged, selfish protagonist, Poppy War (similiar to Rin—angry protagonist fighting in a war)
CW: death, war, torture, murder, reference to sexual assault (no on-page depiction), misogyny, suicide ideation, and alcohol depiction

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

The boys of Huaxia dream of pairing up with girls to pilot Chrysalises, giant transforming robots that can battle the mecha aliens that lurk beyond the Great Wall. It doesn’t matter that the girls often die from the mental strain.

When 18-year-old Zetian offers herself up as a concubine-pilot, it’s to assassinate the ace male pilot responsible for her sister’s death. But she gets her vengeance in a way nobody expected—she kills him through the psychic link between pilots and emerges from the cockpit unscathed. She is labeled an Iron Widow, a much-feared and much-silenced kind of female pilot who can sacrifice boys to power up Chrysalises instead.​

To tame her unnerving yet invaluable mental strength, she is paired up with Li Shimin, the strongest and most controversial male pilot in Huaxia​. But now that Zetian has had a taste of power, she will not cower so easily. She will miss no opportunity to leverage their combined might and infamy to survive attempt after attempt on her life, until she can figure out exactly why the pilot system works in its misogynist way—and stop more girls from being sacrificed.

Upon finishing this book I was so incoherent. This was one of my highest anticipated read for 2021 and I’m at loss for words.

OKAY! Before I get into the review, here’s an original piece inspired by the book.
As I was telling my partner about this story, this song came into fruition.
They made this song and this is their interpretation (when Zetian gets out of the chrysalis).
I named the song “Rise from the Chrysalis”

Let’s do my typical Gush / Gripe and then I’ll get into more details with everything.

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ Addictive to read. The writing style is simple and straight-forward.
‱ The relationship developing into a polyamorous relationship, exploring different avenues and boundaries of romantic love.
‱ I did like how this book made me think about it even a few days later. I love it when books do this.

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
‱ I didn’t feel grounded in the world. Despite this being in a new, vast world, I failed to see beyond the pages (this could be a me thing, though).
‱ Wish there were more development in the polyam.
‱ The take on “smashing the patriarchy” in this book.

𝐓𝐇𝐄 𝐃𝐄𝐓𝐀𝐈𝐋𝐒

Characters

Wu Zetian: the protagonist, inspired by the only female emperor in Chinese history.
‱ Angry and unhinged
‱ pilots mecha
‱ looks mean, is mean


Li Shimin:
‱ replace the coffee with alcohol
‱ pilots the “Vermillion Bird”, is a mecha partner to Zetian
‱ looks mean, is a cinnamon roll


Gao Yizhi:
‱ blessed with good looks and money
‱ superpower is being rich
‱ looks like a cinnamon roll, can be mean

The Romance

I appreciate how this story develops a love triangle into a polyamorous relationship. I liked that. However, I wished the relationship had more depth into it. As readers, we witness the characters interact and develop however, I feel like the romance could have had more build up especially between everyone and Li Shimin. In saying that, I did like how it explored more avenues in love and to not be bound by just one person and have the ability, trust and openness.

World-building

I loved the premise of this story (sci-fi Chinese inspired world), however, I just wished there were more descriptions and world-building. I wasn’t too familiar with what chrysalis were and what they really looked like until I googled images. I do like straight-forward prose, but I didn’t feel grounded in the world whilst reading this.

Men = bad, women = bad (AKA my biggest gripe) (minor spoilers, ahoy!)

I just have a few qualms regarding Zetian and the narrative: whilst I’m aware this is fiction and Zetian nor the author is not here to “teach” the reader anything (a common emotional and mental burden for many minorities), I can’t help but question how this is a “smashing the patriarchy”.

This is supposed to be smashing down the patriarchy but I feel like it’s just killing evil men.

I failed to see how this was a feminist read because it does not bring women up. Zetian questions the world and the systematic evils whilst simultaneously looking down on other women, especially those who live a life that is viewed as a traditionally feminine role (being a mother, married, etc.). I thought the point of equality should be women could choose their paths in life “traditionally feminine” or not? Furthermore, there’s hardly any positive female relationships throughout this whole novel. Zetian speaks of love for her “Big Sister” (am unsure of her name) yet we the audience never experienced nor witnessed their relationship other than a few flashbacks here and there. How can this ring true to us? Despite Zetian being “for women”, she has very few positive female relationships and interactions. The majority of Zetian’s relationships with women are negative or end negatively. Furthermore, she looks down on others due to their choices (what about survival and social conditioning?) I do hope this means there’s room for growth or exploration in future novels.

One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was how the notion of traditional femininity (for example through the sister and the kind friend) is questioned then rejected and then deemed as “the bad choice”. Instead, reacting in anger and fully rejecting femininity is the “right answer”.

It feels so… binary. There’s no nuance. No discussion. Yes, perhaps finding true equality is to break down the systemic oppression and foundation. Perhaps the answer and the actionable steps will be messy. However, what Zetian truly wants is freedom and choice. Yet, she looks down on other women should they choose to marry or have children?

Also, there’s no discussion regarding her love interest’s complicity in this world. One killed his family due to a horrible circumstance, he feels bad about hurting women… The other, well, his mother was killed by his evil father so naturally, men = bad. Finding Zetian and her morals made them realise, that yes, women do get a say???!!

Whilst there is a passing acknowledgement of privilege and guilt of both her love interests… that’s it?

In a world where everyone is indoctrinated to think and therefore act a certain way, where did they gain this insight? I can understand Zetian’s thought process as she’s endured the hardship. But the men? They are most comfortable in this world. They have the most to gain. Especially, the rich love interest. How did he dismantle his thinking? His mother died? Right, that would fuel his fire to hate his father and to jump onto the father issues bandwagon…

Let’s talk about the family dynamics.
From Zetian’s point of view, her family has failed her due to their complicity and their treatment towards her. In response to her family failing Zetian, she kills them. I can’t get over how Zetian kills her own family. In cold blood. Yes, her family wasn’t good to her. I’m not here to defend either action, because there is no excuse for abuse. Let me reiterate: there is no excuse for abuse.

I wanted to scrutinise Zetian and her relationship between her mother (and grandmother). Zetian states she would want it better for her mother and grandmother
 but let’s look a little deeper, shall we?? Zetian states her mother plays the role of being subservient to the father.

“It’s not about having it easy. It’s about keeping peace in the family.”

Zetian’s mother to Zetian

“She’d [the mother] step cautiously around him [the father] as if he were a bomb, worrying about her every move for fear of setting him off.”

