Here we are half way through the year and ahh the days are getting gorgeous outside. I love summer and everything that has to do with vacation vibes (even thought there will be no vacation this year) so I am *smiles* taking it day by day.
May was a pretty good month. It was a great reading month even though I didn’t read many books. Then again, quality over quantity!
What Rendz Read!
Witches Steeped in Gold by Ciannon Smart (3/5 🌟) Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean (4/5 🌟) The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso (5/5 🌟) Descendant of the Crane by Joan He (3/5 🌟) Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo (3.5/5 🌟) Jade City by Fonda Lee (4.5/5 🌟)
Highlight Book(s): So definitely The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng and Jade City by Fonda Lee. Two books that ahh blew me away for so many reasons. The first the end of a beloved series and the second the start of a new one. I am living.
Lowliest Book(s): While these aren’t low ratings I was not quite happy with Witches Steeped in Gold and Descendantofthe Crane. I just felt like they both lacked some luster for me.
Let’s just say I have been very, very lucky with the publisher love.
For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten TheJasmine Throne by Tasha Suri
Jay’s Gay Agenda by Jason June The Unpopular Vote by Jasper Sanchez Don’t Breathe a Word by Jordyn Taylor
On the Hook by Francisco X. Stork
Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa Song of the Forever Rains by E.J. Millow
Other Going Ons
~ Shadow and Bone Meet & Greet ~
I lived my best life on May 8th 2021. I was in the same Zoom room as the Shadow & Bone cast. I WAS IN THE SAME ZOOM ROOM AS BEN BARNES. I can honestly tell you that I do not remember a single thing from my session. I was so focused on getting screenshots and staring lovingly at the actors that I do not remember a single thing that was actually spoken about during the 20 minute interview period. 🙂
Luckily someone uploaded my session to YouTube so it is there forever.
~ Speaking of which…I Binged Shadow and Bone Again ~
You know I had to. You just know that I had to. 🙂 I thoroughly enjoyed myself a second time around and ahh I am eagerly awaiting any news on season 2!
~ So I watched my first K-Drama ~
I really needed something to watch and my cousin, who recently started watching K-Dramas herself, recommended that I start “Crash Landing On You.” And all I have to say is this: I AM OBSESSED. This drama delivered everything that I could possibly want from a TV show. The tropes, the romance, the plot…I–I loved, I loved it. I loved it. If you have any recommendations for me I AM TAKING THEM.
Boy do I have so many books to read this month! I already know that I won’t get to all of them, but I am going to try my best!! I really want to prioritize Indigenous and Pride reads this month because June is commemorative of both communities.
Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri Skraelings: Clashes in the Old Arctic by Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley & Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley Sisters of the Snake by Sarena and Sasha Nanua Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury For the Wolf by Hannah F. Whitten
Let me know what you think! What have you read this month? What books did you get? What books are you looking forward to reading!
I was tagged by the amazing Michaela @ Journey Into Books to do this fun tag and answer her excellent questions. I must confess that…I have been tagged to do this award many times but have lost count so I’m sorry to those I’ve missed, but I am starting anew.
Thank the blogger who nominated you and link to there post.
Answer the 11 questions asked of you.
Nominate 11 new bloggers and ask 11 new questions.
List the rules and showcase the logo in your post.
1. What was your last 5 star read and why?
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso An absolutely incredible finale to what is one of my favourite series ever. I cannot recommend it enough! This book was a rollercoaster of emotions. Screaming, crying, laughing and my total destruction. I love it.
2. Recommend a book for each season?
Spring: The Penderwicks series by Jeanne Birdsall (So cozy and warm, total new life vibes) Summer: Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp (Hot and sweaty and MARVELOUS) Fall: The Bitch Queen Chronicles by K.S. Villoso (So much chaos, so much emotional destruction) Winter: Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (A chilling and thrilling horror novel)
3. If you weren’t a reader what do you think you would spend your time doing instead?
I’d probably spend my days doing more art! Even though I get a lot of my artistic inspiration from books, without reading I would definitely spend more time actually making art and refining my skills hehe.
4. What book would you love to see turned into a movie or tv show?
An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir!! This needs to be done and it needs to be done NOW! I want this on screen so bad!!
5. Which fictional character would you want to travel the world with?
Nikolai Lanstov. My suave king knows how to have a good time and I want to have a good time with him everywhere!
6. Most anticipated release for this year?
Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia! This is an obvious one if you know me! I love everything SMG and I am so lucky to already have an ARC of this book! It comes out in August so have your eyes peeled for it!
7. Why did you decide to start blogging?
I attended a bookish event held by Canada’s biggest book retailer, Indigo, where we basically talked all things books! I met so many bloggers, got some ARCs a stuffed swag pack and well I just knew I wanted to be part of this beyond that night. I started up my blog a few days later and well it’s been a journey ever since!
8. What is your favourite thing about blogging.
I love getting to express myself as a total bookworm! I know there are lots of platforms where I can do that, but on this blog that I created, it just feels extra special! There is no limit to how much or how little I can write! I can add all sorts of fun images, videos and clips. It’s just a space that is so near and dear to my heart and the very first place that published my voice!
9. Is there a specific book or series that made you fall in love with reading?
Hmmm…I would say The Hunger Games, but I think more likely it was Marie Lu’s Legend series. It was the first series I picked up of my own volition (not because it was becoming a movie) and I loved it!! It was the first series that I became obsessed with and am still obsessed with today!
10. Favourite fictional pairing? (Romantic or Platonic)
Oh wow this is such a hard question to answer!!!!!!
But you know what? Cresswell (Cress x Thorne) still owns my heart.
11. What book do you planning on reading next?
I’m in the middle of three reads right now, but I’m planning on picking up The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri next! So excited for this next glorious adult fantasy!
