Book Review: The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLuca

Thursday, May 6, 2021

The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLuca
Length: 377 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction and Psychological Thriller
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

"I dreamt I stood at the door of a ruined barn, its roof split open to the moon. I saw a dark-haired woman standing in a pigsty, and as the pigs swarmed round her ankles, she stroked their bristled snouts and whispered, Thou shalt rest well soon, my husbands.
Then she saw me and seemed to float, through the muck and swill until I felt her behind me, whispering in my ear: I am in the city now. Come to me."

A special thanks to NetGalley and Inkshares for providing me with an ARC of this book!

Trigger Warnings in this book for Violence, Gore, Sexual Assault, Rape, and a Detailed Miscarriage

I have a huge fascination with the past, and while I, like many others, am drawn to the glittering clothes, the balls, and the manners, I think more often than not the darker aspects are pushed aside. Glossed over, or gilded through the lens of time. As much as I enjoy the question "If you you could go back in time, when would you go?", I always add an addendum to my answer: Only for a day. Because as shocking and dangerous as it is to be a woman in my own day and age, I could only imagine what it was like for the women of the past.

The Savage Instinct by M.M. DeLuca never flinches away from the reality of life for a woman in the Victorian era. On one end, we follow our protagonist Clara Blackstone, a woman of wealth who is crushed by the miscarriage of her child, and promptly thrown into Bethlem for a episode that ends in violence. Ferried to another asylum, more fitting of a woman of the Upper Classes, she is eventually released, only to be pushed headfirst into her husband's scheming clutches. Soon, at the behest of a genteel society lady, she is visiting the Durham Prison where she makes the acquaintance of one of Britain's most reviled serial killers of all time: Mary Ann Cotton. 

Poisoner of eight of her children, seven of her step-children, three of her husbands, her mother, a lover, and a friend. She is destitute, the opposite of Clara, but with shocking similarities in their life. Clara can't help but be drawn into Mary Ann's cunning web, and I was just as charmed by her, at times wondering if she was telling the truth about her innocence or spinning another lie.

This book left me breathless and outraged, and I could hardly put it down, despite my growling stomach when dinner rolled around! In the end, I wondered how much truth there is in history's version of Mary Ann Cotton - was she really a heartless killer? Or was she another victim, of men, of circumstance, and time, much like Clara is? The Savage Instinct is a deftly woven work of historical fiction, ran through with bits of truth, and all the questions and chills of a psychological thriller, that will surely leave you wanting more.

Books I'm Reading for the 2021 Asian Readathon!

Sunday, May 2, 2021

I talked a little about this in my April post, but I thought I would officially announce the books I'll be choosing for this year's Asian Readathon! So the categories are...

  1. Read any book written by an Asian author
  2. Read any book featuring an Asian protagonist
  3. Read any book by an Asian author in your favorite genre
  4. Read any book nonfiction book written by an Asian author
  5. Read a book written by an Asian author that's not US-centric
Now, the only rule is that you have to pick a different culture for each prompt. So if you chose a Korean book for Prompt One, you can't choose a Korean book for any of the others. However, you can combine categories!

Without further ado, here are my choices:

Prompts One & Two: Hana Khan Carries On by Uzma Jalaluddin

This is a newly released contemporary Rom-Com for fans of You've Got Mail!

Sales are slow at Three Sisters Biryani Poutine, the only halal restaurant in the close-knit Golden Crescent neighbourhood. Hana waitresses there part time, but what she really wants is to tell stories on the radio. If she can just outshine her fellow intern at the city radio station, she may have a chance at landing a job. In the meantime, Hana pours her thoughts and dreams into a podcast, where she forms a lively relationship with one of her listeners. But soon she’ll need all the support she can get: a new competing restaurant, a more upscale halal place, is about to open in the Golden Crescent, threatening Three Sisters.

When her mysterious aunt and her teenage cousin arrive from India for a surprise visit, they draw Hana into a long-buried family secret. A hate-motivated attack on their neighbourhood complicates the situation further, as does Hana’s growing attraction for Aydin, the young owner of the rival restaurant—who might not be a complete stranger after all.

As life on the Golden Crescent unravels, Hana must learn to use her voice, draw on the strength of her community and decide what her future should be.