Hmmm… this quote and scenario reminds me of abuse
 Walking on eggshells with your partner, being afraid, not being able to be open, difficult to say “no”, partner dictates everything… Yeah, it sounds like abuse. Perhaps the mother is a victim of abuse and remains complicit in it towards Zetian. However, it’s important to note how hard it is to get out. So hard!! How can her mother and grandmother break such a vicious traumatic cycle?? With no therapy or support or knowledge? In a world where women solely rely on men (their husbands), how will they survive? How? Zetian wants her mum to create a scene, to fight back for her. But how? There’s no resources. There’s no help. Whilst Zetian may not be afraid to die, that doesn’t mean other people want to. Zetian vilifies/looks down on her mother (which, sounds like the mother is a victim of either domestic/emotional/mental abuse). There’s no redemption for them. Just death. I…

“You tell them over and over, until it’s the only truth they’re capable of living.”

The rage is natural and understandable. However, challenging and breaking down systems with cold blood murder and no remorse or afterthought? I really don’t think killing people in cold blood is the answer. Because it begs the question, who gives you authority to deem who dies and who doesn’t?

“It is not me who is wrong. It’s everyone else.”

Zetian

Whilst I enjoyed this, these characters are definitely not the heroes.

I really am convinced that this is a villain origin story, in which I don’t mind. In fact, I love selfish female main characters!!! But don’t sell me that this is how you smash the patriarchy—with NO rationale logic, no compassion or empathy for anyone but your love interests.

Zetian is flawed and unhinged. As an audience, we see her wrath and rage. It’s palpable. It’s understandable, even. However, I don’t think she’s someone we should deem a hero. I cannot agree killing innocent is the answer to smashing the patriarchy (friends, this is a war crime help). Nor do I agree with the whole hypocrisy of it all.

“I’ve destroyed the Kaihuang watchtower. I did not care who was in there.”

Zetian

The thing is, I don’t mind questionable morals and morally grey characters (love unhinged and selfish characters) but what really unsettled me was the fact that the narrative never questions Zetian’s actions or morals. Instead, we’re positioned to think that every move Zetian calls for a cheer and that THIS is how you break down the patriarchy. Yay! You killed your only female friend because she betrayed you (never mind the fact that she had her two toddler children held as hostages). Yay! You killed your own mother! Yay! You tortured and killed a man! Yay! You tore down a whole fucking tower with people in it. Innocents? What’s that! War crime? Never heard of her!!!!

There is literally this quote right here:

“New bargain: defy us, and all of you and your family will die!”

Whoa, what the fuck.

For a topic as complex as breaking down systematic misogyny and the patriarchy, I feel like there needs to be a range of discussion, a messy journey of learning and unlearning and questioning everything including yourself. Everyone needs to take the internal journey and intentionally address their own bias and comfort. Unfortunately, this did not happen to that extent throughout the novel.

There’s no nuance. There’s no conversation. Just death.

Despite my gripes, I do hope that this means there’s consequences and growth in future novels. I am curious to see where this will go.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 đ§đźđ­đŹđĄđžđ„đ„, đ«đžđšđ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬 𝐱𝐟 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ„đąđ€đž:
✔ Pacific Rim / Zoids / Gundam Wing / Neon Genesis Evangelion / mecha vibes
✔ Poly love triangle (finally!!)
✔ Unhinged main character taking on the patriarchy with her own bare hands in her own manner
✔ inspired by East Asian mythology and historical figures

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: misogyny, sexism

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of unhinged, selfish protagonist, Poppy War (similar character dynamics—angry protagonist fighting in a war)

𝐂𝐖: death, war, torture, murder, reference to sexual assault (no on-page depiction), misogyny, suicide ideation, and alcohol depiction

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (Rock the Boat) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

𝘗𝘭𝘩𝘱𝘮𝘩 đ˜Żđ˜°đ˜”đ˜Š: đ˜”đ˜©đ˜Š đ˜Čđ˜¶đ˜°đ˜”đ˜Š 𝘭đ˜Șđ˜Žđ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ đ˜©đ˜Šđ˜łđ˜Š 𝘱𝘳𝘩 đ˜€đ˜Șđ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘼 𝘱𝘯 đ˜ˆđ˜„đ˜·đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜€đ˜Š đ˜™đ˜Šđ˜ąđ˜„đ˜Ș𝘯𝘹 đ˜Šđ˜°đ˜±đ˜ș (𝘈𝘙𝘊) đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜„ 𝘼𝘱đ˜ș 𝘣𝘩 đ˜Žđ˜¶đ˜Łđ˜«đ˜Šđ˜€đ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ đ˜”đ˜° đ˜€đ˜©đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜šđ˜Š đ˜¶đ˜±đ˜°đ˜Ż đ˜±đ˜¶đ˜Łđ˜­đ˜Șđ˜€đ˜ąđ˜”đ˜Ș𝘰𝘯.

Have you read this? Will you be reading Iron Widow?
If you’ve read this, what’s your thoughts on it?

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Jade Fire Gold | Book Review + Tour

Hello and welcome to my stop. Here, this post will include a review, creative content (music), and favourite quotes.
Many thanks to @CaffeineTours and Harper Teen for the opportunity take part in this tour.

You can check out the Tour Schedule here.

UK edition
Art: Aaron Munday
US edition
Art: GUWEIZ


Title: Jade Fire Gold
Author: June CL Tan
Publisher: Harper Teen (US)
Age group: Young Adult
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of character-driven stories, fans of YA fantasy,
On-page Representation: POC (Chinese-coded characters), LGBTQ+ (Sapphic, gay)
Trigger and Content Warnings: self-harm (gouging, eye horror; non-graphic), child abuse (physical, verbal, emotional manipulation/gaslighting), parent death (implied, off-page), character deaths, mentions and descriptions of fantasy/magical violence (blood, war, political violence), mentions and descriptions of physical symptoms that might be triggering to those with emetophobia, alcohol consumption

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

Girls of Paper and Fire meets The Tiger at Midnight in June CL Tan’s stunning debut, inspired by Chinese mythology, with rich magic and an epic slow-burn romance.

In an empire on the brink of war . . .

Ahn is no one, with no past and no family.

Altan is a lost heir, his future stolen away as a child.

When they meet, Altan sees in Ahn a path to reclaiming the throne. Ahn sees a way to finally unlock her past and understand her arcane magical abilities.

But they may have to pay a far deadlier price than either could have imagined.

Ferocious action, shadowy intrigue, and a captivating romance collide in June CL Tan’s debut, a stunning homage to the Xianxia novel with a tender, beating heart, perfect for fans of The Bone Witch and We Hunt the Flame.

