The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen // Book Review

The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy by Megan Bannen // Book Review

If you’re a fan of zombies, demigods, undertakers, and You’ve Got Mail, then this book is 100% for you. The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy was a lot and I mean that in a positive way. Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted copy.

Here’s more about The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

Hart is a marshal, tasked with patrolling the strange and magical wilds of Tanria. It’s an unforgiving job, and Hart’s got nothing but time to ponder his loneliness.

Mercy never has a moment to herself. She’s been single-handedly keeping Birdsall & Son Undertakers afloat in defiance of sullen jerks like Hart, who seems to have a gift for showing up right when her patience is thinnest.

After yet another exasperating run-in with Mercy, Hart finds himself penning a letter addressed simply to “A Friend”. Much to his surprise, an anonymous letter comes back in return, and a tentative friendship is born.

If only Hart knew he’s been baring his soul to the person who infuriates him most – Mercy. As the dangers from Tanria grow closer, so do the unlikely correspondents. But can their blossoming romance survive the fated discovery that their pen pals are their worst nightmares – each other?

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My thoughts

I had already heard a buzz about this book before I picked it up and I picked it up before the book was officially published, so I feel like that was a good sign that what I was getting into would be stellar. And folks, it was a wild and crazy ride that I wholeheartedly loved.

Mercy is a 30-something-year-old who’s been tirelessly working to keep her family’s funeral business afloat. Her father’s aging, her brother doesn’t care, and in a world where undertaking is passed on from father and son, there’s no room for Mercy to pursue this full time. However, she’s determined to keep it open despite the competition offering to pay a lot to shutter.

Hart is a 30-something demigod who has spent the last fifteen years traveling across the vastness of this world. He’s a marshal, who travels outside of their little world to defeat drudges (aka zombies) and return the lost bodies of loved ones to be buried properly. His work requires him to visit Mercy at her family’s funeral home every few weeks, but it’s not his favorite part of the job.

From the very beginning, you can tell Hart and Mercy had it out for each other. They’ve given each other crude nicknames, refuse to work together, and just really consider each other in any sort of working relationship despite their jobs requiring them to work together. But then one day, Hart writes an anonymous letter and sent it out into the world with no hopes that someone would read it only to have the letter mailed to Mercy. At that point on, Hart and Mercy write deeply intimate letters to each other creating a kinship that would have never happened in their very real lives.

The story reads so much like you’re watching You’ve Got Mail. I think there’s an entire scene that feels frame-for-frame a scene from the movie. For all intents and purposes, you can call this a contemporary romance story with a grumpy/sunshine dynamic that are enemies-to-lovers. But the addition of this strange world with its drudges and demigods really brings a fresh spin to the average romance story.

I will say, I was a bit confused by the world-building when I first started reading. I kept on imagining this book to be a more modern Western, but it didn’t feel like the wild west that we’ve seen in the past. The world is most definitely a fantasy world completely different than the one we know, but with some of the familiar bits to keep you grounded. Yes, there’s demigods that have magical powers and can sometimes be immortal, but then you also have someone making quiches for breakfast. It’s a good blend of reality with fantasy and a touch of science fiction and horror. It really creates a dynamic world that isn’t too difficult to comprehend, but also brings a level of high fantasy you wouldn’t normally see.

The characters in this book are definitely the driving force. Alongside Hart and Mercy, there were Mercy’s family and Hart’s family who all play intricate roles within their lives. Getting to know them and how much they love the main characters and support them truly made the story so much more fun. I love a big cast of characters especially if they’re not directly involved in any conflict.

Overall, this was such a fun story to get into and if you’re not typically a romance fan, then this might be a great one to get into. It was such a weird little world, but I absolutely indulged in it thoroughly.

Honey and Spice by Bolu Babalola // Book Review

I recently picked up Honey and Spice after hearing a friend rave about it. She’s a big “romance with a bit more story” kind of reader like I am, so when she suggested it and gave it five stars, I had to check it out. I’m so glad I did. Thanks to Libro.fm for the gifted copy.

Here’s more about Honey and Spice

Sweet like plantain, hot like pepper. They taste the best when together…

Sharp-tongued (and secretly soft-hearted) Kiki Banjo has just made a huge mistake. As an expert in relationship-evasion and the host of the popular student radio show Brown Sugar, she’s made it her mission to make sure the women of the African-Caribbean Society at Whitewell University do not fall into the mess of “situationships”, players, and heartbreak. But when the Queen of the Unbothered kisses Malakai Korede, the guy she just publicly denounced as “The Wastemen of Whitewell,” in front of every Blackwellian on campus, she finds her show on the brink.

