These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong // Book Review

These Violent Delights by Chloe Gong // Book Review

This was definitely a very loose interpretation of Romeo and Juliet, but I loved every single moment of it. It reminded me a lot of Jade City by Fonda Lee except set in 1920s Shanghai and the magical components were a tiny bit different. However, I loved it and I cannot wait for book two come out!

Here’s more about These Violent Delights

The year is 1926, and Shanghai hums to the tune of debauchery.

A blood feud between two gangs runs the streets red, leaving the city helpless in the grip of chaos. At the heart of it all is eighteen-year-old Juliette Cai, a former flapper who has returned to assume her role as the proud heir of the Scarlet Gang—a network of criminals far above the law. Their only rivals in power are the White Flowers, who have fought the Scarlets for generations. And behind every move is their heir, Roma Montagov, Juliette’s first love…and first betrayal.

But when gangsters on both sides show signs of instability culminating in clawing their own throats out, the people start to whisper. Of a contagion, a madness. Of a monster in the shadows. As the deaths stack up, Juliette and Roma must set their guns—and grudges—aside and work together, for if they can’t stop this mayhem, then there will be no city left for either to rule.

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My thoughts

I absolutely loved Juliette and Roma. While they were nothing like their characters in Romeo and Juliet, I loved how compassionate Roma was and how headstrong Juliette was. Their personalities clashed, but both being the heirs of their respective gangs, I can only imagine much of that is colored by the ruthless blood feud between their families.

Of course, the other characters surrounding Juliette and Roma had similar names to the characters in Romeo and Juliet, so you get an idea that maybe certain things will happen to certain people, but if you’re looking for a straightforward retelling you’ll be sorely disappointed. It’s also not a fantasy story. In fact, I would put this as a genre-bending book with historical fiction (the rise of the communist party in China is a major component to this book) with a tiny bit of mystery, science fiction, and very little romance.

But I loved it. I loved that Chloe Gong was able to take this story and make it her own. In all honestly, this is one of the best retellings up there with Legendborn by Tracy Deonn where you’re not getting an iteration of the story, but something completely different and so well imagined that you’re just blown away when it does reference the other book. It was action packed filled with suspenseful moments, skillful surprises, and just really made me excited to keep reading.

I loved that the romance between Roma and Juliette wasn’t that obvious. It was actually after their romance that the story takes place, so all that was left is the bitter rivalry of their families that seems to affect Juliette more than it did Roma. Both of them have something to prove as well. In the wings, Juliette’s cousin, Tyler, is waiting for her to make a mistake so that he can take over the business. Meanwhile, Juliette is constantly trying to prove herself worthy enough to be called a Scarlet.

Roma doesn’t feel like he’s as dedicated to his gang, The White Flowers, as much as Juliette is. In fact, he gets queasy with murdering people and doesn’t sit well with violence. But his father doesn’t really respect him as heir either and relies mostly on another person to do the dirty work. But both Roma and Juliette definitely have the best in mind for their people and want to do their best to keep the peace and also solve what’s happening.

Because there’s a weird madness going around where people are literally ripping their own throats out and it looks to mostly affect both the gangs. This was the weird science fiction part, which really blew my mind at the end. I was so grossed out by the madness the entire time and Chloe Gong has the writing chops to make things just so vivid. It was definitely the central plot of the book, but I also absolutely loved learning more about Juliette and Roma. In many ways this is how the book reminded me of Jade City. There’s a big plot happening in the city they both run, but in the meantime there’s so much to divulge about the characters and their worlds.

I absolutely loved that Chloe Gong kept a lot of details close to the chest and as you read the book, it just unfolded and really showed you what she’s capable of. I will admit it does drag a little. There were parts where I thought it would be obvious to the characters who did it and having them come to realizations and truths much faster than they did in the book, but the slow burn is very much worth it. However, I would just trust Chloe Gong and her writing ability to explain everything, show you why she wrote the book she did, and just capture you in this weird little world.

I cannot wait for book two. There’s enough at the end to make you reach for the second book for answers and I definitely want to know what happens.

Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

Over the Woodward Wall by A Deborah Baker // Book Review

If you’ve read Middlegame, then you probably already know about A Deborah Baker and Over the Woodward Wall. But if you’re not aware, it’s the pen name for Seanan McGuire for a book that’s mentioned within the pages of Middlegame. From the book’s reference, Over the Woodward Wall was a children’s series written by A Deborah Baker to explain the more complex phenomenon between Rodger and Dodger, their abilities, and what these children may look like and act. However, you don’t need to know any of this to read Over the Woodward Wall. It’s almost a bonus for those who already know the context of the story. Get ready to enter The Up-and-Under. Thanks to Tor dot com for the gifted book.

Here’s more about Over the Woodward Wall

Avery is an exceptional child. Everything he does is precise, from the way he washes his face in the morning, to the way he completes his homework – without complaint, without fuss, without prompt.

Zib is also an exceptional child, because all children are, in their own way. But where everything Avery does and is can be measured, nothing Zib does can possibly be predicted, except for the fact that she can always be relied upon to be unpredictable.

They live on the same street.
They live in different worlds.

On an unplanned detour from home to school one morning, Avery and Zib find themselves climbing over a stone wall into the Up and Under – an impossible land filled with mystery, adventure and the strangest creatures.

And they must find themselves and each other if they are to also find their way out and back to their own lives.

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My thoughts

I have to admit, I was so excited to read Over the Woodward Wall after finishing Middlegame. I love it when authors get creative with their stories and then write subsequent stories to bolster it. Honestly, it’s always a treat when an author continues to share more stories from a universe they’ve built. And like I mentioned, this book doesn’t require you to have read Middlegame before you’ve read it.

I’m always surprised by how much story can be told in such a short book. In the 200-page novella, Seanan McGuire really captures the world within the Up-and-Under introducing a myriad of characters that I hope to follow throughout the series and providing some interesting story line to help us root for the children and boo at the villains.

It reminded me a lot of Wayward Children series where the kids leap over a mysterious wall in the middle of their neighborhood and enter a world where owls talk to them, girls can be made up of a murder of crows, and the kings and queens have nefarious dealings throughout the lands they rule. It’s got Alice in Wonderland vibes, Wizard of Oz vibes, and all the vibes of any other story where children are transported to another world that’s a bit topsy-turvy.

The narration of the story felt like you were sitting at story time with a bunch of kids. It would probably be a really good audiobook to get into because the way its written really feels like you’re being told a story rather than actually experiencing it. The way it’s written makes you think this is a fairy tale with all the possibilities available to Zib and Avery. They start off so plainly and then as they travel through the Up-and-Under, they learn about themselves, each other, and what really matters to them. They start off as unassuming kids at the beginning, but what they learn while they’re forced to survive in a world without parents or authority is something most of us only learn when we become adults.

I will say that the ending is a little bit abrupt, but it’s also a longer series so I have no doubts that the next one will be better. Overall, this was such a magical journey that I really loved and appreciated. I’ll definitely be getting into book 2 once it’s out.

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow // Book Review

A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow // Book Review

When I first picked up this book, I thought I was about to dive into another Sleeping Beauty retelling, but from the first page, this book has already exceeded my expectations and really blew me away with its creativity. Thanks to Tor dot com for the gifted book.

Here’s more about A Spindle Splintered

It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no one has lived past twenty-one.

Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.

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My thoughts

I can’t believe I started this book thinking it was going to be just another fairy tale retelling. It’s not. It’s so not and I’m actually a little glad for it. The moment I read Zinnia pricking her finger on the prop spindle at her 21st birthday that transported her to another world, I knew I would be hooked and I absolutely loved it.

The world itself was your typical fantasy world with castles and royalty and an evil fairy who casts the spell on Primrose, but what I also loved is the perspectives from the evil fairy. Always with these stories we never see what the other side of the story thinks and seeing that perspective really made you understand that sometimes destiny is cruel and unusual. I also loved the other little nods like Primrose acting like a royal princess. I’m not talking about spoiled or vapid, but actually raised to be a leader and demanding a certain level of respect. It was interesting to see.

I think my favorite character was Charm with her can do attitude and her willingness to help Zinnia in the situation she found herself in. It was weird that Zinnia was still able to text Charm (and a little irresponsible that she didn’t text her family where she was), but I loved that Charm is one of those thick and thin friends who aren’t mad at you for long and will help you out of any situation.