I asked my partner to create music to accompany this book.
I thought this tune was so fitting and atmospheric whilst read the book—especially at tense times!
Feel free to listen to it.

I received an Advanced Reader’s Copy of this book from the publisher and Caffeine Book Tours as part of my participation in their tour.

OKAY. First things first, we’ve all read the synopsis? Yes? Yes! Now, let me get this off my chest:

This book was pitched as ‘Avatar the Last Airbender’ inspired! More specifically, inspired by Zutara (Zuko X Katara) dynamics??? My little twelve-year-old self is celebrating. OUR TIME HAS COME!!! Zutara!!!! đŸ˜©đŸ˜­đŸŽ‰

Yes, please play the song included above as it adds to the hype. Trust me.

AND THEN! Not only does this novel pays homage to Xianxia (Chinese fantasy influenced byChinese mythology, martial arts, religion, and other traditional elements) perfect for fans of We Hunt the Flame?? Good-bye, monies!

Yes, as exemplified above, Jade Fire Gold was a highly anticipated read.

Alright, now that’s out of my system, the review time.

Told in dual POV, we follow Ahn, the orphaned girl with a mysterious past and Altan, an exiled prince with revenge on his mind. When their paths in twined Ahn sees the opportunity to unlock her memories and powers whilst Altan see this as a means to avenge his family and reclaim the throne.

However, in order to gain, one must give. And the two may have bargained more than they can pay.

đ–đ«đąđ­đąđ§đ :
The writing is simple and easy to follow which makes the narrative easily digestible. Despite the writing being quite straightforward, it paints beautiful scenery, strong emotions, and great attention into little details which are important aspects (such s as weaponry, colour and clothing).

However, my main concern whilst reading this was that I found the pacing jarring at times. For example, there would be moments where I feel like I was trudging through the desert, in the middle of the day with no water (this was only the first ~30%). And then there are times were it feels like we’re rushing through a whirlwind of events.

Of course, this could be a “me” thing as I like to get into the ‘meat’ of the plot early in the book soo I can divulge myself with more details throughout the journey. Don’t let this deter you!

đ–đšđ«đ„đ-đ›đźđąđ„đđąđ§đ :
I’m a huge fan of Asian mythology and Asian-inspired stories, so I found it enjoyable finding little nuggets or Lore sprinkles throughout the novel.

đ‚đĄđšđ«đšđœđ­đžđ«đŹ:
Ahn: one of the protagonist starts off naive and I found her passive at the beginning but I did like how she started to develop and become more confident and critical.

Altan: I found it hard to connect to his character due to his angst, however, I did come to appreciate his character. I liked how he started becoming more open and honest.

𝐑𝐹𝐩𝐚𝐧𝐜𝐞:
I admit I’m a huge sucker for the enemies-to-lovers trope, I enjoy it mainly because I love seeing the relationship develop over time (and often begrudgingly 😏) and I love the banter. In this case, there was no romance until about halfway, which I didn’t mind it so! I just wished we could’ve seen the two develop their relationship more. As I really enjoyed reading Ahn and Altan’s interactions and dynamics.

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ The writing is simple and easy which made this book quick to fly though
‱ Intriguing world-building yet consists of common elements in a YA Fantasy, therefore perfect for those who enjoy certain tropes (Royal characters, reunited with someone, dislike to like, finding the magical artefact, etc.) and genres (fantasy).

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
‱ The pacing at times (tit took me a while to get into the first 30% or so of the book but then I got so hooked after that)

‱ Why was there a need to put chopsticks in ones hair?? That really took me out.

Being of Asian descent and being a diaspora, I’m aware of the historical context of the use of chopsticks in the hair and the micro aggression regarding that. However, I acknowledge that I am not a Chinese and therefore, perhaps I’m not familiar with all the nuance.

Edit:

I read another review and noted that the author responded to concerns regarding chopsticks in the hair. I suggest you check out this review!

The author stated that the chopsticks were not for use of eating but rather a concealed weapon.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 đ§đźđ­đŹđĄđžđ„đ„, đ«đžđšđ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬 𝐱𝐟 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ„đąđ€đž:
✔ Zutara inspired dynamics (exiled Prince X peasant girl with mysterious powers)
✔ forbidden magic
✔ East Asian (Chinese) mythology inspired fantasy

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: empire (explores imperialism), legacy, fate, choice, and power

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of character driven stories, fans of YA fantasy or new to or enjoy Xianxia or Chinese influenced mythology

𝐂𝐖: death, war, gore, torture, murder

Thank you to Caffeine Tours and the publisher for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Some favourite quotes:

â€œđ‡đąđŹđ­đšđ«đČ 𝐱𝐬 đ§đžđŻđžđ« đ°đ«đąđ­đ­đžđ§ 𝐛đČ 𝐱𝐭𝐬 𝐯𝐱𝐜𝐭𝐱𝐩𝐬.”

“𝐈𝐭 𝐱𝐬 đČđšđźđ« 𝐜𝐡𝐹𝐱𝐜𝐞. 𝐁𝐼𝐭 đ€đ§đšđ° 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬: đžđŻđžđ«đČ 𝐜𝐡𝐹𝐱𝐜𝐞 𝐡𝐚𝐬 𝐱𝐭𝐬 𝐜𝐹𝐧𝐬𝐞đȘ𝐼𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞, 𝐚𝐧𝐝 đČ𝐹𝐼 𝐩𝐼𝐬𝐭 𝐰𝐞𝐱𝐠𝐡 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐜𝐹𝐧𝐬𝐞đȘ𝐼𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐹𝐟 đČđšđźđ« 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐱𝐹𝐧𝐬.”

“𝐒𝐹𝐩𝐞𝐭𝐱𝐩𝐞𝐬, 𝐝𝐹𝐱𝐧𝐠 𝐧𝐹𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐧𝐠 𝐱𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 đ°đšđ«đŹđ­ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐧𝐠 đČ𝐹𝐼 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐝𝐹.”

June CL Tan grew up in Singapore where she was raised on a diet of classic books and wuxia movies, caffeine and congee. She holds various degrees in communication studies, education, and film. After teaching for a few years, she took a detour into the finance industry. To no one’s surprise, she soon realized her mistake and made her escape. Now, she resides in New York City, talking to imaginary people and creating fantastical worlds under the watchful eye of her crafty cat. She enjoys telling stories that draw on both the traditional and modern to create something fresh to the eye, but familiar to the heart. Jade Fire Gold is her debut novel. 

Website | Goodreads | Instagram | Twitter | TikTok

Again, please feel free to follow the next tour stops. The Tour Schedule can be found here.

