A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee // Book Review

I went into this book was very different expectations than what came out of it. Dark academia is my favorite kinds of stories and I thought A Lesson in Vengeance had it in spades. There was an interesting and inclusive cast of characters, a big question mark around one Felicity, and a story that really caught me off guard at the end.

CW: mental abuse, physical abuse, animal death

Here’s more about A Lesson in Vengeance

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

My thoughts

I’m not a huge fan of thrillers. Most of the time, I either figure out the murderer by the end or the ending is so convoluted that I end up throwing the book across the room. This time, I was totally thrown off guard. I was expecting one thing and it went in a completely different way that I didn’t even imagine. There were definitely clues to it throughout the story, but it just doesn’t hit until the truth comes out.

The setting of the book was my favorite; an old home with tons of history. I loved how generations of girls went there and most of them study literature. There’s a few references to some great horror books written by women while you read along. I also loved the whole underground “skull and crossbones” style coven that’s mainly for girls who come from affluent families. While I’m not a huge fan of books where everyone is super well off, super rich, and super entitled, I thought it was interesting with a character like Felicity who’s dealing with the loss of her best friend/girlfriend, Alex.

The plot itself moved slowly digging more deeply into Felicity’s psychosis rather than having her chase clues across campus to find out some truth. I loved the usage of witchcraft and its presence in young people’s lives. The school with the underground coven, the witchcraft practiced by the founders of the school, the tradition that’s passed on from generation to generation of students, and the stories that get passed down as well. It was interesting to see how steeped Felicity was in that reality; how she truly believed there was dark forces at the school, how the author makes you believe it too.

Ellis was so determined to prove that magic didn’t exist while you’re constantly reminded through Felicity that it does. There were moments in the book where I was so worried for Felicity because there was something about Ellis that you couldn’t put your finger on. You couldn’t tell if Ellis truly liked Felicity or if this was all a ploy to have Felicity play into Ellis’s hands. Because you’re reading the book through Felicity’s perspective, that’s the only perspective you get. You want to know more about Ellis and you think that there’s something going on there that you didn’t see before, but you only know as much as Felicity does. That unreliable narrator really made it more intriguing to figure out what’s really going on.

I thought it was interesting that all these characters were way beyond their years. They’re all supposed to be seniors in a private school, but they lived and acted way older. It surprised me the most to find out that Ellis was a 17-year-old Pulitzer Prize winning author who smoked cigarettes and drank bourbon while using a typewriter to write her stories. But there was still a level of naivete within all of them. They were still young in so many ways despite it. I wish the other characters, (Leona, Kajal, and Clara) were a bit more fleshed out. You get glimpses into their worlds and who they are, but then the plot reverts back to Felicity and Ellis’s relationship. I would have loved if their involvement in the story was a bit deeper.

The only things I didn’t like about this story was that it didn’t end with a paranormal trope. I was hoping for some ghosts to come out and stir things up or magical witches coming down to bring their vengeance, but they’re used in a different way than I imagined. I won’t go into it because it will definitely spoil the story.

Overall, it’s a spooky one with some atmospheric vibes, a lot of unanswered questions that get the most unique answers at the end. It’ll keep you reading and then it will slap you in the face.

I received a copy of A Lesson in Vengeance from the publisher. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the author or the publisher.

The 32 SFF books I’m anticipating for the rest of 2021

The 32 SFF books I’m anticipating for the rest of 2021

Earlier this year (can you believe it was earlier this year? Neither can I), I put together a list of all the science fiction and fantasy books I’m anticipating in the first half of 2021. I mentioned in my post that I would also put out a list of the second half of the year later on. Well, the second half of the year is here and it’s quite a list of books that I cannot wait for.

Honestly, I could have also made a contemporary YA and romance list because there’s so many good stories coming out. But, since fantasy and science fiction are where I love reading the most, I just worked on this list. It’s a huge one, so I’ll keep the description brief with links to affiliate pages for pre-orders, and a little bit about why I’m excited for the book.

This list started off with over 50 books on it, but after a little bit of thinking and really considering what I’m excited for, I’m so glad to have it to 32 science fiction and fantasy books in both YA and adult to share! Of course, the books that didn’t make it will be included to my weekly pub day picks, so you won’t miss out.

Time to roll up those sleeves and get to sharing!

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Cordova

Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.

September 7, 2021

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Vespertine by Margaret Rogerson

From the New York Times bestselling author of Sorcery of Thorns and An Enchantment of Ravens comes a thrilling new YA fantasy about a teen girl with mythic abilities who must defend her world against restless spirits of the dead.

October 5, 2021

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Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Shanghai is under siege in this captivating and searingly romantic sequel to These Violent Delights, which New York Times bestselling author Natasha Ngan calls “deliciously dark.”

November 16, 2021

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The Witch Haven by Sasha Peyton Smith

The Last Magician meets The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy in this thrilling and atmospheric historical fantasy following a young woman who discovers she has magical powers and is thrust into a battle between witches and wizards.

August 31, 2021

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The Bones of Ruin by Sarah Raughley

An African tightrope walker who can’t die gets embroiled in a secret society’s deadly gladiatorial tournament in this thrilling historical fantasy set in an alternate 1880s London, perfect for fans of The Last Magician and The Gilded Wolves.

September 7, 2021

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Under the Whispering Door by TJ Klune

A Man Called Ove meets The Good Place in Under the Whispering Door, a delightful queer love story from TJ Klune, author of the New York Times and USA Today bestseller The House in the Cerulean Sea.