They’re soon embroiled in a fake relationship to try and salvage their reputations and save their futures. Kiki has never surrendered her heart before, and a player like Malakai won’t be the one to change that, no matter how charming he is or how electric their connection feels. But surprisingly entertaining study sessions and intimate, late-night talks at old-fashioned diners force Kiki to look beyond her own presumptions. Is she ready to open herself up to something deeper?

A gloriously funny and sparkling debut novel, Honey & Spice is full of delicious tension and romantic intrigue that will make you weak at the knees.

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My thoughts

The story follows young Kiki. She’s close to finishing her time in university, runs a successful radio show called Brown Sugar, and gives practical dating advice to the young women within her school. However, she’s been a bit out of the game and some folks are wondering how valid is the advice of someone who doesn’t participate in the dating/social circles? Alongside that, she’s also trying to raise the ratings of her show in hopes of getting an exclusive internship in New York City.

However, Kiki is not excited about the dating pool at her university and her life of casual encounters doesn’t inspire her to start a real relationships. When newcomer-on-campus, Malakai, comes along, Kiki is right away against him. He’s a “wasteman,” the very type of man that she warns the women on campus to stay away from. The type that will love you and leave you picking up the pieces of your heart in a couple of months. He’s also the perfect subject to fake date while she works to improve her show’s ratings as well as steer clear of the man whom she’d been dating.

This story definitely felt like the kind of drama you see in a young adult romance, but set in college. While many folks may not like that particular part of the story, I loved it. It was the perfect backdrop to the wild and crazy dating life of university in England. Late nights at Nando’s picking up food and hanging out after raging all evening, being invited to exclusive parties, hanging out with the “cool” kids. It’s obvious that university is where the high school drama reaches the next level; less parenting, more freedom, and you’ve got the perfect plot for a lot of drama. And this book brings it all. It felt surprisingly accurate and while my college years were spent mostly studying and trying to raise my GPA, I can imagine somewhere out there amongst the study body this was also happening. However, the book definitely did that thing where I wondered if anyone went to class, but the level of Kiki’s commitment to her radio show and making it the best that it can be really beat the more realistic situation of going to class everyday.

Aside from that, the story also featured a lot of modern social issues to make it more realistic connecting with young people today. Speaking of young Black lives and how it’s different for them in an institution that mostly admitted white students, it brought a level of reality to the story making it much richer in themes and plot.

I loved Kiki! She was such an intelligent young person who’s definitely very vulnerable at heart. She wanted to let people in, but her past traumas kept them at arm’s length. I loved watching her change and unfold as we read along and really getting to know how special she is. I wanted so much for her and hated the men that broke her heart constantly. Malakai was the same way! While he came off as a “wasteman,” he was such a deeper human with lots of emotional baggage he’s working through. They seemed like the perfect fit, helping each other with their projects and working to make their dreams come true. Honestly, they were that pair that you knew were going to be alright because their chemistry was so synced to each other.

While the story was supposed to be enemies to lovers with some fake dating involved, it felt more like friends to lovers. I loved the care put into Kiki and Malakai’s relationship. Malakai seemed like the knight in shining armor and while Kiki was no damsel in distress, Malakai gave her something that no one else has; unconditional love and affection.

Overall, this was such a wonderful romance filled with dynamic world, interesting characters (omg, I could go on about all the side characters. They were all so interesting and different and I loved their feature in the book), and a heart-melting conclusion. I recommend this to anyone who wants to escape the drama of their own lives and read something with a bit of a happily ever after.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend // Book Review

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend // Book Review

I am very late to ride the Nevermoor train, but I’m so glad that I did. This was the first modern middle grade book I’ve read that I absolutely adore, want to keep reading, and definitely find out what happens to our intrepid little Crow.

Here’s more about Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow

A cursed girl escapes death and finds herself in a magical world – but is then tested beyond her wildest imagination

Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks–and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday.

But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears. Chased by black-smoke hounds and shadowy hunters on horseback, he whisks her away into the safety of a secret, magical city called Nevermoor.

