The Barren Grounds | Review // Living my best life reading portal fantasy!

Greetings readers!

I don’t ask for much in life, but I do ask for all the portal fantasies to make their way to me. It’s a love that stems from my younger days watching and reading about Narnia and wanting so desperately just to go somewhere else. I think that desire is what really got me into reading and engaging in that whole escapism complex.

But enough about me, I’m here today to scream about this incredible book. It promised me delight and gave me much delight! So Happy Book Birthday to The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson!

*Many thanks to PRHC for the review copy!*

The Barren Grounds by David A. Robertson

The Barren Grounds
via Goodreads

Pub Date: Sept 8th, 2020
Publisher: Puffin Canada

Narnia meets traditional Indigenous stories of the sky and constellations in an epic middle grade fantasy series from award-winning author David Robertson.

Morgan and Eli, two Indigenous children forced away from their families and communities, are brought together in a foster home in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They each feel disconnected, from their culture and each other, and struggle to fit in at school and at their new home — until they find a secret place, walled off in an unfinished attic bedroom. A portal opens to another reality, Askí, bringing them onto frozen, barren grounds, where they meet Ochek (Fisher). The only hunter supporting his starving community, Misewa, Ochek welcomes the human children, teaching them traditional ways to survive. But as the need for food becomes desperate, they embark on a dangerous mission. Accompanied by Arik, a sassy Squirrel they catch stealing from the trapline, they try to save Misewa before the icy grip of winter freezes everything — including them.

The Likes

This book has a fantastic cast of characters that never allows for a dull moment.

Morgan was such a delight. She was fierce and soft. She was sassy and sweet. She loved reading fantasy novels and imagining up wild scenarios! I could tell she engaged very well in the arts of sarcasm and she knew how to crack a joke which I appreciated very much. She also had quite a temper. She struggled with handling her anger that often made her “unlikable”. (I like how Robertson used the imagery of fire to illustrate the pain and fury coursing through her.) Nevertheless, Morgan’s journey to self-discovery and identity was an emotional one that takes her across lands to find answers. She was an incredible character who saw much growth!

Eli was the purest child! So soft! I loved how he complemented Morgan’s spikier personality. He was a more quiet kid to begin with, but I loved watching his journey in grow more brave and heroic. His talent for drawing and his pull of adventure into lands unknown makes him the perfect partner for Morgan. His levels of compassion were *clutches heart* so pure and I loved how he always fought for what was right!

Other characters…Ochek and Arik were the best companions to have on this adventure! From Ochek’s serious, noble and humble heart to Arik’s snarky and sneaky charm, these two were absolutely delightful. They were also just as dynamic as our MCs. I enjoyed that they grappled with their own flaws in their efforts to save themselves and the land they cherish.

The writing was wonderfully whimsical in a not too flowery way. As Morgan mentions in this book there is such a thing as “fantasy talk” in which the characters use grand words that bring out an other-worldliness of a fantasy land. Well this book does a great job of balancing the contemporary talk and the fantasy talk. From the humour and snark to the whimsy and enchantment, this book used that traditional grandeur of fantasy talk but made it way more accessible to readers so we don’t spend half a page trying to figure out one metaphor. It was easy to follow and yet it wrapped you up in its magic too!

This story takes us to lots of places, from the halls of a Winnipeg school to an in-construction attic to a snowy plain. However, the journey across landscapes of Aski is the most exciting part. I absolutely loved how Robertson made us travel so far without needing to do so much. (Vague much, Rendz?) I don’t want to spoil, but I loved the portal in this book. It was simple and yet essential to the plot. It reminded me of my own childhood tactics to finding other magical lands!

The Misewa community was beautifully crafted! The Cree language and traditions were very important aspects to this world and I loved that Morgan (and the reader) learned new words and phrases and stories along with her. I loved that we delved into the history of Misewa and the two-legged animals that walked and talked. It is a community that has been doomed by humans, but who will need two human children to help find the key to their salvation.

The story had a strong message about importance of the relationship between people, animals and the land. It emphasized the need for balance and warned of the dangers that come from taking too much and being greedy. The antagonist is one we often find throughout history and even today. (I actually gave a snort-laugh when I read it) Themes of environmentalism and the dangers of consumerism were beautifully woven into this tale of wonder that has two kids, a fisher and a squirrel journeying across dangerous terrains to save Misewa.

This book also puts forwards the truths of the foster care system in Canada that has an over-representation of Indigenous children. It shows the deep emotional effects it has on children who are removed from their people at such young ages and put into situations that leave them questioning and wondering about who they are. Especially for kids like Morgan, who has been fostered since she was a toddler, with little memory of her family from before. No matter the intentions of the foster family, this book puts into light the experiences of the child and the feelings of constant displacement. I love that in Misewa they find another place of care, one in which Eli and Morgan find themselves feeling more at home than ever before.

Maybe I cried a little bit? There is just a very emotional scene in this book. You might think middle grade is all fun and smiles and adventure, but there is some bittersweetness too. It’s not tragic, it just pulls very hard on the heart-strings. And I would just like to say that book design is there for a reason and wow I was delighted and hurt at the same time!

And finally, I caught 2 Narnia references. TWO! I was living!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! It is a story about family and finding home in people who may not be blood, but with whom you share ties with. It’s a story about adventure and valuing yourself. It’s about sticking up for yourself and knowing how to practice compassion. It warmed my heart even though it brought the chilly vibes! I think it is a perfect fall or winter read if you really want to be immersed in the atmosphere and feel that bite of the wind!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Absolutely! For all the portal fantasy lovers!

Let me know what you think! Are you a fan of portal fantasy? Are you going to pick up this book? What world would you wish to travel to?

*Please Share and/or Donate = Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz


Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From | Review // Happy Book Birthday to this amazing book ft. a half-Salvi MC — I’M LIVING.

Greetings readers!

I am so pleased to be bringing you a review for a book that releases today!

When I first heard about this book, I was intrigued because hello I’m in for any and all Latinx books. And then I heard whispers that the MC was actually half-Salvadorian and I couldn’t press request faster when the publisher sent out the request list!

Do you guys know how hard it to find Salvadorian characters in YA books? It’s hard! But I’ve been given a gift with this book, and I’m so glad to say that it was quite a success for me! I hope that my review makes even just a smidgen of sense as I tell you how much I enjoyed it!

*Many thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada for providing me with an ARC*

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From by Jennifer De Leon

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From
via Goodreads

Pub Date: August 18th, 2020
Publisher: Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books

First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

Fifteen-year-old Liliana is fine, thank you very much. It’s fine that her best friend, Jade, is all caught up in her new boyfriend lately. It’s fine that her inner-city high school is disorganized and underfunded. It’s fine that her father took off again—okay, maybe that isn’t fine, but what is Liliana supposed to do? She’s fifteen! Being left with her increasingly crazy mom? Fine. Her heathen little brothers? Fine, fine, fine. But it turns out Dad did leave one thing behind besides her crazy family. Before he left, he signed Liliana up for a school desegregation program called METCO. And she’s been accepted.

Being accepted into METCO, however, isn’t the same as being accepted at her new school. In her old school, Liliana—half-Guatemalan and half-Salvadorian—was part of the majority where almost everyone was a person of color. But now at Westburg, where almost everyone is white, the struggles of being a minority are unavoidable. It becomes clear that the only way to survive is to lighten up—whiten up. And if Dad signed her up for this program, he wouldn’t have just wanted Liliana to survive, he would have wanted her to thrive. So what if Liliana is now going by Lili? So what if she’s acting like she thinks she’s better than her old friends? It’s not a big deal. It’s fine.

