Five Not-So-Spooky Stories for the Spooky Season

Five Not-So-Spooky Stories for the Spooky Season

It’s officially the spooky season! Well, here in Florida, it still feels like summer, but I love this time of yearr. Give me a big cup of pumpkin spice tea, some cozy reads, and a lot of scented candles. And what better way to enjoy the season by reading some spooky books! I know not everyone is into the horror-centric world of the spooky season, but there’s so many ways to celebrate without scaring the pants off yourself. I’m sharing five books that give you those perfect spooky vibes without having to keep the lights on at night. Here’s five not-so-spooky books perfect for the Halloween season!

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna

If witches are what you crave, then I highly suggest The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches. It’s the story of a lonely witch named Mika who is a part of a coven of witches in England that only meet once every three months. In order to feel a little bit of belonging, she’s created a persona on Instagram where she’s…a witch who shares her potions with the world. And when someone messages her asking if she can help show three young witches how to use their magic, she’s skeptical at first but does it anyway. What she finds is a funny little house filled with found family and a place where she can belong.

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The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen

If you’re into zombies, then this one is for you. While this isn’t at the Walking Dead level of zombies (and they have a different name in the book), it’s about a marshal named Hart who works to protect the small town from zombie attacks and the undertaker, Mercy, who makes sure that those who have passed are properly buried. And guess what? They hate each other. Yep, if Hart could work with any other undertaker, he would, but in this weird world that they live in, he’s got to do business with Mercy every once in a while. And if you couldn’t love it anymore, it’s also a little bit of a You’ve Got Mail retelling where they write anonymous letters to each other. The book is charming, adventurous, and filled with zombie hoards. Definitely perfect if you want to read something with a little magic, but a lot of heart.

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The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston

If you’re into ghosts, then this one is for you. This is the first Good Morning America Book Club pick that I really liked and if you’re not a fan of romances, then this might be perfect. It’s about a young woman named Florence who is a ghost writer for one of the most popular romance writers in the world. However, she hasn’t written a single thing in almost a year after experiencing the worst break up in her life (and possibly not believing in love anymore). Her new editor, Benji, isn’t giving her any wiggle room and Florence needs to finish the book in a day otherwise she may lose the job that’s paying her bills. Suddenly, she gets an unexpected call from her family back home only to find out her father has passed away. Struck by the news, she immediately returns home only to remember why she left in the first place: she’s able to see ghosts and helped solve a huge missing person’s case back when she was a kid. Since then, the town has considered her a little batty and Florence has never wanted to return to that town. But while she’s there, she’s met with a new ghostly friend; her new editor Benji. As she navigates through the loss of her father and figuring out what she’s going to do next, she’s visited by her dead editor who helps her in more ways than one. Truly a surprising and engrossing story. I really loved this one and if you’re a lover of ghostly romances, then definitely check it out!

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Reluctant Immortals by Gwendolyn Kiste

If you’re into gothic retellings with a more modern twist, then you should check out Reluctant Immortals. The story follows Lucy and Bertha. You may know these names as the significant lovers of two very famous literary men: Dracula and Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre. In this story, Lucy and Bertha have shed the nasty worlds that they’ve been imprisoned and find themselves immortals living in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Lucy is the main protagonist as she carries jars of Dracula’s ashes across the city and Bertha tries to avoid the voices of Mr. Rochester following her around. But when the boys find a way to ensnare groups of young people in the California desert (think of Charles Manson and the cults of the time period), it’s up to Lucy and Bertha to set aside their feelings and help the innocent. With a few special appearances from other characters and an adventure through the California coastline, this book is perfect if you want something a bit more spooky that won’t be too heart-clenching.

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Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Sandhya Menon, and Evelyn Skye

If you’re not looking for any kind of magical creatures and just want something more fun, then you’ll really like this trio of YA romances all set during the same day with three different characters and all the romantic tropes. It follows Onny, Ash, and True: three best friends who have been waiting for the perfect night (the night of the town’s Halloween ball) to try a potion Onny brewed with the help from her Filipino grandmother. Of course, it’s a love potion that helps the person who drinks it to see their feelings for them. Each story follows one of the friends through a funny set of experiences with their OTP. You get a full range of the different romantic tropes and the stories are so perfect for the Halloween season. Nothing spooky about this one, but you will find yourself feeling a lot for these characters as they all fall in love.

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A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson // Book Review

Vampires? Need I say more? Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted read.

Here’s more about A Dowry of Blood

This is my last love letter to you, though some would call it a confession. . .

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things.

Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

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My thoughts

This book is very different from the vampire stories I’ve read before. It’s a Dracula retelling, but from the point of view of his first wife, Constanta. The story is written in letters to Dracula that Constanta writes about their life together. It’s also in the second POV since the letters are specifically addressed and it feels more natural to use “you” in a letter than their real name.

This story felt as if I opened up the scraggly spine of some lost letters to someone’s lover. Each chapter was a letter from Constanta to her lover, Dracula, who took her for his wife when she was dying many years ago. The letters span across the hundreds of years together filled with jealousy, blood, murder, sexual encounters with random strangers, and the two other partners in their poly-amorous relationship. It didn’t feel much like a story where there’s a central plot and conflict to follow, but as if I was reading the sorted diaries of a young wife who was in an abusive relationship with her husband.

This particular part lended well to the story. You were on the edge of your seat wondering how Constanta would get away. The reader wonders if she’ll finally see his abuse and realizes the worth she has before she makes her vengeful decision. I was captured by the letters wanting to learn more about their lives together and finding out if they figure out how to survive.

While there was only a few moments of on-page domestic violence, most of the abuse was through Dracula’s controlling nature. He kept everything close to the chest. He never let Constanta make friends with humans or leave the house without him. He would go on jealous rampages if she had any interest in anyone outside of himself. The atmospheric feel of this book was completely around this controlling nature Dracula portrayed throughout the book with very little explanation about it.

