Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater // Book Review

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater // Book Review

What do you get when you combine a historical romance with a little bit of magic? You get this really enchanting first book in the Regency Fairy Tales series and fans of Bridgertons and fantasy will really get a kick out of this one. Thanks to Orbit Books for a gifted copy.

Here’s more about Half a Soul

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

This was such a fun little fairy tale with a little bit of historical romance thrown into it as well. I was immediately swept away by the idea of a young girl having half of her soul removed by a faerie she meets one day. With one grey eye and a lot of her emotions pulled from her, Dora spends most of her life trying not to make the rest of her family look silly in front of the ton. But her and her cousin, Vanessa, are now at the marrying age and she must find a husband.

However, Vanessa has other plans and she wants to help Dora break her curse and retrieve the other half of her soul. So, they plan to go to London and meet the Lord Sorcier (the king’s magician), Elias in hopes that his magic will be powerful enough to break the faerie curse. Elias turns out to be the grumpiest grump who’s more focused on helping those in need than going to balls and finding a wife. I mean, he says it a few times throughout the book so it’s pretty obvious. But of course, Dora and Elias are the main couple of the story. I really loved Dora and Elias. Their relationship starts off rocky, but as the story progresses , well, you can imagine the rest. II will note, for those romance fans, that this doesn’t have any steam. I want to make sure that’s out there.

I’m not a huge fan of historical romances. In general, I need a bit more plot and some more themes throughout the romance to really keep me excited about it. This book has that Regency period romance, but what I loved the most about it was that it took the perspective from outside the ton. I’m not an authority on the subject, but I’ve never read a historical romance novel that looks at how the over half lives; the people who aren’t involved in the ton, who are trying to make it every day with whatever they can make, and the poor treatment of these people by people like the ton. The book explores not only the obvious tropes of a Regency drama, but it also shows the workhouses of the period. Dora and much of the cast of characters outside her own family actually use their wealth to help the needy. It was probably my favorite part of the entire book!

While they’re at the workhouse, they come across a little girl who is sleeping but can’t wake up. It turns out that she’s plagued by something that causes her to sleep without ever waking up and that becomes the main goal for Elias and Dora to figure out. I will say, this part gets a bit dull. It’s great that they are looking for a cure for this plague, but the constant reading books and studying made the story stop short without anything to continue to move it forward.

However, I did love the final part of the book and the conclusion to both Dora’s curse and the sleeping plague. I did think that it moved quickly suddenly especially with the slowness of the middle, but the ending was thrilling, the look into the faerie world was delightful, and I loved how it resolves itself.

Overall, this was a fun little book and I enjoyed it immensely. Coming off of reading Howl’s Moving Castle, I wanted it to be as whimsical as that story, but I still felt enchanted.

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri // Book Review

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri // Book Review

This is one of the books that’s been sitting on my bookshelf for a year and I’m so glad to finally put in the time to read it. Thanks Orbit Books for a gifted copy.

Here’s more about The Jasmine Throne

Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

I was extremely hesitant to start this book and mostly because of its size. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to big books I’m so intimidated by its size that I will put it off again and again. With The Oleander Sword coming out in a couple of months, I knew that it was finally time to pick up The Jasmine Throne. I braced myself for the long haul with my cups of tea and my sharpened pencil, but as I started to read this book, I found myself devouring more and more with each reading session. And suddenly, my anxiety about this story subsided. I was feeling in my element. I felt like I could conquer this book no problem, which is what you want to feel when you’re reading something over 500 pages long.

It moves in a way where you forget how many pages are in the book and focus on the story itself, which is good because who wants to read something where you can actually feel the length of the book more than the story within the pages. She has surprises behind every corner and once you figured out the premise of the book, once you start understanding what this book is about, then you start to see the complex web Tasha Suri is weaving. Which is why I’m finding it difficult to write this review. There’s very little you can share without giving away too much of the plot, but know that this story is about a group of people who are looking to free themselves from the tyranny of a psychotic Emperor. And while each character has their own reasons for fighting with the rebellion, they all have one common goal.

The story follows many different characters. In fact, there’s an entire list of characters at the end of the book because so many are introduced. There were multiple perspectives, which I worried would be difficult to keep track of, but then you see how these perspective played out in the story and how they all interconnect to create the thematic tapestry of the book. But the two main characters are Malini and Priya. Right away, you see what happens to Malini. She’s an exiled princess who didn’t do her duty as such and her tyrannical brother sends her to an old temple that burned down many years ago. It’s a reminder of her duty as a burning princess that she must sacrifice herself in order for the rest of the world to survive. Then you meet Priya, who is a house servant in the main mahal where the temple exist. While she recalls very little about her past, she knows that she survived the fires of the temple burning.

The characters were extremely interesting in the story. Because there were so many perspectives, you see their individual motivations. You can read what they were trying to accomplish and what was moving them towards rebellion, and you realize that their aims are all the same. They all wanted freedom in some form; freedom of oppression, freedom from gender-based beliefs, freedom from strict religious beliefs, freedom from their prisons, their ailments, their strife. The world is chaotic with multiple perspectives and multiple issues all taking place at the same time, and they all carefully make their way towards each other like flies to the flame. I think this was the most impressive part of the story and how Tasha Suri was able to bring these characters together in such an expert way.