It’s then that Morrigan discovers Jupiter has chosen her to contend for a place in the city’s most prestigious organization: the Wundrous Society. In order to join, she must compete in four difficult and dangerous trials against hundreds of other children, each boasting an extraordinary talent that sets them apart – an extraordinary talent that Morrigan insists she does not have. To stay in the safety of Nevermoor for good, Morrigan will need to find a way to pass the tests – or she’ll have to leave the city to confront her deadly fate.

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My thoughts

I don’t know how to say this politely, but everyone should definitely check out Nevermoor. It’s a middle grade series with a lot of depth and exciting story to excite you and also themes to keep the adults entertained as well. This was such an incredible journey and to be honest, now a favorite read of mine for the rest of my life. I’m so floored by the magic, the topsy-turvy world, the friendships, and the circumstances of our little Morrigan Crow.

The story follows Morrigan, a cursed child who has already been told she’ll die sooner than later. Because of that, she’s been written off by her family and people don’t really care for her. She also happens to be the cause of a ton of accidents, but none that she caused on her own. Her presence as a cursed child just brings a lot of unfortunate things to happen to good people.

But come bid day, she joins Jupiter in a world that exists right outside her own. Here, in Nevermoor, residents are a little more strange, magic permeates the air, dreams can come true, but so can nightmares. In order for Morrigan to stay in Nevermoor, she must go through a set of trials in order to become a member of the Wunder Society. And she’s at a huge disadvantage because she didn’t even know Nevermoor existed until Jupiter came to whisk her away.

This was such a great story and I can see why so many people loved it. It’s filled with adventure and action, a mysterious villain, and a whole lot of surprises for our little Morrigan Crow. Morrigan is the perfect person for the adventure. She’s off experiencing something completely on her own, she’s finding new friends wherever she goes, and she’s always game to try anything and everything that comes her way. Even if she’s not sure of the outcome, she still dives head first and hopes for the best.

It was interesting to see Morrigan act this way especially know that there’s some cruel people hoping for her demise. I loved seeing that she’s willing to try things even if it means things could definitely go wrong. I also truly loved the other characters in this book. From a giant talking cat who takes care of the hotel to the boy who loves dragons, there’s so many different types of people to love and make a part of your reading so much fun.

I was truly surprised by the end as well. I couldn’t believe that the villain would be as villainous as they turned out to be and the twists were definitely worth the read.

Overall, this was a fantastic middle grade book for fans of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson. And while it’s written for middle grade kids, it’s something adults will enjoy as well. It’s probably one of those books that kids read with their parents, or if you’re like me, adults read to find a bit of comfort in their lives.

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope // Book Review

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope // Book Review

If you’re looking for something spooky for the Halloween season, but you don’t want to read something terribly scary, then this might be the one for you. Clairvoyants, ghosts, magical powers, and a heist all set during the 1920s in Washington D.C.? Yeah, you’re going to want to read this one. Thanks to Orbit Books for a gifted copy of the book.

Here’s more about The Monsters We Defy

A woman able to communicate with spirits must assemble a ragtag crew to pull off a daring heist to save her community in this timely and dazzling historical fantasy that weaves together African American folk magic, history, and romance.

Washington D. C., 1925

Clara Johnson talks to spirits, a gift that saved her during her darkest moments in a Washington D. C. jail. Now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So, when the Empress, the powerful spirit who holds her debt, offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, a desperate Clara seizes the chance. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.

Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need help from an unlikely team, from a jazz musician capable of hypnotizing with a melody to an aging vaudeville actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they encounter increasingly difficult obstacles, a dangerous spirit interferes at every turn. Conflict in the spirit world is leaking into the human one and along D.C’.s legendary Black Broadway, a mystery unfolds—one that not only has repercussions for Clara but all of the city’s residents.

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My thoughts

This was such a cinematic story and something I would love to see made into a movie one day! The characters are so vivid, the ghostly/magical world was so well explained, and the heist of all heists was so action-packed!

The story starts off with our main character, Clara Johnson, being born. She’s born with the amniotic sac still in tact. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that being born this way already makes you susceptible to the forces beyond the veil and Leslye Penelope starts off with this intriguing fact setting up our main character to see the “Other Side”.