September 21, 2021

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Summer Sons by Lee Mandelo

Lee Mandelo’s debut Summer Sons is a sweltering, queer Southern Gothic that crosses Appalachian street racing with academic intrigue, all haunted by a hungry ghost.

September 28, 2021

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A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow

USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story. Featuring Arthur Rackham’s original illustrations for The Sleeping Beauty, fractured and reimagined.

October 5, 2021

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A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske

Red White & Royal Blue meets Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell in debut author Freya Marske’s A Marvellous Light, featuring an Edwardian England full of magic, contracts, and conspiracies.

November 2, 2021

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Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki

Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki’s Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California’s San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.

September 28, 2021

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You Sexy Thing by Cat Rambo

Farscape meets The Great British Bake Off in this fantastic space opera You Sexy Thing from former SFWA President, Cat Rambo.

November 16, 2021

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The Bone Shard Emperor by Andrea Stewart

In this action-packed magical fantasy epic, a heroine at the head of a powerful empire confronts a raging battle as she’s forced to do whatever it takes to restore peace.

November 11, 2021

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Jade Legacy by Fonda Lee

The Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an East Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis in Jade Legacy, the page-turning conclusion to the Green Bone Saga.

November 30, 2021

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The Liar’s Knot by M. A. Carrick

The Liar’s Knot is the second book in the dark and dazzling Rook & Rose trilogy by M. A. Carrick, a magical fantasy adventure “perfect for those who like their revenge plots served with the intrigue of The Goblin Emperor, the colonial conflict of The City of Brass, the panache of Swordspoint, and the richly detailed settings of Guy Gavriel Kay” (Booklist, starred review).

December 7, 2021

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Dark Rise by C. S. Pacat

In this stunning new fantasy novel from international bestselling author C. S. Pacat, heroes and villains of a long-forgotten war are reborn and begin to draw new battle lines. This epic fantasy with high-stakes romance will sit perfectly on shelves next to beloved fantasy novels like the Infernal Devices series, the Shadow and Bone trilogy, and the Red Queen series.

September 28, 2021

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Beasts of Prey by Ayana Gray

In this much-anticipated series opener, fate binds two Black teenagers together as they strike a dangerous alliance to hunt down the creature menacing their home—and uncover ancient deadly secrets.

September 28, 2021

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A Clash of Steel: A Treasure Island Remix by C.B. Lee

Two intrepid girls hunt for a legendary treasure on the deadly high seas in this YA remix of the classic adventure novel Treasure Island.

September 7, 2021

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Gilded by Marissa Meyer

Marissa Meyer, #1 New York Times-bestselling author, returns to the fairytale world with this haunting retelling of Rumpelstiltskin.

November 2, 2021

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Little Thieves by Margaret Owen

Margaret Owen, author of The Merciful Crow series, crafts a delightfully irreverent retelling of “The Goose Girl” about stolen lives, thorny truths, and the wicked girls at the heart of both.

October 19, 2021

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Steelstriker by Marie Lu

Explosive action and swoon-worthy suspense collide in this riveting conclusion to the Skyhunter duet from #1 New York Times–bestselling author Marie Lu

September 28, 2021

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The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi

Returning to the dark and glamorous 19th century world of her New York Times instant bestseller, The Gilded Wolves, Roshani Chokshi dazzles us with the final riveting tale as full of mystery and danger as ever.

September 21, 2021

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Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood

Within These Wicked Walls is an indulgently Gothic fairy tale, comparable in mastery with Mexican Gothic and Jane Eyre. An intricate magic system, a grimly humorous Black heroine, AND a heart-thumping romance? This book leaves nothing wanting.”- Jordan Ifueko, New York Times bestselling author of Raybearer

October 19, 2021

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Once Upon a Broken Heart by Stephanie Garber

Once Upon a Broken Heart marks the launch of a new series about love, curses, and the lengths that people will go to for happily ever after from Stephanie Garber, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Caraval

September 28, 2021

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Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer

From New York Times bestselling author Brigid Kemmerer comes a blockbuster fantasy series about a kingdom divided by corruption, the prince desperately holding it together, and the girl who will risk everything to bring it crashing down.

September 14, 2021

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Girls of Fate and Fury by Natasha Ngan

New York Times bestselling author Natasha Ngan delivers a stunningly beautiful, heartbreaking finale to the epic Girls of Paper and Fire series.

November 23, 2021

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Skin of the Sea by Natasha Bowen

An unforgettable fantasy debut inspired by West African mythology, this is Children of Blood and Bone meets The Little Mermaid, in which a mermaid takes on the gods themselves.

November 2, 2021

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A History of Wild Places by Shea Earnshaw

The New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep weaves a richly atmospheric adult debut following three residents of a secluded, seemingly peaceful commune as they investigate the disappearances of two outsiders.

December 7, 2021

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The Midnight Girls by Alicia Jasinka

The Wicked Deep meets House of Salt and Sorrows in this new standalone YA fantasy set in a snow-cloaked kingdom where witches are burned, and two enchantresses secretly compete for the heart of a prince, only to discover that they might be falling for each other.

December 7, 2021

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Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao

Pacific Rim meets The Handmaid’s Tale in this blend of Chinese history and mecha science fiction for YA readers.

September 21, 2021

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Nothing but Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw

Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists.