Prompt Three: The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by K.S. Villoso

One I've been eyeing for a long time in my favorite genre: Fantasy

A queen of a divided land must unite her people, even if they hate her, even if it means stopping a ruin that she helped create. A debut epic fantasy from an exciting new voice.

"I murdered a man and made my husband leave the night before they crowned me."

Born under the crumbling towers of Oren-yaro, Queen Talyien was the shining jewel and legacy of the bloody War of the Wolves that nearly tore her nation apart. Her upcoming marriage to the son of her father's rival heralds peaceful days to come.

But his sudden departure before their reign begins fractures the kingdom beyond repair.

Years later, Talyien receives a message, urging her to attend a meeting across the sea. It's meant to be an effort at reconciliation, but an assassination attempt leaves the queen stranded and desperate to survive in a dangerous land. With no idea who she can trust, she's on her own as she struggles to fight her way home.

Prompt Four: Remembering Shanghai by Claire Chao

A memoir written by Isabel's daughter, this book shows the truth behind wealth and privilege, war and Communism

A high position bestowed by China's empress dowager grants power and wealth to the Sun family. For Isabel, growing up in glamorous 1930s and '40s Shanghai, it is a life of utmost privilege. But while her scholar father and fashionable mother shelter her from civil war and Japanese occupation, they cannot shield the family forever.

When Mao comes to power, eighteen-year-old Isabel journeys to Hong Kong, not realizing that she will make it her home--and that she will never see her father again. Meanwhile, the family she has left behind struggles to survive, only to have their world shattered by the Cultural Revolution. Isabel returns to Shanghai fifty years later with her daughter, Claire, to confront their family's past--one they discover is filled with love and betrayal, kidnappers and concubines, glittering pleasure palaces and underworld crime bosses.

Lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched, Remembering Shanghai follows five generations from a hardscrabble village to vibrant Shanghai to the bright lights of Hong Kong. By turns harrowing and heartwarming, this vivid memoir explores identity, loss and the unpredictable nature of life against the epic backdrop of a nation and a people in turmoil.

Prompt Five: The Silence of Bones by June Hur

I've had this one on my TBR since it came out and can't wait to finally read it! She just released another book, which sounds equally as good, called The Forest of Stolen Girls.

I have a mouth, but I mustn't speak;

Ears, but I mustn't hear;

Eyes, but I mustn't see.

1800, Joseon (Korea). Homesick and orphaned sixteen-year-old Seol is living out the ancient curse: “May you live in interesting times.” Indentured to the police bureau, she’s been tasked with assisting a well-respected young inspector with the investigation into the politically charged murder of a noblewoman.

As they delve deeper into the dead woman's secrets, Seol forms an unlikely bond of friendship with the inspector. But her loyalty is tested when he becomes the prime suspect, and Seol may be the only one capable of discovering what truly happened on the night of the murder.

But in a land where silence and obedience are valued above all else, curiosity can be deadly.

June Hur's elegant and haunting debut The Silence of Bones is a bloody tale perfect for fans of Kerri Maniscalco and Renée Ahdieh.

There is also a giveaway going on for those who donate to any charities supporting Asians! You just take a screenshot as proof and send it in using the forum on the Asian Readathon document! It also lists some charities you can choose from, or you can pick one of your own. 

For more information, go to this video by Cindy, or head over to their Twitter!

Book Review: Black Water Sister by Zen Cho

Friday, April 30, 2021

Black Water Sister by Zen Cho
Length: 382 Pages
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

"You can submit yourself to me, or you can meet an ugly death at the hands of cruel men.
You can kill, or you can die."

A special thanks to NetGalley and Berkeley Publishing Group for providing me with an ARC of this book!

Trigger Warnings in this book for Violence and Gore and Attempted Kidnapping and Rape

Jessamyn Teoh has a lot on her plate: A secret girlfriend (plus keeping the truth of her sexuality from her traditional Chinese parents), trouble finding a job after graduating from Harvard, and who could forget the ghost of her Grandmother haunting her?

After spending the majority of her life in America, Jess's parents have decided to move back to Malaysia, and out of a growing listlessness and filial duty, Jess tags along. Little does she know, she's got even bigger problems coming in the form of family secrets, gangsters, and a dangerous God known as Black Water Sister.