The main character is also loosely based on a real life person named Clara Johnson who shot a police officer during the 1919 riots, being charged for manslaughter only to be retried pleading self-defence after the original judge passed away. I love the deep connection this book has with history and lending this interesting moment in history to set a fantasy book was expertly done. There’s also some appearances from some famous Black writers of the time, which really put a smile on my face.

The story then jumps forward in time to the 1920s where Clara is a young secretary with a little clairvoyant business on the side. She speaks with the spirits (aka Enigmas) and make deals for humans who are desperate for help from the other side. The Enigmas provide Charms to help appease whatever needs the human wants, but the humans are also cursed with a “Trick,” the downside of using the spirits to do their bidding. I absolutely loved this dichotomy between “charm” and “trick” and reminded me a lot of djinn magic where you must be very careful with how you word your wishes and the dire consequences of those wishes.

When a strange affliction affects the people in town, Clara wonders if it may be connected with the spirit world. When she speaks to her Enigma, she finds out that one of the wealthiest gangsters in town may be related to the events. In order to save the afflicted people, she must steal a ring from the gangster’s wife and bring it to her Enigma before they are able to help her. But Clara’s never stolen anything in her life, so she teams up with four other people (three of which owe debts to Enigmas) in hopes of using their Charms and masterfully steal this ring straight off her finger! It’s a heist, everyone!

I think what I really loved the most about this story is that you follow along with these characters and learn so much about them. I love the care Leslye Penelope puts into really bringing these characters to life rather than just writing them off as throwaways. They each have their faults, their Charms and their Tricks, and as the story unfolds more, you see who these characters really are which makes it much more interesting to read!

The heist itself was also fun! This was probably the most action-packed parts of the book and filled with imagery, fight scenes, and delicate suspense! I was definitely on the edge of my seat while I was reading!

Overall, this is a fantastic book that checks off all the boxes. A little action, a little romance, some suspense, characters that you will fall in love with, and a mystery you follow to the very end. I absolutely loved this one and I can’t wait to read what Leslye Penelope has coming out next!

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean // Book Review

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean // Book Review

Fairy tales are such an important part of a young reader’s journey. They provide moral support, share adventures, and also teach valuable lessons. But what happens when those fairy tales are all that you know? What if you’re expecting the knight to come save you only to realize that they are the enemy? What if the person who can rescue you is yourself? Thanks to Tor Books fort the gifted copy of this book.

Here’s more about The Book Eaters

Out on the Yorkshire Moors lives a secret line of people for whom books are food, and who retain all of a book’s content after eating it. To them, spy novels are a peppery snack; romance novels are sweet and delicious. Eating a map can help them remember destinations, and children, when they misbehave, are forced to eat dry, musty pages from dictionaries.

Devon is part of The Family, an old and reclusive clan of book eaters. Her brothers grow up feasting on stories of valor and adventure, and Devon—like all other book eater women—is raised on a carefully curated diet of fairytales and cautionary stories.

But real life doesn’t always come with happy endings, as Devon learns when her son is born with a rare and darker kind of hunger—not for books, but for human minds.

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My thoughts

I finished this book late on Sunday afternoon and as I closed the cover for the final time, I realized that this was such an incredible book with an incredible story. However, I needed time to “digest” (pun intended) my thoughts on this peculiar story before I could share my thoughts with you. It was way different than I imagined it would be, but I enjoyed it regardless. It’s a modern-day fairy tale where the princess saves herself!

This is the story of a young person named Devon. She’s not human. She’s a book eater who comes from a family of book eaters that somehow landed on Earth generations ago and never left. They are slowly going extinct with a lack of females being born, those females who are born can only birth two children before losing their ability to conceive all together, and they are prisoners to their families, bought and sold to different book eaters to perpetuate the species and they’re not allowed to see their children ever again after a few years post-birth.

I think that the world building in this book is cleverly done. While telling the story in alternating timelines (one of Devon’s past and the other of Devon’s present), you really get a feel for the unique world Devon comes from. Their main concern is survival: with the circumstances stacked against them, these book eater people are desperate and in desperation comes severe methods of continuing to survive. Those methods are wrapped into traditions that are passed down from generation to generation.

