The Unbroken by CL Clark // Book Review

The Unbroken by CL Clark // Book Review

How do I express my love for the first favorite of 2022? It’s a complex political fantasy filled with blood and magic.

Here’s more about The Unbroken

Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.

Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.

Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.

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My thoughts

This was such a fantastic book and I honestly don’t know how to approach writing this review! It’s a heavy political fantasy about a small country called Qazal and the Balladairan colonists who inhabit the space. However, it’s not just about the political fantasy, but it’s also about the characters that are tasked to protect the colony, the rebels who try to fight against the colonizers, and the soldiers slung between the two worlds. Honestly, this book really blew me away with its intense storytelling, the development of its characters, and there’s even a sapphic romance and some magic! What more can anyone ask for?

There’s two main characters that play intricate components of the story, but I felt like one had more attention than the other. Touraine is a soldier who was kidnapped as a child and forced into the Balladairan army. There’s a lot in that story itself to unpack. She returns to Qazal, the land where she was stolen from to find that it’s in turmoil with a rebel group trying to take back the land from the colonizers. However, she no longer knows this life, these people, and doesn’t really relate with them at first. In fact, her main ambition is to be promoted to captain just like her mentor and leader, General Cantic.

Touraine and her soldiers are also called “The Sands,” a derogatory term for the kidnapped Qazali children that are forced into the Balladairan military. So not only is she accepted in Qazal because she’s a Balladairan soldier, but she’s not even considered a part of the military she’s forced into. You can already tell that this is a super complicated world.

Luca is the other main character. She’s the princess of Balladaire whose arrived in Qazal to make a name for herself. As a disabled person, she’s already been labeled a weak link and not suitable for reign, but Luca proves them wrong in her intelligence, her perseverance, and her ability to continue her fight despite the pain it physically causes her. She wants to be different than her uncle and father and the way they ran things, but as you continue to read, you find out that things are a bit more difficult than she thought it might be.

I also loved the internal struggle Luca dealt with. She wanted to be a good leader, but that was also meant understanding the situation in Qazal isn’t as simple as freeing them from their colony. You can tell Luca struggles with this throughout the story trying to please both sides of this war, but ultimately there’s only one choice she can make and it’s kind of interesting what she decides.

Both of these characters are slung between this war taking place in Qazal between the rebels who want it back and the Balladairans who refuse to leave. And since you get this dual perspective, you get to read this book from both camps and see what each side is dealing with. However, I felt like there was more story behind Touraine that there was Luca. Because of Touraine’s unique position in the book, I felt like CL Clark was really able to capture these two sides of the conflict through her.

Of course, this book is a fantasy book so you’re going to have a whole cast of characters being introduced. And each of them felt like their own person. I loved the people closest to Luca like Gil and Guerin, but I also loved the rebels and how formed they were as their own people. It felt like I could actually know these people!

Let’s not even discuss the drama as well! There was betrayal after betrayal after betrayal. CL Clark really keeps you on your toes on which side you’re rooting for. One minute it’s Touraine, but then it’s Luca. Then back to Touraine! OMG, the conflict between these two characters was palatable!

And CL Clark is not shy about this war either. The story is covered in blood with random attacks that really capture a realness to the story. No one is safe and CL Clark is a brutal author. I had my jaw on the ground with the death toll that kept creeping up every few chapters. It was so viscerally real and the losses were not kind, but they brought the story to life.

In the end, I felt like this story was a story of its characters. The rebellion and the conflict between the Qazali and the Balladairan created the landscape for these characters and the external/internal struggles they find themselves caught in. If anything, you come away from this story with a deeper sense of who these people are and how war has affected them in so many ways that I personally couldn’t fathom in my lowly civilian life. Truly a spectacular story so deeply layered and complex with its characters, its world, and its vision. I’m excited to see what the next book offers.

The Kindred by Alechia Dow // Book Review

The Kindred by Alechia Dow // Book Review

This was the first book I read by Alechia Dow and I don’t think it will be my last. I was so enamored by this story and it really blew me away! Thanks Get Underlined for the gifted copy of the book.

Here’s more about The Kindred

To save a galactic kingdom from revolution, Kindred mind-pairings were created to ensure each and every person would be seen and heard, no matter how rich or poor…

Joy Abara knows her place. A commoner from the lowly planet Hali, she lives a simple life—apart from the notoriety that being Kindred to the nobility’s most infamous playboy brings.