I loved learning about all the Gods, especially the titular Black Water Sister, who's tragic past reminded us that she was once human, too, and experienced one of the most human emotions: Rage -- sometimes justified, oftentimes not. My favorite character of the book was Jess's Grandma, Ah Ma, whose grumpy exterior hid a long suffering hurt. She was intelligent and funny when she wasn't being downright rude. Cho's writing brought the heat and wildness of Malaysia, the bustling, crowded city streets and hipster cafes to roaring life.

Black Water Sister is a poignant story of finding where we comfortably belong, of making painful choices to get the outcomes that let us be who we truly, authentically, are, and maybe even more importantly, letting go.

Fifteen Books by BIPOC/AAPI Authors You Should Preorder (Like, Right Now!) 2021 - Part Three

Monday, April 26, 2021

Here is my final part of fifteen books you should preorder! I'd love to hear your opinions on them, and any I might have missed!

Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Urban Fantasy, Horror)

While originally published in 2016, this Vampire novel by Moreno-Garcia is getting a reprint and an amazing new cover!

"Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn't include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?"

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan (Fantasy)

The first book in a new series, billed as "The Song of Achilles" meets "Mulan".

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

'I refuse to be nothing…'

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

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

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

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

An Acquired Taste by Kelly Cain (Contemporary Romance)

A fun Foodie romance, for fans of the Food Network!

"May the best chef win…

After four years at the country’s top culinary school and several years as head chef in her mother’s restaurant, Rowan Townsend has built a notable reputation. Her farm-to-table collard greens have long been bringing everyone to the yard, but limits on the restaurant’s size have led to long waits. Looking to expand the restaurant, she enters a televised chef competition. The problem? Her infuriatingly-talented nemesis from culinary school also enters.

To the culinary world, Knox Everheart is restaurant royalty. As much as Rowan wants to deny it, he’s a gifted chef. Rowan knows her arrogant arch-nemesis is confident he’ll win—he’s certainly given her a run for her money more times than she’d like to admit. But this time, she’s ready to show him who’s boss.

Their rivalry soon sparks fireworks in the kitchen and, as the competition heats up, so does Rowan’s attraction to Knox. And somewhere between pasta and gumbo, they both need to decide what’s worth fighting for."

The Taking of Jake Livingston by Ryan Douglass (YA Horror)

Jake, one of the only black kids at his Prep School, can see ghosts. His most recent spectral encounter? The vengeful spirit of a local school shooter.

"Jake Livingston is one of the only Black kids at St. Clair Prep, one of the others being his infinitely more popular older brother. It’s hard enough fitting in but to make matters worse and definitely more complicated, Jake can see the dead. In fact he sees the dead around him all the time. Most are harmless. Stuck in their death loops as they relive their deaths over and over again, they don’t interact often with people. But then Jake meets Sawyer. A troubled teen who shot and killed six kids at a local high school last year before taking his own life. Now a powerful, vengeful ghost, he has plans for his afterlife–plans that include Jake. Suddenly, everything Jake knows about ghosts and the rules to life itself go out the window as Sawyer begins haunting him and bodies turn up in his neighborhood. High school soon becomes a survival game–one Jake is not sure he’s going to win."

The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova (Magical Realism)

The newest book from Córdova about a family with inherited power and long buried secrets.

"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 baptism. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to come and 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 backed.

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."

April 2021 ❤️🌱

Friday, April 23, 2021

April was a tough month for me. It started off really well, with my 25th birthday on the 7th (Aries unite), and had such a lovely time. I received so many thoughtful gifts and a cake from Duff Goldman, which made my little foodie heart swell up with excitement. My grandfather had been ill for a little, after hurting his back lifting tile, which eventually turned to something worse, with his oxygen dropping dangerously low. He was put into the hospital and we later found out he had really serious problems with his heart. Then he was put into hospice. It was so out of the blue I could hardly wrap my mind around it. One minute he was the life of the party, dancing with every woman he could at his local bar (where he had become some of a celebrity), and the next minute we're being told he had a heart attack and if he had would be his last. 