But then she discovers the gutting truth about her father: He’s not on one of his side trips. And it isn’t that he doesn’t want to come home…he can’t. He’s undocumented and he’s been deported back to Guatemala. Soon, nothing is fine, and Lili has to make a choice: She’s done trying to make her white classmates and teachers feel more comfortable. Done changing who she is, denying her culture and where she came from. They want to know where she’s from, what she’s about? Liliana is ready to tell them.

The Likes:

At the centre and forefront of this novel is the incredible and very authentic voice. I can already see the complaints of people calling the writing juvenile and hard to understand because of the slang and can I just tell these people to shove off already? This story is being told by a 15 year old-girl, do you think that she always thinks in full sentences and with the vocabulary of a university professor!? No. I personally loved the writing style and voice! It really gave off the vibes of being in this teenager’s mind. The reader is put into her head so wonderfully, an effect that I think is best achieved when the vernacular of the text caters to the voice of the character. I mean did I understand every term used? No, but that’s what Urban Dictionary is for.

Liliana was a phenomenal character and I resonated a lot with her. She starts off this story your average teen living the high school life in Boston. She’s kind of moody, having to deal with her little brothers and her dad’s sudden disappearance, it doesn’t help that her mom isn’t letting up any details. Then things change, big time. She is accepted into the METCO program at a predominately white school in wealthy neighbourhood. She’s apprehensive about the move, but does it to make her parents happy. Then things get more intense as she discovers her father has actually been deported and that her mother is also an undocumented immigrant. These are not the most welcome experiences for her and she reacts in a very understandable way. She was angry and scared and most of all confused. Is she flawed? Oh yeah. And yet I loved her desire to learn more. To find the answers for her questions and find the voice to fight for herself. 

As she learns to navigate the halls of her new school she finds herself changing and is unsure how to feel about it. She begins to feel like she is losing herself as she is confronted with two very different worlds, neither of which seem to claim her entirely.  The trials of friendship both of maintaining connections you already have and creating new ones is a bug hurdle for her. There were so many different factors she had to balance at once. I was only ever the new-kid once, but this book does a great job of showing how difficult it is to navigate new waters especially in a school where there is so much division!

Reading about Liliana’s eventual awakening to the reality of her family’s story was so relatable for me. In my Latinx experience, it is very common that family stories and family secrets stay sealed among the adults. It’s when you reach a certain age, like Liliana’s 15 years, when you finally start to be trusted with the secrets. And sometimes these revelations weigh you down. I can only imagine the kind of hurt and confusion that Liliana felt about her parents and the idea that her dad might never come back to their family. Reading about how she dealt with this weight was poignant and really eye-opening.

Identity and knowing who you are is probably the biggest theme in this book. As someone who is both half-Salvadorian and half-Guatemalan, Liliana finds herself knowing very little about the countries from whence her parents hail. (And again so relatable) I loved that she took it upon herself to google, read books and ask questions to know more! Questions she asks her older family members that aren’t always answered in a direct manner (like is this my life?? I’ve done these very same things SO many times). She embarks on her own research about Guatemala and the hardships of immigration which was really admirable!

I don’t know much about the American school system, but reading this book was again very insightful. The complexities of the METCO program and navigating a school where you are constantly othered is scary. The amount of microaggressions and blatant racism that Liliana and the other POC characters face in the book is not shocking but pretty despicable. This book made a powerful statement on what it means to be open to diversity, navigating white fragility and the dangers of relying on BIPOC to “teach” people how to not be racist. It made me honestly reflect about my own experience in school. To be fair, my high school was not predominately white, but I still faced some of these very things from my own classmates. Some of these microaggressions I’ve done myself. I used to say–and sometimes still say–that I am “Spanish” when I am most certainly not. I was just so wowed by the truth after truth that this book spit out.

At heart this is a story about family. It was gut-wrenching at times because there is just so much heartbreak. This is not really a story about migration, although the dangers of crossing the US-Mexican border is a prominent worry for Liliana and her family. (Not mention the president that wants to build a wall.) And I really liked how the author approached it.  I feel like this book is for first-generation kids. The children of immigrants that are both of the nation they were born in be it American or Canadian (in my case) and that nations from which their parents come from. It’s about embracing that your identity is not limited to one single place, one single way of seeing the world. I might have cried just a little bit because this story resonated so much with me. In no ways is my life identical to Liliana’s, but just some of the things she thinks about and questions she asks reflect my experience too.

Nonetheless, this book leaves us all on a note of hope. It calls for holding yourself and your friends accountable.  It calls for us to never judge on first appearance and be open to everyone’s intersectionality. It calls for asking questions and being open to learning about the struggles everyone faces. It’s about facing that fear even in the face of rejection and embracing that each and every one of us is a complex human being worthy of going for gold to reach our dreams.

Overall, this book was a really amazing read. It grabbed me every time I opened the page and let me tell you that second half had me clutched by the collar, I couldn’t put it down! Centered around themes of identity, social justice and family, this book is sure to draw you in with its unique character voice and drama. It’s a compelling read and very relevant!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Oh yes!

Let me know what you think! Have you ever read a book with a character that shares your culture? Are you looking forward to reading this? What books about family and/or social justice do you love?

*Lebanon Needs You – Please Share and/or Donate + Link to a master list of how you can help/educate yourself on Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz


The Gilded Wolves | Review // This Street Team Member is FINALLY in on the epicness!

Greetings readers!

Have you ever uhhh been a part of a street team to promote a book and never actually read the book??? Yeah. I know. It’s a bad look.

But hey I don’t have that problem anymore because I HAVE FINALLY READ THE BOOK I’VE BEEN MEANING TO READ!

Round of applause for me for having done the absolute bare minimum! *claps for self*

In all seriousness though, I am very excited to be presenting this review for you today! I have been anticipating this book for a while and I am glad I have finally had the chance to read it!

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

Pub Date: Jan 15th, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books

No one believes in them. But soon no one will forget them.

It’s 1889. The city is on the cusp of industry and power, and the Exposition Universelle has breathed new life into the streets and dredged up ancient secrets. Here, no one keeps tabs on dark truths better than treasure-hunter and wealthy hotelier Séverin Montagnet-Alarie. When the elite, ever-powerful Order of Babel coerces him to help them on a mission, Séverin is offered a treasure that he never imagined: his true inheritance.

To hunt down the ancient artifact the Order seeks, Séverin calls upon a band of unlikely experts: An engineer with a debt to pay. A historian banished from his home. A dancer with a sinister past. And a brother in arms if not blood.

Together, they will join Séverin as he explores the dark, glittering heart of Paris. What they find might change the course of history–but only if they can stay alive.

The Likes

These Snarky Bantery Characters are to die for! We love a found family trope!

I love Laila. We can only stan a mom friend who is also sassy and loves some scandal. I adored her. Her compassion and loving kindness was unconditional. We love to see it.

I love Séverin. Mysterious and suave. He is all angst. He loves his brother and his friend-family! He tries so hard not to thirst, but my man is thirsty for ^ for 90% of this novel. XD And honestly we love to see it.

I love Enrique. A historian with wit sharp like a knife. He was unapologetically himself all the time even though he also struggled with his identity and figuring out his place in the world. He was charming and witty and we love to see it.