I absolutely loved the multiverse and multiple Sleeping Beauties aspect to it. Although, their time in the book felt a little truncated and it would have been cool to get to know all the different version of Sleeping Beauty and how they can help each other overcome the destinies they’ve been handed. But I did love seeing them all in the same room with the same goal to help Primrose from her fate and help Zinnia get back to her real life before her medication ran out.

And that part I loved. I loved the whole message of taking hold of your own destiny. Zinnia being a terminally ill patient has always felt like she had no control over what will happen and it made her live a sort of zombie life. It makes me so happy that she finds purpose by the end and realizes that despite destiny, you can rewrite the story and make it work for you.

The only part that really nagged at me and probably won’t nag anyone else is the explanation for the multiverse and how Zinnia was able to travel through them. I wish this was a bit more explained just because there are so many ways this is used in stories and knowing how it’s used in this one would help me really envision Zinnia moving from one space to another.

Overall, this was a pretty epic story in a very small package. I just read that it’s a series, so I can’t wait to see what other stories Alix E Harrow rewrites!

Jade War by Fonda Lee // Book Review

Jade War by Fonda Lee // Book Review

The sequel to Jade City definitely delivers and I think this world is a new obsession for me. Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted book. My opinions haven’t been influenced by the publisher or the author.

Here’s more about Jade War

In Jade War, the sequel to the World Fantasy Award-winning novel Jade City, the Kaul siblings battle rival clans for honor and control over an Asia-inspired fantasy metropolis.

On the island of Kekon, the Kaul family is locked in a violent feud for control of the capital city and the supply of magical jade that endows trained Green Bone warriors with supernatural powers they alone have possessed for hundreds of years.

Beyond Kekon’s borders, war is brewing. Powerful foreign governments and mercenary criminal kingpins alike turn their eyes on the island nation. Jade, Kekon’s most prized resource, could make them rich – or give them the edge they’d need to topple their rivals.

Faced with threats on all sides, the Kaul family is forced to form new and dangerous alliances, confront enemies in the darkest streets and the tallest office towers, and put honor aside in order to do whatever it takes to ensure their own survival – and that of all the Green Bones of Kekon.

Jade War is the second book of the Green Bone Saga, an epic trilogy about family, honor, and those who live and die by the ancient laws of blood and jade.

My thoughts

This was such an incredible book and literally so much intrigue in this one that you can get lost in all of it. This time, the story foucsed less on the rivalry between the two clans (the Mountain and the No Peak clans), and focused on how these clans were planning their next step.

A this point, it’s not as simple as claiming territory on the small piece of land in Kekon, but expansion out into the other countries. After the Mountain clan revealed that they’ve been doing dealings overseas, the No Peak clan also wanted to get a little of that action focusing their effort to expand in Espenia. But with a huge war between two countries happening, refugees from those countries coming to Kekon, and jade in desperate demand, there was money to be made even if it muddled the major ideologies behind wearing jade.

I was truly surprised by this ending and what all the political dealings surmounted to. I may have seen it if I were paying more attention to the story and the political components of the book, so it was surprising to see how all the war and turmoil and war turned out to be a bigger plot device! Both families have some interesting business happening and while you’re only reading the No Peak side, it’s still quite interesting to see how they decide to expand their business.

Of course this was also a much deeper development into Hilo, Shae, and Anden and the characters that surround them. They’re not only acclimating into the roles they’re designated, but you see them try to push so hard against it as well. It was really interesting to see Shae try to become the Weather Man. While she’s got the mind for business, it also felt like she tried to keep some semblance of herself in the mix by having a relationship and trying to avoid the more gruesome sides of her job. However, there were things that were just unavoidable and watching Shae reluctantly step deeper into the role of Weather Man was heartbreaking in some ways.

The same goes for Anden as he’s shipped off to Espenia to live a life without jade. While he’s there, he somehow stumbles into the Green Bone families of that island and becomes a bigger component to the No Peak clan. It was interesting to see both Shae and Anden discover their true selves while also being pulled into the worlds their family built. My favorite character was probably Wen who grows massively from this story. Don’t let a Stone Eye with a heart of green fool you!

I will say the story felt a bit slower for me. Focusing more on the political and economical gains for the families didn’t make much for a compelling story. It felt more character-driven with the No Peak clan family being its driver. Granted, that’s pretty much until the ending when a lot of the really big points in the novel take place. There are other moments throughout the book to drive your interests, but I kept asking myself where all of this was going at a few points.