Him and my Grandmother live four hours away from us, and right after my birthday we decided to head up there, me, my sister, and my father. My father got to visit him, and we were supposed to visit him the day after. Unfortunately, we never got to. I wish that I could have told him I loved him once more, could have told him goodbye, could have told him how much we'll all miss him. I'm trying hard to think of all the good things, the silly moments we had, instead of all the things I wish I could change. 

RIP Lowell Ogle. You were one of a kind.

If any of you are interested, there is a GoFundMe set up in order to help my Grandma pay for his memorial. Any amount, even a dollar, is greatly appreciated.

(I'll continue the rest of the post as it was written originally, as a part of a new thing where I'll talk about movies, tv, music and products I've liked each month. Hope you enjoy.)

Book Review: Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala
Length: 336 Pages
Genres: Cozy Mystery
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

"My name is Lila Macapagal and my life has become a rom-com cliché. 
Not many romantic comedies feature an Asian-American lead (or dead bodies, but more on that later), but all the hallmarks are there. 
Girl from an improbably named small town in the Midwest moves to the big city to make a name for herself and find love love? Check.
Girl achieves these things only for the world to come crashing down when she walks in on her fiancé getting down and dirty with their next-door neighbors (yes, plural)? Double check.
Girl then moves back home in disgrace and finds work reinvigorating her aunt's failing business? Well now we're up to a hat trick of clichés."

Trigger Warnings in this book for Evidence Planting and Police Intimidation, Drugs, Racism, Domestic Violence, and some Fatphobia

Where to start with this delightful cozy mystery! Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala came at the perfect time in my life. Recently, I lost a family member. It was sudden, and I didn't have the chance to say goodbye. All I could focus on was how much I wished I had been there, how much I wished I could have spent more time with them. This book helped me in so many ways -- took my mind off the pain, helped me laugh and feel excited again, and felt, in general, as comforting as wrapping myself in a blanket. I was so glad I chose it for my very first Book of the Month! (Not sponsored, btw.)

Lila Macapagal has returned to her hometown of Shady Palms, Illinois, after a disastrous life in Chicago, where she was cheated on be her fiancé, and may have had a run in with the law. Luckily for her, she has a place ready for her in her Tita Rosie's restaurant, and in her home (alongside her cranky Grandmother). Unluckily for them, Lila's high school sweetheart has taken to leaving bad reviews for all the Mom-and-Pop places in town -- and Tita Rosie's Kitchen is top of his list. When he keels over dead in the middle of dessert, the police think they have their murderer: Lila. With the help of her bff Adeena and her hot brother, the lawyer Amir, Lila sets out to solve the case, and to find out who's framing her.

I absolutely adored not only Lila, who had a spunky and sometimes prickly personality, but all of the characters in this novel, from opinionated Adeena, to the gossiping "Calendar Crew", Lila's godmothers, who each have a month name. And who could forget Lila's dachshund, Longganisa, named after the sausage?

It was just a dream for a foodie like myself, and I can't wait to check out the recipes included in the back, to see if I can bring some of Tita Rosie's comfort home!

Fifteen Books by BIPOC/AAPI Authors You Should Preorder (Like, Right Now!) 2021 - Part Two

Wednesday, April 14, 2021


Continuing on from Part One - tell me which you're most excited for!

The Shaadi  Set-Up by Lillie Vale (Contemporary Romance)

This book by Lillie Vale has everything you want and more: exes-to-lovers, forced proximity and a slow-burn romance!

"In this witty and heartfelt rom-com debut for fans of Jasmine Guillory, Emily Henry, and Tessa Bailey, an Indian-American woman signs herself and her boyfriend up for a matchmaking site to prove they’re a perfect match, only to be paired with her ex instead.

High school sweethearts Rita Chitniss and Milan Rao were the golden couple, until the day he broke her heart. Now, six years later, Rita has turned her passion for furniture restoration into a career and has an almost-perfect boyfriend, Neil. The last thing she needs is for Milan to re-enter her life, but that’s exactly what happens when her mother, an unfailing believer in second chances, sets them up. Milan is just as charming, cocky, and confident as he was back in school. Only this time, he actually needs her business expertise, not her heart, to flip a hard-to-sell house for his realty agency.