What is your favourite book trope?
Which book brings you the most comfort?
Spill the tea, what is one book you will *never* be picking up?
What song do you associate with a certain book?
Who are your favourite authors?
Which book character would you want to trade lives with?
What is the first book you remember reading?
How often do you buy/borrow books?
During what time of the day do you like to read?
What is one non-bookish fun fact about you?
What is your star prediction for your current read?
Hehe…I won’t be nominating 11 people, but some bloggers I have loved as of late. As usual there is no pressure to do this and if I didn’t nominate you, you are more than welcome to answer my questions!
Today, I figured we’d have some fun and do a good ol’ tag to spice up the blog. And why not do a tag about a booklover’s greatest frenemy, Goodreads. Goodreads has been a hot topic as of late, while it may be a great site for readers, it also has its problems hehe. I for one have been slowly moving away from GR to use other book platforms to track my reading (StoryGraph!). But for the sake of this tag, I hopped onto to the old, big G and went through my shelves (which need some major editing).
I found this tag on A Dominique Reads! This tag is originally created by GabsAboutBooks! Definitely give both posts a look through, both have such great answers!
What is the highest rated book that you gave a low rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on Average Ratings and find the highest rated book you gave a low rating)
Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas GR rating: 4.57 My Rating: 2 (should be a 1)
Not surprised. I have not been a fan of this series since book 2, just one big swoop downhill for me. The fact that I endured however many hundreds of pages this book contained is a small miracle. But yeah, this was such a huge no for me.
What is the lowest rated book that you gave a high rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on Avg Ratings, in reverse order, and find the lowest rated book you gave a high rating)
The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi. GR rating: 3.56 My Rating: 5
I know the rating is not bad, but this was such a beautiful book! The writing, the imagery, the plot. ALL OF IT was spectacular in my eyes and the reasons why I love Roshani’s books so much.
What is the most popular book you disagree with the avg rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on number of Ratings, and find the first book you disagree with the avg rating)
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas Number of Ratings: 288,861 GR rating: 4.54 My rating: 3 (It should really be 2)
This book was just *shakes head* torturous for me to read. Again, no surprise. This series just was not for me after book 3 and my ratings reflect that despite it being so popular.
What is the least popular book you disagree with the avg rating? (Sort your books in Goodreads based on number of Ratings, in reverse order, and find the first book you disagree with the avg rating)
A Mark Unwilling by Candace Wondrak Number of Ratings: 126 GR Rating: 3.76 My rating: 1
This book is *shivers* a big nope! A. BIG. NOPE. The characters, the writing style, the plot, the token PoC character no no no.
Choose two books that have an average rating of 3/5 stars but you gave a higher rating
The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli GR rating: 3.34 My Rating: 4
Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher GR rating: 3.67 My rating: 5
I really enjoyed both of these books! The Matchmaker’s List was funny and intense, but definitely not perfect. Still I laughed a good bunch. As for Obsidian Mirror, it’s a very quiet YA novel, but I enjoyed it so much! I picked it up on a whim from my library and it turned out to be quite entertaining!
Choose two books that have an average rating of 3/5 stars but you gave a lower rating
The Good Luck Charm by Helena Hunting GR rating: 3.59 My Rating: 2 (But it should be 1)
The Wedding Date Disaster by Avery Flynn GR Rating: 3.75 My rating: 1
Both of these books were technically DNFs but I made it almost to the end…so I’m counting them. These were AWFUL reads for me. I hated almost every second which is why I had to stop. I hated the romance in The Good Luck Charm and it’s a romance book, so yeah. As for The Wedding Date Disaster, it was one disastrous CRINGE-fest. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Choose two books that have an average rating of 4/5 stars but you gave a lower rating
Kingdom of the Wicked by Keri Maniscalco GR Rating: 4.01 My Rating: 2
The Sky Weaver by Kristin Cicarreli GR Rating: 4.10 My Rating: 2
Sigh. These books were highly anticipated but ending up being such let downs. Kingdom of the Wicked was so bland, to put it simply. I expected so much more, but plain, bland and boring is all I got. As for The Sky Weaver, my buddy reader and I both agreed that it did not live up to the vibe and feels of the previous books in the series. Disappointing.
Choose two books that have an average rating of 2/5 stars but you gave a higher rating.
I don’t have any avg 2/5 stars books on my shelves!
Do you tend to agree or disagree with GR average rating and do you use GR as a guide for books you want to read?
It depends. But from my shelves, it seems my ratings tend to match the average ratings. Other times they are way off. I try not to use GR as a guide, usually I just take a quick glance at star raitngs, but mostly I don’t. Unless I’ve heard about some questionable things I tend to go in blind and just give the book a try! 🙂
Anyone! I would love to see what answers you would put in!
Let me know what you think! Do you use Goodreads? Do you follow GR ratings and reviews closely?
First of all, I know for a fact that not enough of you have read Fireborne by Rosaria Munda. And I’m going to need you to go do that…like now. Do that and come back for this because if you have any doubts that you should be reading this series, let me put those worries to rest!
Many thanks to Penguin Teen CA for providing me with an e-ARC!
Flamefall by Rosaria Munda
Pub Date: March 23rd, 2021 Publisher: Putnam
Revolutionary flames ignite around Annie, Lee, and a brand new POV character in the second book of the Fireborne trilogy.
After fleeing the revolution and settling into the craggy cliffs of New Pythos, the Dragonlords are eager to punish their usurpers–and reclaim their city. Their first order of business was destroying the Callipolan food supply. Now they’re coming for the Dragonriders.
Annie is Callipolis’s new Firstrider, and while her goal has always been to protect the people, being the government’s enforcer has turned her into public enemy number one.