I think if I could find flaw in this story it would be within the magic system. I don’t want to give too much away, but I found myself wanting to learn more about the temple burning, the yaksa, the rot, and other components used throughout the story that built into the system. It was all intriguing, but I think because we’re getting the story from the few survivors of the temple fire that we lose a lot of the history behind it. It would have made for a much more robust worldbuilding, but it wasn’t so bad to make the book extremely flawed.

While it’s the first book in a series, it also wraps up very well. I’ve read first books in a series where it was setting you up for the second book and have read books within a series that are filler for the next book. This stands on its own laying the groundwork for the much bigger plot that will eventually take place in the forthcoming novels. I feel like I know these characters now. I feel like the time was taken to create them, finesse them to the people they were supposed to be, and now the next book will launch them into the fates their supposed to meet.

Overall, it was such an incredible tale that may not grab you by the throat with its action and adventure, but it builds like a slow ember into a blazing fire and will keep you reading to the very end. I’m very excited to read the next book and continue this series.

For the Throne by Hannah Whitten // Book Review

For the Throne by Hannah Whitten // Book Review

My mood’s dictating my reading now and while I didn’t plan on reading For the Throne this month, here I am finished, absolutely in love with the story, and ready to share with you all my thoughts. Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted copy.

Here’s more about For the Throne

Red and the Wolf have finally contained the threat of the Old Kings but at a steep cost. Red’s beloved sister Neve, the First Daughter is lost in the Shadowlands, an inverted kingdom where the vicious gods of legend have been trapped for centuries and the Old Kings have slowly been gaining control. But Neve has an ally–though it’s one she’d rather never have to speak to again–the rogue king Solmir.

Solmir wants to bring an end to the Shadowlands and he believes helping Neve may be the key to its destruction. But to do that, they will both have to journey across a dangerous landscape in order to find a mysterious Heart Tree, and finally to claim the gods’ dark, twisted powers for themselves.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

This book was quite different than the story you start off with in For the Wolf. In many ways, I’m happy about that. For the Wolf was dark, brooding, sexy, and filled with blood. For the Throne is more of a fantasy adventure with a very specific plot and finding out more as it unravels is probably the biggest treat of all. I will start off by saying that this review will have spoilers from the first book because it’s a true sequel and picks up where the last book leaves off. Fair warning!

The story focuses more on Neve than on Red and the first chapter pulls you straight into the world that you’ve only read about in For the Wolf. The Shadowlands are this creepy, colorless world where demons roam, gods are king, and the borders are crumbling. You’re immediately met with Solmir, who kisses Neve to wake her from her glass coffin (hellooooo Snow White). But after that, it’s a journey to fight the Kings who have been slowly feeding on the gods of old in order to destroy the Shadowlands and return to the real world. Solmir is on a mission to make sure that doesn’t happen. Neve is about to join in that same mission.

This is what I really loved about this book. For the Wolf felt like it was missing a central plot to move the story forward. You were on this ride wondering where this was all going, but this one was a much clearer objective; kill the Kings, get back to the real world without them. I found myself wanting to read more of Neve’s story than Red’s, but I think both of their stories combined eventually made for an intriguing subplot.

Without giving too much away, Neve and Red are having similar dreams about trees and keys which feel like the magic of the world trying to explain how they can finally find each other. One of the key themes of this book was love; sisterly love, romantic love, and platonic love. These examples of love really drove the characters, made them who they are or changed them in significant ways. I love how it played such a massive role in the story especially for Neve and Red.

The other big theme I absolutely loved in this book is the good vs. evil idea. Good people who think they’re doing good are actually evil and evil people who don’t think their good are actually good. I love that play on those worlds because good and evil are never black and white and that gray in between plays a huge role here.

However, this book isn’t completely perfect. There were points throughout the story where logic didn’t lead well and I was confused by how certain characters came to their conclusions. While I think there were parts that needed work, I overlooked them in the end.

Overall, it’s masterfully crafted, beautifully written, and wraps up all the loose ends of the story. I really loved falling deep into this fairy tale rabbit hole and felt all the emotions by the end.

June 2022 TBR

June 2022 TBR

Last month, I felt like I did a huge disservice to myself by trying to read as much as possible, challenge myself to read in every single moment I had available in the day, read multiple books if I have to. And I ended the month early with the worst burnout I’ve ever had before. I was so tired of reading that I barely finished the rest of the books on my very ambitious TBR.

I took some time to think about things and I came to the conclusion that I can’t read like I did when I was unemployed. I have a full time job now that requires me to read emails and work on writing all day long. And as much as I love doing my job, I am exhausted by the end of the day. My husband reminds me daily that reading is supposed to be a hobby and I should be enjoying it. I shouldn’t feel like another job on top of everything else that I’m doing. And I don’t get paid to do this!