Overall, this was such a great story and sequel to Jade City. It really felt like The Godfather Part two where Michael starts dealings with Cuba and legitimize the business, but similarly to the movie, it did drag a little as everything set itself up for the final chapter.

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki // Book Review

Light from Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki // Book Review

What does a violin teacher from Hell, a trans runaway, and an alien donut shop owner have in common? Well, I was skeptical too, but then I read Light from Uncommon Stars and now I feel like anything is possible. Thanks to Tor Books for the gifted book.

Here’s more about Light from Uncommon Stars

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

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

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

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

My thoughts

This book is incredible. Full stop.

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

I don’t even know where to begin with how to explain my feelings. Let’s start with the characters. There are several different characters that this book follows, but the main ones are Lan, an interstellar alien trying to escape from a deadly plague that’s ravishing star systems around the universe. She’s escaped to Earth where her family work to rebuild their ship and as a cover they run an old donut shop. Shizuka was a violin virtuoso back in the day, but not anymore. In fact, she’s spent the last 49 years cultivating young violin students, bringing them great fame and fortune, only to lose them all to tragic ends. Why? Because she works for the devil and collecting the souls of virtuoso is what she does. Katrina is a young trans youth who’s recently run away from home. Without a place to stay, money to get food, or anyone to turn to, she’s made her way doing sexual favors. That is, until one day, when Katrina plays her violin in the park and Shizuka just happens to hear.

The story surrounds these three individuals and their lives become more and more intertwined learning about each other, themselves, and what they’re all capable of doing when given a little bit of love. The beauty of this story is surrounding their relationships and how they each grow so drastically in the pages within. Honestly, it’s so incredible reading this book and watching how these people become the people they’re supposed to be.

Of course, the story wasn’t without its truths. There was a lot of heartbreaking depictions of Katrina as she struggles with being loved by someone unconditionally, with coming-to-terms with what’s happened to her in the past, and how she finds herself through her music and the support of Shizuka and Lan. But there were also some uplifting moments where Katrina and Shizuka’s relationship really made you believe in the good of people; even if they’re actually conditioning their souls for the devil.

It was interesting to see Shizuka grow as well because she’s been literally grooming children for death and eternal damnation. To see her change little by little with Katrina just makes you think there’s possibility for bad people to be good again. And Lan, she changes immensely as well. Coming from a pragmatic people who don’t understand why people would want a variety of donut flavors or why they waste their time with video games, you see how important these things are to humans and how this level of entertainment can be the exact thing the universe needs to keep moving forward.

Then, there was the violin play. Honestly, the violin was its own character in this book. As someone who has played violin for 10 years of her adolescent life, actually played Schradieck and tried her hand at Paganini, these violin references were SPOT ON. Even down to the kinds of bridges used and the kinds of sound the instrument can make if you use the right strings. It’s literally so accurate that I thought Ryka Aoki was a long-time player like me. It was surprising when I realized that Ryka Aoki doesn’t actually play the violin. She really fooled me because she had everything from the makers of violins to the differences a bow can make read like she was as experienced at the violin as Shizuka was.

The descriptions of the violin reminded me so much of The Red Violin; one of my all-time favorite movies. It was this idea that the violin held someone’s soul and the music it played was seductive, embracing, and completely spell-binding. There was something free and beautiful about the violin that everyone coveted it and throughout the movie, you see how it makes its way around the world and touches everyone that plays it. You can watch the trailer here. So much of that feeling was deeply held to the violin parts in this book. I was honestly so moved by the way Ryka Aoki wrote the violin and the way it touched both Shizuka and Katrina’s lives.

The ending is where you see everything come together. Honestly, I was so surprised. I had a feeling the ending would go a certain way; an ultimate sacrifice, but then it was completely thwarted and put a huge smile on my face. It was an incredible ending to finish off such an incredible experience.

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton // Book Review

Hollow Kingdom by Kira Jane Buxton // Book Review

Have you ever read anything more hopeful and gorey at the same time? Well, then this unique little novel will definitely intrigue you because it’s pretty much The Secret Life of Pets meets The Walking Dead as the animals the humans leave behind after a zombie apocalypse try to gather their strength and survive. There are many animals that do die and the reason why the humans became zombies was because of an unknown virus spread through their phones, so just keep that in mind if you’re sensitive to animal death and the recent COVID pandemic.