Lee struggles to find his place after killing kin to prove himself to a leader who betrayed him. He can support Annie and the other Guardians . . . or join the radicals who look to topple the new regime.
Griff, a lowborn dragonrider who serves New Pythos, knows he has no future. And now that Julia, the Firstrider who had protected him, is dead, he is called on to sacrifice everything for the lords that oppress his people–or to forge a new path with the Callipolan Firstrider seeking his help.
With famine tearing Callipolis apart and the Pythians determined to take back what they lost, it will be up to Annie, Lee, and Griff to decide what to fight for–and who to love.
I just have to say…
I FUCKING KNEW IT. AHHHHHHHHHHHH I LOVE THIS BOOK.
Alright so these characters are so foolish, so hurt and so so so complex. And yes I love them all. Throughout the entire book I was simultaneously rooting for them but also screaming for them to get their acts together!!!
We start with my fave, Annie. Even though there were times when I wanted to shake her, she is brilliant. This book has her in the limelight where lots of voices, opinions and agendas are being pushed onto her and she is being picked at and judged with every word and turn of her head. Annie has so much responsibility thrust upon her and has to contend with people opposing her every move, confronting the big mistakes she makes and keeping her head up when her name is dragged through the mud. My baby goes through so much, but her strength and inner fire warmed my heart. She grieved, gave into her pettiness and got mad with herself and through it all I am a proud mama. And on a final note: Sweetie, thank you for not letting Power get in the way.
And now Lee. Babe, your grief, your sense of lostness and conflict between these two worlds was so compelling and frustrating to read about. Lee spent the entire book questioning where he belonged, who he was and to whom his allegiance lied. And these are not easy questions for him to answer. So obviously he screws up multiple times and pays the price for it, but watching him grow into himself and make some tough choices was *sobs* as I said very compelling.
Finally, the new guy, Griff. Sir, at first I was like “um okay you’re here I guess” and then I was like “AHH GRIFF, YOU’RE HERE! BABE!” so it is safe to say that I enjoyed his POV very much. I love that his personality really is “IDGAF, I am willing to risk it.” Griff’s story is one that pulled at the heart strings, made me rage on his behalf and sob at one point. He was brave and passionate and yearned for the freedom of his greatest loves. We stan.
Other characters…I can’t even say much because *spoilers* But I will say: Thank you, Crissa, for being the only character with reason and brain cells. To summarize, EVERY SINGLE CHARACTER HAD TO MADE TOUGH CHOICES. AND THEIR DECISIONS DO NOT ALIGN MOST OF THE TIME. This book is all about choices. More often than not, the ones where options are between evil and deplorable.
So the politics GOT EVEN MESSIER. So much stuff happens I can’t even explain it all. Clashes between classists and revolutionists. The exhausting plight of sexism and how women are painted as villains and promiscuous snakes for the sake of preserving the image of golden boys. And to top it off, the horrors of colonialism and conquest are central to the politics in New Pythos. When I say so much goes on…I mean it. SO MUCH GOES ON.
So this world brilliant. I love that we got to go beyond Calliopolis and into New Pythos. I loved that these places were so distant yet closely tied to one another I also loved that we got to see more kinds of dragons spring up and up the ante for our dragonriders. And my oh my, even though this book didn’t have a competition to keep dragons in this story, the beasts played an even more important role this time around. Their presence was so central to the story, to the history of violence and the freedom/victory so many of these characters desire.
This book was hella stressful and I am telling you there was NEVER A DULL MOMENT! Annie, Lee and Griff get caught up in so many plots, get caught up in who others say they should be, get caught up in their own emotions and consequently find themselves in lots of traps that they then have to get themselves out of! The twists and turns kept me entertained from the beginning to the very end. I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough.
This book is wrought with emotion. So much grief and exhaustion. So much rage. Despite having been entrusted with leading a future, these characters are constantly being restrained by the adults who have wreaked havoc before them. The emotions that bubble up from memory of what happened in the past make each character so human. Real, raw and flawed. And it is these emotions that unifies the characters under a banner of hope that change is possible and I cry. (Did these last two sentences even make sense, I—)
We’re gonna talk a bit about romance because I AM SO SOFT! Lee x Annie is The Ship. I love them so much and omgggg let me tell you their relationship is complicated AF. There is so much baggage!!! And then we add Griff x Delo to the mix who are also complicated AF and bring even more baggage to this boat, but they are so so sweet and !!! I mean I live for this drama and all these ship moments together!!! And it all boils down to THE YEARNING! Both ships are all about agnst and pining and it is sweet, sweet torture. *chef’s kiss*
THE ENDING. Munda really said I’m giving you all a final page twist and she did. She really did. I GUESSED IT, DOUBTED MYSELF, AND THEN WAS GOBSMACKED IN THE END REGARDLESS. The wait for book 3 is torture .
Overall, I love this book. Even better than book 1. Simply brilliant.
Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Let me know what you think! Have you read this yet? What are your favourite yearning ships? Have you ever rooted for characters that are on two different sides of a conflict?
Update May 8th, 2021: It has come to my attention that author Rena Rossner, has been silent in light of the oppression Palestinians are facing at the hands of the Israeli state sanctioned violence. There are also several tweets in which the author misrepresents the relationships between Israelis and Palestinians for a manuscript wish list during heightened times of violence. I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t do thorough research beforehand and apologize for my ignorance when I initially published this review. What is going on is an extreme violation of human rights, and for this author to live in the same place where this is happening and stay silent about it is appalling.
I encourage you to learn more about what is happening in Palestine and support the Palestinian community in any means you can. For resources to educate yourself please visit @theimeu and Free Palestine Carrd, to donate please refer to this thread of organizations.
I will leave my review for accountability purposes, but moving forward I will not be further endorsing this book/author.