So I’m taking a step back. I’m taking a step back from trying to fit reading into every single moment of my day. I’m taking a step back from trying to read more than ten books a month! I need to be mindful of my mental health, my other hobbies, and try not to be jealous of the other readers out there who can hold down a full time job, take care of their kids, and also read 15 books a month. It’s a reality that I need to face and recognize for myself.

I think this will be good for me. I’d like to take the next few months to really organize myself for the rest of the year. I want to focus on the books I’m very excited to read rather than the ones I thought might be fun to check out. So without further delay, here’s what I’ll be reading in June:

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri

Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri’s The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess’s traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


Hunt the Stars by Jessie Mihalik

The critically acclaimed author of Polaris Rising takes readers on an exciting journey with the start of her brand-new series about a female bounty hunter and the man who is her sworn enemy.

Octavia Zarola would do anything to keep her tiny, close-knit bounty hunting crew together—even if it means accepting a job from Torran Fletcher, a ruthless former general and her sworn enemy. When Torran offers her enough credits to not only keep her crew afloat but also hire someone to fix her ship, Tavi knows that she can’t refuse—no matter how much she’d like to.

With so much money on the line, Torran and his crew insist on joining the hunt. Tavi reluctantly agrees because while the handsome, stoic leader pushes all of her buttons—for both anger and desire—she’s endured worse, and the massive bonus payment he’s promised for a completed job is reason enough to shut up and deal.

But when they uncover a deeper plot that threatens the delicate peace between humans and Valoffs, Tavi suspects that Torran has been using her as the impetus for a new war. With the fate of her crew balanced on a knife’s edge, Tavi must decide where her loyalties lie—with the quiet Valoff who’s been lying to her, or with the human leaders who left her squad to die on the battlefield. And this time, she’s put her heart on the line.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


Seven Days in June by Tia Williams

Brooklynite Eva Mercy is a single mom and bestselling erotica writer, who is feeling pressed from all sides. Shane Hall is a reclusive, enigmatic, award-winning literary author who, to everyone’s surprise, shows up in New York.

When Shane and Eva meet unexpectedly at a literary event, sparks fly, raising not only their past buried traumas, but the eyebrows of New York’s Black literati. What no one knows is that twenty years earlier, teenage Eva and Shane spent one crazy, torrid week madly in love. They may be pretending that everything is fine now, but they can’t deny their chemistry – or the fact that they’ve been secretly writing to each other in their books ever since.

Over the next seven days in the middle of a steamy Brooklyn summer, Eva and Shane reconnect, but Eva’s not sure how she can trust the man who broke her heart, and she needs to get him out of New York so that her life can return to normal. But before Shane disappears again, there are a few questions she needs answered…

With its keen observations of Black life and the condition of modern motherhood, as well as the consequences of motherless-ness, Seven Days in June is by turns humorous, warm and deeply sensual.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


The Ballad of Perilous Graves by Alex Jennings

In a fantastical version of New Orleans where music is magic, a battle for the city’s soul brews between two young mages, a vengeful wraith, and one powerful song in this vibrant and imaginative debut.

Nola is a city full of wonders. A place of sky trolleys and dead cabs, where haints dance the night away and Wise Women keep the order, and where songs walk, talk and keep the spirit of the city alive. To those from Far Away, Nola might seem strange. To failed magician, Perilous Graves, it’s simply home. Then the rhythm stutters.

Nine songs of power have escaped from the magical piano that maintains the city’s beat and without them, Nola will fail. Unexpectedly, Perry and his sister, Brendy, are tasked with saving the city. But a storm is brewing and the Haint of All Haints is awake. Even if they capture the songs, Nola’s time might be coming to an end

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


On Rotation by Shirlene Obuobi

A spectacular novel of family, friendship, and finding your way in life…and in love.

Angie Appiah is the epitome of the Perfect Immigrant Daughter. She’s got it all: medical school credentials, a handsome lawyer boyfriend, and ride or die friends. But what happens when everything falls apart? Her boyfriend dumps her, she bombs the most important exam of her medical career, and her closest confidante and roommate pulls away, telling Angie she’s more wrapped up in herself than in her friends.

Angie is crushed. She’s always faced her problems by working “twice as hard to get half as far and until now, that’s done well for her. When did life get so complicated? Suddenly, she begins to question everything: her career choice, her friendships, even why she’s attracted to men who don’t love her as much as she loves them. And just when things couldn’t get more confusing, enter Ricky, brilliant, thoughtful, sexy, but who has wasteman practically tattooed across his forehead. For someone who’s always been in control, Angie realizes that there’s one thing she can’t plan on: matters of her heart.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


This Vicious Grace by Emily Thiede

Three weddings. Three funerals. Alessa’s gift from the gods is supposed to magnify a partner’s magic, not kill every suitor she touches.

Now, with only weeks left until a hungry swarm of demons devours everything on her island home, Alessa is running out of time to find a partner and stop the invasion. When a powerful priest convinces the faithful that killing Alessa is the island’s only hope, her own soldiers try to assassinate her.