Here’s More about Hollow Kingdom

One pet crow fights to save humanity from an apocalypse in this uniquely hilarious debut from a genre-bending literary author.

S.T., a domesticated crow, is a bird of simple pleasures: hanging out with his owner Big Jim, trading insults with Seattle’s wild crows (those idiots), and enjoying the finest food humankind has to offer: Cheetos ®.

Then Big Jim’s eyeball falls out of his head, and S.T. starts to feel like something isn’t quite right. His most tried-and-true remedies–from beak-delivered beer to the slobbering affection of Big Jim’s loyal but dim-witted dog, Dennis–fail to cure Big Jim’s debilitating malady. S.T. is left with no choice but to abandon his old life and venture out into a wild and frightening new world with his trusty steed Dennis, where he discovers that the neighbors are devouring each other and the local wildlife is abuzz with rumors of dangerous new predators roaming Seattle. Humanity’s extinction has seemingly arrived, and the only one determined to save it is a foul-mouthed crow whose knowledge of the world around him comes from his TV-watching education.

Hollow Kingdom is a humorous, big-hearted, and boundlessly beautiful romp through the apocalypse and the world that comes after, where even a cowardly crow can become a hero.

My Thoughts

I wholeheartedly loved this one. It was unique, different, and one of thsoe books with some goregous prose to take you away from the rest of the world. The story follows main character, ST (short for Shit Turd). I kid you not, I’m so surprised that I could connect with a crow as a main character. Of course, I can’t fly and I can’t connect to the animal network like they do in the book, but the emotional and mental issues he goes through as he processes what’s happening to him, his murder, and the world around him were so close to human that you couldn’t help but to relate.

The writing is exquisite. You can honestly tell that Kira Jane Buxton is a huge fan of Seattle and this almost reads like a love letter to the city if it were also in the midst of a zombie apocalypse. I’ve never been to Seattle and this book made me really want to go. The depictions of nature, the beauty of the animals as they gather together to survive, and even some of the landmarks were really vivid throughout the story. However, Kira Jane Buxton is also one of those authors who uses her powers for evil and I will tell you now, there are some seriously gross parts in this book. The zombies were gross, the bodies were gross, the decay, the death, all of it was just really nasty. It didn’t bother me much because I’m used to this kind of thing, but I can imagine someone faint of heart having problems stomaching the descriptions in some places. I will warn you now, it gets graphic.

There were also some interesting characters like ST’s dog, Dennis, who’s a bloodhound with so much loyalty for the bird. Then there’s the different animals that get their own chapter. You read this book through the perspective of the animals and each of them has their own views from different parts of the world. I absolutely loved this perspective and reading it through their eyes really made me so happy.

the ending was super surprising as well. Of course I won’t go into detail about it, but it definitely changes course right at the end and for the better.

Overall, this was a good one and if you’re a fan of horror, then I suggest this one to you. I’s fast-paced and easy to read if you can stomach the gruesome descriptions. I loved ST’s mission to save all the domesticated animals who were stuck without help and how that makes ST grow into a much more evolved crow. I kind of wish I waited to read this in October, but maybe I’ll save the second book for then.

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova // Book Review

The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina by Zoraida Cordova // Book Review

I picked this one recently because it was compared to Alice Hoffman (the author of Practical Magic) and I needed a little bit of magic in my life. But what I received was something way more and way better than the magical books I’ve been reading. Thanks to Atria Books for the gifted book.

Here’s More about The Inheritance of Orquidea Divina

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.

The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.

Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.

Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.

My Thoughts

This story was definitely a stunner and I had so much fun reading it and getting to know The Montoyas. I’m so blown away by the writing, the story, and the characters. I’ve read Zoraida Cordova before, but this felt like nothing I’ve read from her in the past. Well, mostly that’s also because I was reading her YA fantasy fiction and not her adult novels.

And this delivered! The writing is gorgeous, the pacing is beautiful (up until the end where it got rushed), the mystery was mysterious (albeit a bit predictable), and all together such a great read. It was not necessarily a fantasy book, but I wouldn’t call it magical realism either. There was magic, for sure, but it definitely felt more like a fantasy. I would go as far as say science fiction, even! But this genre blending book definitely gave me all the feels.