October 19, 2021

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A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown

The highly anticipated second—and final—book in the immersive fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore that began with the New York Times bestselling A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, from author Roseanne A. Brown. Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Renée Ahdieh, and Sabaa Tahir.

November 2, 2021

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Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Reckoners series, the Mistborn trilogy, and the Stormlight Archive comes the third book in an epic series about a girl who will travel beyond the stars to save the world she loves from destruction.

November 23, 2021

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Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

Small Favors by Erin A. Craig // Book Review

I received a copy of this book from the publisher. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.

A haunting YA fantasy story about a young girl who’s way smarter than her peers, falls in love, saves her family, and watches her town descend into chaos. Oh, and she’s a bee keper too. I was super excited to read this one, especially when the box arrived with a bell, some forest floor (the box literally had twigs in it), and a handwritten note from the author. I’ve been meaning to read her first book, A House of Salt and Sorrows, but alas, the world is cruel in that way. I guess now I’ll read her first book since I loved her second book and anticipate more from her.

CW: violence, homicide, suicide, arson, blood, and alcoholism

Here’s more about Small Favors

Ellerie Downing is waiting for something to happen. Life in isolated Amity Falls, surrounded by an impenetrable forest, has a predictable sameness. Her days are filled with tending to her family’s beehives, chasing after her sisters, and dreaming of bigger things while her twin, Samuel, is free to roam as he wishes.

Early town settlers fought off monstrous creatures in the woods, and whispers that the creatures still exist keep the Downings and their neighbors from venturing too far. When some townsfolk go missing on a trip to fetch supplies, a heavy unease settles over the Falls.

Strange activities begin to plague the town, and as the seasons change, it’s clear that something is terribly wrong. The creatures are real, and they’re offering to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand, for just a small favor. These seemingly trifling demands, however, hide sinister intentions. Soon, Ellerie finds herself in a race against time to stop Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves from going up in flames.

My thoughts

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

I was a little skeptic at first. The story starts off pretty quaint, but when Ellerie mentioned that her life will be pretty boring and how she’s just going to get married off to someone, it kind of rubbed me the wrong way. I was worried this would be a theme throughout the book or something she focuses way too much time on. However, I was changed as the book continues to move.

This read like you were reading the origins of a fairy tale. A young girl who’s pretty bored with her life meets a young fellow in the woods. He’s mysteriously, but provides a sense of reprieve from the humdrum of her life. And then things start happening. Ellerie sees a mysterious woman in white from the corner of her eye, her baby sister is speaking with an imaginary friend, the townspeople inexplicably starting to fight each other and then do unspeakable things to each other.

Ellerie was definitely my favorite character. While I tried to like her sisters and her brother, I just couldn’t. They weren’t as smart as Ellerie, but it was obvious they were sucked into the madness of the town. Of course, you see that with Ellerie as well, but I guess reading the book from her POV helped with understanding her thought process. I also liked Whitaker, the strange boy who comes out of the woods one day and somehow instantly falls in love with Ellerie. I know, not everyone’s a fan of insta-love, but it doesn’t bother me! I kind of guessed what was happening with him pretty early on, but I loved watching how Erin A Craig writes him into the story.

The madness was really the part that I enjoyed the most. You watch it slowly start to happen. First, it’s a finger pointed at one person from another. It’s completely irrational, but maybe you think it’s just some small town thing people do .But then you see more things happening up until the point where they’re killing each other and it becomes chaos. I love watching it grow from such a single entity and bloom into something bigger. Oh, I wonder if that makes me a part of the villains in the story.

I won’t get into the villains, though. It’s quite a surprise the way Erin A Craig presented them and truly, I don’t want to give this away because this was the part that felt most like a fairy tale to me. You know, when you’re making deals with someone you shouldn’t be making deals with? That’s exactly what I got from this book and it truly captured me in this world.

The story itself is slow burning all the way up to the end. It felt like such a good pace up until all the action started taking place. Then, it just kept moving so quickly that I was worried I’ll be left with a lot of questions without any answers. And this being a standalone novel, if the questions didn’t get answered then they’ll never get answered. But they did and thankfully I loved the ending.

Overall, fantastic! I’m super impressed with Erin A. Craig’s writing, especially since this is the first book I’ve read from her. I cannot wait to read more from her in the future (including her first book).

My August 2021 TBR

My August 2021 TBR

This post contains books gifted by Tor Teen, Orbit Books, Get Underlined, and Read Forever.

A couple of days late, but it’s finally here and ready for your perusal. I used to do TBR posts more frequently, but then I dropped off because I’m very lazy. But recently, I’ve been thinking about accountability, especially when it comes to the books I read and share. To give you some context, I can read about eight books a month. More books if the month is really good, but mostly I read less because doing this and working full time is a pretty big list of things to do. But I love to read, of course. Otherwise I wouldn’t be doing this.

I wanted to share this with you so that you know what I’m reading and what you can expect throughout the month. Reviews will be up a few days after I finish reading each book and unless I DNF or swap out books from the list, I’m pretty beholden to what is here. I hope that gives you some context into what I do every month and give you some ideas on what you should read next!

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

I feel like every summer, I take on one big science fiction tome. I might have doubled up last summer, but this summer I wanted to read a space opera. When I heard about Adrian Tchaikovsky and his body of work, I decided why not. It sounds like a cool book and I do love a team of aliens coming together to fight for the greater good.