However, in many ways this story didn’t work for me as well. First off, the reader doesn’t get to know Dracula. What you read is the experiences Constanta and the others had while with him, but you rarely hear about his past before Constanta. You rarely hear about his experiments and scientific research. It was as if Dracula was on the periphery of your vision the entire time, but never a part of the main focus.

I had a hard time really connecting with the story. I think partly because it’s written in the epistolary style with a second POV. While I felt for the situation Constanta, Magdalena, and Alexi find themselves, I could never really fall deep into the story enough to care. It was as if I was reading the story second-hand from someone else. It felt flat with my interest waning as I continued to read. The ending was also a bit lackluster for me and again, I think this is because of the writing style. It moved so quickly and because it’s all from what Constanta experiences, there’s very little dimension and development. It just moves right into the ending without any explanation and I think what I wanted was a bit more story behind the characters.

Overall, this was a quick read and fantastic display of atmosphere. If you’re a fan of epistolary stories with vengeance plot lines, then I highly recommend this one to you. It just didn’t work for me.

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel // Book Review

This is the first book since Station Eleven that I’ve read from Emily St. John Mandel. I heard that there was moon people and time travel, so I thought I would give it a shot. I’m so thankful I did.

Here’s more about Sea of Tranquility

Edwin St. Andrew is eighteen years old when he crosses the Atlantic by steamship, exiled from polite society following an ill-conceived diatribe at a dinner party. He enters the forest, spellbound by the beauty of the Canadian wilderness, and suddenly hears the notes of a violin echoing in an airship terminal—an experience that shocks him to his core.

Two centuries later a famous writer named Olive Llewellyn is on a book tour. She’s traveling all over Earth, but her home is the second moon colony, a place of white stone, spired towers, and artificial beauty. Within the text of Olive’s bestselling pandemic novel lies a strange passage: a man plays his violin for change in the echoing corridor of an airship terminal as the trees of a forest rise around him.

When Gaspery-Jacques Roberts, a detective in the black-skied Night City, is hired to investigate an anomaly in the North American wilderness, he uncovers a series of lives upended: The exiled son of an earl driven to madness, a writer trapped far from home as a pandemic ravages Earth, and a childhood friend from the Night City who, like Gaspery himself, has glimpsed the chance to do something extraordinary that will disrupt the timeline of the universe.

A virtuoso performance that is as human and tender as it is intellectually playful, Sea of Tranquility is a novel of time travel and metaphysics that precisely captures the reality of our current moment.

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My thoughts

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first started reading Sea of Tranquility. The description was kind of vague, but the reviews were inspiring, so I went into reading with an open mind. And I was wholeheartedly thanked for it.

This book blew me away in so many different ways. It’s definitely got its twists and turns and surprises that will go off like a light bulb in your head, but then you’re left with this deep cut of emotions as you navigate trying to live your life after reading this book. Trust me, all I can think about while I write this review is this book.

The story starts off with three different timelines. The first story is from the 20th century where a young man is journeying from England to Canada. The second story is from 2020 about a young woman searching for an old friend she hasn’t seen in years. The last story takes place in the 22nd century about an author who is recently on a book tour across Earth for her most famous novel. What connects all three people? Well, they were all at some point transported to a mysterious forest where they can hear a violin playing and an airship taking off.

That’s the point that really hooked me. I was a little confused by where the story was going with the lengthy description of the first character traveling across the ocean to Canada, but the moment he’s transported to that airship terminal and hears that violin is where it sucked me in entirely. It felt like Mandel purposefully designed the moment for her reader; to make you believe that at any given moment you can find yourself snapped into some random space in time and completely changed by the experience.

It’s currently what rookie investigator Gaspery Roberts is investigating; an anomaly in the timeline where three people from three time periods experience the same glitch in time. Gaspery is a new recruit at the Time Institute sometime in the year 2400. He volunteers to go back in time to investigate the three incidents and find connection between the people it affected.

This is the point in the story where I thought we might get another Blake Crouch science fiction thriller. It had all the factors of his style of writing and wondered how far Emily St. John Mandel may go, but because this is Emily St. John Mandel and not Blake Crouch, the story took a different turn creating a paradoxical Quantum Leap-style story. Gaspery’s journey across time made me hopeful about my future and the world around us.

And at the titular moment where you thought everything would be solved and the mystery would make sense, Mandel pivots again and surprised me with an ending that was both satisfying and enduring. One of the major themes is humanity and our unpredictable nature. How something that make the most sense takes a turn for us in the moment. How we’re all faced with many different paths and our choices may lead us down to a place of destruction or reincarnation. Gaspery’s journey is very much like the ones we experience in our daily lives. We my not be traveling through time to solve anomalies in the timeline, but we are making the choices that affect not only our own lives, but the lives of people around us. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and truly shares the silver lining in all of this.

It did surprise me that the book mentions, not one, but several pandemics. I think this might be my first pandemic story since 2020 and to be honest, it wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating. Of course, they were there in the background providing the setting of these events, but it wasn’t the main focus which I truly appreciated.

Overall, this book moved me and surprised me and made me feel things I’ve been hoping to feel after reading such an incredible book. It’s on par with authors like Haruki Murakami and Blake Crouch, but entirely unique like Mandel herself. I truly recommend this book to everyone.

Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree // Book review

How did I not know about cozy fantasy books? Thanks to Tor Books for the gifted read.

Here’s more about Legends and Lattes

High Fantasy with a double-shot of self-reinvention.

Worn out after decades of packing steel and raising hell, Viv the orc barbarian cashes out of the warrior’s life with one final score. A forgotten legend, a fabled artifact, and an unreasonable amount of hope lead her to the streets of Thune, where she plans to open the first coffee shop the city has ever seen.