Have you read this? Will you be reading Jade Fire Gold?

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Lakesedge | Book Review

UK edition
US edition

Title: Lakesedge
Author: Lyndall Clipstone
Publisher: Titan Books
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of gothic romance fantasy, fans of For the Wolf, House of Salt and Sorrow, fans of flowery writing
CW: emotional + physical parental abuse, body horror, gore, exploration of death + grief, drowning, self-injury (e.g. cutting)

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

A lush gothic fantasy about monsters and magic, set on the banks of a cursed lake. Perfect for fans of Naomi Novik and Brigid Kemmerer.

There are monsters in the world.

When Violeta Graceling arrives at haunted Lakesedge estate, she expects to find a monster. She knows the terrifying rumors about Rowan Sylvanan, who drowned his entire family when he was a boy. But neither the estate nor the monster are what they seem.

There are monsters in the woods.

As Leta falls for Rowan, she discovers he is bound to the Lord Under, the sinister death god lurking in the black waters of the lake. A creature to whom Leta is inexplicably drawn


There’s a monster in the shadows, and now it knows my name.

Now, to save Rowan—and herself—Leta must confront the darkness in her past, including unraveling the mystery of her connection to the Lord Under.

𝐆 𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ Dark, gothic read incorporating a simple yet beautiful writing style. The beautiful descriptors evoke a rich and eerie atmosphere. Normally, I enjoy a straightforward type of writing, but here the narrative was fun and easy to read.
‱ Intriguing premise with promising concepts—magic? Broody love interest with a mysterious past? Suffocating atmosphere and spooky mansions? Yes, please!

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
‱ I know I mentioned how I enjoyed the writing, however, I understand that it won’t be for everyone. The flowery language paints pretty pictures and can get repetitive if you’re not a fan or think about it too closely (I don’t know what silt and shadows taste like? And I’m not sure I want to…)
‱ Whilst I somewhat like the main character, she can seem a bit too self-sacrificial at times and her poor choicesℱ did frustrate me more than once. I also didn’t appreciate how she never communicates anything with anyone!! Despite promising her younger brother that “we’ll figure things out together” she runs out and does things herself with no consideration of anyone. I really empathise with her younger brother. How can someone be so “selfless” and selfish at the same time??
‱ I really enjoyed the first part of the book and then
 arghhh!!! Why did I think this was a stand-alone??

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 đ§đźđ­đŹđĄđžđ„đ„, đ«đžđšđ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬 𝐱𝐟 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ„đąđ€đž:
✔ monster boys
✔ sibling love
✔ eerie atmospheric reads

“𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 đđšđ«đ€đ§đžđŹđŹ đ­đźđ«đ§ 𝐡𝐱𝐩 𝐱𝐧𝐭𝐹 𝐚 đŠđšđ§đŹđ­đžđ«.
𝐈’𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐞𝐞𝐧 𝐱𝐭 𝐟𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐧𝐝 đŸđžđ„đ­ 𝐭𝐡𝐞 đžđ§đđ„đžđŹđŹđ§đžđŹđŹ 𝐹𝐟 𝐱𝐭𝐬 đĄđźđ§đ đžđ«.
𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐧𝐹𝐰 𝐈 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐛𝐞𝐧𝐞𝐚𝐭𝐡 𝐱𝐭𝐬 đĄđžđšđ«đ­.”

~ 𝑳𝒚𝒏𝒅𝒂𝒍𝒍 đ‘Ș𝒍𝒊𝒑𝒔𝒐𝒏𝒆, 𝑳𝒂𝒌𝒆𝒔𝒆𝒅𝒈𝒆

Please note: This is NOT a stand-alone.

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: first love, sacrificing yourself for others

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of gothic romance fantasy, fans of For the Wolf, House of Salt and Sorrow, Down Comes the Night

𝐂𝐖: emotional + physical parental abuse, body horror, gore, exploration of death + grief, drowning, self-injury (e.g. cutting)

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (Titan Books) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

𝘗𝘭𝘩𝘱𝘮𝘩 đ˜Żđ˜°đ˜”đ˜Š: đ˜”đ˜©đ˜Š đ˜Čđ˜¶đ˜°đ˜”đ˜Š 𝘭đ˜Șđ˜Žđ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ đ˜©đ˜Šđ˜łđ˜Š 𝘱𝘳𝘩 đ˜€đ˜Șđ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘼 𝘱𝘯 đ˜ˆđ˜„đ˜·đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜€đ˜Š đ˜™đ˜Šđ˜ąđ˜„đ˜Ș𝘯𝘹 đ˜Šđ˜°đ˜±đ˜ș (𝘈𝘙𝘊) đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜„ 𝘼𝘱đ˜ș 𝘣𝘩 đ˜Žđ˜¶đ˜Łđ˜«đ˜Šđ˜€đ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ đ˜”đ˜° đ˜€đ˜©đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜šđ˜Š đ˜¶đ˜±đ˜°đ˜Ż đ˜±đ˜¶đ˜Łđ˜­đ˜Șđ˜€đ˜ąđ˜”đ˜Ș𝘰𝘯.

Are you reading any spooky reads this month?
Otherwise, what do you plan to read?

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I Hate You More | Book Review

Title: I Hate You More
Author: Lucy Gilmore
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
đ—Šđ—œđ—¶đ—°đ—Č: đŸŒ¶ đŸŒ¶
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of light-hearted romance, dogs, ambitious main characters
CW: mentions starving oneself, mentions gambling

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

Discover what makes Lucy Gilmore an instant fan favorite with this unforgettably funny enemies-to-lovers romcom starring:
‱ a grumpy dog show judge
‱ a determined former beauty queen
‱ and a Golden Retriever more interested in stealing bacon than winning Best in Show.


Ruby Taylor gave up pageant life the day she turned eighteen and figured she’d never look back. But when an old friend begs her to show her beloved Golden Retriever at the upcoming Canine Classic, Ruby reluctantly straps on her heels and gets to work.

If only she knew exactly what the adorably lazy lump of a dog was getting her into.

If there’s one thing veterinarian Spencer Wilson knows in this world, it’s dogs. Human beings are an entirely different animal. Especially stubborn, gorgeous women clearly in way over their heads. As judge for the local dog show, Spencer advises Ruby to quit while she still can, but her old fervor for winning has returned―and she wants to show the stern, broody-eyed judge that she’s more than just a pretty face. In the end, she’ll show him who’s best in show.