The war is over. Its heroes forgotten. Until one chance discovery . . .

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

You had me at dark academia. I’ve always been such a fan of this sub-genre and when I heard about this book and how it’s set in some secluded mountains with the girls living in a boarding school and practicing witchcraft, well, it definitely got my attention. It also sounds like there will be intrigue and a bit of a mystery as two young students discover hidden beneath the dark halls.

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

The Dating Playbook by Farrah Rochon

I’m a huge fan of Farrah Rochon’s The Boyfriend Project books. Of course, there’s only one out so far, but this is the second and said to be a super fun one as well because it’s got fake dating! I always know fake dating is such a bad idea, but it’s one of my favorite tropes if you do it right. It also features football, which is randomly one of my favorite sports to watch.

When a personal trainer agrees to fake date her client, all rules are out the window in this delightful romantic comedy from the USA Today bestselling author of The Boyfriend Project!

When it comes to personal training, Taylor Powell kicks serious butt. Unfortunately, her bills are piling up, rent is due, and the money situation is dire. Taylor needs more than the support of her new best friends, Samiah and London. She needs a miracle.

And Jamar Dixon might just be it. The oh-so-fine former footballer wants back into the NFL, and he wants Taylor to train him. There’s just one catch — no one can know what they’re doing. But when they’re accidentally outed as a couple, Taylor’s game plan is turned completely upside down. Is Jamar just playing to win . . . or is he playing for keeps?

Raybearer by Jordan Ifueko

One of the first picks from my “Suggest My Reads” question I asked back in July. Last month, I opened up a suggestion box for people who follow me to recommend me a read. I chose two books from that list and credited those people for helping pick out a book for me to read. This is the first one and it’s kind of serendipitous that she picked it because the second book in this series comes out this month. Is it divine intervention? I’ve already heard so many good things about this book and been putting off reading it for a while. No time like the present especially for a book with young people choosing the path that’s right for themselves and defying the wishes of people above them.

Tarisai has always longed for the warmth of a family. She was raised in isolation by a mysterious, often absent mother known only as The Lady. The Lady sends her to the capital of the global empire of Aritsar to compete with other children to be chosen as one of the Crown Prince’s Council of 11. If she’s picked, she’ll be joined with the other Council members through the Ray, a bond deeper than blood. That closeness is irresistible to Tarisai, who has always wanted to belong somewhere. But The Lady has other ideas, including a magical wish that Tarisai is compelled to obey: Kill the Crown Prince once she gains his trust. Tarisai won’t stand by and become someone’s pawn—but is she strong enough to choose a different path for herself?

Mask of Mirrors by MA Carrick

A little while back, a friend of mine suggested this book to me. She mentioned that not a lot of people gave this book enough love, but also that it was so good that it deserved to be read and reviewed and adored. I love stories about con artists and magical balls. I think I will definitely love this one.

Fortune favors the bold. Magic favors the liars.

Ren is a con artist who has come to the sparkling city of Nadežra with one goal: to trick her way into a noble house, securing her fortune and her sister’s future.

But as she’s drawn into the elite world of House Traementis, she realizes her masquerade is just one of many surrounding her. And as nightmare magic begins to weave its way through the City of Dreams, the poisonous feuds of its aristocrats and the shadowy dangers of its impoverished underbelly become tangled…with Ren at their heart.

The Mask of Mirrors is the unmissable start to the Rook & Rose trilogy, a dazzling and darkly magical fantasy adventure by Marie Brennan and Alyc Helms, writing together as M. A. Carrick

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

This was the second book I picked from my “Recommend a Read” survey. I think I actually like that name and maybe I’ll keep it for every month. I’ve already read a few books from the Wayward Children series, but I never read the first book. Funny enough, I liked the books I read from the series but I wasn’t completely enamored by it. Then I heard that the books I should be reading are the first few of them, and I suddenly realized the mistake that I had made. I cannot wait to dive into this novella and find out the secrets behind this magical door.

Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
No Solicitations
No Visitors
No Quests

Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere… else.

But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.

Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced… they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.

But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.

No matter the cost.

A Blade So Black by LL McKinney

The Fantasy Book Club pick of August! I’m so excited to read this one, especially when I read that it’s supposed to be an Alice in Wonderland retelling. I love Alice in Wonderland in all its whimsy and madness, so I can only imagine this one being just the same. Perhaps with a more likeable protagonist and it doesn’t hurt that the premise also sounds like she’s already been to Wonderland and now journeying through the world to find a cure for her mentor.

The first time the Nightmares came, it nearly cost Alice her life. Now she’s trained to battle monstrous creatures in the dark dream realm known as Wonderland with magic weapons and hardcore fighting skills. Yet even warriors have a curfew.

Life in real-world Atlanta isn’t always so simple, as Alice juggles an overprotective mom, a high-maintenance best friend, and a slipping GPA. Keeping the Nightmares at bay is turning into a full-time job. But when Alice’s handsome and mysterious mentor is poisoned, she has to find the antidote by venturing deeper into Wonderland than she’s ever gone before. And she’ll need to use everything she’s learned in both worlds to keep from losing her head . . . literally.

Forestborn by Elayne Audrey Becker

This book, well. I don’t have a reason for reading it. It sounded beautiful with magic and mystical woods. I love a YA fantasy like this, so I added it to my list in hopes of reading it before the end of the month.

TO BE BORN OF THE FOREST IS A GIFT AND A CURSE.