However, her dreams of a fresh start pulling shots instead of swinging swords are hardly a sure bet. Old frenemies and Thune’s shady underbelly may just upset her plans. To finally build something that will last, Viv will need some new partners and a different kind of resolve.

A hot cup of fantasy slice-of-life with a dollop of romantic froth.

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My thoughts

Wow, I wish I knew about cozy fantasy books sooner because I would be all over that genre. This is all the cozy you want from a book with fantasy elements to it, so if you’re either a fan of fantasy books or of cozy books, you’ll get a little bit of something here.

The emphasis on this book is more cozy than fantasy, so folks who are used to high fantasy elements, lots of backstory, and tons of world building may not get the kind of book that they want. I mean, those cozy mysteries are emphasis on cozy than mystery, so you can pretty much the same here. However, it definitely doesn’t lack in the fantasy elements. You have various different fantasy creatures and magical elements playing throughout the story. You get enough about the world to keep you going, but I will admit I wanted to know more about Viv and her background as a ruthless orc who killed for hire. But I didn’t mind learning about Viv’s lighter side especially as she journeyed to open her own cafe selling a drink no one has ever heard of in a town she just moved to.

The characters were really the driving force of the story. I loved Viv and her background. I loved hearing about Tandri and how she’d been discriminated because of who she is and how she found a safe space at the coffee shop. I absolutely loved the regulars and of course, I loved the cat. Every character really brought something to the world and made it feel so realistic. You had the regular who never orders anything, the person who sits in the corner contemplating a game of chess, the folks who walk in and out of the cafe everyday with the hopes of digging into a good cup of coffee and a warm pastry. It really brought a sense of comfort and I couldn’t help imagining myself at one of those cafe tables quietly reading my book and observing everyone going about their business.

I think what I loved the most about this story is Viv’s journey. You don’t know what kind of life she had, but you know it was hard and her decision to open her own cafe was self-care at its finest. I was just imagining her picking up her sword and fighting off villains, but I loved that she puts her sword up on the wall and focuses her time on making delicious cups of coffee.

The inclusion of coffee in a world where there’s no coffee was so clever. I loved watching Viv and Tandri try to sell something no one has ever tried or even heard of. The way that it’s included in the story breaks a bit of the fantasy of the world, but at the same time I found myself giving props to Travis Baldree for taking something so coveted in the real world and making it an anomaly in this fantasy world. It really made me happy to see everyone trying it out for the first time and the excitement it brings to the small town.

Of course, coffee can’t be served alone and when they introduce pastries to the shop, I was definitely in love. Similarly to the coffee, Baldree introduces these real-world elements to the story as if they’re new ideas and the excitement and reception they get from the characters really makes you believe that there may be some magic in a cinnamon roll. The descriptions of the food were incredible and really made me wish I had a chocolate croissant and warm latte next to me.

No story isn’t without its conflict and I really loved how this one plays out. It felt almost like a mafia story where the wise guys come to the cafe threatening to burn the place down if they didn’t pay for existing. I really loved how that intertwines with the business and made a lot of sense in the world. I also loved that there was a little bit of conflict with Viv’s past. You may not know everything that happened in her life prior to becoming a barista, but you know enough to know that the people coming to mess with her are from that dark past and Viv needs to do something about it.

Overall, this book left me with a giant smile on my face. I loved the characters and following along with them as they literally built a coffee shop in a world where coffee is the newest thing anyone could have tried. I think this might have opened up an entire genre of books for me to check out.

Highly Anticipated Reads of October 2022

Highly Anticipated Reads of October 2022

Is there a lot of holiday books coming out in October? Yes. Are any of them on my list? Sorry. While I wish I can get into the holidays before their time, there’s none that really strike me. Instead, it’s about spooky books, big fantasy stories, and some highly anticipated pubs of the year! Here’s what’s going on in October:

A Dowry of Blood by S.T. Gibson – October 4th

This is my last love letter to you, though some would call it a confession. . .

Saved from the brink of death by a mysterious stranger, Constanta is transformed from a medieval peasant into a bride fit for an undying king. But when Dracula draws a cunning aristocrat and a starving artist into his web of passion and deceit, Constanta realizes that her beloved is capable of terrible things.

Finding comfort in the arms of her rival consorts, she begins to unravel their husband’s dark secrets. With the lives of everyone she loves on the line, Constanta will have to choose between her own freedom and her love for her husband. But bonds forged by blood can only be broken by death.

“A dizzying nightmare of a romance that will leave you aching, angry and ultimately hopeful.” —Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf

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Illuminations by Alan Moore – October 11th

In his first-ever short story collection, which spans forty years of work, Alan Moore presents a series of wildly different and equally unforgettable characters who discover–and in some cases even make and unmake–the various uncharted parts of existence.

In “A Hypothetical Lizard,” two concubines in a brothel of fantastical specialists fall in love with tragic ramifications. In “Not Even Legend,” a paranormal study group is infiltrated by one of the otherworldly beings they seek to investigate. In “Illuminations,” a nostalgic older man decides to visit a seaside resort from his youth and finds the past all too close at hand. And in the monumental novella “What We Can Know About Thunderman,” which charts the surreal and Kafkaesque history of the comics industry’s major players over the last seventy-five years, Moore reveals the dark, beating heart of the superhero business.

From ghosts and otherworldly creatures to theoretical Boltzmann brains fashioning the universe at the big bang, Illuminations is exactly that–a series of bright, startling tales from a contemporary legend that reveal the full power of imagination and magic.