With many years of beauty pageantry under her belt and a taciturn Golden Retriever in lead, Ruby Taylor has what it takes to make her dog win the dog show. Never mind the fact that Wheezy, the Golden Retriever with questionable heritage, isn’t really her dog or may not respond to commands. Or calls. Or anything, really. But with a self-proclaimed dog trainer and numerous cheeseburgers in hand, Ruby and Wheezy have what it takes to win. The only thing standing in her way of winning is one particular dog show judge—Spencer Wilson.

As a veterinarian and dog show judge, Spencer thinks it’s an absolute joke and offence to the Classic Canine show that Wheezy, a mutt, is here to win. But with Ruby’s grit determination and Wheezy’s unique charm, they may just win more than a gold medal.

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ The premise alone lured me to this book because who doesn’t love dogs, a veterinarian + dog judge love interest, and a dog pageant?!
‱ I liked the characters here: the star of the show, Wheezy, the questionable Golden Retriever was the cutest! The main character, Ruby, was ambitious, determined, and strived for more. The love interest was taciturn, strict, yet genuine and shy. The side characters (Mrs Orson, Eva, Caleb, etc.) were fun and endearing.
‱ This was an entertaining, cute quick read with funny and heart-warming moments. There was little spice but not too much.

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
‱ The relationship lacked depth. Whilst I enjoyed the two main characters and their interactions, I failed to see how their attractions developed into love and how they claimed to have loved each other.
‱ Some scenes felt like it came out of nowhere? I had to reread certain parts to ensure I did read it right.
‱ I appreciate how they wanted the MC (Ex-beauty pageant) to be more than her looks, however, the story constantly referred her to her outward appearance and it felt counterproductive at times.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 đ§đźđ­đŹđĄđžđ„đ„, đ«đžđšđ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬 𝐱𝐟 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ„đąđ€đž:
✔ dogs
✔ grumpy X sunshine characters
✔ enemies (sort of) to lovers
✔ slow-burn romance

“𝐘𝐹𝐼 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐝𝐹 𝐚𝐧đČ𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐧𝐠 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ©đźđ­ đČđšđźđ« 𝐩𝐱𝐧𝐝 𝐭𝐹. đ“đšđ€đž 𝐱𝐭 đŸđ«đšđŠ 𝐚 𝐰𝐹𝐩𝐚𝐧 𝐰𝐡𝐹 đŹđ©đžđ§đ­ đŸđšđ« 𝐭𝐹𝐹 𝐩𝐚𝐧đČ đČđžđšđ«đŹ 𝐝𝐹𝐱𝐧𝐠 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐬𝐡𝐞 𝐰𝐚𝐬 đ­đšđ„đ. 𝐋𝐱𝐟𝐞 𝐱𝐬 𝐬𝐹 𝐩𝐼𝐜𝐡 đ›đžđ­đ­đžđ« 𝐰𝐡𝐞𝐧 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ„đąđŻđž 𝐱𝐭 𝐹𝐧 đČđšđźđ« 𝐹𝐰𝐧 đ­đžđ«đŠđŹ.”

~ 𝑳𝒖𝒄𝒚 𝑼𝒊𝒍𝒎𝒐𝒓𝒆, 𝑰 𝑯𝒂𝒕𝒆 𝒀𝒐𝒖 𝑮𝒐𝒓𝒆

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: self-acceptance, family dynamics

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of light-hearted romance, dogs, ambitious main characters

𝐂𝐖: mentions starving oneself, mentions gambling

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (Sourcebook Casablanca) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 𝐌đČ đŸđźđ„đ„ đ«đžđŻđąđžđ° 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐟𝐹𝐼𝐧𝐝 𝐹𝐧 𝐩đČ đ›đ„đšđ : đ›đšđšđ€đŹđ°đąđ­đĄđŁđšđČ.𝐜𝐹𝐩 𝐚𝐧𝐝 đ°đąđ„đ„ 𝐛𝐞 đ©đšđŹđ­đžđ 𝐹𝐧 𝐩đČ đ›đ„đšđ  đźđ©đšđ§ đ©đźđ›đ„đąđœđšđ­đąđšđ§ 𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐞.

𝘗𝘭𝘩𝘱𝘮𝘩 đ˜Żđ˜°đ˜”đ˜Š: đ˜”đ˜©đ˜Š đ˜Čđ˜¶đ˜°đ˜”đ˜Š 𝘭đ˜Șđ˜Žđ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ đ˜©đ˜Šđ˜łđ˜Š 𝘱𝘳𝘩 đ˜€đ˜Șđ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘼 𝘱𝘯 đ˜ˆđ˜„đ˜·đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜€đ˜Š đ˜™đ˜Šđ˜ąđ˜„đ˜Ș𝘯𝘹 đ˜Šđ˜°đ˜±đ˜ș (𝘈𝘙𝘊) đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜„ 𝘼𝘱đ˜ș 𝘣𝘩 đ˜Žđ˜¶đ˜Łđ˜«đ˜Šđ˜€đ˜”đ˜Šđ˜„ đ˜”đ˜° đ˜€đ˜©đ˜ąđ˜Żđ˜šđ˜Š đ˜¶đ˜±đ˜°đ˜Ż đ˜±đ˜¶đ˜Łđ˜­đ˜Șđ˜€đ˜ąđ˜”đ˜Ș𝘰𝘯.

This book will be published on 2 November 2021, check it out!

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Like A Love Song | Book Review

Title: Like a Love Song
Author: Gabriela Martins
Publisher: Underlined
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Rating: ★★★★☆
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of YA contemporary, fake-dating trope, and cute, fluffy romance
CW: racism, public humiliation

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

This debut paperback original romance follows a Latina teen pop star whose image takes a dive after a messy public breakup, until she’s set up with a swoon-worthy fake boyfriend.

Fake boyfriend. Real heartbreak?

Natalie is living her dream: topping the charts and setting records as a Brazilian pop star
until she’s dumped spectacularly on live television. Not only is it humiliating—it could end her career.

Her PR team’s desperate plan? A gorgeous yet oh-so-fake boyfriend. Nati reluctantly agrees, but William is not what she expected. She was hoping for a fierce bad boy—not a soft-hearted British indie film star. While she fights her way back to the top with a sweet and surprisingly swoon-worthy boy on her arm, she starts to fall for William—and realizes that maybe she’s the biggest fake of them all. Can she reclaim her voice and her heart?

Honestly, this was such a cute and entertaining read!

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ Light-hearted, fast-paced and fun read
‱ This book explores assimilation and how it connects to one’s identity (I could personally relate to this aspect and appreciate reading it because I haven’t read many books that explore this). I love how it delves into one’s culture and the importance of self-acceptance and love. My younger self definitely needed a book like this!
‱ Positive female friendship. I adored how they celebrated and brought each other up. Love it.
‱ Love Nati’s growth and her journey.
‱ Would’ve loved this and needed this book when I was younger!