Have you ever experienced a reading moment where you read an author’s debut book and you love it so much that you HAVE to read everything else that they put out? Yes.
Well that is exactly what happened with me and Rena Rossner. After falling in love with The Sisters of the Winter Wood, I was so excited to find out she was releasing another historical fantasy book based in Jewish folklore!
May is Jewish Heritage Month and Rena’s books are definitely deserving of your attention!
Many thanks to HBG Canada for providing me with an ARC!
The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner
Pub Date: April 13th, 2021 Publisher: Redhook
An evocative combination of fantasy, history, and Jewish folklore, The Light of the Midnight Stars is fairytale-inspired novel from the author of The Sisters of the Winter Wood.
Deep in the Hungarian woods, the sacred magic of King Solomon lives on in his descendants. Gathering under the midnight stars, they pray, sing and perform small miracles – and none are more gifted than the great Rabbi Isaac and his three daughters. Each one is blessed with a unique talent – whether it be coaxing plants to grow, or predicting the future by reading the path of the stars.
When a fateful decision to help an outsider ends in an accusation of witchcraft, fire blazes through their village. Rabbi Isaac and his family are forced to flee, to abandon their magic and settle into a new way of life. But a dark fog is making its way across Europe and will, in the end, reach even those who thought they could run from it. Each of the sisters will have to make a choice – and change the future of their family forever.
I was promised a fairy tale like feel and I got exactly that. This book was incredibly magical in that atmospheric way where every turn of page just ups the enchantment! But like any good fairy tale it was both warm and enticing but dark and dangerous in the corners. I really enjoyed how the historical setting and mythology worked together to create this beautiful story about family and faith.
As for the characters, I am always a sucker for a trio of sisters! Woohoo! And I am glad to report that I liked these sisters very much! Obviously I attached myself to the youngest (how could I not) but all in all I really enjoyed how sisterhood was portrayed in this book. It is not always sunshine and rainbows. There are some bumpy roads and distances to bridge even between the closest of sisters. I liked that they each had a distinct personality, a distinct voice and individual story line that still blended so well with the others. I was a little wary about how young they were, but I had to constantly remind myself that the time period this book was set in had young girls living very different experiences.
The story itself was nicely done. The first half is very different from the second half for *reasons* and I just really liked seeing how the events changed these characters! There were so many instances where the themes of love and grief were intertwined. Finding love after a first is so hard and letting it go is even harder. The plot is really multiple stories in one, or rather one story that then splits off into different directions but collectively united under the threat of this looming darkness that they must face off together. There was lots of intensity and some mystery to be had and for history-lovers they might find something extra fun to love by connecting this book to reality!
I could tell Rena did her research even before I read the author’s note. There is so much history, folklore and tradition in this book to take in. This combination really sets the tone for this book as wonder. There is a lot to be said about the Jewish way of life in this time period which anchors the story in a distinct tradition and experience. There are so many journeys and hardships that this family endures throughout the book, but it does have that touch of wonder woven throughout. It’s a dark fairy tale no doubt, but there is a light up ahead that you chase as you read on and it is quite intriguing!
I’m so happy Rena included poetry that was reminiscent her storytelling in Sisters and ahhh it just made reading so much more exciting and suspenseful! This book in general is gorgeously written and phrased. It is very image-provoking and full of symbolism that I think was perfectly evoked on the cover! There is an elegance to it that weaves in history, magic and languages! I am someone who loves a good glossary so I was living for this (again!)
And here we find some questionable items…
Okay, I liked the emphasis of storytelling. There is something very meta in finding stories told with stories told with stories. There is a depth in this form of narrative. But damn the stories within the story in this book were very elaborate and stylized, and if I am being honest I am pretty sure some metaphors just went way over my head. I would get stuck trying to figure out what was the point about this story since I could figure others out with not much trouble. It was beautiful yes, but sometimes a little distracting.
And while I liked the diverging storylines, sometimes I had trouble wrapping my head around things. This reading definitely requires lots of focus to be able to keep track of who is who, who is doing what and why and where in the world it is taking place.
So why don’t I love this book as much as I loved Sisters? I think it boils down to the fact that I wanted a more exciting confrontation between the sisters and the Black mist. To be honest, the ending left me hanging. I had so much anticipation, but no closure really. Like there is more to tell, more I want to know. It ended very abruptly and quietly. And it is very much possible that this was the intention of the novel. Has this darkness truly been defeated? No. (It’s a metaphor for anti-Semitism so I believe that this unfinished feeling I feel is what I am supposed to be feeling) It was nonetheless a very subdued ending. There was lots of build up and tiny sparks, but no burning in the end.
Also there was a death that hmm did not sit well with me, but who am I to say whether a death is merited or not?
Overall this book is gorgeously written, filled with stunning imagery and wordplay that brings forth an elaborate and intricately woven tale of sisterhood, grief and destiny. While it could get a little convoluted at times, these characters and their hopes, dreams and fears will keep you hooked no matter what!
Rating: 3.75/5 Stars
Recommend?: Yes! We all need some elaborate dark fairy tales to fill our days!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading it? What are some of your favourite fairy tales, dark or otherwise?
So it has been a while since I’ve come at you with a wrap-up, hasn’t it? Let’s blame it on the fact that the end of the school semester was quite an end. I won’t go into much detail, but it is the reason I’ve been feeling a little unmotivated and uninspired with some of my blog posts. I hope to come with new material soon. Perhaps a fun tag or two!
In terms of reading though…I have had an incredible time with my reads. No lies detected. I’m at that point where I am reading faster than I can review, but it just means that I’ll have lots of great reviews coming your way soon.