Duke Felix Hamdi has a plan. He will exasperate his noble family to the point that they agree to let him choose his own future and finally meet his Kindred face-to-face.

Then the royal family is assassinated, putting Felix next in line for the throne…and accused of the murders. Someone will stop at nothing until he’s dead, which means they’ll target Joy, too. Meeting in person for the first time as they steal a spacecraft and flee amid chaos might not be ideal…and neither is crash-landing on the strange backward planet called Earth. But hiding might just be the perfect way to discover the true strength of the Kindred bond and expose a scandal—and a love—that may decide the future of a galaxy.

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My thoughts

Give me a story with an interesting science fiction world and you’ve got me hooked. I honestly wasn’t sure what to expect with this one, but then it just kept getting better and better.

The most interesting part for me was the Kindred program; being assigned a kindred at birth regardless of class or sex and have that person be their best friend, lover, sibling, whatever for the entirety of their lives. It becomes a huge component to the rest of the book and really blew my mind to see how deep the bond between Joy and Felix were. It’s interesting because humans have to create those bonds through time and effort of finding someone that can connect with you on that level. These folks are provided a kindred and I love seeing how it’s more than just a friendship to Felix and Joy.

And these two couldn’t be any more different. Felix is a royal who couldn’t care about his position or power. He spends his days going around with a band, drinking and partying without a worry in the world. Joy is the complete opposite who feels a sense of duty to her planet to marry someone she’s not entirely sure she likes. I mean, I wouldn’t like someone if the first thing they commented on was my weight. Ooph, her betrothed was so irritating throughout the story and just really proved how good Alechia Dow is with writing these characters.

The biggest component of this book was the romance. I didn’t expect it to be such a massive part of the book, but I loved watching Felix and Joy quietly pine for each other only to find out the truth in the end. I loved watching their love grow from then on despite the differences in class and their obligations.

Reading these two go through Earth was hilarious. I loved how creatively Alechia Dow tried to explain how the world was like in the small part of Florida and how to explain that to someone who doesn’t share anything remotely similar to us. There were definitely cute moments like when they all watched Black Panther together and it made me happy to see Joy find a love for chocolate-covered raisins. I also loved how open and welcoming Rashid was to Joy and Felix knowing nothing about them and how caring and understanding they were towards him. The book has so many beautiful displays of empathy and kindness that really wowed me.

While I really liked this one, I was still a bit wary with the pace in the beginning. There was a lot of info-dumping, but with good reason because with the focus on Felix and Joy’s time on Earth, meeting people, and figuring out how to clear their names, it makes sense to approach the beginning this way. I do love that the pace fixes itself and you get a pretty great story in the end.

I honestly think this book was a show of how great a writer Alechia Dow is. I’m seriously impressed and I definitely want to read her first book and any other books she writes in the future.

My 2022 Reading Goals

My 2022 Reading Goals

Every year, I put together this list of reading goals with the fullest intention to keep up with them throughout the year. But then something happens (who knows) and I’m left with reading goals I never actually get done.

This year, I want to be more intentional. I want to say that I’m going to do something and actually do it because what’s the point of making a list of things you want to do if it only remains just that; a list.

I’ll be sharing my reading goals for 2022 below, but what I’ll also be doing is keeping myself accountable. While there’s a bunch of different ways to stay accountable, I’ll be keeping track in my trusty reading journal (which I’ll share in another post coming soon!). For now, here’s what I plan to accomplish in a small or big way in 2022:

Read more from my backlist

Like every other reader in the known universe, I have a huge backlog. Many books come across my desk and while I make a lot of room to read most of them, there are always ones I put off for…practically forever. This year, I want to use my backlog not only as a way to read what I already have, but also keep myself from buying more books. I’ll be shopping my shelves this year, which I’m quite excited about because sometimes I surprise myself with the books I’ve kept and haven’t read.

Finish the series I’ve been meaning to finish

I noticed last year that I have a ton of trilogies and series that I’ve only half read. For most, it’s just me having to read the final book of the series. It’s kind of funny that that’s the only thing I need to read to complete the series. It’s not like I hold off on them because I’m particularly woeful about the ending or so excited that I need to put it off. I’ve just…put it off. And now I’m going to make room for those series that I can complete just by reading the last book.

However, this one comes with the caveat that I need to reread a few books and that’s where my third goal comes in.

Reread books!

I’ve been wanting to reread books for forever, but I never make room for them. This year, I actively plan to reread a few series in order to complete them, so I’ll slowly start incorporating more rereads into my monthly TBRs. I’m excited because some of the stories I’ve picked out to reread are my favorites and isn’t that the whole point of rereading?