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
‱ Maybe it’s just me, but I would’ve appreciated more communication on William’s end, especially towards the end of the book.

𝐈𝐧 𝐚 đ§đźđ­đŹđĄđžđ„đ„, đ«đžđšđ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬 𝐱𝐟 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ„đąđ€đž:
✔ fake-dating trope
✔ golden retriever/cinnamon roll love interest
✔ only one bed
✔ opposites attract
✔ celebrity main characters

“𝐇𝐹𝐰 𝐝𝐹 𝐈 đ­đžđ„đ„ đĄđžđ« 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈 𝐜𝐚𝐧 𝐛𝐞 𝐛𝐹𝐭𝐡 đšđźđ­đ«đšđ đžđ 𝐚𝐭 đĄđžđ« đąđŠđ©đžđ«đąđšđ„đąđŹđ­ đ„đšđ§đ đźđšđ đž 𝐚𝐧𝐝 đšđ„đŹđš 𝐧𝐹𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐹 𝐠𝐹 đ›đšđœđ€ 𝐭𝐹 𝐩đČ 𝐡𝐹𝐩𝐞 đœđšđźđ§đ­đ«đČ 𝐭𝐹 𝐝𝐹 đŻđšđ„đźđ§đ­đžđžđ« đ°đšđ«đ€ 𝐰𝐱𝐭𝐡 đŹđ­đ«đšđ§đ đžđ«đŹ 𝐱𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐹𝐟 đ°đ«đąđ­đąđ§đ  𝐩đČ 𝐩𝐼𝐬𝐱𝐜 𝐚𝐧𝐝 đ„đąđŻđąđ§đ  𝐩đČ đ„đąđŸđž?”

~ 𝑼𝒂𝒃𝒓𝒊𝒆𝒍𝒂 𝑮𝒂𝒓𝒕𝒊𝒏𝒔, 𝑳𝒊𝒌𝒆 𝒂 𝑳𝒐𝒗𝒆 đ‘ș𝒐𝒏𝒈

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: assimilation and reconnecting to your culture (Brazilian-American), identity, coming of age

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of YA contemporary, fans of fake-dating trope,

𝐂𝐖: racism, public humiliation

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@GetUnderlined) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

 â€

𝐐𝐹𝐭𝐃: What are you currently reading and what’s a song that reminds you of it?

𝐀𝐹𝐭𝐃: Obviously, I thought of “Love you like a love song” by Selena Gomez when I read this book and man that song is so nostalgic for me.

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Ace of Spades | Book Review

Title: Ace of Spades
Author: Faridah ÀbĂ­kĂ©-ÍyĂ­mĂ­dé 
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Thriller
Rating: ★★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: everyone, fans of YA thrillers and thrillers
CW: racism, death, homophobia, gaslighting, abuse (bullying, etc.)

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice.

Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light.


Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power.

Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game… 

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ love the narration, the tension and the suspense! I NEEDED to find the answers and refused to put this book down
‱ I love the two main characters—Chiamaka and Devon are both strong and endearing characters in their own right. Chiamaka’s strong-willed, go-getter attitude is something I admire
‱ Devon is sweet and caring, but willing to do what it takes for his loved ones
‱ The ending!

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
‱ pacing at the first 20% felt slow although I can understand the set-up

đ—§đ—”đ—Œđ˜‚đ—Žđ—”đ˜đ˜€ đ˜„đ—”đ—¶đ—č𝘀𝘁 𝗿đ—Čđ—źđ—±đ—¶đ—»đ—Ž:

0-10%: Wow, this is so fun. I already like the narration. Chiamaka is the best and I like Devon

Wait WHAT!!!!!! What are they talking about???!!

17%: Ahhh!! The gaslighting is so annoying!!

I don’t know if it’s just my version and the format, but it’s difficult to know who’s narrating at times. (Or maybe I just lack the brain cells… yes, that must be it…)

Chiamaka is pretty naive at times… I DON’T LIKE THIS PERSON, CHI!!

Ahhh!! Don’t trust anyone!! PLEASE!!!

25% ONWARDS: asdhjlsgkl;gslk ????!!!!

Cue song: ‘Oh no’ by Capone.

Honestly, from the 25% mark to the 100% I was on the edge of my seat, anxiously flying through the pages. BUT to ease things up, I did enjoy the ending.

but I’m still thinking about everything… and it’s got me like this:

TO SUM IT UP:

𝐖𝐡đČ đČ𝐹𝐼 đŹđĄđšđźđ„đ đ«đžđšđ 𝐭𝐡𝐱𝐬 đ›đšđšđ€:
‱ A nuanced take on and the exploration of institutional and systematic racism, classism, white supremacy, and sexuality
‱ A queer black story that shows a peek of living under the gaze of white supremacy

♠ Ace of Spades is a heart-racing and heart-wrenching story with compelling and endearing characters and haunting social commentary. Real and raw, terrifying and thought-provoking, Ace of Spades is a must-read.

“𝐈 đŹđ­đšđ© 𝐩đČđŹđžđ„đŸ đŸđ«đšđŠ đšđ©đšđ„đšđ đąđłđąđ§đ -𝐛𝐞𝐜𝐚𝐼𝐬𝐞 𝐰𝐡𝐚𝐭 đ°đšđźđ„đ 𝐈 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐧 𝐛𝐞 đŹđšđ«đ«đČ đŸđšđ«? đ„đ±đąđŹđ­đąđ§đ  𝐭𝐹𝐹 đ„đšđźđ?”

Faridah ÀbĂ­kĂ©-ÍyĂ­mĂ­dĂ©, Ace of Spades

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: race, class, sexuality, and familial themes

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: everyone, fans of YA thrillers, and thrillers

𝐂𝐖: racism, death, homophobia, gaslighting, abuse (bullying, etc.)

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@UsborneYA) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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Anticipated ARCs Everyone Should Check Out | Book Rambles

The ARC Gods have been quite generous and I feel that I must share some ARCS I’m so excited to read. Some of these have been on my highly anticipated reads list and some I’ve discovered via NetGalley.