What Rendz Read
~ March ~
Truly, Madly, Royally by Debbie Rigaud 3.5/5 🌟 Once Upon a Quinceañera by Monica Gomez-Hira 3/5 🌟 Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweetby Laeken Zea Kemp 5/5 🌟 The Beautiful Onesby Silvia Moreno-Garcia (re-read) 5/5 🌟 Act Your Age, Eve Brownby Talia Hibbert 4/5 🌟 Fireborneby Rosaria Munda (re-read) 5/5 🌟 Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Bouley 4.5/5 🌟 Kisses and Croissants by Anne-Sophie Jouhanneau 3/5 🌟
Grishaverse Re-Read! Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo Siege and Stormby Leigh Bardugo Ruin and Risingby Leigh Bardugo
~ April ~
The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner 3.5/5 🌟 Flamefall by Rosaria Munda 5/5 🌟 Make a Sceneby Mimi Grace 5/5 🌟 Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera 4.5/5 🌟 The Ikessar Flaconby K.S. Villoso (re-read) 5/5 🌟 Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras 3/5 🌟
Grishaverse re-read! Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
Highlight book(s): Apart from my phenomenal rereads of The Ikessar Falcon, The Beautiful Ones and The Grishaverse reads, the top spots goes to Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet, Firekeeper’s Daughter, and Flamefall!
Lowliest book(s): Nothing was truly lowly. I enjoyed all of my 3 stars they just needed more pizzazz.
Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp
Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo Velvet was the Night by Silvia Moreno-Garcia The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry
Other Going Ons
New Cover for CERTAIN DARK THINGS
As always, I try to be Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s #1 hype-person and this past March the cover for her re-release of the Mexican vampire novel she wrote was revealed and it is stunning! There is so much symbolism and colour to behold! I loved the original cover, but this one…this one has the pizzazz and spark that I’m sure will intrigue many a reader to pick it up!
My Grishaverse Re-read Extravaganza!
In preparation for the show, which I talk about below, I decided to do a grand Grisha Reread and it was the best decision. I know, I know, I shouldn’t have. I really need to get focused on those ARCs that I have, but I am pleased to say that I did in fact read the majority of my e-ARCs in time (getting reviews up is another matter entirely) but all will be updated soon hopefully. But anyways. I indulged myself with this reread and I can’t complain. I enjoyed myself immensely. It hasn’t been that long since my last reread of Shadow and Bone, Six of Crows on the other hand…that is a duology I haven’t picked up since I read it the first time around when this blog was just beginning. To be concise. I loved it. I loved everything about reading these books again because 14 year old Rendz was living her best life and I want that girl to have her best!
I Attended to Bookish Events with Publishers!
Let’s just say that there are plenty of books to look forward to! Both HCC Frenzy and Penguin Teen CA had some amazing teen book previews at the end of April and I was lucky enough to attend (virtually, of course!). Wow, friends. We YA Lovers have lots to look forward to in the coming months! Here are some titles I am excited for:
I binged Shadow and Bone & lived my BEST life.
Yes, I really did spend roughly 9 hours in my room Friday, April 23rd 2021 to watch the entire series in one go. Lunch and bathroom breaks were really the only moments of not-watching that I had for most of the day. And I regret ABSOLUTELY NONE OF IT. I have waited how long for this show? Ages. Big question: Did I enjoy it? HELLS YES. MY goodness. I was screeching alongside my cousin as we shared thoughts, predictions and critiques over a series of audio and video messages on Snap Chat XD. This adaptation was definitely not perfect, but it had heart in it. I think it did a great job of melding these two different series together and bringing these beloved characters to life! 10/10 recommend you watch it (mainly because I need high ratings for a season 2! but also because it is really good!!)
As for me…I’m stalking the actors and watching cast interviews like its my job.
Posts of the Months
I’ve been feeling a little creatively dry with blog content as of late. I’m trying to find some interesting tags or discussion topics to tackle so it you have any suggestions, I would love to know about them!
A quick review for the summer romance readers! The sunny days are coming and I anticipate some romcom bingeing in my future.
Well as always, I’m going to be slightly ambitious with my TBR 🙂 I will always try my hardest to get to as many books as possible I just need some good luck and good vibes from you all!
I also happen to start my summer semester this month so…le sigh. I need to take that into account as well.
Since it is Asian Heritage Month in Canada and in solidarity with my American friends celebrating AAPI Heritage Month, I plan on reading books by API authors as much as I can 🙂 I’m excited because there are some good ones of my shelf calling out to me! And it should go without saying, but a friendly reminder that we should be supporting API voices 24/7/365 and not only in May!
The Dragon of Jin-Sayeng by K.S. Villoso Tokyo Ever After by Emiko Jean Realm of Ash by Tasha Suri Rising Like a Storm by Tanaz Bhathena
Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo Indivisible by Daniel Aleman
And that’s all I have planned for now. I feel like I’m in need of some more romance-y reads especially considering I have some heavy fantasies that will leave me emotional distraught. Any recommendations by API romance authors are welcome!
Let me know what you think! What have you read this month? What books did you get? What books are you looking forward to reading!
I am so excited to be a part of the release blitz for ANCHORED HEARTS by Priscilla Oliveras which hits shelves today! The Keys to Love series is a perfect set of romance books for those in need of a little summer escape and summer lovin’! I enjoyed the first book, Island Affair, and Anchored Hearts is here to deliver a new set of tropes to love and enjoy! If you want so more Latinx books on your TBR, then get these on your radar!
Stay tuned for my review going up a little later this week!
*Update: Read my review below!*
Anchored Hearts by Priscilla Oliveras is now live!
Sparkling with humor, romance, Latinx culture, and the unique island energy of Key West, Florida, the acclaimed Keys to Love Series by USA Today bestselling author Priscilla Oliveras is the perfect summer read. Sparks fly for a second time when award-winning photographer and prodigal son Alejandro ends up back home, forced to face the familia–and the girl he left behind–for the first time in years. Can these two Key West natives learn to put away old hurts and embrace a new future under the tropical sun?