I love Zofia. Her chapters brought me back to my calculus days and while it was a little triggering, her chapters were always wildly interesting! I wish I could be half as intelligent and caring as she is! I loved that knew her boundaries and drew her lines, but was still brave enough to step out her comfort zone every now and then. We love to see it.

I love Tristan. So soft. So sweet. He was 16 but I felt like he read a little younger (then again it only added to his softness so I’m not really complaining) He was not as present in the book for reasons, but whenever he did show up on the page he was cheeky and sweet and yes, we love to see it!

And Hypnos. You know I suspected him for a bit, but I did ended up loving him. If you think Enrique was a charmer, Hypnos was The Charmer. Always had something suave to say and flirting is his first language. He added the fun and quips and we love to see it!

This world building was amazing! Set in 1889 Paris, on the eve of the opening of the Exposition Universelle, this book is chock full of history. You can tell Chokshi did her research and dug deep into what this world would be like. This was the age of invention and discovery for some, while it was also full of destruction. I loved that this book put the disastrous effects of colonialism front and centre. That it paints an authentic picture of what Paris would have been like for these characters of colour and other marginalized backgrounds.

What’s more is that this world is magic, for history is boring if you don’t twist and add some kick to it. The story of the Tower of Babel plays kind of a big part in the book, but it is explained so no need for any biblical knowledge really. I love how Chokshi created different houses that people belonged to (House Kore member here 😉 ). The seven deadly sins also play a really big part of this and I liked how she incorporated them. The Magical Society was super intriguing. It’s courts and politics messy. And yet it was glamorous. This was a world of opulence and finding rare and precious objects. AND YET it is also tied to colonialism and the theft of sacred cultural objects and people!

In terms of overall plot, I love me some heist stories. It packs in both the suspense and the mystery. It had action and analytics. You can definitely see the inspiration Chokshi took from National Treasure, as the characters search for artifacts and try to piece together a puzzle of riddles. The chase never lets up and just when you think the calm has settled, the storm comes crashing down once again!

The romance. This was a book of yearning. Lots of romantic and sexual tension. Some characters were more thirsty than others is all I have to say! There may even be a triangle of sorts going on…I’m not really sure how this will end up playing out, but I’m actually into this.

The Ending. I’m sitting there all happy and then BAM. Tragedy strikes and my heart literally breaks. The last 40 pages of this novel just brings down the hatchet on everyone’s neck! Seriously, Rosh wasn’t playing around!

The Questionable

I think I was just overwhelmed sometimes with information. I usually like when we get snippets of “direct sources” but for some reason the snippets we got in this book just confused me. I think they might have been a little too abstract for me and trying to find the connections to the actual story occupied my mind to much.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book! I feel much better as a street team member now that I have read it and I don’t have to avoid spoilers like the plague! This book promised high stakes, treasure hunting, romance and suspense and it delivers! I cannot wait to see what happens in book 2 as every character has to face the choices they made in the end of book one!

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Recommend?: Yes!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to the sequel? Who is your favourite character?

*Lebanon Needs You – Please Share and/or Donate + Link to a master list of how you can help Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Mexican Gothic | Review // The Book of the Summer is for the Trashy yet Classy. And I can confirm that I am trash for this book.

Greetings readers!

How does one eloquently review a book that they have been waiting forever for? Better question: How does one eloquently review a book that they have been waiting forever for and has had their expectations superseded by said book?

You can’t. It’s simply impossible.

Well it’s simply impossible if your name is Rendz and you are me.

But I’m gonna try it anyways.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Mexican Gothic
via Goodreads

Pub Date: June 30th, 2020
Publisher: Del Rey

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • An isolated mansion. A chillingly charismatic aristocrat. And a brave socialite drawn to expose their treacherous secrets. . . .

From the author of Gods of Jade and Shadow comes “a terrifying twist on classic gothic horror” (Kirkus Reviews) set in glamorous 1950s Mexico. “It’s Lovecraft meets the Brontës in Latin America, and after a slow-burn start Mexican Gothic gets seriously weird” (The Guardian).

After receiving a frantic letter from her newlywed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find – her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

The Likes

This book was brilliant in so many ways. My experience with Gothic literature is minimal, but after reading this book it is definitely a genre that I would be more into. Mexican Gothic brings together both the supernatural and the realistic. It’s cozy and yet most definitely not. It entices you with the promise of danger, and while you relish in the thrill you fall into the dark with Noemí and need to claw your way back out. Classy and creepy all in one. A stylish and sinister read, as said by Gwenda Bond.

Noemí was the epitome of fabulous. I cannot explain to you how much I adored her character. As a young socialite who is working her way through the high life of Mexico City she is driven by her ambition and desire to get what she wants. She may not have a clear plan and changes her mind many times, but when she wants something she goes for it and we love to see it. She is fierce and sassy and flirtatious and stylish. The clothes she wore in this novel are divine. She was such an incredible character. From her strong desire to protect her cousin to her tumultuous rescue mission, she was always entertaining to read about. Does she tumble and fumble along the way? Absolutely.  She likes the danger, she likes the scandal and the thrill. Probably not the best traits to have when interacting with this family. But she is also someone who deep down never lets anything truly stop her.

Catalina, while she was more of a background character, was still really fascinating. We mostly get a sense of Cata’s character from the anecdotes Noemi tells us about her fairy-tale, tragic romance loving cousin. She was a hopeless romantic and she sought the high that comes from having a lover that may be a little on the dark side. However, Cata *changes*. Oh I am treading the spoiler line, but wow I just really enjoyed seeing this transition in character. She is after all sort of the reason Noemi is pulled into this story, and she plays a big part in how it unfolds. We stan her, trust me.

(While we’re on the topic, fairy tales actually play somewhat of a symbolic role in this novel. And I’m not talking about the Disney kind, I’m talking about the old grim stories that are gruesome and horrific tales of gore and grief, but that attract the reader with a ~romance~ woven within its twists. hint hint nudge nudge.)

The Doyles. Oh the Doyles. I shouldn’t say much about them because spoilers, but I will give my two cents on them anyways. They were a creepy bunch from the very beginning to the very end. They were the symbol of white colonialism and the destruction colonists caused the people and the land that they infiltrated. They rub you wrong in every single way. And I can’t lie they are intriguing. I was simultaneously repulsed by them, but also wanted to know what’s up with them. We can only stan one young shy Doyle.

This is a slow burn so be prepared to spend some time soaking in the Gothic goodness and history that SMG provides us with. A good chunk of this book has Noemi getting a feel of what High Place is like. There’s lots of exploring and dreaming and realizing that things are not what they seem at all. And what makes this slow tread so special is that this book is incredibly atmospheric. The sun never shines in this novel. It doesn’t help that High Place has strict rules: no electricity, no hot water, no casual conversations. It thrives in gloom, cold and silence. Creepy right? SMG did a perfect job of transporting the reader into the house and wrapping them in the mist that surrounds the mountain. It furthers that sense of suspense that has us hanging on to every word that is put forth. This book is an experience, it’s the best way I can explain what it is like to read it. You are not merely an observer, but you are in the house with its listening walls and gloomy corridors.

So then we get to the 60% mark and things just start to happen and we tumble down this series of things getting bleaker and bleaker. Boom. Boom. Boom. As I discovered more about the history of the family and the house, things just get twistier and harder to piece out. And let me tell you this family is MESSED UP. There isn’t such a thing as an easy solution, Noemi is literally trapped in this house with these people.