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If You Could See the Sun by Ann Liang – October 11th

“Utterly unique, thought-provoking, and wonderfully written… a thrilling ride that hooked me from start to finish.” —Gloria Chao, author of American Panda and Rent a Boyfriend

In this genre-bending YA debut, a Chinese American girl monetizes her strange new invisibility powers by discovering and selling her wealthy classmates’ most scandalous secrets.
Alice Sun has always felt invisible at her elite Beijing international boarding school, where she’s the only scholarship student among China’s most rich and influential teens. But then she starts uncontrollably turning invisible—actually invisible.
When her parents drop the news that they can no longer afford her tuition, even with the scholarship, Alice hatches a plan to monetize her strange new power—she’ll discover the scandalous secrets her classmates want to know, for a price.
But as the tasks escalate from petty scandals to actual crimes, Alice must decide if it’s worth losing her conscience—or even her life.

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The River of Silver by S.A. Chakraborty – October 11th

Bestselling author S. A. Chakraborty’s acclaimed Daevabad Trilogy gets expanded with this new compilation of stories from before, during, and after the events of The City of Brass, The Kingdom of Copper, and The Empire of Gold, all from the perspective of characters both beloved and hated, and even those without a voice in the novels. The River of Silver gathers material both seen and new–including a special coda fans will need to read–making this the perfect complement to those incredible novels.

Now together in one place, these stories of Daevabad enrich a world already teeming with magic and wonder. Explore this magical kingdom, hidden from human eyes. A place where djinn live and thrive, fight and love. A world where princes question their power, and powerful demons can help you…or destroy you.

A prospective new queen joins a court whose lethal history may overwhelm her own political savvy…

An imprisoned royal from a fallen dynasty and a young woman wrenched from her home cross paths in an enchanted garden…

A pair of scouts stumble upon a secret in a cursed winter wood that will turn over their world…

From Manizheh’s first steps towards rebellion to adventures that take place after The Empire of Gold, this is a must-have collection for those who can’t get enough of Nahri, Ali, and Dara and all that unfolded around them.

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The Witch Hunt by Sasha Peyton Smith – October 11th

The lush and pulse-pounding sequel to the New York Times bestselling The Witch Haven follows Frances and her fellow witches to the streets of Paris where family secrets, lost loves, and dangerous magic await.

Months after the devastating battle between the Sons of St. Druon and the witches of Haxahaven, Frances has built a quiet, safe life for herself, teaching young witches and tending the garden within the walls of Haxahaven Academy. But one thing nags; her magic has begun to act strangely. When an opportunity to visit Paris arises, Frances jumps at the chance to go, longing for adventure and seeking answers about her own power.

Once she and her classmates Maxine and Lena reach the vibrant streets of France, Frances learns that the spell she used to speak to her dead brother has had terrible consequences—the veil between the living and the dead has been torn by her recklessness, and a group of magicians are using the rift for their own gain at a horrifying cost.

To right this wrong, and save lives and her own magical powers, Frances must hunt down answers in the parlors of Parisian secret societies, the halls of the Louvre, and the tunnels of the catacombs. Her only choice is to team up with the person she swore she’d never trust again, risking further betrayal and her own life in the process.

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The Empress of Time by Kylie Lee Baker – October 4th

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami Ren Scarborough is no longer the girl who was chased out of England—she is the Goddess of Death ruling Japan’s underworld. But her problems have never been greater. Her Shinigami see her as a foreigner on the throne. Her brother, Neven, is gone, lost in the deep darkness. And her fiancé, Hiro, has been killed by her own hand.

Then Ren receives the most troubling news yet—Reapers have been spotted in Japan, and it’s only a matter of time before Ivy, now Britain’s Death Goddess, comes to claim her revenge.

Ren’s last hope is to appeal to the god of storms and seas, who can turn the tides to send Ivy’s ship away from Japan’s shores. But he’ll help Ren only if she finds a sword lost thousands of years ago—an impossible demand.

Together with the moon god Tsukuyomi, who shares an uncanny resemblance to his brother Hiro, Ren ventures across the country in a race against time. As her journey thrusts her into the middle of scheming gods and dangerous Yokai demons, Ren will have to learn who she can truly trust—and the fate of Japan hangs in the balance.

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Station Eternity by Mur Lafferty – October 4th

From idyllic small towns to claustrophobic urban landscapes, Mallory Viridian is constantly embroiled in murder cases that only she has the insight to solve. But outside of a classic mystery novel, being surrounded by death doesn’t make you a charming amateur detective, it makes you a suspect and a social pariah. So when Mallory gets the opportunity to take refuge on a sentient space station, she thinks she has the solution. Surely the murders will stop if her only company is alien beings. At first her new existence is peacefully quiet…and markedly devoid of homicide.

But when the station agrees to allow additional human guests, Mallory knows the break from her peculiar reality is over. After the first Earth shuttle arrives, and aliens and humans alike begin to die, the station is thrown into peril. Stuck smack-dab in the middle of an extraterrestrial whodunit, and wondering how in the world this keeps happening to her anyway, Mallory has to solve the crime—and fast—or the list of victims could grow to include everyone on board….

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Self-Portrait with Nothing by Aimee Pokwatka – October 18th

If a picture paints a thousand worlds…

Abandoned as an infant on the local veterinarian’s front porch, Pepper Rafferty was raised by two loving mothers, and now at thirty-six is married to the stable, supportive Ike. She’s never told anyone that at fifteen she discovered the identity of her biological mother.

That’s because her birth mother is Ula Frost, a reclusive painter famous for the outrageous claims that her portraits summon their subjects’ doppelgangers from parallel universes.

Researching the rumors, Pepper couldn’t help but wonder:
Was there a parallel universe in which she was more confident, more accomplished, better able to accept love?
A universe in which Ula decided she was worth keeping?
A universe in which Ula’s rejection didn’t still hurt too much to share?