Award-winning photographer Alejandro Miranda hasn’t been home to Key West in years–not since he left to explore broader horizons with his papi’s warning “never to come back” echoing in his ears. He wouldn’t be heading there now if it wasn’t for an injury requiring months of recuperation. The drama of a prodigal son returning to his familia and their beloved Cuban restaurant is bad enough, but coming home to the island paradise also means coming face to face with the girl he left behind–the one who was supposed to be by his side all along . . .
Anamaría Navarro was shattered when Alejandro took off without her. Traveling the world was their plan, not just his. But after her father’s heart attack, there was no way she could leave–not even for the man she loved. Now ensconced in the family trade as a firefighter and paramedic, with a side hustle as a personal trainer, Anamaría is dismayed that just the sight of Alejandro is enough to rekindle the flame she’s worked years to put out. And as famillia meddling pushes them together, the heat of their attraction only climbs higher. Can they learn to trust again, before the Key West sun sets on their chance at happiness?
“A big-hearted, beautiful book about first love, second chances, and finding one’s place in the world. An exceptional getaway of a book!” —Emily Henry, NY Times bestselling author, Beach Read
“Anchored Hearts has it all: undeniable chemistry between its irresistible leads; believable roadblocks to their happy ending; a heartwarming world filled with familia and comunidad; and a lush Key West setting that leaps off the page. Alejandro and Anamaría’s love story is not to be missed!” —Mia Sosa, USA Today bestselling author, The Worst Best Man
Priscilla Oliveras is a USA Today bestselling author and 2018 RWA® RITA® double finalist who writes contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor. Proud of her Puerto Rican-Mexican heritage, she strives to bring authenticity to her novels by sharing her Latinx culture with readers. She and her work have earned praise from O, The Oprah Magazine, Washington Post, New York Times, Entertainment Weekly, Publishers Weekly, and Booklist, among others. Since earning her MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, Priscilla now serves as adjunct faculty in the program and teaches the online class “Romance Writing” for ed2go. While she’s a devotee of the romance genre, Priscilla’s also a sports fan, beach lover, and Zumba aficionado, who often practices the art of napping in her backyard hammock.
I liked that we got to follow a different sibling from the Navarro family and delve into their roots in the Key West! The second chance romance with childhood friends was sweet and understandably a slow burn. These characters simply weren’t ready to make such big decisions when they were so young and rebuilding that connection that has been neglected (but never forgotten) over the course of ten years was going to take up most of the book! But he adored her and she adored him and their mutual pining was lovely.
The family drama was my favourite aspect! This meddling Cuban-American family is funny and heartwarming and full of hijinks. There were definitely instances that resonated with my own family and their meddling ways. Although, I will say I would have like a deeper look into Alejandro’s strained relationship with his father. It was such a pivotal aspect to his arc and I feel like it needed more attention throughout and especially at the end of the book.
As for the main characters. I liked them well enough. I cannot say they were my favourite, but for the most part I enjoyed being around them. I liked that Anamaria was very connected to her home and family, while also focusing on herself and her business (we love to see that), but sometimes I felt that she was wishy-washy. She’d put her foot down about something and the next second her thoughts would back track to opposite side. As for Alejandro, he was interesting. He was definitely a heartthrob but he was also slightly–nay–definitely self-centred. Sir, you have daddy issues. We got it. Was there evidence of any character growth by the end? Perhaps a bit, but it was very surface level.
This book is a bit cheesy. I am frankly okay with it. It added to the fluff, fun and flirting that I was hoping to get from this book! Were some of the lines a tad cringey? Maybe, but given that I expected nothing less from it means I wasn’t disappointed.
Overall, this is a sweet and simple read. If you are looking for a book to enjoy the summer heat and love the childhood friends-to-lovers in combination with the second-chance romance tropes then I think this might be the read for you!
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Recommend?: YES, for those wanting a sweet and savory summer romance!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading this? What kind of summer books do you love to read?
In 2017, I read my first Silvia Moreno-Garcia book and it was The Beautiful Ones. So to be talking to you about this book again in 2021 is well…MY FAVOURITE PART OF TODAY.
If you want to read my original review, I will leave that link here. My thoughts have remained pretty much the same so for today’s post I wanted to highlight the 5 main reasons why I love this book and why I think you might love this book too!
THE BEAUTIFUL ONES by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Pub Date: April 27, 2021 Publisher: Tor Books Buy Links Below!
From the New York Times bestselling author of Mexican Gothic comes a sweeping romance with a dash of magic.
They are the Beautiful Ones, Loisail’s most notable socialites, and this spring is Nina’s chance to join their ranks, courtesy of her well-connected cousin and his calculating wife. But the Grand Season has just begun, and already Nina’s debut has gone disastrously awry. She has always struggled to control her telekinesis—neighbors call her the Witch of Oldhouse—and the haphazard manifestations of her powers make her the subject of malicious gossip.
When entertainer Hector Auvray arrives to town, Nina is dazzled. A telekinetic like her, he has traveled the world performing his talents for admiring audiences. He sees Nina not as a witch, but ripe with potential to master her power under his tutelage. With Hector’s help, Nina’s talent blossoms, as does her love for him.
But great romances are for fairytales, and Hector is hiding a truth from Nina—and himself—that threatens to end their courtship before it truly begins. The Beautiful Ones is a charming tale of love and betrayal, and the struggle between conformity and passion, set in a world where scandal is a razor-sharp weapon.