While Rita begrudgingly agrees to help, she’s not taking any risks. To prove she’s definitely over him, she signs herself and Neil up on, a Desi matchmaking site famous for its success stories and trustworthy enough to convince everyone that she and Neil are the new and improved couple. Instead, she’s shocked when MyShaadi’s perfect match for her isn’t Neil…it’s Milan. Ignoring the website and her mother is one thing, but ignoring Milan proves much more difficult, especially when she promises to help him renovate the beach house of her dreams. And as the two of them dive deeper into work—and their pasts—Rita begins to wonder if maybe her match wasn’t so wrong after all…."

My Sweet Girl by Amanda Jayatissa (Mystery, Thriller)

A new thriller, featuring a complex and perhaps, unreliable, female protagonist.

"Paloma thought her perfect life would begin once she was adopted and made it to America, but she’s about to find out that no matter how far you run, your past always catches up to you…

Ever since she was adopted from a Sri Lankan orphanage, Paloma has had the best of everything—schools, money, and parents so perfect that she fears she'll never live up to them.

Now at thirty years old and recently cut off from her parents’ funds, she decides to sublet the second bedroom of her overpriced San Francisco apartment to Arun, who recently moved from India. Paloma has to admit, it feels good helping someone find their way in America—that is until Arun discovers Paloma's darkest secret, one that could jeopardize her own fragile place in this country.

Before Paloma can pay Arun off, she finds him face down in a pool of blood. She flees the apartment but by the time the police arrive, there's no body—and no evidence that Arun ever even existed in the first place.

Paloma is terrified this is all somehow tangled up in the desperate actions she took to escape Sri Lanka so many years ago. Did Paloma’s secret die with Arun or is she now in greater danger than ever before?"

Dead Dead Girls by Nekesa Afia (Historical Mystery)

Afia's debut novel features speakeasies, glamour, and an insidious mystery surrounding black girls being killed in 1920's Harlem.

"The start of an exciting new historical mystery series set in 1920s Harlem featuring Louise Lloyd, a young black woman caught up in a series of murders way too close to home...

Harlem, 1926. Young black girls like Louise Lloyd are ending up dead.

Following a harrowing kidnapping ordeal when she was in her teens, Louise is doing everything she can to maintain a normal life. She's succeeding, too. She spends her days working at Maggie's Café and her nights at the Zodiac, Manhattan's hottest speakeasy. Louise's friends might say she's running from her past and the notoriety that still stalks her, but don't tell her that.

When a girl turns up dead in front of the café, Louise is forced to confront something she's been trying to ignore--several local black girls have been murdered over the past few weeks. After an altercation with a local police officer gets her arrested, Louise is given an ultimatum: She can either help solve the case or let a judge make an example of her.

Louise has no choice but to take the case and soon finds herself toe-to-toe with a murderous mastermind. She'll have to tackle her own fears and the prejudices of New York City society if she wants to catch a killer and save her own life in the process."

Within These Wicked Walls by Lauren Blackwood (Young Adult Fantasy)

Another anticipated read for me, "Within These Wicked Walls" is an Ethiopian-inspired retelling of "Jane Eyre".

"Andromeda is a debtera—an exorcist hired to cleanse households of the Evil Eye. When a handsome young heir named Magnus Rochester reaches out to hire her, Andromeda quickly realizes this is a job like no other, with horrifying manifestations at every turn, and that Magnus is hiding far more than she has been trained for. Death is the most likely outcome if she stays, but leaving Magnus to live out his curse alone isn’t an option. Evil may roam the castle’s halls, but so does a burning desire."

My Heart is a Chainsaw by Stephen Graham Jones (Horror, Thriller)

Stephen Graham Jones' newest book, perfect for all the horror aficionados out there...

"In her quickly gentrifying rural lake town Jade sees recent events only her encyclopedic knowledge of horror films could have prepared her for in this latest novel from the Jordan Peele of horror literature, Stephen Graham Jones.

'Some girls just don’t know how to die…'

Shirley Jackson meets Friday the 13th in My Heart Is a Chainsaw, written by the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians Stephen Graham Jones, called 'a literary master' by National Book Award winner Tananarive Due and 'one of our most talented living writers' by Tommy Orange.

Alma Katsu calls My Heart Is a Chainsaw 'a homage to slasher films that also manages to defy and transcend genre.' On the surface is a story of murder in small-town America. But beneath is its beating heart: a biting critique of American colonialism, Indigenous displacement, and gentrification, and a heartbreaking portrait of a broken young girl who uses horror movies to cope with the horror of her own life.