That being said, the creep factor is high. And the dark factor is even higher. There are some things in this book, some images that I cannot get out of my head. Once specific image with mushrooms is just…*shivers* Towards the climax when the once mysterious elements of the story are brought to light, my heart actually started pumping. I haven’t had a heart-pumping read in a while. I was actually getting nervous. I was scared about what would happen next. And this is not like the movies where you can look away or cover your eyes and wait for things to pass. You have to read the things that happen, you have to live through it with Noemi and it is CREEPY.

And the horror isn’t only tied to the freaky supernatural things that go on. But also the repercussions of colonialism that lead to the deaths of so many Mexican minors. Eugenics and its twistedness was a huge factor in this novel. Especially when it comes to keeping bloodlines pure *looks judgmentally at a certain family* But it also explores Mexico in the 1950s where misogyny was rampant and women were trapped in the cages of their husbands rules. All these just add to the danger of what the supernatural elements impose on Noemi and so many others.

A Bonus Thought: After reading the novel, I read the Book Club Kit that goes into details about Real del Monte, the English colony that inspired the setting for this novel, and goes in depth about what the Gothic genre is about. And let me tell you, it just opened my eyes to a lot of things I didn’t know about. It gives lots of insight into how the setting and genre tie into the aims of the novel!

Overall, I think this book is a perfect creepy yet classy read. Noemi was such a fantastic character to follow. High Place and its ruling family kept up the sinister trap from beginning till end. This slow burn Gothic novel kept me hanging on with every turn of the page. It made my heart race and tingled my spine as it wrapped its misty cloak around me. I had wildly high expectations and because Silvia Moreno-Garcia is such an epic writer, she soared high over my hype.

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Yes. Of course. Give yourself some chills this summer.

If you read that long as review, thank you! You’re a real one. If you just read the bold bits, thank you as well. You’re also a real one!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? What was your favourite part? What books give you the creeps? Who are favourite sassy and classy characters?

*Lebanon Needs You – Please Share and/or Donate + Link to a master list of how you can help Black Lives Matter and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz


Lobizona | Review // We love and appreciate a good Latinx Fantasy!!!

Greetings readers!

I’m very happy to be bringing you a review for one of my most anticipated books! If there is anything I ask the universe for, it is for more Latinx Fantasy books and lately the universe has been saying “Okay, Rendz. Here you go!”

And life just gets 10x better whenever I totally love these books!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing me a digital ARC via Netgalley!*

Lobizona by Romina Garber

Lobizona (Wolves of No World, #1)
via Goodreads

Pub Date: Aug 4th, 2020
Publisher: Wednesday Books

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

The Likes

I really enjoyed Manu’s character. She was a girl unknown to the world around her being confined to the tiny apartment she shares with her mom and adoptive grandmother. I liked how honest she was about her situation, and that even though it looked dour she had hope it would change. I also liked that she took charge of her situation when she finally realized she was tired of being told what to do. And I loved that she had the strength to listen to her own thoughts when there were so many other telling her what she should do. In the end she made decisions for herself. Were they all great decisions, no, but she made them and stuck to them which was pretty admirable!

I also loved her struggle with finding ways to belong. She finds herself caught in two worlds, caught in two cultures and struggling to find her place in both! It is a theme that I think will resonate with lots of readers (although in different ways). Manu is constantly confronted with invisible barriers that prevent her from making those connections she wants and finding her place in her worlds! It was kind of sad but at the same time really interesting to read about.

Other characters…first of all the mom, despite her short appearance, is such a great character! The same goes for Perla, the grandmother! I have a big feeling that there is more to their stories than giving in this one novel (maybe we’ll get more in book 2!) Then there is this great cast of friends that I just !!!!!!!! They were such a great bunch together! From Cata’s brusqueness to Saysa’s gentleness and then the very colourful personalities of all the boys! Special shout out to Pablo for just being generally the best of them.

The Septimus world is pretty freaking magical! First of all we have a magic school where witches and werewolves study their powers and rise in the ranks of the pack-society. I loved that the school was centered around a magical tree that was an active member of the community and actually connected different worlds together! This book is chock full of Argentinian myth and folklore! I’ve heard of the myth of Lobizones before and this book was a deep dive into it  while also giving it a twist! Then there is an incredible magic system tied to the elements that just adds a whole other level to the playing field! Not to mention magical eyes that carry a uniqueness to each Septimus!!!! The actual world of Lunaris also brings in so many more creatures and magic and danger! I loved every moment we spent exploring it!

While there wasn’t much action in the plot per se, unless we are talking about the Septibol matches!, this book had a lot of suspense. We were on constant edge because the risk of discovery is real and the consequences are HUGE! There were lots of chapter cliffhangers that kept up the pace of the read and never truly left us with a dull moment. Up to the 60% mark I kind of knew what would go down, but beyond that it was new territory and we are given REVELATIONS!!!!!! There were betrayals and secrets and so much more that kept me on the edge of my seat!w

This book was full of great discussions around misogyny, gender identity, menstruation, immigration and the desire to belong. The world of Septimus is so attached to the binary of male and female and I like how Garber tackled the limits of this rigid structure. I liked that we got to see different identities pop up and defy the norms forced upon the population. I loved that we had major girl power fighting against a system that constantly kept them back from reaching for the stars! I also loved how Manu’s ties to the world of Lunaris are also tied to her menstrual cycle and the role it plays! (You just never see that in fantasy!) And of course immigration is a huge theme in this novel and what it means to label people as “illegal” and be undocumented. It was honest, heartfelt and very much a reflection of how people are treated like less than human for wanting safety and refuge. It was woven so perfectly into the novel and while I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say this ***be warned here*** the status of illegality is not something she only contends with in the US, but in the Septimus world too. ***end of a possible-not really spoiler***

The Questionable

The romance between the main characters was so obvious, there wasn’t any real yearning. A lot of it had to do with the fact that I thought Tiago had no personality. It was also very insta-lovely that I just wasn’t really into. And I just didn’t really like him. The only things I got from him were that he was indecisive, had a hero-complex and literally everyone thought he was great…except for me. And the romance took centre stage in so many places I was just over it.

I didn’t really care for any of the Harry Potter references, but they are there for a reason understandably. But if I’m being honest, the book could have done perfectly fine with just the other literary influences.

Overall, I enjoyed reading this book very much! It was a great first installment in what I think will be a duology! The world was magical, the characters–especially Manu–were brilliant. It’s magical and whimsical and suspenseful! It’s an adventure in identity and realizing that you don’t need to change to fit the world, but that the world has to change to fit you!

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Absolutely! For those who have always wanted more witches and werewolves, take a shot at these brujas and lobizones!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? Are you looking forward to reading this? Would you rather be a werewolf or witch?

*Link to a master list of how you can help Black Lives Matter movements and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz


A Song of Wraiths and Ruin | Review // YA Fantasy as it should be!

Greetings readers!

You know that moment when you put a book on hold at the library the day after it releases and it predicts a 26 week wait? Yeah I know the feeling. Happened with this book. But then the book gods shined down on me and it ended only being about a 3 week wait! Which was just in time to do a buddy read this with Natalie @ TheFineArtofReading!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A. Brown

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin (A Song of Wraiths and Ruin, #1)
via Goodreads

Pub Date: June 2nd, 2020
Publisher: Baltzer & Bray

The first in an fantasy duology inspired by West African folklore in which a grieving crown princess and a desperate refugee find themselves on a collision course to murder each other despite their growing attraction.