When it finally dawns on Devon that she would have to let go of her children and when her final child, Cai, is born a mind eater (they have long snake-like tongues that suck out brains instead of devour books), she does everything in her power to escape the cycle of abuse. Right away, I was rooting for Devon and Cai. Even without knowing exactly what happened to her yet, I knew that she had gone through something, fighting something, and I was patiently reading through her past trauma and rooting for her to break free of it. Different than the other book eater women who eat fairy tales of princesses waiting to be saved in big castles, Devon read and ate the stories of heroines who made a place for themselves, had the strength to push beyond their boundaries, and subvert the societal pressures to be unseen. Devon is your modern day heroine who will stop at nothing to protect her children and give them the life they deserve.

The themes of this book also touch on motherhood, conception, mother/child relationships, domestic violence, sexual assault and abuse. While set in the modern day, I couldn’t help but imagine these book eater families stuck in some 19th century time warp where marriages are advantageous and a woman is only as good as whom she births. It was jarring at some points, touching on my own personal triggers and pushing me to read beyond it to see what happens at the end.

I think the only thing I wasn’t a huge fan of in this book is that it became quite repetitive at some points. While I know a lot about the book eater world, it was from the constant reinforcement of some of these ideas. It’s a small detail, but I bring it up in case others don’t like that.

This was an action packed story with a lot of character development and interesting themes. If you’re a fan of fairy tales, fantasy books, or just good modern story focused on a young woman’s love of her children, then I highly recommend this one. I’m now a huge fan of Sunyi Dean and will be looking out for new work from her in the future.

The Hookup Plan by Farrah Rochon // Book Review

The final book in the Boyfriend Project series, and in my honest opinion, Farrah Rochon saved the best for last! Thanks to Read Forever for the gifted copy of this book.

Here’s more about The Hookup Plan

Strong female friendships and a snappy enemies-to-lovers theme take center stage in this highly anticipated romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Dating Playbook.

Successful pediatric surgeon London Kelley just needs to find some balance and de-stress. According to her friends Samiah and Taylor, what London really needs is a casual hookup. A night of fun with no strings. But no one—least of all London—expected it to go down at her high school reunion with Drew Sullivan, millionaire, owner of delicious abs, and oh yes, her archnemesis.

Now London is certain the road to hell is paved with good sex. Because she’s found out the real reason Drew’s back in Austin: to decide whether her beloved hospital remains open. Worse, Drew is doing everything he can to show her that he’s a decent guy who actually cares. But London’s not falling for it. Because while sleeping with the enemy is one thing, falling for him is definitely not part of the plan.

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My thoughts

If you’re a fan of enemies to lovers, romance stories with realistic conflict, and watching two people grow as individuals and as a couple through some turbulent times, then this is the book for you.

The Hookup Plan is my kind of romance. I talk about this a lot, but this one also hits all of my favorite things in a romance story. Yes, it focuses on the couple. Yes, it has an HEA/HFN that will satisfy you, but what this book also has are two very flawed humans coming to terms with the drama of their lives and making room for each other, their love, and a future that’s worth fighting for.

I absolutely loved London and Drew’s story. London is this hardworking pediatric surgeon who needs to make the next big decision of her life: whether she should stay at the County hospital that she’s currently working at or follow a really great fellowship in a much bigger city like Chicago. Drew is a super wealthy financial guy who has the unique opportunity of auditing London’s hospital and seeing whether or not selling the hospital makes sense or if it’s something that can be avoided with some clever financial work on his end.

London and Drew already know each other from their past as high school rivals fighting for the position of Valedictorian (only to be co-Valedictorians on the day of graduation). London despised Drew for always being the roadblock in the way of her ultimate success. Drew, on the other hand, only competed with London in order to gain a little bit of her attention. Because Drew has been in love with the idea of London since he first laid eyes on her.

15 years later and an awkward meet-cute at their high school reunion, London and Drew decide the best course of action for their amorous behavior is to be friends…with benefits. And you can guess where the story goes from there.

London and Drew were such real people in this book faced with very realistic issues in their life. This isn’t some lie by omission child’s play, but the real deal: having complicated family lives, having to make major decisions that will change the trajectory of their life. Dealing with the stresses that work and coworkers provide and navigating all while also maintaining some semblance of a social life. It felt real and that was the biggest draw for me here. I was rooting for London with the difficult conversations she had to have. I was hoping Drew would come clean about his feelings. The fact that the story felt so realistic made it more interesting for me to see where it goes. I knew Farrah Rochon wouldn’t let me down and she definitely didn’t!