Rora is a shifter, as magical as all those born in the wilderness–and as feared. She uses her abilities to spy for the king, traveling under different guises and listening for signs of trouble.

When a magical illness surfaces across the kingdom, Rora uncovers a devastating truth: Finley, the young prince and her best friend, has caught it, too. His only hope is stardust, the rarest of magical elements, found deep in the wilderness where Rora grew up–and to which she swore never to return.

But for her only friend, Rora will face her past and brave the dark, magical wood, journeying with her brother and the obstinate, older prince who insists on coming. Together, they must survive sentient forests and creatures unknown, battling an ever-changing landscape while escaping human pursuers who want them dead. With illness gripping the kingdom and war on the horizon, Finley’s is not the only life that hangs in the balance.


What are you reading this month?

Jade City by Fonda Lee // Book Review

Jade City by Fonda Lee // Book Review

This was the Fantasy Book Club pick of July and wow, what a book it was. This intricate and complex story grasped me from the first page. It’s filled with action and intrigue while this crime family in a big city try to fight for their ability to stay in control. As the world crumbles around them, so does their family. It’s a lot to go into, but I’ll try my best.

Here’s more about Jade City

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

My Thoughts

The story follows the Kaul family: Lan is the pillar, the leader of the family. Hilo is the “Horn”, which basically felt like the “muscle” or military leader of the family. Shae is the youngest sister who decided to take off her jade. And Anden is an adopted son who’s currently at the academy learning how to use jade. The family was so complex and each character except for Hilo felt so realized and filled with conflict. I loved Shae the most. She was so capable and yet pushed away her family for personal reasons. She could definitely be the pillar, but that gets explained a bit more as the story goes on. I also loved Anden. His complicated upbringing that led to him being a part of the Kaul family was heartbreaking (and watch out, there’s some self-harm and suicide here) and then his internal conflict of wearing jade made so much sense especially when he finally gets the chance to use his powers.

I also loved Lan, but his role in the book seemed so secondary in comparison to the others. Hilo did have a bigger section of the book, but his story wasn’t my favorite and honestly, I didn’t like him very much.

The action in this book was incredible. The scenes were so well described that it was like watching a movie in my head. I will say, it’s pretty gorey with a lot of violence, so heads up if you’re not a fan of those kinds of things. If you’re a fan of action movies, gritty fight scenes, and even those East Asian movies with martial arts, then you’ll be a fan of the action here. It wasn’t just the action, but the descriptions of the scene being destroyed or the owners of the restaurant hiding in the back were really worth the read.

Jade is a super important resource in this book. It’s used for everything from monastery prayers to healing, but the way jade is used for the Kaul family is economically and physically. The powers imbued by jade are only wielded by a certain group of people. Anyone else that uses it can become extremely addicted leading to hysteria and death, so there’s a level of elitism when it comes to wearing and using jade. I really loved how jade played a role in the story. It was a resource, but it also had a complicated past that really plays out in the book. I felt like jade was a character on its own with how important it was to the family and to the business.

The lore behind this world was amazing. It was so realized and I loved the way it plays into both the history of the Kaul family and the current state that their in. There was some antiquated rules these families continued to abide by and it was interesting to see both the older generation and the newer generation go head-to-head around it. Although, it felt like tradition and history were extremely important, the story does lead you to believe that the younger generations are trying their best to change that.

I do wish there were parts that were better explained. It was a little confusing to figure out what all the different roles within the family were and how the traditions were ingrained into the world. I think I finally figured it out on my own, but some time to discuss the family line or the history would have been beneficial to me. I also wasn’t a fan of the gender roles and family bloodlines, but it made sense for the story. I just hope that book two goes into this a bit more and maybe defies it because it feels too antiquated to be in a modern fantasy book.

I really loved that this book was a slow burn. I know many folks won’t like the pacing of the story, but for me, it felt complex and needed the space to dive into all the parts. There’s enough in the book to keep you interested, but there were some parts I wished moved a little faster. That’s my own personal preference, so it didn’t take away from the book.

Overall, this was action packed and full of intrigue and suspense. I enjoyed it immensely and cannot wait to read the second book.

Pub Day Picks // August 3, 2021

Happy August! I thought with it being one of the last months of the summer that the publishing train would slow down a bit. I was very wrong as today and the rest of this month will be a slew of releases that I cannot wait to read! Here’s what I’m excited for that’s publishing today.

A Lesson in Vengeance by Victoria Lee

Felicity Morrow is back at Dalloway School.

Perched in the Catskill mountains, the centuries-old, ivy-covered campus was home until the tragic death of her girlfriend. Now, after a year away, she’s returned to graduate. She even has her old room in Godwin House, the exclusive dormitory rumored to be haunted by the spirits of five Dalloway students—girls some say were witches. The Dalloway Five all died mysteriously, one after another, right on Godwin grounds.

Witchcraft is woven into Dalloway’s history. The school doesn’t talk about it, but the students do. In secret rooms and shadowy corners, girls convene. And before her girlfriend died, Felicity was drawn to the dark. She’s determined to leave that behind her now; all Felicity wants is to focus on her senior thesis and graduate. But it’s hard when Dalloway’s occult history is everywhere. And when the new girl won’t let her forget.