*Thank you to the publisher for the advances reader’s copy!*
5 REASONS TO READ THE BEAUTIFUL ONES…
1. Charismatic Characters!
Love them or hate them, these characters make this book incredibly fun to read! Personally, I love them! They may seem at first like your typical one-sided stock characters, but then they show so much more depth and colour to them! SMG always wins me over with the dynamic characters she writes and this book is no different!
Nina – The hopeless romantic speaks to my soul in every way possible! But she’s also stubborn, curious, dedicated and vulnerable! She wears her heart on her sleeve and I love every part of her! Even if the secondhand embarrassment is real when it comes to her, I love that she doesn’t let it bother her too much!
Hector – The foolish man who endears me with his level of obsession. If I share one quality with Hector, it is definitely our tendency to obsess (and I admit it is not the healthiest tendency to have). In my original review I noted that he was “the tortured, romantic heartthrob” and I stand by it!
Valérie – The prickly and cool socialite who intrigues me with her ferocity but is #toxic! Oooooooooooh Valérie!!!!! I cannot lie that she spills some truths in this novel about the marriage market and how women are bartering chips for family status. But she is also a classist manipulator, so unhappy in her own life that she wills it on everyone else. She is, nonetheless, a very interesting character to read about!
2. Delicious Drama!
This book is really 2-in-1 (the closest we’ll ever get to having an SMG sequel imo) and well let me tell you: they are both wild rides! Book 1 literally has me flushing with second-hand embarrassment with every turn of the page! And I love it! This first section is full of awkward first meetings, secret encounters, deceptions, whispers and revelations! I love it with all my heart, but the second part owns my soul! Book 2 has the second-chance story line that makes hope bloom in every part of me! The characters are changed, much more tender and hurt from the events of book 1. This second section is full of heartfelt confrontations, shy reconciliations, but also more deception, revenge and passionate plights! Most of my favourite scenes happen towards then end, it is just magnifique!
3. An Enchanting World!
This gorgeous world full of manners and wonders is EVERYTHING. I love how SMG develops Loisail as a Belle Epoque-esque world and if you’re running off the high of Bridgerton’s posh social order and policy, then you might find a kindred spirit in this book. The ladies and gentlemen in this book have strict rules to abide by and social convention to uphold and well…some of our characters may or may not be good at following them! Reading about these very different characters from very different backgrounds and histories navigate this socialite world is so intriguing.
4. Sweet Romance!
Emphasis on the sweet! I will tell you here: Don’t go in expecting the sexy times you got from Bridgerton, expect instead a tender and heartwarming fast, fall-hard turned second-chance slow burn of two people hurting and finding themselves back to one another. It is all about the repercussions of falling in love hard and quick at such a young age! It’s about the pain and struggle that sprouts from bitter heartbreak when things don’t go according to plan. It’s about the slow healing process of opening up to possibility of love again and letting it just flow!
5. Just the slightest touch of magic!
This book wins in every category for me because it has that touch of wonder. It’s not really magic per se, but it is that element of sparkle that I think every book needs! SMG explores telekinetic power in Hector and Nina with much intrigue. She tackles how it sets them apart in this very classist society, how it makes them the same despite their differences and what it means for their future! It’s BRILLIANT!
This is a 5 star book for me!
Screw what past me said about predictability, I found that I didn’t mind it in this re-read at all! I just had so much fun reading this book again! I experienced ALL THE FEELS. And I’m sure that you will find similar things to love and cherish about this book when you pick it up!
This book releases APRIL 27, 2021!
Get in your pre-orders and library requests NOW!
For Canadian and American pre-orders, TOR will send you a beautifully illustrated postcard! Read more here!
Let me know what you think! Have you read this book? Are you looking forward to picking it up (again)? What kind of romance novels do you love to read?
As an aspiring pastry chef, Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans — leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican-American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.
Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that — a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his new found family and himself.
Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong — both within their families and their fiercely loyal Chicanx community — in order to save the place they all call home.
~ ABOUT LAEKAN ZEA KEMP ~
Laekan Zea Kemp is a writer living in Austin, Texas. She has three objectives when it comes to storytelling: to make people laugh, cry, and crave Mexican food. Her work celebrates Chicanx grit, resilience, creativity, and joy while exploring themes of identity and mental health. Her debut novel, SOMEWHERE BETWEEN BITTER & SWEET is forthcoming from Little Brown in spring 2021.
*Thank you to the publisher, HBG Canada, for an advanced copy!*
~ REVIEW ~
To put it simply, THIS BOOK IS INCREDIBLE!
Now let’s elaborate on that, shall we?
The writing is EVERYTHING! I know I talk a lot about being “immersed in an author’s writing” and well friends…I am speaking my truth! It was wonderful to be totally immersed in Kemp’s writing! That first kitchen scene! Just wow. I felt the heat and sweat building up inside of me as I read about the chaos that was cooking up. Every written word sprouted emotion within me. Every feeling that Pen and Xander felt, I felt too. It was just such incredibly engaging and heartfelt writing.
The second best thing about this novel was certainly the characters! They came for my heart! Pen was a brilliant and complex character. The ferocity in her coupled with the hardships she deals with on the inside and outside create such a well-rounded and rich personage. Her voice is so raw and relatable. Stunning. And then there is Xander! Honestly, he is perfection! Well, no he is not perfect, but close enough. He is sweet, adorable and so caring but he is also so caught up in the question of who he is and what his past is all about. He does the most for the people he loves and reading his journey to finding himself just crushed me in the best way possible. And I have to do an honorary shout out to the supporting cast! They are dubbed “the most faithful and fucked up family” and it is a very accurate description. There is so much love and loyalty within this Chicanx community and characters and they deserve your attention!