It was such a heartwarming story with the kind of fantastical romantic gestures that will make you swoon. My heart was overflowing and a little bit breaking when it came to the realities they each had to face. I was so invested in this couple and rooting for them the entire time. The steam was pretty steamy and the relationship between London, Samiah, and Taylor was in full force in this novel. I know folks felt like they were absent throughout the first book, but I love seeing them all comfort each other, hold each other accountable, and really come into their own as best friends.

Another great one in the books for me. So happy to have read this one and I hope you pick it up too.

Rereading The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

Some books come to you at the wrong moments. They don’t speak to you. They don’t convey their message. You just don’t vibe well together. And then you spend some time living your life, find yourself picking up the same book, and realizing that you were completely wrong. That’s basically what happens here with me.

Here’s more about The City of Brass

Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass, a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for…

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My thoughts

This isn’t going to be a long review just because I’ve read the book before and already written a review for it in the past. But this book truly swept me away so much more in the second read than in the first.

I was rereading my thoughts on the book from back in 2018 and I honestly didn’t like it. I gave it four stars, but I distinctly remember wanting to give it three stars. I’m literally reading my own review and disagreeing with nearly everything I said.

I mentioned that the world was confusing. It’s not. In fact, it’s one of the more clearly outlined worlds. I would say it borders on an info dump since most of the world is told over a fire and stories in one night, but I did really love the way that SA Chakraoborty portrayed it. It reminds me of a scene in a movie with its characters coming to life in the smoke of the fire. There was definitely a level of romance to the way she writes her books, which I’m so happy about.

I did mention that Nahri was my favorite character, but I also loved Dara and Ali. Each of these characters were so well-realized and different from each other. They had their faults, but they also had passion for their beliefs which made it just so more fun! I also loved how casual the conversations they all had. I think one of my favorite parts of this book is that it was such an easy read. I found myself flying through the pages and being lost in the Daevabad world. It was so well described, the conversations were interesting and matched the situations they were in, and you truly felt like you were a part of this story.

I was completely off base about the power struggle. Yes, there’s power struggle in this book, but it is way more complicated than I imagined. One part, it’s about the freedoms of the shafit (half-human djinn) and how they’re treated as second-class citizens. Even though the world has rid of the family that enslaved these folks, they didn’t fully pull them from their poverty. It’s obvious that they still don’t have the same rights as pureblooded daevas. The world was also at one point strife with war. Families fighting other families not necessarily over power, but over beliefs and accepting one belief over another. I think the younger version of myself didn’t really understand the implications of this world and how complex the political dynamics were.

The one thing I did truly love was the ending and that was the same feeling I had back when I first read it. The last fifty pages was so surprising and so twisty that it will definitely make you want to pick up book 2 right away. I totally feel that and I can’t wait to read it soon!

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston // Book Review

The Dead Romantics by Ashley Poston // Book Review

I picked this book on a whim. One of my reader friends loved it. It’s a Good Morning America Book Club pick. And someone asked me to read it. So I thought why not? Well, it definitely exceeded my expectations and even brought a tear to my eye. If a book can make me cry, then it’s a pretty good book in my opinion.

Here’s more about The Dead Romantics

Florence Day is the ghostwriter for one of the most prolific romance authors in the industry, and she has a problem—after a terrible breakup, she no longer believes in love. It’s as good as dead.

When her new editor, a too-handsome mountain of a man, won’t give her an extension on her book deadline, Florence prepares to kiss her career goodbye. But then she gets a phone call she never wanted to receive, and she must return home for the first time in a decade to help her family bury her beloved father.

For ten years, she’s run from the town that never understood her, and even though she misses the sound of a warm Southern night and her eccentric, loving family and their funeral parlor, she can’t bring herself to stay. Even with her father gone, it feels like nothing in this town has changed. And she hates it.

Until she finds a ghost standing at the funeral parlor’s front door, just as broad and infuriatingly handsome as ever, and he’s just as confused about why he’s there as she is.

Romance is most certainly dead . . . but so is her new editor, and his unfinished business will have her second-guessing everything she’s ever known about love stories.

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My thoughts

This was such a complex story centered on one character, Florence, and her very unique life. She’s a ghostwriter that can see and speak to ghosts. Her father has recently passed, so she’s heading back to the hometown that’s bullied her to leave. She’s also finding out that her new very good looking editor, Ben, has recently passed and his ghost is showing up as she mourns her father, understands why she can’t write romance anymore, and figures out how to come to terms with her past. There’s a lot going on for Florence.