Desperate to survive, Alessa hires Dante, a cynical outcast marked as a killer, to become her personal bodyguard. But as rebellion explodes outside the gates, Dante’s dark secrets may be the biggest betrayal. He holds the key to her survival and her heart, but is he the one person who can help her master her gift or destroy her once and for all?

Emily Thiede’s exciting fantasy debut, This Vicious Grace, will keep readers turning the pages until the devastating conclusion and leave them primed for more!

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


A Mirror Mended by Alix E. Harrow

A Mirror Mended is the next installment in USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s Fractured Fables series.

Zinnia Gray, professional fairy-tale fixer and lapsed Sleeping Beauty, is over rescuing snoring princesses. Once you’ve rescued a dozen damsels and burned fifty spindles, once you’ve gotten drunk with twenty good fairies and made out with one too many members of the royal family, you start to wish some of these girls would just get a grip and try solving their own narrative issues.

Just when Zinnia’s beginning to think she can’t handle one more princess, she glances into a mirror and sees another face looking back at her: the shockingly gorgeous face of evil, asking for her help. Because there’s more than one person trapped in a story they didn’t choose. Snow White’s Evil Queen has found out how her story ends, and she’s desperate for a better ending. She wants Zinnia to help her before it’s too late for everyone. Will Zinnia accept the Queen’s poisonous request and save them both from the hot-iron shoes that wait for them, or will she try another path?

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

May 2022 Bookish Wrap Up

May 2022 Bookish Wrap Up

May was a difficult month for me this year. There’s a lot happening in the world. There’s a lot happening in my life and the two combined created a great evil that I couldn’t defeat. I burned myself out by mid-month and by the last week, I wasn’t reading anything at all. But despite the mental and emotional struggles I’ve been dealing with, I was still able to finish the month with five books.

I also only had two favorites from this month, but it doesn’t mean that the rest on this list were duds. They had their own merits and I can see how they can really surprise another reader. All of these stories were intriguing and delightful, but I wish my mood leaned more towards reading than it did not reading. If anything, these books deserve a better reader than me because it took a lot out of me to do it.

Favorites of the Month

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah – Sweep me away to a desert isle with jinn, magic, rivalries, and kingdoms to save. These stories always grab my attention and I loved what Chelsea Abdullah did to take the old A Thousand and One Nights and make it something that belongs to her. I loved following the characters and learning about this world. And as you get closer to the end, more secrets are revealed and more intrigue will keep you on your toes until the next book is out. You can read my full review here.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston – I promised myself I wouldn’t read any more contemporary YA romance stories. Why? Because something about being my age and feeling the disconnect between myself and the young people in the story and how that all makes me feel incredibly old. But I decided to try I Kissed Shara Wheeler when my mental health was at its lowest and something like a nice and easy YA romcom will keep me out of my own mind. This was such an unexpected delight. Not only did I love the mystery aspect (without the high-stakes concerns of losing someone’s life), but I also loved the deeper perspective on persona, who we portray ourselves to be, especially in a high school setting, and the discovery of your true self amongst it all. Also, it’s got a compelling romance. You can read my full review here.

Seasonal Fears by Seanan McGuire – I was so excited about this read because of my adoration for Middlegame. And while it didn’t hit the same way Middlegame did, it still blew me away. In this one, Seanan McGuire features the seasonal monarchs, the competition to the throne, and the cut-throat process of claiming Winter and Summer. Alongside Jack Frost and Corn Jenny, Melanie and Harry find that their lifelong friendship is way more connected than they thought. Also, you get a better idea of The Up-And-Under, which is probably my favorite part of the entire series. You can read my full review here.

Honorable Mentions

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten – There is so much I love about this book. I loved the reimagined Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and a few nods to Howl’s Moving Castle. I loved the matriarchal society, the way the trees played a huge role, even the romance! It was such a beautiful debut and definitely looking forward to reading the second book soon. You can read my full review here.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard – This was the shortest fantasy book I wished was much longer. I don’t know if I’m a huge fan of novellas because I always end up wanting to read more if the story is intriguing. And this one is definitely intriguing. A princess who’s been held captive in a rival kingdom only to return and not meet her mother’s expectations. On top of that, falling in love with the princess of the rival kingdom and dealing with PTSD of a fire that nearly killed her. And let’s not forget her mother appointed her the diplomat for her country as well. I mean, it’s a lot and this book was less than 100 pages. I wanted a whole series about the young princess, her journey to freedom, her feelings for loving the rival princess, and coming to grips with her mental struggles. I needed way more. You can read my full review here.

Record of a Spaceborn Few by Becky Chambers – I know. It feels weird to put Becky Chambers into this category and not into my favorites, but this particular story wasn’t a favorite of mine. I loved the existential discussions, the look at a spaceship that holds all of human life after we left earth (think Wall-E, but with more human experiences), and the classic connection all of these characters have to each other. But in comparison to the other books in her repertoire, it wasn’t my favorite. You can read my full review here.

