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

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

Here’s more about The Final Strife

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

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

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

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

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

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My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri // Book Review

The Oleander Sword by Tasha Suri // Book Review

The second book in The Burning Kingdoms trilogy and it definitely heated up the story! Thanks to Orbit Books for the gifted copy.

Here’s more about The Oleander Sword

The prophecy of the nameless god—the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa—has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.

The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Thrice born priestess, Elder of Ahiranya, Priya’s dream is to see her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is slowly spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.

Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And they soon realize that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn—even if it will cost them.

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My thoughts

This one turned out a lot different than I imagined it to be. It was brilliant, but also different than The Jasmine Throne. I slowly savored this book over weeks rather than rushing to finish it within a couple of days. And as I progressed, I found myself wanting to read more and more per day to see what happens. The story moves slowly adding more perspectives from different characters and revealing more dark secrets within this world that really added to the story. However, the ending was well worth the slow burn and truly left you in shock.

While preparing for the third book in the series, the second book is one battle after another. This slow-burning, military-focused sequel has its ups and downs, but ultimately prepares you for what’s to come in the third book. The story really focuses less on Priya and Malini as two separate characters and shows who they can be when they’re sided together. It was more about the oncoming war rather than their relationship, but I don’t think folks following their romance will be disappointed with this one. The tenderness between them was so sweet and while they both were powerful in their own rites, I loved seeing them vulnerable when they’re with each other.

While Priya and Malini are still the main characters of this story, I found myself waiting around for Bhumika and Rao’s perspectives. In this story, Bhumika really takes on a main character role as she continues to lead her part of the world while also taking care of her newborn baby. I loved the scene where she’s discussing politics while also wiping food off her baby’s chin. If that doesn’t scream modern motherhood, I don’t know what. The interesting part is that Bhumika’s character takes on a whole other life. Her integration into the story really made her a favorite character of mine.

We also get the benefit of a Chandra perspective as well. Yes, the evil emperor that we didn’t hear from in the first book has a perspective in the second and it is pretty much what you expected from a maniacal ruler who truly believes the success of his kingdom relies on the death of his sister. It was true to the person we read about in the first book and really added an interesting depth to the story.

I think my favorite part of this entire book is how Tasha Suri takes her time building up the climax of this story. It felt obvious where the story was going, but I truly loved that she didn’t leave anything behind, wrapped up some loose ends before hitting us with something so much bigger than all of us!

I will admit, the story moved a bit slowly for me. While there were some moments throughout the story that pulled you in and kept me interested, there were also some lags that moved quite slowly. However, by the last 100 pages of the book, there was so much action that you couldn’t put it down.

Overall, this was a strong second book in the trilogy that really gears you up for a much bigger battle in the final book.

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna // Book Review

The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches by Sangu Mandanna // Book Review

This was just a warm hug of a book. Honestly, I think anyone who loves The House in the Cerulean Sea or Practical Magic will fall head over heels for this gorgeous contemporary fantasy romance. Thanks to Berkley Pub for the gifted copy of this book.

Here’s more about The Very Secret Society of Irregular Witches

A warm and uplifting novel about an isolated witch whose opportunity to embrace a quirky new family–and a new love–changes the course of her life.

As one of the few witches in Britain, Mika Moon knows she has to hide her magic, keep her head down, and stay away from other witches so their powers don’t mingle and draw attention. And as an orphan who lost her parents at a young age and was raised by strangers, she’s used to being alone and she follows the rules…with one exception: an online account, where she posts videos pretending to be a witch. She thinks no one will take it seriously.

But someone does. An unexpected message arrives, begging her to travel to the remote and mysterious Nowhere House to teach three young witches how to control their magic. It breaks all of the rules, but Mika goes anyway, and is immediately tangled up in the lives and secrets of not only her three charges, but also an absent archaeologist, a retired actor, two long-suffering caretakers, and…Jamie. The handsome and prickly librarian of Nowhere House would do anything to protect the children, and as far as he’s concerned, a stranger like Mika is a threat. An irritatingly appealing threat.

As Mika begins to find her place at Nowhere House, the thought of belonging somewhere begins to feel like a real possibility. But magic isn’t the only danger in the world, and when a threat comes knocking at their door, Mika will need to decide whether to risk everything to protect a found family she didn’t know she was looking for….