Sometimes living our best life means embracing the imperfect one we already have…

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Strike the Zither by Joan He – October 11th

The year is 414 of the Xin Dynasty, and chaos abounds. A puppet empress is on the throne. The realm has fractured into three factions and three warlordesses hoping to claim the continent for themselves.

But Zephyr knows it’s no contest.

Orphaned at a young age, Zephyr took control of her fate by becoming the best strategist of the land and serving under Xin Ren, a warlordess whose loyalty to the empress is double-edged—while Ren’s honor draws Zephyr to her cause, it also jeopardizes their survival in a war where one must betray or be betrayed. When Zephyr is forced to infiltrate an enemy camp to keep Ren’s followers from being slaughtered, she encounters the enigmatic Crow, an opposing strategist who is finally her match. But there are more enemies than one—and not all of them are human.

An epic YA fantasy about found family, rivals, and identity, from New York Times and Indie bestselling author Joan He, inspired by Three Kingdoms, one of the Four Classics of Chinese Literature.

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Our Missing Hearts by Celeste Ng – October 4th

From the #1 bestselling author of Little Fires Everywhere, comes one of the most highly anticipated books of the year – the inspiring new novel about a mother’s unbreakable love in a world consumed by fear.

Twelve-year-old Bird Gardner lives a quiet existence with his loving but broken father, a former linguist who now shelves books in a university library. Bird knows to not ask too many questions, stand out too much, or stray too far. For a decade, their lives have been governed by laws written to preserve “American culture” in the wake of years of economic instability and violence. To keep the peace and restore prosperity, the authorities are now allowed to relocate children of dissidents, especially those of Asian origin, and libraries have been forced to remove books seen as unpatriotic—including the work of Bird’s mother, Margaret, a Chinese American poet who left the family when he was nine years old.

Bird has grown up disavowing his mother and her poems; he doesn’t know her work or what happened to her, and he knows he shouldn’t wonder. But when he receives a mysterious letter containing only a cryptic drawing, he is pulled into a quest to find her. His journey will take him back to the many folktales she poured into his head as a child, through the ranks of an underground network of librarians, into the lives of the children who have been taken, and finally to New York City, where a new act of defiance may be the beginning of much-needed change.

Our Missing Hearts is an old story made new, of the ways supposedly civilized communities can ignore the most searing injustice. It’s a story about the power—and limitations—of art to create change, the lessons and legacies we pass on to our children, and how any of us can survive a broken world with our hearts intact.

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The Atlas Paradox by Olivie Blake – October 25th


The Atlas Paradox is the long-awaited sequel to dark academic sensation The Atlas Six—guaranteed to have even more yearning, backstabbing, betrayal, and chaos.

Six magicians. Two rivalries. One researcher. And a man who can walk through dreams. All must pick a side: do they wish to preserve the world—or destroy it? In this electric sequel to the viral sensation, The Atlas Six, the society of Alexandrians is revealed for what it is: a secret society with raw, world-changing power, headed by a man whose plans to change life as we know it are already under way. But the cost of knowledge is steep, and as the price of power demands each character choose a side, which alliances will hold and which will see their enmity deepen?”

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Night of Raven, Dawn of Dove by Rati Mehrotra – October 18th

To learn what she can become, she must first discover who she is.

Katyani’s role in the kingdom of Chandela has always been clear: becoming an advisor and protector of the crown prince, Ayan, when he ascends to the throne. Bound to the Queen of Chandela through a forbidden soul bond that saved her when she was a child, Katyani has grown up in the royal family and become the best guardswoman the Garuda has ever seen. But when a series of assassination attempts threatens the royals, Katyani is shipped off to the gurukul of the famous Acharya Mahavir as an escort to Ayan and his cousin, Bhairav, to protect them as they hone the skills needed to be the next leaders of the kingdom. Nothing could annoy Katyani more than being stuck in a monastic school in the middle of a forest, except her run-ins with Daksh, the Acharya’s son, who can’t stop going on about the rules and whose gaze makes her feel like he can see into her soul.

But when Katyani and the princes are hurriedly summoned back to Chandela before their training is complete, tragedy strikes and Katyani is torn from the only life she has ever known. Alone and betrayed in a land infested by monsters, Katyani must find answers from her past to save all she loves and forge her own destiny. Bonds can be broken, but debts must be repaid.

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The Second Death of Edie and Violet Bond by Amanda Glaze – October 4th

Deliciously chilling and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful.”
—Nina LaCour, Printz Award–winning author of We Are Okay

Sacramento, 1885  
Edie and Violet Bond know the truth about death. The seventeen-year-old twins are powerful mediums, just like their mother—Violet can open the veil between life and death, and Edie can cross into the spirit world. But their abilities couldn’t save them when their mother died and their father threatened to commit them to a notorious asylum.   
Now runaways, Edie and Violet are part of a traveling Spiritualist show, a tight-knit group of young women who demonstrate their real talents under the guise of communing with spirits. Each night, actresses, poets, musicians, and orators all make contact with spirits who happen to have something to say. . . notions that young ladies could never openly express. But when Violet’s act goes terribly wrong one night, Edie learns that the dark spirit responsible for their mother’s death has crossed into the land of the living. As they investigate the identity of her mysterious final client, they realize that someone is hunting mediums…and they may be next.Only by trusting in one another can the twins uncover a killer who will stop at nothing to cheat death.

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Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz // Book Review

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz // Book Review

This is the perfect gothic YA you’ll want to read this fall!

Here’s more about Anatomy: A Love Story

Edinburgh, 1817. Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry.

Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die.

When the two of them have a chance encounter outside the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.

Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then.

But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.

A gothic tale full of mystery and romance about a willful female surgeon, a resurrection man who sells bodies for a living, and the buried secrets they must uncover together.