Six Crimson Cranes ‱ by Elizabeth Lim
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retelling
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 8 July 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– fan of Elizabeth’s writing (written Spin the Dawn)
– intriguing premise
– arranged marriage trope

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These Hollow Vows ‱ Lexi Ryan
Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 20 Jult 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– promising premise! desperate to read it
– love stories to do with Fae
– love triangle (lol we know I love the drama)

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‱

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She Who Became the Sun ‱ Shelley Parker-Chan
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Fantasy
Publisher: Pan Macmillan, Mantle
Publish Date: 22 July 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– historical fantasy re-imagining of Zhu Yuanzhang!!
– intriguing premise
– tragedy, yearning, ambition, and magic

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‱

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Not Here to be Liked ‱ Michelle Quach
Genre: Romance, Young Adult
Publisher: Usborne Publishing
Publish Date: 16 September

Why I’m excited to read it:
– rivals to lovers!!
– features an unlikeable female character & intersectional feminism
– coming of age

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Little Thieves ‱ Margaret Owen
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Publish Date: 5 October 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– huge fan of Margaret Owen (author of The Merciful Crow)
– LOVE the premise!
– unlikeable MC, yes please!

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Iron Widow ‱ Ziran Jay Zhao
Genre: Science Fiction, retelling
Publisher: Oneworld Publications, Rock the Boat
Publish Date: 7 October 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– retelling of Wu Zetian!!!
– FINALLY! A Polyam instead of a love triangle!
– I’m in love with the premise, the cover, everything

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‱

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Within These Wicked Walls ‱ Lauren Blackwood
Genre: Young Adult, Retelling, Fantasy
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publish Date: 9 November 2021

Why I’m excited to read it:
– Ethiopian inspired retelling of Jane Eyre
– Okay, I’ve never finished reading the original Jane Eyre but I’m excited
– Intriguing premise, gothic atmosphere

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‱

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Have you read any of these books? Or are any of these books are on your radar?

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The Wolf and the Woodsman | Book Review

Title: The Wolf and the Woodsman
Author: Ava Reid
Publisher: Del Rey
Genre: Adult Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★
Where can I get this? Goodreads | Booktopia | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble
Recommended for: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers
CW: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Check out the Goodreads synopsis below!

In her forest-veiled pagan village, Évike is the only woman without power, making her an outcast clearly abandoned by the gods. The villagers blame her corrupted bloodline—her father was a Yehuli man, one of the much-loathed servants of the fanatical king. When soldiers arrive from the Holy Order of Woodsmen to claim a pagan girl for the king’s blood sacrifice, Évike is betrayed by her fellow villagers and surrendered.

But when monsters attack the Woodsmen and their captive en route, slaughtering everyone but Évike and the cold, one-eyed captain, they have no choice but to rely on each other. Except he’s no ordinary Woodsman—he’s the disgraced prince, Gáspár Bárány, whose father needs pagan magic to consolidate his power. Gáspár fears that his cruelly zealous brother plans to seize the throne and instigate a violent reign that would damn the pagans and the Yehuli alike. As the son of a reviled foreign queen, Gáspár understands what it’s like to be an outcast, and he and Évike make a tenuous pact to stop his brother.

As their mission takes them from the bitter northern tundra to the smog-choked capital, their mutual loathing slowly turns to affection, bound by a shared history of alienation and oppression. However, trust can easily turn to betrayal, and as Évike reconnects with her estranged father and discovers her own hidden magic, she and GĂĄspĂĄr need to decide whose side they’re on, and what they’re willing to give up for a nation that never cared for them at all. 

𝐆𝐔𝐒𝐇:
‱ rich and evocative world-building, great atmospheric read
‱ compelling, lyrical writing
‱ Jewish mythology inspired
‱ Prideful prince brought to his knees
‱ Évike’s (MC) relationship with a certain family member

𝐆𝐑𝐈𝐏𝐄:
‱ pacing especially the last 10%
‱ I wish we could witness more resolution regarding certain aspects

Writing:
The writing style immediately drew me in. Whimsical and magical at times, there’s a dark and gritty atmosphere throughout the novel which is quite fitting to the tone of the story.

Romance:
If you’re a fan of enemies-to-lovers that are not only stuck with each other but must work together, boy, do I have a book for you. There’s a romance that will bring you to your knees. Your knees.

Setting & World-Building:
As previously mentioned, this novel is inspired by Hungarian history and Jewish mythology. Additionally, the author states that this is a work reflecting and exploring nation-building. Therefore, brutal themes such as cultural genocide, ethnic cleansing, and religious persecution are explored in this novel.

Also, the scenes and experiences in this novel may give off visceral reactions. There were times where I had to physically put down the book and think, pace around the room, and pick the book up again. For me, being in the diaspora, struggles with identity and searching for a sense of belonging evoked such feelings and emotions I can’t quite articulate yet as I witnessed Évike’s journey. Évike is a character that is both heartbreaking and hopeful. Despite exploring heavy themes, Reid ensures that joy, wit, and hope are woven throughout the story and I adored it. This is particularly evident when Évike is reunited with a certain character and certain interactions with characters.

Overall, The Wolf and the Woodsman is a riveting read, a book that must be savoured upon reading.

“𝐁𝐼𝐭 đČ𝐹𝐼 đźđ§đđžđ«đŹđ­đšđšđ, 𝐚𝐬 𝐈 𝐝𝐹, 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 đŹđźđ«đŻđąđŻđšđ„ 𝐱𝐬 𝐧𝐹𝐭 𝐚 đ›đšđ­đ­đ„đž 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 đČ𝐹𝐼 𝐰𝐱𝐧 đšđ§đ„đČ 𝐹𝐧𝐜𝐞.
𝐘𝐹𝐼 𝐩𝐼𝐬𝐭 𝐟𝐱𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐱𝐭 𝐚𝐠𝐚𝐱𝐧 đžđŻđžđ«đČ 𝐝𝐚đČ. 𝐀𝐧𝐝 𝐬𝐹 đČ𝐹𝐼 đ­đšđ€đž đČđšđźđ« đŹđŠđšđ„đ„ đ„đšđŹđŹđžđŹ 𝐬𝐹 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 đČ𝐹𝐼 𝐜𝐚𝐧 đ„đąđŻđž 𝐭𝐹 𝐟𝐱𝐠𝐡𝐭 đ­đšđŠđšđ«đ«đšđ°.”