It’s Ellis Haley’s first year at Dalloway, and she’s already amassed a loyal following. A prodigy novelist at seventeen, Ellis is a so-called “method writer.” She’s eccentric and brilliant, and Felicity can’t shake the pull she feels to her. So when Ellis asks Felicity for help researching the Dalloway Five for her second book, Felicity can’t say no. Given her history with the arcane, Felicity is the perfect resource.

And when history begins to repeat itself, Felicity will have to face the darkness in Dalloway–and in herself.

So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park

When up-and-coming investment banker Jess Kim is passed over for a promotion, laid off in a virtual meeting, and then overhears why (“she’s already being overpaid anyway for a woman” and “Asians are worker bees, not someone who can drum up new deals”) she delivers an “eff you guys” speech and storms out of the building. Not sure what’s next, she moves back home to Tennessee with her domineering Korean mom, who tries to set her up with her pastor’s son Daniel Choi, an M&A lawyer by day and a successful video game streamer by night. Turns out he’s swoony and smart, not the awkward preacher’s kid she remembers. With his help, Jess launches a Korean cooking YouTube channel focused on easy meal prep for busy professionals.

All is going well until her mom walks on the show mid-live recording and argues about cooking technique. While she hates being berated by her mother in front of the world, it actually works in their favor—they go viral!

Soon her cooking channel becomes an actual media company and brand. When a client is suddenly interested in buying Jess out, she finds herself sitting across the table from the very investment firm she quit not so long ago. But there’s just one other problem: Daniel, the guy whose been helping her and that she’s been falling for, is the firm’s new general counsel.

If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy

After having just graduated with a degree in shoe design, and trying to get her feet on the ground, Cindy is working for her stepmother, who happens to be the executive producer of America’s favorite reality show, Before Midnight. When a spot on the show needs filling ASAP, Cindy volunteers, hoping it might help jump-start her fashion career, or at least give her something to do while her peers land jobs in the world of high fashion.

Turns out being the only plus size woman on a reality dating competition makes a splash, and soon Cindy becomes a body positivity icon for women everywhere. What she doesn’t expect? That she may just find inspiration-and love-in the process. Ultimately, Cindy learns that if the shoe doesn’t fit, maybe it’s time to design your own.

Shards of Earth by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Idris has neither aged nor slept since they remade him in the war. And one of humanity’s heroes now scrapes by on a freelance salvage vessel, to avoid the attention of greater powers.

After earth was destroyed, mankind created a fighting elite to save their species, enhanced humans such as Idris. In the silence of space they could communicate, mind-to-mind, with the enemy. Then their alien aggressors, the Architects, simply disappeared—and Idris and his kind became obsolete.

Now, fifty years later, Idris and his crew have discovered something strange abandoned in space. It’s clearly the work of the Architects—but are they returning? And if so, why? Hunted by gangsters, cults and governments, Idris and his crew race across the galaxy hunting for answers. For they now possess something of incalculable value, that many would kill to obtain.

The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott’s revelatory, mesmerizing, and game-changing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio, and an interloper who arrives to bring down the carefully crafted Eden-like facade.

Ballet flows through their veins. Dara and Marie Durant were dancers since birth, with their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara’s husband and once their mother’s prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, back broken after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around each other, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school’s annual performance of The Nutcracker, a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, an interloper arrives and threatens the delicate balance of everything they’ve worked for.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

What are you excited for today?

July 2021 Wrap – Up

July 2021 Wrap – Up

And just like that, another month is over. I can’t believe 2021 is moving so quickly and sometimes I forget that 2020 happened, so time doesn’t seem to want to stop for anyone. But I’ve been keeping busy starting the month with my husband’s birthday, taking some courses, and starting the Olympics. Have you been watching? My husband and I basically watch whatever is on every night. Sometimes we even keep it on during the day so our breaks are all one sport or another. It’s fun to watch the Olympics and see the challenges these athletes face especially with COVID still around.

This month I read eight books, which is par for the course. They were some excellent books too and I only broke from my TBR once to read a YA book and cleanse my palate from some of the heavier fantasy books. It was well worth it and so happy to be entering August with some fresh books.

My Favorites of the Month

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

This was such a sweeping fairy tale retelling with a great story and a mix of Eastern Asian culture. I absolutely loved the imagery, the characters, and I cannot wait to read the conclusion soon! My full review here.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I absolutely love Becky Chambers and this book is by far my favorite. It was a beautiful story about a monk and a robot, but it also dives deeply into themes of existence, meaning, and the hope in it all. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good story with a deeper meaning. My full review here.

It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools. Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

I decided to read this one on a whim and I’m so glad I did. It reminded me of all those great dance movies, but with a little magical realism twist to it. I read through it so quickly wanting to find out the end, and I’ll tell you now, the ending will break your heart. My full review here.

Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

This was one of my highly anticipated books of the year and it delivered! OMG, I didn’t realize this was based off real people but not in real situations. It’s gender defying, deeply militaristic, and if you’re fan of books like The Poppy Wars by RF Kuang, I highly suggest it. To be warned, this book is marketed as fantasy, but it’s more historical fiction or literary fiction. I wasn’t disappointed there wasn’t much fantasy, but I can imagine folks going into it thinking it’s one thing and getting something completely different. My full review here.