Hugo Award nominees

Last year, I didn’t plan well and ended up having to skip reading the Hugo Award nominated books of that year. However, I loved reading the nominees before the ceremony and having my own award announcements based on what I liked. Sadly, they never match what actually gets picked, but I still love doing it.

This year, I want to do the same and make the room to read these nominees when they’re announced. I can’t wait to see what’s on the ballot this year.

Enjoy my reads

This is probably on my list every single year because it’s a reminder that I read and do this all for fun. I love sharing what I’m reading, what I’m thinking about, and giving you new books to check out. It’s not a race and it’s not about reading all the cool, new books when they get released, but having fun!

That’s it from me! What’s on your reading goals list this year?

The Starless Crown by James Rollins // Spotlight

The Starless Crown by James Rollins // Spotlight

The Starless Crown was supposed to be the final book of 2021 for me, but alas December is always a quieter month for me when it comes to reading. However, I do want to return to this one once I have the time for it. It’s a wildly intriguing story with a cast of characters that you’ll want to follow around. I was already so intrigued by the story and while I didn’t get too deep into it, I didn’t even get to the big plot and I definitely want to go back and check it out.

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An alliance embarks on a dangerous journey to uncover the secrets of the distant past and save their world in this captivating, deeply visionary adventure from #1 New York Times bestselling thriller-master James Rollins.

A gifted student foretells an apocalypse. Her reward is a sentence of death.

Fleeing into the unknown she is drawn into a team of outcasts:

A broken soldier, who once again takes up the weapons he’s forbidden to wield and carves a trail back home.

A drunken prince, who steps out from his beloved brother’s shadow and claims a purpose of his own.

An imprisoned thief, who escapes the crushing dark and discovers a gleaming artifact – one that will ignite a power struggle across the globe.

On the run, hunted by enemies old and new, they must learn to trust each other in order to survive in a world evolved in strange, beautiful, and deadly ways, and uncover ancient secrets that hold the key to their salvation.

But with each passing moment, doom draws closer.


Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire // Book Review

Where the Drowned Girls Go by Seanan McGuire // Book Review

I love when I start a new year, new month, new day and get to spend it reading and finishing a book. It feels fresh and I feel alive and ready to tackle anything! And with the newest novella from Seanan McGuire, I was in for such a treat because we find out more in the Wayward Children series than we did before! Thanks to Tor Dot Com for sending me a gifted copy of this book.

CW: fatphobia/shaming, bullying, self harm, discussion of suicide

Here’s more about Where the Drowned Girls Go

Welcome to the Whitethorn Institute. The first step is always admitting you need help, and you’ve already taken that step by requesting a transfer into our company.

There is another school for children who fall through doors and fall back out again.
It isn’t as friendly as Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
And it isn’t as safe.

When Eleanor West decided to open her school, her sanctuary, her Home for Wayward Children, she knew from the beginning that there would be children she couldn’t save; when Cora decides she needs a different direction, a different fate, a different prophecy, Miss West reluctantly agrees to transfer her to the other school, where things are run very differently by Whitethorn, the Headmaster.

She will soon discover that not all doors are welcoming…

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My thoughts

Ok, this has to be my favorite of the series since the first book. Granted, I’ve only read a few books throughout this series (and plan to read them all), but this one has me very intrigued. That goes double since it doesn’t take place at Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children, but The Whitehorn Institute; the very antithesis of Eleanor’s school.

It starts off with Cora, a young person who’s brush with suicide sent her through a door to a world with mermaids. However, when she returned from her world, the last thing she wanted was to go back. And while she stayed at Eleanor’s school for a little while, she much rather go to The Whitehorn Institute; a school dedicated to rehabilitating its students from the worlds they visited and return them as regular citizens of society.

Most students admitted to the school are there against their will; young people whose parents didn’t know any better and wanted their children back to being the normal kids they were. And as Cora spends more time at the institute, she realizes that this place holds a power of its own against the students and matrons living there. When Cora discovers the darkness creeping in the shadows, she and her friends plan to escape leaving behind the notion that they need to fit into society and not the other way around.

I think one of the most fascinating parts of Seanan McGuire’s writing is how she incorporates themes and characterization into these novellas. Reading this short book, I know there are parts that could have been fleshed out and plot points that could have been explored more, but Seanan McGuire chose to represent these children more than push the plot and I always find that fascinating. What you get out of reading her books is more of a sense of who these children are and how they live their lives not only with the dissatisfaction of where they grew up, but also knowing that there’s a world out there that accepts and loves them for who they are.