For Malik, the Solstasia festival is a chance to escape his war-stricken home and start a new life with his sisters in the prosperous desert city of Ziran. But when a vengeful spirit abducts Malik’s younger sister, Nadia, as payment into the city, Malik strikes a fatal deal—kill Karina, Crown Princess of Ziran, for Nadia’s freedom.

But Karina has deadly aspirations of her own. Her mother, the Sultana, has been assassinated; her court threatens mutiny; and Solstasia looms like a knife over her neck. Grief-stricken, Karina decides to resurrect her mother through ancient magic . . . requiring the beating heart of a king. And she knows just how to obtain one: by offering her hand in marriage to the victor of the Solstasia competition.

When Malik rigs his way into the contest, they are set on a course to destroy each other. But as attraction flares between them and ancient evils stir, will they be able to see their tasks to the death?

The Likes

Wow, I had a really fantastic time reading this novel. I remember reading the synopsis when I first added the book to my TBR and thinking YES this is for me. But since I am who I am, I never really reread it so I went into this a little blind and I came out with an illuminated mind!

First of all we have to talk about this epic world. Inspired by West African folklore, this book is steeped in myth and magic and lore. From the houses of gods to the griots to huge creatures that roamed the land, every single page was presented something interesting to note and discover! Brown did an amazing job of building this world and walking the reader through every new point of information. I especially loved that this story took place during a special festival that comes every few years and that it is centered around a magical competition, which always means lots of antics and fun! On top of this amazing crafted world is the deceptive world of politics that touches every character! The relationships between governments and nations is a tricky business, not so black and white as it might first appear to be. I don’t want to say too much because spoilers! but let’s just say things get real twisty and I was shooketh!

AND THESE CHARACTERS! We get to accompany two spectacular characters! First up is I-do-not-give-a-single-F Karina! She is fierce and trouble making and way too cool for you! She never wanted to rule, but when she’s thrust into the role she becomes the queen of finding loopholes because all my girl really wants is to get out! I really enjoyed Karina’s character! She was always shadowed by her sister and then she was always under so much pressure from her mother to step up and act up. Reading about her journey in dealing with all the grief and expectation was very compelling!

Then there is Malik, an absolute king. Being the definition of a cinnamon roll, you can’t help but adore this boy. He absolutely loves his family and will go to any length for them which is just such an admirable trait, but he is also very naive and it takes him a journey and a half to build up his courage (which considering the circumstances is very understandable!) But don’t let the shy-boy fool you he is also SLY af. You wouldn’t expect it but hmmmmmm he is not that innocent *in the words of Britney Spears*

The magic in this book is very interesting but very mysterious, which just brings out more high stakes and fun! There is a lot more to come in the sequel and I am super super excited for it!

If you love heart-racing stories then this book is definitely for you! The amount of twists and turns this book took, the betrayal that happens, the revelations that occur are jaw-dropping! I was seriously bug-eyed as I was reading this book! There were some points where I just couldn’t put it down. Let it be known that the stakes in this book are HIGH. There is so much to lose and death seems like a very big likelihood when you start reaching the end! There was never a dull moment to be had, it wasn’t always all action, but there was always something that was going on that kept me clinging to the book.

I also loved that this book had a large emphasis on the representation of mental health. Karina copes with reoccurring migraines and Malik is often overcome by panic attacks. They both endured trauma in their pasts that trigger these symptoms and it was very eye-opening to read about it in a fantasy novel. I liked how Brown embraced these experiences in the character’s arcs, there is one moment that was really special that I just– !!! –My heart burst when I read it! We don’t get mental health representation often in fantasy so I really enjoyed reading about it.

The questionable section really doesn’t exist for this book. I enjoyed every second of it!

Overall, this was an incredible YA debut! It was a suspenseful, twisty, magical tale full of heart and high-stakes! There is something for everyone in this book I think! And that ending is sure to leave every reader totally astounded! I for one cannot wait for book 2!

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars

Recommend: Absolutely yes!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this book yet? Are you looking forward to reading it! What are your favourite books that have themes in mental health? Bonus if they’re fantasy!

*Link to a master list of how you can help Black Lives Matter movements and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Romance Reading Round Up | Pt. 4 // We Hit a Bit of a Slow Down these Past Months

Greetings readers!

The last romance round up I did was in April and wow that feels so long ago. A lot of it has to do with the fact that my holds weren’t coming in from the library due to such long waits and I started to pull away from romance and just wanted something different. (I started rereading more and making progress through my ARC stack.)

Nonetheless, romances were still read during the past months and are honestly starting to pick up again!

So without further ado!

The Good, the GREAT, and the Less than Satisfactory

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras

Island Affair by Priscilla Oliveras
via Goodreads

Format: e-ARC
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Review: I found this book to be very enjoyable and a promising start to a new series following the different love stories of different siblings.

I thought the characters were well-crafted and worked great together and as individuals. Luis had a next-level white-knight complex and while it could get over-bearing at times it was also very sweet. I related a lot to Sarah and her struggles as the youngest sibling chasing the high expectations her older siblings set up and wanting to make her family proud. This book deals with so much, from eating disorders to mental issues and family feuds. I thought that they were all well researched, but I would have liked to linger a bit more on the resolutions between family members. It was all quick and easy towards the end which is my biggest issue with the novel. Oliveras set up some great moments for drama and action to really hit the readers in the feels but the every moment of resolution was far too abrupt and easy. That’s not to say that every problem needed to take three chapters to get fixed, but again I would have liked to linger in the deep end a bit more before catching a life preserver. Another minor issue I had was the integration of Spanish in the text. I am all for integrating different languages into text, but it needs to feel natural. All I really got from this book was the *heavily* repeated use of familia, coño, and the nanny’s old saying. Not to mention the Spanish was italicized so it stuck out even more making the blend of the languages more choppy than fluid.

Nonetheless, I enjoyed the reading experience. The characters were fun and the setting was fabulous! I wish I could get out to a little beach town like Key West! I’m looking forward to reading whatever sibling we get next especially since the minor teasers in this book looked really promising!

The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 / 5
Review: You know at first I thought this wasn’t going to be it for me, but I ended up really liking it. It had some Josh & Hazel vibes, but Leon and Tiffy did end up shining on their own. Super sweet. Loved the drama. Loved the notes. I just really liked it 🙂



Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert
via Goodreads

Format: e-book
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Review: Well well well that was certainly delightful!
Dani and Zaf were great and I mean GREAT characters. She was all business and snark and he was also snarky but a hopeless romantic!!!!! We love to see it.
Their banter was great. Their friendship turned fake relationship was great! The scenes were steamy and I was definitely tomato-faced.
I gotta say though plot-wise the fake dating wasn’t all that up front in the end. It eventually took a back seat to other going-ons so I would have liked a bit more of that. But we get Chloe cameos and I love her so I am very happy! And we get more Eve which only makes me more excited to read her book next!
Safe to say Talia Hibbert still gave us a fun, hilarious, flirty, dynamic and all around wonderful story, so read it!