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My thoughts

The book is set in a modern-day England with everything you expect to see in a contemporary story. The only caveat is that witches are real and they live in secret amongst us. The story starts with Mika Moon, a 31-year-old witch, who’s off to meet with the other witches she knows within that part of England. They only meet once every three months in a different location each time. Why? Because witches shouldn’t gather too often as it would cause a lot of magic to condense into one area. So most witches stay away from each other, hiding their talents and blending into society. However, Mika’s a little bit different. Instead of hiding, she displays her witchcraft as a social media witch. Her followers believe it’s a performance, but what they don’t know is that Mika is sharing her real nature with her followers.

When one of her followers messages her with an opportunity to teach three young witches about their magic, she’s completely skeptical. How did they know she was a real witch? How do they know that witches exist and are these three girls actually witches? Well, Mika decides it’s an opportunity she wants to check out and what she finds is a home hidden away by magic with three little witches, a groundskeeper and his husband, the caretaker, and Jamie, the father-figure to these girls.

As you read on, you get to know more about all the characters. I think this is my favorite part of the book because each of them were so different and believable. You can imagine the steady-minded Ken raking leaves in the garden with his eccentric husband knitting his crazy rainbow scarves. You can feel the protectiveness Jamie has for the girls and each of the girls were so different from each other. I mean, one of them even plotted Mika’s death for most of the book.

The found family was just brilliant. I loved the entire household; Ian and Ken who just feel like complete opposites of each other, but complement one another so beautifully. Then you have dear old Lucie who is there to warm you with a cup of tea. And then the girls, Rosetta, Terracotta, and Altamira are kind and precocious and sweet girls that you just want the best for, even Terracotta who comes off a bit brusque and mean.

The romance is probably not everyone’s cup of tea. I can see a lot of the romance readers wanting a bit more action in the romance department, but in my eyes, it was the sweetest romance between a grumpy and sunshine. Jamie and Mika were the perfect characters. Mika is this witch who has been alone for most of her life coming to terms with helping a family of witches get better at their magic. Jamie is this single guy who isn’t related to these witches by blood, but comes home to take care of them. I mean, is there anything more sexy than a man who drops everything to take care of three little girls that he didn’t conceive? We all need more Jamies in this world.

Their romance does take its time, but I never mind a slow burn especially when there’s so much else going on in the story. It was such a warm hug of a book; the kind of book that sticks to the corners of your mind days after you read it. It’s the kind of book you wish existed in real life so that you can encounter the beautiful magic and mystery behind the entire world. I embraced this book with my whole heart and I was truly satisfied with everything about it.

Highly recommend it to those folks who aren’t big into romance novels and those who want something less spooky for the Halloween season. Trust me, you’ll be as enamored as I am.

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

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

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

Here’s more about The Undertaking of Hart and Mercy

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

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

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

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

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My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope // Book Review

The Monsters We Defy by Leslye Penelope // Book Review

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

Here’s more about The Monsters We Defy

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

Washington D. C., 1925

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

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

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My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean // Book Review

The Book Eaters by Sunyi Dean // Book Review

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

Here’s more about The Book Eaters

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

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

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

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My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rereading The City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty

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

Here’s more about The City of Brass

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

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

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

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

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My thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers // Book Review

Ah Becky Chambers. How are you so talented and able convey the depth of human emotion within 150 pages? I will never understand it, but I will happily devour everything she writes. Thanks to Tor Dot Com for a gifted copy of the book.

Here’s more about A Prayer for the Crown-Shy

After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

Becky Chambers’s new series continues to ask: in a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

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My thoughts

I’m a huge fan of everything Becky Chambers writes. If it’s about space travel, I’m into it. If it’s about a planet and their political upheaval, let’s go. If it’s about a robot and a monk traveling across the world and looking for humans who need help, I’m all about it.

Because Becky Chambers does some things really well and it’s prevalent in all her writing: she’s really good at understanding human emotion, creating a diverse group of characters that interact with her protagonists, and deeply philosophize about the reason why we all exist. And isn’t that a crux in science fiction? We’re speeding towards the future, to another planet, to a world that’s not Earth, and in that world the same questions and desires we all struggle with are just as prevalent. Of course, I’m waxing poetic here, but if there are beings that exist within this universe outside of Earth, then I’d like to imagine them having the same level of empathy and desire for truth and meaning in their short life spans.