It’s mentioned often throughout the story that these kids were heroes in the worlds they went to. They saved the day, they rose above and succeeded, they made a difference in a world that isn’t their own and that’s what gives them validity. And then they return to the real world with the disappointment of being themselves again and of course they’re going to have a hard time adjusting.

This particular story examines that and how being pushed to be average/normal in the real world is just as damaging as never being able to go back to the world where they were heroes. And I find that to be so fascinating. It’s almost like a social experiment where you see how young people cope with returning to a world where they don’t belong, but also having to be forced into a box they don’t fit into. It’s what draws me to Seanan McGuire’s books every single time.

One of the things that made me pause was that there were characters from the previous books in the series. In my haste to read the most recent book, I haven’t caught up with the rest of the series and I felt a little lost with who was who. It wasn’t too detrimental that you will feel the lost feeling as well, but it was enough for me to go and borrow the next book I need to read in the series.

It always excites me to read another journey through a door and this is no exception. I love the new direction this series is going and I can’t wait to read the next one.

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan // Book Review

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan // Book Review

I love it when a book creeps in right at the end of the year and manages to really blow you away. This book isn’t out until later this January, but I have to say it made my top 20 list for last year! Thanks to Harper Voyager for sending me a gifted copy of this book.

Here’s more about Daughter of the Moon Goddess

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.

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My thoughts

Where do I begin? Well, first I’ll say that I’m not okay. The story follows Xingyin, a young girl who’s been living on the moon with her mother Chang’e. For all intents and purposes, everything seemed okay, but when the Celestial Kingdom comes to pay a visit to the moon, it turns out that Xingyin’s existence is a secret and she needs to hide in order to survive. So what does her mother do? She sends her to Earth to hide there while the empire calms down from their search.

And after that, it’s this incredible journey of Xingyin to become a warrior, a woman, and a fierce and loyal friend. Seriously, I loved her growth throughout the story. Watching as Xingyin faces everything on her own without the help of her mother scared me, but her strength and the hope that things will turn out okay really just blew me away. It’s that level of bravery that I want; not the bravery to face huge demons (which she does), but the bravery to survive when the odds are against you.

Luckily, she does get some help along the way and as she becomes one of the best archers in the Celestial Empire, she also befriends the Crown Prince, Liwei. Of course, it’s more than just friendship that these two share, but instead of it being a bit of an insta-love, it was the kind of romance that you want. But things don’t always work out the way we want it and this book is a prime example of that. Reading Xingyin face some revealing truths truly stunned me with her maturity and ability to discern for herself.

As you read, the book just keeps getting better and better. The pacing was perfect; not too fast and not too slow so that you had enough to learn about these characters, get to know them and like them, and then have action sequences and reveals that will keep you pushing through. The writing is also covet-able. Honestly, I wish I can write like her and I want to read everything by Sue Lynn Tan because it’s just gorgeous. It’s visually stunning, creative enough to really get your imagination going, and really kept me reading.

Much of this book felt like I was watching one of my favorite C-dramas. Filled with drama, romance, action/adventure, and big lessons to be learned, I felt like I was completely immersed in this story. I love it when a book makes me feel like I can escape for a little while. I’m probably overlooking some glaringly obvious issues with the story, but I don’t care because it just captured me from the beginning all the way to the very end.

And this isn’t the end. Nope, this is a duology and will be finishing up the rest of the story eventually. However, you’re not left with a gaping hole of a cliffhanger at the end. Instead, it wraps up pretty well and keeps your curious as to what the conclusion will look like. Obviously, it didn’t stop me from wanting the second book immediately, but I also love having something to look forward to.

My Top 20 Favorite Reads of 2021

My Top 20 Favorite Reads of 2021

Happy end of the year! I know I’ve been a bit MIA for the past few weeks, but it’s mostly to recharge the old blogging batteries before starting a new year. I’ll be back next year, but before I depart from 2021, I wanted to share my favorite books of the year. While this may only be a list of the top 20 books of the year, I do want to make a little shout out to all the books I read this year. Thank you for keeping me company while the world seemed to fall apart outside. You truly are the MVPs of this year and last year (and probably next year).

And thank you to everyone who’s reading this blog! You’re the real champs who have motivated me to keep reading, keep writing, and keep exploring this wonderful world of books. Here’s to another year in the books.