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph."

Book Review: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev by Dawnie Walton
Length: 368 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

A special thanks to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster for providing me with a copy of this book!

"Yet instantly I knew that this timing was smart. A tour had the potential to excite not only the Mercurials, as Opal & Nev's old cult of fans call themselves, but a new generation--crowds ready to scream along, with these crazy progenitors of dissidence and dissonance, that Black lives matter, that love is love, that the future is female. Ready to embrace Opal Jewel not as ahead of her time, but as now now now."

Triggers Warnings in this book for Racism, Violence, and Language (Homophobic and Racist Slurs)

Let me introduce y'all to my new favorite book: The Final Revival of Opal & Nev, a book that is so well written, so captivating, so meticulously researched that it can't be anything other than good, good, good. When I first saw it, I was drawn to the cover, the stark red, white, and black; the silhouette of girl's face, her expression strong and proud, stuck inside the image of an acoustic guitar. Another big draw was the style in which it was written. It was touted as the next Daisy Jones' and the Six, and while I have yet to read that book, I bristle at the idea of this book being called anything but wholly original.

Opal Jewel is entirely entrancing, fierce when she needs to be, soft when she wishes she wasn't. I rooted for her again and again, and felt heartbroken when it seemed everything in life was stacked against her. The glamour and the tears and waves of change of the 70's worked as a perfect backdrop for her. I could easily imagine her fitting in alongside Diana Ross or Grace Jones (especially when it comes to outfits!). The story is told via recorded interviews with Opal, Nev, and the many people involved in their whirlwind lives, and through editor's notes from S. Sunny Shelton, the woman who is writing the book about them. Her father was the band's drummer, Jimmy Curtis III, and a sort of infamy surrounds him, not only as Opal's lover, but as the victim of a riot started at one of their shows, which ultimately ends in his life being taken. 

Following her from discovery in Detroit, to partnering up with Nev Charles, who came to adulthood in Birmingham, England, to the fateful Rivington Showcase and her decline, Walton weaves an energetic story about misfits, the cyclical nature of prejudice, and in the end, about our friends and allies, and whether they are truly ever that.

Fifteen Books by BIPOC/AAPI Authors You Should Preorder (Like, Right Now!) 2021 - Part One

Tuesday, April 6, 2021


Every day I'm absolutely thrilled by all the new titles that are going to be released, and I felt the need to put them in all one place, so I can keep up with them! In this post I'm going to be focusing on releases by BIPOC and AAPI authors! I tried to cover a plethora of genres, so everyone can find something to like. Please let me know the ones you're most excited for, or ones I might have missed!

Beasts of a Little Land by Juhea Kim (Historical Fiction)

This novel sounds absolutely amazing and promises a story of love and war, set in 1917 during the Korean Independence Movement!

"In 1917, deep in the snowy mountains of occupied Korea, an impoverished local hunter on the brink of starvation saves a young Japanese officer from an attacking tiger. In an instant, their fates are connected—and from this encounter unfolds a saga that spans half a century.

In the aftermath, a young girl named Jade is sold by her family to Miss Silver’s courtesan school, an act of desperation that will cement her place in the lowest social status. When she befriends an orphan boy named JungHo, who scrapes together a living begging on the streets of Seoul, they form a deep friendship. As they come of age, JungHo is swept up in the revolutionary fight for independence, and Jade becomes a sought-after performer with a new romantic prospect of noble birth. Soon Jade must decide whether she will risk everything for the one who would do the same for her.

From the perfumed chambers of a courtesan school in Pyongyang to the glamorous cafes of a modernizing Seoul and the boreal forests of Manchuria, where battles rage, Juhea Kim’s unforgettable characters forge their own destinies as they wager their nation’s. Immersive and elegant, Beasts of a Little Land unveils a world where friends become enemies, enemies become saviors, heroes are persecuted, and beasts take many shapes."

Tidesong by Wendy Xu (Middle Grade, Graphic Novel)

I absolutely love the art style for this one! It's bright and comforting, and reminds me of a Studio Ghibli film.