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston // Book Review

I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston // Book Review

Shara freaking Wheeler. This is my third Casey McQuiston and I’m so excited to read their first foray into YA fiction. And let me tell you, it’s so good! Thanks to Wednesday Books for a gifted copy.

Here’s more about I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Chloe Green is so close to winning. After her moms moved her from SoCal to Alabama for high school, she’s spent the past four years dodging gossipy classmates and a puritanical administration at Willowgrove Christian Academy. The thing that’s kept her going: winning valedictorian. Her only rival: prom queen Shara Wheeler, the principal’s perfect progeny.

But a month before graduation, Shara kisses Chloe and vanishes.

On a furious hunt for answers, Chloe discovers she’s not the only one Shara kissed. There’s also Smith, Shara’s longtime quarterback sweetheart, and Rory, Shara’s bad boy neighbor with a crush. The three have nothing in common except Shara and the annoyingly cryptic notes she left behind, but together they must untangle Shara’s trail of clues and find her. It’ll be worth it, if Chloe can drag Shara back before graduation to beat her fair-and-square.

Thrown into an unlikely alliance, chasing a ghost through parties, break-ins, puzzles, and secrets revealed on monogrammed stationery, Chloe starts to suspect there might be more to this small town than she thought. And maybe—probably not, but maybe—more to Shara, too.

Fierce, funny, and frank, Casey McQuiston’s I Kissed Shara Wheeler is about breaking the rules, getting messy, and finding love in unexpected places.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

I picked up this book because I was desperately in need of something different to read than the heavy fantasy books I was reading. I’m so glad I did what I did because this was such a wonderful story with an exploration in identity, persona, and really finding and being your authentic self.

Chloe Green is one of the top students in school. She’s been head-to-head with her biggest school rival, popular and pretty Shara Wheeler. But one day Shara kisses Chloe in an elevator and then disappears a few days later. In hopes of finding out what happened to her, Chloe sneaks into Shara’s bedroom only to meet Rory, another person Shara kissed. From there, they find the first note in a series of letters that lead them to Shara’s whereabouts.

I loved the level of mystery this book had. Shara wasn’t kidnapped. Nothing terrible happened to her. She ran away and created a puzzle for Chloe, Rory, and her ex-boyfriend, Smith, to uncover. With each letter they find, they learn a little bit more about where Shara may be as well as a little bit about Shara.

The story itself was super lighthearted with some serious conversations throughout. I knew that there would be big laughs and joking moments, but I also really appreciated the honest parts discussing gender identity, sexual identity, and just truly finding out who you are.

Another part that I truly appreciated was the consistency in the story. I always read YA stories where the characters are in school, but they never go to class. I loved that Chloe was still going to class everyday, showing up for final exams, and that part of their world was incorporated into the bigger story. It felt genuine for the kids to juggle their real lives with the mystery behind Shara.

This is definitely one of those propulsive books that make you keep reading. You want to find out what happened to Shara. You’re on this big scavenger hunt with Chloe, Smith, and Rory. You want to see what the next letter says and learning more about the kids (as well as the adults) in this book makes it feel more realistic. Although, I will admit there were some parts that really require you to suspend your disbelief, but it still made you laugh.

There’s a lot of play on persona in this novel and I commend Casey McQuiston for diving deep into Jungian psychology throughout the book. I think the only person in this book who didn’t have a persona was Chloe, who came to the school much later than the rest of the main characters in the story. Shara Wheeler was most definitely a study in persona and even Chloe was fooled by the multiple masks she wore. I won’t go any further into it because it might spoil the story, but once you think you’ve figured Shara Wheeler out, a new little twist appears revealing deeper layers behind her.

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten // Book Review

For the Wolf by Hannah Whitten // Book Review

I went into this book thinking it was a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood, but what I ended up with is a book that combines all the great parts of that story plus Beauty and the Beast and Howl’s Moving Castle. Oh, and there’s some blood-drinking trees in it too.

Here’s more about For the Wolf

The first daughter is for the Throne.
The second daughter is for the Wolf.


For fans of Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale comes a dark fantasy novel about a young woman who must be sacrificed to the legendary Wolf of the Wood to save her kingdom. But not all legends are true, and the Wolf isn’t the only danger lurking in the Wilderwood.

As the only Second Daughter born in centuries, Red has one purpose-to be sacrificed to the Wolf in the Wood in the hope he’ll return the world’s captured gods.

Red is almost relieved to go. Plagued by a dangerous power she can’t control, at least she knows that in the Wilderwood, she can’t hurt those she loves. Again.

But the legends lie. The Wolf is a man, not a monster. Her magic is a calling, not a curse. And if she doesn’t learn how to use it, the monsters the gods have become will swallow the Wilderwood-and her world-whole.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

It’s been a while since I’ve read a dark fantasy book and it was thrilling, adventurous, romantic, and mysterious. It really holds all the contents of an expertly written fantasy story within its pages.