And in no particular order, here’s my top 20 favorite books of 2021!

Daughter of the Moon Goddess by Sue Lynn Tan

This was one of the very last books I read this year and it honestly blew me away. Filled with dragons, magic, and even a love triangle, you’ll be swept away to a new world and wonderful adventures in this one.

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Legendborn by Tracy Deonn

I really enjoyed this one. I felt like Tracy Deonn really took her time to write this story and putting together this beautiful world that exists within the real world. It’s obvious from the way it’s written that a lot of research went into it. Everything from how King Arthur made his way to the Americas to even Bree’s family lineage all the way back to enslavement were well executed and breathed a real feeling into it. While King Arthur might be legend, this story really brings that legend to life.

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A Master of Djinn by P Djeli Clark

I think the one thing that I can always trust from a book by P Djeli Clark is super rich descriptions and a level of world-building on the same level as the great fantasy writers. The depth of description even to include the backstory of that building or event or thing that’s being described is exceptional. It’s extremely visual, which makes me want to see this one on the big screen. I think that this would translate so easily with a story that will definitely keep you watching.

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Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir

Get ready for space because there’s a lot of it and it’s non-stop. I loved traveling through space with Ryland and his friend, seeing what happens to Project Hail Mary and earth, and seeing what happens to Ryland. The ending was a bit bittersweet and a really wild ending, but it’s been such a magical journey so far that you’ll definitely be happy with it.

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The Ones We’re Meant to Find by Joan He

This wasn’t the typical YA SFF story that I usually read. I mean, it has the tropes. It has the bits and pieces of a YA SFF story that you want, but it was so much more for me. It read like literary fiction. It had that Kazuo Ishiguro Never Let Me Go vibe and it really surprised me. This was definitely one of those stories where it was less important how the world worked, how the science of everything turned out, and how Kasey eventually figured out how to save the world. It’s more about Kasey and Celia; their fractured relationship, their need to find each other, and the world that they grew up in and how that affected both of their lives in very different ways.

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One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I had such a good time reading this book. It’s filled with such fun anecdotes, delicious foods, subway rides, and tons of romance. August and Jane were such a lovely couple and I wanted to follow them to the ends of the earth just hearing their stories. Their romance truly made the book and I honestly was on pins and needles worried that it wouldn’t work out for them. Granted, that wouldn’t make this book a true romance, but there was that emotional build up that maybe, just maybe, they wouldn’t work out.

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Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This was my first book from Susanna Clarke and after reading it, I have to say that it won’t be my last. The author was able to pack so much story into so few pages that it can’t even be considered a novella. No, this is a full blown novel that will whisk you away to a world that’s just so difficult to fathom. It was such a multi-layered story that you need to pay attention to otherwise you might find yourself as lost as Piranesi in the labyrinth. She also doesn’t give you any clues directly; it’s all subtle or underlying, so make sure to read everything she provides.

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Crier’s War by Nina Varela

I wasn’t expecting anything in particular from the book, but when I started reading and seeing Ayla and Crier coming together and the tension between them both mentally and emotionally, it kept me reading. I loved the play of feelings here; there was the mental struggle to stay loyal to your cause, but then emotional struggle to not fall in love. Ayla’s feelings were so real and her push/pull from Crier really drove the story for me. That isn’t to say Crier didn’t do the same either. Her ignorance of growing up in a gilded cage and then meeting Ayla who questioned everything is literally what you want to see; someone strong enough to open your eyes to what’s around you and make you wonder why.

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Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

This was a wildly beautiful and breathtaking novel. I was so impressed by this book and it was my first from Elizabeth Lim. I can definitely see myself reading more of her books in the future. I loved how much excitement and adventure this book has. There was bit of suspsense, romance, fighting, and magic. It had a little bit of everything and it was so well done. I really appreciate a book I can fully immerse myself in and just feel like I’m along for the adventure.

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A Psalm for the Wild Built by Becky Chambers

Thanks, Becky Chambers, for triggering my anxiety. It takes an incredible author to write a 150-page novella and bring me down to the level. But I’ll get to that particular part in a minute. Let’s first clear our heads and discuss the other components of the book.

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The Green Bone Saga trilogy by Fonda Lee

This trilogy featuring Jade City, Jade War, and Jade Legacy will absolutely blow you away. If you’re a fan of mobster style stories filled with political intrigue, magic, and the importance of family, then you’ll really love this series. While it’s action-packed, it also dives deeply into the stories of the Lan clan and how their family deals with not only being one of the most powerful gangs in this fictional world, but also how they survive together.