Well Met by Jen Deluca

Well Met by Jen DeLuca
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 2 / 5 Stars
Recommend: You all said this book was amazing…I don’t know what went wrong, but I feel lied to.
This was not the cutesy, bantery romcom I was expecting. I honestly don’t have any strong feelings towards any part of this book except an extreme meh-ness.
The characters…I didn’t hate but also didn’t particularly like. Emily was so wishy washy, I found nothing substantial about her to pinpoint other than maybe her tendency to overthink everything. Also she complained about the dude being stuck in the past when she literally kept bringing up her own past too! I never warmed to Simon either. The whole point of the book is to find out he is not truly an asshole but here I am keeping that sentiment. Even his pirate persona was too much sometimes and I 10/10 would most likely fall for the pirate. But again I didn’t hate them…they just bored me.
Bringing me to say that their romance was also pretty meh. And the ending….I eye-rolled. I’m sorry. AND I USUALLY SQUEAL AT THOSE ENDINGS!!!
The whole Ren faire thing was exciting I guess…but I still wanted more from that. We were literally stuck at the tavern for the whole summer like she was so like I get it but hey if you’re setting a book in a Ren faire give me Ren faire details.

To cut this short. My feelings about this book are just “it was fine.” Like there was nothing terrible about it, I just didn’t connect to anything. Nothing. Was it funny? Sometimes. Was it romantic? sure. But I just feel nothing strong about it.
But you know what? Imma still give book 2 a try because Stacey is someone I actually liked and not just had mellow feelings towards.

Finally A Hockey Series That Works for Me!

Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn

Parental Guidance by Avery Flynn
via Goodreads

Format: e-book
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Review: You know what I’m going to appreciate this book because it was the first hockey-ish romance that I didn’t hate. It wasn’t super hockey heavy but it still beats out the other two I tried.
I mean the concept is a bit ridiculous, but I like that by the end the ridiculousness of it is recognized. (Although I’m pretty sure they would have gotten into some legal trouble there)
Regardless it was fun, short and quick read. Characters are a little one-dimensional but still pretty entertaining.
It was a fake dating plot so we (again) appreciate it.
Nothing outstanding but pretty good!

Awk-Weird by Avery Flynn

Awk-Weird by Avery Flynn
via Goodreads

Format: e-book
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Review: You know what? I’m trash for this book.
Is this book hard-hitting literature that made me think really hard about my life decisions? No. (Maybe a little)
But you know what this book is? It’s just plain fun and ridiculousness and it just made me happy.
Like I can’t relate personally to any of the characters (maybe a little about the awkwardness though) and yet I loved these two stubborn fools so much. Rooting for them to both get their acts together was so much fun. It’s a constant back and forth so it might piss some readers off, but I really just enjoyed it. I read this book in two sittings. I stayed up wayyyyy too late to finish it.
It was hilarious, romantic, dramatic and just so so so much fun!
And I’m giving it the five stars even though it is more like a 4.5 just because I’m still really happy about it!
(Although she could’ve toned down the amount of times she used the word “awk-weird” like we get it.)

Young Adult Romances

Heartstopper: Volume One Alice Oseman

Heartstopper by Alice Oseman
Enter a caption

Format: e-book
Rating:  5 / 5 Stars
Review: This was too cute for words. Adorable. Just like a gulp of pure joy! Characters were interesting! The illustrations were simplistic but cozy! I felt the love! (A very short review I know!)





If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann

If It Makes You Happy by Claire Kann
via Goodreads

Format: e-book
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Recommend: I wasn’t able to finish it within the 48hrs of queer Blackathon cuz life got in the way but omg this was a lot of fun.
Claire Kann really knows how to make me laugh and I was super into her writing style. (It had pop culture references I actually got!)
I loved the setting of the small town. I loved the characters! Winnie! I thought she was fabulous. There was never a dull moment with her. Winston was all jokes. Um Dallas fell a little flat and Kara..hmmm..I don’t know how I feel about her just yet, nonetheless she was an interesting character.
Overall, the plot was really fun. I would have liked a little more of the Royal Engagement going-ons. I loved the dynamics on friendship, romance, queerplatonic relationships and polyamory. But in the end the book just made me happy. It was funny from start to finish and I had a smile the whole way through. It deals with some tough content especially when it comes to family and family fall-outs, but I think it leaves room for hope at the end.

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley, Austin Siegemund-Broka

Always Never Yours by Emily Wibberley

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Review: I don’t know what to rate this exactly but I’m feeling like a 3 so it’s a 3

Holy moly I have ~thoughts~

1. This book has confirmed what I already know are my flaws. I’m petty, jealous and vengeful in addition to being very very prideful. All this to say is I’m not as forgiving or nice as I think I am.
2. This whole book is so involved in the world of theatre that I am so unfamiliar with. I only touch base with Shakespeare through text, acting and interpreting with body language, set design and intonation is so out of my league that I honestly was intrigued and traumatized. (I could never act in front of people)
3. I WAS SO ANGRY FOR 90% OF THIS BOOK. Going back to my fatal flaws from point 1, I just… This book reminds me that I LOVE drama but it also stresses me the f out.
4. Owen was the smartest character.
5. The whole family dynamic is something I am not familiar with since my parents aren’t divorced and I like to think that this book gave me some much needed perspective on how different kinds of family dynamics are just as messy and wonderful
6. I feel vindicated bc I knew that this character was garbage.
7. I liked the book. I liked it’s focus on sex positivity without the slut shaming and it took a while until I stopped waiting for it to happen as if it were going to sneak in at one point, but I’m glad it didn’t.
8. I can’t say I loved this book and everything it tried to sell me, but it was quite the dramatic ride I was hoping for. (which is a good thing in my books)

Let me know what you think! Have you read any of these? What romance reads have you loved as of late? Anything new you are looking forward to? I’m always on the hunt for recommendations!

*Link to a master list of how you can help Black Lives Matter movements and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz

Unravel the Dusk | Review // A book literally about fighting inner demons

Greetings readers!

Today I am bringing to you a review of one of my anticipated sequels of 2020 and I am glad to say that I enjoyed it very very much!

*Many thanks to Penguin Teen CA for the ARC!*

Unravel the Dusk by Elizabeth Lim

Unravel the Dusk  (The Blood of Stars, #2)
via Goodreads

Pub Date: July 7th, 2020
Publisher: Knopf

The thrilling sequel to SPIN THE DAWN, a magical series steeped in Chinese culture.

Maia Tamarin’s journey to sew the dresses of the sun, the moon and the stars has taken a grievous toll. She returns to a kingdom on the brink of war. The boy she loves is gone, and she is forced to don the dress of the sun and assume the place of the emperor’s bride-to-be to keep the peace.

But the war raging around Maia is nothing compared to the battle within. Ever since she was touched by the demon Bandur, she has been changing . . . glancing in the mirror to see her own eyes glowing red, losing control of her magic, her body, her mind. It’s only a matter of time before Maia loses herself completely, but she will stop at nothing to find Edan, protect her family, and bring lasting peace to her country.

YA fantasy readers will love the sizzling forbidden romance, mystery, and intrigue of UNRAVEL THE DUSK.

The Likes

Maia continued to be a great MC in this book! But unlike book one which was more self-discovery, this one was definitely a self-recovery as we dived deep into her inner character. It’s a battle against forces outside and within herself as she faces the dark power growing within her. Her old self, the one with that had a heart of gold, is slowly decaying and just reading about that self-destruction she has chosen to undertake for her country is quite inspiring. I’m not sure how many of us can say we would willingly turn ourselves into demons for the sake of defeating a demonic tyrant. And I’m not sure how many of us can say we’d fight tooth and nail out of said demon clutches to restore our humanity again. Suffice to say that she goes through some stuff.