"Features an ambitious 12-year-old who moves to a seaside town with her aunts for an apprenticeship in magic and realizes that it may be more than she bargained for."

Son of the Storm by Suyi Davies Okungbowa (Fantasy)

I'm so ready for this fresh take on fantasy, which has a society based on Pre-Colonial West Africa!

"A young scholar's ambition threatens to reshape an empire determined to retain its might in this epic tale of violent conquest, buried histories, and forbidden magic.

In the thriving city of Bassa, Danso is a clever but disillusioned scholar who longs for a life beyond the rigid family and political obligations expected of the city’s elite. A way out presents itself when Lilong, a skin-changing warrior, shows up wounded in his barn. She comes from the Nameless Islands–which, according to Bassa lore, don’t exist–and neither should the mythical magic of ibor she wields. Now swept into a conspiracy far beyond his understanding, Danso will have to set out on a journey that reveals histories violently suppressed and magic only found in lore."

The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri (Fantasy)

Coming out in June, there is still plenty of time to buy this Sapphic love-story set in an India inspired fantasy world.

"Author of Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash Tasha Suri's The Jasmine Throne, beginning a new trilogy set in a world inspired by the history and epics of India, in which a captive princess and a maidservant in possession of forbidden magic become unlikely allies on a dark journey to save their empire from the princess's traitor brother.

Imprisoned by her dictator brother, Malini spends her days in isolation in the Hirana: an ancient temple that was once the source of the powerful, magical deathless waters — but is now little more than a decaying ruin.

Priya is a maidservant, one among several who make the treacherous journey to the top of the Hirana every night to clean Malini’s chambers. She is happy to be an anonymous drudge, so long as it keeps anyone from guessing the dangerous secret she hides.

But when Malini accidentally bears witness to Priya’s true nature, their destinies become irrevocably tangled. One is a vengeful princess seeking to depose her brother from his throne. The other is a priestess seeking to find her family. Together, they will change the fate of an empire."

Harlem Shuffle by Colson Whitehead (Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction)

The newest book by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Colson Whitehead, set in 1960s Harlem.

"'Ray Carney was only slightly bent when it came to being crooked...'

To his customers and neighbors on 125th street, Carney is an upstanding salesman of reasonably priced furniture, making a decent life for himself and his family. He and his wife Elizabeth are expecting their second child, and if her parents on Striver's Row don't approve of him or their cramped apartment across from the subway tracks, it's still home.

Few people know he descends from a line of uptown hoods and crooks, and that his façade of normalcy has more than a few cracks in it. Cracks that are getting bigger all the time.

Cash is tight, especially with all those installment-plan sofas, so if his cousin Freddie occasionally drops off the odd ring or necklace, Ray doesn't ask where it comes from. He knows a discreet jeweler downtown who doesn't ask questions, either.

Then Freddie falls in with a crew who plan to rob the Hotel Theresa -- the "Waldorf of Harlem" -- and volunteers Ray's services as the fence. The heist doesn't go as planned; they rarely do. Now Ray has a new clientele, one made up of shady cops, vicious local gangsters, two-bit pornographers, and other assorted Harlem lowlifes.

Thus begins the internal tussle between Ray the striver and Ray the crook. As Ray navigates this double life, he begins to see who actually pulls the strings in Harlem. Can Ray avoid getting killed, save his cousin, and grab his share of the big score, all while maintaining his reputation as the go-to source for all your quality home furniture needs?"

Harlem Shuffle's ingenious story plays out in a beautifully recreated New York City of the early 1960s. It's a family saga masquerading as a crime novel, a hilarious morality play, a social novel about race and power, and ultimately a love letter to Harlem.

But mostly, it's a joy to read, another dazzling novel from the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning Colson Whitehead.

Book Review: Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Hall of Smoke by H.M. Long
Length: 432 Pages
Genres: High Fantasy
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars

"'Eang, Eang,' I murmured, willing my words to be heard across distance, time and division between worlds. 'The Brave, the Vengeful, the Swift and the Watchful...'"

Trigger Warnings in this book for Gore and Violence


H.M. Long's Hall of Smoke was on my list of Most Anticipated Books of 2021 and I can report with happiness that it greatly exceeded my expectations. It was tense, moving, exciting, evocative and most importantly, so much fun. 