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She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

Yep, this book was ALL THE THINGS I was expecting it to be and then some. While this book is compared to Mulan, I think it’s far from it. If anything, this read more like The Poppy Wars. If you’re a fan of literary fiction, historical fiction, military fantasy, stories with gender identity, queer relationships, or even stories that will flip you on your head, then I invite you to read this book. This is THE book and it was massive and lush and powerful and so damn surprising.

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Small Favors by Erin A Craig

This was the first book I read from Erin A Craig, and I have to say, color me impressed. The story was beautiful with a dark and haunting vibe all throughout. From the cover, I was imagining this story to be a bit more light-hearted, but the town’s descent into madness, definitely gave you a completely different vibe. It didn’t take long for the atmospheric writing to set in and I was creeped out by things at night. It’s not a scary book, per se, but it’s definitely got the atmosphere. I might have had some goosebumps.

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Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

I love a book with great world building and this one delivers so much of it. I felt like Jordan Ifueko put in a lot of effort into this part because if the lore and world-building didn’t make sense, then the story wouldn’t make sense either. It’s always great to read YA fantasy books that have much more depth to it. The lore itself is also incredible. I was telling my husband how the systems of government worked with the 12 ruling parties, the sacrificial children to the Underworld, the political struggle to keep everyone happy, but everyone isn’t. And then on top of that, a massive overtaking of people’s culture and traditions all in the name of unifying the country. There’s so much that this book deals with and does it so expertly that I’m really shook by how this is just a debut!

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Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

I could gush about this book for forever. It was funny and dark and sweet and filled with magical ideas and gruesome endings. It was everything I really love about a good fantasy story; a little magic, a little dark, and extremely beautiful. I’m also surprised with how little book there is and how much story was told. I love it when a short book packs a punch!

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The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

This story was definitely a stunner and I had so much fun reading it and getting to know The Montoyas. I’m so blown away by the writing, the story, and the characters. I’ve read Zoraida Cordova before, but this felt like nothing I’ve read from her in the past. Well, mostly that’s also because I was reading her YA fantasy fiction and not her adult novels. And this delivered! The writing is gorgeous, the pacing is beautiful (up until the end where it got rushed), the mystery was mysterious (albeit a bit predictable), and all together such a great read. It was not necessarily a fantasy book, but I wouldn’t call it magical realism either. There was magic, for sure, but it definitely felt more like a fantasy. I would go as far as say science fiction, even! But this genre blending book definitely gave me all the feels.

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The Charm Offensive by Alison Cochrun

If you’re a fan of shows like The Bachelor, then get ready for this one. Seriously, I’m pretty sure Alison Cochrun watches the show because the mentions were spot on. “Can I steal you away for a sec?” is probably one of the most iconic lines of Bachelor ever and it was in here! Not only that, but the timeline of the show, the iconic parts that make up the show, the behind-the-scenes scripting of the characters (even how they made someone into a villain), and the best part is that this was the running theme throughout the book. Sometimes you read these romance books and they just drop off on the main plot of the book to focus on the romance. I’m so glad that you basically see until the final episode what happens on the show.

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Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

This book is incredible. Full stop.

Beautifully written and smartly displayed. It gave me TJ Klune and Becky Chambers vibes. It gave me donuts and so much delicious Asian food. It made me think of my violin-playing youth. And it was a massive love letter to the Asian communities of LA. I honestly was so astounded by the beauty, the embrace, and the creativity this book provided. It’s definitely one of my favorite books of the year.

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What were your favorite books of the year?

Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao // Book Review

Vengeful, kickass females are definitely one of my favorite genres and this one delivers in spades. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into because from the premise, it sounded like a wild fantasy novel, but it is so much more!

Here’s more about Iron Widow

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.

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My thoughts

I was so shocked by how incredible this book was. Honestly, the story was so creative and blended Chinese history, tradition, and culture seamlessly into this science fiction world of mechs and monsters. It felt like what really good anime should be like; a story overcoming obstacles in a world that’s fitted for a bygone time that doesn’t suit modern thinking and beliefs anymore. I loved it. I love it when authors blend cultures to create new stories that not only uplift the worlds, but also defy it in many ways.