And the great part is that Ashley Poston expertly interweaves all the parts of this book together. It’s like a symphonic orchestra of themes and conflict that all somehow make the most beautiful music. It also helps that Ashley Poston’s writing is lyrical and beautiful sharing wisdom about life, death, and love throughout the story.

I found myself tearing up at so many different parts of this book. I cried during the funeral for her father. I cried during the end. I cried when the family was dancing around the funeral home and reminiscing about their lives in that place. And they were all tears of joy. It takes a lot for an author to make me cry, but it truly touched me to see how beautifully you can imagine death despite it being such a heavy subject.

Ashley Poston also doesn’t shy away from the conversation of death. In fact, she leans into it really hard but in a way that makes you happy. Yes, you’ll be happy about death by the end of this book! It did trigger my anxiety on the entire subject, but it also comforted me.

I know that the romance folks won’t like this one as much because it’s not too centered on the romance, but I fell in love with Florence and Ben. Yes, Ben is a ghost and yes they can never be together until Florence probably dies, but I had so many Casper vibes between the two of them and it made me wish so hard that Ben was real. While they may not have been able to touch each other or be intimate the way a couple would be in a romance, I think Ashley Poston really nailed the emotional and supportive components of a relationship; the parts that truly make a partnership between two people rather than just the sex. It was kind of beautiful.

I think the only thing I didn’t like is that the language got repetitive. There were some things that Ashley Poston tended to repeat over and over again, which made for a little dislike, but not enough to hate the overall story.

But in the end, I absolutely adored it. I’m so glad my friend loved it and influenced me to read it. I’m so glad someone brought it up and asked for my opinion. I’m so glad that I got a “skip the line” on my Libby app because this truly brought me comfort and joy in a time that feels really dark.

August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White // Book Review

August Kitko and the Mechas from Space by Alex White // Book Review

I didn’t know what I was getting into when I first started reading August Kitko. In fact, I only knew that it would include a person named August, giant mechs, jazz music, and a race to save the world. Now I know that it’s way more than that and one of my favorites this month. Thanks Orbit Books for the gifted read!

Here’s more about August Kitko and the Mechas from Space

When an army of giant robot AIs threatens to devastate Earth, a virtuoso pianist becomes humanity’s last hope in this bold, lightning-paced, technicolor new space opera series from the author of A Big Ship at the Edge of the Universe. 

Jazz pianist Gus Kitko expected to spend his final moments on Earth playing piano at the greatest goodbye party of all time, and maybe kissing rockstar Ardent Violet, before the last of humanity is wiped out forever by the Vanguards–ultra-powerful robots from the dark heart of space, hell-bent on destroying humanity for reasons none can divine. 

But when the Vanguards arrive, the unthinkable happens–the mecha that should be killing Gus instead saves him. Suddenly, Gus’s swan song becomes humanity’s encore, as he is chosen to join a small group of traitorous Vanguards and their pilots dedicated to saving humanity.

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My thoughts

If you’re a fan of cinematic movies like The Matrix, Armageddon, and Transformers, then this is the book for you. The book takes place in the very far future, about 600 years, in a world that’s still thriving, but on the brink of destruction. Five years prior, an alien tech arrived destroying human beings by the thousands, absorbing their memories. The whole the world believed that this was the end of humanity, an unceremonious wipe of the human race. August Kitko, a jazz pianist who’s already lost his entire family to the tech, is ready to die. On the night the world was scheduled to end, Gus attends a party hosted by a prominent lord to play out the end of the world with some good times.

However, things change when the end of the world doesn’t come and Gus is kidnapped by a giant mech forced to become a conduit of all the human memories that it absorbed. Gus finds out that the mech, aka Greymalkin, is no longer a villainous AI and willing to help the human race hold some semblance of life on Earth.

I loved this futuristic view of the world. It feels so familiar because it reminds me of what we see nowadays except with the added bonus of tech that automates everything for us. The world Alex White envisions in their story is remarkable. The descriptions are so vivid that you can literally see what they’re describing and it lends itself well when it comes to the big fight scene between mechs in space. Their writing is also very casual and contemporary. I loved that while they’re describing massive mech battles in space, there was also levity and humor in their voice.