It’s really hard for me to distill how I felt about Prayer because it really covers a lot in such a little space. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is much different than A Psalm for the Wild-Built. Instead of traveling through the heavily wooded areas, they’re traveling to different towns in hopes of finding people in need. Each chapter has Mosscap and Dex traveling to a new town on their way to the City and encountering the people there. In one way, it was about Mosscap learning more about human experience that it didn’t know before. In another way, it’s about Sibling Dex’s own personal journey of finding meaning as well.

I thought this was expertly done and having them journey to different towns and meet different people was the perfect vehicle to show Mosscap the infinite number of human existence. It held babies. It helped the villagers. It even acquired possessions with a satchel. I loved the interactions they had, Mosscap’s curiosity peaking with each visitor, and finding comfort in sitting down with people you don’t know and finding peace.

It was such a calm and serene story and a tribute to the way things could be. I highly recommend this one if you’ve been reading this series and I can’t wait for the next.

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater // Book Review

Half a Soul by Olivia Atwater // Book Review

What do you get when you combine a historical romance with a little bit of magic? You get this really enchanting first book in the Regency Fairy Tales series and fans of Bridgertons and fantasy will really get a kick out of this one. Thanks to Orbit Books for a gifted copy.

Here’s more about Half a Soul

It’s difficult to find a husband in Regency England when you’re a young lady with only half a soul.

Ever since she was cursed by a faerie, Theodora Ettings has had no sense of fear or embarrassment – a condition which makes her prone to accidental scandal. Dora hopes to be a quiet, sensible wallflower during the London Season – but when the strange, handsome and utterly uncouth Lord Sorcier discovers her condition, she is instead drawn into dangerous and peculiar faerie affairs.

If Dora’s reputation can survive both her curse and her sudden connection with the least-liked man in all of high society, then she may yet reclaim her normal place in the world. . . but the longer Dora spends with Elias Wilder, the more she begins to suspect that one may indeed fall in love, even with only half a soul.

Bridgerton meets Howl’s Moving Castle in this enchanting historical fantasy, where the only thing more meddlesome than faeries is a marriage-minded mother.

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My thoughts

This was such a fun little fairy tale with a little bit of historical romance thrown into it as well. I was immediately swept away by the idea of a young girl having half of her soul removed by a faerie she meets one day. With one grey eye and a lot of her emotions pulled from her, Dora spends most of her life trying not to make the rest of her family look silly in front of the ton. But her and her cousin, Vanessa, are now at the marrying age and she must find a husband.

However, Vanessa has other plans and she wants to help Dora break her curse and retrieve the other half of her soul. So, they plan to go to London and meet the Lord Sorcier (the king’s magician), Elias in hopes that his magic will be powerful enough to break the faerie curse. Elias turns out to be the grumpiest grump who’s more focused on helping those in need than going to balls and finding a wife. I mean, he says it a few times throughout the book so it’s pretty obvious. But of course, Dora and Elias are the main couple of the story. I really loved Dora and Elias. Their relationship starts off rocky, but as the story progresses , well, you can imagine the rest. II will note, for those romance fans, that this doesn’t have any steam. I want to make sure that’s out there.

I’m not a huge fan of historical romances. In general, I need a bit more plot and some more themes throughout the romance to really keep me excited about it. This book has that Regency period romance, but what I loved the most about it was that it took the perspective from outside the ton. I’m not an authority on the subject, but I’ve never read a historical romance novel that looks at how the over half lives; the people who aren’t involved in the ton, who are trying to make it every day with whatever they can make, and the poor treatment of these people by people like the ton. The book explores not only the obvious tropes of a Regency drama, but it also shows the workhouses of the period. Dora and much of the cast of characters outside her own family actually use their wealth to help the needy. It was probably my favorite part of the entire book!

While they’re at the workhouse, they come across a little girl who is sleeping but can’t wake up. It turns out that she’s plagued by something that causes her to sleep without ever waking up and that becomes the main goal for Elias and Dora to figure out. I will say, this part gets a bit dull. It’s great that they are looking for a cure for this plague, but the constant reading books and studying made the story stop short without anything to continue to move it forward.

However, I did love the final part of the book and the conclusion to both Dora’s curse and the sleeping plague. I did think that it moved quickly suddenly especially with the slowness of the middle, but the ending was thrilling, the look into the faerie world was delightful, and I loved how it resolves itself.

Overall, this was a fun little book and I enjoyed it immensely. Coming off of reading Howl’s Moving Castle, I wanted it to be as whimsical as that story, but I still felt enchanted.