đ‘»đ’‰đ’† đ‘Ÿđ’đ’đ’‡ 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒕𝒉𝒆 đ‘Ÿđ’đ’đ’…đ’”đ’Žđ’‚đ’, 𝑹𝒗𝒂 đ‘č𝒆𝒊𝒅

𝐓𝐡𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐬: culture, religion, and identity are explored in this novel

𝐑𝐞𝐜𝐹𝐩𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐝 đŸđšđ«: fans of atmospheric reads set in a magical forest setting, fans of intricate world-building, fans of enemies to lovers

𝐂𝐖: torture, animal deaths, death, self-harm, gore (dismemberment, amputation, mutilation) antisemitism, child abuse, cultural genocide and ethnic cleansing

Thank you to @NetGalley and the publisher (@DelRey) for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

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ARCs I’m Excited to Read in February 2021 | Thoughts and Rambles

I must really thank the ARC gods because somehow I’ve been approved to read and review some of my highly anticipated reads this year. Here’s a few: 

 

Title: Hall of Smoke
Author: H.M. Long
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Epic Fantasy
Pub date: 19 Jan 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
‱ Gorgeous cover.
‱ Intriguing premise.
‱ A warrior main character on a mission for redemption? YES, I WANT IN.


An epic fantasy featuring warrior priestesses and fickle gods at war

Hessa is an Eangi: a warrior priestess of the Goddess of War, with the power to turn an enemy’s bones to dust with a scream. Banished for disobeying her goddess’s command to murder a traveller, she prays for forgiveness alone on a mountainside.

While she is gone, raiders raze her village and obliterate the Eangi priesthood. Grieving and alone, Hessa – the last Eangi – must find the traveller, atone for her weakness and secure her place with her loved ones in the High Halls. As clans from the north and legionaries from the south tear through her homeland, slaughtering everyone in their path, Hessa strives to win back her goddess’ favour.

Beset by zealot soldiers, deceitful gods, and newly-awakened demons at every turn, Hessa burns her path towards redemption and revenge. But her journey reveals a harrowing truth: the gods are dying and the High Halls of the afterlife are fading. Soon Hessa’s trust in her goddess weakens with every unheeded prayer.

Thrust into a battle between the gods of the Old World and the New, Hessa realizes there is far more on the line than securing a life beyond her own death. Bigger, older powers slumber beneath the surface of her world. And they’re about to wake up.


Title: Spellmaker 
Author: Charlie N. Holmberg
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Historical
Pub date: 9 March 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
‱ Love the premise.
‱ MARRIAGE OF CONVENIENCE TROPE YES!
‱ Okay, time for a confession: I didn’t realise this was a sequel so I binge read the first book and LOVED it.


Dead wizards, stolen enchantments, and broken promises force a young spellbreaker out of the shadows in the next thrilling installment of the Spellbreaker series by the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Paper Magician.

England, 1895. An unsolved series of magician murders and opus thefts isn’t a puzzle to Elsie Camden. But to reveal a master spellcaster as the culprit means incriminating herself as an unregistered spellbreaker. When Elsie refuses to join forces with the charming assassin, her secret is exposed, she’s thrown in jail, and the murderer disappears. But Elsie’s hope hasn’t vanished.

Through a twist of luck, the elite magic user Bacchus Kelsey helps Elsie join the lawful, but with a caveat: they must marry to prove their cover story. Forced beneath a magical tutor while her bond with Bacchus grows, Elsie seeks to thwart the plans of England’s most devious criminal—if she can find them.

With hundreds of stolen spells at their disposal, the villain has a plan—and it involves seducing Elsie to the dark side. But even now that her secret is out, Elsie must be careful how she uses the new abilities she’s discovering, or she may play right into the criminal’s hands.


Title: The Shadow in the Glass
Author: J.J.A. Harwood
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Retellings
Pub date: 18 March 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
‱ Because I haven’t read any Cinderella retellings, okay?
‱ I’m so intrigued with the wishes and the price to pay!
‱ Look at the cover. I would love that on my shelf.


Once upon a time Ella had wished for more than her life as a lowly maid.

Now forced to work hard under the unforgiving, lecherous gaze of the man she once called stepfather, Ella’s only refuge is in the books she reads by candlelight, secreted away in the library she isn’t permitted to enter.

One night, among her beloved books of far-off lands, Ella’s wishes are answered. At the stroke of midnight, a fairy godmother makes her an offer that will change her life: seven wishes, hers to make as she pleases. But each wish comes at a price and Ella must to decide whether it’s one she’s willing to pay it.

A smouldering, terrifying new spin on Cinderella – perfect for fans of Laura Purcell and Erin Morgenstern. 


Title: Ace of Spades
Author: Faridah ÀbĂ­kĂ©-ÍyĂ­mĂ­dĂ©
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery/Thriller, Contemporary
Pub date: 10 June 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I wanted to read this:
‱ A Thriller!! Based in school.
‱ LOVE the cover.
‱ The premise, the themes… I need it all.


An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game… 


Title: Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder 
Author: T.A. Willberg
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Pub date: 10 June 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I want to read this:
‱ Love the premise.
‱ MYSTERY! MURDER! MAYHEM!
‱ Have I pointed out the cover? Because it is so beautiful.


The letter was short. A name, a time, a place.

Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder plunges readers into the heart of London, to the secret tunnels that exist far beneath the city streets. There, a mysterious group of detectives recruited for Miss Brickett’s Investigations & Inquiries use their cunning and gadgets to solve crimes that have stumped Scotland Yard.

Late one night in April 1958, a filing assistant for Miss Brickett’s named Michelle White receives a letter warning her that a heinous act is about to occur. She goes to investigate but finds the room empty. At the stroke of midnight, she is murdered by a killer she can’t see—her death the only sign she wasn’t alone. It becomes chillingly clear that the person responsible must also work for Miss Brickett’s, making everyone a suspect.

Almost unwillingly, Marion Lane, a first-year Inquirer-in-training, finds herself being drawn ever deeper into the investigation. When her friend and mentor is framed for the crime, to clear his name she must sort through the hidden alliances at Miss Brickett’s and secrets dating back to WWII. Masterful, clever and deliciously suspenseful, Marion Lane and the Midnight Murder is a fresh take on the Agatha Christie—style locked-room mystery with an exciting new heroine detective at the helm.


Title: She Who Became the Sun
Author: Shelley Parker-Chan
Genre: Adult, Fantasy, Historical Fantasy
Pub date: 22 July 2021

GOODREADS LINK HERE

Why I want to read this:
‱ Okay, let’s first establish the cover is gorgeous.
‱ A reimagining of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty? NEED.
‱ AHHH the synopsis is giving me Red River vibes and I need it.


Mulan meets The Song of Achilles in Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became the Sun, a bold, queer, and lyrical reimagining of the rise of the founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty from an amazing new voice in literary fantasy.

To possess the Mandate of Heaven, the female monk Zhu will do anything

“I refuse to be nothing
”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness


In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.


Have you noticed a similar pattern with how I pick my books? Why am I so drawn to pretty covers?

What entices you to pick up a book?

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