One of the main themes, I believe, is strength. Not just a physical strength because our main character didn’t have much of that (having bound feet, she’s not capable of walking without pain), but mental strength. Zetian’s ability not only to push her limits, but also her qi power to kill her male counterparts makes her one of the most interesting characters in the entire story. Honestly, I loved Zetian. She’s one of those main characters you want to see charging into the scene and kicking ass. I also loved that she had Shimin as well, who has a secret past within the military and unlike any of the other male characters in the story. I think it says something when I want to punch every man in the face.

I was totally surprised by the romance as well. I don’t want to give it away, but I thought it was going to go one way and it went a completely different way. Not mad about it, but intrigued by why Xiran went that route. I hope that the romance starts to get deeper in the next few books!

The action was so good as well! I loved how the mechs worked and the mechanics of the Hundun and how the yin and yang of their qi powers come together on this ethereal plane to power up the chrysalises. It really felt like I was watching an anime and I can’t complain about that.

As much as I loved this story and will be following the rest of the series, I felt like there were two major issues with it: it was too fast paced and it introduced a lot of information with very little explanation. I felt like if Xiran took their time to really pace the novel, they could have material for several books throughout the series. But for some reason, it was all mushed into the final 100 pages and that felt…weird. The pacing throughout had some really good themes with the way women are portrayed in this world, especially when the truth is finally revealed. It felt a bit abrupt that even more pieces were being introduced that could have been used in other books in the future. Even the ending ended with a cliffhanger that surprised me because it was so soon to be introducing something, but also delighted me because it makes me ache for the next book.

Overall, a really good start to a fantastic new YA series. I’ll definitely be following along and seeing what happens to Zetian, the world, and the secrets!

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee // Book Review

Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee // Book Review

The highly anticipated ending of the Green Bone Saga and it’s a doozy. Filled with character growth, changing times, and a lot of introspection, this book isn’t like the others in the series. However, it will keep you interested especially if you’ve invested your heart and soul into the success of the No Peak clan. Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted read. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Here’s more about Jade Legacy

Jade, the mysterious and magical substance once exclusive to the Green Bone warriors of Kekon, is now known and coveted throughout the world. Everyone wants access to the supernatural abilities it provides, from traditional forces such as governments, mercenaries, and criminal kingpins, to modern players, including doctors, athletes, and movie studios. As the struggle over the control of jade grows ever larger and more deadly, the Kaul family, and the ancient ways of the Kekonese Green Bones, will never be the same.

The Kauls have been battered by war and tragedy. They are plagued by resentments and old wounds as their adversaries are on the ascent and their country is riven by dangerous factions and foreign interference that could destroy the Green Bone way of life altogether. As a new generation arises, the clan’s growing empire is in danger of coming apart.

The clan must discern allies from enemies, set aside aside bloody rivalries, and make terrible sacrifices… but even the unbreakable bonds of blood and loyalty may not be enough to ensure the survival of the Green Bone clans and the nation they are sworn to protect.

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My thoughts

I don’t know how to review this epic story. There’s so much that happens, but I also don’t want to spoil anything because it is a ride of a lifetime and you really need to get into it on your own. The book is a little over 700 pages long, which I thought at first was a bit excessive. But similarly to any epic story that’s coming to its end, the reason for the pages is to wrap everything up into a neat and clean bow; no straggling trails of story because this is it. This is the ending.

The story was such a saga and I was surprised by the way Fonda Lee decided to end the series. Instead of sharing the next part of the story, she shares the next 20+ years of the lives of all the characters. It was interesting to see their lives and the way they shape the No Peak clan throughout the years. I mean, you start off with them just starting to get their foot into the business and then you read how the clan ebbs and flows throughout the years. It’s really like reading a generational story and there are definite leaps into the future. The jumps into the future were kind of surprising and it took me a moment for me to understand what’s happening. I would keep an eye on the headers to remember when you are in the story.

I think the biggest part of this story is that you watch these characters grow. You see the people they become and I guess that’s the whole point of a legacy, you see what they leave behind for the next generation of Green Bones to look after. All the characters had some amazing moments and they all try to live their lives to the fullest. Some are blessed with some great things while others were devastated by their losses. But overall, these characters really come to life throughout the book, making decisions for themselves and for their family and for the clan. I think my favorite growths were Wen, Anden, and even Hilo. I was so surprised by how much Hilo changes throughout the story. He’s completely different from the man he starts off with in the beginning of the series.