I think the first thing I want to talk about is Red. She’s resigned to her fate, kept people at a distance to avoid growing overly attached, and when the fateful day comes for her to enter the woods, she does it without any protest. Her sister, Neve, is also a major character in the story as she doesn’t want to see her sister sacrifice herself and wants to find a way to help her from the grips of the Wilderwood. But when Red finally meets the Wolf, things change. Suddenly, Red isn’t sacrificed. She actually has a chance at life and while she may not be able to leave the woods, she definitely takes this opportunity to have one.

I really love the care Hannah Whitten puts into her characters. They weren’t flat or two-dimensional, but characters who struggle through some horrific ordeals, who are so dynamic that even the woods themselves play a character on their own. I love it when characters are so believable in the way they act that you find yourself invested in what happens to them.

I think readers will really love Eammon (aka The Wolf). While he reads a bit like an alpha male, he’s definitely not the kind that makes you want to punch a wall. Instead, you understand that he’s strict because he cares and while Red may not listen to everything he says, he doesn’t lash out at her with anger like the infamous Beast of Beauty and the Beast.

This story is an amalgamation of that one plus Little Red Riding Hood and Howl’s Moving Castle. I saw so much of Howl in Eammon, a beast because he’s forced to be, a man who slowly changes as the story goes on, and a romance that I didn’t even see coming! I guess romance is a part of Beauty and the Beast and Howl’s and you can see the attraction between the two, so I don’t know why I was so surprised when they finally connected. Perhaps it’s because I’m so used to reading fantasy stories without a lot of romantic entanglement in them. But if you do love a little romance in your reads, then you’ll really enjoy this one.

However, I couldn’t really understand the magic. There’s a lot of inferring language Hannah Whitten uses throughout the story so it almost felt like a giant puzzle to understand what’s going on. Of course, it’s blood magic because it’s not a dark fantasy without it, but it was difficult to understand how it helped to feed the woods and protect them from the shadows. I understood the motivation of the villains and the antagonist was such a reveal, but when it came to the sentinels and the final battle scene, I just felt confused.

Overall, I can see why fans love this book! It’s truly an intriguing fantasy story filled with blood magic, romance, suspense, and some very big twists. If you’re a fan of dark fantasy stories that twist on some classic literature, then this is for you.

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah // Book Review

The Stardust Thief by Chelsea Abdullah // Book Review

Nothing beats being swept away to a desert world filled with magic, jinn, deep political intrigue, and a group of four very different people coming to find a magical lamp. Thanks to Orbit Books for a gifted copy of the book.

Here’s more about The Stardust Thief

Loulie al-Nazari is the Midnight Merchant: a criminal who, with the help of her jinn bodyguard, hunts and sells illegal magic. When she saves the life of a cowardly prince, she draws the attention of his powerful father, the sultan, who blackmails her into finding an ancient lamp that has the power to revive the barren land—at the cost of sacrificing all jinn.

With no choice but to obey or be executed, Loulie journeys with the sultan’s oldest son to find the artifact. Aided by her bodyguard, who has secrets of his own, they must survive ghoul attacks, outwit a vengeful jinn queen, and confront a malicious killer from Loulie’s past. And, in a world where story is reality and illusion is truth, Loulie will discover that everything—her enemy, her magic, even her own past—is not what it seems, and she must decide who she will become in this new reality.

Inspired by stories from One Thousand and One Nights, The Stardust Thief weaves the gripping tale of a legendary smuggler, a cowardly prince, and a dangerous quest across the desert to find a legendary, magical lamp.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

My thoughts

I’m going to try my best to write this review because this is the first book in a long time where there’s so much to cover and so little I can share because it would spoil way too much. Yes, there’s a journey into the deserts to find a magical lamp. But aside that is a much deeper look into the magic, the world, the politics, and the secrets that the book will slowly reveal throughout. It’s a slow burning epic fantasy with fun interludes throughout the book that tell the real tales from One Thousand and One Nights. It takes a little time to get into, but will blow you away by the end. It will make you want the second book as soon as it’s available (I know this because that’s me right now).

The Stardust Thief is definitely a book that puts emphasis more on the journey than the destination. The story begins introducing the four characters you’ll be well acquainted with by the end. Loulie is The Midnight Merchant, a thief and a seller of jinn relics she finds alongside her jinn bodyguard, Qadir. Mazen is the third prince to the sultan and forced to stay in the palace, but the sultan doesn’t know that Mazen sneaks out to hear the stories being told in the souk. Aisha is a thief and a member of the palace’s forty thieves. Her loyalties lie with the first son, Omar, who is the leader of the forty thieves. Each of these characters is different in their own ways and while I started off liking only two, I ended up having an affinity for all four by the end.

These four people from varying backgrounds and worlds are about to embark on an adventure across the desert to find a mysterious jinn relic; a lamp that houses the most powerful jinn ever. The sultan is dead set on removing all jinn from existence and with the help of the most powerful jinn, he hopes to eradicate them from this world. Why? Because according to the sultan, they are evil. They are devilish things that don’t deserve to exist. I mean, it doesn’t hurt that they also make magical relics that humans can use and manipulate magic for themselves. You just need to kill a few jinn to get them.