Eden was still very mysterious and a Tragic Magic Boy. AND he is a serious Tragic Magic Boy in this one let me tell you! His relationship with magic was a really important point for his development in this story. I think his POV would have been an interesting element to have in the book as well. Just to see what was running around in his thoughts when he had to face the consequences for his past actions.

Then there are other characters who just…get in the way of happiness and make things interesting. The demons, the Shansen, the emperor, they all make for a great series of antagonists that just keep coming to kill the joy. And yeah I’m saying that this is one of the things I liked because it means that the story isn’t so clean simple to barrel through. They put up some great challenges for our MCs to conquer.

While there was a heavy focus on Maia’s inner journey there was also travelling happening in the outside world too. We get to see more places and learn new magic happenings. We learn more stories about the magical creatures roaming the land. There are some epic battles fought with enemies of both the magic kind and the human kind. Maia may not be a warrior but she doesn’t have much of a choice but to take up this fight anyways. She is still a tailor who wields a wicked pair of scissors and that counts for something! That being said I like how we got to see the penalties of using magic for reasons beyond making a simple stitch and instead to fight a demon, whether it be for good or bad.

Y’all this book had the angst too! Not only in terms of the lovers destined for doom but just for the sake that Maia is literally turning into a demon and losing her memories. And then we get to this very emotional scene and I was just saying omg omg omg the whole time. So be aware that this book does come with the emotional baggage you would expect to come from a story about a girl who is fighting to not lose who she is. 

In the midst of writing this review I JUST HAD THE TITLE EPIPHANY AND OH MY GOD. I get it now and it is quite genius.  And since I’m here I might as well talk about the cover secrets because Y’ALL the cover has lots of secrets about the book and I loved flipping back to cover as I read and pointing out the things I recognized.

My biggest mistake with this series was not rereading book 1 because I had only vague memories of the final plot points! Despite not remembering everything though, Lim did a good job of jogging the memory of readers. I still think it would have benefited me to do a reread though so I could have really appreciated all the connections.

The Questionable

I feel like the solution to the political problems was a little too rash and unrealistic. I mean I question a lot about how this country will readjust and I just don’t think I quite believe it. And a lot of it has to do with the fact that I wasn’t a big fan of Lady Sarnai. I’m not sure I liked her in book 1, but this one. I don’t know. I felt bad for her at points in time, but other times she just….mmm… I didn’t feel very warm things towards her.

Overall, I really enjoyed this story. It was a deep dive into one Maia’s inner turmoil as she fights to save the ones that she loves and not lose herself in the process. The writing and storytelling is still as magical as it was in book 1. Lim did an incredible job of creating such a rich world and dynamic characters to fall in love with. I personally cannot wait for her next book which is based on a legend that was told in this book AND I LOVE IT WHEN BOOKS CONNECT!

Rating: 4 / 5 Stars

Recommend: YES!

Let me know what you think! Have you read this? How beautiful is this cover? Do you enjoy reading stories about a character’s inner turmoil?

*Link to the master list of how you can help Black Lives Matter movements and other humanitarian movements across the globe*

Happy reading!

~ Rendz


Romance Reading Round Up | Pt. 3 // Feeling like a Single Pringle

Greetings readers!

Friends, it’s hit. I was calmly reading my cheesy rom-coms and BANG I felt an overwhelming sense of longing.

I felt like a single-pringle.



Emotions: Rendz…you literally just turned down a guy in my DMs…


Well anyways, I didn’t really know what to do with those feelings so I just continued on with my life and kept on reading my cheesy romcoms XD

New Discoveries

New Orleans Rush by Kelly Siskind

New Orleans Rush
via Goodreads

Format: e-book
 3 / 5 Stars
Review: Okay I have a love/wtf relationship with this book.
On the one hand it was cute and sweet and the characters were a lot of fun. I mean Huxley is dumb and his name is something else, but you know what? He adores her and I like that.
Beatrice was fun and loving and so compassionate which I liked to.
Of course I fell for the stupid, playboy brother because I am who I am and clearly need help.
On the other hand this book was absolutely bonkers and half the time I was like “What in the actual flying cheeseballs is going on???”
Yet, it was a really charming read and it’s ridiculousness added to the fun!

Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher

Not the Girl You Marry
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
Review: I liked it and at the same time this whole problem could have bee avoided if y’all actually talked to each other. But hehhhhh people aren’t always so easy to talk to I guess.
It was pretty darn funny though, and while I am definitely a Sasha-kind of person I did love reading about Hannah! Also I did get the How to Lose A Guy in 10 Days vibez so I appreciate it.

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman

The Bookish Life of Nina Hill
via Goodreads

Format: e-book
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Review: *I would like to start off by saying that before I read this book I read another romance novel that was all sex! Sex! SEX! and this was like fade to black! Innuendo here and there! Sweet kissing!  Two very very very different reading experiences*

This book was delightful at the same time as it was “okay then…”
Nina was…a character. Bookish to a tee and very specific about the way she is. I’d like to think we’d be friends even though she’d judge on the books I read 💯 but yes she was delightful. Sarcastic and brilliant but stubborn too
The whole family dynamic thing….was some next level white people nonsense. Don’t get offended, it is what it is. But it made a really big statement on family and what it means to be related, although I can’t say I quite agree on how hereditary the personality traits of this family are.
The romance as I mentioned before was more sweet than spicy. I would have liked a little more of them getting to know each other…. Idk. It just felt very surface level for me.
The writing was not my absolute favourite. I usually don’t mind the narrator talking to the reader but I did mind that this narrator was semi-omniscient at the most sporadic times.

My favourite thing?
It threw so much shade at Harry Potter. I mean it still praised it, but as a reader who will most likely never read HP, I delighted in it.
IT ALSO MENTIONED THE PENDERWICKS so it gets all my votes.
It threw 2 seconds of shade to Canada, but I’ll let it slide.
Overall. though it was fun and quirky. It’s a tale about a book lover and those are always fun to read about. It’s funny and outrageous sometimes but in a calm way that’ll give you some peace in the end.

The Worst Best Man by Mia Sosa

The Worst Best Man
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Review: This was lovely!!! I loved the characters and the DRAMA! I mean this is some tricky waters we’re swimming in but I loved that she didn’t gloss over the uncomfortable bits.
This was also freaking hilarious. I laughed soooo many times. Especially that poem he made up, omg I died.
The family dynamic was also amazing. This Brazilian family was close-knit and full of personality! I related hard to the child of an immigrant pressures that Lina was struggling with herself.
The narrators were alright. I mean I liked their voices but sometimes they gave different accents to the same people so I was confusion.
Regardless, this was super fun!

The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

The Wedding Date
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Review: Wow I’ve said it before and I shall say it again I have never read a book with characters that overthink everything and jump to conclusions to quickly.
It was very entertaining for me and I’m usually so quick to roll my eyes.
I thought the characters were lovely. Alexa was fun and sassy. Drew was kind of a dumbass, but I liked him too.
Carlos…I love him. Can’t wait to read his book.
The meet cute was a meet cute. Lord knows if I was trapped in an elevator with a hot doctor I would have been 100% more awkward but 100% on board with fake dating.
Also, fake dating. Wonderful.
The drama was mostly due to their over thinking so don’t be expecting such a scandal although there was one point where I was like “He did not just say that. Break up with him, honey!” and that was a good part.
I honestly didn’t expect to like this as much as I do and it is a pleasant surprise!