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My thoughts

Anatomy follows young Hazel in 19th century Edinburgh with a dream to become a physician one day. Sadly, this wasn’t the greatest time for women and the dream she so dared to dream required a lot more work to achieve. She’s betrothed to her cousin (keeping it in the family) and made to conform to the position of young woman in high society. Reading manuals on human physiology, bringing dead frogs back from the dead, and disguising herself as a boy to attend classes at an all-boys physiology school, Hazel was determined to be a physician regardless of her sex.

But there was a lot more happening in this book than just her pursuit in science. Not only is there the plot about Hazel wanting to become a doctor, but there’s also a plague going around, bodies going missing, deaths occurring, and a marriage proposal. I loved that this story had so many aspects that wrapped itself together into one bigger story. I loved the mysterious aspects of the story and brought a little bit of suspense to it. I was wondering who might be the person who was causing all the deaths and the reveal was quite satisfying.

It also explored the gothic stories of the time period. I was getting Bronte sisters and even a little Mary Shelley with the descriptions, the strange science experiments and the like. The book taking place in Scotland also lended to the setting. I just imagined misty moors and abandoned graveyards. The atmosphere throughout the story truly set the stage for the events.

While I wish the romance was a tad bit stronger to match the end of the book, I did believe in Jack and Hazel and their wild duo would have been such a great ending. I felt like Jack and Hazel’s relationship didn’t really have the time to develop although I did appreciate their encounters and the way they worked with each other. I just wish the magic in their love story was a bit more prominent.

Just as an aside, but for some reason Jack’s part in the story reminded me a lot of Jack in another historical film that involved a big boat. I wanted him to have a much bigger part, but I also loved that he encouraged Hazel to pursue her dreams by digging up the bodies for her.

I will say, the ending really threw me and had a much different feel to it from the rest of the book. It truly surprised me and while it didn’t match the rest of the story, it did leave me hanging and hoping there’s a second book (there is!).

This is definitely the perfect book for the spooky season if you’d like something a bit spooky without it being all right horrifying. I will say that the level of gore may make you cringe, but I think you’ll also be captured by the story, the romance, and the interesting ending.

What I Read in September 2022

What I Read in September 2022

Well, September was an interesting month and to end it with a hurricane was an unexpected surprise. I’ve been dealing with a lot of burnout recently from pretty much everything. It’s been a really long time since I’ve felt this way, but I hope to remedy the issue next month with a much more relaxed TBR and way less responsibility. But this month was eventful regardless as I finished seven books.

It was oddly a month of heavy fantasy reads. I loved them all, but I will never again think I can polyread multiple giant fantasy tomes that are over 500 pages long. That just doesn’t work for me. But I was grateful to finish everything I wanted to read and shared them here with you. I think next month I’m just going to read a bunch of fun books and give myself a little break.

My favorite books from the month

Nona the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir – I was just as surprised as everyone else when Tamsyn Muir announced she would be writing a fourth book in the Locked Tomb trilogy. In fact, having it squished between the second book and the final book was a bit sneaky but wholeheartedly worth it. Find my review here.

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi – I spent the month reading The Final Strife with a readalong on bookstagram and I appreciate the folks who put together the event because I found a new favorite in this one! I love competition-troped fantasy stories, but the creativity behind the world, the political struggle, and the big twists throughout really kept me reading! Find my review here.

Babel by R.F. Kuang – Can you tell now why this month burned me out on reading? This is the third big book (and not the last) from this month. It was the most intense, most serious story I’ve read in a long time and the folks who absolutely love historical fiction and literary fiction will truly enjoy this one. While it wasn’t a fantasy book like I was expecting, it definitely had an interesting magical world that involves translation and truly such a brilliantly written story. Find my review here.

Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton – The final big book of the month and it was also such a good one. I’ve always been a fan of the movie, but it was finally time to read the book and it was all worth it. Find my review here.

What were your favorite books of the month?

The Final Strife by Saara El-Arifi // Book Review

This is definitely the most creative high fantasy book I’ve read in a really long time. I’m so glad to have friends who put together this readalong this month because I found myself a new favorite author. Thanks to Del Rey for the gifted copy of the book.

Here’s more about The Final Strife

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Sylah dreams of days growing up in the resistance, being told she would spark a revolution that would free the empire from the red-blooded ruling classes’ tyranny. That spark was extinguished the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment, by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the empire. But dust always rises in a storm.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution.

As the empire begins a set of trials of combat and skill designed to find its new leaders, the stage is set for blood to flow, power to shift, and cities to burn.

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My thoughts

I’m so glad that I took the time to read this one because it truly became a favorite of mine for this year. Wow, I didn’t know what to expect going into it, but it has so many elements that I truly love: a competition-style battle between competitors you get to know, a enemies-to-lovers relationship between the two main characters, a world that needs some big changes and the level of social commentary the author is able to incorporate into this world. I loved all of it!

The story follows Sylah, Anoor, and Hassan. Sylah and Anoor’s stories are more intertwined with each other and while Hassan’s story becomes integral to Sylah and Anoor, it’s definitely more the Sylah and Anoor show and I’m here for it. The biggest part of this story is the plot, the world building, and the character development. I thought it was strange that there wasn’t a major villain aspect to the story, but it pays off as you read through the events that takes place.

The world building in this one is exquisite and feeds deeply into the political structure of this world. They live in a place where people are discriminate by their blood. Embers have red blood, can use blood magic, and they have rule over the world. Dusters have blue blood and are considered beneath Embers. They’re your common folk, but still considered beneath the ruling party of this world and mostly take positions as merchants and servants. They are branded at a young age to differentiate them from the Embers. The Ghostings are even lower than Dusters. They have transparent blood and natives of the land the Embers rule over. However, because of their uprising against the Embers, they’ve been punished to be the lowest class, who have their hands and tongues cut off at a young age as punishment of the crimes their ancestors committed.