“I refuse to be nothing…”

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

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

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

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

Jade City by Fonda Lee

This was our Fantasy Book Club read and I was so surprised by how incredible the story was. It was filled with action and intrigue. If you’re a fan of crime families like in The Godfather, then I highly recommend this one. It follows one family amongst two that are fighting each other for power over the city. And as you read, the story starts to turn for the worst for the Kaul family. I ended up rooting so hard for them in this interesting world Fonda Lee’s created. I plan on reading book 2 eventually, but this one definitely blew me away. Full review coming soon.

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

Small Favors by Erin A Craig

The final book of July 2021 and I have to admit, I wish I waited to read this one until the fall. It’s a spooky story, which would be perfect for October and Halloween time. Alas, I read it in July but that’s okay. This book was gripping and atmospheric from page one and I couldn’t put it down. Since it’s the final book of the month, I haven’t had a chance to write my thoughts, so full review will be coming soon!

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

What about you? What did you read this month?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan // Book Review

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan // Book Review

Yep, this book was ALL THE THINGS I was expecting it to be and then some. I can’t believe it’s over. While this book is compared to Mulan, I think it’s far from it. If anything, this read more like The Poppy Wars by RF Kuang.

Here’s more about She Who Became the Sun

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

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


“I refuse to be nothing…”

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

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

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

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

My Thoughts

If you’re a fan of literary fiction, historical fiction, military fantasy, stories with gender identity, queer relationships, or even stories that will flip you on your head, then I invite you to read this book. This is THE book and it was massive and lush and powerful and so damn surprising. I’m going to have some spoilers in here (nothing too wild, but hinting at some bigger events in the story), so proceed with caution.

Honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve read a book of this magnitude and I need to shout it from the rooftops. This is one of the best books I’ve read all year. This is definitely a character-driven story more than it is plot-driven, but the characters were so utterly realized and felt so real and flawed that I couldn’t stop reading. It’s a bit of a slow burn as well, so be prepared to sit down and take your sweet time getting into this story. It’s also not for the feint of heart. There’s no lovely romance between two characters. There’s no designations between “good” and “evil” characters. This is about ambition, drive, and the ability to overcome any obstacle in your way to a greater purpose.

There’s two sides of this story because there’s two different groups of people fighting each other for supreme reign of the kingdom. There’s the Red Turbans and the Mongols. There’s also two main characters; Zhu and Ouyang. Zhu represents the Red Turbans (who first starts off as a monk) and Ouyang is a Mongol. I was a little confused when I started reading because Zhu had such a strong opening, but Ouyang doesn’t come into the picture until a bit later. When Ouyang started having his own perspective in the novel, I was thrown a bit. But once I started realizing that there’s two main characters, then things started to make sense.

Your first main character, Zhu Chongba is a red turban, but she didn’t become a red turban as quickly as you could imagine. No, she first started as a terrified young girl who’s father and brother just died. I absolutely loved reading where Zhu came from. From being a starving peasant to becoming a monk and then finally the commander of one of the red turban factions, Zhu has been fighting all her life to survive; to become something more than the nothing fate she was handed at birth. Zhu was probably one of the most complex characters I’ve read. She was born with no name, no fate, and no reasons to live other than to serve her father and brother. She originally took her brother’s name in order to survive, but the fact that he was fated to be great, she internalized that and ruthlessly fought her way to the very top. What started off as a means to survive drove her to become the leader of her own empire.

And her fight was brutal. Filled with backstabbing and betrayal, Zhu did everything in her power to get what she wanted. She’s constantly fighting herself as well trying to push out the nothing fate she was dealt and living the great fate her brother was handed. It was really interesting to see Zhu’s psychology while she did the things she did.

The other character worth noting is Ouyang. OMG Ouyang and I hope no one sleeps on him because he’s truly such an interesting character. He’s first seen at Zhu’s monastery as the Mongols destroyed and disbanded all the monks living there. Ouyang is described to be an effeminate man who could easily pass as a woman. Ouyang was enslaved to Esen (the Prince of Henan’s) family, but over time he earned his way to becoming his general fighting alongside the Mongols despite his people actually coming from their opponents. Ouyang is also a eunuch not by choice. No, his family was slaughtered and was told by the Mongol Emperor that there would never be another Ouyang produced ever again. His past is brutal and it fueled him for years as he plotted his revenge.

But the most interesting part of his story is that he’s also absolutely in love with Esen (his captor, his best friend, and his commander). The man who has enslaved him and helped slaughter his family is also the love of his life and I can’t even imagine the turmoil that must have gone through Ouyang’s head and heart as he enacted his revenge. OMG, the emotions running through me as he struggled with his own emotions.

There is a relationship between Zhu and Ouyang that does play out. Being on opposite sides of this great fight, there was going to be some derision, but at the same time I felt like they saw a little bit of themselves in each other. It was interesting to see.

There is a slight fantasy element to the story. It was surprising how subtle it was because I imagined people using magic or there being some magical creatures. But the fantasy components were interesting and the way they designated people as “Heaven’s Mandate.” It’s like any monarchy that believes they’re appointed by a higher being and the fantasy elements in this book were that appointment. I thought it was interesting, especially the way it plays out towards the end of the book.

It surprised me utterly to find out that this was based on real people and the real Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. I don’t know much about this point in Chinese history, but digging around the Internet after reading the book, I thought it was fantastic that Shelley Parker-Chan utilized these characters to create a story all their own. It was truly masterful.

I will say that the pacing was a bit slow for me. I wanted there to be a few more battles or conflicts between bouts of strategizing and plotting, but being a character-driven story, the focus was more on the people rather than the events.