The Lowlie Ones

The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren

The Honey-Don't List
via Goodreads

Format: e-ARC
Rating: 2.8 / 3 Stars
Review: Okay that was that. Uhhhh. I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I’m feeling that neutral feeling where I’m just glad I finished it.
It was lacking a lot in the romance area for me.
And the whole situation with the bosses took over most of the plot and it was resolved very unsatisfactorily.
Idk it just wasn’t what I wanted from CLo.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 2 / 5 Stars
Review: Oh my. Okay. Um. Well. I didn’t love this or like it much. If I’m being honest it was boring. Things got more interesting towards the end with all the revelations, but even that felt a little flat.
The characters were meh at best. She was a lot to take in and at the same time not at all. He was boring af.
None of the side characters stood out either.
I was just bored the whole way through.
It wasn’t out right horrible, just dull.


Undercover Bromance by Lyssa Kay Adams

Undercover Bromance (Bromance Book Club, #2)
via Goodreads

Format: e-book
Rating: 3.5 / 5 Stars
Review: So I liked it because hi yes hello Braden Mack was my favourite thing about the previous book.
Liv is questionable. I know lots of ppl have qualms with her and she is very much flawed in this book still.

Given the #MeToo context of the story, I really like how this book tackled talking about survivors and what it means to support them in helpful ways, especially since lots of peoples “good intentions” turn out to be victim blaming and shaming

Now the reason they break up is just…. *face palm* so bullshit. More specifically why he lied to her and yada yada she gets mad is just……….. Come on. We could have had some serious drama but all we got were petty “you lied to me!” but at least they recognized they were both being dumb at the end so there’s that.

Can’t say I liked this one more than book one but I am looking forward to the next one!

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey

Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered, #2)
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Review: Okay. Where do I even begin?
I wasn’t in love with Rosie and Dominic in book 1 so I wasn’t that excited for this one, but I kept an open mind.
I ended really liking Rosie and uh I was alright with Dom (didn’t hate him but he’s more than just okay? 🙃 )
This one was a lot more 🔥 🔥 🔥 than book one so you best be thinking I was tomato faced the whole way through. Yup. (it’s just that I’m not into the possessive territorial “you’re mine” kind of love and this book tried to like play with that and I just don’t know how I feel about it)
Once we got past the 75% mark I felt like it was dragging we kept going back to the same thing and I just wanted to be done already.
Overall though. It was nice. The ending was sweet and I liked how we got to see these characters grow as individuals and not just a couple. Definitely more angsty than romcom-y so mind that.

The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory

The Proposal
via Goodreads

Format: Audiobook
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Review: This was alright.
I’m a little disappointed because Carlos was such a star in the last book, but I felt him lack luster in this one! Which is actually about him!!! (even tho I didn’t like that he was just ambiguously Latino until in one of the last chapters it’s revealed he’s Mexican–I think)
Nic was also just alright. Didn’t love her, but didn’t hate her.
I kind of just have this mellow feeling overall. I wanted to love this more but it was simply alright. Definitely has its entertaining and heartfelt moments, but I think it lacked in drama.
It needed an extra oomph.

This round up seemed to be pretty mellow. I’ve been falling out of love with my romances. I think it’s time I shake things up somehow. Maybe switch genres. I don’t know. But if you have any recommendations to liven up the party I am open to hearing about them!

Let me know what you think! What genres have you been gravitating towards lately? Have you read any of these books? What romance stories do you enjoy? 

Happy reading!

~ Rendz


Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit | Mini Review // Grab your magnifying glass!

Greetings readers!

It’s been a while since I reviewed a Middle Grade novel for you all! It is high time that I do, so here I am today bringing you the content you deserve!

Now let me take a moment to drool over this cover. I just love it. Everything about it. From the muted colours of the comic panel in the back to the vibrant and chic illustration of Goldie smack dab in the middle! Just look at her pose, you can definitely tell she is on the move!

Many thanks to HBG Canada for providing me with an ARC!

Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit by Lilliam Rivera

Goldie Vance: The Hotel Whodunit

Publisher: Little Brown Books
Pub Date: March 17th, 2020

Move over, Nancy Drew–there’s a new sleuth in town! Inspired by the beloved comic series, Goldie Vance is ready to sleuth her way through never-before-seen mysteries in this original middle-grade series by Lilliam Rivera!

Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives and works at the Crossed Palms Resort Hotel in Florida with a whole slew of characters: her dad, Art, the manager of the joint; Cheryl Lebeaux, the concierge and Goldie’s best friend; and Walter Tooey, the hired hotel detective. Her mom, Sylvia, works nearby at the Mermaid Club.

While life at the Crossed Palms is always busy, the resort is currently overrun with Hollywood-types filming the hottest new creature feature, and tensions are at an all-time high. Even Goldie’s mom is in on the movie act, doing what she does best: playing a mermaid. Just when Goldie thinks the movie biz couldn’t get any more exciting, a diamond-encrusted swimming cap goes missing, and all fingers point to Goldie’s mom as the culprit. Can Goldie uncover the true thief before it’s too late?

Hope Larson and Brittney William’s critically acclaimed Goldie Vance comic series explores never-before-seen mysteries in this thrilling, original middle-grade debut by Lilliam Rivera. Features a full-color comic chapter that’s essential to unraveling the mystery.

The Likes

I really enjoyed these cheeky and quirky middle grade mystery story! There is already a Goldie Vance comic series out there and this an original novel by Rivera based on the existing characters. I had quite a fun time with it, thankfully! The characters were quite humorous and I loved the Hollywood adventures in this small town! I believe this takes place in the 70s/80s so reading about how movies sets used to be was pretty interesting! Goldie was quite the personality! She had a way of smooth talking herself out of trouble that was a lot of fun to read about! Her relationship with her mentor Walt was golden *pun not-intended…but maybe intended* because she was so much more confident and colourful than his wary tense self, but he is a real MVP too!

The mystery itself was pretty fun! I mean, I guessed it a mile away but its a middle grade novel so I am not going to complain here. I will say that I didn’t see absolutely everything coming, so this still should appeal to many kinds of readers, perhaps those who like soft mysteries the most!

The Questionable

My biggest issue was that Goldie was 16 but she read like a 12/13 year old. It was just not the best. Like I understand this is a book for kids and having them read a language that they will relate to is important, but it felt jarring to know that she was 16 and not acting like a teenager. I’m not saying at 16 I was any more mature or put together than Goldie, it would be hypocritical of me to say that, but I think this book would have worked a lot better if Goldie was 13. It’s a good age, she could of still had a job, not as a valet obviously and her crush on Diane would have still been explored (I actually would have liked to see more of the crush adventure too, but I think there is more to come in another book…don’t quote me on it though). It’s just that her as a 16 year old didn’t work for me.
I don’t know how else to say it 😦

Overall, it was a fun book! I didn’t find anything incredibly amazing about it, but I did have a good laugh and enjoy myself for the most part! I think that this is perfect for kids who want to dive into a funny and quirky story about a girl solving mysteries and taking down adults who are super blah!

Rating: 3 / 5 Stars 

Recommend: Yes!

Let me know what you think! Do you like your mysteries super complicated or more light? Did you read the original Goldie Vance comics? 

Happy reading!

~ Rendz


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