That comes to one of the big themes of this book; the good vs. evil theme. For people like Omar, the sultan, Aisha, and many of the humans that live here, the jinn are nothing but scary demons come to hurt and kill any humans they come across. Their fear motivates their hatred and without any hesitation will take out any jinn they come across. However, for people like Loulie, the jinn have been nothing but a godsend who saved her when her tribe was destroyed in a terrible fire. This push/pull between who is right/wrong, what is good/evil really brings a powerful dynamic to the story especially since it’s interwoven into the politics, the beliefs, and the decisions each of these characters make.

As the bigger secrets of this story start to reveal themselves, you see that these jinn are no different than humans. The only major difference is that they have magic and we don’t. The magic in this book is also huge. I think it’s one of the most magical books I’ve read in a really long time. Shapeshifting jinn, shadow jinn, jinn who can raise the dead, compasses that can show you the way to what you’re looking for, and so much more. I honestly loved how much magic existed in this world and how well it was incorporated into the story. That alongside the epic world building will just put you right into the heart of this story.

I’m a huge fan of desert fantasy books, so this one was right up my alley. But the descriptions and world building Chelsea Abdullah puts into her book are so vivid that you can actually smell the spices wafting through the souk. You can truly imagine the life happening throughout the towns. You can feel the heat of the desert sun on your face and the cool, dark breeze of the hidden caves. It was truly a magical place that swept you away. Chelsea Abdullah’s writing is poetic, secretive, and mysterious. You’ll be scratching your head at certain passages, but trust that she will reveal all to you as the story progresses.

While the story starts off slowly, it definitely picks up with all the fighting, mystery, and political intrigue that takes place. I was so surprised by how much politics and intrigue this story had because I thought it would be a very straightforward retelling. But Chelsea Abdullah took this story and really made it her own. And while it definitely has its fair share of betrayal and revenge, once you see the truth behind everything you understand that it’s a much deeper plot hidden underneath. Although this is the story about retrieving a magical lamp, this is in no way Aladdin and it really shouldn’t be compared to it. It’s much deeper than that and as I mentioned before, it’s all about the journey and not the destination with this one.

Overall, an incredible start to a new trilogy that I will happily continue reading. The book doesn’t end on a cliffhanger, but it will still make you clamor for the next one.

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard // Book Review

Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard // Book Review

If you’re looking for a romantic fantasy set in a magical world based in Vietnam and you want it to be short, then this is the book for you. For a small book, it definitely packed a punch.

Here’s more about Fireheart Tiger

Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.

Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.

Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate—and her own?

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


My thoughts

This was such a whirlwind of a book and truly, I mean that. The book was less than 100 pages and while it’ll sweep you off your feet with its romance, you’ll also finish reading this book in one sitting. The story drops you in immediately providing information through Thanh’s perspective on what happened to her for the past few years; the court she was told to live in, the romance she had with Eldris, and the terrible fire that caused her mental and emotional harm.

In this new world, she’s her mother’s diplomat forced not only to work with the kingdom she was hostage to, but also with her first love. It felt like this story focused more on the romance than the fantasy and I wasn’t mad about it. I assumed the story would be more about the fantasy, but romance never hurts. Thanh’s relationship with Eldris seemed both desirable but also forbidden since Thanh’s position in Eldris’ court was as a hostage.

It’s also about the mental and emotional struggle of surviving a massive fire. Thanh’s survival guilt is obvious as she remembers a young servant she helped to escape the palace only to lose her before it was too late. It was definitely a huge part of the story as she finds out more about the servant she held hands with and the surprise behind that story was totally different than I imagined.

While I really loved this story, there’s always pitfalls when it comes to a novella. One mainly is that I want to see this world expanded with much deeper lore and worldbuilding and watch the romance between two main characters really come to life. I really loved the backstory for Thanh, the romance between her and Eldris, the mysterious person she meets during the fire, and the surprise behind her story. I think this story could easily transition to a 500-page fantasy romance filled with indecision about her romance, powerful magic, and so much growth for Thanh. Because even though this book is a novella, you see Thanh go from being a quiet observer to a vocal decision maker. It was truly an interesting story and would definitely make for a bigger tale.

Overall, this is a great romantic fantasy that’s super short to read and easy to follow. I just wish there was more.

9 Recent Fantasy Favorites to Read During AAPI Heritage Month

Happy Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This month, there’s plenty to celebrate and many folks to celebrate with. But I wanted to celebrate by sharing a few reads I’ve loved recently written by Asian American authors.

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you may know that I have an affinity for Asian authors. I especially love authors who write fantasy or sci-fi fiction because those are the genres I enjoy the most. So any time I see a new SFF story by an Asian author, then I’m taking some special measures to read them.

I loved each and every one of these books for the different worlds they created, the stories they shared, and the characters that always remind me that I’m not alone. It makes me so excited that they’re all fascinating stories and I know there will be more that I’ll read in the future.

Kaikeyi by Vaishnavi Patel

“I was born on the full moon under an auspicious constellation, the holiest of positions—much good it did me.”