I loved Marimar, Rey, and Rhiannon as they journey from their grandmother’s small home in Four Rivers to Ecuador and find out more about what happened to her. From the flowers growing out of their bodies to the ultimate power they release at the end, it truly blew my mind to read their whole story. Reading about Marimar and Rey, especially, and the lives they lived through their family traumas and dramas made the story so much more relatable to me. I felt so much for both of these characters and the middle ground they found themselves stuck in. And as they were searching for their grandmother’s past, they were learning so much about themselves in the process. It was really beautiful.

The family dynamics between them all plus all of Orquidea’s other children and grandchildren reminded me so much of my own family. While I came from a patriarchy rather than a matriarchy, the close-knit bond I have with my aunts and uncles and cousins is a stronger relationship than I’ve had with any friend in my life. And I loved that Marimar and Rey were cousins, but were best friends as well. It really brought home the family bits that really pulled at my heartstrings.

Written in a dual timeline, you read both Orquidea’s origin story and the story of her grandchildren as they try to uncover their grandmother’s mysterious past. But you get first-hand experience on the life Orquidea lived and while it felt like such an adventure, there were some pitfalls she found herself in. It was sad and a little cringey (I could feel my toes curl when the villain finally showed itself), I still rooted for her to find her path, find love, and find a life where she’s wanted and cared for.

The mystery component was a little bit disappointing, but I still loved it. This is where it felt more like a magical story. There was an ominous quality to the mysterious stranger who stalked Marimar, Rey, Rhiannon and her parents, and it was really interesting to see how that turned out.

Overall, I highly recommend this book if you’re a fan of magic, mystery, a little bit of history, and sweeping family stories. I hope this becomes a movie because I can already see all of this playing so perfectly in my head.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire // Book Review

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire // Book Review

Have you ever looked for a door to another world? I still find myself trying to find a doorway in almost every apartment I live in. In fact, there’s a tiny door in my reading nook that I immediately opened when I moved in. Sadly, it’s just a door to the HVAC system. However, if you’ve ever been curious about those doors or always wanted to find one for yourself, then I think you might really enjoy this book.

TW: child death, blood, missing body parts, and acid dissolving.

Here’s more about Every Heart a Doorway

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

My Thoughts

I had only read one other book from the Wayward Children series and it was a bit later. It was a cute story, but I didn’t like it all that much. However, after reading this story (the first in the series), I kind of want to go back and reread it with the context in mind about this entire series.

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

While the book follows one character, Nancy, you also get an idea of the other characters that live in the Home for Wayward Children. I loved each student on their own because of their different personalities, experiences, and sadness. Because there’s definitely a lot of sadness in this book, especially since the kids have all been abandoned by their parents to try and re-acclimate to life after their travels. The one thing that each of these students have in common is that and their want to return to the worlds they visited.

Also, it was interesting to see how Seanan McGuire incorporates gender identity and sexual identity conversations into the story. I remember the other book I read also included it, but I didn’t realize it was a running theme in the books. It was really awesome to see the inclusion in this one as well!

The worlds themselves were also intriguing. Some were filled with dark and scary things and others were filled with silly and beautiful things, but the beautiful part is that each world is there for each of the kids. If the kid was living a strict life of rules and boredom, they may be sent to a world filled with no rules and you never get bored. I loved that the worlds were so specific to the kid and filled the massive holes they had in their hearts.

You also end up rooting for a lot of them hoping that they do get their happy ending and return to the worlds that they came from. But things start to get real when students start to die. The mystery component of the story was probably the least favorite part, but didn’t take away from the rest of the book. I was so intrigued by the students, their stories, and wanted to see if they were able to get back to the worlds they came from. Honestly, I had such sadness for the ones who wouldn’t make it back.

Definitely not a book for the faint-hearted, especially since there’s a few children dying and there’s some processes taking place that were a little out of a horror movie. They don’t bother me, so I wasn’t grossed out by it, but I can also see how these things can upset you if you’re not into it.

Overall, fantastic story that really reignited my imagination and made me dream big of a world beyond the walls. I’ll definitely be checking out more from this series.

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).

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.