Of course, the story wasn’t without its trademark fight scenes and power grabs, but I felt like there were less of these throughout the book and more into the political intrigue and character growth. I understand how the story evolves from being about clan fights and it was so interesting to see the evolution of these clans into the modern age; less about the fights and more about the business. However, that isn’t to say that this isn’t without its fights. There were a few key instances that really bend the story for you. It’s not that the clans stop fighting all together, but much of their fight is in obtaining as much power within Kekon and beyond. The political intrigue was the most palatable I’ve read in a really long time with lots of layers of information and backstabbing and surprises.

The most surprising part was how it ended. I kind of saw it coming, but at the same time you don’t. You think that they’re going to go on living as peacefully in their slow war for the rest of their days until the new generation comes up, but the ending definitely brings you back to the first book of the series.

Overall, the whole book was such a great way to end the series. I’ve never read a series ending that’s so detailed and deep. I took my time reading it, savoring every page because I knew that this was the end.

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson // Book Review

If you’re a fan of YA or if you want to get into Brandon Sanderson, I highly recommend this series. Because this just keeps getting better and better. Thanks to the publisher for a gifted copy of the book. My opinions have not been influenced by the author or the publisher.

Here’s more about Cytonic

Spensa’s life as a Defiant Defense Force pilot has been far from ordinary. She proved herself one of the best starfighters in the human enclave of Detritus and she saved her people from extermination at the hands of the Krell—the enigmatic alien species that has been holding them captive for decades. What’s more, she traveled light-years from home as an undercover spy to infiltrate the Superiority, where she learned of the galaxy beyond her small, desolate planet home.

Now, the Superiority—the governing galactic alliance bent on dominating all human life—has started a galaxy-wide war. And Spensa’s seen the weapons they plan to use to end it: the Delvers. Ancient, mysterious alien forces that can wipe out entire planetary systems in an instant. Spensa knows that no matter how many pilots the DDF has, there is no defeating this predator.

Except that Spensa is Cytonic. She faced down a Delver and saw something eerily familiar about it. And maybe, if she’s able to figure out what she is, she could be more than just another pilot in this unfolding war. She could save the galaxy.

The only way she can discover what she really is, though, is to leave behind all she knows and enter the Nowhere. A place from which few ever return.

To have courage means facing fear. And this mission is terrifying.

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My thoughts

If you’re a fan of the Skyward series and you’re wondering if Cytonic is worth the read, I will say yes. Unequivocally, yes. Because this is the book that will get you all the answers you need. Each book in the series explores a different world. Skyward explores the planet Detritus. Starsight explores the planet ship. Cytonic goes deeper and explores the world where people hyperjump through space, where cytonic beings go when they hyperjump themselves, where the Krell get their resources for flying, and the location where the Delvers exist. It’s the Nowhere and Spensa is exploring the whole thing.

I absolutely loved how this story takes place in the Nowhere, exploring the grounds within, the wild way things work in there, and the people who are captured and thrown in there. There’s pirates and even a new sidekick named Chet. I loved Chet and the clues hidden behind who Chet is. Of course, there’s a new group of alien races to also follow along as well, which is so much fun because I loved it in Starsight. And exploring the Nowhere was really interesting. I loved the different adventures Spensa goes on with M-Bot in this world.

And of course, it’s Brandon Sanderson so there’s a lot of details to the world that I really loved. I’m really trying not to spoil this book, but let’s just say that the details Brandon Sanderson put into this book really pay off and make it just a world you want to stay inside for a really long time.

There were also a few themes throughout the story that really drew me in. One of the biggest, I think, were the emotions or how we react to certain things and despite the way we feel, we continue to push ourselves beyond our boundaries (in a healthy way, mind you). It reminds me that sometimes we come across some scary moments in our lives and while we can easily run away, these are also the moments that can push us and our courage. I really loved that theme and how that plays out throughout the book.

It’s incredible how Brandon Sanderson is able to introduce you to these new characters in each book and you immediately latch onto them. While there were a few surprises when it came to characters, I really loved Chet and the story behind him. I had my doubts about him and wondered if he would turn out to be the villain in the end, but as the story moves on and you learn more about all the characters, you realize that it’s about survival, about redemption, and about personal growth.

I think the only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of is Spensa going to this world and kind of forgetting about what’s happening in the somewhere while she’s in the nowhere. It doesn’t go into what’s happening on the other side (only a few times), and the fact that she leaves right in the middle of a war felt strange. I assume we’ll be getting an idea of what happened while she was in the nowhere, but it definitely left me wondering while I read.

Overall, a fantastic read and definitely my favorite in the series so far. I can’t wait for the next book!