So begins Kaikeyi’s story. The only daughter of the kingdom of Kekaya, she is raised on tales about the might and benevolence of the gods: how they churned the vast ocean to obtain the nectar of immortality, how they vanquish evil and ensure the land of Bharat prospers, and how they offer powerful boons to the devout and the wise. Yet she watches as her father unceremoniously banishes her mother, listens as her own worth is reduced to how great a marriage alliance she can secure. And when she calls upon the gods for help, they never seem to hear.

Desperate for some measure of independence, she turns to the texts she once read with her mother and discovers a magic that is hers alone. With this power, Kaikeyi transforms herself from an overlooked princess into a warrior, diplomat, and most favored queen, determined to carve a better world for herself and the women around her.

But as the evil from her childhood stories threatens the cosmic order, the path she has forged clashes with the destiny the gods have chosen for her family. And Kaikeyi must decide if resistance is worth the destruction it will wreak—and what legacy she intends to leave behind.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


An Arrow to the Moon by Emily XR Pan

Hunter Yee has perfect aim with a bow and arrow, but all else in his life veers wrong. He’s sick of being haunted by his family’s past mistakes. The only things keeping him from running away are his little brother, a supernatural wind, and the bewitching girl at his new high school.

Luna Chang dreads the future. Graduation looms ahead, and her parents’ expectations are stifling. When she begins to break the rules, she finds her life upended by the strange new boy in her class, the arrival of unearthly fireflies, and an ominous crack spreading across the town of Fairbridge.

As Hunter and Luna navigate their families’ enmity and secrets, everything around them begins to fall apart. All they can depend on is their love… but time is running out, and fate will have its way.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I Lin

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu.

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake

The Alexandrian Society is a secret society of magical academicians, the best in the world. Their members are caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity. And those who earn a place among their number will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams. Each decade, the world’s six most uniquely talented magicians are selected for initiation – and here are the chosen few…

– Libby Rhodes and Nicolás Ferrer de Varona: inseparable enemies, cosmologists who can control matter with their minds.
– Reina Mori: a naturalist who can speak the language of life itself.
– Parisa Kamali: a mind reader whose powers of seduction are unmatched.
– Tristan Caine: the son of a crime kingpin who can see the secrets of the universe.
– Callum Nova: an insanely rich pretty boy who could bring about the end of the world. He need only ask.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they must spend one year together to qualify for initiation. During this time, they will be permitted access to the Society’s archives and judged on their contributions to arcane areas of knowledge. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. If they can prove themselves to be the best, they will survive. Most of them.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea by Axie Oh

Deadly storms have ravaged Mina’s homeland for generations. Floods sweep away entire villages, while bloody wars are waged over the few remaining resources. Her people believe the Sea God, once their protector, now curses them with death and despair. In an attempt to appease him, each year a beautiful maiden is thrown into the sea to serve as the Sea God’s bride, in the hopes that one day the “true bride” will be chosen and end the suffering.

Many believe that Shim Cheong, the most beautiful girl in the village—and the beloved of Mina’s older brother Joon—may be the legendary true bride. But on the night Cheong is to be sacrificed, Joon follows Cheong out to sea, even knowing that to interfere is a death sentence. To save her brother, Mina throws herself into the water in Cheong’s stead.

Swept away to the Spirit Realm, a magical city of lesser gods and mythical beasts, Mina seeks out the Sea God, only to find him caught in an enchanted sleep. With the help of a mysterious young man named Shin—as well as a motley crew of demons, gods and spirits—Mina sets out to wake the Sea God and bring an end to the killer storms once and for all.

But she doesn’t have much time: A human cannot live long in the land of the spirits. And there are those who would do anything to keep the Sea God from waking…

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


The Keeper of Night by Kylie Lee Baker

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

Growing up on the moon, Xingyin is accustomed to solitude, unaware that she is being hidden from the feared Celestial Emperor who exiled her mother for stealing his elixir of immortality. But when Xingyin’s magic flares and her existence is discovered, she is forced to flee her home, leaving her mother behind.

Alone, powerless, and afraid, she makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom, a land of wonder and secrets. Disguising her identity, she seizes an opportunity to learn alongside the emperor’s son, mastering archery and magic, even as passion flames between her and the prince.

To save her mother, Xingyin embarks on a perilous quest, confronting legendary creatures and vicious enemies across the earth and skies. But when treachery looms and forbidden magic threatens the kingdom, she must challenge the ruthless Celestial Emperor for her dream—striking a dangerous bargain in which she is torn between losing all she loves or plunging the realm into chaos.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess begins an enchanting, romantic duology which weaves ancient Chinese mythology into a sweeping adventure of immortals and magic—where love vies with honor, dreams are fraught with betrayal, and hope emerges triumphant.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org


Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

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.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.

When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka’s ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She’s found her final candidate.

But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn’t have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan’s kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul’s worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.

As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.

Find it on Amazon | Find it on Bookshop.org

What are some recent favorites of yours by AAPI authors?