I also thought that the story was so genius. It reminded me a lot of those futuristic sci-fi movies I mentioned earlier, but combining them all to create this intelligent world where sentient AI are out to kill the human race. I think that one of my absolute favorite things about science fiction like this is how humans come together to fight a bigger threat to them.

While Gus is the person named in the title, the book also follows Ardent Violet. They’re a very famous pop star who hooks up with Gus at the “end of the world” party only to find themself saving Gus when he’s abducted by the mech. They eventually become a part of the team designated to help save the world. I also really loved how different Gus and Ardent were. Gus feels more like this introverted jazz pianist who’s spent a lot more time alone than Ardent has. While Ardent definitely carried the pop star/celebrity vibe, they were also so vulnerable and scared about what they’re about to do.

The music in this book was also a major player. I loved how the mech responded to Ardent and Gus’s talents choosing them to be their conduits and how that music plays throughout the story as a way for them to connect to their mechs. It was such a clever way to incorporate that piece of both these characters and not let it fall to the wayside.

This was such a solid start to a new series from Alex White. While it’s my first by them, I’m definitely a fan now and I can’t wait to see what happens to Gus, Ardent, and the giant mechs in the next book!

Book Lovers by Emily Henry // Book Review

Book Lovers by Emily Henry // Book Review

Is it worth the hype? Yep. It definitely is.

Here’s more about Book Lovers

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small-town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

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My thoughts

If you’re not a fan of romance novels featuring book nerds, then I highly recommend this book. For all intents and purposes, it is a contemporary romance story between two bookish people who find love in a small town in the middle of nowhere, but it’s so much more. And if you’ve been following my reviews, then you know that my kind of romance are the ones that have a little bit more going on. This is the perfect blend of romance with something extra (which I know won’t be a big draw for the more die-hard romance readers, I’m sorry).

The story follows Nora, a literary agent living in New York who considers herself “the other girl.” You know, the one that the main male lead leaves in order to help the small-town main female lead with her mother’s stationery store in country. She’s the “shark,” who knows what she wants, willing to do anything for it, and will fight fiercely for it. That goes double for her clients and her sister. And when her sister suggests they spend a month in the same small town that one of her client’s books takes place, she agrees because Nora is the type of person who will stop at nothing to make her sister happy.

I know this book is already criticized for having too much of a sibling relationship in a romance story, but honestly, that was one of my favorite parts of the story. The relationship between Nora and Libby has its ups and downs, but the love they have for each other is desirable. As they live out the various tropes they read in romance novels as a kid, Nora and Libby eventually grow to understand each other. They love each other, but Nora has a tendency to sacrifice everything for Libby while Libby encourages her to do what makes her happy. It’s the crux of their relationship throughout the story and something that I truly loved watching play out throughout the book. Their relationship throughout the book is just as important as the one between the two main protagonists.

Of course, the story follows two enemies-to-lovers book nerds who work in the same industry. Nora is the tough literary agent who will sacrifice evenings and weekends for her clients while Charlie is the hard-headed editor who’s scrutiny of her client’s books makes her blood boil. And when they both find themselves in the small town in the middle of nowhere, well, you know the rest.

In so many ways, Nora and Charlie reminded me of Rory and Jess in Gilmore Girls. Granted, the circumstances between these two characters is completely different than the ones in Gilmore Girls, but the small town where everyone is in everyone’s business with two very bookish people reside and they’re a little off the beaten path? It really gave me the cutest vibes and I was happy about it. I mean, who didn’t root for Rory and Jess? They were fire and ice with each other, banter playing between them in their own intimate flirtation. You wanted someone to give, but both of them being so stubborn provides for some entertaining and eventually steamy scenes.

Another added feature was learning the backgrounds of Libby, Nora, as well as Charlie. It’s not the brightest thing you want to read when you’re in the middle of a romance story, but I imagined scenes like Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail where she reminisced on her mother and how the bookstore reminded her of the fond memories they shared together. I was getting the same exact feeling with Nora and Libby. There’s a lot of mention of their mother throughout the story and it made the characters feel so much more realistic having that anchor of love between them.

Truly, I loved every minute of this story and reading it on audio (narrated by the talented Julie Whelan), really made the experience so much more fun. Am I a fan of romance novels yet? Not really, but this one definitely made me turn my head.