The Dusters of this world are tired of being second-class citizens and nearly 20 years ago replaced the children of high-ranking families with Duster children. The Ember children were raised as Dusters to hopefully take over the world in the future with the idea that Embers aren’t the only party existing in this world. Of course, Sylah and Anoor are caught up into this whole endeavor and their parts on both sides is what really drives this story. I loved the perspective that these two characters bring. Because they’re raised in two entirely different ways, they already have their ideas set, but it’s not until they meet each other that these ideas change and evolve to a better world. I loved how that all came together.

I honestly need to commend El-Arifi with her ability to create this world. It is so intricate and the discrimination and political ruling are so intertwined. It was incredible and I thought having Anoor being a Duster living in the Ember world and Sylah being an Ember who only knows the Duster life was truly brilliant. You see how these two characters exist in their world hidden by the people surrounding them, but also how it provides perspective of how they live their lives.

This is also a competition-style epic fantasy where Anoor is competing to become a disciple of the Wardens. In this world, anyone within the Ember community are allowed to compete for a position of power within their government. There is one disciple of knowledge and one disciple of strength who will eventually become Wardens themselves. And the competition that Anoor enters and her training towards this great goal is what takes up most of this story. Of course, the challenges are all ways that Anoor can expose herself as a Duster, but she believes that she can really enact change if she were to become a disciple, which is enough motivation for her to continue.

Anoor and Sylah are also the kinds of characters you want to keep up with throughout the book. Because they come from different backgrounds, they have different personalities and that clash between them before they finally submitted to their friendship and then some is truly worth the read. I loved getting to know both of them and seeing them fighting through the harder parts of their friendship as well as working together to help Anoor win the competition. Sylah was also interesting because she struggles with drug abuse throughout the story. It felt realistic where it’s something that constantly comes up, where she admits that it’s one of her priorities, and how she constantly fights the addiction in her own way.

I also loved how this book wraps up so well. You will be totally swept into this world, the drama of the events that take place, and find yourself with a pair of characters you can’t stop thinking about. While there is a little bit hanging on for you to explore in the second and third books, you’re still just finishing this book with the satisfying feeling that things will turn out for the better of these characters. I truly found hope at the end of this book.

Babel by R.F. Kuang // Book Review

Babel by R.F. Kuang // Book Review

As someone who isn’t on the same intelligence level of R.F. Kuang, who humbly reads her books and doesn’t see the multiple sides of the polyhedron that’s her story, I read the story and hours after putting down the book, I can’t help but to think about it. Spoilers ahead, so please proceed with caution!

Here’s more about Babel, or the Necessity of Violence

Traduttore, traditore: An act of translation is always an act of betrayal.

1828. Robin Swift, orphaned by cholera in Canton, is brought to London by the mysterious Professor Lovell. There, he trains for years in Latin, Ancient Greek, and Chinese, all in preparation for the day he’ll enroll in Oxford University’s prestigious Royal Institute of Translation — also known as Babel.

Babel is the world’s center of translation and, more importantly, of silver-working: the art of manifesting the meaning lost in translation through enchanted silver bars, to magical effect. Silver-working has made the British Empire unparalleled in power, and Babel’s research in foreign languages serves the Empire’s quest to colonize everything it encounters.

Oxford, the city of dreaming spires, is a fairytale for Robin; a utopia dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. But knowledge serves power, and for Robin, a Chinese boy raised in Britain, serving Babel inevitably means betraying his motherland. As his studies progress Robin finds himself caught between Babel and the shadowy Hermes Society, an organization dedicated to sabotaging the silver-working that supports imperial expansion. When Britain pursues an unjust war with China over silver and opium, Robin must decide: Can powerful institutions be changed from within, or does revolution always require violence? What is he willing to sacrifice to bring Babel down?

Babel — a thematic response to The Secret History and a tonal response to Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell — grapples with student revolutions, colonial resistance, and the use of translation as a tool of empire.

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My thoughts

It’s going to be quite difficult for me to write this review without spoilers, but I’m going to try. I don’t want to spoil anything especially in this story because there’s so much nuance, complexity, and deep introspection once you’re done. It’s honestly the kind of book you want to read on your own and make your own opinion on because the subjects it brings up are meant for deeper thinking.

Babel is two stories melded into one. The first is the young academic with the opportunity to learn at Oxford, this prestigious school that’s hundreds of years old and taught the brightest people in the world. You follow Robin Swift from his beginnings in China through his entire time at Oxford and the events that take place there. There’s so much romanticized in the world of Babel that really gives you the academia vibe. I honestly imagined myself in the gown running across campus in order to make it to class. The rainy days spent in the library poring over books and theories. I was sitting with Ramy, Letty, and Victoire as they ate day-old scones with tea and discussing the finer points of translation. And most of this book is about translation, which was my favorite part. Kuang does not skimp on the study of language, its translation, and even the magical elements that translation brings. She’s even able to capture the political and economic needs for translation. I loved this so much. I always find etymology and language to be such an fascinating subject and seeing it shared here in such a big way just gave me a level of excitement for the academic pursuit. It’s extremely well researched with various languages I know Kuang can’t speak herself, but shows how deeply ingrained language is and means to culture and people.

This book was more an alternate history than a fantasy, but the story was still brilliantly developed. Kuang is an excellent world-builder and through her descriptions you’re able to fall deeply into this world and imagine yourself in it. I loved that Kuang builds this idyllic version of student life and makes her readers fall so madly in love with the concept, but you also get a really big dose of reality because this is R.F. Kuang and she doesn’t take things lightly.