Hessa is an Eangi, a group of specially chosen Priests and Priestesses of the Goddess of War, Eang. She burns with magical fire, a power that makes her stronger and faster, heals minor wounds, and on occasion, boils your enemy's eyes in their head. The titular Hall of Smoke, which is not only a temple to their Goddess but the place where they eat and sleep together, is all she's known since she was a child. When the book opens, she's been banished from her people and has taken the "Climb of Atonement" for failing to carry out an order given to her from Eang herself. She hopes that she will be forgiven, but if she's not, it could mean ostracization...or death. Her fears are put to the side when she hears the tell-tale sound of the war horn from her village, and her life is turned dramatically upside down. She is thrust into a war between her people, the Algatt, the eclipsing empire of Arpa, and the Divine.
Soon, she realizes that everyone has secrets, including the Gods, only theirs are much more dangerous.

I devoured this book. Hessa is one of my new favorite heroines and I adored her strength, her wits, and that fiery personality. The worldbuilding was absolutely incredible, and for someone who has been obsessed with mythology since I was very young, it was as addictive as candy. Even though Hall of Smoke clocks in at 432 pages, I wished it was even longer just so I could spend more time in the world of Eang and Hessa and Omaskat and Nisien.

Now I'm obsessed and the only thing I can think about is that a sequel is coming 2022!

Book Review: The Lost Village by Camilla Sten

Monday, March 22, 2021

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten
Length: 352 Pages
Genres: Horror and Mystery
Rating: 3.5 Stars out of 5

A special thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for providing me with an ARC of this book

"The church looms large over the small buildings on the eastern side of the village, its tall, proud spire topped by a slender cross that glistens, impossibly bright, in the light of the setting sun. The houses look almost as if they've sprouted from the church like little mushrooms, falling and moldering to form walls and silhouettes along the coppery-red river running down to the small woodland lake that village its name: silvertjärn, silver tarn."

Trigger Warnings in this book for a Suicide Attempt, Gore and Violence, Abuse of a Disabled Person, Discussions of Mental Illness, and Implied Rape

Alice Lindstedt has one goal in life - to make a successful documentary about the lost village of Silvertjärn, Sweden. Her grandmother grew up in the village, and her parents and younger sister were among the 900 people who vanished without a trace in 1959. All that was left behind was a newborn baby, and the body of Birgitta Lidman, stoned and strapped to a pole in the middle of Silvertjärn.

Alice brings Tone, a troubled friend who has her own links to Silvertjärn; Max, the backer of the project, and Emmy and Robert, who have filming experience. Emmy just so happens to also be a friend of Alice's from college that she hasn't spoken to in years and their troubled past crackles through the rest of the group like electricity. Soon, they start to experience strange things - a sighting of a figure out in the rain, strange laughter over the walkie-talkies, and a explosion that leaves them trapped and without resources as they come to the horrifying conclusion that they are most definitely not alone.

This was one of my most anticipated reads of 2021 and I have to admit I was a little let down. I absolutely loved the setting of the spooky and remote Swedish village, with all the identically colorful little houses, looming church and creepy mines. It even contained one of my favorite tropes - the evil and seductive priest. However, I feel that The Lost Village was really let down by its writing, which came across amateurish and telling, especially in the "Then" chapters, which followed Alice's great-grandmother, Elsa. It did improve over the course of the book and I wonder how much of the problem has to do with translation, as the author is Swedish herself.

 Another main issue I had was with the character of Birgitta. She is guessed at by Alice and the others as being Autistic, or having a "chromosomal problem", and is shunned by the majority of the villagers. Her storyline greatly disturbed me, and I could hardly read the chapter that details her death.

I think as a society, we need to move past using mental illnesses as a crutch in horror. It's not a "Gotcha!" moment, and for me, comes across as a cheap tactic to inspire shock. Alice, Tone, and Birgitta all have mental illnesses and the handling of them all seemed ham-fisted at best. While Alice and Emmy's relationship is one of the most interesting of the book, I couldn't quite bring myself to understand or forgive Emmy's actions, and I didn't especially like the way they were framed in the book, as if Alice was the one truly at fault.

Overall, I think of The Lost Village as a scary B movie - entertaining and light, nothing more, nothing less.