Overall, this was quite a story filled with history and culture and some of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a while. I’m really excited for book two and I will probably end up reading this one again in the future.

Thanks Tor Books for the gifted read. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the author or the publisher.

Pub Day Picks // July 20, 2021

It’s another wonderful publishing day and the books today are some of my most highly anticipated reads of the year. I feel like I say that every week, but this week is definitely true.

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

My highly anticipated read of the year! I’m also currently reading it and it has been such an interesting story. The characters are really what drive the story here, but it’s so amazing to see the historical aspects of it as well.

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

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


“I refuse to be nothing…”

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

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

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

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

These Hollowed Vows by Lexi Ryan

From New York Times best-selling author Lexi Ryan, Cruel Prince meets A Court of Thorns and Roses in this sexy, action-packed fantasy about a girl who is caught between two treacherous faerie courts and their dangerously seductive princes.

Brie hates the Fae and refuses to have anything to do with them, even if that means starving on the street. But when her sister is sold to the sadistic king of the Unseelie court to pay a debt, she’ll do whatever it takes to get her back—including making a deal with the king himself to steal three magical relics from the Seelie court.

Gaining unfettered access to the Seelie court is easier said than done. Brie’s only choice is to pose as a potential bride for Prince Ronan, and she soon finds herself falling for him. Unwilling to let her heart distract her, she accepts help from a band of Unseelie misfits with their own secret agenda. As Brie spends time with their mysterious leader, Finn, she struggles to resist his seductive charm.

Caught between two dangerous courts, Brie must decide who to trust with her loyalty. And with her heart.

Isn’t it Bromantic? by Lyssa Kay Adams

With his passion for romance novels, it was only a matter of time before Vlad wrote one.

Elena Konnikova has lived her entire adult life in the shadows. As the daughter of a Russian journalist who mysteriously disappeared, she escaped danger the only way she knew how: She married her childhood friend, Vladimir, and moved to the United States, where he is a professional hockey player in Nashville.

Vlad, aka the Russian, thought he could be content with his marriage of convenience. But it’s become too difficult to continue in a one-sided relationship. He joined the Bromance Book Club to learn how to make his wife love him, but all he’s learned is that he deserves more. He’s ready to create his own sweeping romance—both on and off the page.

The bros are unwilling to let Vlad forgo true love—and this time they’re not operating solo. They join forces with Vlad’s neighbors, a group of meddling widows who call themselves the Loners. But just when things finally look promising, Elena’s past life intrudes and their happily ever after is cast into doubt.

Curses by Lish McBride

Merit Cravan refused to fulfill her obligation to marry a prince, leading to a fairy godling’s curse. She will be forced to live as a beast forever, unless she agrees to marry a man of her mother’s choosing before her eighteenth birthday.

Tevin Dumont has always been a pawn in his family’s cons. The prettiest boy in a big family, his job is to tempt naïve rich girls to abandon their engagements, unless their parents agree to pay him off. But after his mother runs afoul of the beast, she decides to trade Tevin for her own freedom.

Now, Tevin and Merit have agreed that he can pay off his mother’s debt by using his con-artist skills to help Merit find the best match . . . but what if the best match is Tevin himself?

The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente

Catherynne M. Valente, the bestselling and award-winning creator of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland returns with The Past is Red, the enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.

The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.

Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.

But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her.
Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon // Book Review

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon // Book Review

I’m such a huge fan of Nicola Yoon. I’ve read and own every book she’s written because she’s just fantastic in her way of writing diverse romance stories. I knew this was going to be a stunner just like her others, but I didn’t think it would be my favorite from her so far. Let’s get into it.

Here’s more about Instructions for Dancing

Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

My Thoughts

This was an absolute delight and I truly loved reading this one.

Evie was one of my favorite characters by Nicola Yoon. I loved that she has this clairvoyant gift for a while that lets her see the outcome of any relationship. It was a funny coincidence especially when Evie was so convinced love didn’t exist. I even worried about some of the relationships she saw into because I had already fallen in love with the other characters in the story. Evie was complex, going through some difficult feelings, and dealing with it on her own. Her mother wouldn’t talk about it. Her sister refused to recognize it. It’s so hard to be that person with no outlets to discuss your emotions in seeing something serious like your own father cheating on your mother.

I’m not surprised by her reaction. In fact, I would feel the exact same way and what I thought was interesting is that this book tackles a big lesson we all eventually learn; that our parents aren’t superheroes. It’s a rough lesson, for sure, and Evie handled it to the best of her ability.

Evie and X’s relationship was also adorable. I loved that X is new to LA and Evie shows him around to all her favorite spots (except the celebrity tours). It felt natural to me and when Evie says that X fell into her group as if he was always there, I totally believed it. I also loved how they motivated each other. Evie was hesitant to go to her father’s wedding. X didn’t want to finish high school. And they both encouraged each other to do things that they already marked in their heads they didn’t want to do. That’s the kind of relationships I love seeing; more than the romance it’s about encouraging each other to climb a pretty steep hill and being open to accept that encouragement.

I will say the ending was surprising. I knew with Evie’s powers there would be some heartbreak in her future, but the heartbreak was even more unbearable than I imagined. Ooph.

Overall, this was such a slump buster. I’m so glad I picked it up when I did and the book will have you laughing and crying at the same time.

Thanks Get Underlined for a gifted copy of the book. My opinions have not been influenced by the publisher or the author.