The second story is where the rage comes in. Robin Swift may have this wonderful opportunity to study and learn at Oxford, but it wasn’t without its difficulties. He was stolen from China right after his mother dies. He’s forced to change his name to something more English-friendly erasing his connection with his homeland. He’s victim to child abuse from his guardian and scrutinized as some sort of science experiment from the other white students. He’s also one of four students that weren’t both white and male going to Oxford. The world Robin becomes a part of turns him and his friends into the “other.” It was the fuel to the fire that leads to their rebellion. It was the dark underbelly of academia where regardless of the prestige, the opportunity, and the first-rate education they’re receiving, it will never make them a part of this world and it will never fully accept or respect them as the scholars they are.

And that’s a sentiment I can understand and have been forced to feel. It’s already difficult to understand where you belong. I’ve felt straddled between being Asian and being American my entire life. While most of the time I’ve let my anger go, it’s always the little jabs that come your way from strangers, from friends, from work colleagues that brings back those feelings. It’s a frustrating feeling and when things become more dire for the young translation students at Babel, that’s when the violence comes in. I think the most important component to keep in mind when reading this book is the subtitle: Babel, or the necessity of violence. Because violence is a huge part of this story. From the abuse Robin goes through as a child to the final stand at the tower of Babel, violence threads its way through these characters like a cancer to the point where the youthful naivete of scholarly pursuits becomes a battlefield of resistance and a desire for acceptance.

It’s such an interesting topic to explore and while I think the final moments of this story took that narrative to the most extreme level, you really get an idea of the anger that fuels their rebellion. You understand why they took it so far and why sometimes you need to go to the extremes in order to make a statement.

I think the brilliance of this book is that Kuang presents you both sides of the same coin; the story of a young academic seeking knowledge at a prestigious school and the story of a young academic who finally sees the level of racism, classism, and exploitation the school takes from him. However, I wish I saw more of Robin’s personal struggle throughout the story. I felt like there was a small amount in the beginning, but then at one point it’s a full 180 and he’s leading a rebellion he didn’t want to be a part of in the first place. I don’t blame him for the violence or even the extreme measures that he takes, but I wish we dived deeper into that dichotomy instead of falling head first in the pursuit for justice.

Overall, this immersive story will keep you reading. You might be compelled by the translation discussions, or you might be compelled by the rebellion of these students, but there is a little bit of everything for everyone and if you’re not thinking about the bigger themes of the story after putting the book down, then you might have missed the entire point. I had some issues with the character development and some of the plot either moved too quickly or stagnated at a snail’s pace, but it was truly a masterful book that isn’t subtle and will make you hurt and wonder at the same time. I commend R.F. Kuang for this incredible endeavor. This truly is a feather in her writing cap and brings to light some truly interesting themes in an understandable way.

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon // Book Review

Three Kisses, One Midnight by Roshani Chokshi, Evelyn Skye, and Sandhya Menon // Book Review

Three characters, three stories, one book. If you’re a fan of contemporary YA romance series and wish you can get three stories in one book, then this is the one for you. Thanks to Wednesday Books for the gifted read.

Here’s more about Three Kisses, One Midnight

The town of Moon Ridge was founded 400 years ago and everyone born and raised there knows the legend of the young woman who perished at the stroke of twelve that very same night, losing the life she was set to embark on with her dearest love. Every century since, one day a year, the Lady of Moon Ridge descends from the stars to walk among the townsfolk, conjuring an aura upon those willing to follow their hearts’ desires.

“To summon joy and love in another’s soul
For a connection that makes two people whole
For laughter and a smile that one can never miss
Sealed before midnight with a truehearted kiss.”

This year at Moon Ridge High, a group of friends known as The Coven will weave art, science, and magic during a masquerade ball unlike any other. Onny, True, and Ash believe everything is in alignment to bring them the affection, acceptance, and healing that can only come from romance—with a little help from Onny’s grandmother’s love potion.

But nothing is as simple as it first seems. And as midnight approaches, The Coven learn that it will take more than a spell to recognize those who offer their love and to embrace all the magic that follows.

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My thoughts

I honestly went into this book thinking that it was going to be an anthology of short stories. However, it’s a little bit more unique than that and really creates a unique experience. Three incredible YA authors write three separate stories all set at the same place, same time, and follow one of the main characters through their evening. I loved the concept. I loved the idea of writing a short story in a trilogy collection that’s set throughout the same night.

The first story is based off Onny. She’s the magical one of the group who’s made a love potion for the three of them to use sometime before midnight of the town’s Halloween ball. Onny was my favorite as she prepares her potion for the boy she has a crush on only to have her nemesis drink it instead. And as they try to make more of the potion, of course their feelings for each other changes as well.

The second story is based off Ash, who is a talented artist that’s terribly shy. He lives next door to a wondrous girl who plays basketball and runs with a much more popular crowd and while he may know every detail about her, she doesn’t really know he exists. That is, until her brothers break the fence between their two homes and Ash is recruited to help rebuild the fence with her. Of course, things start to change between the two of them from there.

The final story follows True, a straightforward no-nonsense girl who’s nursing a broken heart. Of course, she wouldn’t let on that she’s a bit heartbroken, but when she finds herself at the ball talking to a boy she’s never met before, things change for True and open her up to a possibility of love.

The three stories separately all had some favorite moments. I loved that each had its different trope and has a little bit for everyone. Of course, it’s a super fast read, but still such a darling set of stories. I most definitely loved Onny’s story the best, but each had me gasping and sighing at some of the romantic moments for each of them.

Of course, the book has all the fall vibes. The book is set around Halloween with a Halloween-themed ball to attend. The people in town dressed in elaborate costumes all sipping party drinks and dancing together is just the perfect mood for the story. Of course, there’s a little bit of witchy magic, which also ties into the Halloween theme without being spooky. I absolutely loved that this book is made for this season and if you’re looking to cozy up with a comforting YA romance, then this one is for you.