With Pen, comes the portrayal of a teen living with mental illness. Reading about her past and current battles with depression and anxiety gave readers a much deeper understanding of how Pen sees herself and why there was so much tension between her and her family, especially her father. I like how it was imagined as a cacophony of voices in her head. While I cannot comment on the accuracy of its portrayal, it was such an integral part of Pen’s journey.
As with any book that deals with cooking and food, I was a) HUNGRY ALL THE TIME and b) reminded of my absolute inadequacy in the kitchen. Remember that immersive writing? Yeah, immersive writing coupled with the theme of food makes me salivate with every turn of the page! (TMI? Maybe, but I speak my truth) Alongside food, this book covers so many incredible themes like love and loyalty for the Chicanx community, found family, lost family, fighting corruption and seeking passion. Every aspect of this book is full of life. And all of these themes come collectively under the bigger theme of dreaming! This book holds so many dreams, so many hopes. Stunning” is the only way I can put it.
THE ROMANCE HAD ME SO SOFT. I cannot explain it to you friends, you’re just going to have to read it for yourselves. I ship these two so hard, y’all don’t understand! *Breaks down into sobs*
And since I’m already sobbing, I might as well state it plain and clear: This book is very emotional. (See the exploration of depression, anxiety and self-doubt) Past mistakes whether self-made or otherwise really impact how Pen and Xander navigate their lives throughout the story. In searching for acceptance they often face the fear of never being enough and falling victim to false hope. I love how this books talks about facing fears. I love how it dissects the effects of swallowing fear. Avoiding it and thinking about fear like its a game to win will only lead us down some even darker roads. I like that the book really advocated for seeking support from others even though everyone is on their own path. Pen and Xander both have a not so easy time dealing with fear individually, but reading about how they help one another in big and small ways warmed my heart so much!
The title is BRILLIANT and we just have to contemplate it for a second. All in all, the title really encompasses the moments and spaces these characters inhabit. They are literally always somewhere between bitter fears and sweet hopes. And reading about how these characters’ move between these two emotional poles was a tender and endearing experience no matter the flavour.
I cried maybe a little at the end. It was an ending that just *phew* just brought everything together so beautifully! My heart squeezed and I loved that feeling so much!
TL;DR This book is absolutely beautiful and you need to read it.
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Recommend: YES, GET THIS BOOK ON YOUR TBR NOW.
~ FAN ART! ~
Please enjoy this illustration of Pen and Xander sharing a very special and sweet moment together! This is definitely one of my favourite scenes from the book! Read it to find out more!!
I’ll be honest, I have very little experience with short reads. I either go for the regular sized novels or the chunky books! But a slim thin read? It’s a rare occurrence in my reading journey! But they are extremely interesting to me. To pack so much story in such a short amount of pages…it takes skill and I am very happy to say that Patricia Engel has that skill!
I want to thank Avid Reader Press for sending me an ARC to read.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Pub Date: March 2, 2021 Publisher: Avid Reader Press
For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Elena and Mauro are teenagers when they meet, their blooming love an antidote to the mounting brutality of life in Bogotá. Once their first daughter is born, and facing grim economic prospects, they set their sights on the United States.
They travel to Houston and send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their tourist visas or to return to Bogotá. As their family expands, and they move again and again, their decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the young family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained. When Mauro is deported, Elena, now tasked with caring for their three small children, makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself the daughter of Colombian immigrants and a dual citizen, gives voice to Mauro and Elena, as well as their children, Karina, Nando, and Talia—each one navigating a divided existence, weighing their allegiance to the past, the future, to one another, and to themselves. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality for the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.
This book is a punch to the gut in the absolutely best way possible.
It may be short, but my oh my oh my is it a powerful and profound read. The intensity and suspense hooked me from the very beginning and didn’t let me go until the final turn of the page. Many people talk about books keeping them on the edge of their seats…and this is one of those books! This book had my heart thumping and blood running! It was a rush and I loved every second of it! Reading about this family’s journey to reuniting themselves across borders where violence and poverty trail them in all corners is incredibly moving. It’s a story that really fastened itself into my heart and refused to let go.
Engel’s writing is stunning and completely immersive! First and foremost, I loved how she wove timelines together. The back and forth narrative was elegant and never once was I lost between past and present. And to add to the beauty, Engel weaves Andean mythology into the thoughts, words and experiences of these characters. Tales of love, escape, resistance, faith and spirit keep these characters connected to each other across time and space. It’s beautiful. It’s a narration that lets us readers be gentle companions as Mauro, Elena, Talia, Karina and Nando experience their joys, pain, triumphs, and worries in their journey to reuniting.
This book portrays the daily plights of undocumented migrants and mixed-status families in a heartfelt and honest manner. It evoked the emotional and physical toll it takes on so many people who leave their homes in the search of more opportunities for their families. It talks about the tolls of distance and time. It takes on the fears estrangement and alienation. It’s a story that is permeated with the sense of fear, resilience, hope and strength it takes for families to make these decisions and take on this journey. And I have to add that it reminded me much of the stories I heard of family members and friends who made similar choices.
My favourite aspect of the novel was definitely how this story comes to question the American Dream. The story challenged whether the idea of a promise land in the US or anywhere exists. This story makes us look at the brutal truths of our worlds and the nations we inhabit. It’s not as simple as one country is horrific and the other is safe. It’s a matter that we live in a world where there are so many histories both past and present that are full of violence and struggle as much as they have their moments of beauty and opportunity! It’s a matter of discovering your sense of belonging in yourself and your family more so than a place.
The ending. Oh, when the final sentence finally clicked, tears burst into my eyes! I’m not kidding, my eyes really did burst into floods at that last sentence! If I could, I would give it a thousand rounds of applause!
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Let me know what you think! What are some of your favourite short, but powerful reads? Or short reads in general? Are you considering picking up this book?